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It doesn't seem that long ago that the Southeast was an afterthought. I'm aware that sounds stupid as this division attempts to rise to serious L-bound prominence, but it's true -- before Dwight Howard and before Dwyane Wade and before Josh Smith and before Jeff McInnis ... what was there?
It doesn't particularly matter now; the division is still only an erstwhile powerhouse; you would never see a prediction coming that any one of these teams can contend for the NBA title right now, and that's what matters in these sort of things.
Of course, Orlando is a different story of sorts. Maybe. At least we have to wonder: Does Hedo Turkoglu Still Have the Special Sauce?
We wonder that of course, because Dwight Howard is indeed the Big Mac of this conference. There are plenty of reasons to think that Orlando can't win a title, but there are very few to think they can't win a division championship. But such a title is of little consequence for a team that had the makings of a ring worthy contender last year.
Yes, the Celtics exist. And yes, Elton Brand is now in the East. But D-Ho is a SuperManChild of absurd proportions. The only thing, realistically, that stands between greatness and his mortal presence is his supporting cast. Do we honestly believe that Jameer Nelson can handle the point duties by himself? And more importantly, do we believe that Hedo is prepared to do what he did last year (which, for all intent and purposes, is play at an All Star level)?
I think we do. But maybe he's a fluke. Or maybe not. It's just difficult to think about all the time he spent being "quite adequate" before becoming a full fledged superstar and then actually believe it will happen again. But whatevs. We can at least pretend he won't have a total collapse (still wouldn't draft him in fantasy though).
How-EVA, one person that I will always draft in fantasy is Josh Smith. He is, as Shoals so eloquently put it once, "fantasy basketball porn". He is also all that is good and pure and superb about professional basketball, and he is, in my humble opinion, the key to the success of the Atlanta Hawks. Actually, I would suppose not drafting Chris Paul some years ago is the key to the "success", but that's neither here nor there.
The Hawks charmed our hearts by taking the evil Bostonians to a seventh game last year, and all we really want to know is ... Are the Hawks Gonna Go That Way (Again)?
Hmmm. Losing an underrated Josh Childress, sticking with an overrated Mike Bibby (of course he looks successful compared to what was there before) and then nearly botching the whole J-Smoove offseason business. Smells like a recipe for falling back-ass-wards into the EC postseason for a second straight year, doesn't it?
But the fact of the matter is that Al Horford is every bit as much truth as Smoove, and that Marvin Williams, for as much as I begrudge his elbow-cock dunk (yeah, I could probably consider rephrasing that if you haven't seen the throw down) against NC State from a few years back, is legitimately ready to go nuts this year. So, yes. The Hawks should make the playoffs. It might not be pretty, record-wise, but at the very least it'll be fun again.
Which, I imagine, is kind of like hanging out with Gilbert Arenas in a grotto. The same pool side addendum that he paid for using his new $111 million contract. Which was what he got left after Antawn Jamison signed his monster deal. So, Wizards: Ever Better Than Decent?
Maybe not. Probably not. Hell, it's impossible to ever be great ... well, actually, I was about to make a rope - stone comparison, but the thing is that all of Zero, Jamison and Caron Butler are great in their own ways. But they can't make a championship team. There's not enough defense and while they always threaten and entertain, I don't think there's anyone that actually believes they can win it all. I'm sorry. They just can't.
But Can the Miami Heat Ever Return to Dominance?
Now that's a legitimate question. One you wouldn't have though possible while Pat Riley was burdened by Shaquille O'Neal's illustrious contract. But then he swung Diesel for Shawn Marion, landed Michael Beasley, convinced Jason Williams to retire, stole SuperNintendo Chalmers in the second round and voila!
It seems like a slight stretch given last year, but after watching the "new" Dwyane Wade in the Olympics, I'd be willing to believe anything. He wasn't the jovial Flash that chatted about G2 and played Wii bowling -- he was a SOLDIER; shaved head and all, bullishly accompanying Kobe on a path of world domination. So, yes, I think they will be more dangerous than last year. Of course, so would just about anything.
Which is a reasonable assumption as well for a team that just finished employing Jeff McInnis. Carolina B-School: Now for NBA Players Too! Good thing they just hired Larry Brown (oh wait, did he go to Carolina?) in order to move past the brutal Sam Vincent "Era".
The Bobcats are the very definition of consistently mediocre. This is, as a North Carolina native watching the success of the Hornets, particularly difficult to stomach. Oh, and there's the matter of the greatest player in the history of the NBA always finding a way to run this team into the ground. Really, it's a bigger mess than Adam Morrison's mustache at this point.
But that doesn't mean that we can't continue to enjoy Gerald Wallace's gooey-gooey-roto-tastic goodness. And the fact that Raymond Felton is a really spectacular and nice guy. (I told him that he was one of three UNC NBA guys that I care for, and I was serious.) The bizarre thing is that there's a legitimate chance that this team can be good -- Vincent's coaching and the front office's bungling of Felton as a 1/2 is a disaster, as is their inability to bring in a legitimate center to keep Emeka Okafor healthy.
It might take a lot -- or maybe just a decent coaching job of semi-youngsters out of LB -- to make this team a contender. Actually it probably will. It seems somewhat possible that a simple trim of the fat (or mustache) might do it, but then you realize that, yes, this is the Southeast, and yes, this is MJ running a talented squad into the ground. It happens a lot around here. Get over it. It's what we do.
Alternate Southeast Headlines:
Sean May Retires, Says New York City Tastes Delicious
Dude, Brah -- Heat's Losing Season at Breaking Point After Wade's Injury
D-Ho Continues to Mc-Rib Up the Eastern Conference
Good Knight's Sleep: Atlanta Rulez the Draft in 2009
Gilbert Arenas Loves Porn More Than Video Games
At Least He's Better Than Andrew Bogut!