Rhyme Time: 2017–18 NBA Preview (East)

After a mid-summer exodus,

So many moved West,

This Eastern Conference,

Is so clearly second best,

Though this may be true,

The season begins in a week,

So pause just a minute,

Here’s a sneak peek.

(most photos courtesy of Visual Hunt)

***

Atlanta Hawks

Lost Korver then Horford, the Millsap this summer.

60-win Hawks flew high, this team is a bummer.

Young Schroder can’t seem to keep it together.

These are not 15 birds of a feather.

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These Hawks Are Not Flying Free.

Boston Celtics

“It’s a business,” the common refrain,

After a coldly calculating trade.

Isaiah, Jae, and Avery are gone,

If C’s win a title soon, it’ll be Kyrie’s parade.

I don’t hear “It’s a business,”

When someone signs a max extension.

Instead I read complaints and questions,

So let’s forget the “business” mentions.

It’s a game, it’s a sport, mesmerizing action.

These Celtics will be fun, after all the transactions.

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GM Danny Ainge: cold, calculating, and without sentiment, like this calculator.

Brooklyn Nets

D’Angelo’s Pizzeria is in the Bronx and Queens

But D’Angelo Russell suits up for Brooklyn’s team.

Still no draft pick on the horizon,

A decent team is close: the Nets be rising.

Jeremy Lin lights it up for stretches,

But the injuries will lead to fan kvetches.

Caris LeVert will soon get more minutes,

As the losses mount near the season’s finish.

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Pizza. By the slice. Brooklyn Nets. One win at a time.

Charlotte Hornets

Dwight Howard keeps bouncing,

Orlando, LA, Houston, Atlanta, Carolina.

Next destination might even be China.

The big man who demands the ball

No jumpers or free-throws, Dwight’s in free fall.

Kemba can cross it, and slice to the rim,

But not enough shooting will do them in.

Batum getting injured adds complication

Kemba will feel the mounting frustration.

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Dwight now resembles an old VW bus, or a toy replica of one, wandering from place to place.

Chicago Bulls

This is a blizzard, a mishmash, a wreck,

Can’t look any closer, they’ve cleared out the deck,

Aiming at 2020 or even 2021,

One NBA-level starter, Robin Lopez will run

Out onto the court and chase mascots around.

Bulls fans will be tested, through the downs and the downs.

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Chicago Blizzard

Cleveland Cavs

LeBron to Hollywood seems all but certain,

After one more ride, NE Ohio revertin’

But before it all slips into nondescript sadness,

Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade jump into the madness.

Is this 2009? Is it 2010?

When Isaiah gets healthy, chaos will descend.

Love Jae and IT and this trade, it still irks.

How can I cheer for the enemy? Simply won’t work.

Free agency will bring unexpected turns,

But a season of strangeness, between the two ferns.

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After dominating the East for more than a decade, LeBron may be headed elsewhere next summer.

Detroit Pistons

A new arena to play in, no more suburban palace,

The Pistons are odd, so let’s raise a chalice,

One-half of their roster is limited big fellas,

Their point guard won’t make a single team jealous.

This is where Bradley’s growth has landed him,

One season of haphazard hoop in Eastern Michigan.

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The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art installation in downtown Detroit, which is in danger of being closed.

Indiana Pacers

With PG gone, the season will be R-rated,

As Myles must learn to do it all,

Oladipo’s shooting: one of the biggest questions,

Another: Will any of the Pacers shots fall?

Thaddeus is the essential glue guy,

He’ll likely opt out or be traded. The season? Bye bye.

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Indiana Pacers: Sunrise walks in the Corn fields and waiting for something.

Miami Heat

11–30 or 30–11? Yes, both halves belonged to Miami.

What can we expect, or predict, what can we?

Add it up, they finished the hottest .500 team in history.

But this year’s Heat remain a mystery.

Hassan’s giant wings altering every drive,

James Johnson’s career came alive,

Dion’s torrid February saved their season,

Dragic’s dynamism is the reason

The offense flows when at its best,

Though this season brings new tests.

Winslow or Richardson, so many swings,

Spoelstra must navigate the crowd it brings.

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Coach Spoelstra opens his mystery box.

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis the Great has the length of two men,

Khris Middleton’s versatility: analytics, amen.

Brogdon was nicknamed “The President.”

The only NBA player with a female agent: represent.

Goals of fighting world poverty and hunger,

And helping make Thon Maker stronger.

Speaking of the Sudanese refugee,

The Bucks are becoming the Spurs of the east,

International dynamics in the heart of cheese land,

One more season and they’ll demand,

The attention of everyone, all the woke fans.

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The Bucks come from all over Planet Earth.

New York Knicks

Out from underneath the cloud of Phil,

Melo gone to Oklahoma,

The Kazoos go back to Knickerbockers,

And what is this brand new aroma?

It’s the Latvian flavor and eight foot span,

The arms of Porzingis holding new plans.

Hardaway Jr made all the headlines,

Might fill the cap sheet with red lines,

But point guard is the point they’re still missing,

Ntilikina the 19 year-old rook,

Needs at least two more seasons to cook.

The Knicks need more time and more talent, but Kristaps is a start.

Orlando Magic

Elfrid and Aaron G: the two with big upside,

The only problem is shooting, we simply can’t abide.

Terrence Ross stands on the perimeter, pulling defenders out,

“Get Jonathan Isaac minutes!” the fanbase will shout.

Methinks the problem is bigger than the players,

Orlando’s Disney World, an issue with layers.

When magical thinking surrounds the team,

The wins won’t come, no matter the scheme.

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This bobblehead is ridiculous. Aaron Gordon will eventually be known for more than dunks.

Philadelphia 76ers

Their time is now, the tank has left.

Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz, no more fans bereft.

The process takes steps, that’s what they all say,

But what if foot problems rue the day?

Health continues to be a factor,

Covington and Reddick can be key actors,

But without games played, the Sixers hopes,

Will force their fans new ways to cope.

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A winding staircase is a good visual example of a process.

Toronto Raptors

Nobody, it seems, ever fears the Raps

For such a good team, overlooked perhaps?

Ibaka rejuvenated, ready to reject,

DeRozan inked in, three-pointer suspect,

But drive to the hoop, DeMar will deliver,

Lowry now leaner, are there enough

Arrows in Toronto’s quiver?

The defense must unify, their battle for home,

We The North, in the playoffs, or their window will close.

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Toronto is the only Canadian team, so they get to be “The North.” RIP Vancouver Grizzlies.

Washington Wizards

Older and wiser, the core grows into their prime,

John Wall is too fast, yet stops on a dime.

Beal’s jumper so clean that it opens up lanes,

Otto waits patiently for threes he will drain.

The starters fit neatly, though Gortat’s protection,

Gives Mahinmi a boost, in crunch time deflections.

The bench was empty for most of last season,

Can Meeks, Scott and Frazier give the Wiz some more reasons?

When this group goes out and defends with real grit,

With Markieff and Wall digging down, they will hit,

A ceiling only matched by Cleveland and Boston,

But the Wiz floor drops lower and the seeding might cost them.

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Last year’s Wizards bench often felt empty.

***

If you enjoyed this, I’ll be passing around a collection hat later in the evening. Oh wait, there is no hat, and no evening. Any comments, concerns or questions? Send me an email. darkoindex at gmail dot com

Here’s a link to my collection of essays/hoops memoir/life reflections.

Writing. Poetry. Personal Essays. On the NBA, MLB, media, journalism, culture, teaching and humor.

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