Opening night of the new NBA Season is 20 Days away (as a struggling Pittsburgh Steeler fan, it can’t come soon enough) and there are immense story-lines to follow. The league is more drama filled than an episode of ABC’s “Mistresses”or “Scandal.” As Shaquille O’neal once said, NBA stands for Nothing But Actors. Here’s a glimpse of the ones you should follow.
The biggest dramatic star in this season will be Dwight Howard, somehow he has managed in 2 years to incite more rage then LeBron did when he left Cleveland. The good thing for D12, he will be healthy and this team is very similar to his 2009 Orlando Magic that went to the NBA Finals, except now he has a superstar in James Harden to alleviate the pressure on him.
The Rockets have shooters surrounding D12, that will cause opposing teams to abandon double teaming him. D12s ability in the pick & roll will free up Jeremy Lin, to be “Linsanity” from his days in NY.
If Omer Asik can swallow his pride of being the second fiddle on the post, head coach Kevin Mchale will be able to play Asik and D12 together, creating a twin tower scenario similar to that of Pau Gasol & Andrew Bynum when they helped the LA Lakers win back to back titles in 09 & 10.
• Kobe Brant will play game one. Period.
No need for analysis, other then to say Kobe takes challenges where he is expected to fail, to prove his greatness. The average recovery for an Achilles injury is 8-10 months, it’s only been 7 since Kobe tore his. He’s a freak athlete out to prove he can defy the odds once again. Not to mention you throw in the fact that a certain sports publication ranked him as the league’s 12th best player. Mamba’s about to strike!
• Derrick Rose will prove he made the right decision to sit out all of last season and COMPLETELY heal.
Many pointed to Iman Shumpert—he injured his knee the same day as Rose and returned to play—as to why Rose should’ve played. But for those who don’t remember, Shumpert had issues with his knee in the playoffs against Indiana. Rose did the right thing, long term and short term. The Bulls were so banged up, there was no way they were beating the Heat last season. So sitting out to avoid any wear and tear was the safe, but smart move. Long term; just think how fresh his legs are. At his age, he may find another gear because he didn’t take the pounding for full season.
• Memphis will regret letting Coach Lionel Hollins go. Chemistry is hard enough to obtain between players, but it’s even harder to find the right mix between players and a coach. The trade of Rudy Gay to Toronto actually helped Memphis, that won’t be the same with the loss of Hollins. This team was threatening to win a conference title, without a beloved coach, management has risked this team falling to the back of the Western Conference pack. All over analytics. This isn’t baseball.
• The Brooklyn Celtics….. I mean Nets will push the Miami Heat and drain them in a way similar to an “Ali vs. Frazier” fight. The Nets went all in by adding the aging Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to their young stars in an attempt to win now. Truth and KG are at the end of their Hall Of Fame careers and you can believe they’ll give all they have left, to knock off their bitter rivals. Even if that takes so much away from them they can’t win the title. Knocking off the Heat and old friend Ray Allen would be enough to make these prideful vets fade away.
• This will be the last season of the big three in Miami. I’m not saying Lebron will leave, but Chris Bosh will be gone. If he doesn’t elect to use his player option, I believe Pat Riley will use him as trade bait to revamp the roster and keep their championship window open. That’s what it will take to keep LeBron around, although I don’t think he’s going anywhere. As far as the back to Cleveland hopes; if he ever goes back it will be at the end of his career, not the middle of his prime. But I’ve been wrong about him before, I never thought he’d leave home in the first place.
Eastern Conference Championship:
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers
• I could very easily change this to Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks/Brooklyn Nets. Point is the East is going to be a beast this season and I don’t see how the Heat could run another 20 plus game win streak or waltz through this gauntlet to the Finals. Indiana brings back an All Star in Danny Granger to a team that won ? Games last season and made the conference finals. With Granger back, their bench gets a boost from Lance Stephenson who emerged in place of Granger. Then you add veterans Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and sharp shooter Chris Copeland. The more I think about it I may want to change my picks.
Western Conference Championship:
LA Clippers vs. Houston Rockets
LA Clippers vs. Indiana Pacers
Chris Paul has the coach he wanted, and the stage is set for him to perform. He’s been called this generations Isaiah Thomas and now he needs to channel his inner Zeke.
Many say the clips have underachieved the last two seasons, if they don’t exceed expectations this season, it falls on CP3. He has two three point specialist in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley to open up driving lanes to do what he does best. We all know, that right now in their careers, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can only help him carry the load so much. But they still can do what’s needed to truly take over the title as L.A.s team.
Steph Curry (2nd)
KD35 said he’s tired of being second. He can only do so much about changing that for the OKC Thunder, but he can change that for his individual career. This is the year he REALLY challenges LBJ as the best in the L. Steph Curry was the darling of the NBA Playoffs, that will carry over this season as he pushes the Golden State Warriors into the top 3 team in the west. The hysteria over his blazing shooting had his coach Mark Jackson saying “most of you all are showing after the baby’s already been burped.” Basically y’all late, and Steph will use his playoff run to propel him into superstar status this season. He won’t be snubbed for the all star team again.It just won’t be enough to overtake KD for MVP. His time will come soon though.
Defensive Player of the Year:
D12 is finally 100%. When he’s right, he’s the best center in the league. Now that the free agent drama is finally behind him – after two years – he will reclaim his spot as the number one big.
Rookie of the Year:
This is a point guard driver league, like the NFL is with quarterbacks. I didn’t understand why so many teams passed on a guy who proved in the most pressure filled moments, on the best level not called the NBA. Burke will shock many as he has his entire career, going back to his prep days at Northland High School in Columbus Ohio. He’s been overshadowed before—he played with Boston Celtics second year forward Jared Sullinger in high school—and still shined bright. His rookie campaign will be no different. He reminds me of a more versatile Allen Iverson.
• Lastly, I have a bone to pick with the NBA on scheduling. In a league that spans so many months, whose great idea was it to have several key teams play in the preseason?! The Heat played the Nets and will play again on 10/25. This is a big rivalry that carries over from when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry were in Boston. Why would the NBA allow this matchup to happen outside of the season and dilute the significance and hype of their 1st regular season meeting. Same thing goes for the first matchup between the New Nets vs Boston on 10/23. Truth and KGs first game back in Beantown SHOULDN’T be a preseason game. I’m disappointed and there are already few watchable regular season games to begin with, now those that I were looking forward to are now not must see TV.