With the Olympics over and with 12 gold medals safely tucked away, it's time to think about the NBA Western Conference. This is how the West will play out for the 2008-2009 season:
1. Lakers will continue to win despite losing Turiaf. Kobe and Pau will tire towards the end of the season and not win as many games. In fact, not many teams this season will win more than 50 games.
2. Houston Rockets will get the second seed with key acquisitions: Artest and Barry joining a very talented cast led of course by Yao, Tracy and Scola. This will be Adelman's second year with the team and he will continue to tweak his plays to fit his team. (Not sure why he didn't really work out with the Ws).
3. Utah Jazz is still a solid team with solid coaching and Korver playing a full season.
4. Hornets will lose a step and Paul-to-Chandler will be a tired act which some teams will stop.
5. San Antonio will age another year and more players over the age of 30.
6. Golden State Warriors (yes, our team!) will not win 49 games but will post another winning season. Monta Ellis will not shine as a point guard but will average over 20 points per game. Will see B-Wright emerge as a star and Bellinelli be exposed as the second coming of Vinny Del Negro. A-Randolph will play some minutes as point forward. Corey Magette will continue to score points and get from bad to worse on defense which will cost some games.
7. Dallas Mavs will see old No.5 - now No.2 think about retiring towards the middle of the season and end 2009 as player-coach.
8-9. Phoenix will continue their slide especially without D'Antoni and fight the youthful and spirited Portland Trail Blazers for the last playoff spot. Expect the Trail Blazers to finish higher if Brandon Roy is not out for too long.
Expect the Minnesota T-Wolves to improve more this season and finish strong. Denver was dumb and miscalculated in letting Camby go for peanuts. Clippers will lose Davis early in the season but may come back and make a run. Memphis and Oklahoma City (choose Thunder already!) and Sacramento are in rebuilding years (still).