With Florida State managing to kick themselves in the balls last week against North Carolina State (effectively killing any national title hopes) and the Dallas Cowboys leaving me in a state of unprecedented saddness, life in the sports world somehow isn't all bad. I've still got my favorite past time - David Stern's NBA.
The league's returning to "normal" this year with its 82-game schedule and buffet-style worth of storylines. Moving forward, from time-to-time, you'll see myself as well the other basketball junkies around these parts compiling a list of stories spanning all corners of the NBA. This means there is a significant chance we could go from discussing Kevin Durant's MVP run to what actually goes through the mind of a person attending a Charlotte Bobcats home game. Consider it the text version to sniffing a line of coke then taking a shot of Jack. If there's a better description than that, it doesn't exist.
So, yeah, let's get it. Ladies and gentlemen, Fast Break.
1. The Return Of Chicago's Savior...Or Not
If you're a Bulls fan, Adrian Peterson has to be your lightening rod of hope. As we've all seen and nearly vomited on ourselves hundreds of times, A.P., a freakish athlete in his own line of work also went down with an horrific knee injury. Not a soul in America would have blamed him had he sat out at least the first part of the NFL season. But there he was suited and booted for Week 1 and the Vikings rank as one of the quietest surprises in football.
Coming back to Rose, the best case scenario is Chicago - led by the unstoppable force at power forward in Carlos Boozer - keeps their head above water maintaining a top five seed in the East with the 2011 MVP returning to glory in March/April ready for a playoff run. From there, D-Rose channels his inner-Liam Neeson leading the never-say-die Bulls on a postseason excursion highlighted by a rematch with the South Beach All Stars in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Sounds like a script Hollywood would cast with Terrence Howard somehow playing the role of Derrick Rose, huh? The reality is the looming possibility Chicago's all-world floor general may miss the entire season, as he admitted to NBA TV's Steve Aschburner. It's one of those situations where the team and player wants what best for their on-court product, but definitely want to refrain from jepordizing not only future successes, but the face of the franchise's own health. Who knows what happens over the course of the next four or five months, but Windy City fans best condition themselves for a Rose-less season.
2. Like Father, Possibly Even Better Son
By all accounts, the late Manute Bol was one of the best people to ever step foot in the NBA and his philanthropic work with the Sudan is a case study all its own. Anywho, Manute's time playing American hoops also led him to become one of the more popular players for his 7'7" frame despite never averaging more than 3.9 points and six rebounds a season. That much we do know about one of the tallest people in world history.
What we didn't know was that he has a son in the seventh grade in Kansas City whose highlight reel has been making its way around the world wide web this week. Then once you find out the kid actually has handles and can get up and down the court with relative ease and quickness, your eyebrows start to raise a bit more. Then you realize he's already 6'5" and probably going to top out somewhere north of 7'1" or 7'2" and you pray he retains those skills in the manner of, say, Anthony Davis.
That's when you're like, "Hmmmm, ok. It's only seventh grade, but it's Manute's son so I'll keep an eye out just in case I hear about him in five years." Then and only then you decide to see what his name is only to realize it could go down alongside World B. Free, Popeye Jones and Metta World Peace as the greatest names in NBA history (pending he makes it that far).
Without further ado, I present to you, Bol Bol.
3. Tracy McGrady's Moving To China, Although He Doesn't Really Want To
There was a time when one could make an argument Tracy McGrady was the best offensive force in basketball not named Shaq. Granted, that window may have been small and those supporting Kobe Bryant or Allen Iverson may disagree, but T-Mac was the man for period of time. Back problems, knee surgeries, nagging shoulder issues, the super-team-that-wasn't in Orlando and never truly having the opportunity to gel with Yao Ming in Houston now make that sliver of time a distant, distant memory.
Coming off a season with career lows in points and minutes, the interest-level in the former All Star had all but evaporated. So what's a guy to do when bills still need to be paid and there's still that ounce of competitiveness running through the body? You pack up and head overseas; in this case, Tracy's moving to China as apart of a one year deal with the Qingdao DoubleStar Eagles. In his own words, McGrady posted on his blog:
There are times in life that a new road presents itself and it appears this time has come for me now. I am so proud of what I have accomplished these past 15 years playing in the NBA. It was a dream entering the league as I just turned 18 years old. I worked hard and poured my heart and soul into this game. I consider myself a student of the game as I have watched, studied and played with and against the best players in the world. The NBA was my University and I learned so much. The gratitude I feel is really immeasurable. I have experienced the best moments a player can experience and have had some dark ones too. Both equally important in helping shape me into the man I am today.
Half his own doing and half sheer fate, T-Mac's career will - fairly or not - always be defined by one statistic. He never once advanced past the first round of the playoffs. And somehow, I knew this would be his legacy after the Magic blew a 3-1 against Detroit all the way back in 2003.
4. Rasheed Wallace Is Coming Back To Teach Us All A Lesson In Post-Play Economics
By now, the New York Knicks jokes in regards to them filing for social security at some point in the season have probably all ran their course. Or not. Spike Lee's team newest acquisition, Rasheed Wallace, is the most fun to discuss because he's, well, Rasheed Wallace. The last time we saw him he was in Los Angeles only a few bad bounces away from capturing ring number two as member of the Celtics.
In his heart of hearts, Sheed probably knows the Knicks won't win a NBA title this year, even though he notes otherwise. Sheed's come back for a purpose bigger than himself and the Knicks. Spoken like the old head at the barbershop who has mastered the art of speaking with the cigarette on the tip of his bottom lip, the former Joe Budden look-a-like has returned to the hardwood to show these youngbloods they're not about that real post-game life (the paint, not the interviews after the games).
"It's the passion to come back and show y'all how post players really need to play — old-school basketball. Y'all are used to all this new, young stuff, high-flying and dunking. That's not basketball. Terrible footwork by a lot of young guys out here. Let's go back to old-school basics," Rasheed said to the New York Post.
Much like rap, basketball is running off subliminals now, so who the former Tar Heel was speaking about is anyone's guess. Maybe it's the East's newest big man, Andrew Bynum, who probably cares more about his Call of Duty score than what another man thinks of his back-to-the-basket game. Or maybe it's Dwight Howard who is dubbed the best big man in the world despite a lack of post moves. Or maybe Kevin Love rubbed Sheed the wrong way because his beard is/was awesome. Or maybe it's LeBron James, whose newfound commitment to playing inside led him to his first championship and now has him working on a hook shot.
Or maybe it was directed at Carlos Boozer because none of us have forgotten about "Paint-gate." Or maybe, just maybe, this was a subliminal shot at his own teammate Amar'e Stoudamire because he's seen first-hand those workouts with Hakeem still have him playing 16 feet away from the basket and not grabbing the first rebound.
Regardless, Sheed's back to kick ass and chew bubble gum this upcoming NBA season and we're all better because of his decision. And for the record, he ran out of bubble gum about three weeks ago. That and he kind of has a point.
5. Kobe's Retirement, Dwight's Back, Steve Nash's Hair And All Things Lakers!
This actually has nothing to do with the fact Steve Nash now looks like former child heartthrob Jimmy Neutron.
The huge buzz this week out of Lakers camp centered around their superstar's future. As in Kobe Bryant. The five-time world champion told CBSSports.com's Ken Berger that the end may be closer than we're all ready to accept. Even with a well placed disclaimer, Bean admits playing beyond the 2013-2014 season (that's next year) is highly unlikely. The guy's basically spent half of his life on the NBA scene and has a career that'll one day be the subject of a New York Times bestseller. It leaves room to speculation though. Say the Lakers don't secure a championship this year, but they do the following season with Kobe still the unquestioned alpha dog. You mean to tell me, with a chance at a seventh ring passing that guy who we all call the GOAT, he's not going to give it one more whirl? For now, I'm calling Kobe's bluff.
In Dwight Howard related news, the all-NBA center appears one step closer for what I thought was possibility anyway - him being ready for opening night - after being cleared for limited contact on Wednesday. And while it's still six months away, pencil me in at somebody's bar the night of April 2. That's the night Shaq's jersey gets retired and the night we see Kobe go full fledged Magic Johnson feeding his long-time student the rock to the tune of 62 points.
And while that last sentence probably has a snowball's chance in hell at happening - Kobe's going to try to go for 82 that night anyway - Kobe putting Antwan Jamison on a poster definitely did. Viva la German knee surgeries. They're better than milk, I hear.