NBA 2004-05: There’s more
than just Kobe & Shaq

Nov 2, 2004 12:25 AM

The media may believe the NBA world revolves around Kobe and Shaq, but there are plenty of storylines to make the 2004-05 season worth viewing.

Providing, it’s not all half-court, clutch and grab Detroit Pistons ball.

”¡ In New Jersey, Alonzo Mourning gallantly tries to make a second comeback attempt after receiving a kidney transplant. Mourning scored double-digits in less than 20 minutes last week.

”¡ In Denver, Kenyon Martin joins Carmelo Anthony in what could be the most dynamic frontline in the league.

”¡ In Dallas, Underrated center Erick Dampier brings double digit scoring and rebounding to Big D in search of D-fence.

”¡ In New York, Jamal Crawford joins Stephon Marbury for the most exciting Knicks backcourt since the glory days of "Clyde" Frazier and "Pearl" Monroe.

”¡ In Orlando, the Magic hope another Grant Hill comeback and the old Houston backcourt can overcome the loss of Tracy McGrady.

”¡ In Utah, receiving Carlos Boozer in one Cleveland’s more famous blunders has the Jazz thinking playoffs again.

And, we haven’t even mentioned Shaq and Kobe!

The NBA has a new look — six divisions (three in each conference). Denver and Phoenix (each 7-1) had the best exhibition records through Friday, with Cleveland, Indiana, Philadelphia, Memphis and the L.A. Lakers all at 6-2.

For what it’s worth, in our eyes isn’t much.

We would rather focus on six teams that should improve upon last year’s record and make money in the sports books for you.

East Division: New York Knicks: Going from 39 wins to 41 is not only possible, but a virtual lock. Although we aren’t fans of the way Isiah Thomas operates a franchise, the Knicks should wind up at least four or five games above .500 with the nice acquisition of Crawford to join Marbury and Penny Hardaway in an explosive backcourt. OVER.

Central Division: Chicago Bulls. Crawford is gone, but a great draft supports a young and coming power in the NBA. Andres Nocioni, a solid shooter, was considered the best international player not in the league. Nocioni joins rookies Ben Gordon (UConn) and Duke standouts Luol Deng and Chris Duhon. The Bulls should win 35 games. OVER.

Southeast Division: Orlando Magic. The books are asking a lot of Orlando to improve in the standings by 17 games. We’re all pulling for Hill, but history shows that it’s doubtful his tender ankles will hold up under the 82-game grind. Gaining Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley won’t make fans forget losing T-Mac. UNDER.

Southwest Division: Dallas Mavericks. The Hilton thinks Dallas will take a step back without point guard Steve Nash and small forwards Antoine Walker and Antwan Jamison. Well, less could mean more. Center Erick Dampier was a terrific pickup, who finally adds a legitimate center. That means Dallas may actually play defense. OVER.

Northwest Division: Denver Nuggets. Fifty wins would bring money, and the Nuggets should win at least 30 at home. Martin will thrive with the run and gun Nuggets and provide a big boost to Anthony. Carmelo doesn’t have to carry the load. If Marcus Camby can stay healthy, the Nuggets could challenge Minnesota for first. OVER.

Pacific Division: Los Angeles Lakers: OK, it’s Kobe Bryant’s team now that O’Neal has been shipped off to South Beach. But, the Lakers did quite well in the big deal with Miami, acquiring Lamar Odom and Caron Butler. Anything out of Brian Grant will be a plus. Having Vlade Divac doesn’t hurt and Kareem Rush should have a career year. The Lakers need 46½ win. They’ll get at least 50. OVER.

Here’s two more for the road.

Miami Heat OVER. Any team with Shaq has to improve by at least 10 games.

Sacramento Kings UNDER. It’s time for the Kings to fall back. Sorry, George.

We’ll follow our picks and issue quarterly reports.