Imagine a world without the NBA Lockout... *NOTE: In October, this was a sarcastic look at what we would've been excited about in 2011. As we approach December, suddenly it's completely sincere. Here's what we WILL be excited about in the 2011 NBA.
Wow. We're already six weeks into the NFL season, and with the NBA season fast approaching, it's almost time for amazing to happen all over again. Summer went by fast, huh?
[Looks at calendar]
Hey, only a few weeks 'til the opening tip! So in the spirit of celebrating all things NBA
and/or a faaaaaantastic capacity for denial, here's 100 reasons why pro basketball would be WILL BE better than ever in 2011. Without further ado...
100. Dirk, man. DIRK. We've spent the last 10 years overlooking one of the greatest scorers that's ever lived, but last year's playoffs made him impossible to ignore. This year, we all get to sit back and enjoy the twilight of Dirk's glory years, leg kicking fadeaways and all.
99. No matter what happens from here on out, Deshawn Stevenson is an NBA champion.
98. BLAKE GRIFFIN.
97. Seriously though: Blake Griffin, man. Another year of Blake Griffin.
96. Somewhere in the Bay Area, Mark Jackson is already making a fool of himself.
95. Having said that, can't wait till this makes into a speech sometime during a fourth quarter blowout in March. Mark Jackson is on a mission from God. BELIEVE OR LEAVE.
94. Chris Paul is the modern-day Isiah Thomas and given last year's players, we can finally be sure he's healthy. Chris Paul is so good he single-handedly makes League Pass worth spending $200.
93. It's kind of incredible that Kevin Durant and DeJuan Blair play the same sport.
92. Last year was a letdown, yes, but FEAR THE DEER is due for a comeback. Did you ever wonder what a point guard might look like on PCP?
91. Brandon Jennings is the answer.
90. Mike Miller, on the other hand, is the small forward who looks like he deals oxycontin.
89. Michael Beasley looks like the player who... Well, you know.
88. PREDICTION: The Pacers will ride Roy Hibbert's Parks and Rec cameo to newfound world popularity. How do you say sixth seed in Mandarin? Tyler Hansbrough's new fans are about to find out.
87. Seriously, guys: BLAKE MOTHERF'ING GRIFFIN.
86. The Trail Blazers and their insane fans have a full year of Gerald Wallace to look forward to. You just got your s**t sent to the fifth row.
85. There's a 50 percent chance LaMarcus Aldridge becomes the best scoring big man in the league this year, and the Blazers join the fray with the Lakers, Thunder, and Mavs among the West elite.
84. Damn, we almost made it 20 spots without mentioning the Heat.
83. A full year of Brook Lopez and Deron Williams in New Jersey could get interesting.
82. And by "interesting" we mean, "just good enough to justify an avalanche of Dwight Howard rumors." Is it tampering if Mikhail Prokhorov just coincidentally builds an exact replica of Spongebob's underwater abode underneath the Barclays Center in Brooklyn?
81. There's never a bad time to have more Tony Allen in your life. Via Hoopsworld, here's Tony talking about Rudy Gay:
"Rudy Gay is Rudy Gay," Allen said. "When I first introduced myself to him after I signed, I just told him to keep doing his thing, keep being Rudy Gay. I’m just the dog in the backyard. Beware of the dog. You just have to sic me on any star player and then you can go out there and keep doing your thing."
Also, in case you forgot, Tony Allen killed Bin Laden.
80. But the Maloofs couldn't quite kill the Kings!
79. Speaking of which... Jimmer's a pro this year!
78. ...Yeah, you'd think DeMarcus snaps first, and Tyreke certainly seems like the type of guy that'd throw a basketball at someone's head, but it really might be Jimmer that loses control in Sactown.
77. In any case, "Jimmer, Tyreke, and DeMarcus" is a variety show waiting to happen.
76. And Mike Brown coaching Kobe is a Law and Order episode waiting to happen.
75. Related: Jim Buss definitely owns every season Entourage on Blu-Ray. He's watched the finale 15 times. He just... He just can't believe it's really over. Hopefully they make a movie. They gotta make a movie, right? It can't just end like that, can it? They wouldn't do that to Jim.
74. But really: The stage is set for a Sprewell sequel at Staples.
73. The only hope for is a treaty brokered by Metta World Peace. This shit writes itself.
72. Oh, and remember when everyone in LA freaked out over Andrew Bynum's handicap parking scandal? When Bill Plaschke wrote "His conscience is paralyzed" and that "If there's one Laker who suffers from a disability of maturity, it's him"? He must have been thinking, "This shit writes itself."
71. When Bynum's averaging 18 and 10 this year and everyone pretends they've loved him all along, Handicap Hysteria will be 100 times funnier
70. The Spurs will not go quietly into the night.
69. And even if they do, Popovich should be pretty entertaining on the way down.
68. BISSSSSSSSMACK BIIYOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMBO.
67. Remember this interview with Bismack Biyombo? On his favorite players:
Hakeem Olajuwon, this is my favorite player. But there are two others I idolize in the way they play the game. Kevin Garnett — I like the way he wants to win every game. Every time he's on the floor, he plays intense and plays hard. When he's not on the floor, you can see the team missing him. On the other hand is. Some of the time people say, "You're crazy man. Why you're taking about Kevin Love? The reason why I say Kevin Love is that I love him, I love the way he plays the game. He's smart; he knows where to be to get the rebound. He's the best guy at grabbing the rebound over anyone.
Not sure whether the Bobcats will be watchable this year, but God knows they'll be bloggable. And the reason that's my favorite interview answer ever is because it's my favorite.
65. The NBA means the Warriors will be playing.
64. That just means we have an excuse to re-run Stephen Curry's wedding photo.
63. And because we should never forget that at the end of the day, the internet is super creepy, here's a look at Stephen Curry's Wedding Registry:
The list is extensive and from that list, you get a sense of their global tastes: white truffle olive oil, a pizza slab, a crepe-making kit, and, best of all, a Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Asian Cooking Cookbook.
62. Basically though: Steph Curry is the Drake of the NBA.
61. Speaking of Drake... His endorsement of the Miami Heat is so f'ing perfect.
60. Even if they end up losing Nene, the Denver Nuggets will probably be as much fun as they were last year, preferably with increased doses of MOZGOV.
59. The only thing better than J.R. Smith play in the NBA will be getting second-hand, poorly translated reports of his exploits in China. It should've been this way all along.
58. You can't name a better highlights show than Inside The NBA. Like, ever.
57. Brian Cardinal has ingratiated himself to the NBA blogosphere all summer long, and he may actually become the first-ever player to go into blogging--not broadcasting--when his playing days are over.
56. He certainly looks the part.
55. It sounds weird to say anything good about the Detroit Pistons. But have you seen the Tigers? The Lions? Something's happening in Detroit, and it just feels like the Pistons are due for a little renaissance. The world's about to find out about Greg Monroe.
54. By the way, we've barely scratched the surface of Mikhail Prokhorov's potential as an NBA owner. From a New York Magazine profile last spring:
It was the girls, in a way, that made Mikhail Prokhorov into Russia’s second- richest man. Back home, his reputation as a playboy had been sealed in the mid-aughts. He was known for descending on Moscow’s wildest nightclubs with Gosha Kutsenko, a bald-headed, mildly freakish Russian film star he had befriended, with packs of coltish young things in tow. "It used to be that you go to certain clubs," recalls one Muscovite, "and if at some moment about fifteen barely legal girls show up all at once, you could tell that Prokhorov is about to stop by."
53. Speaking of scratching the surface... DeMarcus Cousins will either be one of the two or three most dominant big men in the league for the next decade, or he'll be this generation's Derrick Coleman. 2011 is the year when we find out which direction he's going.
52. Hey, how 'bout those Raptors! And the Jazz! Or something.
51. One of my favorite paragraphs ever written about the NBA, from Chuck Klosterman.
"Everyone who loves pro basketball assumes it's a little fixed. We all think the annual draft lottery is probably rigged, we all accept that the league aggressively wants big market teams to advance deep into the playoffs, and we all concede that certain marquee players are going to get preferential treatment for no valid reason. The outcomes of games aren't predeteremined or scripted but there are definitely dark forces who play with our reality. There are faceless puppet masters who pull strings and manipulate the purity of justice. It's not necessarily a full-on conspiracy, but it's certainly not fair. And that's why the NBA remains the only game that matters: Pro basketball is exactly like life."
50. The halfway point! Just a reminder, he's "NBA Champion Jason Terry" now.
49. This is the year when the grand Hawks experiment finally comes undone. They can't pay Josh Smith, and it wouldn't even make sense to pay him if they could. In other words, somebody in the NBA is about to get their hands on one of the most dynamic talents in basketball. As a third option, Josh Smith could be A LOT of fun on a contender.
48. Speaking of a lot of fun... The 76ers. Lou Williams and Jrue Holliday are two of the most explosive young guards in the league, Thaddeus Young's as athletic as any wing in the league, and you can throw in SPENCER HAWES and Elton Brand for stability down low. If Evan Turner becomes more of a weapon this team becomes pretty intriguing for this year and beyond.
47. Notice who we didn't mention? Andre Iguodala is in the same boat as Josh Smith. He's sorta redundant next to all that young talent in Philly, and he makes too much money to justify sticking around. If/When he gets traded this year, there's a chance he could shake up the NBA landscape and rejuvenate his career at the same time. The world's better off with J-Smoove and Iggy in good situations.
46. The T'Wolves will always be a mess under David Kahn, but you cannot tell me you're not excited to see Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, and Derrick Williams play 82 games together. They may not totally put it together, but it will be the league's most entertaining chaos on a nightly basis.
45. The NBA All-Star Game is in Orlando this year. If you thought the All-Star Game was the groupie Super Bowl before... Just wait till Tiger Woods' All-Star party. It is going DOWN.
44. Steve Nash! He's one the three or four most exciting players in a generation, and he's also the NBA's Jennifer Aniston, in that he not only defies the aging process, but actually keeps getting better. He'll probably never get traded, but watching him turn the ragged Suns' roster into a half-decent team is still a spectacle all its own.
43. Dan Gilbert really, truly seems like one of the worst people in sports, so it's kinda nice that he reached for Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, and will likely spend the whole year regretting it.
42. Speaking of horrible people, as the Clippers continue to emphasize the fast break with Blake Griffin out in L.A., there's always a chance that Donald Sterling accidentally gets stampeded by his own players as he watches courtside.
41. Enes Kanter in Utah... LOOK OUT, LADIES, HE'S FEELIN' JAZZY.
40. The last stand for the Boston Celtics will be spectacular.
39. Not only will KG "go down fighting", there's a chance it will be literal fighting.
38. Meanwhile, Paul Pierce will continue to defy aging, gravity, and imaginary injuries to be one of the most strangely effective crunch time scorers in the entire league.
37. If Rajon Rondo were a home appliance, he'd be a crockpot. Makes no sense, but it's AWESOME.
36. A full year of Melo and Amar'e in New York City will either be Heat or Righteous Kill. Either way, it's gonna be expensive and fun to watch!
35. If Rick Ross were an NBA player, he would be Zach Randolph.
34. Z-Bo has probably spent the entire summer eating like Eddy Curry, getting back massages from models in his entourage, smoking trees, spending cheese, and generally just being a Don. For some reason, I keep envisioning a shirtless Z-Bo, drunk and dancing on top of a table in the VIP section of a club called LUXOR. This, at 5 a.m. on a Monday night. And it just feels right.
33. And there's your catalyst for the hottest young team in the NBA.
32. Speaking of young teams... This is the year when the Thunder stop being a "good young team" and just become "good." Kevin Durant has 35-a-game in him, doesn't he?
31. As an added bonus, this is probably the defining year for the Russell Westbrook-Kevin Durant tandem. If it doesn't work out of the gates for the first three months, doesn't Sam Presti have to start looking at other options? It's not that they can't win with 'em, but there's a good chance the Thunder are better off with Kevin Durant taking 30 shots-a-game.
30. Mike Brown jokes aside, Pau Gasol's still the most skilled big man we've seen in a decade, and Kobe Bryant's not going away, either. If they can sign a point guard cheap, L.A.'s right back in the title mix.
29. So yeah, the West is wide open. The Mavs, Thunder, Lakers, Blazers, and Spurs could all win the conference outright, and throw in teams like the Grizzlies and Hornets and maybe even the Clippers, and you've got a solid middle tier that will make things interesting against every contender they play.
28. Meanwhile, back East, we're getting ready for the Miami-Chicago arms race that's going to define the next five years. The core pieces are in place, but whichever team adds better role players is what decides the East--and maybe the NBA title--for the forseeable future.
27. Speaking of which... While the whole world played in exhibition games all summer, we didn't really hear much about Derrick Rose. Who's excited to see what he did with a full summer of workouts?
26. And think of all the Carlos Boozer jokes we're getting back in our lives!
25. For all the hype, maybe the Knicks aren't good enough to contend for real, but they're still good enough to keep us watching and scare the crap out of teams like Boston and Miami.
24. No, actually, nobody's excited for a year of Dwight Howard trade rumors.
23. Having said that, Stan Van Gundy is the Inside The NBA of coaches. And if reporters are going to be asking stupid questions about Orlando all year, at least Stan will keep us entertained with his responses.
22. Slightly off topic, but you know how DMX stood for "Dark Man X"? Maybe 2011 is the year we can all start calling Dirk Nowitzki "Dirk Man X".
21. The East darkhorse: You're damn right it's John Wall and my Wizards. Did you notice that during all these exhibition games, the stars were guys like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo... and John Wall? And he held his own with pretty much everyone.
20. Wall was hurt and playing at 80% for most of last year, starting in mid-November. But do you remember when he was healthy? When he matched up against Evan Turner in his third game ever and wound up with 29 points, 13 assists, and 9 steals? Imagine that for an entire season.
19. Speaking of supernatural talents, there's a 30 percent that we're on the brink of LeBron James unleashing one of the most historic ass-whoopings the NBA has ever seen. The basketball world's had an entire summer to tell jokes, but when it comes down to it, it's still terrifying to think about a pissed off LeBron.
18. But if he fails again? More jokes!
17. Also: Can't wait for more Chris Bosh .gifs.
16. Remember when LeBron said "Now or Never" before that NBA Finals game in Dallas, and then went out and looked invisible? Remember when he lost the 2011 Finals and then told us all to go back to our sad lives? It'll be so fun to root against him again.
15. But mostly, it'll just be nice to have basketball back in our lives.
14. Like how every morning we can all check YouTube to see what incredible plays we may have missed last night. Or check twitter every night to monitor #LeaguePassAlert. BRING IT BACK.
13. Top to bottom, but especially at the top, we're smack in the middle of the most exciting era we've seen since the mid-90s, and probably dating back to the '80s. LeBron, Dirk, Dwight, Durant, Melo and Amar'e, Kobe... It's out of control. And we mentioned Blake Griffin, right?
12. The point guards alone are f'ing staggering. Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, John Wall, Steve Nash, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Ricky Rubio... About 50% of the time in 2011, whatever game you're watching, chances are you're getting an A+ from the point guard matchup.
11. Stars have never been more charismatic, and we have more access than ever to enjoy them.
10. Plus: What happens to the Celtics and Spurs? And Lakers? Do they have one more run? Can the Knicks make a run this year, or is it all prelude until they unload Chauncey Billups and replace him with Chris Paul?
9. Will Z-Bo and the Grizzlies continue to be the weirdest, most addictive team in the league? How much longer can David Kahn stay employed in Minnesota? Is 2011 the year when #FreeKevinLove becomes a thing, or when the Timberwolves become a real NBA team?
8. Can the Heat come back to prove everybody wrong? Will LeBron finally unleash all his fury on the rest of the league? Will the Thunder step up to become the Big Dogs in the West? Can the Bulls bounce back from last year's finish? And who's this year's Bulls?
7. On an individual level, with scores of superstars, and on a team level, with a whole different set of compelling narratives, the NBA's the most fascinating game on earth.
6. And God, it sure is great to have it coming bac--
5. Wait. Shit. 4. They've had two years to prepare for this, and they really haven't figured out the lockout? The owners are going to string this out to try and bleed the players dry, huh? 3. We should settle in and watch the NFL for the next three months? 2. Goddamnit. The NBA's the weirdest, funniest, most captivating, fascinating sport in the world. This list reminds us why we love it so much in the first place, but also... Why there's no replacement. 1. Ugh. This lockout's really the worst, huh?
5. Wait. They figured it out!
4. They finally figured it out.
3. The players got screwed, sure. But we knew that was going to happen.
2. THE POINT IS THEY FIGURED IT OUT.
1. Now we have Zach Randolph back in our lives, Blake Griffin's about to dunk on the entire league all over again, the Heat return as the perfect villains, Dirk Nowitzki's long-awaited encore is a GO, Kevin Durant's gets to play in real basketball games again, Derrick Rose is more than just an Adidas-sponsored bullfighter, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love and the Wolves are about to become the most exciting team in basketball, the countdown to the Kobe Bryant-Mike Brown blowout has officially begun, and THERE'S SO MUCH MORE. Man, this is gonna be awesome.