We’re in the midst of the craziest week of the NBA regular season — a week where a player can play in the All-Star Game and get traded in the same week. It’s enough to make a guy want to just take his three-year-old, toss him in the back of the old Mercedes and race 90 mph through the streets of Scottsdale.
Jason Richardson, you just had The Best Week Ever! Sorry about that, I’m still getting over how VH-1 ruined that show. Nobody ever needs or wants that much Paul F. Tompkins.
Anyway, only four teams seem to have a legitimate threat at winning the title this year (especially now that the Hornets have traded Tyson Chandler for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox), unless something crazy happens during the trade deadline. Here’s how the contenders look going into Thursdays trade deadline, along with a couple teams that can shake things up with a big deal. All the teams I’m leaving out either are nowhere close to title contention or have nothing to offer in a deadline deal.
Los Angeles Lakers (42-10, 1st in Western Conference)
Needs: With Andrew Bynum still not even riding a stationary bike, the Lakers have to be fearful of a world where the fighting tandem of Chris Mihm and D.J. Mbenga back up Pau Gasol in the playoffs.
Prediction: As much as David Stern would love to see Shaq rejoin Kobe once again, there’s about as much a chance of that happening as Rick Fox starting at small forward. The Lakers will stand pat and pray Bynum’s recovery goes better than it did last year.
Boston Celtics (44-11, 1st in Eastern Conference)
Needs: With Tony Allen out until the playoffs due to thumb surgery, the Celtics need depth. Their trade of Sam Cassell to the Kings opens up a roster spot, but who can the Celts deal that anybody wants?
Prediction: Danny Ainge will alternate between begging P.J. Brown, Robert Horry and Alonzo Mourning to come out of retirement. Look for Zo to cave after Ainge offers him one of his kidneys.
Cleveland Cavaliers (40-11, 2nd in Eastern Conference)
Needs: More talent to surround LeBron James, hopefully somebody who can take a little attention away from LeBron at the end of games.
Prediction: Even with Wally’s expiring contract, will Cleveland add more salary in upcoming years with both the Salary Cap and Luxury Tax threshold sure to go down over the next couple years? The hottest rumor is the Cavs will trade Wally for Antawn Jamison. Because nothing guarantees wins in the NBA like adding Jamison (he’s just like Corey Maggette, only healthier!).
San Antonio Spurs (35-16, 2nd in Western Conference)
Needs: Inside help for Tim Duncan. Matt Bonner and Kurt Thomas aren’t exactly going to get it done against the Lakers, with or without Bynum.
Prediction: Tyson Chandler would be nice, but obviously that isn’t happening. The Spurs are rumored to want Vince Carter, which would provide offense but not much else. Who else thinks the Spurs will just bring Horry back and hope everything works out? Me too.
Portland Blazers (32-20, 4th in Western Conference)
Needs: A small forward, and quick!
Prediction: The Blazers won’t be able to add any new talent for years with the Darius Miles retirement fiasco and a payroll already way over the cap, so trading Raef LaFrentz by Thursday is pretty much their foray into offseason free agency for the next couple years. Expect them to nab Gerald Wallace from the Bobcats, and for Wallace to accidentally get eaten by Greg Oden during a very disturbing team flight. Hey, if any player in the NBA were to accidentally get consumed by another, wouldn’t it have to be Wallace?
Houston Rockets (32-21, 5th in Western Conference)
Needs: A heart for Tracy “The Cowardly Lion” McGrady. Or maybe they can just trade him.
Prediction: The Rockets are trying to unload McGrady on the Nets for Vince Carter, but the Nets aren’t biting. (Side note: who would have predicted five years ago that Carter would be a much more valuable player than his cousin T-Mac?) More likely is a trade where the Rockets send Ron Artest, Carl Landry and Luther Head for Carter, whose main role will be convincing his hypochondriac cousin that his knee’s actually OK.
Taking all this into account, who do you think is going to win the NBA Title this year? Will the Lakers or Celtics again sit atop the basketball world, or will a surprise team swoop in and surprise us all? Vote in the poll on the right side of your screen for a chance to win a free subscription to BayAreaSportsGuy.com!