Time to unwrap the present of an NBA season — and just like the gifts under the tree there may be some assembly required. Condensed training camps and just two preseason games is going to mean some sloppy openers on Christmas day.
But they are games, which are vastly superior to antitrust lawsuits. So let’s see what you’ll be watching on that new 60-inch plasma television (or streaming on your phone and trying to watch when your parents and nosy aunt aren’t watching).
Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks, noon ET (TNT): The two teams that will battle it out for the Atlantic Division crown face off to start the season. I think the Knicks will win the war for the division because they will come together as the better offensive team with enough defense, and the Celtics will wear down. However, the battle for Christmas Day may be different with the new-look Knicks trying to figure things out and the Celtics slipping into old, comfortable roles before the wear and tear hits their bodies. If Paul Pierce sits (bruised heel, day-to-day) the Knicks probably have too much firepower.
Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks, 2:30 p.m. ET (ABC): Winning this game does not make up for last June, but the Heat will come out fired up. Dallas is going to be a very good team this season, very versatile, but they are still trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Miami knows what it is doing — attack. Get out and run. While Brendan Haywood is solid he is no Tyson Chandler — Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have less to fear driving the lane in this game.
Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Lakers 5 p.m. ET (ABC): All the talk is about Kobe Bryant and his wrist ligaments — the guy is going to play, do you really have any doubt? The bigger issue for the Lakers is Andrew Bynum will sit the game out on suspension (five games) for flattening J.J. Barea at the end of the Dallas series last playoffs. Without Bynum in the paint to alter shots Derrick Rose and company will get better looks. Plus, the Lakers are trying to figure out their new offense and the best defensive team in the league is a tough place to try and learn things.
Orlando Magic vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 8 p.m. ET (ESPN): What is the over/under on time the announcers spend discussing the Dwight Howard situation? As Atlanta showed in the playoffs last year you can defend and beat the Magic if you have a big man who can at least impede Howard one-on-one. Meet Kendrick Perkins. Plus, that Kevin Durant guy is pretty good.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): Hey Mark Jackson, welcome to the NBA coaching ranks. Draw up a system where you can stop Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan with Kwame Brown. Right now the Clippers are having a lot of fun playing and the Warriors have a new system, Stephen Curry is a game-time call and Monta Ellis could get handed a subpoena walking off the court. But watch this because the Clippers are just flat out entertaining.
Leandro Barbosa – guarding Marcus Thornton and fighting through a Clint Capela screen – was called for a foul in the first quarter of last night’s Warriors-Rockets game.
Thornton went to the line.
Should he have? Or should Capela have?
Perhaps, Thornton and Barbosa tangled, but it certainly appeared the contact primarily occurred between Barbosa and Capela. It looks like Barbosa tries to ram through Capela.
It also appears Capela thought he drew the foul. Watch him step toward the line before seeing Thornton there and taking his spot along the paint.
So, why would Thornton step in? He’s making 89% of his free throws to Capela’s 40%.
I’m honestly surprised players don’t try this maneuver more often. Refs have so much to keep track of. The worst consequence would be the refs shooing away Thornton and bringing Capela to the line.
Thornton made both free throws, but it didn’t matter. Houston was playing Golden State, which rolled to a victory.
Kanye West – when he isn’t tweeting to invalidate the claims of dozens of women on nothing more than his own suppositions – is tweeting to Michael Jordan
Mark Parker is CEO of Nike, a company that collaborated with West on the Air Yeezy before an unhappy West bolted for Adidas. Jordan, of course, is a Nike ally and known for the Jumpman logo on his brand.
That’s why Kanye rapped in “Facts:”
Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman
Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman
We bring you the important news.
(hat tip: Jovan Buha of Fox Sports)
Kevin Durant has taken plenty of criticism for his reported interest in signing with the Warriors.
Don’t chase a ring by just bolting for the best team. Build up your own team. Kobe Bryant would never do that.
Kobe Bryant requested a trade from the Lakers in 2007 – when the Cavaliers tried trading everyone but LeBron James for him – and the Bulls were Kobe’s top choice. Kobe had a no-trade clause, so he had some power to choose his next team. The rest of his list?
Kobe, via Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
It was Chicago, San Antonio (or) Phoenix.
The Spurs were reigning NBA champions, and the Suns were coming off a 61-win season. These teams were the class of the league.
They also had strong offensive identities – Gregg Popovich’s ball-movement-happy system in San Antonio and Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo attack in Phoenix. How would Kobe have fit? Now, that’s a great what-if – especially because both teams had the assets to create intriguing trade packages.
The Spurs could’ve built an offer around Tony Parker and/or Manu Ginobili, the Suns around Shawn Marion and/or Amar’e Stoudemire. Could you imagine Kobe and Tim Duncan or Kobe and Steve Nash in 2007? It wouldn’t have been anything like the over-the-hill version we saw in Los Angeles a few years later.
Of course, Kobe stuck with the Lakers, who traded for Pau Gasol and won a couple more titles. Kobe led them to those championships, and he deserves credit for staying the course.
But, no matter what Durant decides this summer, remember all players consider as many options as they have in front of them. There’s nothing wrong with someone leaving a job for a better one when he has the ability to do so.
Even Kobe – a self-declared “Laker for life” – tried to do it.
The Knicks reportedly believed hiring Derek Fisher made them a contender for Kevin Durant this summer.
If they were right, firing Fisher – a respected former teammate of Durant with the Thunder – certainly didn’t help New York’s ability to lure the superstar in free agency.
Ian Begley of ESPN:
New York faces long odds to land Durant to begin with. And their chances took a hit after Derek Fisher was fired, league sources say.
I suppose it was possible Durant would’ve picked the Knicks, because I don’t believe Durant has decided where he’ll sign. But their odds looked so slim, anyway.
If the Knicks believed Fisher wasn’t the best coach for them, they were right to move on. Keeping him for Durant would have been foolish.
Is there a way New York can gain credibility with Durant? What about hiring former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks?
Brooks is a name to think about, for one reason: The Knicks have been informed that their chances of landing Kevin Durant this summer would be influenced by hiring Brooks, according to league sources.
Begley implies Brooks would help New York sign Durant, but his words don’t explicitly say that.
“Would be influenced.” Positively? Negatively? Won’t the coach of any team Durant considers influence his decision? Durant, while thanking Brooks, quickly and fully got on board with the Thunder’s decision to fire him.
And informed by whom? Do we trust the Knicks to properly assess whether the source of that information is credible?
It’s probably not worth exploring those questions, anyway. Brooks has neither Phil Jackson nor triangle ties, which seem to be perquisites.
At least New York can still use Carmelo Anthony to recruit Durant.