We’re a couple weeks in and I have finally seen all the teams in the Eastern Conference play at least once. What did I learn? The Eastern Conference of the NBA is a bad product to watch.
THE SUNSHINE STATE
The team that Shaq built (Orlando) is at the top of the Southeast Division with a 12-4 record. The team that Shaq’s on (Miami) is struggling with inconsistency, a lack of passion and, most of all, a lack of him.
Everyone is starting to see why Kobe struggled in the years after Shaq. Though he isn’t what he was in Orlando “The Diesel” still demands a double team. Without players moving over to help on Shaq, players like Dwyane Wade suffer. That is why the Heat have a 6-9 record this season.
Wade is tired. Over the past four years he’s been expected to not only carry the load, but package, deliver and sell the declining product. It’s not fair. On top of that he’s gotten spoiled. He argues with the refs, throws temper-tantrums and won’t hustle back on defense when the team makes a bad offensive play.
Apparently, Wade has forgotten what life was like without Shaq. He must be forgetting about his rookie year when HE was IT! Maybe it’s the ring. Maybe it’s ego.Whatever it is, it isn’t what you’d expect from the leader of the defending World Champions.
Orlando has one of the most dominant frontcourts in the league with Dwight Howard, Tony Battie and Darko Milicic. But, their success is a product of a backcourt anchored by a consistent point guard (Jameer Nelson) and a healthy icon (Grant Hill). ot to mention they’ve rounded out the starting rotation with the shooting ability of Hedo Turkoglu.
At the moment, division-leading Orlando has a center that is dominant and healthy. They have good young guards and veteran leadership. Almost sounds like the Lakers of old. If the Magic can keep there core group of guys together as the years progress, they could be a perennial leader in the Eastern Conference.
Last night I watched the Utah Jazz for the first time. I must admit that in spite of a 132-102 loss to the Lakers, I was impressed.
The Jazz still play that defensive style Jerry Sloan demands from his players. It works well because the Jazz are so athletic that proper execution leaves opposing offenses over-matched. Offensively, the Jazz are quick on the corners and strong in the post, a coaches dream. What most impressed me was that youth didn’t get in the way of intelligent, productive play.
In a lot of ways the Jazz and Suns are similar. Let’s go through it.
Suns- Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, Leandro Barbosa.
Jazz- Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko, Gordan Giricek.
One Vet/One Youngster at Point Guard:
Suns- Steve Nash, Barbosa.
Jazz- Derek Fisher, Deron Williams
Dominant Post Man:Suns- Amare Stoudemire
Jazz- Carlos Boozer
They resemble each other most in their style of play.
Both teams love to get out on the break. Both have athleticism at every position. Both will make the extra pass offensively to get a better shot. In those aspects it’s the same team. The split is on the defensive end.
Jerry Sloan has always emphasized great defensive play. His teams, no matter how devoid in talent, were able to play some measure of effective D. This is the reason the Jazz are winning games. This will be the reason that they’re a first or second seed in the playoffs. This is why there a legit title contender and the Suns will never be under D’Antoni.
I’ll continue that argument on a later date.