A fight between the NBA league and the players union nearly cost us, the fans, the entire NBA season. With games starting up again on Boxing Day, MoTD’s resident NBA nuts Shane and Tommy sat down over a single malt to break down the NBA season.
Read their discussion after the jump. Be warned: If you don’t know your Ricky Rubio from your Rajon Rondo, you might struggle to follow the conversation.
T: Hello Shaneos
S: G’day Tommy. The NBA is back. To say we’re excited is an understatement.
T: Absolutely. The lockout was devastating and will have a long lasting impact but for now we have a season look forward to.
S: And after a pretty crazy trade period too.
T: It was quite short but action packed with some great signings and trades happening. The Chris Paul fiasco lasted for weeks with rumours of him seemingly going to 50+ NBA teams, changing sports to NFL and maybe even starting a baseball career. Ok, I’m kind of exaggerating but at the same time why not add to the rumour mill?
S: Another major development was the shortened schedule. What are your thoughts there?
T: A 66 game shortened season can only be bad for fans and the players. At this time of the year, players are usually rounding into midseason form but instead, they’re playing their opening games. We can expect some rusty skills to begin with and more injuries to come as the season rolls on. The fans get to see more games in fewer days but injuries will mean that fans won’t get to see their favourite players in action. And if injury takes down some stars, it could be similar to the Knicks in 1999 and open the door for a dark horse.
S: I agree. You mention the Chris Paul trade, and I honestly think it makes the Clippers the dark horse this year. The Clippers are instantly a team you circle on your calendar. They’re going to popular, entertaining, and they will win a lot of games. Chris Paul is the best pure point guard in NBA history, so it’s a huge coup.
T: Plus the less-hyped additions of Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups.
S: Spot on. I think Chauncey Billups will be huge. He’s been written off far too soon, and could provide a huge boost for the Clippers. With Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the paint, they have to be considered the team with the most potential for improvement.
T: The real test will come against some of the battle-hardened squads.
S: Exactly, it’ll be interesting to watch them against veteran outfits who’ve been together a while, like San Antonio or Boston.
T: I think they’ll be OK against San Antonio. I think Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are out of time. The Spurs lack youth and are athletically challenged in all positions and I fail to see them making a long run in the post season. Then again, you can never count out Father Time and the Big Fundamentals.
S: And our beloved Celtics?
T: I’m optimistic. I think they have a chance to make a deep run into the playoffs if they can stay healthy. Paul Pierce has already been sidelined with an early injury and is showing signs of age. The positive will be seeing Rondo will be back at full strength after a horrific elbow injury in last year’s playoffs. And you know that Ray Allen can NEVER be counted out. The guy is a timeless! I don’t care if he missed 17 shots in a row, if the game comes down to the last possession… YOU GIVE HIM THE DAMN BALL.
S: Which they didn’t do in their first game versus the Knicks, but however… How about the Big Ticket?
T: Well Kevin Garnett is my boy, my favourite player ever. How he goes this season will be very interesting. A 66-game shortened season has more back-to-back games, which are tough on old bones. That’s why I think the Brandon Bass trade was MASSIVE for us. I love Bass’ toughness, athletic ability and energy. The game versus the Knicks showed us that we shouldn’t really miss Big Baby. With minutes going to Bass more on the 2nd half of the back to backs, expect KG’s stats to take a hit. Hopefully Head Coach Doc Rivers knows what he’s doing and rests the maniacal energy of KG for the playoffs. But be warned, leave KG on the bench for too long and he’ll start going berserk and might just kill everyone.
S: It’s true. I’ve seen it happen. He killed a guy with a trident.
T: Yes, shades of Brick Tamland about KG. So we’ve spoken about the rejuvenated dark horse Clippers and the dinosaur teams… but what about the injection of youth the NBA is poised to enjoy?
S: When you talk about youth you’re talking about Oklahoma. Unfortunately there are already rumours flying that Russell Westbrook’s ego is about to pop. Whispers are about that he’s not happy playing second-fiddle to Kevin Durant. Dynasties have crumbled because of ego, and Westbrook needs to keep his in check to build a dynasty in the first place. The Thunder are, frankly, the best young team in recent memory. If they can keep it together and rally behind Durant, who is still somehow only 21 years of age, they can build something special.
T: He’s still only 21? Damn I feel old. I hope Westbrook isn’t like Stephon Marbury, who cost KG rings with his little dummy spit.
S: Rings? Really? You think Marbury cost Garnett rings? Remember, Duncan and Shaq were kind of big deals back then too, and Garnett would’ve had to go through them.
T: Absolutely. If Marbury had stayed, with Sprewell coming onboard afterwards, and if Malik Sealy hadn’t been tragically killed by a drunk driver… who knows?
S: I’ll grant you that it’s an unknown, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.
T: I’ll take what I can get.
S: There are other youthful players that are exciting, and after watching one Ricky Rubio game I think it’s safe to say he’ll be a decent distributor for years to come, but really the only other elite young squad is the Bulls.
T: Well, an older squad with a young superstar.
S: True. Derrick Rose is not the next superstar saviour of Chicago. He is the current superstar saviour of Chicago. The only hurdle I see is the Chicago front office… can they surround him with talent for a title run?
T: Well they took the first step; they just locked in Derrick Rose for 5 years and a cool $94 million.
S: And somehow that seems like an absolute steal for the Bulls. The kid is unbelievable. Unfortunately for him the Boozer signing has proved a fizzer and I think it’s very optimistic to think a 31-year-old Rip Hamilton can to take you to the next level. They need a genuine Beta to Rose’s Alpha.
T: Especially if they want to compete with Miami out East.
S: Yeah, as much as it pains me to say, I think Miami are frontrunners in the East again. LeBron and Wade might actually be figuring out a balance, which makes them scary. Scarier, anyway. What about out West… who are you picking?
T: The West is as open as it’s been in years. Dallas are obvious frontrunners, but losing Chandler will hurt them, as will the aging process. The Thunder will be up there. The Lakers have started 0-2, which means my Kobe Bryant Voodoo Doll is working. The Spurs are old, Memphis might have been a fluke, Denver and Portland are inconsistent… who else is there, really?
S: It’ll be an interesting race. So we have the Heat, the Mavs and the Thunder as front-runners. We have the Clippers as the dark horse and maybe Memphis too. The Bulls are the potentially-maybes. The Celtics need to stay healthy, and the Lakers need Dwight. Admittedly we’re basing this on a very small sample size of pre-season games and a few opening night fixtures, but who else is there, really?
T: I think that’s a neat summary.
S: Speaking of neat… Want another scotch?
T: Don’t mind if I do!
Do Tommy and Shane have it right? Is there a dark horse they’ve overlooked or a young team they’ve ignored?
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