Posts Tagged ‘Kobe Bryant’

The Los Angeles Lakers still don’t have a head coach.  It’s now been 3 months since their schedule mercifully came to a close and there is still no head-man to lead the legendary purple and gold franchise for the upcoming season.  There’ve been potential hires.  There’s been rumors of big names cashing fat checks and heading to Hollywood.  But, so far?  The Lakers have found themselves empty-handed.

In recent weeks, however, the Lakers have appeared to be leaning towards former Cavaliers coach, Byron Scott.

Kind of.  Sort of.

The story broke mid-week last week that Byron Scott was going in for his third interview with the Lakers organization.  His third!  He wasn’t interviewing for a position in the CIA deep cover operations unit.  He wasn’t signing on to be a solo-mission astronaut being sent into deep space with no human contact and billions of dollars of equipment not to mess up.  He’s essentially going to be scribbling down a few plays on a clipboard and trying to keep Kobe Bryant from choking out Robert Sacre for being so Robert Sacre-ish.

All those interviews beg the question: what the hell were they asking him in all of those hours spent talking things over?  Well ask that question no more.  We here at Burnpoetry were able to obtain a confidential interview questionnaire that Scott was asked to fill out by the top Lakers brass.  As you can see below, it’s no wonder it’s taken him so long to try to land the gig.


1.  2 Trains leave San Pedro, California at 3:30 PM. Train 1 is driven at 45 MPH and is piloted by a Swagductor, who is wearing bejeweled gator-skinned loafers that have 3-inch-spikes sticking out of them and is currently dating an Australian rapper.  Train 2 is being driven 52 MPH by the most homicidally competitive player the NBA has seen since Michael Jordan.  If both conductors expect to average 17 shots per game and the Lakers have just picked up a shoot-first point guard who is prone to turnovers, how long will it be until there’s a gigantic, steaming pile of train-wreck rubble at center court?

Trains

A) 15 Games into the season
B)  The All-Star Break
C)  Instantaneously.  Like, Polaroid picture fast.
D)  You’re fired.


2.  (Please circle one) Are you #teamlamar or #teamkhloe?


3.  Let’s say, purely, super-hypothetically, that you had an older sister who was smarter, more charismatic, and wildly more competent at running an NBA franchise.  What would you do about it?

Jeannie

A)  Ever heard of OJ?  I’d pretty much do that
B)  Spitefully hammer the team that she and your father loved directly into the ground like a stake on a railroad chain gang
C)  Wake up every morning thanking the sweet lord above for nepotism strong enough to land you the organizational reigns
D)  Plant 10 pounds of weed in Phil Jackson’s her boyfriend’s trunk and phone in an anonymous tip.


4.  True or False: Pau Gasol is the Spanish version of Benedict Arnold?

Pau

A)  True
B)  False


5.  Mitch has $56,912,541.  Kobe takes away $23,500,000 and Jeremy takes away $14,898,938.  How many dollars does Mitch have left to flush down a gold-plated toilet on over-the-hill veterans?

A)      Steve Nash Dollars and Carlos Boozer Cents
B)      √Juwanhoward
C)      Is Drew Gooden around still?
D)     Unlimited amounts.  The luxury tax can suck it.


6.  Are you cool with black people?  I know that sounds like a weird question, but there’s just a lot of heat out here at the Staples Center right now surrounding racists.

A)  Yes
B)  Are you a moron?


7.  Are you, in fact, a secret agent sent by Phil Jackson with the sole intent of bringing about the devious ruination of this once-great franchise?

Phil

A)  Yup
B)  Nah


8.  What is your personal philosophy with regards to growing a nasty mustache and constantly having people call you Mark Dantonio by mistake?

A)  Won’t happen on my watch
B)  ‘Stacheless 4 Lyfe


9. (The following is a guest question written by a confidential Lakers player)  What is the true meaning of life?

A)  Getting Kobe the best look in an isolation play run specifically for him
B)  Getting Kobe the best look in an isolation play run specifically for him
C)  Getting Kobe the best look in an isolation play run specifically for him
D)  Getting Kobe the best look in an isolation play run specifically for him


10.  Essay portion of the interview:

In 10,000,000 words or less, try to explain away the fact that this photo exists:

FIN

FADE IN:

A Native American sweat lodge in the heavily wooded mountains of Montana.  A lone man sits inside, wearing a Rambo style headband and smoking a peace pipe.  He is shirtless and his heavily muscled back is turned to the entrance of the tent.

The tent flap is pulled back, spilling light into the smoky, smoky interior of the tent.  A tall, athletic black man in a flawless Prada suit and sunglasses steps into the tent.  His face is shrouded in darkness.

UNIDENTIFIED BLACK MALE:  Phil. . .?  Phil, I know that’s you.  Listen, man, we need you back.  I need you back.

He sets down a black alligator briefcase that thuds heavily onto the dirt of the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED BLACK MALE:  You know what’s in it.  You know what to do.  We play the Kings on Sunday.  Be there.

Phil Jackson lifts his graying, bearded face up into the light.  The unidentified black male turns and strides into the rustic, fading sunset.

PHIL: (in a low, smoky, whisper)  See you there. . .

The unidentified black man strides to where the sun spills in on his face.

PHIL: Kobe.

Kobe Bryant turns as the sun hits his face, revealing his identity.  He walks out of the tent and Phil slowly rises, tightening his headband.  He quickly leans over and takes another rip on the peace pipe and then turns towards the tents entrance.

FADE OUT

FIN

The NBA season is fast approaching.  For my 11 loyal readers that means one thing: prepare to be swept away in a spam-tsunami of NBA-related posts, dumb jokes, and LeBron hating.  With the tipoff for the best sport in the world slated to happen on Halloween night, it’s high time we look at some of the fascinating storylines for this upcoming NBA season.  This post will probably be far, far too long anyway, so here we go. . .

Can the Heat Repeat?

The Heat seemed to figure it all out last year.  Dwyane Wade realized that he wasn’t the #1 gyu (*Author’s note: typo intentional) on the Heat, The Veboshiraptor battled through injuries down the stretch, everyone cussed out Mario Chalmers constantly, and Mike Miller inexplicably turned into a whiter, more trailer-trash-looking Reggie Miller in the NBA Finals.  And LeBron?  Well, he played power forward.  He played point guard.  He played center.  He damn near served the $17 dollar hot dogs in the Miami Heat concession stand.  And he was the best player at each spot.

I know the trendy pick is to always compare the latest, greatest, NBA superstar to the gold standard of such things, whose name doesn’t even need to be mentioned her for most of you to get it, but LeBron is really turning into a kind of brave new world of NBA superstar.  He looks like he should be in the starting lineup for the Monstars.  Make no mistake about it, though, I still hate him.  I’m in awe of LeBron like citizens in an oppressed country are in awe of their dictator.  I really don’t have a choice but to acknowledge who’s in charge of the league right now.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want some insurgents to come and overthrow the despotic James right off his throne.

A Facelift in L.A.?  No way. . .not in that town.

In a town where natural beauty, graceful aging, and inner beauty matter most, the Los Angeles Lakers have decided to get a little work done.  In a Bruce Jennerian facelift, the Lakers have made drastic overhauls to their team that should pay huge dividends.  They landed Dwight Howard, easily the biggest move of the offseason, with the intent to convince the superstar center to stick around for good.  They also got whiter, older, and more Canadian at the point guard position.  I know, I know.  That doesn’t usually engender a lot of confidence when you throw those three things together discussing basketball.  But, in this once case, it was a gigantic pickup for the team.  Steve Nash, 2-time MVP and a perennial guy-everyone-wants-to-play-with first teamer, has joined up with his one-time Western conference foes in the pursuit of a last run for an NBA title (*Author’s note: and to be closer to his kids during a potentially ugly divorce case.  Allegedly.)

Will Howard continue to whine, sob, and blunder his way through the league as he so often did last year?  Or will this change of scenery, and coaching staff, do him some good?  I’m not a huge Howard fan, but love the fact that he makes the Lakers tougher defensively around the rim, playing the role of a more athletic Andrew Bynum.  You have to assume that someone as gifted as Nash, someone with the ability to turn Marcin Gortat and a bunch of scrubs into a .500 ball club in the competitive Western conference, can find ways to keep Gasol, Howard, and most importantly Kobe Bryant happy.

Nash is old, though.  He’ll turn 39 during this season , which in basketball years is close to 102, but if the Lakers can get good minutes out of him each night they should be a force offensively.  If Howard can accept his role on the team and protect the hoop with all the ferocity that has earned him three Defensive Player of the Year awards, they should be much improved defensively.  Now, if only Pau would just get a haircut.

(*Author’s note: potential nicknames for Dwight Howard tangent in 3…2…1…

-  Sweet Dream, or a beautiful Dwightmare
–  Dwihard With a Vengeance
–  Howard the Dunk (instead of Howard the Duck)
–  Reign Wilson (The guy who plays Dwight Schrute on The Office is named Rainn Wilson)
–  Dwilight: Breaking Dawn

The Lakers’ starting lineup will have 33 combined All-Star appearances.  And they might not be the favorites in the West.  (*Author’s note: I’ll touch on the other teams out in that division a little later)

Who Will Rise to Twitter Dominance?

Will it Be Swaggy P (AKA Nick Young) or will Boogie Cousins (AKA Demarcus Cousins) continue to hold down the #1 spot?  Will some newer, dumber, player step up to fill the void?  We need more Twitter handles, NBA players.  Step your game up.

Celtics Keep a Private Jet

RIP “Boston 3-Party.”  Your awesome nickname will be missed.  After losing Ray Allen, the Celts have managed to keep their mercurial superstar Rajon Rondo and added Jason “The Jet” Terry to their lineup.  Terry was an integral part in the Dallas Maverick’s NBA title two years ago and can be an excellent scorer and 3-point shooter when he’s hot.  He’ll mix well with the veteran lineup and should bring some energy to the team that’s fiery but in control.  The Celts didn’t get any younger with this move, however, and are watching their title door slowly close.  With their talent level and veteran experience, however, if these guys stay healthy (*Author’s note: a big “if” in an 82-game season) that door could slow down to Indiana Jones boobie-trap-sprung-by-accident-in-a-dark-cave speeds.

Shaquille O’Neal: Shark-Jumping Stunt Specialist

If you love the NBA, you love Charles Barkley, Kenny “the Jet” Smith, and Ernie Johnson.  Their playful interactions, insightful analysis, and fearlessness in critiquing current players when it’s needed are all integral parts of what make their broadcasts so much fun.  The contrived, forced enjoyment of NFL pregame and postgame shows is something I completely loathe.  For most NFL pre/post game shows they toss 11 guys behind a desk, giggling like they’re tweenage girls who’ve been huffing Nitrous Oxide, each trying to out-celebrity the other analysts and they take something away from the game.

Shaquille O’Neal’s all 11 of those guys rolled into one.  His presence, and moderator Ernie Johnson’s forced attempts to include him in the breakdown of games, hangs around the show’s neck like a 7’0”, 350 lb. weight.  He’s as articulate as Tarzan and generally mumbles his way through broadcasts like a strange combination of Barry White and Shy Ronnie from Saturday Night Live’s digital shorts.  I still love Inside the NBA.  But Shaq definitely jumped the shark the moment he sat his diesel-sized ass down on the set.

What Other Dumb Stuff Can JaVale McGee do?

I feel like this could be a gameshow.  Every time JaVale suits up and steps onto the court for the Denver Nuggets this year, contestants would chips to place on various Bingo-styled spaces labeled with predictions like: “Will refer to himself in the 3rd person” and “will tweet a pre-game picture of himself shirtless” and “will try to dunk from the three-point line during a fastbreak” and whomever ended up with the most amount of correct predictions would win.  Sure it’s basically harder to accurately predict than a Russian Roulette game in a Taiwanese opium den, but let’s be honest: if you’re not tuning in to watch JaVale McGee every night you’re missing out.  He’s completely and thoroughly watchable in exactly the same way as Flavor of Love was watchable in the mid-2000s.


To Be Continued. . .

(*Author’s Note: This is the fourth in a 5 part series detailing my favorite sports memories of all-time.)

Full disclosure, I’m not one of those people who thinks that being a fan or a hater of a certain team is a binding agreement.  I don’t think that we, as crazed sports fans, are contractually obligated to like or dislike a certain team for all of time.

I understand that some fans take vows, much like some twisted ESPN-induced wedding nuptials, that they will love, honor, and cherish the Washington Redskins or that they will loath, hate, and despise the Oklahoma Sooners.  I get that.

While there are some teams that I feel that I will always have a certain level of hatred for (*Author’s note: here’s looking at you, BeVo and Butthead.  Who’s “butthead” you ask?  I’m not entirely sure, but it just kind of wrote itself.  Maybe Mack Brown or DeLoss Dodds.  You make the call.) I also subscribe to the age-old “out of sight, out of mind” and the even more clichéd, “time heals all football/basketball/track/soccer/team handball wounds.”

So when I say that I used to strongly dislike the Los Angeles Lakers and that they, through a sports-life-altering moment, became my favorites in the span of one game I understand that some of you will turn up your noses.  You’ll flip me the “I will always hate the Lakers, even if Lamar Odom married my sister after he divorces Khloe Kardashian,” bird.  Some might even challenge my fandom.

The simple fact is, and some of you will inevitably disagree with me on this until you’re buried six feet under in your team-colored caskets, there are moments in sports that can irrevocably change the way we look at a team or a player.  I had both of these happen in one fell swoop in the winter of 2009.

My fiance and I had booked a cruise that departed from Long Beach in early January.  She had surprised me with tickets to the Lakers and Pacers game at the Staples Center.  I was giddy.

I had been to several NBA games in the past, all at the U.S. Airways Center to watch the Phoenix Suns, but this was a chance to see something totally different.  It would be like watching the Packers at Lambeau or watching the Cubs play at Wrigley.  If the Cubs didn’t perennially suck.  It would be a chance for an NBA fanatic to see the place where the NBA logo once played.  Where Magic had passed to Kareem and where Kobe Bryant not only wore a crown on his shoulder in tattoo ink, but wore the crown as (arguably) the best player in the league.

Prior to arriving in L.A. I wasn’t a Kobe Bryant fan.  I found him arrogant, dispassionate about his teammates, but firmly believed he was one of the greatest athletes on the planet and would have killed to see him live.  We managed to finagle a ride to the game from our extremely Japanese hotel (*Author’s note: how can any hotel be “extremely” Japanese, you ask?  They had a meditation garden on the 8th floor that connected directly, by crushed gravel path no less, to a karaoke/sushi bar.  That’s how Japanese it was.) and thereby avoided the inevitable cab ride that would’ve racked us up a Tom-Hanks’-salary-for-Larry Crowne-sized bill.

We arrived in time for the shoot-arounds and I promptly geeked out so hard that my fiance had to physically restrain me from jumping off the upper deck and sprinting down courtside.  I settled for repeatedly reminding her who every player was that I could identify and taking grainy, low-resolution photos with my camera.  Pau Gasol’s photo looked like a bigfoot sighting.  Mainly because Pau simply looks like a Sasquatch.

Despite the fact that we were high up, I could see the game and the warmups and Jack Nicholson sitting courtside with an 18-year-old skeeze (*Author’s note: we had seen an L.A. gossip newspaper detailing Nicholson’s courtship of this true freshman from Brown University and were shocked when she showed up sitting next to the King of Hollywood.) with remarkable clarity.  Even Sasha Vujacic’s greasy euro-trash version of the Hanson brothers’ hair was clearly visible, flopping in the night air.

Before the game tipped off the Lakers got their player introductions.  For the intro, the team dropped down a huge square of white screens that had 6-story high projection images of the Lakers throwing down vicious dunks and rejecting shots with authority.  I videotaped it with my camera and you can hear me, drowning out the PA announcer himself with remarkably high-pitched screams.  Although the audio would suggest otherwise, I’m pretty sure I hit puberty a while before this.

The game was a high-paced, back and forth affair with lead changes and a great deal of drama.  The atmosphere was perfect.  There were celebrities, both real and imagined.  “I swear that’s Leo DiCaprio right there. . .or. . .maybe it’s Matt Damon.  No, definitely DiCaprio.”  (*Author’s note: it wasn’t.)  And a big-screen kiss from Heidi Klum and some girl who was also sitting with her and Seal that was cheered wildly by anyone with testosterone.

I’m pretty sure Phil Jackson stopped coaching to cheer for that.

As time ticked away the clearly superior Lakers couldn’t quite pull away.  Kobe dropped 36 points with 13 assists and 7 rebounds.  Seeing him live was incredible.  He had complete command of the court.  Even from where we couldn’t quite tell if Jack Nicholson’s date was wearing a shirt or not (*Author’s note: my fiance and I still debate on this one.  He is Jack Nicholson, after all.) it was obvious that Kobe was the man.

The Pacers gamely kept the score close.  It was a tie ball game as the Lakers got the ball for one last possession.  Everyone in the Staples center had one name on their lips.  Except for a few grossly Euro-Garbaged-up girls who had implanted-up their Vujacic jerseys and had been screaming at him the whole game in an attempt to score some future child support and/or green cards.

Kobe had the ball, slowly circling the outside of the three-point line as time wound down.  There was something carnivorous in the way he eyed the basket.  Something very tantalizing filled the entirety of the stadium. 

Everyone knew Kobe was going to take the shot.  Everyone knew Kobe was going to make the shot.  Then. . .Kobe made the shot.  As time expired Kobe hit a turnaround 2 pointer from the elbow for the win.

The fans went crazy.  Even though the ending had been as predictable as High School Musical 3, it was amazing.  Never before had I felt so confident that someone would simply will themselves into a heroic moment and never before had I seen someone fulfill a prophecy so effortlessly.  Kobe had wanted to score.  He’d wanted to win.  Then he’d gone down the court, with an entire opposing team knowing that he would shoot the final shot, and done exactly that.

With that one night, that one game, that one basket, that one moment I metamorphosed.  I became a Kobe Bryant fan.  I became a Lakers fan.  It was that incredible a moment, that cool.  Just by being there, surrounded by A-listers and paparazzi and fans that could actually dance when they were shown on the “bust a move cam” I felt suddenly like some Hollywood bigshot.

Jumping around joyously while wildly celebrating with my fiance and the random dude in front of us sloshing eight dollars worth of beer (*Author’s note: at the Staples Center that’s roughly an 8 oz. beer.) was a great moment.  It altered my perception of the NBA.  It made me realize that certain games, certain moments of sporting bliss, can make you do a 180-degree turn faster than Blake Griffin in transition. 

I had been baptized in glitz and glamor and steely nerves that not even Hollywood could capture in cinematic glory; born again in the purple and gold of Lakers fandom, I reveled in the moment and won’t soon stop.

It was a marvelous night, a great game, and a shot that I’ll never forget.

FIN

Joakim Noah, the starting center for the Chicago Bulls, was recently caught on camera dropping an “F-Bomb.”  No, not that F-Word.  The other F-Word.  This latest gay slur, allegedly directed at a heckling Miami Heat fan, follows on the heels of Kobe Bryant’s  use of the same word and subsequent $100,000 dollar fine.

Commissioner David Stern has taken a strict stance against such homophobic language and the fine on Noah dropped in at $50K. 

But that got me thinking, what if Stern decided that he really needed to draw a line in the sand; make a statement so bold against these intolerable remarks that every player would have no choice but to cower in terror at the consequences of such bigoted statements?

The natural response to these kind of transgressions in professional sports is to “hit ‘em where it hurts.”  Meaning: the Wallet.

But what if Stern exercised his considerable clout and decided to lay a non-monetary smackdown on Noah.  What if David Stern found some unique ways to punish Joakim for his idiocy?  Here are a few suggestions, since I’m pretty sure Stern is an avid reader of this blog.

1.  Make Him Sub-let the Basement of His Mansion to 10 Members of the Westboro Baptist Church for a Month

A month spent in close quarters with 10 of the most inbred, backwoods, yokels since the hillbilly rapists from “Deliverance” and I bet Noah would suddenly feel pretty enlightened and tolerant.  A month spent hearing the disgusting hate-speech drivel piped out from between bucked, Red-man stained teeth and I bet Noah realizes the error of his ways.

2.  Make Him Shut Up

This one may sound simple, but nothing could be more of a challenge.  Noah never shuts up.  Much like his game, which idles at crack-fiend-after-Redbull RPMs, his mouth is constantly open.  He shouts, screams, bellows, and pops off at the mouth.  The only true way to get him to close that pie-hole is to simply melt his mouth shut. 

Impossible, you say?  Maybe.  But here’s how that works if you’ve forgotten.  Just picture Noah as Neo.

3.  “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” His Dirty Ass

Except do it at gunpoint.  Have him held down, shaved, cleaned up, and shown pictures of his draft-day outfit over and over again.  I have covered at length how gross Joakim, his pube-beard, and his jankety man-pony hair looks.  If he wants to make fun of the gay community, let them ridicule him back.  And let them save me from having to watch him run up and down the court looking like he was raised by Yetis.

5.  Every Time He Scores Make Him Use a Timeout, Stand On the Scorer’s Table, and Do This Dance

He doesn’t score very much, but after 2 times of that hideous, spastic dancing on the jumbo-tron Noah would be begging for a chance to properly apologize.

6.  Make Him Build Something

An arc, perhaps?  (*Author’s note: I apologize.)

7.  Make Him Sing a Duet of “Stan” With Elton John

Eminem did it.  It helped his image.  Watching Noah stumble his way around with one of the all-time greats and completely humiliate himself would be terrific punishment.

8.  Make Him Play 1-on-4 Against the Aryan Brotherhood Prison Gang Team in San Quentin

He wants to be a bigot?  These guys are professionals.  He thinks he should tough-talk someone while using slurs?  Wait until he plays some street ball with a bunch of hulking Neo-Nazis.  And when they tell Noah to “Hit the Showers”?  He better not drop the Head and Shoulders while he’s shampooing that mane of hair.

FIN

As we slip further into our mundane and football-less lives, there is one flare shooting brightly through the darkness; a beacon.  Light blazing through the pitch-black firmament and beating back that icy tendril of dread that is the upcoming wasteland known as “baseball season.”

That beacon is basketball.  Cling to it.  Dig your nails into it like Gail Devers and catwoman duking it out.

For now, and only for a brief moment, I’ll pass on talking college hoops.  The blitzkrieg of b-ball that is March Madness is a measly few weeks away.  I’ll get to that later.  However, this year’s NBA season has been a very good one.  Some might argue that, depending on the postseason, this season has been great.  At the very minimum, the storylines from this year have been very good.

Here are the top storylines at the NBA’s official mid-way point:

Blake Griffin

After blowing out his knee prior to his rookie year, NBA fans and pundits weren’t sure what to make of Griffin.  Some worried that he’d lose his explosiveness, the hallmark of his oft-dominant college career.   Some whispered that his promise would be remembered over his on-court exploits.

In case you’ve been sub-letting the basement apartment from someone who lives under a rock: Griffin is breath-taking.  While it’s still too early to stamp his career with inane amounts of praise, I can’t help myself.  He’s Charles Barkley plus P-90X.  He’s Shawn Kemp minus 8 illegitimate children.  I’ve been trying to get my nickname for Griffin to go big time: The Cold War.

When my parents were growing up they frequently had to practice putting their heads down between their legs and crawling underneath their desks which, presumably, could save you from the impending Soviet nuclear carpet-bombing.  Griffin’s savagery at the rim makes people react the same way.

They flinch.  They duck.  They cover.  He’s in the air long enough for people to construct make-shift fallout shelters, grab canned goods and bottled water and head below decks.

The crazy part is: he still has room to improve.  Griffin’s like that fist-sized, uncut diamond that Leo DiCaprio di-Capped all those South Africans for in “Blood Diamond.”  A once-in-a-million find, but still in need of polishing and cutting.

He’s already a very good scorer and elite rebounder — averaging roughly 21 and 12, respectively– and his overall potential for more resides somewhere in the stratosphere.

The West

The 2-time defending champs’ season reads like a failed psychiatric evaluation.  They’re all over the map, riding high early in the season and bottoming out with a loss to the Cavs and a bizarre dude-on-dude perfuming incident in the locker room involving Ron Artest.

(*Author’s Note: Did anyone not expect a sentence involving man-on-man perfuming in the locker room to somehow involve Ron Artest’s crazy ass?)

The Lakers have looked, in turn: disinterested, un-caring, and really tough to beat.  Their body language, which has fluctuated more than Anne Hathaway’s Oscar wardrobe, has ranged from Kobe-Bryant-intense to we-all-just-smoke-Phil-Jackson-personal-stash lax.  In short, they will have to ratchet up their intensity to stay in the hunt.

The Spurs, however, have looked to be every bit the consistent force that the Lakers have not been.  They look fresher and healthier than they have in years.   It’s as if the team jumped into a Delorean stretch-limo time machine and gotten younger.   Manu Ginobili’s bald spot almost looks smaller.  Tony Parker almost looks less divorced to Eva Longoria.  And Greg Popovich looks…well, like Greg Popovich.

Barring a collapse down the stretch, the Spurs look to be extremely tough as the 1 seed come playoff time.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are an almost equally terrifying matchup in the West.  With Serge “Air Congo” Ibaka guarding the paint, Russell Westbrook rapidly developing into an elite-level point guard, and Kevin Durant pushing Carmelo and Kobe for the “best pure scorer” title in many peoples’ minds the Thunder are a force to be reckoned with.

The Dallas Mavericks are also lurking and would present a Marc-Cuban’s-wallet-sized challenge for whomever they draw in the playoffs as well.

The East

With all the Charlie-Sheen-meltdown level of media attention focused on the Miami Heat during the offseason, the Boston Celtics have picked up right where they left off.  Defying age, knee-issues, and my near-constant “Jesus Shuttlesworrrrth!” screams every time Ray Allen hits a trey, they have continued to win.  They’ve done it with a gritty team defense that borders on dirty at times.  Junk-punching dirty.   However, the Celts lost the left jab of their interior 1-2 punch, trading Kendrick Perkins away to the Thunder.

The Miami Heat came into this season with an insane amount of expectations.   With LeBron predicting assinine levels of titles, famously counting on his ringless fingers how many the heat were destined for, and Chris Bosh looking more and more like a velociraptor from the “Jurassic Park” movies, the Heat’s play has finally caught up to the torrid pace their mouths set this offseason.

(*Author’s note: That “Jurassic Park” thing really doesn’t have much to do with the Heat’s season.  But c’mon, man…have you seen Chris Bosh?)

However, before I get too effusive with my praise, here’s a stat to chew on: the Heat have lost only twice all year to sub .500 teams and are 14-16 against squads with winning records.  Pat Riley, anyone?

Not far out of the mix in the Eastern Conference are the Chicago Bulls.   With Derrick Rose’s unparalleled athleticism at the point, and his MVP-caliber performances night in and night out, and the health of their big men getting better day by day the Bulls are as good as they’ve been in years.

Trades

Since this post is rapidly spiraling into “War and Peace” length, I’ll do my best to keep things brief.

The Knicks traded: Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Mozgov’s translator, Mozgov’s birth certificate to see if he really spelled his first name like that, Spike Lee, the Empire State Building, Saturday Night Live, the entire Mets roster, and their limited edition Knicks seat covers for: Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.

And the Knicks probably made the right choice.

The last month of the NBA season teams were in full on ho-down, Do-si-Do mode, swapping partners every second and fourth beat.

When the dust cleared ‘Melo was in NYC and Deron Williams, the star point guard from the Utah Jazz, was in New Russia.  I mean New Jersey.  Well, New Jersey with a Russian owner.

In Conclusion

The NBA season has been a fascinating whirlwind of intriguing stories and wild trade deadline shifting.   And the best part is: it’s only going to get better as the playoffs approach.  Keep your eyes peeled and you’re bound to see an incredible finish to the 2011 season.

FIN

I understand that, to many Nebraskans, writing about any sport other than football this time of year is a huge waste of time.  However, I have been a huge NBA fan ever since amassing a fortune of Reggie Miller cards somewhere around 3rd grade.  While Reggie has retired, and with him any hopes of ever seeing the Pacers become anything more than a Honky dumping ground for unathletic, pasty guys (Just watch, I guarantee they draft Kyle Singler this upcoming year) I have continue to love the NBA as much, if not more, as any other sport around.

Here are a few things that I’m looking forward to keeping an eye on in the ongoing NBA season.  I know it’s late for a “season preview” piece, but here goes my best attempt nonetheless.

Bron-Bron and the Heat-Heat

It’s not secret that LeBron James has “taken his talents to South Beach.”  In fact it’s the exact opposite of a secret.  Bron-Bron has taken more than his “talents” to South Beach, however.  He’s taken a complete media circus, unrivaled pressure, and his 3 minute-long commercials as well.  He’s taken an “I-don’t-care-what-anyone-thinks-of-me” PR campaign that fails every time he logs into Twitter and calls out “the haters.”  But, and this is something we should not forget, he also takes potentially the most athletic ability and back-to-back MVP trophies.  After losing in their much-ballyhooed opening game against the Celtics, who appeared to be in 100% playoff mode, the Heat have looked fairly impressive.

There are sure to be some ups and downs, and an almost endless media cycle on this team, but I am firmly one of those that believes that the East is Miami’s to lose.  The prospect of Dwyane Wade, LeBron, and Chris Bosh’s velociraptor-looking body sprinting downcourt on a fast break is enough to make Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Ron-Jeremy’s-Stunt-Double Gundy shave his porn ‘stache and check himself into coaching rehab.

The questions abound but I can’t help but wonder whether this Miami experiment will end up more like “Scarface”, with a blood-bath shootout and a whole lot of cocaine addiction or more like “Bad Boys II,” with a family barbecue and a whole lot of laughter.

Can the Lakers Complete a 3-Peat

The Western Conference’s strongest team is undoubtedly the Los Angeles Lakers.  While they’re aging quickly, with an average age of 28 years old, they have only gotten stronger in the offseason with the additions of Steve Blake and Matt Barnes.  Kobe Bryant is still recovering knee surgery and he still has a lingering finger injury from the previous season, but figures to be his usual self.  If Kobe can keep playing his role, letting the offense come to him, and not forcing his shot, Phil Jackson and Co. should still be the team to beat.

Who Will Win the NBA’s coveted Euro-Trash Player of the Year Award?

Reigning champion Sasha Vujacic, from the L.A. Lakers, recently cut his hair and began dating Maria Sharapova.  So he’s clearly out.  Dirk Nowitzki’s hair has grown out to girlish lengths and you just get the feeling that at some point he’ll decide to let that slithering goatee crawl around his face some more.  My own, personal, vote for the front-runner: Pau Gasol.  The Spaniard from Lakers sports a whoops-my-razor’s-been-broken-for-4-days look that makes the Chilean miners whom were recently rescued look like paragons of cleanliness and his sweaty mane of hair often times leaves me feeling like he was born on the corner of Seasame Street and To Catch a Predator Avenue.

Will John Wall or Blake Griffin Win Rookie of the Year

Griffin, who missed the entire season last year with a knee injury, may indeed be the Los Angeles Clippers’ only hope at ever not sucking.  Owner Donald Sterling has seen to it that his franchise remains a complete joke, but they may have lucked into something very big with Griffin.  He’s injected freakish athleticism, energy, and a tenacious rebounding streak that has some wondering if the Clips can stop touting Billy Crystal’s courtside appearance as their main attraction.

Wall, with his blazing speed and equally outstanding athletic ability, has a chance to revitalize another franchise fallen on hard times.  Taken with the first overall draft pick in last April’s draft, Wall has quickly drawn positive media to a team that received more attention last season for racking up gun charges than they did for winning.  In fact, their win percentage is roughly the same as the caliber of the weapon point guard Gilbert Arenas pointed at his own teammates head.  .357.  Good luck, Mr. Wall, you’ll certainly need it.

How Long Before We Have Another “Decision” on Our Hands

As I mentioned earlier, LeBron shook up the way players handle owners in the NBA.  This impact, and this brazenness by one of the league’s biggest names has set a precedent that undoubtedly has left many GM’s and owners quivering in their $3,000 Armani Loafers.  The Denver Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony as well as the New Orleans Hornets’ Chris Paul have both expressed desires to move elsewhere this offseason.  With the way Bron-Bron screwed-screwed Cleveland?  Watch for Anthony and Paul to feel the freedom to do the same.  After all, the local media may hate on them for their choice, but they almost certainly won’t pass by “The King” in the “dude we hate the most” polls.

Anthony, long known as a prima-donna, could be shipping out for the soon-to-be-Brooklyn Nets and their billionaire Russian owner’s deep pockets, and Paul could be getting his much-publicized wish to join Amar’e Stoudemire in NYC.  Or, and this would be the greatest shock of them all, they could remain where they are.

In Conclusion

If this NBA season doesn’t have enough plot twists, crazy matchups and power struggles to keep you happy then no show (Not even “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”) has enough drama for you.  Keep your eyes peeled, your televisions on, and your seats in their full and upright positions.

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