Shanoff's WUC: NBA '09-10! Who's Competing?

Today's Calls: NBA contenders vs. NBA pretenders, DeSean Jackson vs. Albert Haynesworth, Phillies vs. Yankees, Blake Griffin vs. Jonny Flynn, Cavs vs. Lakers, Mark McGwire vs. Reality and More. ↵

↵Kobe BryantThe Opening Pitch: There are two NBAs. ↵

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↵There is the NBA of the contenders — the handful of teams actually playing to win a title THIS season: The Lakers, Spurs, Nuggets and Mavs in the West; the Magic, Cavs, Celtics and Wizards in the East. ↵

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↵And then there is the NBA of the pretenders — the teams that are not playing to compete for a title this season. Maybe they are playing to impress a 2010 free agent. Maybe they are playing to win ... in 2013. Whatever: They aren't playing to win now. ↵

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↵For the first group, the regular season is perfunctory — a warm-up before things get serious in the postseason. ↵

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↵For the second group, the regular season is performance art — they are trying to entertain their fans enough that the fans buy the notion of "Well, maybe not THIS year ... but SOMEDAY!" ↵

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↵Thus, the biggest storyline of 2009 is 2010: This mythical moment when pretenders — hoarding cap space under the auspices of a competitive future — will suddenly turn into contenders. The reality is just that: It's a myth. ↵

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↵Enjoy the compelling cadre of NBA teams playing to win it all during the 2009-2010 season — everyone else is playing to win ... eventually. ↵

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↵WUC NBA Preview! ↵Playoff Picks ↵
↵Finals Champ: Lakers over Magic ↵
↵West Champ: Lakers over Spurs ↵
↵East Champ: Magic over Cavs ↵
↵West Playoff Seeding: (1) Lakers; (2) Spurs; (3) Nuggets; (4) Jazz; (5) Mavs; (6) Blazers; (7) Hornets; (8) Rockets. ↵
↵East Playoff Seeding: (1) Cavs; (2) Magic; (3) Celtics; (4) Wizards; (5) Hawks; (6) Bulls; (7) Pistons; (8) Raptors. ↵

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↵NBA Awards Picks ↵
↵MVP: Dwight Howard ↵
↵Rookie: Jonny Flynn ↵
↵Coach: Flip Saunders ↵
↵Comeback: Gilbert Arenas ↵
↵6th Man: Brandon Bass ↵

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↵MNF: "Urgency, heart, 'want-to,' whatever. I don't know. We're lacking a lot of stuff right now." That's Albert Haynesworth with the Quote of the Day, about his Redskins teammates after their primetime loss to the Eagles. The game was the joke it was expected to be: Offense, defense, star power, coaching. The Eagles dominated it all. ↵

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↵Two words: DeSean. Jackson. ↵

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↵World Series: Here are nine big storylines to get you primed. (I would take issue with No. 3: Yes, if the Yankees win, they might be Team of the Decade. But if the Phillies win, I would argue that THEY would be T.O.T.D. — repeating a title is virtually impossible.) ↵

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↵And here's No. 10: I love that the Phillies are respectful enough about the Yankees' tradition to be mildly disrespectful. Has there been a more likable defending champ in baseball this decade than Philly? (What a statement.) ↵

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↵CFB Must-Read: Brian Cook's This Week in Schadenfreude, which tackles Tennessee — should they have beaten Alabama in Tuscaloosa? Maybe, maybe not. But they definitely should have tried to use that remaining 48 seconds to get their kicker in better position for the would-be game-winning FG. ↵

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↵Fixing CFB officiating: Andy Hutchins has some very smart ideas, including allowing coaches to question previously unquestionable calls on the field (biggest perpetuated myth: that "any" call can be reviewed by the booth — not true). ↵

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↵NBA: Blake Griffin out six weeks with a knee injury. Of course he is — I was actually going to put the Clippers as the No. 8 team in my West predictions, on the strength of Griffin's presence (and everyone else gelling around him). This is a huge loss for the franchise, even if it only lasts until mid-December. It also throws the Rookie of the Year race wide open. I'll stick with my original pick: Jonny Flynn. ↵

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↵SN NBA Countdown: No. 2 Cavs. Which means that, by elimination, SN's No. 1 will be ... the Lakers. Can't disagree there. Come back later for Bethlehem Shoals' take on L.A. For now, content yourself with his analysis of the Cavs. (I actually think Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Leon Powe — if he stays healthy — are much more important and valuable pick-ups this offseason than Shaq.) ↵

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↵NFL Fantasy: If you missed out on the Alex Smith bandwagon two days ago — and who didn't? — he is the new starting QB for the 49ers for all you GMs out there with massive QB issues (like me!) ↵

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↵(Less clarity about what's going on with the Titans at QB — what reason would they have for NOT playing Vince Young at this point?) ↵

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↵MLB Offseason: Mark McGwire will be nothing for the Cardinals but a distraction until he 'fesses up about his use of PEDs. Doesn't he realize that all people want to do is hear him admit it — and they are entirely ready to forgive him? Hell, if spun with enough contrition for the stubborn silence all these years, it might even get him into the Hall of Fame. ↵

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↵SN CBB Countdown: No. 15 UConn. After a disappointing finish a year ago — when they were a conference favorite — perhaps things will go better for the Huskies when the expectations are a little more modest. ↵

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↵Media: Who is the best football announcing team? I'll go with Lundquist and Danielson, the right mix of smooth delivery, energy and smart analysis. The best sideline reporter? EA. The best pregame show? College GameDay. ↵

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↵TV Ratings: Wow. More fans in NYC watched the Yankees than the Giants. So pro football ISN'T king — at least when it is put up against an elimination game of a baseball championship series. ↵

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↵Non-Scandals: Oh, it was just a hot dog. Lighten up. ↵

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↵Toys: Ooh! Try the NFL Playoff Simulator. What's the worst team that you can get to advance to the Super Bowl? ↵

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↵The Last Word: "I am so proud to be your football coach!" ↵
↵Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, in the locker room after Iowa State upset Nebraska. The video is going viral — for good reason. A nice moment of emotion by the coach. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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