THE DISH

Scary Thought: The West Could Be Better Next Year

Greg Oden's return could make the Trail Blazers an elite team.
Greg Oden's return could make the Trail Blazers an elite team. (By Jonathan Daniel -- Getty Images)
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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Denver seized control of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a huge victory at Golden State on Thursday, meaning that the Warriors likely will go down as the best NBA lottery team in history. The playoff race in the West was more competitive than ever this season -- with all eight playoff teams on pace to win at least 50 games.

But the conference battle could be more intense next season, with Portland adding both Greg Oden and a lottery pick, and the Los Angeles Clippers having Elton Brand for a full season (if he decides not to opt out of his contract this summer). "Sacramento is not going to be bad, either," Nuggets Coach George Karl said. "I think next year, you could have 10 or 11 good teams, but I don't think you have as many 50-win, close-to-50-win records. I think we'll beat each other up a little bit more. I think this is going to be a historical season." . . .

The Boston Celtics have completed the best turnaround in NBA history by going from 24 wins to 63 entering last night's game at Atlanta. The previous best was when the San Antonio Spurs improved from 20-62 to 56-26 in Tim Duncan's rookie season in 1997-98. "It's definitely unbelievable," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce, who jokingly takes credit for the team getting Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen last summer. Those trades may not have happened if Pierce hadn't broken his left foot last season and missed 24 games (Boston won just two of those). "If that doesn't happen, who knows where we'd be right now," Pierce said with a laugh.


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