Monday, December 26, 2011

Eleven NBA Christmas Wishes

With the season starting today and realizing just how much I missed the action, a few wishes for the beleaguered league and its fans.

11) Intentionally fouling players goes away. As I write this, I'm watching Clips-Warriors, and new Golden State coach Marc Jackson has decided to show us all that he's a genius by fouling weak free throw shotoer DeAndre Jordan every chance he can. It is, of course, unwatchable, and I'd love for a ref who watches this to just start adding in unjustified technical fouls on the Warriors every time they do it, to knock it the hell off. Basketball has artistic merit, dammit, and stopping the play every 20 seconds to hack a guy is just beneath any team with standards. Knock it the hell off.

10) We have a true contending surprise. Right now, you can rattle off a half dozen of the usual suspects who should contend for the NBA title. They include the final four teams from last year (Miami, Dallas, Chicago and Oklahoma City) and the two traditional powers (Boston, LA Lakers). And if the title is won by one of these favored six, or if they wind up playing for the title, no one will blink too much, though that would mean one hell of a comeback year for either of the old guard.

But if one of the cognoscenti small-market and rising clubs -- defined here as Indiana, NY Knicks, Memphis, LA Clippers, and maybe even (gasp) Atlanta, Orlando, Philly, Phoenix, Portland or Houston -- can make a Final Four run?

Well, maybe we actually have some of the unpredictable nature that has helped the NFL succeed so much, or has breathed temporary life into so many different MLB markets. I get that the league is all about rewarding greatness, and that the playoffs are all about coronation champions, rather than honoring the underdog. But at some point, it gets a little old.

9) The Hornets find a buyer. It's absurd that the league has been holding a club in thrall for years, in a small city that hasn't really supported pro hoops on two different occasions, with cuckolded trades and a clearly cursed lineage. They aren't getting another Chris Paul, and you don't recover as a small market club, when your superstar leaves. So let's see this club get a buyer, then move (Kansas City, Seattle, or the eternal fever dream of Las Vegas, awaits).

8) The Maloof Goofs sell the Kings. Look, I don't know how you lose money running a casino, and I don't much care. All I know is that the Maloofs held a city that has done everything to support their team hostage, and that Anaheim needs an NBA team the way that Disney needs more money. And I just don't buy the idea that Arco Arena, one of the few places in the NBA that gave a true home court advantage, is no longer a place you can host a game for a competitive franchise. Bullsquat.

7) Health. With the sprint season, the big worry is that guys are going to be out of shape, banged up, and that we're just going to play the attrition game. But maybe, just maybe, today's player is a little too aware of social media, knows that they are going to be judged hard by a crowd that wants to crap all over the league, and might even have been scared about having to find a gig overseas to get well and truly chubbo. Besides, with the possible exception of Big Baby Davis, Boris Diaw and Eddy Curry, are there really any goo buckets left in the Association?

6) A breakout rookie. Kyrie Irving looks like he's going to be good to me, and I have my eye on a few other guys, from what seemed like one of the weakest rookie crops in years. But it doesn't take much to change that story; a few highlight reels, a hot month or two from a guy taken outside of the lottery, one spectacular Ricky Rubio montage, and we'll be good. It doesn't take much.

5) Absolute silence from the owners. If, in a month or two, we hear from some aggrieved small market cyst talking about how they got hosed from the new CBA and should have held out for more... well, there are reasons why the super-wealthy hire bodyguards. With luck, very inept bodyguards.

4) A step up in broadcast talent. Marc Jackson is in Golden State, hoping to inspire the Warriors with his religious faith and Cookie Monster voice. TNT is experimenting with Shaquille O'Neal in the studio chucklefest, which won't make the show better directly, but might inspire Charles Barkley to not coast outside of the playoffs. Because, well, he does.

3) Good attendance. In Philadelphia, the new owners are doing everything short of giving the seats away to get bodies in the stands. It looks like, from the first day games, that other teams are doing all they can to pump the numbers as well. It bums me out when visible seats are empty; let's hope they get filled. Cheaply.

2) A mild Heat rehabilitation. Look, I'm not asking for the world to love Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Company; I'm just asking for the hate to match the crime. Wronging Dan Gilbert and choosing to work outside of Toronto and Cleveland, combined with some weak PR skills and need for attention, should not qualify you as Villains Of The Millennium. Root against them all you like, but dont' tell me that there's something uniquely loathsome about these guys that you can't say about, oh, the Lakers. Or the Celtics. Or the Knicks. Or the Clipper management. Or Marc Cuban. Or Portland's management. Or...

1) David Stern retires. He's old, corrupt, obnoxious and clearly in the way, and now that the CBA exists, there's really nothing left for him to do. Sell the Bugs, take your media-appointed tongue job, and go discover what every sports league commissioner learns; that your importance exists only while you have the job. And not one minute more...

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