by Jason Shimberg - 06/27/2005
When you make the investment in the NBA League Pass, it means you are committed or perhaps should be. This NBA season is summed up in two words "quality" and "change." I cannot recall another season where player moves, player suspensions and player injuries so dramatically allowed teams to move from the bottom to the top, and visa versa. It was a year of controversy, where one game early in the season, played in the Detroit Palace, got very scary and created a tremendous power swing in the Eastern Conference. These are my notes and reflections of a season gone by.
The first month of the season, teams were scoring in very low numbers. As the players rounded into shape, the pace picked up. Shaq didn't need to wait, he had revenge on his mind, as he was out to show his former teammate Kobe and new little buddy Dwayne Wade his true value. He thinned down in South Beach (LA East) before the MTV awards, and shocked everyone by his "slim" appearance.
The soap opera continued from there. The team with the best 2004 record, the Minnesota Timberwolves didn't make the playoffs, and mid-way coach Flip Saunders got sent off. This was a good year for guards, as Eric Dampier summed it up saying he was the best center in the west as Shaq departed.
The prognosticators picked Detroit, Miami and San Antonio, but who picked the Phoenix Suns? They claimed every award imaginable at the All-Star break, and they found the prize and biggest surprise in the league's new MVP, Canadian-born Steve Nash. Dallas actually had a good season without Nash, as former college back up Jason Terry fit a role. Denver and the rocky mountain high were on a low until they brought George Karl to coach a talented under-performing squad. The underappreciated Allen Iverson had an MVP year, and got overshadowed by the hype of Steve Nash. It was a race between Phoenix and Seattle the entire season, with nobody expecting that either team could keep it going. In the end, they were proven right.
The Heat played a great regular season. Which does beg the question why do we play the regular season anyway? Well it is economically purposeful, and where would I spend my hours in that I use on the season pass? Certainly not watching NHL. It does separate the weak from the strong, even though the playoff style ball of defense first does always shine through in the end. Proof is Detroit led by Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace, and San Antonio led by Bruce Bowen, as both boast no offense whatsoever.
Living 1,800 miles away from my home team, I did catch every Bulls game I could, and what a turnaround. They showed that they still have horns, even if it seems like an eternity since I last saw them. I wish that Luol Deng and Eddy Curry hadn't got hurt. But Scott Skiles, who deserved the Coach of the Year, has now shown the NBA that the Bulls can play in the postseason.
It's hard to believe that the hype surrounding LeBron James hasn't gotten them into the playoffs, but perhaps Kirk Hinrich, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade may be better team players or certainly they are on better teams. This was the great sophomore season of Dwayne Wade. Nobody knew his real talent until the playoffs. Shaq was hurt and Wade picked up the team. Should an NBA team be playing in Atlanta? No one ever goes to the games.
Some teams clearly improved as the year progressed, remember the Bulls started out 0 for their first 9, and trade deadline helped teams improve like the Golden St. Warriors, who picked up Baron Davis. So look to the draft, and 2006 to be an even better season. For awhile there, we feared there would be no 2006, but now we get to sit and watch the return of the Zen Master, the next attempt to humble Kobe, and the final chapters of the Lovable Shaq.
A quick review, we saw:
Los Angeles Lakers which saw Kobe Bryant have a good season, Lamar Odom playing hard, and Rudy Tomjanovich calling it quits. All this Hollywood drama leading to next season's script calling for Phil's $30 million return.
Dallas Mavericks picked up Jason Terry, Erik Dampier, Jerry Stackhouse and Keith Van Horn, keeping Mark Cuban busy, but why else own a team?
Phoenix Suns got Steve Nash, and Quentin Richardson (who I actually played against in our high school days, and we are happy for me) from the Clippers and Quentin did marry Brandy.
Denver Nuggets got Kenyon Martin and little Earl Boykins, who remained little with big numbers.
Seattle Supersonics- Ray Allen had a great season, Jerome James stepped up his game in the playoffs, and Rashard Allen finally stepped into his own.
Detroit Pistons- they almost did it for the second time only falling to the Spurs in a game seven, altogether great with no major production from Darko and McDyess they made it close to back-to-back. Here's hoping Larry Brown takes good care of himself.
Washington Wizards- stopped the Bulls dream season in a game seven, after getting Antawn Jamison, and suspended Kwame Brown, mid-playoff.
San Antonio Spurs- they won it all, and Tim Duncan was named MVP. What more can you say, but they are a classy championship team.
Indiana Pacers- with the loss of Ron Artest to a famous brawl, they recovered, and made a run at Detroit. Next year should be interesting.
Orlando Magic acquired Steve Francis, and Grant Hill finally returned to some playing form. Dwight Howard was a huge draft pick with loads of potential for the future.
Golden State Warriors didn't have a good first half, but picked up the pace for the rest of the year. Watch Mike Dunleavy put up big numbers, making his father a proud man.
Philadelphia 76ers- they got Chris Webber in a trade, but so what?
Utah Jazz really stole Carlos Boozer, but failed to make the play-offs. Coach Jerry Sloan remains the longest active coach.
New Jersey Nets traded for Vince Carter, but Jason Kidd seems to have aged.
Portland Trail Blazers drafted Sebastian Telfair, who really didn't make an impact. They desperately need help in the lottery.
Milwaukee Bucks' only bright spot is Michael Redd, and possible No. 1 choice Andrew Bogut.
Los Angeles Clippers, another poor season but at least they were better than the Lakers. They signed Kerry Kittles, who was injured the whole year. Elton Brand is where they put there money, and that's where they got their results.
New Orleans Hornets another bad season, it was expected moving to the west. In a city like that Orleans, they should drink to drown the team sorrows.
Cleveland Cavaliers- LeBron played great, but couldn't land them in the playoffs. They changed coaches too early, and then management throwing away the season, and coming within one game of the playoffs.
Charlotte Bobcats' Emeka Okafor was named Rookie of the Year, beating out his college teammate Ben Gordon, who won Six Man of the Year, in his rookie year.
Chicago Bulls- Baby Bulls, Tyson Chandler rebounded, Eddy Curry played to his potential before the illness, and Kirk Hinrich showed he could lead a team; Ben Gordon showed he owned the fourth quarter.
Boston Celtics reacquired Antoine Walker, but it wasn't enough to advance to the second round. They traded Gary Payton and got him back. Strange how the NBA works like that, maybe it should be investigated?
Sacramento Kings disappointed a lot of people with their record, and their moves to let Webber go.
Minnesota Timberwolves sub par season proved that even Garnett couldn't carry the team. Latrel Sprewell has lost a step or two, but his mouth continues to work.
Toronto Raptors was sold to Chris Bosh, after dealing Air Canada, and showing the usual performance on the court.
Houston Rockets' Tracy McGrady almost got the team to the second round, Yao is improving. Then Coach Van Gundy cried to the league, saying they were giving Ming a bad shake.
Atlanta Hawks showed no hope except for the Slam Dunk champ Josh Smith, unless you consider trading Nazr to help the Spurs win a championship.
Miami Heat's Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade re-configured Miami and invigorated a basketball town, which returned Alonzo Mourning to some grace.
Memphis Grizzlies made the play-offs but that's it. Jason Williams pissed off a lot of writers, and reporters, with comments of thuggish nature.
New York Knicks made a trade for Jamal Crawford while the losing continued, and Stephon is still Isiah's point guard. There is something missing here, like talent.
Next year is now on the schedule, the draft is about to unfold, and the Zen Master is back. What more do we need to re-up our NBA Pass for 2006?