It’s Showtime! After a 149-day lockout when the NBA season was expected to vanish, it’s back. Yes. It’s Christmas — the most joyous time of the year! What a day to start playing ball. What’s in store for 2012?
“Heat will definitely win the East,” proclaimed Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, the team manager of the University of Visayas Green Lancers. “And, with his improved post game, the runaway choice for MVP is LeBron James.”
For a diehard Kobe Bryant fan, Samsam’s prediction is all-confident. “LeBron will shine in the biggest stage and earn his first ring against anyone who comes out of the West. He will now be called Mr. Dollar because he has now 4 quarters. Last year, 3 quarters and 75 cents ra. Haha!”
In the Dec. 25 game between the Heat and the reigning champs, Mavericks, Mr. Gullas was proven right: LeBron scored 37 points. In a game that had Miami leading Dallas by 15 after the 1st quarter, 21 at halftime and 35 in the 3rd quarter, Miami won the Christmas contest. (One play – it’s on YouTube — was spectacular: LeBron tossing an alley-hoop pass to Dwyane Wade for a slam.)
This NBA season will be electrifying. In a Sean Gregory article entitled, “Welcome Back, Basketball: Five NBA Stories To Watch,” a league executive, Tony Ronzone, was interviewed. Here are the five stories…
ONE, the shortened 66-game season. Instead of the usual 82 games, every single ballgame is important. “‘It reminds me a little of Europe, where every game, you can’t lose,’ says Ronzone. ‘Lose two games, and getting to the playoffs becomes that much harder.’ The schedule also included a multitude of back-to-back games for teams: the Lakers, for example, play four games in the first five days of the season. Weary legs mean more playing time for guys you’ve never heard of.”
TWO: Chris Paul joining Blake Griffin in Los Angeles. In the NBA Finals, it might be Miami vs. LA. But, no, it’s not the Lakers — but the Clippers. “Expectations for the morbid franchise are higher than ever,” wrote Sean Gregory. “‘Showtime just went from purple and gold’ – the Lakers – ‘to red and white,’ says Ronzone.”
THREE, the Heat from Miami. Like Samsam, Mr. Ronzone believes Miami will win. “‘They will definitely be better,’ says Ronzone. ‘It will help that the media attention won’t be on them from day 1, like last year.’ In a season with a tiring schedule, the young and hungry will survive. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are veteran players, but only Wade is pushing 30 (he turns 30 on Jan. 12).”
FOUR: “Spur of the Moment,” wrote Gregory. We seem to forget that the San Antonio Spurs, beaten in the first round by the 8th seeds, Memphis Grizzlies, finished with the best regular season record in the West, 61-21.
“You get the sense this is the last year for the Spurs to muster something,” says Ronzone. “They seem to be saying, ‘OK, let’s give it all we can.’”
Tim Duncan is 35. Manu Ginobili will turn 35 this summer. Will this be their last hurrah? “A condensed schedule could hurt older teams – their legs tire out more than others,” wrote Gregory. “However, the shortened training camp may favor teams with an established chemistry, like San Antonio. And remember: in 1999, the last lockout-shortened season, the Spurs won it all.”
Samsam Gullas comments: “Whomever wins the West solely depends on how good the Clippers are or how improved the Thunder are.”
FIVE, watch for Ricky Rubio. This Spanish star is the rookie to watch. Only 21, he was the fifth overall pick in 2009. He postponed his jump from España to Estados Unidos but now he’s with the Minnesota Timberwolves. (His resume includes being the youngest ever to play in the Spanish ACB League — at 14 years old.)
“He’s the kind of player you’re going to want to watch,” says Ronzone. “Players want to play with him. He makes guys around him better. He has that soccer mentality, where the assist is just as important as scoring the goal.”
Imagine a soccer-loving Spaniard wearing hi-cut sneakers?
This Christmas, here’s one more reason to celebrate: The NBA is back.