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Wednesday August 19, 2009 3:33 PM

The Bold And The Beautiful

We want your best predictions for the '09-10 season

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

Houston - There are a lot of truly great things about working as a writer for an NBA franchise. It really is an embarrassment of riches, which is why I tell people all the time that I have the greatest gig in the world. After all, nothing beats the beauty of being able to watch some of the world’s greatest athletes up close and personal as they weave their magic on a basketball court approximately 100 times per year. Then there are also those fun little perks like traveling with the team, breaking bread with club management and judging dance competitions.

But, like most people, much of what ultimately defines the satisfaction and fulfillment I derive from a job is determined by the men and women with whom I work on a daily basis and, thankfully, I’m happy to report that my particular place of employment truly shines in that area. How could it not? I’m surrounded by people who eat, sleep and breathe basketball on a daily basis. We’re all huge fans of the game which means that every day includes some sort of impromptu pow-wow in which various members of the office summon their inner GM while gathering together to plot, scheme, speculate and devise ways to take this team to the top – no different than fans do every single day all over the world.

And just like every group of friends has one or two members who can be counted on to say borderline crazy and outlandish things, so too does our crew here at Toyota Center. Sometimes these conversations transcend basketball and end up revealing a wee bit too much about a person (for example: one much-loved staffer’s favorite shows include Grey’s Anatomy, The Notebook and Serendipity… which is all fine and good, except for the fact that this staff member is A DUDE - yes, his man card is now on indefinite probation).

But when the topic is hoops, literally anything goes and no subject is off-limits or quarantined. Better yet, everyone knows they had best bring plenty of knowledge to the table to defend their point of view, lest it be ripped to shreds amid a tidal wave of numbers, facts and meticulously-crafted opinions (my boss is still picking up the pieces of his shattered basketball credibility for taking one whole week to commit Trevor Ariza’s regular season and playoff stats to memory. For shame).

All of this was front and center on my mind late last week after experiencing an even more intense than usual meeting of the minds centered on all things NBA and Rockets-related. The conversation began innocently enough. Four of us were milling about within the confines of a co-worker’s office, taking our turns in front a giant dry erase board on which we’ve been plotting our projected end-of-season standings for the Western Conference ever since early-July.

Smack dab in the middle of this exercise, one of the guys in our group suddenly deviated from the routine and began delivering one bold prediction after another, as if possessed by the spirit of Nostradamus: The Rockets will win 50-plus games; Aaron Brooks or Luis Scola will make the All-Star team; AB will take home the Most Improved Player award; Boston won’t finish in the top-4 of the Eastern Conference; Toronto will miss the playoffs entirely, while the Knicks (the Knicks!!!) will make it. On and on he went. Quite frankly, it was probably the most impressive/alarming stream of consciousness display I’ve heard since Ron Artest’s rap tribute to Michael Jackson. When all was said and done, I didn’t know whether to stand up and applaud or check my man into the nearest mental health care facility.

The thing is, as bold as his proclamations were, none of them could be considered anything close to completely crazy. Do I agree with all of them? Of course not (though I will begrudgingly admit his track record in the prediction game is unusually strong), but I can easily construct reasonably strong arguments to support each one. After all, why couldn’t these Rockets ignore the national prognostications forecasting nothing but doom and gloom for the franchise and instead rise up to win 50-plus games once more thanks to an already-established foundation featuring rock-solid defense, Rick Adelman’s expert direction and the eventual return of a healthy Tracy McGrady?

Another point to ponder: what if the Rockets trade for an All-Star caliber player between now and the February trade deadline – a possibility which can’t be easily dismissed given the game of big-name musical chairs that’s been taking place in the NBA for more than a year and a half now, not to mention Houston’s ever-expanding arsenal of young, highly-valued talent.

And even if you remain in wait-and-see mode with the Rockets as a team, there should be little doubt that, individually, Brooks and Scola are good bets for career seasons in ‘09-10. Both players figure to assume much more of the offensive burden in the year to come – especially as long as T-Mac remains sidelined – so it’s easy to envision significant spikes in production from Scola and Brooks. And if the Rockets do exceed expectations in the weeks leading up to the All-Star festivities in Dallas, don’t be surprised if you start to hear AB and Luis mentioned as potential party crashers.

So what’s my point? Glad you asked. I have two of them, actually.

1.) It’s so ridiculously early (remember, we’re still more than two and a half months away from the start of the regular season) that the only thing you can take to the bank at this point is that much of the expert analysis you read now is likely to be blown to smithereens once we actually enter the heart of the NBA season. Inevitably, trades, injuries and other twists and turns will wreak havoc with the conventional wisdom, causing us to re-evaluate everything we thought we knew for sure back in August. Some teams will surprise us by rising, others by taking the plunge into the depths of mediocrity (or worse). Heck, last December pundits were openly questioning whether or not the Celtics might break the NBA single-season record for wins. Little more than four months later, they barely eeked their way past the first round. Things change in this league. Rapidly.

2.) Speculating is fun. Hey, we’ve got to negotiate our way through these next two months somehow, right?

And it’s with that spirit in mind that I’d now like to open the floor to you, the reader. We want to hear your best and boldest predictions for the 2009-10 season. You can keep them entirely focused on the Rockets if you wish, or expand your scope to the entire NBA - it’s totally up to you. Just be sure to send along a short defense of your prediction as well (in other words, don’t waste your time foretelling a mid-season LeBron James trade – there’s bold, and then there’s just plain insanity) and we’ll choose the best ones for an upcoming column in which we’ll get some of the Rockets players and staff to share their thoughts on your prognostication prowess.

So break out your crystal ball, summon the spirit of Miss Cleo and send your bold predictions to us via Facebook, Twitter or our Rockets Wiki – or feel free to email me directly. May the force be with you - and many thanks for your help in making this the best job in the world.

Got a question for Rockets.com? Send it to Jason Friedman. And for up to the second news and injury updates follow the Rockets and Jason on Twitter.