Monday, November 06, 2006

Welcome To The 2006-07 NBA Season

It's a humble experience for every sports fan recuperating from the the greatly depressing World Series between the Cardinals and the Tigers, but your misery is officially over. You can now sit back, relax, and enjoy LeBron, Kobe, and Dwyane.

By the way, if you are voting tomorrow, leave a note that you want David Stern in 2008. Trust me, I have my reasons.

Well, we are now a week (a week!) into the 2006-2007 NBA season, and if you are not watching the games, then shame on you. You have already squandered the opportunity to witness what could be the highlight of the regular season — the defending champions Miami Heat losing their opener to the Chicago Bulls by (put your guess here and then look below).

Not just lost. Beat. By 42 points! That's four times ten plus two, folks. That's an achievement which is insured against all odds, even the acts of terrorism (and by the way I was going through my new home insurance policy and I noticed something that I didn't notice before; which is, my apartment is not insured against terrorism or anything related or remotely related to it and the insurer gave a damn fine definition of terrorism too — but that's a different post altogether).

Kudos to Pat Riley and his boys, because not always you can end your previous season and begin your new one poles apart from one another.

At this point you can almost start feeling sorry for those hapless (and whining) Dallas Mavericks fans who took the pain to watch the Heat-Bulls game and felt the pinch one more time. It's one thing to watch the Bulls dismantling the Heat — and it's another thing to watch the Bulls dismantling the Heat and realize that the Bulls' game is clearly where the Mavs' are ostensibly better.

Yes, the Mavs came close to winning it all, but the truth be told, (if you missed it last year), the Heat were clearly the better team (for the record I picked Heat in six) in the 2006 finals.

The Los Angeles Lakers — the glamor boys of the NBA — currently hold a 3-1 record. Which is good at first glance, but once you break it up it's even better.

The Lakers won their first two games back to back — without Kobe. The first one was at home against the Phoenix Suns (the same Suns who dispatched them after falling behind 1-3 in the first round of Western Conference playoffs), the next one on the road against the Golden State, — yes, they did somehow show up without Kobe.

Makes you wonder why they didn't show up when Kobe didn't show up during the Game 7 at Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs last year.

In their next two games, with Kobe, they are a mediocre .500 team at 1-1. I know, I know, two games and a 1-1 record doesn't make for a strong case about a team being statistically mediocre on the road, but don't blame me because I am only using the available data!

So, trade Kobe. Send him to Minnesota (a lot less attention will do him a lot more good) in exchange for Kevin Garnett (he deserves the attention he never got in land of forgotten prairies). This is probably not going to happen — but if it does, just remember you heard me say it first.

New arguing rules

Like every new year, there's a new Stern rule in place. Briefly, the rule is this: if you whine at Bob Delaney, you are T'd up. If you cough at Joey Crawford, you are T'd. If you bitch at Dick Bavetta, you are T'd, and I suspect if you cringe from Violet Palmer, you get a T as well.

The conspiracy theorists say the rule is aimed at Rasheed Wallace and hopes to slow, rather calm, him down. But Rasheed is simply the sideshow. In effect, and without fail, the new rule is going to cut the crap down almost universally and that's where the game will start looking more and more different.

And here I beg to differ with everyone who thinks the rule is welcome. Once you start taking the human elements away from the game, it also takes away the fun elements. I know bitching is a universal problem but handing out T's like sweet candies is a bit too much.

My suggestion: fine them heavily. If money talks, then money can spank too. Since they can't feed their family with their millions as Sprewell once famously said, making their wallets a bit lighter wouldn't be so bad.

On a similar disciplinary note, Mark Cuban promises to be in his best behavior. Really — this is not a joke. There's a new rule for the owners which allows Stern to suspend any owner who behaves and handles himself like Mark Cuban of yesteryear. Needless to say, we will miss Mark Cuban when he used to be Mark Cuban.

That's why I think David Stern is simply not fit for the NBA. I mean, he's just too good to stick around in the NBA 'til someone starts building a pyramid for him. He should be more ambitious — daring, if you will — and instead of schooling Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, and the Mark Cubans for the rest of his life he should set the bar high. Yes, he should run for higher offices and he can forge partnership with Stu Jackson (senior VP of Basketball operations). This looks very promising. Believe me.

What about the Knicks?

Only one more thing remains to be said, which brings me to the Mecca of basketball (Madison Square Garden) currently the haunted home of the laughingstock of the league.

In the off-season the New York Knicks fired Larry Brown after a 23-59 season and refused to pay him a dime on what was left in his contract (about $50 million).

My question is, why all the divorces, especially when one party is Larry Brown is always messy (remember his fall out with the Pistons was equally bad)? Clearly Larry and his "playing the right way" approach works on the court (didn't work with the Knicks, although you can make solid arguments why he should have been retained) but it's a no-brainer that he's still searching the right way to play off the court.

Stern stepped in and the next thing you know, both sides are riding back home smiling pretty. Again, how can you not root for Stern in 2008?

To make matters worse — or fun, depending on how you look at it — Isiah is back as the coach of the Knicks after screwing up immensely in the front office.

The good news is Isiah now has the opportunity to find out first hand how badly he actually screwed up. The bad news is Knicks will remain as bad as before. (I always thought the billionaire businessmen are smart people — they value money and all that and they make smart business decisions, so it's inexplicable how and why Isiah continues to feature within the Knicks in some way or the other).

Finally, Nellieball is back. Don Nelson is again coaching the Golden State Warriors. Does he have the right ingredients? No. But will the Warriors be more fun to watch? You bet.

With all that said, here are my predictions for the season. Just remember I actually predicted once upon a time that Miami would win in six (for that matter I also predicted Lakers to win over the Suns, but little did I know Kobe had other plans).

The NBA Finals Champion: San Antonio Spurs

Eastern Conference Champion: Miami Heat (I trust D-Wade but can his teammates earn his trust?)

The MVP: LeBron James. (Enough sin had been committed by giving the award twice, and back to back to that guy Steve Nash from Canada).

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