Five things to watch this NBA season

Today is September 17, 2007, and with more than a month left before the start of the NBA season – though we’re eagerly counting down the days to October 30 – it’s still a bit early for a full season preview. Oh yes, we’re definitely writing one though. The season will be previewed for all, with our own unique take no less. What fun would a blog be if we didn’t throw in our own Nostradamus-like predictions along with the rest of the horde? We did it for the NFL season, so it’s only fair that the NBA, which at the end of the day gets the lion’s share of love on Grey Matter, gets its own season preview.

But, we digress.

What is appropriate at this relatively early stage, before training camps starts on October 1 & 2, is a sneak peek into the season ahead with a look at the 5 things to look for during the 2007-2008 NBA season. Our Top Five list vacillates between the intriguing to the outrageous, so here goes:

  • You don’t need the NBA National TV schedule to tell you this (although a quick glance shows no less than 3 televised games with these 2 teams involved during the first week), but all eyes will be on Boston and Los Angeles when the NBA season finally gets going around Halloween. Boston for the 2007 version of the Celtic trio, and Los Angeles for week one of the “Kobe/Phil giving up on Lakers management and leaving town” watch. You’ll feel like it’s 1987 all over again. The stock market will be up, up, up, the New York Giants will win the Super Bowl while actually playing defense, Gary Hart will re-visit an old flame, the history channel will run a 42-hour retrospective on the Iran-Contra affair, and you’ll get an awkward desire to listen to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” repeatedly on your iPod. All things will be right with the world. Whatever the reasons this time around, in October, Boston and Los Angeles will be the centers of the basketball world once again.

  • Do you remember Clarence Stephen Johnson? If you do, give yourself a pat on the back and be content in the knowledge that you are probably one of 12 people in the world that remember this journeyman power forward. Johnson played for 7 different NBA teams during his forgetful NBA tenure from 1981 to 1991. But, he does hold one claim to fame. Johnson holds the NBA record, among those that qualify, for the highest field goal percentage, at .632 percent, for any rookie ever. We bring up Johnson because, although the NBA presumably doesn’t keep this record for futility, Seattle Sonics forward Kevin Durant could very well set the record for the lowest field goal percentage for an NBA rookie, ever. Durant shot just 33 percent during the Las Vegas summer league against his first pseudo-NBA caliber competition. So, the over under on Durant’s field goal percentage for the regular NBA season is probably at an embarrassing 25 percent from the floor. Don’t get us wrong, we strongly believe that Durant will turn out to be easily the best player taken in last season’s draft, and will develop into one of the elite scorers in the game, but in 2007, with no veterans in sight to shoulder the load, the kid, who makes Kate Moss look overweight, will put up more bricks than the Great Wall of China. So, despite his unbelievable talents, look for other rookie of the year candidates, like Mike Conley Jr., Corey Brewer and Al Horford, to challenge Durant for the ROY throne.

  • David Stern will seriously consider instituting shoulder pads and helmets for his league’s referees by the third week of the season. Disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy will have long faded from the headlines, like exorbitantly high gas prices, Don Imus’ racial slurs and hurricane season, when the NBA kicks of its 2007-2008 campaign. But, the first time an NBA referee blows a call against the home team, zealous fans will surely bring down the “Wrath of Khan” on the poor, unsuspecting referee. If you thought the infamous episode of Ron Artest vs. Pistons Fans got ugly, wait until Dick Bavetta blows a foul call in the final seconds – Tim Donaghy’s ghost will indeed be exorcised to the fullest. In all seriousness though, the way the refs call fouls, particularly during the first month of the season, and whether the frequency, or number of fouls is altered in any way through fan, and sports radio, outcry will bear close watching.

  • Look for Steve Nash to once again compete for the league’s MVP, because the charity giving, soccer playing model citizen apparently can’t do any wrong. With Grant Hill in tow and Leandro Barbosa a year better, the Suns could run through the league to claim the best record in 2007-2008 (oops, we’re predicting team results, gotta save it for the season preview), and Nash will get all the credit yet again. In terms of competition for Nash and his MVP run, you can throw in the usual names like Duncan, Nowitzki, LeBron and Bryant, but also keep an eye on Gilbert Arenas (because the Wiz will bounce back this season) and Yao Ming, and/or Tracey McGrady (because the Rockets could finish in the top 3 in the West) with an outside chance at the individual crown.

  • Finally, which one of the New York Knickerbockers do you think will be the first to get in trouble with the law, get injured, or say inane things that makes Cletus Del Roy Spuckler from The Simpsons look like a genius? Apparently, the New York players understand that they are in the media capital of the world, because they are really, really good at making headlines. Just look at what went down in Knickerbocker-land this Summer. Discount sneaker salesman Stephon Marbury decreed that dogfighting, unlike curling and pairs figure skating for example, is a legitimate sport, the 6’ 11” and 285 pound Eddie Curry managed to be robbed in his own home (you would think that he could spend some of the millions of dollars he consumes, like so many hamburgers, on a solid security system, or security guards for that matter) and the leader of them all, good ol’ Isaiah Thomas, mapped out meeting minders all over his Outlook Calendar for the court dates stemming from being accused of sexually harassing a former co-worker. What’s next? During the 2007-2008 season, watch for at least two-third of the Knicks starting lineup to spontaneously combust during the third quarter of a game against the new-look Boston Celtics.

Which brings us back to Boston and Los Angeles. Mitch Kup-cake and Jim Buss, you’re on watch. Not just by Laker fans, but by fans of the NBA in general. You hold in your hands the ability to not only keep Kobe Bryant in "Purple and Gold", but to make the Lakers matter again. NBA fans want another Lakers vs. Celtics rivalry. Despite his bumbling ways, Danny Ainge held up his end of the burden. Now make it happen on your end, because players coming back from injury DOES NOT count as a personnel move.

Umm, we apologize for the Lakers diatribe. Where were we again?

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