cnotes Posts:23749 Followers:32
On 10/29/2013 12:16 AM in NBA

Cnotes NBA Oct-Nov Best Bets + POD'S !

NBA Power Poll

Preseason Division Rankings

Dwight Howard's arrival in Houston, combined with New Orleans draft night moves, have further fortified the NBA's top division. The Spurs should be great again, Memphis will grind and Dallas will be in the mix for a postseason berth. Even the much improved Central doesn't have five potential playoff teams due to Milwaukee's likely regression, so there isn't much debate that the Southwest remains top dog. The Southeast, home to the two-time defending champs, may see Miami as it's lone representative still playing come mid-April if the Wizards again fail to break through.

1) Southwest
2) Central
3) Atlantic
4) Pacific
5) Northwest
6) Southeast

Preseason Playoff Projections

Eastern Conference
1) Miami
2) Chicago
3) Brooklyn
4) Indiana
5) New York
6) Cleveland
7) Detroit
8) Washington

Western Conference
1) L.A. Clippers
2) San Antonio
3) Houston
4) Oklahoma City
5) Golden State
6) Memphis
7) Minnesota
8) New Orleans

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23749 Followers:32
10/29/2013 12:18 AM

Contenders to Watch

October 26, 2013


The road to the 2013-14 NBA Finals begins Tuesday Oct. 2 with three games tipping off the regular season campaign.

Opening night starts with a bang as point guard Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls visit the two-time defending NBA champions Miami Heat. When Rose's comeback commences on Tuesday, there's no question the league will be savoring the return of one of its biggest stars. Rose sells tons of jerseys and tickets, plus he gets more people watching on television and almost certainly will raise the quality of play in the Eastern Conference.

The oddsmakers and most pundits believe this could very well be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals and it’s hard to disagree. Miami is the 6/5 favorite (Bet $100 to win $120) to win the East with Chicago pegged as the second choice (9/2).

The late-night game on Tuesday will feature the “Battle of Los Angeles” with the L.A. Clippers squaring off against the Kobe-less L.A. Lakers from the Staples Center. The Clippers and new head coach Doc Rivers have high expectations in the Western Conference. Oddsmakers have the Clips listed behind Oklahoma City (11/4) as the second choice (4/1) to win the Western Conference. Due to the Kobe injury and some key departures, oddsmakers have the Lakers listed at 35/1 odds to win the West and that number should probably be much higher.

Bettors will tell you that the best team usually wins in the Association and I expect the Heat, Bulls, Thunder and Clippers to make deep runs next summer, barring injuries. Outside of that quartet, I believe there are a few other teams to watch this season.

One year ago, the Brooklyn Nets were highly paid underperformers who sleepwalked through their first-round loss to the depleted Bulls. The Nets will be starting fresh with a new coach in former player Jason Kidd. Plus the team made three big player moves in getting Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from Boston. Kidd’s inexperience will be offset by the meticulous preparation of lead assistant Lawrence Frank, who will help make sense of the substitution patterns that will be crucial to the Nets’ success this year. The Nets only serious competition in the Atlantic Division will be the New York Knicks, with the Celtics in rebuilding mode and Philadelphia being a non-factor in the division race. Toronto finished strong last season but a lack of depth will limit their potential.

The Indiana Pacers finished first in the Central Division last season and will battle the Bulls this season. It’s tough to imagine the Pacers playing the Heat any better than they did in last season's Eastern Conference Finals, which went seven games, but Indiana managed to improve dramatically this offseason. Most important is the return of Danny Granger, who played only five games in 2012-13 because of a knee injury. The Pacers also fortified their weak bench by adding Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland. With Roy Hibbert, Paul George and Lance Stephenson, Indiana has the necessary defenders to play man-to-man against just about anyone. The Bulls and Pacers could be set for the tightest division race in the league, but Indiana holds the slightest of edges when you look at health and depth.

Golden State was a fun team to watch a season ago and will be even better this year with now having some playoff experience on its resume. Stephen Curry is definitively the league’s best shooter, as his 45.3-percent shooting from beyond the arc last season is unfathomably high for a player who takes so many of his attempts off the dribble. His range is so deep and his release so quick that his simply having the ball in his hands applies a world of pressure to opposing defenses. Similar to the Atlantic, the Pacific Division will be a two-horse race between the Clippers and Warriors since the Lakers are banged-up and both the Kings and Suns are still in rebuilding mode.

Win Total Bets

Here is a look at two NBA regular season Win Totals that I've played at the LVH SuperBook in Las Vegas.

Best Over: Chicago Bulls 56 ½

Despite having a make-shift lineup at times last season, head coach Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls went 45-37. With former league MVP Derrick Rose returning at 100 percent, this team will be at the top of the Eastern Conference and earning a dozen extra wins is very doable. Chicago has one of the best defensive units in the NBA, which is key in a conference that doesn’t have much firepower offensively.

Best Under: Orlando Magic 24 ½

This seems like a very low number but the oddsmakers have good reason. Even though rookie Victor Oladipo has turned some heads early, the Magic are still a very raw team. Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson are the only veterans on the roster and both will likely be dumped by the trade deadline. I expect Orlando to be competitive, especially at home, but a lack of inexperience will give them plenty of tough losses and not close victories.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23749 Followers:32
10/29/2013 12:19 AM

Preview: Magic (0-0) at Pacers (0-0)

Date: October 29, 2013 7:00 PM EDT


The Indiana Pacers have continually improved under Frank Vogel, advancing deeper into the playoffs each season. After adding more depth, they're focused on taking another step forward - which they hope leads to the top of the Eastern Conference.

Hosting the lowly Orlando Magic, who appear set for another rebuilding season, may help them get off to a quick start in Tuesday night's opener.

Indiana went 49-32 in the regular season and advanced to within one win of the NBA Finals before being eliminated by Miami. The Pacers were ousted by the Heat a round earlier in 2012, a year after Vogel led them to their first playoff berth in five years.

The success has stemmed largely from dominant defensive play that has been among the best in the league the past two seasons, during which time Indiana has limited opponents to 42.7 percent shooting and 92.4 points per game.

The re-signing of David West - who ranked third among East forwards in plus-minus - solidifies what could be another stingy team at its end of the floor.

Breaking through for a Finals appearance, however, will likely require better offensive play. Indiana hopes to achieve it after acquiring Luis Scola from Phoenix in exchange for a lottery-protected first-round pick, Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee. Scola has averaged 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds over six seasons.

"I think when you trade away a future first-round pick and a couple of players like we did, I think it sends the message that it's not a go-for-it year but a go-for-it time for the next couple of years," Vogel said.

The Pacers haven't reached the Finals since their lone appearance in 2000.

"Last year, the expectations were high, but there's not a whole lot different this year - other than that we're bigger and stronger," he said.

Many expect even more from Paul George after he averaged a team-best 17.4 points and was named the league's most improved player in his third year.

They also added free agents Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson, who were among the top 25 in the league in 3-point shooting last season. Indiana's 34.7 percent mark from beyond the arc in 2012-13 ranked 22nd.

However, the Pacers likely will have to wait to realize their full offensive potential after Monday's announcement that Danny Granger would miss the first three weeks with a left calf injury. The team insists it's a precautionary measure, though there's likely some concern considering a knee injury limited him to five games last season.

"It's not terrible," said Granger, who had led Indiana in scoring for five straight seasons prior to 2012-13. "They (the doctors) just said to sit out until I didn't feel it."

Being without Granger may not prove too costly against Orlando, which finished a league-worst 20-62 in its first season without Dwight Howard.

For the Magic, all eyes will be on No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo as he makes his NBA debut in a building that's less than 60 miles away where he played three years for Indiana University. Oladipo comes off an All-American season but is being shifted to point guard after playing on the wing for the Hoosiers.

"I have higher expectations of myself, even higher than some people have of me,' Oladipo said. "I'm just going to play basketball at the end of the day. And I want to win just like everybody else."

Jameer Nelson, among the top 10 in the league with 7.4 assists per game last season, is expected to be the starter at point guard while serving as a mentor to Oladipo.

Third- and second-year players Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless represent further promise for the Magic after both made major strides toward the end of last season. Harris averaged 17.3 points in his final 27 games while Harkless scored 13.4 over his final 30.

Indiana limited Orlando to 39.1 percent field-goal shooting and 85.3 points per game while taking two of three meetings last season.

George has averaged 21.5 points in his last four matchups with the Magic while hitting seven of 14 3-point attempts.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23749 Followers:32
10/29/2013 12:20 AM

Preview: Bulls (0-0) at Heat (0-0)

Date: October 29, 2013 8:00 PM EDT


As Miami looks to further etch its mark on NBA history, Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls hope they are capable of ending the Heat's recent dominance within the Eastern Conference.

The visiting Bulls get an early crack at the two-time reigning NBA champion Heat when they open the season Tuesday night.

Following a lavish celebration of the team's second straight league title and third in eight seasons, Miami expects to be all business going forward.

"After we get our rings, that's last year," said Heat superstar LeBron James, who averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists en route to his fourth MVP award.

"We did some special things last year and this is an opportunity for us to look back at it one more time, but I definitely won't lose sight of what's in front of me."

The Heat are trying to join the Boston Celtics of 1957-66 and 1984-87, and Los Angeles Lakers of 1982-85, as the only teams to make at least four consecutive trips to the league championship series. With James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen again leading the way, and Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley headlining a solid supporting cast, the Heat are poised to accomplish that feat while trying to become the first team since the Lakers of 2000-02 to win three straight NBA titles.

"It would mean everything, man," James said. "First of all, it means that I'm doing my part and I'm helping our team get better. It would mean everything to our team. That's what we're here for. We work our tails off every day. If it can pay off with another Finals appearance, we'd represent the Eastern Conference the best way we can."

Miami needed seven games to beat Indiana in the East finals and San Antonio in the title series in 2012-13, but those playoffs capped a remarkable season in which the Heat went 66-16, won 27 in a row and took 27 of the final 29 regular-season contests against conference opponents.

"When you put this kind of talent together, there's always people on the outside trying to figure out ways why it shouldn't work," said Wade, who averaged 21.2 points while shooting a career-high 52.1 percent during his 10th season with Miami. "When you're on the inside and can put it together and show them that it can work, it's a great feeling.

"For us to be able to go to the Finals three straight times and hopefully go again, what more can you ask for?

Ending that dominance would again appear to be a tall order for any conference foe, but Chicago believes it's up for the challenge.

As Rose remained sidelined the entire season with a knee injury suffered in April 2012, the Bulls went 45-37 in 2012-13 and posted a first-round victory over Brooklyn in seven games. Chicago won 93-86 at Miami in Game 1 of the next round, but scored 82.0 points and allowed 100.3 per contest in dropping four straight.

The memory of another failed postseason series against the Heat could certainly provide motivation, and the return of Rose has Chicago believing it can dethrone Miami.

"Our No. 1 goal is winning the title," said Rose, the 2011 MVP who has averaged 21.0 points and 6.8 assists in four NBA seasons. "We're not worried about anything else. We're not worried about what people say about us or what's going on on the outside. We're just worried about the Bulls and how good we get every day."

Rose averaged 20.7 points while the Bulls went 8-0 during the preseason. Though it's hard to put much stock in such achievement, Chicago looks at that performance as something to build upon.

"If anything, we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, which was to go out there and try to win every game," Rose told the Bulls' official website. "We know we have important games coming up. We're just trying to get prepared for that."

Rose has averaged 20.2 points despite shooting 37.1 percent, including 19.6 from 3-point range, in 17 regular-season and playoff games against Miami. However, he's played in one of the last 12 meetings between the teams.

Chicago split the four-game regular-season series with the Heat in 2012-13.

The Bulls ranked 29th with 93.2 points per game last season - 3.1 fewer than in 2011-12 with Rose. However, since the start of the 2009-10 season, Chicago is yielding a league-low 93.1 points a contest.

Chicago's Joakim Noah made his first All-Star game while setting career highs with averages of 11.9 points and 11.1 rebounds last season. He could miss the opener due to a groin injury.

The Bulls are hoping for continued development from third-year shooting guard Jimmy Butler, who gave the Heat trouble in last season's playoff series by averaging 15.6 points. Butler became a starter in March and scored 14.5 per game, and he's expected to be in the starting lineup Tuesday.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23749 Followers:32
10/29/2013 12:21 AM

Preview: Clippers (0-0) at Lakers (0-0)

Date: October 29, 2013 10:30 PM EDT


No longer a mere punchline or a lesser attraction, the Los Angeles Clippers have usurped the Los Angeles Lakers as the city's top team. But with the addition of Doc Rivers to coach up an already talent-laden roster, they aren't satisfied with merely being No. 1 in Los Angeles.

Coincidentally, though, their road to accomplishing more starts against the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers in a designated road game Tuesday night.

The Lakers (45-37) were the ones with championship expectations entering last season following the acquisitions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Both were plagued by injuries, however, while Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon prior to a first-round sweep at the hands of San Antonio, and Howard bolted for Houston after his contract expired.

The Clippers (56-26) swept the season series for the first time since coming to Los Angeles, winning four meetings by an average of 13.2 points. Now being better than their historically superior arena mates appears to be the least of their concerns.

They've been successful in the regular season, as their 96 wins over the last two rank fifth in the NBA. But after a second-round exit in 2012, they were eliminated in the first round by Memphis despite jumping out to a 2-0 series lead.

"We have higher expectations for ourselves than anybody else," forward Blake Griffin said. "We don't feel we've arrived until we win a championship."

The Clippers fired Vinny Del Negro and dealt a future first-round pick to Boston to acquire Rivers' services. Since arriving, Rivers has put a priority on building a championship mentality, seen in his move to have the Lakers' banners and retired jerseys covered inside Staples Center for Clippers home games.

Point guard Chris Paul, who signed a five-year, $107 million extension in the offseason, found out in a hurry what playing for Rivers would be like.

"You always want someone to push you and motivate you," said Paul, who tied for the league lead in steals with 2.4 per game and finished second in assists at 9.7 but has only won two playoff series in his career. "In our first meeting, he told me I hadn't really done anything in this league, and he's right."

Paul should be happy with more weapons at his disposal, particularly with a deeper group of reserves. The Clippers added a bevy of 3-point options in J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley and Byron Mullens, and the signing of Darren Collison should also help Paul find more time to catch a breather.

The Lakers enter with a roster full of question marks after a championship-or-bust season went bust. No firm timetable has been set for Bryant's return, so the responsibility of leadership - and production - appears to fall squarely on the shoulders of Nash and Pau Gasol in the meantime.

"It's really important for us to embrace these low expectations, try to find a chemistry and build ourselves into a team that has some confidence," said Nash, who at 39 is the league's oldest player.

They'll be playing alongside a virtual scrap heap of free-agent acquisitions, including Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Farmar and Shawne Williams. But where most generally see inexperience, Nash sees potential.

"We may not be as talented at the top like last year, but I think we got younger, more athletic with more shooters who can space the floor," Nash said.

Perhaps the youth can revitalize Nash, whose 6.7 assists per game were his fewest since 1999-00. Howard's departure also means Gasol will have the paint to himself, looking to improve on a career-low 13.7 points per game and 46.6 field-goal percentage.

Paul is averaging 22.1 points and 12.4 assists in his last seven games against the Lakers.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23749 Followers:32
10/29/2013 06:58 PM

Tuesday, October 29

Game Score Status Pick Amount

Orlando 0 0th Indiana -12 500 POD # 1

Indiana 0 Under 188.5 500 POD # 6

Chicago - 8:00 PM ET Chicago +5 500 POD # 4

Miami - Under 188.5 500 POD # 2

L.A. Clippers - 10:30 PM ET L.A. Clippers -9.5 500 POD # 5

L.A. Lakers - Over 200 500 POD # 3

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23749 Followers:32
10/30/2013 12:52 AM

Western Conference Preview

October 29, 2013


Eastern Conference Preview

SOUTHWEST DIVISION: Lots of hullabaloo in the offseason involving the Houston Rockets (54 ½), who would have made even Tony Robbins envious with the sales pitch they made to land Dwight Howard. The question remains if big Dwight is going to be worth another ten wins to a side that won 45 last year. We're not sure, especially with questions remaining at PG and PF, and James Harden dinging his knee (although it didn't seem serious) late in preseason. We expect the Rockets to improve, but maybe not enough to get above that aggressive win total. "Under" at Toyota Center.

Get used to the newly-named New Orleans Pelicans (39 ½), as the former Hornets name prepares to be returned to Charlotte next season. That 391/2 is an awfully big jump from last season's 27 wins, but consider the positive dynamics in the Big Easy, which included stealing an All-Star G (Jrue Holiday) from the Sixers on draft night and adding the explosive Tyreke Evans, who needed a change of scenery after a few seasons in Sacramento. This new-look perimeter, along with holdover Eric Gordon, really intrigues, although for the Pelicans to clear that win hurdle and contend for a playoff berth, they're going to need second-year ex-Kentucky C Anthony Davis to stay healthy, which he couldn't do a year ago. With Dwight Howard now in the division, Davis' presence is going to be even more important. But New Orleans will play defense for HC Monty Williams, and a healthy Davis puts the Pelicans in the playoff mix. Look "over," but not by much, in "Nawlins."

It seems a lot longer than 21/2 years ago that the Dallas Mavericks (43 ½) won the NBA title. Other than Dirk Nowitzki, the roster bears little resemblance to the title year. Mark Cuban's goal in the offseason was to lure either Dwight Howard or Chris Paul to Big D, but that didn't work, so the Mavs had to settle for a new-look and slightly odd backcourt combo of PG Jose Calderon and gunner-deluxe Monta Ellis, a pairing that will not impede many attack-minded foes on the stop end. If Nowitzki were in his prime we might be inclined to give the Mavs a look, but last season hinted of real signs that Dirk is now struggling with age and injury, and those dynamics rarely improve with time. Shawn Marion and Vince Carter are not as frisky as they once were, either. This roster will be quite a chore for HC Rick Carlisle to make competitive, so we look "under" at American Airlines Center.

We have to wonder about the direction of the Memphis Grizzlies (50 ½), who have gone all in with the new "metrics" movement championed by their new ownership group and GM John Hollinger, a former ESPN stats guru who was enlisted last December. Hollinger's in-depth stats background and advanced application of "metrics" (mostly lineup combinations) put him at odds with former "old school" HC Lionel Hollins, who was dismissed in favor of Hollinger preference Dave Joerger, elevated from his assistant coach role. Hollins' methods, however, seemed to work just fine, emphasizing defense and a share-the-ball philosophy that brought the Griz to the Western finals last season. But we suspect Joerger will not be changing the formula too much, still banging the ball in the paint to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph while playing what was the NBA's best defense (league-low 89.3 ppg allowed last year). Where Joerger might initiate change is with tempo, as Memphis is likely to push the pace more than it did with Hollins. We'll see if that works. The biggest plus we envision in Memphis is an improved bench, with some of the young Grizzlies like Quincy Pondexter and Ed Davis becoming regular contributors, and ex-Miami sharpshooter Mike Miller does fill a role that Memphis has eventually missed in the postseason the past few years. Conclusion? Matching last year's 56 wins might be a tall order, but clearing 50 ½ looks within reason, so we're going "over" at FedEx Forum.

Undeterred after their near-miss in the NBA Finals last June, the San Antonio Spurs (55 ½) are back for one more kick at the can, and perhaps a last chance to win a fifth title in the Tim Duncan era. The roster has a similar look to recent seasons, with the familiar Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker triumverate at the core, and Gregg Popovich pulling the strings svengali-like from the bench. There have been some minor adjustments in the supporting cast, though we suspect ex-Bull G Marco Belinelli will prove more reliable off the bench than the departed, hot-and-cold Gary Neal. More recent additions to the lineup mix such as Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green emerged as valuable components last season. The Spurs won 58 a year ago, as Popovich routinely rested some of his vets during the regular season in hopes of having them fresh for the postseason. If anything, that strategy might become even more pronounced with Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker all a year older. Which makes projecting above that 551/2 a bit risky. We expect the Spurs to make one more major run at the ring next spring, but are less sure they will be as focused on the regular season, which makes it a pass for us at AT&T Center.

NORTHWEST DIVISION: Turn back the clock to March of 2012, when the Minnesota Timberwolves (40 ½) were in the thick of the West playoff chase. That was before fancy PG Ricky Rubio went down with a knee injury and the campaign unraveled. And while Rubio was slow to regain his old form upon his return last season, PF Kevin Love suffered a string of fluke injuries that sidelined him for all but 18 games of 2012-13. Now both seem healthy again, while the T-wolves have added a potentially useful element in 2-G Kevin Martin, just the sort of spot shooter who can greatly aid both Rubio & Love. In fact, Minnesota now has viable scorers at every position, including C Nikola Pekovic, who emerged when Love was sidelined, while shrewd HC Rick Adelman remains. Bets are off if Love and Rubio go down again, but until then we're looking "over" at Target Center.

Lots of changes with the Denver Nuggets (45 ½), including on the bench where Brian Shaw gets his long-awaited chance at an NBA head coaching gig. But after George Karl squeezed so much out of the roster in recent years, it is fair to wonder whether Shaw can do the same. Especially since the Nuggets let catalyst Andre Iguodola walk in the offseason (as well as Corey Brewer, along with "Iggy" one of the two best defenders on last year's team). And will Shaw be able to connect with PG Ty Lawson and unpredictable C JaVale McGee as did Karl? Considering the many different elements in the mix, and nagging injuries throughout the preseason, a slow start would be no surprise. We're looking "under" at Pepsi Center.

We're not sure any team (outside of Philadelphia) is due for the drop-off they can expect in Salt Lake City, where the Utah Jazz (25 ½) are going to try to stay afloat after losing key frontline components Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to free agency. Which has Jazz backers justifiably upset, as some believe that one or both should have been moved at the trade deadline last February, netting something in return. Instead, the Jazz will line up with Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors on the blocks with little in the form of reinforcement in reserve, while hoping that versatile swingman Gordon Hayward and 2-G Alec Burks blossom into a bona fide stars. We still might have been inclined to give Utah some "over" consideration had top draft pick Michigan G Trey Burke been in the mix from the outset, but he suffered a finger injury late in the preseason that might keep him on the shelf into January. By letting many veterans walk, the Jazz have put themselves in a low-risk, high-reward situation, because even if the season goes pear-shaped, a shot in the lottery for what could be a bountiful draft next June will prove a nice consolation prize. We look "under" at EnergySolutions Arena.

The class of the Northwest remain the Oklahoma City Thunder (52 ½), although they're going to have to proceed for a while without star G Russell Westbrook, out for perhaps two months with a knee injury. Ok City was clearly not the same team after Westbrook went down in last year's playoffs, but (barring another injury setback) he is still likely to be involved in about two-thirds of the regular season, and backup Reggie Jackson is serviceable enough to handle the point without too much distress in the interim. Let us not forget that the wondrous Kevin Durant (28.1 ppg last season) is still capable of taking over any game, and the rest of the lineup (including PF Serge Ibaka) is capable of bearing more of the offensive burden. While Ok City might not get to last year's 60 wins, we think the mid 50s is still a reasonable target, especially with Westbrook eventually to return to active duty. So, we'll look "over" at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

We haven't been getting much consensus from our sources regarding the prospects of the Portland Trailblazers (38 ½), who are alternately praised and cursed by different insiders. The Blazers feel they have upgraded where they needed to from a year ago, mainly with a deeper bench and more good shooters, as draftee Allen Crabbe could come in handy. (One rookie who won't be helping is exciting Lehigh first-round pick G C.J. McCollum, out for the season with injury.) Vet additions such as C Robin Lopez and G Mo Williams could also take some pressure off the trio of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, and Damian Lillard, who carried too much of the burden from last season. We suspect there could be improvement, but jumping six wins from last year's 33 might be a bit of a reach. Still, we're just going to play wait-and-see with the Blazers, so it's a pass for us at the Rose Garden.

PACIFIC DIVISION: No team made as many solid organizational moves in the offseason as the Sacramento Kings (31 ½), who will see immediate benefit from the new Ranadive ownership group after years of indifferent leadership from the clueless Maloof clan. Adding Shaq as part of the management team also figures to keep the flame lit under C DeMarcus Cousins (who recently signed a contract extension), and preseason was encouraging under new HC Mike Malone. On-court additions such as G Greivis Vasquez and Kansas rookie swingman Ben McLemore should also be a plus, although we would be extra bullish if F Carl Landry weren't going to be out until January with injury. No matter, it's a definite "over" in Sacto.

Hard as it might be for the Hollywood crowd to accept with the Los Angeles Lakers (36 ½), an overload of players either on one-year deals or at the end of existing long-term contracts is confirmation that this season is more about clearing cap space for 2014-15. Although some of the offseason additions (such as Nick Young and Jordan Farmar) could prove useful, the key vet components all have recent injury issues, and even the contributions of Kobe Bryant are hard to gauge whenever he returns from last spring's Achilles tendon tear. We're looking "under" for the Lake Show.

This was unthinkable until recently, but L.A. is now the Los Angeles Clippers' (56 ½) town. And if one believes that coaches make any difference in the NBA, then the Clips' recruitment of the highly-respected Doc Rivers to take the place of Vinny Del Negro would seem to be worth at least a few more wins beyond last season's 56. While Rivers figures to be a plus, so too are some offseason additions which provide more versatility off the bench and, importantly, a capable backup for do-everything Chris Paul in Darren Collison, who will allow Paul a bit more rest during the games and top-notch cover should Paul go down. Spot-shooter deluxe J.J. Redick will also fill an important reserve role as the designated gunner, and frontline additions Jared Dudley, Antawn Jamison, and Byron Mullens give Rivers more depth than Del Negro had to work with last season. We still worry about the durability of high-intensity Blake Griffin, who has had injury problems before, and DeAndre Jordan has his limitations in the post. But there are a lot more positives than negatives with the Clips, so we're looking "over" with at least one of the Staples Center tenants.

The most comparable team to Philadelphia from the Western Conference might be the Phoenix Suns (20 ½), who might have signaled their intentions for this season by dealing away C Marcin Gortat to Washington in the preseason. The culture of this once-proud organization has been turned inside-out by unpredictable owner Robert Sarver, who is well on his way to being mentioned alongside the likes of Bob Irsay and Ted Stepien on any worst-owners lists. The Suns have been in steep decline on Sarver's watch, and we see nothing to stop the descent this season, as new HC Jeff Hornacek has been given little to work with on a talent-depleted roster. Lots of mid-level sorts have been shuffled on and off the roster since last season, and we are hardly convinced that rookies like C Alex Len or F Alex Oriakhi are ready to make any real impact, or vet additions like Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe are about to help forge a turnaround. At least Hornacek is promising a fast pace, so the Suns might be fun to watch on some nights. We just think they're going to lose...a lot. "Under" at US Airways Center.

On their best nights, the Golden State Warriors (52 ½) are a sight to behold. Especially when Steph Curry's long-range radar (45.3% triples last season) is working, and supporting cast members like Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes (also both better than 40% beyond the arc last season) are bombing away as well. And adding the slashing Andre Iguodala to the mix appears to be a perfect complement to the many spot shooters on the attack end in Mark Jackson's offense. So, there are going to be nights when Golden State looks unbeatable. But we have a couple of nagging questions about the Warriors, especially fragile post presence Andrew Bogut, whose value on defense and the boards makes it almost imperative for him to stay healthy and in the lineup. Keeping fellow frontliner David Lee healthy was also a chore last season. And the contributions of valued vets Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry off the bench a year ago were crucial in the Warriors' playoff surge; they were both on one-year deals in 2012-13 and took their acts elsewhere in the offseason. Golden State has plenty of upside beyond last year's 47 wins, but we're not sure they clear 52 ½, so it's a pass for us in Oakland.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23749 Followers:32
10/30/2013 12:54 AM

Eastern Conference Preview

October 29, 2013


ATLANTIC DIVISION: It's been a while, but we can recall a few past doormat Boston Celtics (27 ½) sides. Such as the post-Bill Russell edition with Hank Finkel at C, and the pre-Larry Bird Celts of the late '70s featuring the likes of Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe and coached by Satch Sanders in parts of two seasons. Well, they're not going to be hanging any banners for the 2013-14 version, either. After losing its top scorers and rebounders, and watching HC Doc Rivers bolt town, too, Boston bears little resemblance to the sides we have been used to seeing lately. And while we thought HC Brad Stevens would only leave Butler for a storied job, we expected it to be Duke or Indiana, not the Celts. With G Rajon Rondo still out until perhaps New Year's with knee problems, Stevens is minus the one component he could have badly used at the outset in a transition year. Look "under" in Beantown.

Win totals could be inflated for many Atlantic, Southeast, and Central Division entries simply because the bottom-feeders of the Eastern Conference are going to be so bad. And none of those figures to be any worse than the Philadelphia 76ers (17 ½), who are going to more resemble a college team trying to compete in the NBA. The season-ending knee injury to rookie Kentucky C Nerlens Noel was the final straw and will help prompt season-long comparisons to the 9-73 Sixers of 1972-73. Ex-Spurs assistant Brett Brown might end up wondering why he took the HC job. "Under" at Wells Fargo Center.

Perhaps this is how a maverick Russian billionaire (in this case, Mihkail Prokhorov) decides to run an NBA franchise, in his case the Brooklyn Nets (52 ½). Go out and add a collection of established and decorated NBA talent; in the Nets' case, that meant offseason additions Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry (most of last year's Celtic lineup, really), and Andrei Kirilenko. But not many owners would pick a star player who just finished a Hall-of-Fame career career (in this case Jason Kidd) to be the new head coach with absolutely no experience whatsoever in his new role. Perhaps Prokhorov will prove smarter than the rest, and be rewarded handsomely as Kidd (a consummate "coach on the floor" during his playing career) connects with the vets. By us, however, this seems a bit much of a risk, especially for a team with such a short window to capitalize. Keeping the aging ex-Celtics healthy will be another matter. Maybe Brooklyn is formidable at playoff time, but the adjustment phase, and likely resting those older components to get them ready for the postseason, could suppress the season win total, so it's an "under" for us at Barclays Center.

At least the New York Knicks (49 ½) aren't going to have to spend three weeks on the road early in the season, as did their Madison Square Garden co-tenant New York Rangers, as refurbishments are now complete at their home arena. The Knicks intrigue at least as much as the Rangers, however, as some offseason additions like Metta World Peace (back in his college stomping grounds and who could help the defensive profile greatly), explosive but oft-injured F Andrea Bargnani, Michigan rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., and vet backup PG Beno Udrih give HC Mike Woodson more options and better depth off the bench. We still don't think Amar'e Stoudemire is a proper fit, however, especially since Woodson demands his players work as hard on defense as they do on the attack end, and upgrades elsewhere in the top tier of the East will make it difficult to repeat last year's 54 wins. But a healthy Carmelo Anthony can still score, score, score, compensating for some of the lack of foot speed on the roster, and with the win "total" less than 50, we think the Knicks can clear it...barely. (Are you happy, Spike Lee?) "Over" at MSG.

We saw some signs of life late last season from the Toronto Raptors (35 ½) after Rudy Gay arrived in a midseason trade from Memphis. Gay often thrilled and excited with his offensive explosiveness, but as Grizzlies followers are quick to remind, Gay does not exactly contribute much besides his ability to fill the bucket. Which makes him something of a clone of Toronto's other ball of fire, off-guard Demar DeRozan. So, there will probably be nights those two make Toronto look like a playoff contender. But we have questions about roster depth and negligible offseason upgrades, and we need more convincing about frontliners Amir Johnson & Jonas Valanciunas. Plus, PG Kyle Lowry is hurting (finger injury) to start the season. The Raptors could benefit from the presence of so many punching bags (like the Sixers) in the East, and that could push them into the brink of postseason contention, but there are plenty of ways for Toronto to veer off course, too. We're simply going to pass at Air Canada Centre.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION: For the first time in a few years, the Charlotte Bobcats (26 ½) might look more like an NBA team than an ACC entry. The frontline certainly received a nice overhaul in the offseason when ex-Jazz FA Al Jefferson and Indiana rookie Cody Zeller, perhaps the most-refined offensive talent among the incoming bigs, were added to the mix. Suddenly, the Bobcats have some real scoring presence in the post, and Zeller adds to an exciting young core of talent that already featured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker from the previous two drafts. While NBA insiders still roll their eyes at the thought of Michael Jordan interjecting himself too much into personnel matters, they are also high on new HC Steve Clifford, recently on Laker staffs. We haven't looked "over" in a while at Time Warner Cable Arena (the "Cable Box"), but we are this season.

After the Nats missed the playoffs, and the Redskins and Caps broke slowly from the gate this fall, not to mention Congress not winning any popularity contests, D.C. fans need something to get excited about. Filling the gap could be the Washington Wizards (39 ½), who sent a signal that they mean business by recently dealing for Suns C Marcin Gortat, who along with a healthy Nene now gives "Da Bullet" a legit NBA frontline. With former top draftee John Wall being healthy from the outset this season and being joined by another former SEC star, ex-Florida G Bradley Beal, to form a dynamite perimeter scoring punch, and Georgetown first-round pick Otto Porter, Jr. potentially adding more firepower, the Wizards for once intrigue. True, the likes of Wall, Nene, and defensive stopper Trevor Ariza have all had injury issues in the past, but a healthy Washington side can make a run at one of the lower East playoff slots. Really. Look "over" at Verizon Center.

After the Dwight Howard watch in L.A. last season, no free-agent-to-be generated as much discussion as did F Josh Smith with the Atlanta Hawks (39 ½). Which prompted a lot of speculation what the Hawks might want to do with Smith at the trade deadline. But the fact there was not an overwhelming amount of interest last February in Josh (perhaps in part due to his pending free-agency) suggests that maybe Atlanta will not be so bad off now that Smith has left the fold and signed with Detroit. Besides, more than a few NBA observers believe the Hawks might have upgraded with replacement Paul Millsap, the relentless ex-Jazz PF who will be nothing if not more consistent in production than was Smith. Meanwhile, vet Elton Brand adds more quality depth to the frontline, which already featured C Al Horford. And while the rest of the roster doesn't terribly excite, Jeff Teague remains a serviceable NBA point guard, and Kyle Korver is the sort of spot-shooter that many teams covet. We'll see if Atlanta embraces the defensive mindset of new HC Mike Budenholzer, who wants to mold Atlanta into a likeness of his former employer Spurs. If Atlanta falls from last year's 44 wins, it won't be far, so clearing that 391/2 looks doable, as does another lower-rung East playoff slot. "Over" at Philips Arena.

There seems to be some excitement brewing with the Orlando Magic (23 ½), who have quickly assembled a promising core of young talent that was augmented in the draft with the first-round selection of Indiana's dynamic Victor Oladipo (second overall pick), who figures to help HC Jacque Vaughn on both ends of the court. Along with versatile C Nikola Vucevic and SF Tobias Harris, one can see the building blocks being put in place by GM Rob Hennigan. And there is patience in the front office, reflected in the support of Vaughn after last year's difficult 20-62 slog. Our concerns are mostly health-oriented with the Magic, at least at the outset of the season, with Harris (ankle) and PF Big Baby Davis (foot; remember how Orlando collapsed after Davis was injured last season?) both sidelined indefinitely, and Vucevic bothered by nagging elbow problems throughout the preseason. With a long-term perspective, Hennigan is also not likely to make too many in-season moves for any quick fix, especially since no one in the Disney area is expecting much this season. We can envision a full-strength Orlando making some improvements, but given those early-season injury concerns, would rather pass at Amway Center.

This could really be the last hurrah for this generation of the Miami Heat (61 ½), looking to become the first three-peater since Phil Jackson's Shaq/Kobe Lakers early in the last decade. Remember, LeBron can opt out at the conclusion of this season (there continues to be more than idle chatter about a possible hero's return to Cleveland), and we doubt Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra are going to be able to squeeze more than one more big season out of key cogs Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen. But with the exception of key reserve Mike Miller (who helped in the playoffs), Riley was able to keep last year's title winners mostly intact, so one more title run could be in the cards. We suspect, however, that getting ready for another playoff charge will become a dominant theme as the season progresses, and for Spoelstra to borrow some of Gregg Popovich's San Antonio regular-season strategy and give his vets proper rest before the postseason. Any hint of physical issues with the Big Three (especially Wade) will likely cause them to rest in the regular season, and keeping Wade, in particular, in working order has become more of a chore in recent seasons. We respect the Heat's talent too much to suggest an "under," but given the three-peat dynamics, we'd rather just pass on Miami in the regular season, and wait for the playoff drama to unfold next spring.

CENTRAL DIVISION: Go ahead and turn back the calendar to April of 2012, when we last saw Derrick Rose playing for the Chicago Bulls (56 ½). He's finally back from knee problems and looked like his old self in preseason. Without Rose, the Bulls still gutted their way into the East semis last spring before bowing honorably to Miami. While Rose was out, Jimmy Butler developed into a useful complementary weapon, and big things could be expected from Luol Deng, now in a contract year. If the Bulls stay healthy (maybe a big if, as Rose, Deng, and Joakim Noah have all been sidelined extensively in recent times), they might be the biggest threat to a Miami three-peat. Look "over" at United Center.

The heat is on GM Joe Dumars, who is in win-now mode for his Detroit Pistons (40 ½). Offseason moves suggested as much, enlisting Mo Cheeks as the new head coach and adding some intriguing pieces to the personnel mix such as ex-Hawks F Josh Smith, ex-Bucks PG Brandon Jennings, and Georgia rookie G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The pressure will be on Cheeks to make the combos work; Jennings has been hurting in preseason, and how shots will be divvied up between him, Smith, and holdover frontliners Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond upon his return might require Henry Kissinger-type diplomacy. We also wonder if the hot-and-cold Smith can handle full-time duties at the "3," as Cheeks envisions. Nonetheless, we like how Detroit has altered its culture; for the first time in a while, the organization looks hungry. That's enough to make us look "over" at the Palace.

The Cleveland Cavaliers (40 ½) don't look much like the team HC Mike Brown left behind when he was dismissed after the 2009-10 season. That was also just before LeBron James' much-ballyhooed "decision" to leave for Miami. Proving that he holds no grudges, owner Dan Gilbert has brought back Brown to oversee a different-looking group of Cavs, of which Brown might only recognize frontliner Anderson Varejao from his last stint in town. Varejao's availablility, however, is important for Cleveland after recent injury woes, and is part of a much-improved bench that Brown predecessor Byron Scott did not have the luxury of experiencing the past two seasons. Included in that mix are top draft pick F Anthony Bennett from UNLV and useful vet handyman Jarrett Jack, who proved a real plus to Golden State's fortunes a year ago. It's also interesting to note that Brown was not scared off enough by his experience with Andrew Bynum in L.A. to bring the big man to Cleveland to revive his career. But there is now depth to absorb the injury woes of Bynum (still not activated for the season), and the young backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters oozes upside. With the bottom few playoff spots in the East likely a free-for-all, the Cavs can get into the mix; it's an "over" for us at "The Q," as the will-LeBron-return chatter heats up as the season progresses.

There is likely to be a collection of a few have-nots that will provide cannon fodder for the contenders of the Eastern Conference this season; unfortunately for Milwaukee Bucks (28 ½) fans, their team is included in the former. The personnel mix might not be what new HC Larry Drew envisioned when he signed up after spending the past two years in Atlanta; with both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis having departed town, the engine room of the recent Bucks offense has departed with them. Drew has lots of choices from the collection of possible new combinations; perhaps too many, as the roster has gone through a significant overhaul, including a brand-new backcourt where Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo are likely the new guard combo. With four of the top five scorers gone from last season, the adjustment phase for Drew and the new roster likely extends to the All-Star break and beyond. The Bucks will probably prop up the rest of the Central; it's an "under" for us in Brewtown.

The Indiana Pacers (54 ½) have served notice the past two seasons that they are ready to capitalize upon any slippage by the Heat or other top contenders. What most impressed many NBA insiders last season was how the Pacers seamlessly adapted to the near season-long absence of high-scoring F Danny Granger (who, by the way, is on the shelf again with calf problems). Emerging as the unquestioned star in Granger's absence was the explosive Paul George, who has also signed a contract extension since the conclusion of last season. The pieces all remain in place, including C Roy Hibbert, who could threaten superstardom, and no-nonsense frontline mate David West, who provided the rugged presence Indiana lacked before his arrival. Offseason pickups like F Luis Scola and G C.J. Watson add to Frank Vogel's options off the bench. And if Granger can return healthy, he adds a lot more firepower to the mix. So take your pick of Chicago or Indiana as the teams with the best chance of knocking off Miami in the East. It's a definite "over" for us at the wonderful Bankers Life Fieldhouse, a sort of Oz among newer hoops palaces.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23749 Followers:32
10/30/2013 12:55 AM

Preview: Heat (0-0) at 76ers (0-0)

Date: October 30, 2013 7:00 PM EDT


Brett Brown watched from the San Antonio bench as an assistant coach while the Miami Heat closed out the Spurs in seven games to win their second straight NBA title in June.

Miami looked every bit as good in its season opener as Brown remembers, and he'll likely have an even tougher challenge trying to slow down the visiting Heat on Wednesday night as he begins his first head coaching gig with a Philadelphia 76ers team undergoing a major rebuild.

Brown spent six seasons as an assistant to Gregg Popovich before signing a four-year deal to coach Philadelphia this offseason. He likely won't be experiencing as many victories as in previous years with a roster devoid of any superstar talent.

After a disappointing 34-48 campaign, the 76ers revamped their leadership by parting ways with coach Doug Collins and firing general manager Tony DiLeo. President Rod Thorn left for a front-office job with the league.

New GM Sam Hinkie then traded leading scorer Jrue Holiday while Andrew Bynum, who was injured all of last season and never played a game for Philadelphia, signed with Cleveland.

Holiday was traded on draft night for No. 6 overall pick Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-rounder, though there has been talk of Noel sitting out the entire season while he recovers from a torn left ACL. The 76ers then drafted point guard Michael Carter-Williams with the No. 11 pick.

'When you're looking to rebuild, and you're not on the side of the win column as much as you'd like to be, it's got to be done out of respect, out of work ethic, a competitiveness, a toughness,' Brown said. 'I feel like we're not skipping steps, we're not cheating the system, we're going about it like we're building something. That's why they hired me. That's what I intend on trying to do.'

Thaddeus Young is the leading returning scorer after averaging 14.8 points last season, and Evan Turner also is back after scoring 13.3 points per game. Turner, in the last year of his rookie contract, doesn't plan on accepting being part of a losing team.

'No matter how you put it, losers sit there and say ... we're going to lose," Turner said. "I'm not a loser.'

The Sixers, though, haven't been on the winning end of recent meetings with Miami, dropping nine straight and 19 of the last 20 matchups, including the postseason.

Brown has his own experience coming up short against the Heat.

"Everyone knows the last time I saw them (it) was a huge disappointment," Brown said. "The hangover from all that still exists a little bit.

"There's an excitement to start the year, and it just so happens to be against the best team in basketball. Any time you can get a true benchmark of where you want to be as an individual or as a team, then it's an honest reflection to aspire to get to where we want to go."

The Heat picked up right where they left off last season, beating Chicago 107-95 on Tuesday after receiving their championship rings in a pregame ceremony.

'You never know what to expect when you're trying to keep the main thing the main thing, and that's the game,' coach Erik Spoelstra said. 'But you can't deny the emotions and what a special moment it was for everybody in the organization because we know how difficult that was and how harrowing that was last season."

Seven players scored in double figures for Miami including LeBron James, who finished with 17 points, six rebounds and eight assists.

'It's a team game,' James said. 'That's what this team is put together for.'

James had 27 points with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade both sitting out of Miami's 106-87 win over Philadelphia in the most recent meeting April 6.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23749 Followers:32
10/30/2013 12:56 AM

Preview: Nets (0-0) at Cavaliers (0-0)

Date: October 30, 2013 7:00 PM EDT


After an offseason spent acquiring talented but aging players, the expectation for the Brooklyn Nets is quite clear: Win a championship, and quickly.

With a roster full of developing youngsters, the Cleveland Cavaliers' goals are a little more measured - though there's plenty of reason for optimism.

The overhauled Nets seek their ninth win in 11 meetings with the Cavaliers on Wednesday night in Cleveland.

Every member of the starting lineup has been an All-Star, and the Nets (49-33) have a combined 36 All-Star selections. Whereas the Celtics were still unproven around their Big Three, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett join a first five with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, with players such as Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry coming off the bench.

It came at an exorbitant cost. The payroll is more than $100 million and the Nets will be socked with a luxury tax bill of more than $80 million on top of that after blowing miles by the salary cap of $58.7 million.

Owner Mikhail Prokhorov said when he bought the team in 2010 that he wanted a title within five years, and he signed off on a flurry of moves to give himself a chance. The draft-night trade with the Celtics that brought in Pierce, Garnett and Terry was a blockbuster, and other players were signed in hopes of keeping those old guys fresh for the postseason. That trio boasts a combined 47 seasons of playing experience, but each player is at least 36 years old.

Jason Kidd, who led the Nets to two NBA Finals as a player, now is on the bench in his first coaching opportunity. But the most important newcomer may be Garnett, who brings his trademark intensity and the loudest voice in practice to a team that Kidd said was too "vanilla" last season in losing to an undermanned Chicago team in the first round.

"My style is my style, and understand I've grown into this style," Garnett said. "I haven't always been like this. I've had to grow into being a man and understanding responsibilities and having different responsibilities. Through my course of my career from Minnesota to Boston I've understood all that, and now reaping some of those benefits of trial and error, I'm able to give wisdom and advice off of experience."

The Nets are realistic about the difficulty of winning a title with a first-year coach and so many new pieces. League executives who voted in the NBA.com GM Survey favored the Nets to win their division, but none picked them to even win the East, let alone the NBA title.

"I think it's tough to come together and win a championship in the first year. That's not saying it can't be done, we're looking to do that," Williams said. "But as far as people not picking us, that's all right. We'll worry about us, we'll worry about getting better, and we feel like if we get to the playoffs and everybody's healthy, we have a chance to beat anybody."

After a short tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers, Mike Brown is back as the Cavaliers' head coach.

Dismissed in 2010 by owner Dan Gilbert after the Cavs (24-58) were eliminated in the playoffs, Brown inherits a team similar to the one he had in 2005, when LeBron James blossomed into a superstar and Cleveland won 50 games to get back into the postseason for the first time since 1998.

Since Brown left, the Cavs have lost 166 games, a downward spiral that began when James packed up his MVP trophies and talents for Miami. But with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, a revamped roster and playing in the top-heavy Eastern Conference, Cleveland should return to contention and may be one of the league's surprises.

"I feel we definitely have the pieces this year," said Irving, who averaged 22.4 points and 5.9 assists last season. "We have the chance to be something special."

Irving's health holds the key.

He has missed 38 games in his first two pro seasons with a variety of injuries, raising concerns about his durability. But the 21-year-old reported to training camp looking stronger physically and he seems to have done some mental maturing.

Irving wants to be the game's best player, and after coaching James and Kobe Bryant, Brown sees many similarities between his young star and those two icons.

"They want to be coached hard. They want to not only be better, they want to be great," Brown said. "Just being around Kyrie this short amount of time, I'm starting to feel that. He's young and has a ways to grow, but he's hungry to not only be better, but to be the greatest. When you have a guy that has that type of talent, skill level, but has an individual drive on his own to be the greatest, to me that results in a superstar in the making just waiting to blossom."

The Cavs, too, have a chance to bloom into something this season as well. With Irving, guard Dion Waiters, top overall draft pick Anthony Bennett, third-year forward Tristan Thompson and scrappy forward/center Anderson Varejao, Cleveland has a solid core to build around before next summer, when James may again test free agency.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs: