I feel like the lockout didn’t even happen. Couldn’t be more excited for opening day in the NBA this weekend. We’re in for a thrilling and fast-paced season with plenty of story lines and more than enough phenomenal players. This is part 1 of a two-parter previewing the NBA season, purely addressing the makeup of the Western Conference. Find out why I think the Clips are going to be the second best team in the West this season.
The buzz around the NBA community all off-season was that Kobe Bryant has been voraciously preparing for this season because everyone has been saying that he had lost a step. In his last press conference at the end of last season he told everyone how excited he was to start preparing so that he could prove he was still the best.
I’m not going to pretend like I don’t love stuff like this. Kobe is one of the ten best players of all-time and seeing a guy like that perform in ways that no one else can is unbelievably enjoyable to watch and talk about. You don’t have to like him. I’ve never been a big fan of Kobe and the way that he handles himself, but as a sports fan, I love the fact that he is willing to offer up his firstborn child to win a championship. That’s why we loved watching Jordan and Bird, and that’s why we love watching Tom Brady and Tiger Woods. It doesn’t matter if you like them or love them, we will be forever interested in seeing what they do in that big moment because we know that they just might do something that we’ve never seen before.
That’s why seeing the Lakers (and David Stern) completely screw up this off-season has been so depressing. Although I believe Kobe has actually lost a step, I still think he’s capable of being the alpha dog on a championship team, and I desperately want to see him try to take on Lebron and Wade in a seven game series. Here’s what we clearly know: With the current makeup of this Lakers roster, they are going to be worse than they were last year. There’s no way around it. They obviously were getting older and slower, and the Mavs absolutely exposed them for what they were last year in the playoffs. Well, the Lakers traded their third best player (Odom) to the team that rolled them in the playoffs and replaced him with….ummm….Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy (yikes).
If Kobe was playing for the Toronto Raptors right now (Current Starting 5 – Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani – check out the bench if you want to continue laughing… http://espn.go.com/nba/team/depth/_/name/tor/toronto-raptors) he’d still figure out a way to get that team into the playoffs. Because of the state of the Lakers right now, maybe we’re in for another “screw this, I’m going to drop 50 every night” kind of a season from Kobe, which may be even more entertaining. Having said that, unless the Lakers figure out a way to get Dwight Howard on the roster (seriously, give up Gasol and Bynum…you’ll immediately be better and be a title contender in 2012-2013…think how good Lebron, Bosh, and Wade were with a team full of “dudes”…the same thing would happen in LA with Kobe and Howard) they are a middle of the pack playoff team in the West. OKC, Dallas, and the Clips are all going to be better, and the Trail Blazers, Spurs, and Nuggets are going to be competitive. On the bright side, maybe we get to see Kobe drop 81 again….
Chris Paul was traded to the Lakers, and then he wasn’t, and now he might be again. In an odd chain of events yesterday, Chris Paul, of the New Orleans Hornets, was traded to the LA Lakers in a three team deal. The deal was constituted as follows:
When the trade was announced, many of the other owners in the league were in an uproar because another big market team was acquiring a big-name player that forced himself out of a small market team. (please see Dan Gilbert’s email for reference – http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/7335431/text-dan-gilbert-email-david-stern) David Stern obviously felt the pressure from the owners in the league (remember, the Hornets are owned by the league itself…which means each owner in the league actually owns a fractional portion of the team) to not let this trade go through because the Lakers were getting Paul, and were saving a ton of money in the process. In retrospect, the Hornets made off like bandits, possibly receiving a better trade than the Utah Jazz in their trade with the New Jersey Nets last season involving Deron Williams. Luis Scola – very solid big man in the league, Kevin Martin – averaged 25 per night last season for Houston, Lamar Odom – 6th man of the year last season for the Lakers, Goran Dragic – playoff tested point guard, and a first round pick…and the Lakers got a perennial all-star with bad knees in return. Is Chris Paul one of the absolute best players in the league? Yes. Is it a huge gamble for them to trade away Gasol and Odom leaving Andrew Bynum to fill the lane on his own hoping that Paul and Kobe can figure out a way to share the ball? Absolutely. Could the addition of Paul add a new dynamic to Kobe and Bynum’s game to push them back into the title picture? Absolutely, again. (Think about the Paul and Kobe chemistry thing…this very well could create a similar problem to the Lebron and D. Wade offensive issues of last year. You would have two guys that love to have the ball in their hands and run the offense through them. With them on the floor together, Kobe would have to become more of an off-the-ball player, which could become and absolute disaster.)
The backlash from the media and the rest of the league has been vicious and loud. Many feel like this is as ugly a situation as the Tim Donaghy “game-fixing” scandal of a few years ago. I wouldn’t go that far, but vetoing a trade without really clear grounds to do so and a possible conflict of interest stinks of conspiracy. Supposedly the three teams are back at it trying to come up with another possible scenario to push through a deal, or they may just take legal action against the league to accomplish the same task. In the end, this deal is probably going to go through in one way or the other. The big question is, how long is it going to take.
(for a longer article and great read on the topic: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7334835/the-sixth-day-nba-christmas)
Have I seen Water for Elephants yet? No. Has today’s guest, Jake Welch, he says no….but someone that loves Pattinson as much as he does couldn’t have missed it opening night. A potpourri a topics on this week’s show: NBA Playoffs, Team USA, NFL Draft, a touch of baseball and soccer, and a few comments about our personal lives that may or may not amuse you.