At this time of year, everyone likes to talk about how good their teams are.
They point out their players' amazing stats from previous seasons. Drool over the all-stars and past all-stars now on THEIR roster.
Writers and analysts hang on recent records to justify their optimism and expound on rookie signings, free agents, and trades that can only make their favorite teams better.
Strangely, even players coming back from serious injury, missed seasons, and even retirement factor into this exuberance.
It’s easy to find the positives in the offseason. A game has yet to be played. The best part is no one can say for sure that you’re wrong!
But not everyone can get there. Under the current NBA, only 2 teams have made it back to the finals in consecutive years.
These teams are the LA Lakers from 2000 to 2002, and then again in 2008 and 2009. They won four times. Also, the New Jersey Nets made it in 2002 and 2003, losing to the Lakers and the Spurs.
The Indiana Pacers represent one of the great Eastern Conference teams from the early part of this decade. Going to the finals in 2000, they never made it back despite a 61-win season in 2003-04.
The dynasty represented by the San Antonio Spurs alternated winning it all with failing to make the finals for six seasons.
No team can know with any certainty if this year’s squad will have the talent and the sheer LUCK to make to the finals, let alone make a return appearance.
And is this bad in any way for the game or the league? Well, NO!
This is despite the grumblings from the major media outlets that imply the world would simply be better off if New York could be represented in every championship series for every sport (Sorry, LeBron is not joining the Knicks!), and despite the obvious NBA media desire for every NBA championship to be between LA and Boston (which really shows the age of many in our sports media).
Leagues need the surprise factor and the legitimate hope from franchises in smaller markets to make the product they produce compelling to watch in every market.
So who is set up in this year’s NBA to disappoint both their fans and their hordes of reporters falling over themselves to tell us just how good they are?
Well, you actually have to be good enough to compete in order to disappoint. And the higher the expectations, the closer a team can get and still leave their followers crying in their beer.
The good news is that not everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
For those who missed out last year, your team could be one of this year’s lucky ones and make it all the way or even just to the playoffs.
Just don’t ask for your team’s GM and coach’s head on a platter when what can happen, does happen.
Hey, don’t hate on me.
Boston rolled the dice and built a team of older, injury-prone veterans. And it got them a championship. But everyone, including management, understood the risks they were taking and the cost in terms of luxury tax payments.
Will Boston get back to the promised land? Well they might, with LUCK! But...
Ray Allen, age 34. Missed over 20 games in 03-04 and 06-07. Does Ray slow down some more this year or suffer another unfortunate injury?
Kevin Garnett, age 33. Missed 25 games and the playoffs last year, missed 11 games the previous year. Coming back from a serious injury, how will he play?
Paul Pierce, age 32 (Oct). Missed 35 games in '06-'07. Looked real good last season, but his points were off by five per game from two seasons ago. How many more years can Pierce play at an elite level?
Eddie House, age 31. Missed 26 games in 06-07. Had a bounce-back year in shooting percentages last season, but that looks like part of a pattern. Key reserve off the bench again this year. Is he really up to backing up Rondo for 18 minutes a game?
Rasheed Wallace, age 35 (Sept). The usually reliable Sheed didn’t play in 16 games last season. His scoring has been in a five-year slide. His unpredictable temperament created that unfathomable meltdown in Cleveland during the Eastern Conference championship game a couple of seasons ago. Which Sheed will play for Boston this season?
Boston is a team built to win now. More than any other team, their window of opportunity is closing.
I ranked them No. 1 because they are very good and anything less than an NBA finals appearance will be considered a major disappointment.
Sure lots of people are trying to shine up Ron Artest and sell what a great addition he is to a team expected to compete in the NBA finals for the next several years.
But for next season, when a return to the finals looked like a sure thing, why did management risk changes to the chemistry of a winning team? Can the Lakers really keep the easily distracted Artest focused on basketball in the land of dreams?
The Lakers' window of opportunity isn’t going to last forever. And, while the Lakers don’t feel as old as the Celtics, they aren’t exactly young either.
Swapping out a good young guy for a good old guy seems more than a little strange.
Kobe Bryant, age 31. Kobe might seem invincible, but at some point that finger injury will come back to haunt him.
Derek Fisher, age 35. He looks ageless, but Fisher was playing with the Lakers back in 1996.
Andrew Bynum, very young and very injury-prone. Andrew has only played in one season without losing more than 30 games to injury. What makes this year different? Well, he is still very young.
Ron Artest, age 30. Younger than it seems he should be, Ron-Ron missed 12, 25, and 13 games over the past three seasons. Ron stayed out of trouble while out of the limelight. Maybe the Lakers can keep him away from Hollywood...or not.
Gasol, Odom, and Walton are all 29 and in the prime of their careers. It will be a shame if the Artest gamble costs them playoff success for even one year.
The Lakers are a very good team. Deep in talent and injury resistant. In fairness, it hard to see bad things happening to this good of a team.
But anything less than a NBA finals appearance will be more than a major disappointment.
These guys are supposed to win it all next season!
But, based on history – They won’t!
Why did the Magic mess with the toughest lineup for opposing teams to match up against in the league.?
If the Magic had four hot shooting games in the finals, it’s likely they’d be the champs.
Orlando took the huge risk of signing Lewis to a max deal and creating a team of shooters to surround Dwight Howard.
Last year it worked. The team was young with a good mix of veterans. It had a good chance of working again.
This year, the Magic will find out if Nelson is really a point guard who can run his team, or if Hedo Turkoglu was the glue that made that unique offense work.
Why, oh why, would they want to find out?
Nothing is wrong with any of the additions the Magic made this offseason.
Carter may be a little old at 32 and his scoring may have dropped five points from just two years ago, but he’s still got game.
All the other additions are solid players (excepting Jason Williams, huh?).
However, moving a young Courtney Lee, whose game should have been expected to develop alongside their very young star in Dwight Howard, is hard to understand.
The Magic haven’t saved any money with these changes.
Management had better hope it results in a return to the finals.
These moves have probable disappointment written all over them.
Before the trade for Richard Jefferson, this team wasn’t likely to disappoint.
Of course, not much more than making the playoffs was expected.
Now everything has changed. The Spurs are supposed to compete with the Lakers for the Western Conference championship. Will they?
Well, this is an old team. At least the key players are.
Tim Duncan, at 33 years of age, is finally starting to show some wear and tear. And Duncan is the Spurs' best and most important player. If Timmy D goes down or his production falls off, the Spurs' hopes go with him.
Manu Ginobili, age 32, missed half of last season. The Spurs have found a very effective player in Richard Jefferson to pick up Manu’s scoring punch should he miss any games. But expecting the Spurs to challenge the Lakers without him isn’t realistic.
Micheal Finley: it’s hard to believe this guy is still important to the Spurs. At age 36, Finley is still an effective key reserve. Unless, of course, time has finally caught up to him.
The seemingly ageless Antonio McDyess is 34. He can still put up good numbers, and the Spurs will need him to. But everybody slows down sometime.
The Spurs deserve their reputation as one of the best run teams in the league.
But expectations have been set extremely high.
Will these high expectations lead to big disappointment in April?
The Cavs went and got older to compete.
They brought in a 37-year-old Shaq and a 34-year-old Anthony Parker.
Both are likely to slow down some more from last year. But they do add an important veteran presence, and are expected to make significant contributions on the court.
Right now it’s hard to say the Cavs will disappoint, during the regular season anyway. The Cavs' success revolves around one player, and despite concerns about the impact of Shaq on James’ play, James will dominate again this season.
Yet again, the risk of disappointment is most likely to come after another stellar regular season.
This team isn’t really better than last year’s. Last year’s team won 66 games and was 8-0 in the playoffs before they faced a team designed to beat them.
Same risks this time.
Only in Cleveland will fans be disappointed by the Cavs not making it to the finals in 2010. But they will be disappointed, if it doesn’t happen.
Of course, this makes Cleveland the ideal candidate to cause someone else’s disappointment.
Denver will be a playoff team again. But they didn’t get any better, so only local fans will be disappointed by how far they get.
Portland’s fans have unrealistic expectations of a very young team that has gotten better. They’ll be good, but it’s just not their time yet.
Toronto has almost completely rebuilt their roster in just one season. Sure they’re better, but revamped rosters take time to gel, and you can’t really know what you’ve got until after they’ve played enough games. Early disappointment should be expected. But maybe that will help tone down the early, over-exuberant, playoff success expectations.
The Seventy-sixers are entering their season without the veteran point guard who made that team work. With a lot of talent at other positions, the risk of disappointing fans is high.
Dallas has made major changes to their roster, requiring a massive overhaul to their style of play. If it works, expect an exciting up-tempo team—and fans do, they should! Expect a tough, disappointing start to the season as Dallas tries to work though it all.
Miami has sat through the offseason without making a big splash. The team revolves around one very exciting player in D-Wade. It will not take much to cause the Heat to be a lottery team again.
Chicago sat through the offseason and watched the teams around and below them get better. The Bulls have duplicate starting level talent at multiple positions. They should have made major strides this offseason. They didn’t! It will be easy for Chicago to disappoint their fans this season. It should also be easy for them to salvage a good year. Who knows?
Boston, LA, Orlando, San Antonio, and Cleveland are the teams most likely to disappointment their fans this season.
That is because their fans have the highest expectations.
Some fans in Denver, Portland, Toronto, Miami, Chicago, and other places should also be braced for the possibility their team won't measure up.
But, fans of every team can face disappointment in any year, unless of course, you’re a fan of a team cheering for ping pong balls in the lottery. This year will not be any different.
The good news is your team can't disappoint you if you never had any hope to begin with.
And, somebody’s team is bound to disappoint!
You can hope it's not yours.
“No – Not My Team!”