In our best Diddy from “Hate Me Now” voice, allow us to say, “Basketball season has returned.” Where bonds of unity between rival fans existed during the lockout, all goodwill has effectively been thrown out of the window. Things just got real. All too real.
The NBA is back and, on Christmas Day, take a second to thank whatever higher power you worship to be able to witness 12 consecutive hours of professional basketball. Around TSS, we’re always thinking of how to keep things fresh. We could’ve easily provided a team-by-team, division-by-division and conference-by-conference breakdown. But, truthfully, we didn’t have that much time.
Our decision to continue with the blueprint started with our NFL preview stems from nothing more than the fact predictions are fun as hell. If we’re right, we’ll ride around on our high horse with the world’s largest “we told you” sign. If we’re wrong, well, screw it. On these next few pages, you’ll receive a glimpse into our excitement for the NBA season. Some were made with long hours of research while others were pulled directly out the sky. Either way, enjoy and be sure to offer your own.
Oh, and for the record, these predictions were written without approval from David Stern or Dan Gilbert.
1. Kobe Byrant Will Demand A Trade By Season’s End
The writing has been on the wall since the offseason when the Lakers went against Kobe’s wishes – not even consulting him – in their decision to hire WORST COACH EVER®. Then, to make things worse, the Lake Show went from making power moves for Dwight Howard and Chris Paul to ending up with none of those stars and trading Lamar Odom to the same Mavericks team that Colorado’d the Lakers in the playoffs last year. Yes, some of that is the NBA’s fault, but the Lakers administration hasn’t done itself any favors with dumb offseason moves and the lack of a marquee pick up. All of this is compounded by the fact that Kobe may need a change of scenery in light of his recent and soon-to-be nasty divorce.
Remember how disgruntled Kobe was a few years ago when he wanted to leave the Lakers? It looks like a repeat of that is on the way with things really getting to a fever pitch by March. Rip Hamilton is good…but Chicago wouldn’t mind having another megastar shooting guard rocking the battle red jerseys.
2. Eric Gordon, John Wall, James Harden, Stephen Curry & Jrue Holiday Will Be All-Stars
Young talent continues to trickle into the league at a spectacular rate. As established names like Ray Allen, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant (kidding, kidding) phase out, young, dynamic players like the high-flying Eric Gordon and John Wall (who is actually a video game character) will take their place.
Gordon will benefit from being the focal point of the Hornets’ offense and Wall’s excellence speaks for itself. Oklahoma City’s James Harden should prove his merit as he gets bumped up to the starting lineup, providing the Thunder with a home-grown “Big Three” to rival any in the league. Steph Curry is the best pure shooter on the planet, and a half-decent point guard to boot. And someone’s gotta make the All-Star squad from that über-talented Sixers squad; look for 21-year-old point guard Jrue Holiday to evolve into one of the league’s best, joining the likes of Derrick Rose and Dwayne Wade in Orlando for this year’s midseason festivities.
3. TSS Will Write At Least 10 “CP3 To Blake/DeAndre Jordan” Posts
And really, that’s a conservative estimate. This whole “Lob City” thing just begs for people like Tins or AJ to stay up late and watch unhealthy amounts of highlights, laughing maniacally as Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan temporarily defy gravity to send a Chris Paul air delivery through the basket. Maybe we’ll compare their top ten dunks to Illmatic tracks, or maybe we’ll ask what historic point guard/power forward combos the CP3/Blake duo best compares to. There will no shortage of plays to wax poetically about this year, thanks in large part to L.A.’s (former) other team.
4. Knicks Predictions: Regret Waiving Chauncey, Chandler No Big Help To Defense, D’Antoni Fired, Phil Returns To NY
The 2012 New York Knicks are like double D’s and no butt – great only in the front. Was the Tyson Chandler signing worth giving up a veteran point guard in Chauncey Billups? Let’s face it, New York didn’t have the trade pieces to nab CP3 and ironically Chauncey joins Paul on the Clippers. Look back to last year when the Knicks beat the Miami Heat in the regular season. “Mr. Big Shot” won that game. In Chauncey’s absence, the hole in the backcourt has Carmelo Anthony initiating the offense while New York waits two months for Baron Davis to return from injury. A long past-his-prime Mike Bibby will only come off the bench and present starters Toney Douglas and Landry Fields still have to prove if they can step to the next level.
Chandler allows Amar’e Stoudemire to play as a natural four, but a commitment toward defense may only come from the former Dallas Maverick. Chandler alone will be spent come season’s end (possibly Stoudamire’s knees, too). Head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system is still offense first, but outscoring the competition won’t work in the postseason even with defensive-minded assistant coach Mike Woodson. After a full season of Phil Jackson rested, see D’Antoni get the boot and the Zen Master come home to the franchise he won two rings with as a player.
5. The Memphis Grizzles Will Travel Even Further Into The Playoffs
The injury to Darrell Arthur could come back to bite them in the ass, but this Grizzles team is pretty damn scary when looking at how well they matured last year. Now, a healthy and motivated Rudy Gay is added to the mix of an already deep team and another playoff run could be in the making. Seeing as how they made it to the second round last year, plus the fact we’re saying they’ll advance even further this year, we’re basically saying Mike Connelly, Z-Bo, Marc Gasol, Rudy, OJ Mayo, Tony Allen, Josh Selby and the rest of the crew represent one half of the Western Conference finals.
The only question is a very serious one. Can they play with a bulls-eye on their back?
6. Miami Will Lose Again
Vegas has the Miami Choncletas rocking 2-1 odds on winning the asterisk trophy this year. Trouble is, their team is still extremely top heavy in terms of talent. A title chasing Shane Battier and Eddy Curry on Weight Watchers aren’t the keys to rings. Plus, the jury’s still out on if the “Big Three” can execute down the stretch. Either way, don’t be surprised if they fall short once again due to a mix of their anemic bench and a certain small forward with a penchant for Houdini acts. I’m talking about NorBel of course.
See, Common? That wasn’t so hard.
7. The Golden State Warriors & Indiana Pacers Will Surprise People
If you weren’t paying attention to the Pacers in the offseason we don’t blame you, but they made a slick move to improve by grabbing David West from New Orleans. With another year to mature, Darren Collison should prove to be a much better point guard this year and Danny Granger may finally approach superstar status. If only they could have pulled off that O.J. Mayo trade from a couple of weeks ago, the Pacers would be looking like even more of a threat to upset someone in the first round.
Over in the city by the bay, Golden State has a solid Medium Three with Monte Ellis, THE Davidson College’s own Stephen Curry and the low post presence of David Lee. Curry was banged up with an ankle injury, making it hard for that team to truly gel all season, but with a wide open west that’s sporting smaller backcourts, Ellis and Curry can really do some damage. The only wildcard is unproven coach Mark Jackson. It was a gamble to hire him, but he may really be able to help guide Ellis and Curry to career seasons. Now, if only someone can explain why the f*ck they signed Kwame Brown, we’ll be squared away.
8. The Portland Trailblazers Finally Advance Past The First Round
You know, this sounds good on paper, but if it doesn’t happen, we won’t really be that surprised. Given the fact, we’ll never know what a completely healthy trio of Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge would have done together, Portland remains a team budding with talent but with just an odd sense of bad luck hanging over them. This year, we’re calling for the dark clouds to lighten up a tad as the franchise takes a baby step into becoming a contender. They’ll advance past the first round, which in all honesty, is more than what Tracy McGrady will end up doing in Atlanta (poor guy).
There’s real talent out there in Portland in case you haven’t noticed though. Marcus Camby, Gerald Wallace (who was put on a poster the other night), Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum provide for a solid foundation. Meanwhile, the signing of Ray Felton has the Pacific Northwest thrilled and the last minute free agent acquisition of marksman Jamal Crawford ensures the Trailblazers have a player to trust whenever a big shot is needed down the stretch. Expect the aforementioned Aldridge to continue to spawn into one of the league’s best big men and to be invited to the All Star Game off jump this time around.
9. Tom Thibodeau Will Run Derrick Rose Ragged…Again
The play-through-adversity Chicago Bulls of last year devolved to the Rose show deep into the playoffs. Thibodeau made the MVP work long shifts to make up for bumbling teammates and dude became dog tired by the Eastern Conference finals; the main contributing factor to their disappointing loss to the Heat. Rip Hamilton may give Chicago’s perimeter scoring a consistent boost, but he’s no spring chicken. So, with that in mind, who’s to say Thibs won’t push Rose 40+ minutes a night when push comes to shove? Chicago’s lineup better act right now or they’re headed for more disappointment.
We’re pulling for them, but the no shows know who they are (Boozer!) and must put work in.
10. This Is The Year The Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook Combo Finally Works
At least as of right now, the Thunder are the sexy pick (no Sandusky) for the Western Conference’s representative in the Finals. And depending on if the young, but grossly talented squad can right the wrongs of the 2011 postseason, it could damn well happen. While Kendrick Perkins slimmed down figure and the emergence of James Harden as the team’s third star are both interesting storylines to follow, it’s the on-court chemistry of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that’ll have everyone focusing on the rising superpower.
We here at TSS predict 2012 is the year everything comes full for Oklahoma City. Russie finally figures out truth – there’s nothing wrong with being 1B to KD’s 1A – and from there the sky truly is the limit. Outside of Derrick Rose, there isn’t a more athletic point guard in basketball. Westbrook hones in on this aspect of his game while uncovering the secret that opting towards his superstar cohort during the crucial moments of games (when need be) can get the team to the promise land. For the record, however, we’re not suggesting Russell turn straight bitch mode either because his aggressiveness is, in fact, what makes him so unique.
11. The Magic Will Stink And Dwight Howard Will Be Traded
Dwight Howard is a nice guy. Unlike Shaquille O’Neal, he wanted the Orlando Magic to get something back instead of nothing if decided to pursue free agency. Yet, as last year’s drama with Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets proved – an incumbent superstar is bad morale towards winning. As the “Melo-Drama” resulted in a mid-season trade, D12 will be wearing a different uniform by the end of the 2012 season. Early rumors said Dwight would head to the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets. However, with the recent broken foot by Nets center Brook Lopez, a centerpiece of the alleged trade, the Orlando big man may end up heading West. With the Chris Paul sweepstakes won, all attention will be focused on Howard’s soap opera until the deal gets done.
Watch Disney World slowly dismantle until Dwight leaves.
12. LeBron James Takes Home The MVP Sweep
So we’re clear, you should already know who nominated this pick. This was not agreed upon by the staff. David laughed. Sam walked away. Ryan and AJ didn’t say a word, but continued reading this book. TC turned the other cheek. And Gotty just went to smoke another cigarette. For Tins and LeBron (Romo, too), probably only Skip Bayless leading the Tim Tebow brigade trumps his level of standom. He’s been going around telling any member of the crew who’ll listen that James will not only make the 2011 Finals a distant afterthought*, but the two-time league MVP will do something only Michael Jordan, Willis Reed and Shaquille O’Neal have done. What’s that, you ask?
Complete the MVP sweep by taking home the regular season, All Star Game and NBA Finals honors. Yeah, so, Tins, you’re on your own with this one, buddy. Godspeed.
* — Tins really did take that Finals loss hard. It was touch and go there for a second. No, seriously, the guy was pretty upset.
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