Place pot firmly onto head. Grab wooden spoon. Use spoon to strike pot with force. Repeat. Welcome back, NBA!
Maybe we as a culture enjoy the predictable. We feel comfort in knowing what will happen. Uncertainty frightens us. That could explain why the NBA saw some of its highest TV ratings ever last season. Or maybe it was a supply and demand scenario. With fewer games in a smaller time frame, we ate it up. Either way, Commander Stern is banking on the same results this year as we regress back to normal.
Normal, in today’s NBA, is the super team. It is no longer good enough to have a star, but many. This offseason saw the long-suffering Lakers join the mix, nabbing Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Ray Allen headed south to save Miami from the doldrums, leaving the Celtics to suffer through the likes of Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Then there’s the small market torchbearers. The ones the national media and ignorant fans point to and say, “Look! The NBA is balanced!” With the best front offices in the game and a great deal of luck, San Antonio and Oklahoma City will be back in the fold, with slightly less title aspirations than a year ago.
And lest we forget about the “tough outs” this year. The Memphises, Denvers and Indianas that can make a decent playoff run as long as they stay completely healthy and never make a mistake. But championship hopes? Please! This is the NBA we’re talking about! A league that’s seen just eight franchises win titles in the last 28 years! There’s no room for parity here!
But there is a possible wrench that can be hurled into the fray, disrupting the inevitability of another NBA year. We don’t know where. We don’t know when. But at some point, Derrick Rose will return. It may not even be during the season. But if it is, if the Bulls get their MVP back in the second half of the season, you can light a fire to the Eastern Conference playoff picture. A team that will spend much of the year being that “tough out,” with some needed offensive punch in the backcourt in Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli, an “ace-in-the-hole” lies in wait. But Tom Thibodeau and John Paxson (oh, I guess Gar Forman, too…right?) must only bring Rose back if he is completely healthy AND the Bulls are within playoff range. Otherwise, just roll with what you got. And, yes, I just asked for some restraint from Thibs, which is similar to asking a monkey to not sling his feces everywhere.
For those of us who enjoy the unpredictability that sports are supposed to provide, the Bucks should cure your ills. Here’s what we know about the deer this year…Scott Skiles and John Hammond are in the final year of their contracts. We know Skiles asked for a buyout in the offseason and didn’t get one. Monta Ellis as already indicated he won’t be staying once his contract is done at the end of the season. And, as of the writing of this blog, Brandon Jennings enters the final year of his deal. Senator Herb Kohl will have that title removed from his name next week, and begin his retirement by (possibly) taking a more active role as owner. Oh, and all that fun financial stuff with the arena and the future of the team, that’s still out there…
Here’s what we don’t know about the Bucks. We don’t know how any of the names above will react to this season. Is Skiles a lame duck, or will he suddenly be rejuvenated and stop putting Drew Gooden at the five? Will John Hammond pull yet another quick trigger at the deadline to try and fix his own mistakes, despite the fact he pulled off a somewhat understandable offseason? Can Ellis and Jennings co-exist without six basketballs at their disposal?
Yet again, the prognostications of this team are mediocre, a late lottery appearance and a 10th seed in the East. But I, of all people, am a bit more optimistic with this club, and actually think the playoffs are in the cards. I actually can see the blueprint this year, a novel thought for this franchise. The defense down low will be stout, with the addition of Sam Dalembert and a young bench that has a lot of athletic prowess. That defense down low will lend well to the quick backcourt, leading to a staggering amount of transition offense. If anything, the Bucks will be entertaining, which is also a novel thought for this franchise. And if it all blows up, then the Ax-Man cometh.
We know what the tea leaves are saying about the NBA this year. We know the Lakers will be taking on the Heat or Celtics for whatever the NBA trophy is called. The NBA is rarely full of questions, but our two teams have them. In a league full of slog and muck, and a year with lower expectations for the Bulls and Bucks, I’m actually intrigued by what this year might bring. Even if it winds up being more of the same.
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