by Shannon Booher

It’s the questions, whuuuuut? The questions, whuuuuut? The questions!

What, tigga, what, tigga, what, tigga, WHAAAAAT!

As we do every year, let’s start another glorious season with actual questions from actual readers, and actual questions from some not-so-actual readers!

As we head into the season, what is the L.O.N. League Pass Team Ranking?
Official L.O.N. League Pass Pre-Season Top 9:
1. Denver — J. R. Smith. Basketball debauchery in the flesh. And they bring out the debauchery in their opponents, as well, creating 48 minutes of beautiful mayhem. We will miss the Eduardo Najera three’s, though.
2. Portland — Greg Oden is our most-anticipated rookie to see, probably followed closely by Rudy Fernandez. Throw in Revolutionary Travis Outlaw, and it’s a wrap.
3. San Antonio — Odd years on, even years off–like a metronome. And with Manu out for awhile to start the season, it’s going to be The French Pastry Show in San Anton.
4. Houston — Ron Artest makes defense exciting.
5. Clip Joint — That’s a wild mix. Exciting and entertaining, maybe. But can that roster win games consistently?
6. Cleveland — Mo Williams may finally be the piece that cements LeBron in this list. This could be a special season, ya’ll.
7. Detroit Pistons — Amir Johnson and Rodney “Yo, ma, I’m 50 Cent.”
8. Philly Snakes — Are they ready to take that next step up to the East’s elite? We hate having the co-founder of Brand and Boozer’s Backstabbin’ and Beguilin’ Band Of Brothers on this list, but the Other A.I., Louis Williams and Thaddeous Young must be witnessed.
9. Boston Ceatles — We still have love for KG and Paul Peezy, and check this field report from L.O.N.’s Resident Scientist: “I dont think I said anything about this yet, but a couple weeks ago, when Bill Walker had that really good dunk over someone, the pure elation, joy, and madness that ensued on the Celtics bench was an amazing thing to see. The fact that they all acted like that, during a pre-season game, means they are a team and they really like each other. Repeat.” Love.

Bottom Four:
1. Milwaukee — Scott. Skiles.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder — Sorry, KD. The Earl Watson Experience meets boring uniforms meets a despicable franchise move. Count us out.
3. New York Knicks — You’re gonna have to prove it first, D’Antoni. Duhon ≠ Nash.
4. L.A. Lakers — Word-for-word from last year’s preview: “Two words: Joel Meyers. And L.O.N. doesn’t exactly love Mr. Cryant. Sorry, L-Eezy.”

Any new tattoos/haircuts/looks in the off season?
Gregg Popovich’s preseason beard got way outta hand, making us all wonder if the Spurs’ style would take a similar wild turn this season. Who knows? Pop is clearly feeling the need to express himself, and that may lead to any type of on-court madness. You know, crazy stuff like a nine-man rotation versus an eight-man, or maybe Powerade on the bench instead of Gatorade. Anything can happen. Word to Wyclef.

Although we are sure more guys will surprise as the season unfolds, that’s all we caught on the personal style tip during the preseason. Several teams are breaking out new gear, though, and pretty much all to underwhelming response (at least from us). The Orlando Magic came with the most drastic (we use that word loosely) of the changes, introducing diverging silver pinstripes to the NBA scene, and going with the No. 1 entry on the L.O.N.’s Most-Hated Neckline list. We have never understood, liked, or approved of that. Worst Of The Night.

The Seattle…err, Oklahoma City Thunder kept it real, real lazy. What is that? Looks like they came up with a disco-hell mix (word to Ced the Entertainer) of the simplest aspects of the Knicks’, Bobcats’ and Hawks’ unis. While they are at it, maybe they should try to combine rosters with those squads. Even if their jerseys stilled looked like they belonged in rec league for 11-year-olds, they might actually finish above 11th in their conference.

The Milwaukee Bucks are introducing a new alternate jersey, inspired by their 1971 joints. We tend to like simple uniforms (think Celtics or Spurs), but homage or not, these are simple in a boring kind of way. And is that Big E on the end an homage to the Big Yi they lost this offseason?

New Orleans tweaked their outfits and logo ever so slightly, with the most important change being the re-introduction of the old Charlotte-style pinstripes. Word to Dell Curry! And Glenn Rice’s (former? ex?) wife. And Muggsy.

Meanwhile, Minnesota also tinkered with the details of their unis. At least they will look slightly different while losing 50+ games again.

What big-ticket players will be heading to new teams this year? Odom? Billups? Randolph?
Who will be the first player traded after the start of the regular season?
Don’t forget about Rasheed Wallace, who is in the last year of his contract, and playing for a GM, in Joe Dumars, that has been trying to shake things up since the end of last season. Shawn Marion in Motown? Seems intriguing.

Which lottery pick will have the biggest impact on his team this year? What about someone outside of the lottery?
This season we are presented with the rare situation of two No. 1 overall picks making their debuts, in Greg Oden and Derrick Rose. Rose is a point’s point, but does not quite have the supporting cast that Oden can claim. With the pivot spot sured up, Portland is looking to make postseason noise. We are not convinced the Bulls can make that same leap. Statistically, Michael Beasley will factor into this argument, but a Crazy Convention could break out with he and Shawn Marion both in South Beach. And actually, after that weird Star Jones perio, DWade went through last year, maybe he’s the Chairman of Crazy, down there.

Non-lottery? Watch out for another Blazer, Nicolas Batum, who is penciled in as the starting small forward in Rip City. That smells like a Royal Ivey, seven-minutes-a-game-in-Atlanta starting scenario, though, so we’ll go with the Suns’ Robin Lopez. With Steve Kerr’s emphasis on defense and The Diesel’s propensity to miss “unhealthy” chunks of the regular season, the wilder of the Lopez Twins is set to do damage. And you gotta love the unintentional comedy/entertainment factor whenever the Lopez Twins are on the scene. We need a reality show.

Who will be the biggest bust from this year’s rookie class?
Joe Alexander. Unless, like we have said before, he joins the professional beach volleyball circuit. Or becomes one of those trampoline dunkers.

Who will be the Jerry Sloan “Surprise Player Of The Year”?
Jerry Sloan dropped this gem after Kyrylo Fesenko dropped a 10/10 double-double on Portland this pre-season: “That’s the best I’ve ever seen him play since he’s been alive.”

So who will have the best season they have ever had since being alive? We don’t know, but that might be the best quote we hear while we’re alive.

Can you explain some comments that were heard over the summer regarding LeBron James being the most over-rated player in the NBA? Who could even think such a thing?
Absurd. Outlandish. Flabbergasting. The term is more over-used than a McCain/Maverick reference, but this is the definition of “hater.” Only someone with a genuine personal issue with The King could utter such words.

To the MRSV–Who are the leading Heartthrobs heading into the season?
The Mailroom Supervisor’s Official H.O.N. Top 5:
1. Baron Davis
2. Gilbert Arenas
3. Tony Parker
4. LeBron James
5. DWade

Dang, the MRSV went the pure big tymer route on us this year. Dollar signs in her eyes, we think!

Will the Pistons new coach and young up-and-comers return Motown to glory?
We’ll let the Mailroom Supervisor answer this one. MRSV: “What do you mean by return? They are working on their fifth straight title this year. What a run!”

Can the “Boston Three Party” repeat this season?
“No, but the Pistons can.” AAARRGGHHHH!!!!! Get those crazy Pistons fans out of the control room!

Seriously…How are the Pistons going to do this year? Who is your favorite Piston?
No doubt about, ‘Sheed Wallace, yet and still. Come on. Ball don’t lie. Sneaking up on ‘Sheed though, and ready to take the mantle, is Young Amir Johnson. He is on the cusp of Revolutionary status, and in the starting lineup this year. We like the Pistons’ chances as a team, as well. They have managed to keep the old guard around, while infusing the rotation with young talent, in Rodney Stuckey, Johnson, Jason Maxiell and Arron Afflalo. Tayshaun Prince still has not fully harnessed his talent, and Kwame Brown might even be a nice piece on a team like this. We may have just talked ourselves out of the ‘Sheed trade, and into a Pistons Finals run. Hmm…keep reading while we sort this out.

With Sam-I-Am’s post-retirement coaching plans, who wins in a coaches’ “talking battle”: Sam Cassell or Avery Johnson?
If these two were to ever lead their teams against each other in a Playoff Series, the most-entertaining aspect of the series would the amazing press conferences. Sam mumbling some obscure alien-like analogy with Avery slamming his hand on the table and using that one-of-a-kind voice to express his dismay. Absolutely awesome.

How many basketballs will the NBA use this year?
How many jerseys will be purchased this year?
Which franchise will make the most money?
How many hot dogs will be sold at NBA games this year?

These must have come from the resident L.O.N. Salesman…all he cares about is the bottom line. If you are ever around someone asking questions like this and saying your first name a lot, hide your wallet and run! We’ll break it down, though: 1233, 2.89 million, Los Angeles Lakers, 14.33 million.

Will Greg Oden come out and be an absolute beast?
Good question. He will be fighting a tough knee-injury recovery, adjusting to playing against the best athletes in the world, facing Breakfast Bounties and of course dealing with all the issues of being a 40+ year-old rookie. We do not see Dwight Howard-like beastness, but he’ll give it to a large majority of the leagues pivots. Still, that microfracture recovery is nothing to blink at, so do not expect the world, THIS year.

Will Michael Jordan once again come out of retirement to play in the newly incorporated Space Basketball League (SBL)?
No, but he is the player/coach for Earth’s basketball team entry into the Space Olympics.

Any powerhouse teams that will take a nosedive this year?
You heard it here first–the situation in Dallas is scary. You have Rick Carlisle, known for defense and a controlled-offense, heading a team that screams for run-and-gun O with optional D. Avery Johnson coaxed some nice defensive performances out of roughly the same team, but damn near the whole team hated him by the end of his run. The individual talent on the roster is still obvious, but if they do not figure out a signature personality quickly, there could another, um, Cuban Missile Crisis on the horizon.

Will LeBron tip his hand in regards to his impending departure to a New York team by the end of the year?

Does L.O.N. support the King leaving Cleveland?
He won’t tip his hand this year, as dude actually has two more years in Cleveland. That’s what a lot of people do not realize. This issue is going to reach Brett Favre retirement level of media hype before it is all said and done. But he’s not going to do anything to mess up his current situation; he is too savvy of a business man. Do we support the departure? Only if it’s to the BROOKLYN Nets, and only if Jay-Z is still involved. The possibilities with those two cats together are endless, and we love all of them.

Could the Other Gasol (Marc) out-stat his brother, Pau?
It could happen. Throw in the potential decline on Pau’s side due to further suppressing his own output for the good of the Lakers and the Andrew Bynum influence, with Marc’s potential output as the starting center on the run-and-gun Grizzlies, and these two’s stats may look more similar than you might think. Marc looked good in the Olympics, but he would not be the first Euro to bust in the NBA. He at least should make last year’s trade look slightly more even than the outright collusion it appeared to be at the time.

What’s the top selling jersey in the NBA this year?
LeBron has got to claim this title eventually, right? This is the year. Mark it down. If not him, it will probably be J.R. Smith (if L.O.N. comes into a trillion dollars and executes the “Jersey In Every Pot” plan).

Are the Spurs too old? Are the Spurs just dried up old raisins at this point? Do we really need to discuss them still? I don’t see their relevancy.
Seriously? This comes through literally every year. Check the League Pass ratings for your answer: more relevant than ever. Honestly, even if they falter on the court, The French Pastry keeps them relevant on the pop culture tip alone. Dude is everywhere–NBA Live cover, Windows commercials, the tabloids with Eva, etc. Los Spurs, holmes.
Who is going to win the Dunk Contest? With what kind of dunk?
We are not sure Dwight Howard will be defending his title, as the bona fide star in the dunk contest is a thing of the past. We gotta put Gerald Green as the odds on favorite, going into the season, now that he is back on a roster, with the Mavs. Green had the creativity and ability last year, and Superman cape or not, the cupcake dunk is still our favorite ish from last year’s contest. Only Pac can judge what he might break out this year.

How do you feel about Josh Howard’s off the court issues this summer?
L.O.N. has lassez faire weed stance–let the people smoke. But of course, Howard needs to know not to show the seams on national radio. Same thing with the national anthem hulla baloo. The man is allowed to speak his mind…but he might want to find a better forum. The ugliest part of the situation ended up being the despicable emails and internet posts so many people out there anonymously leveled at Howard. Come on. In the words of the great Jay Hova, “I thought this was America people?” Even if the populace had expressed themselves a little more eloquently, they are contradicting themselves. This would not be America if we were not allowed to speak our minds! That being said, if you do not think J.R. Smith is the second coming of Basketball Jesus, y’all need to leave the country immediately.

Will anything happen this season to further the belief that the NBA is rigged, like the WWE?
You mean, other than Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry only leaving Dantoni’s bench to perform actual WWE-style wrestling events at all Knicks home games?

How many basketball games are you going to watch this year?
773.

How many live basketball games are you going to watch?
Dang, is the Salesman back? Seven?

Please break down the Los Angeles Clippers–is it going to be as fun as it could be? Baron, Ricky, young Al Thornton and the Twin Towers?
Fun is a good word, unless half the team ends up injured on the bench. This is Boom Dizzle and Marcus Camby we are dealing with, after all. Another phrase that might be used is “interesting mix.” The Caveman and the Camby Man may actually work out well, since Camby likes to launch those 20-foot J’s more than bang on offense, and don’t even think about coming in the paint when they are on D. But can they deal with smaller lineups? What will Dunleavy get out of the notoriously mercurial Ricky Davis and Tim Thomas? Are there too many Davis’ in one place at one time (Baron, Paul and Ricky)? Will DeAndre Jordan make GMs across the league throw up in their mouths for passing over the one time projected lottery pick? The people demand answers.

What player is going to become a star this year?
If you don’t know the answer to this, you haven’t been reading. Think the opposite of Emmitt Rider.

Who is going to be the MVP?
LeBron James. LeBron James again? Awwww yeah, again and again. The time is now. Give him the jersey sales, the trophies, the triple-double season average…everything except the title. It’s not quite time, yet.

Overall predictions?
LeBron’s singular talent still will not quite be enough…the Ceatles will not be quite as hungry and will miss James Posey… no one in the Southeast is ready…neither is Philly…Pistons over Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Chris Paul’s singular talent will not quite be enough…Denver is Denver…the Lakers still do not quite feel quite right… Carlos Boozer’s surprisingly tentative/soft performance against the Lakers last year scares us…Dallas is done…Phoenix is rickety…Spurs over Rockets in Western Conference Finals.

Spurs over Pistons in 7. Classic ish.

What else do I need to know about?
Vinny The Black, coaching the Bulls. Realize and recognize… We miss Agent Zero. Get your knee right, playa!…All you DYYEEEE, is this part right here, BOOM!…If there is a God, please, please, please make Sasha Vujacic go back to the short hair…With all the focus on rookies, do not forget about second year guys that could break out. Keep your eyes on guys like Julian Wright and Thaddeus Young, this year…Kenny and Chuck are back!