The easy answer, and frankly logical answer is no. The Miami Heat are the proverbial favorites and have earned that lofty status and belief based not only on being the defending champs, but having the best player on the planet in Lebron James. I could give you another 10 reasons why the Heat likely will go back to back and a belly to belly when it comes to rings. However I do believe there is only 1 team in the east that can make them sweat and 1 team in the west as well.

Start in the west. Yes last year I climbed all over the jock of the San Antonio Spurs, proclaiming them team of the decade, century, etc etc. after getting the words out of my mouth the Spurs proceeded to lose 4 straight to the Oklahoma City Thunder. However this year the Spurs are better, a little more seasoned (their young guys) and battle tested. They have 2 or perhaps 3 hall of famers. That can't be and won't be discounted at least by this guy.

However the team I want to proclaim a contender is my team, the NY Knicks. here is why the Knicks have a better chance then the  Indiana Pacers. The Knicks can score and have many options for a basket, unlike the Pacers whose options are limited to score, especially without Danny Granger.

There are 2 questions for me the Knicks must answer to be stamped as serious contenders. If they can answer these in the affirmative I like their chances to pull off an upset of the Heat.

Question 1- Can the Knicks hang together through the rough stretches of a playoff game/series. This needs to be answered. Many a talented teams have come unglued by the pressure of the playoffs. 1st sign of trouble, of dissension and they crumble.

The Knicks will be challenged in this regard. They have some flammable personalities and an offense that most often revolves around Carmelo Anthony. Will Anthony abandon ship when his number is not called for a must have basket? Will Anthony pout when a play is called for J,R. Smith in the clutch and the defense sags on Anthony? Will both Smith and Anthony be ok if neither is called on to get a big hoop. the Knicks can score. To that there is no doubt. Well a little but more on that in a moment. But New York can score and have many options for a deuce. Anthony, Smith, Amare when he returns ( hopefully 1st round of the playoffs) Felton and even possibly J Kidd for a 3. let's not forget Novak who adds nothing but a threat of a 3 ball here and there. Oh the Knicks have options aplenty but they also have massive ego and players who have been  "The Man". When not asked to be "The Man" will they be satisfied with being " A Teammate". The answer to this will determine if the Knicks can snap 40 years of title emptiness.

The 2nd question is connected to the 1st. The Knicks can score. if you doubt that well your knowledge of the Knicks is not good. But can the Knicks score AGAINST THE HEAT. This is a totally different question. Miami covers the perimeter better then anyone in the NBA, especially in the biggest of games. Their team defense is tremendous. They won a championship because of this.

This part scares me. Let's be honest Carmelo Anthony doesn't go off for 50 against the Heat on Tuesday night if Miami has James and Wade in the lineup. Melo could get 30 vs the Heat and it can be a great 30 or a  quiet 30. Miami will double Melo. Will he kick it out or force a move to the hoop and a shot? Steve Novak might as well be Claude Raines when it comes to playing Miami. See his performances in those games and a healthy Heat team. UGLY!  Will Raymond Felton be the guy to kick it out to and can he can the must have hoop? Will scoring machine Chris Copeland be a factor? Can the big fella, the great Tyson Chandler be able to do enough on the offensive end to warrant the Heat showing some respect by defending him tighter? Will Amare have enough nimbleness to be effective if the Knicks make it to the Eastern finals?

Now make no mistake the east isn't only the Knicks and the Heat. I think the Bulls can be a factor, even without former MVP Derek Rose. They proved that in beating Miami and ending their 28 game winning streak.

I would include the Celtics but without Rajon Rondo I don't see it. The Celts have hung in well without Rondo but the regular season isn't the post season. A totally different animal for sure.

The rest of the east has some bumps but no serious pot holes in my view. The Pacers are a nice team, a good story, a tough team but they won't score enough to challenge. The playoffs are mostly about defense but you must be able to get big baskets and who on the Pacers will get that done?

Brooklyn, Atlanta, Milwaukee are all pretenders and nothing more. None presents a challenge to the Knicks or Heat in my view.

No this is about the Heat and the Knicks with perhaps the Bulls mixed in. Sounds like the days of Riley, Ewing, Alonzo,and  Hardaway,  and those fierce fierce fierce battles. This time the Knicks better hope they can get out of the 70's and 80's in points and at least get into the 90's. If so they can beat the Heat and win that elusive crown that has avoided them for 40 years now!


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