This summer has been an exciting one for basketball fans. The flow of news and rumors has been very active, from LeBron James’ decision to join the Miami Heat to our hometown Portland Trail Blazers making big draft-day trades and acquisitions since.
This summer has been an exciting one for basketball fans. The flow of news and rumors has been very active, from LeBron James’ decision to join the Miami Heat to our hometown Portland Trail Blazers making big draft-day trades and acquisitions since. Here are a few perspectives on some current issues that relate to the coming year of basketball.
Julius Thomas just finished four seasons with the men’s basketball team, participating in two NCAA Tournament runs and providing a powerful post presence for the squad. His experience as a player provides him with considerable basketball IQ.
Owen R. Smith is a former editor-in-chief and sports editor of the Vanguard who currently writes for the East Oregonian as both a sports and news reporter. His experience as a sports reporter qualifies him as a knowledgeable basketball analyst.
On the Miami Heat
Julius Thomas: I think they provide a natural nemesis for the [Los Angeles] Lakers. It isn’t a guaranteed championship, however. I’m not sure if they have a deep enough bench to win it all.
Owen R. Smith: You’re looking at a 68-win team; what I was surprised at was their ability to get a good supporting cast [for Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade] for cheap. Give Pat Riley some credit. They’ll have one of the best backcourts in Wade and James, who I imagine will pay a lot of point-forward.
My take: This is a powerful squad on paper, but one big injury or ego clash will send this rocket ship of a team plummeting. I like them for 60–65 wins, but not a championship this season.
On the Portland Trail Blazers
JT: I think the Blazers have a great opportunity to reach the top of the Western Conference echelon, though they need to play more of that playoff brand of basketball. I like that they’re not just young talent this season, that there are some veterans too.
OS: I don’t think their off-season is over. I understand they’re trying to weather the storm of the upcoming clash and potential lockout we all know is coming. I like the fact that everyone important is coming back, but I’m worried about whether they’ve done enough. Am I excited about Wesley Matthews? Yes. He’s really stepped up his game.
My take: They’re too guard-heavy right now, and I agree with Smith that they’re not done maneuvering players. Head coach Nate McMillan has finalized his coaching staff for the year, so I expect the final word on players will come down in the coming weeks as well. I’d put them at 50 wins and a playoff berth, though I’ll reserve bolder predictions until the roster is finalized.
On the potential lockout
JT: I don’t think [lockouts] are ever completely likely. Players know that just one year of missed salary has a big impact, and I think they’ll be willing to get there [to an agreement with league owners]. I know that if work does stop, it’ll be a horrible year for me without NBA basketball.
OS: It’s clearly imminent, that’s my opinion. That’s what I’ll say about it. If neither side budges, the renegotiation will be painful and will end in a labor dispute including a lockout. It’ll be a big boom for the NCAA, though.
My take: It isn’t fun to think that a work stoppage may occur. However, buzz abounds that it’s coming, so I’ll cross my fingers and hope something gets worked out over the summer and only cuts into five, maybe 10 games of the 2011–12 season.
On the Team USA world championship team
JT: I think they look good. I describe them like the [Oklahoma City] Thunder, in that they’re young and talented. I expect they’ll be in the top three of the world.
OS: With this group of players, it all depends on their focus level, how much they want to be there. It’s kind of tough when you know you have a long season in front of you too. Kevin Durant just dropped 28 points in scrimmage, so you’ve got to give him some credit.
My take: There are a lot of superstars abstaining from the world championships, but with guys like Durant, Derrick Rose and Rudy Gay likely to survive the cuts and compete in late August, I think Team USA will at least bring home bronze.