Kobe Bryant surely smiles when thinking about Miami and the rest of the league trying to take his title.
Posted Oct 26 2010 10:38AM
What should this NBA season be?
Should it be what so many folks expect it to be: all-Miami Heat, all the time? A 24/7 fascination with, dissection of and hating on the most modern of all professional sports teams in these most modern of times, a group created overnight by the AAU lessons of three superstar athletes?
Should it be a referendum on LeBron James' legacy, Dwyane Wade's primacy and Chris Bosh's tolerance of third-banana status after so long as best of the bunch in Toronto? Should the 2010-11 season be linked to the past (the Heat chasing 72 victories), to the present (turnstiles whirring, cash registers ca-chinging!) or to the future (all the banners promised to the rafters of AmericanAirlines Arena)?
What should it be?
Maybe Lakers coach Phil Jackson's fourth three-peat will prove mightier than everything happening down in the league's southeast corner -- and Pat Riley, who holds the copyright on "three-peat" for marketing of trinkets and T-shirts, will find his Heat team locked in a win-win Finals next June. Maybe Kobe Bryant hasn't been bothered at all -- or motivated even a little -- by the attention and championship presumptions being lavished on the fellows from South Beach. Yeah, just maybe.
Gotta think Bryant's eyes narrowed a little on July 8 after that hour-long whatever-it-was in Greenwich, Conn., and when he pitched Derek Fisher on staying put and almost got Raja Bell to come aboard and did welcome Matt Barnes. Should this NBA season be about some Kobe rivals realizing they couldn't do individually what he has done across his career and teaming up in hopes of beating him -- and still falling short? Will it?
Maybe this NBA season will be about the Boston Celtics, made to feel suddenly like the upperclassmen in Ann Arbor back when the Fab Five showed up. That is, given the ol' "here's your hat, what's your hurry?" heave-ho from basketball's spotlight. Maybe the entire Western Conference is feeling the same way, what with the continental drift of talent and excitement toward the league's eastern half for a change.
Maybe Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder will have a thing or two -- or 60 (victories) -- to say about that. Maybe the San Antonio Spurs with their aging superstar core will be Celtics Southwest and rear up one more time in silver-and-black, small-market pride. Is that what this NBA season will be?
Should we focus on the six franchises for which Shaquille O'Neal has played, or the 24 he needs to squeeze in before he truly is a true citizen of the league? Should we wait a while before we label the Orlando Magic unstoppable (preseasons), remarkable (regular seasons), or overmatched (based on their one-trick-pony style in postseasons)?
Shouldn't someone tell Denver's Carmelo Anthony that the NBA's great Free Agent Summer of 2010 actually ended, y'know, with summer? Anthony has mounted a one-man campaign to keep it alive this fall and winter, adding to stress levels that Nuggets coach George Karl doesn't need in his comeback from throat cancer. Chris Paul, New Orleans' marvelous point guard, is in the green room of NBA-stars-on-wheels, next in line to imagine himself elsewhere. But at least that's an improvement over all the time Paul spends in treatment rooms.
Should this season be about that stuff?
Maybe the NBA should ... just ... disappear.
(Actually, that is more than a whisper now, given the latest reports-slash-rhetoric from the owners and the players' union in ongoing collective bargaining talks. It would be the oddest sort of hubris, laced with insanity, to shut down next summer and any bit of 2011-12 on the heels of the grandest offseason, most anticipated regular season and spiffiest projected ratings ever. But the billionaires and the millionaires might just do that, with a lockout wiping out free agency first, games later, goodwill throughout.)
What should this NBA season, in the interim, be? About one team of villains and 29 teams of good guys? About getting on with things or getting over them?
Should it be about arrivals (Amar'e Stoudemire to the Knicks, John Wall to the pros and rising teams such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Charlotte)? Or should it be about departures (Allen Iverson, Don Nelson, Rasheed Wallace and the ambitions and dreams in Cleveland, Toronto, New Orleans and even Denver and Phoenix)?
About redemptions (Baron Davis and Hedo Turkoglu, your pride is waiting), recuperations (Paul, Yao Ming, Greg Oden, Blake Griffin, Andrew Bogut, Tracy McGrady), returns (Josh Childress, Linas Kleiza) and reinventions (Michael Beasley and, please, Gilbert Arenas), all at once?
Should this NBA season be more about Derrick Rose or DeMarcus Cousins? Steve Nash or Stephen Curry? Rajon Rondo or Darren Collison? Mark Cuban or Mikhail Prokhorov? Ron Johnson (the referee czar) or ... Don Johnson?
Should it be about old coaches in new places (Avery Johnson, Doug Collins, Byron Scott and Vinny Del Negro)? Or new coaches in new places (Tom Thibodeau, Keith Smart, Larry Drew and Monty Williams)? Maybe, for a change, it -- and the award that goes with it -- should be about an old coach in the same old place: Jerry Sloan sticking to what works in Salt Lake City for another 50 victories or so.
Should this NBA season be about the money? If it is, we'll need to remember, and accept the idea, that no one got paid more over the summer than Atlanta's Joe Johnson (six years, $124 million). Not James, Bosh, Wade, Carlos Boozer ($80 million) or Rudy Gay ($82 million). Amir Johnson ($34 million), Drew Gooden ($32 million) and Darko Milicic ($16 million guaranteed), in their own relative ways, didn't even come close.
Should it be about stats: Triple-doubles, 20-and-10 guys, Kevin Durant's points, Kevin Martin's efficiency, Kevin Garnett's mileage, Kevin Love's minutes? Or simply about rings, both for them that needs 'em and them that already got?
What should this season be? And how should fans react?
Should the people in the seats stay loyal to their favorites, their franchises and some musty old notions about competing, beating the best and building toward something special? Or should they be front-runners and jump aboard the Next Big Thing, the way a young fellow growing up in, oh, Akron might have found his winners (Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees) elsewhere?
What should the NBA be in 2010-11? Should it be about The Decision? The Commercial? The Business?
Or the game?
Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA for 25 years. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.