The Questions — ’09-10 Season Preview
Back to catch wreck.
by Shannon Booher
More than many recent seasons, little intrigue lies at the top of the NBA standings. Some combo of the East’s Ceatles/Cavs/Magic and the West’s Lakers/Spurs will meet in the Finals. OK, we will be lenient and throw the Nuggets and Mavs in there as well. So if all you care about is the results at the top, come back in time for the Playoffs. But for the true NBA heads, it’s all about the journey. Welcome to the trip guide for that journey, the ’09-10 L.O.N. Season Preview, questions-style — word to A Tribe Called Quest, Common and Mos Def.
1) What have you missed most about the NBA? Is it hard to get excited about the NBA when you are not excited about your team?
Not when you have…
Ralph Lawler… Big Baby Davis jokes… Rajon Rondo roller skating jokes… J.R. Smith… LeBron James triple-doubles… check that, ALL triple-doubles… EAT YOUR BREAKFAST!!! moments… beautiful lefty jump shots… Jeff Van Gundy… CWEBB, GP AND AHMAD RASHAD! Our main men… T.J. Ford… Anthony Parker finally able to showcase his sick professionalism on a national stage as the new shooting guard for the Cleveland Cavs… Derrick Rose… The crazy number of lineup combos Dallas can throw out, the coach and statistical-based staff that can dream those combos up and an owner just crazy enough to support the whole process… THE BIRDMAN!!!… Joe Dumars best signing of the off-season — bringing back Chucky Atkins so now we can rejoice when Mason shouts out: “CHUCKY-CHUCKY Atttttttttt-kins”… The pure excitement of Anthony Randolph’s spontaneity and on-the-court recklessness… The electricity sparked every time Jonny Flynn takes the floor… Shaun Livingston…
2) What is the L.O.N. Pre-Season Top 10 League Pass Ranking?
#1 — Denver — Basketball debauchery in the flesh — J.R. Smith is the human embodiment and Denver is the team embodiment. While losing a bit of fun with the departure of Linas Kleiza, they gained a facilitator of debauchery in Ty Lawson. With Chauncey Billups and Melo making sure things stay fun in the win column, the Nuggets are the best combination of winning and entertainment in the League today.
#2 — Oklahoma City — As the evolution of Kevin Durant continues, we will be watching.
#3 — San Antonio — We are well known Spurs supporters and with Manu back in the mix and majorly hyped new pieces in Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and DeJuan Blair, we gotta see what kind of team Pop can make out of these guys. And how about those seemingly minor moves to fill out the bench? We can see Keith Bogans and Theo Ratliff playing important roles in spurts this season.
#4 — Cleveland — We love Shaq. We love LeBron. But do we love Shaq and LeBron? Time to find out.
#5 — Los Angeles Lakers — What? Did we just say that? Choosing to listen to Joel Meyers? Well, at least they are a part of many national broadcasts. We cannot help it. This thing could explode and we want to be there when it does. If all else fails, we have the Official Player Of L.O.N. to enjoy — Lamar Odom.
#6 — Golden State — A crazy coach leading a crazy cast of characters playing a crazy brand of basketball. We love it.
#7 — Washington — We missed Gilbert last year and want to see him back at full strength. But if there is no Gilbert, this team drops out of these rankings in a hurry. If he can stay on the court, he becomes the centerpiece of a surprisingly deep roster. This team can do some things.
#8 — Chicago — Derrick Rose.
#9 — Atlanta — We love J-Creezy and we are going to love finally seeing him in the Playoffs. You might even be able to convince us that this team could theoretically move themselves up in the Eastern Conference hierarchy. OK, did the East just get really deep? Deeper than the West? Deeper than rap? RAAAWWWWWWSE.
#10 — Phoenix — If no one else is on, give us the uptempo team every time.
3) Will Shaq and LeBron dominate the entire world this season? What hi-jinx will they get in to?
This is perhaps the most discussed subplot and acquisition of the offseason. However, the aspect that has been under-reported, is what this could mean for pre-game lineup intro rituals. Last year Shaq’s Suns and LeBrons’s Cavs both produced highly entertaining intros game after game. Now what happens when these forces unite? Paul and John creating magic or Paul and John wrecking their team? Tune in early for Cavs games and you just may catch a glimpse of their on-the-court fate.
4) Is LeBron going to leave Cleveland?
No idea. It all depends on what he envisions as his ultimate goal. Win title-upon-title at all costs? He signs the veteran’s minimum in San Antonio, Orlando or Portland. Win the titles without sacrificing contract money, and a side order of major market power? He joins the Clip Joint and teams with Eric Gordon, Boom Dizzle and Blake Griffin. Hopefully, maybe win and become the hometown hero while maximizing your NBA money? Cavs, holmes. Take over the world, literally, with Jay-Z? Hello, Brooklyn (maybe) Nyets. Maximize your marketing prowess AND flirt with that oh-so-alluring season triple-double average in the Basketball Mecca? He gets that New York State Of Mind and heads the high octane D’Antoni Knicks.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Tune in next summer to find out. Sorry in advance for all of the endless speculation between now and then.
5) Will LeBron repeat his ’08-09 MVP campaign? Can he keep improving at basketball?
He definitely can keep improving, and there is no reason to think he will not. The MVP award is notoriously political and fickle, though, and there is no guarantee he will get the award even if he puts up the best numbers (which he will). But as long as Steve Nash has more MVPs than LeBron, Kobe and Shaq (one each) the award remains an absolute joke.
6) Tell us about LeBron vs. Braylon. If they both called you and lobbied for you to take their side, whom would you roll with? Did LeBron secretly stage this whole thing to send Braylon out to scout NY ahead of time?
All we’ll say is this — you cannot spell Braylon without L.O.N.
Now for the Tech Guy’s (a noted Michigan alum) commentary on the situation: “I would’ve punched his chump friend, too. He’s probably an Ohio State fan.”
7) Why does Shaq hate Kobe so much and does he still?
Well… because Kobe is Kobe. Ha! But seriously, they play nice in public, but we are pretty sure the hate, or at least animosity, tension, whatever you want to call it, still brews beneath the surface. But even if it’s not hate, there is most certainly a competition when it comes to career titles. With both having legit shots at that 5th ring this year, the rivalry is alive and well. The NBA powers that be would absolutely love a Lakers/Cavs Finals pitting these two (oh, and some guy named LeBron) against each other.
8 ) Did L.O.N. C.E.O. Shannon Booher get any training camp invites after dunking on and injuring L.O.N. Head of Sales, Bread Costello?
Unfortunately the Head of Sales used his diabolical influences to immediately confiscate and destroy the grainy home video of this occasion. Without this key piece of evidence, GMs just weren’t willing to roll the dice on the self-described “poor man’s mix of Steve Blake and Larry Hughes.”
9) Who will be the Rookie Of The Year?
Blake Griffin. (Uh oh… the Clippers Curse struck one day before the season opened. Griffin will miss around 6 weeks with a knee injury. It’s a wide open R.O.Y. race, now).
The best rookie on a contender?
The most invisible rookie?
Ricky Rubio. Many tears have been shed in the L.O.N. offices over the Rubio Debacle.
Most likely to regret leaving school early?
Stephen Curry. Even if breaks out of his J.J. Redick-like preseason performance/shooting slump, the mess of a team he ended up on will have him dreaming of Davidson.
Most likely to choke his coach or be a dark horse candidate for R.O.Y.?
Brandon Jennings. He and Scott Skiles seem like a match made in hell, but if everything works out, he could push 40 minutes a game. It is a sink or swim like Phelps situation.
10) If Jim O’Brien deploys Indiana’s “White Out” lineup of Travis Diener, Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Troy Murphy, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster, will Larry Bird retire on the spot?
Yes, his legacy fulfilled, he will immediately throw his button-up into the crowd and calmly walk out of the arena.
11) As good as he is, is Kevin Durant the next Allen Iverson?
First of all, is that supposed to be an insult? A.I. is one of the greatest human beings to ever play the game of basketball. Period. End of discussion. Given his size, he is also right up there in the “pound-for-pound” greatest to ever play discussion. Second of all, given their vastly different body types and play styles, this question almost sounds like the result of an NBA Mad Lib book. We will humor our reader, though, and break it down.
Despite different, and even opposing, strengths, there is no question both guys possess singular offensive talent — both can flat out score. Iverson’s abilities come in such a unique package, though, that only one coach and team has been able to harness those abilities into a successful team structure. It seems Durant fits a little better into the traditional team structure, although even he has already changed positions once (from shooting guard to small forward). In addition, both guys’ teams suffered losing seasons in their first couple campaigns. A.I. turned that around in year 4, and has generally stayed on the winning side of things ever since. It remains to be seen if and when Durant can make that same turnaround. Perhaps their biggest similarity is the debate of whether or not each improves his teammates on the court. Despite his ridiculous individual talent, and high assist numbers, A.I. has been roundly criticized for not making his teammates better over his career. In recent weeks, Kevin Durant has faced similar heat, in a debate centering around his adjusted plus-minus numbers. This is an interesting similarity, but we stand on the side of things that says these numbers will reverse for KD. Because he has shown a burning desire to improve each and every year and he is backed by an extremely competent GM, we think he is going to get better, his team is going to get better, and therefore his APM will get better.
So bottom line, are there subtle similarities between these two sublime stars? Certainly. Are the similarities strong enough to call KD “the next A.I.”? A resounding no. Enjoy each and every minute of these two guys on the court, though, as they truly display two vastly different methods to accomplish the same goal on the basketball court — score the ball.
12) Who are the Mailroom Supervisor’s most missed/most anticipated H.O.N.nies?
Gilbert Arenas, Tayshaun Prince, Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire and Baron Davis. But Baron, she says, is on notice with that Kimbo Slice beard he’s rocking.
13) Who got the best new tattoo in the offseason?
Let’s start with what we know. DeShawn Stevenson really had a lot of time on his hands, adding an Abe Lincoln portrait surrounded by 5′s on his neck, a backwards Pittsburgh Pirates “P” and a Frankenstein-esque cracked forehead. We cannot really support any of those. We could maybe roll with Abe if he had not cheapened it with the 5s.
Watching Birdman during the pre-season, it looks like he also went back to the ink lab this off-season to spend some of his new millions. He was already nearly covered up, but it looks like he filled in a lot more color and added a blue bird in the same neck area as DeShawn’s Abe.
Michael Beasley is also confirmed as getting a new tat, but unfortunately he drew more attention for the potential drug paraphernalia in the picture. Let’s stay focused on the tat though — pretty ridiculous. We are not sure if the whole back is new, or just the “Supercool Beas” part, but either way… not good. At least it will be covered up most of the time.
So we are not ready to hand out praise quite yet, as we need to get more info on this always developing story.
14) Are there any uniform changes to talk about?
ESPN Page2′s Paul Lukas always breaks this down the best, so go there for full detail. Really, that piece is awesome. We could look at NBA uniforms, logos and patches all day. And a link showing all 30 teams’ arena floor layouts? Awesome juice.
Here are the highlights:
–Memphis added a shimmery third alternate. Looks like somebody found one of A.I.’s old Denver jerseys hanging around and threw a Memphis on it.
–Houston has created a new version of their previously ill ketchup and mustard joints as an alternate. Love it.
–Thankfully, Philly is going back to their traditional Independence Day red, white and blue color scheme.
15) Does anyone have faith in Joe Dumars anymore?
Yes — you (the Unpaid Intern), the Mailroom Supervisor, and about three of Dumars’ distant family.
16) Do the Pistons have a chance this year?
A chance at…
…having the most guaranteed money coming off the bench? Yes.
…benching the best point guard on the team to start Joe Dumars’ “guy”? Yes.
…having a “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” remix painting featuring their center committee of Ben Wallace, Kwame Brown and Chris Wilcox? Yes.
…making the Playoffs? Yes.
…winning the Title? Yes… if they trade for Memo! They still have not been the same since he left.
17) Are they going to miss ‘Sheed?
No doubt. He was the missing piece that put them over the top for their 2004 title. Hopefully the fans remember and appreciate that contribution. And if ya’ll thought ‘Sheed was inconsistent and lacked focus… hello, Charlie Villanueva!
18) Will ‘Sheed make a huge difference in Boston?
That is up to him. The Ceatles certainly could have used him LAST year, given KG’s knee problems. If used properly this year, maybe he can help keep KG healthy for the stretch run. If the other Ceatles stay healthy (big if), and ‘Sheed is hungry, he will be a beast of a missing piece for them. We think that is exactly what will happen, since the other Celtic vets can create an environment of peer accountability that simply did not exist on last year’s splintered Detroit team. Looks like a little bit more will be expected out of him straight from jump, as Big Baby apparently injured his thumb fighting a former college teammate! Yeah, we said we missed Big Baby jokes, now let them flow!
19) Can Lamar Odom, um, keep up with the Kardashians?
It is easy to point out the increasingly circus-like atmosphere surrounding the Lake Show. Lamar marries Khloe Kardashian, Ron Artest brings his three-ring circus to town, Andrew Bynum continues to be mercurial at best, etc., etc. But what if Lamar’s marriage centers him and brings out the best in him? What if Ron Artest’s eccentricities lighten the mood and tension of a grueling 100 game season? What if Andrew Bynum is able to fully spread his wings now that he is out from underneath Kareem’s shadow? What if this is just the challenge Phil Jackson needs to get the most out of this squad?
Uhhhhh, no. We see implosion. No repeat. Forget the shenanigans, they just plain got worse talent wise, on the court.
20) And while we are in the gossip pages… L.O.N.’s resident Legal Counsel asks: How will blind items factor into this season?
With all the highly publicized non-blind off-the-court drama over the past year (Dirk scammed by his girlfriend, Lamar and Khloe, Mike Beasley goes Amy Winehouse, E-City nudity allegations, Starbury and UStream, A.I.’s gambling blow ups), there has to be a treasure trove of this stuff out there. Michael Jordan could have a tabloid dedicated solely to him that would challenge anything else out on the market! As the sports world blurs more and more into the entertainment world, blind items and gossip in general will become a bigger and bigger part of the NBA. And who is to say that is a bad thing? It could fit under the old adage of “any publicity is good publicity.”
21) He looked like he got it all working in the Playoffs last year — is this Melo’s year?
Did he get it all working in the Playoffs last year? Sure he looked great in the first two series, but he disappeared a bit in their loss to the Lakers. On top of that, there are already a lot of naysayers that do not think the Nuggets can match last year’s season. So Melo still has a lot to prove, but we do think he will do it. Maybe he can even swoop in and become one of those “it’s his turn” MVP winners.
22) Will Darko come to life under Mike D’Antoni? Say he will.
OK, he will.
23) Will Yi make China forget about Yao?
24) Will Yao ever play again?
The answer to at least one of those last three questions was a lie.
25) What do you think about this? http://www.nba.com/enebea/
Global domination, baby. The NBA, led by David Stern, has consistently been the best amongst the American sports leagues at spreading his brand worldwide.
26) Carlos Boozer or Paul Millsap?
So the question is whiny Dookie or hard-working country boy? Hard-working country boy all day ereday. We are just mad Millsap could not get out of Utah with them matching the offer sheet he signed with Portland.
27) Have we really seen the last of Starbury?
On an NBA court? Yeah, looks like it. On a social media site near you or plotting a Dr. Evil-style worldwide takeover in a boardroom somewhere? No, sir.
28) Who should have retired that did not?
29) Who is the worst person in the NBA?
Well, by extension… REGGIE MILLER!
30) Who is the #1 fantasy basketball player?
In any and all formats — H2H, Roto, Keeper, whatever it is, LeBron James is your man. OK, maybe in an auction the price can get too high, but after last year’s 78 percent from the charity stripe, the man has no fantasy weakness. And who is to say his stats cannot increase across the board? His tendency towards elevating his game gives him the nod over CP3.
31) What was the worst off-season move?
Based on early returns, we have to go with Portland’s signing of Andre Miller. Maybe things will still come together as the season plays out, but as of right now it smacks of desperation salary cap spending. Just save the space! Use it in a trade, or in next year’s off-season!
32) What is the worst contract in the League?
For contracts that carried over from last year, it is hard to see much good in Baron Davis’ and Elton Brand’s based on last year’s performance, but the absolute worst is Zach Randolph’s killer deal that will pay him $33 million over this year and next. That is a major problem when no team with Randolph on it will ever win anything. That is a literal and figurative elephant in the room.
For contracts signed over the summer, Cleveland signed Anderson Varejao to $50 million over 6 years!?!?!?!?!! Wow. That is way more than Birdman’s and more than Paul Millsap’s, just to name two comparable players. It is well within the realm of possibility that LeBron and Shaq are not on the Cavs roster next season, leaving Varejao as their 2nd highest paid player behind Mo Williams. Mo and Andy will not exactly recall great point guard/power forward tandems like Stocktontomalone or Payton/Kemp. Players like Varejao come around the block. Often. Why lock yourself in to a monster deal like that?
33) Greg Oden — fact or fiction?
Wow, you are really bringing out the tough ones now. Uhhhh… facmaictionact? He looked great in the pre-season, and we want him to succeed, but we along with everyone else, feel like the world will get it’s usual healthy serving of Ghostface Przybilla this season. Sorry, Greg it is show and prove time.
34) Which team could be a sleeper this year?
We do not think any team will sneak up into title contention (although we sorta talked ourselves into Atlanta and Washington having deep, deep sleeper status), but some sleeper playoff teams include: the Clip Joint, OKC, and Milwaukee (if healthy, their defense and grind it out style will make them the team other teams hate to play against in regular season).
35) What is the most boring team that no one should care about?
Whuuuuuuuut? No such thing. Every team has something awesome about it.
36) How much would L.O.N. pay to have a Dirty Jerse Nyet come to their office Holiday Party?
Not $25k like the organization is asking, but to determine our actual price, we would need to know the answers to the following questions:
Is Devin Harris coming as himself, or a-alike Ludacris? Will Rafer Alston resurrect the And-1 bus and bring all the And-1ers? Is Courtney Lee bringing the rest of her hot friends? Is Sean Williams bringing his, um, party favors? Is Terrence Williams wearing the Sponge Bob pants and Barbie backpack? Will Brook Lopez bring the comics and ice cream sundaes? Damn, now that we think about it, that’s an eclectic bunch. Maybe $25k is not so crazy after all.
37) What will Rowan Jura Booher’s title be as the newest employee in the L.O.N. offices?
So far he is filling multiple roles such as L.O.N. Mascot, L.O.N. Freeloader and L.O.N. Official Burper. We are going to let him try his hand at various tasks around the office and see what he likes best.
38) I do not have a clever question, but please say something about Orlando.
Local boy traded to hometown team and rejuvenates them? Chauncey Billups or Vince Carter? A couple of problems with that comparison — Vinsanity is not quite a true hometown hero in Orlando like Smooth is in Denver and Orlando is nice and juvenated already. They were in the Finals last year. Vince comes to town facing major expectations, which has not always worked well with him. The difference this year is he has a big time supporting cast. Still, in order to be the hero he has to help them to a title and we do not think the Magic have it in them.
39) So who will win the title?
Cavs over Spurs in 7. LeBron gets #1 win and Shaq wins the race to 5.
OK, whoever you are out there, PUT THE BRANDAN WRIGHT VOODOO DOLL DOWN!!!… Eddie Jordan back in the hizzle… We really, really, really hope Delonte West is getting all the help and support he needs… FREE RASHAD MCCANTS!!!… Adding another overpowering personality to the roster WILL NOT help Mike Conley in Memphis. And maybe the only thing that could ever help him at this point is reuniting him with Greg Oden… How is Chris Duhon still the starting point guard for the team that arguably needs a good point guard the most?… There are new rims this year. Who knew?…