Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 28, 2013

KYLE HOBSTETTER: Time to Clip the hype

Kyle Hobstetter
The Independent

ASHLAND — When I made my predictions last year, I fell for the one thing almost every sports fan falls for: Hype.

I believed in the hype of the Los Angeles Lakers, and then that hype blew up in my face. It blew up in a lot of people’s faces.

The hype was so explosive, Kobe Bryant’s Achilles couldn’t handle it.

So when thinking about my NBA predictions this year, I decided I wouldn’t let the hype catch up with me again.

So here it is: The Houston Rockets will not win an NBA championship this year. I said it, and it felt good to say.

Will the Rockets win? Yes, and I believe they will end up being the No. 1 seed when the Western Conference starts.

In fact, I even see them reaching the Western Conference Finals. Well, I guess you can say I believe the hype a little bit.

With an eye on Houston, here are some other thoughts heading into the NBA season, which starts tonight.

‰Can the Heat pull a three-peat? Dwyane Wade is getting older and the other teams in the league are getting better.

But there is one thing Miami has that other teams don’t: Chris Bosh. Whoops ... I meant LeBron James.

King James earned the nickname for a reason. He is the best player in the league, and his four MVP awards are proof of that.

Key reserves for the Heat are also getting older. Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen are all on the back end of their careers.

What could be a key for the Heat down the stretch is if Greg Oden can return to the form that made him a No. 1 overall draft pick.

True, he’s never shown that form to begin with while in the NBA, but if they can get big minutes from the former Buckeye that could help the Heat when it gets to crunch time.

‰Lob City is looking to become “Title Town.” My pick to win the NBA title this year is the Los Angeles Clippers.

After making strides with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers have added key pieces to get this team to the next step.

Last season the Clips struggled with perimeter scoring. So, in the offseason, they added 3-point marksmen J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley.

After keeping valuable bench player Jamal Crawford last offseason, they decided to keep sixth man Matt Barnes this offseason.

And probably the most important offseason acquisition comes in the form of new head coach Doc Rivers.

Rivers was smart to leave Boston for a chance at a few more championships with the Clippers. I think he hits a home run in his first season in L.A.

‰Derrick Rose is hoping to return to elite status. After missing last season with a torn ACL, Rose is back to try and lead the Bulls to a championship.

Many questioned Rose’s decision to sit out last year, even after being cleared to play by doctors.

Then came reports that Rose was practicing with the team, and dominating his teammates.

Many questioned the former MVP. He can quickly put those criticisms to shame with a great season and a Bulls playoff run.

The Bulls should be in the hunt for the Eastern Conference title, but can they get past the Heat, the Pacers and maybe Brooklyn?

‰How good is Brooklyn? That’s the question being asked by a lot around the league.

They have the names — their starting lineup will feature Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez.

But do Johnson, Pierce and Garnett have enough in them to make one more run?

They also have a first-year head coach in Jason Kidd, who was playing for the Knicks last year.

There are a lot of questions surrounding Brooklyn, but don’t be surprised if you see them make a deep run in the playoffs.

‰Is this the year for the San Antonio Spurs? The question isn’t about a championship. The question is about when they will finally regress.

Last season, even with an older Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, even with injuries and young players, the Spurs made it back to The Finals.

At some point the Spurs are going to have a down season. It happens to everyone.

But will an old core finally come in play or will the Spurs defy the odds one more season and make another run?

‰Here are my surprise teams from each conference:

Eastern: The Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are young, but talented.

Kyrie Irving is one of the best young players in the league, but he will need to get some help.

If Andrew Bynum can come back healthy and Dion Waiters can raise his game to match Irving, the Cavaliers can cause some trouble in the East.

Western: Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota’s Kevin Love is one of the best players in the league.

He can post, he can pass and he can step out and hit a jump shot. He can take over a game.

Along with Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic the Timberwolves can be a thorn in the side of the Western Conference.

Predictions

‰Rookie of the year — Victor Oladipo, Magic

‰Most improved player — Chandler Parsons, Rockets

‰Sixth Man — Jason Terry, Brooklyn

‰MVP — Kevin Durant, Thunder

‰Conference Finals — Western: Clippers over Rockets; Eastern: Pacers over Heat

‰NBA Finals — Clippers over Pacers.

KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at (606) 326-2658 or khobstetter@dailyindependent.com.