To celebrate the Tipoff of the NBA season, I did an interview yesterday on the Adam Taxin Radio Show on WNWR 1540 AM in Philadelphia. You can download the audio (mp3, about about 3mb) or just read this transcript:
Adam Taxin: The baseball season ended not much more than 24 hours ago, maybe about 36 hours ago, and the basketball season starts in about less than twelve hours. Here to help us make that transition is Gil Roth who, if he does a good job today, may be the NBA expert on the show. Gil, who you heard talking on the 9/11 show, is a blogger and a pharmaceutical magazine editor based out of North Jersey, and he’s a fellow graduate of the Strath Haven High School Class of ’89. Hi, Gil, and happy basketball season.
Gil Roth: Hi, Adam. Thanks for having me on.
AT: Before we preview the stuff: who’s going to be good, who’s going to be bad, let’s just talk about the NBA scandals in the off-season. I’m talking about Donaghy and, to a lesser extent, because it doesn’t threaten the integrity of the game anywhere near the same way, Isiah.
GR: Well, to me, and I think a couple of columnists brought this up pretty well, the funny thing about the Donaghy scandal was that the moment I opened the New York Post and saw “NBA Fix,” it wasn’t a “how could this happen?” but it was just “wow, I wonder which ref it was.” It was just such a, such a foregone conclusion that something like this was possible, where you wouldn’t necessarily think that in football or baseball or any of the other major sports.
AT: And how about on Isiah?
GR: Isiah . . . that’s a man with very, very different standards in the workplace than I have. When I interviewed my associate editor to bring her in, I asked her, “Do you have a problem with coarse language? Because if you do, let me know now since this is just not going to be a safe work environment for you. Because I’m not going to change.” And she seemed perfectly fine with it and has been great since then. But I think Isiah has different ideas for what constitutes harassment and acceptable behavior at work.
AT: Who’s going to be strong in the East? Cleveland obviously won it last year . . . and got smashed in the Finals. I assume the Sixers will not be in the mix.
GR: No, the Sixers are actually my chic pick for Worst Team in the East, when you get down to it. They’ve just disassembled and fallen apart completely. My sleeper team: everybody’s going with the Celtics or the Pistons obviously as big ones; I think the Bulls are going to make a major leap, just by developing from within. If they trade for Kobe, it could be a different situation entirely. But I think those players are doing the classic 1980s succeed-a-little-more-each-year. That’s probably going to propel them to the Eastern Finals, if not beyond.
AT: And how about your beloved New Jersey Nets? I see them falling into sort of the “Denver Broncos trap.” They peaked and are going to be pretty good for a while, typical playoff team.
GR: They will be a second-round team every year, and it would save me a lot of heartache and a lot of hours of viewing if I just accepted that early. They’ll surprise somebody in the first round, they’ll lose a hard-fought second round series, to probably whomever wins the East. And that’ll be the season. Unless they trade Vince Carter and Nenad Krstic for Kobe, in which case all bets are off.
AT: Anyone else worth thinking about in the East: Miami, Washington, Cleveland?
GR: Celtics are obviously the big pick, having gotten the Big Three in and having Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen together.
AT: Let me ask you about that though. Do you think it’ll be a problem that they can only have one ball on the court with those three guys rather than three?
GR: Well, I think the advantage is that Kevin Garnett never touches the ball in the fourth quarter, so that way they’ll only have two players to divide the ball between. And Paul Pierce has shown himself to be a money player over the years. It’ll be nice to see him have the scoring burden removed somewhat and still allow him to go nuts in the fourth.
Really, the biggest problem is that I’ve never seen Ray Allen play defense, and I don’t know basically if those three guys are going to be able to jell and then manage to fit together a bunch of scrubs and castoff players to be able to compete with a team like the Pistons, or even having to deal with LeBron and the good defense that the Cavs put up.
AT: Now let’s get to where the real action is, the West, because we don’t have that much time. First of all, I love what your blog . . . the analogy your blog made about the San Antonio Spurs and the 1980s Joe Gibbs Washington Redskins . . . and actually the ’91 Redskins were pretty good too. OK, the West.
GR: My co-writer for my site’s NBA Preview, Tom Spurgeon, compared the Spurs to the Joe Gibbs Redskins, and basically he called them a classy organization that’s always good enough to win the title every year when there’s no really dominant team out there otherwise. And I think this is another one of those years. The big knock is that the Spurs have never won back-to-back championships, but this could be the time that they finally pull it off.
AT: And the Mavericks and the Suns are really the teams worth thinking about there?
GR: Yeah, yeah . . . the Mavs: two years in a row of incredible playoff disappointment, so I’m hedging my bets on them. The Suns: no team has ever won by just doing this incredible offense and no defense. The sleeper people are talking about is the Houston Rockets, if for some reason they think Rick Adelman will become a good playoff coach suddenly; I don’t see that happening. My chic pick is Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz. I think somehow they’ll make some greater leap and at least push the Spurs to seven games this year.
AT: And who’s going to be in the NBA Finals, and who’s going to win?
GR: I’m saying Spurs over Bulls, and it’ll be another five-game or four-game blowout.
AT: Basketball expert Gil Roth, whose blog is called Virtual Memories, and it can be found at chimeraobscura.com/vm. Gil, thanks for being with us, and I hope you’ll check in with us again in a few weeks.
GR: Thanks for having me on, Adam.
AT: Thanks, Gil.