October 31, 2006

Shall We Begin?

A great wiseman (whose name is escaping me right now, largely because I’m not certain he actually exists) once said that life is a series of new beginnings.

And beginnings, as we all know, come in many sizes. From the surprising feeling of renewal that comes from a dapper new haircut or the procurement of a fresh new pair of kicks to the great, insurmountable high of stepping out of the doctor’s office after finally getting that vasectomy you’ve always dreamed of (umm…not that I’d know anything about that).

In the sports world, new beginnings don’t get much more exciting than tonight, when a new NBA season gets underway. Okay, admittedly the NBA, like a vasectomy operation, isn’t necessarily for everyone, but just know that at the same time as I scorn you for your accidental out of wedlock bastard child, I pity you for not being able to partake in the great joy that is watching NBA hoops.

So whether you’re with me or not, come along for a brief moment as I commemorate this great new beginning in 2006 with a list of 10 fearless, groundbreaking and undoubtedly largely incorrect predictions for the upcoming NBA campaign:

10) Lamar Odom will play a truly inspired season of hoops.

They’re words that at one point in time may have been unprintable, or at the very least unthinkable.

For years an underachiever with talent to match anyone else’s in the league, Odom now has a heartbreaking source of motivation: The death of his infant son Jayden over the summer.

And even before opening night, Odom has already provided a glimpse into his mindset. A few days after his son’s funeral, some of his friends asked him about lending them money, at which point he took out a sizable roll of bills and promptly set them all aflame.

I often joke about lighting my money on fire living in the cash-inhaling vortex that is New York City, but Odom’s gesture clearly gives new thought-provoking meaning to the phrase, and sends a clear signal that the Lakers’ forward will be playing with a purpose in 2006-07.

9) And a little further upstate, Baron Davis will have the best season of his career.

Okay, so I know that just about everyone on the planet is predicting this, which would make it pretty easy to contradict, but the fact is, this just feels right. Le Baron is by all accounts in great shape, still only 27 years old and will be playing for the man (Don Nelson) who not only recently re-popularized the rejuvenative powers of circumcision, but has also mentored some of the elite PG’s in NBA history (Tim Hardaway and Steve Nash included).

And of course all of the skeptics will point out that BDizzle has been about as healthy as a man suffering from amebic dysentery while living in a nuclear fallout zone the past several years, but please keep in mind that for each of the first three years of his career (when he was playing under Paul Silas, the last coach he says commanded his respect), Baron played in all 82 games. So has he been fragile or disinterested the past few years? Might be a moot point now. This year he’ll be neither.

8) Memphis will challenge for the League’s worst record at least through the New Year.

You know how I said a moment ago about Baron Davis that some things just feel right? Well, there are other things that just feel wrong, and counting on Stromile Swift is one of them.

For years now I’ve touted Stromile as a man ready to bust out and put up huge stats, but like the annoying friend you invite to a classy party only to have him drink too many cocktails and defecate on the leather sofa, Swift has made a cuckold of me time and again. And now the Grizzlies are counting on him to hold down the PF spot and do a respectable Pau Gasol imitation until Gasol – the only legit star on an aging roster – returns from a foot injury in January? Sorry, can’t see it happening.

Which is of course exactly why it most likely will happen. Stro always finds a way to dump on the proverbial sofa just to make me look bad.

7) The Knicks won’t be as bad as you think.

First off let me just say that this is based on the assumption that you think the Knicks are going to be absolutely and completely dreadful. And if that’s what you’re thinking, I’m here to tell you it won’t be the case.

The main reason? From what I can tell, Isiah Thomas doesn’t plan to run a rigorous offense as much as he intends to turn Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis loose and let them do whatever the hell they want. Which, as skeptical as this might make you, is exactly what this team needs. Larry Brown’s offense choked the life out of this squad last year, and with a little freedom – if they’re just allowed to play hoops without thinking about it so much – they’ll be significantly better. How much better? I think there’s a chance they could win 35 games.

(And yes, I do fully intend to choke on that number come mid-March.)

6) You’ll be sorry you hated on the Hawks.

One of the reasons you’ll be sorry is that I’m not going to shut up about them.

But hopefully that won’t be the primary reason. You heard it first right here: The Hawks are going to win 35 or more games this year, and more importantly (also more likely) they’ll become a nationwide League Pass favorite.

Why? Two words for you: J Smoove. Translation: Josh Smith, a.k.a. Atlanta’s answer to Andrei Kirilenko, with more offensive upside, a far more explosive repertoire of dunks and less nagging injury concerns. In fact, the only thing that Josh Smith doesn’t have that Kirilenko can claim (other than a pretty radical mohawk) is a deal with his hot Russian rock star wife allowing him to strap a jimmy hat on Little Andrei and make a night of it with a random woman one night per year.

Still skeptical? Consider these nuggets removed straight from the Hawks' 2006-07 Media Guide (which I do not have, nor have I ever read):

  • Fact: Josh Smith is one of the five most exciting players in the NBA.
  • Fact: Josh Smith will be a first-round pick in your fantasy draft next year.
  • Fact: Josh Smith has never raced a cheetah before but if he did he would most likely win.
  • Fact: You know how sometimes you hear about people who can dunk a tennis ball on an 11-foot goal or pull a quarter off the top of the backboard, or whatever people tell you to impress upon you how good someone’s leaping ability is? Well, Josh Smith can 360 windmill dunk a bowling ball and pull a shot of whiskey off the top of the backboard without spilling a single drop.
  • Fact: Josh Smith can not only block shots at an alarming rate, he can also block out your negative thoughts about the Hawks so that they don’t bother him.

5) This is the year Carmelo Anthony legitimately makes it a “Big Three.”

Have any of you kind of had the feeling all along that Carmelo has pretty clearly been a tad bit below his peers and recent SI covermates LeBron and D-Wade?

As good as Carmelo has been, haven’t LeBron and Wade deserved the accolades a little bit more if for no other reason than the fact that they’re just more complete all-around players? (Oh yes, and there’s also the small fact that Wade led Miami to the NBA title.)

Well, if you watched any of the World Championships this summer, there’s reason to think that Carmelo might be ready to finally legitimize his place in this ballyhooed hoops triumvirate. In Japan, Melo was playing not just like a man possessed, but like a man possessed by an army of relentless mind-altering gnomes whose only instruction was: Score at will.

Most impressive about Carmelo’s showing at the World Championships was his shooting from behind the 3-point arc, something he has yet to master in the NBA. And it might have had to do with the fact that the international 3-point line is closer, but regardless, there was something about the way he played overseas that makes you think a dominant, 30 ppg year is on the way.

4) Through a stunning series of confessions from his friends and associates, we will learn that although Sebastian Telfair was not involved in the shooting of the rapper Fabolous, he did play an integral role in the shootings of Biggie, 2Pac, President Lincoln, the dude Dick Cheney capped, Stringer Bell and may have fired the shots that hit Siegfried and Roy’s house.

Did that just blow your mind?

3) In one of the truly great stories of the season, Grant Hill will stay on his feet for more than 70 games and return to form by scoring 18+ ppg and legitimately schooling a bunch of young fellas along the way with a repertoire so smooth and textbook that it has no room for a 7-step travel move to the basket or a ridiculously illegal crossover.

Wow, I hope this one comes true.

(As a side note, have you noticed that the predictions themselves have started to become longer than the explanations? Not sure exactly what that means.)

2) Amare Stoudemire will have his nights where he dominates like it’s ’04-'05, but there will be far less of them than any of us would hope to see.

And this leads me to a question: What’s the deal with microfracture surgery? Seeing how difficult it’s been for guys like Kenyon Martin and Chris Webber or the now-retired Allan Houston and Jamal Mashburn to fully regain their athleticism, it’s hard not to wonder if there might be a better way. Sure, Jason Kidd still looks pretty good these days, but it’s tough to reconcile guys getting a procedure so risky unless it’s absolutely 100 percent necessary and their career will be over if they don’t do it. Especially for someone like Amare, who’s still a few weeks shy of his 24th birthday.

Granted, I’m no doctor – I wouldn’t know a cleft pallet from a severed limb if you threw me into a set of scrubs and put me in the midst of an operating room. But something about this procedure seems more self-destructive than recuperative.

(Please note the first-ever use of the word “recuperative” on this site.)

1) San Antonio will win the NBA title. Or Dallas will. Or it will be Miami.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. And I say this in hopes of illustrating an idea – that if you really want to enjoy the NBA these days, watch the games for two reasons:

1) To cheer on your hometown team, but more importantly...
2) Do it for the spectacle of the whole thing.

The point is this: If you’re following the season just to keep up with the best teams once or twice a week and to see who ultimately prevails in the NBA Finals, you’re going to get bored. Because the fact is, some of the elite teams in the league (Detroit, San Antonio, Miami to name a few) are all capable of playing rather boring basketball at times.

But if you watch the games to see the individual players at work – guys like Josh Smith, Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas, Steve Nash to even lesser-knowns like Shaun Livingston and Jameer Nelson – the fact is, there are some incredibly entertaining individual moments on a nightly basis.

And sure, that probably goes against all you’ve been brought up to believe as an old school, traditional sports fan – it’s first and foremost a team sport and you don’t care about these selfish guys and blah blah blah. Well, consider this a long overdue lobotomy for your dormant basketball brain. It’s time to wake up, quit depriving yourself based on stubborn, outdated principles and watch the NBA for the great spectacle that it is.

You see, new beginnings happen all the time. And tonight, everyone gets a clean slate. Here’s to the first day of the rest of your basketball life.


Blogger jimmyrad said...


I thoroughly enjoy the NBA. I think all the poo-pooers who inevitably say, "College Basketball is so much better," are making the mistake of comparing the two. The fact is that the best basketball players in the world play in the NBA, and it is fun to watch the best in the world do ANYTHING. "It's too invidiualistic," people say. That is true, and while it won't make you think about the great Princeton offense or get excited about no-name "Rudy"-esque character making a hail mary shot to beat crosstown rival State U. in the most important game ever that will decide whether the town is happy or sad for a year, it will make your headspin to see how good some of these guys are at playing ball.

It's not just basketball, it's the NBA!!!

That should be the new slogan.

6:27 PM, October 31, 2006  
Blogger JBS said...

I'm with "jimmy"

f college ball. If the fans didn't shave their heads and wear gorilla outfits everyone would start to realize that the NBA is faaaantastic even i still yearn for the days of randy witman and dominique wilkins going toe to toe with bird and Ainge.

Thinking about it, Tree Rollins where art thou and thy too John Battle. How now Glen "Doc" Rivers and Mo Malone who not coincidentally was the inspiration in the naming of one of our classmates in highschool. one Mo Rifkin.

Thinking of you Scott Hastings and Cliff Livingston. I'll drink a whynatte for you Kevin Wilis because i got to meet you once and couldn't believe how tall you were.

anyway. NBA is good stuff and i am happy the season has started again.

10:59 AM, November 02, 2006  

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