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The Road to the Final Four
Post-Jordan era under way for NBA
The National Basketball Association season is now well under way and if you listen to the executives, the fans seem to have forgiven everyone for the labour dispute.
So no matter how much anyone tries to ignore the fact that the brats of the NBA are back, it is important to really know how this shortened 50 game schedule is going to go down.
This season should see the emergence of the small point guard. Over the past few seasons these guys have begun to use their speed and quickness to create a lot of scoring opportunities not only for their teammates but for themselves.
Alan Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers), Gary Payton (Seattle SuperSonics) and, hate to say it, Damon Stoudamire (Portland Trailblazers) will continue this trend as they use their natural abilities to make up for any rust which may show in their games. These three teams should make the playoffs and their three point guards will pose a lot of problems for their opposition, but they still don't have enough.
A few teams have come out of the woodwork to challenge for the title. Teams like the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and the youthful Los Angles Lakers should contend in the West. The Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons will be the East's contenders for Jordan's trophy.
The Jazz are too old and the Lakers are too young and too full of themselves. Both teams are talented, but what held the Jazz back in the past will hold them back once again. The Lakers on the other hand seem destined to take the torch from the Bulls as the next dominant team, but until their collective egos are deflated they will never amount to anything.
The Heat and the Pistons just don't have the horses down the stretch to contend with the veteran Pacers. Grant Hill of the Pistons and Alonzo Mourning of the Heat cannot carry their teams the way they are being counted on. Depth has become that much more important in this short season.
When the playoffs get under way and the contenders are separated from the pretenders, it will be the Pacers and the Rockets meeting in the Finals.
The Rockets, on the other hand, boast the most talented roster for quite some time with three of the top 50 players of all time playing for them. Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen (acquired from the Bulls) offer a front court which can dominate anyone. Once these superstars figure out their roles on the court they should cruise through the West and into the finals.
Indiana, coached by Larry Bird, seemed to be the only ones who wanted Micheal Jordan and his Chicago Bulls to stay intact, because according to Bird, "to be the best, you got to beat the best." That attitude should drive the Pacers, who lost in a close seven game series with the Bulls last year, to the championships. They will use their home court advantage, depth and experience mixed with Bird's intensity which is beginning to wear off on guards Reggie Miller and Jalen Rose, the Pacers will take the East and then outlast the Rockets in a tough six games.
As for our Canadian NBA teams, the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Toronto Raptors, they will be affected most by this short season as they continue to find their own identities. The teams do have, however, two legitimate superstars on the rise, rookie Vince Carter of the Raps and Griz third-year man Shareef Abdur-Rahim. These are two guys Canadian fans are going to get really excited about in the future.
John Dinner can be reached at email@example.com