Tag:Orlando Magic
Posted on: January 5, 2012 4:49 pm
 

Report: Warriors would be willing to rent Howard

Posted by Royce Young

The clock is ticking on Dwight Howard.

The March 15 trade deadline is coming and the Magic don't yet appear ready to make a decision on their superstar center. Keep him and you run the risk of watching him walk away for nothing. Trade him and you give up on any chance you had of ever keeping him.

But the Magic kind of are handcuffed. Howard has four teams he's interested in signing an extension with: the Nets, Lakers, Mavericks and Magic. Which means general manager Otis Smith is limited to negotiating with three teams, two of which don't exactly have a plethora of enticing trade assets.

You might think that rules out 26 other teams from competing for Howard at the deadline, but one team, the Golden State Warriors, are willing to consider renting Howard. Via Yahoo! Sports:
Golden State management is willing to take Howard as a one-season “rental,” with the hope of selling him on signing a long-term deal before he enters free agency this summer. Like most teams, Golden State has inquired with Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith, but the Magic have yet to commit to aggressively pursuing a trade of Howard.
The Warriors also pursued Chris Paul, but had the same issues of not being able to be certain he'd commit long-term. But they're willing to risk it with Howard. They have quality young assets in Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis that they can dangle, plus would probably be willing and able to absorb Hedo Turkoglu's remaining $34 million contract.

The Warriors thinking is that if they could just get Howard into the Bay Area with marketing and money opportunities aplenty, that they would be able to convince him to stay long-term. Issue is with Howard, he wants a situation he can win and probably play with a fellow star. And is Golden State that type of place?

But owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are determined to alter the culture and perception of the Warriors and if they have to take a chance on giving up a lot to get Howard for three months, so be it. It's an honorable approach by owners committed to their passionate, rabid fanbase. Hard not to appreciate that.

The Warriors probably could put together the best package outside of the Lakers offering Andrew Bynum. Curry or Ellis are terrific young talents and something the Magic would be happy to get back. The big question is the status of Curry's surgically repaired ankle though, which could hold things up.

As March 15 approaches, the more teams are going to get into the mix. The Magic haven't even decided on trading Howard yet, but if they do, the Warriors will be waiting for a phone call.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 1:23 pm
 

Paxson: 'Marketing' is keeping Howard from Bulls

Posted by Royce Young

A couple days ago, there was the odd but very believable story that Dwight Howard might not be considering the Chicago Bulls because of his Adidas shoe contract. Really kind of wakes you up to the power sponsorships and shoe companies have in the league.

Just to pile on to that, Bulls VP of Basketball Operations basically acknowledged that's the case, but without saying Howard's name of course. Via CSN Chicago:
"We don't want to talk about other teams' players but obviously there are situations out there that you know that you have to look at," VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN radio WMVP-AM 1000 Wednesday. "The other part of it is you hope those types of players want to come here. Sometimes, at least what you hear from agents, it doesn't have anything to do with basketball. It has more to do with marketing and whatnot. Those are the things you don't have under control when an agent gets involved and doesn't even want to talk to you. All you do is keep trying, and we certainly will."
"Marketing and whatnot" could be what is keeping Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose from forming the most terrifying duo in the NBA. You think Blake Griffin and CP3 is good? Howard and Rose would be... well, it would be something.

But because Rose is Adidas' poster boy and might even being signing a lifelong contract, the company doesn't want its two biggest names in the same town. It's an understandable thing from a business standpoint, but a shocking reality at what kind of outside factors weigh in.

Like Paxson said, you just keep trying. The Bulls have some decent assets for the Magic, but it has to be about what the player wants. In free agency, you can be sure these things are a part of their decision. Market size, the city, the fans, the organization, family -- all of it's a part. So it's not surprise that Howard's shoe deal might be the biggest factor keeping him from the Bulls. It sounds ridiculous, but it's just part of the game.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 11:49 am
Edited on: December 30, 2011 11:53 am
 

Report: Magic pursuing 'rental' team for Howard

By Matt Moore

Dwight Howard is expected to be traded to the perfect spot. It'll be a team he wants to play for, since that team is the only kind he'll re-sign with this summer in free agency. It has to be a contender, or potential contender (as in the case of the Nets with Deron Williams), and a major market so he can get all the media and commercial love he desires. That's pretty clear. But the Orlando Sentinel reports that the Magic are pursuing another option. The rental game. 

 
The Magic are talking to more teams than the ones on Dwight Howard's wish list.

They will listen to anybody who is willing to take a risk and give up a few good men for Howard if he can lead them to the NBA Finals as a temp.

It's another reason why they will wait until the March 15 deadline to make a deal for Howard, after he's played 44 games in Orlando. His new team would land him for 22 games, plus the postseason.

Far-fetched?

Absolutely. Sounds more like a means to put pressure on the teams that Howard has approved (Nets, Mavericks, Lakers).

But the Magic think some teams might take a flyer, hoping they can convince Howard to re-sign with them.
via Orlando Magic: Magic to explore renting out Dwight Howard - OrlandoSentinel.com.

No one would be crazy enough to do this, right? To actually give up assets in order to nab Howard for 22 games and the playoffs, before he likely leaves? Well, there should be. That's right. I'm advocating insanity. That's how I roll.

Two factors to consider if you're in the hunt for a Dwight rental.

1. You have to move contracts that have considerable money behind them. The reason being, if Dwight doesn't re-sign, you don't want to be left without the pieces you traded, without Dwight, and a large salary situation. You're basically angling for a rebuilding. Part of the complication here is the Magic will want to dump Hedo Turkoglu or other components with salary burden. But the Magic have to know that to get back more talent like they reportedly want, they can't dump salary too in a rental situation. So why would the trading team risk rebuilding? 

2.  Because the odds of a title is worth it. Consider the Pacers. If you're Larry Bird, what are you really trying to accomplish, honestly? You want to make a good strong showing in the playoffs, maybe get hot and uspet some folks on the way to the eastern Conference Finals, to try and be in position to make one big move to get you over the hump and win the title in a wacky year. You know you're not going to be able to compete with Miami, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Chicago etc. every year. You're hoping to pull off a Pistons-esque title. The same goes for any team considering a rental. So if you're angling for one title, anyway, why not take your shot with the best defensive player in the league, an MVP candidate for 22 games and the playoffs. 

That's the reasoning. You also have to establish how long it will take you to get back to being decent, since you have to factor how much winning a title will bring you financially versus two-to-three years of rebuilding will hurt you. And then you have to measure that against your actual odds of winning the title this season.

All of this leads to the reality that the chances are not good. You're asking GM's and owners to take a phenomenal risk with a devastating loss if they miss, and the payoff might not even be that good. Are several years of second round appearances better financially than a title and two years of lottery dwelling?

There's no list available of teams that might be interested, but here are five teams who should consider making the jump.  

Indiana Pacers: As I mentioned earlier, the Pacers should be a team willing to make the move. Larry Bird doesn't want to do this forever. Getting Dwight gives them a chance to win the title this season, instead of waiting for years and years and years potentially without any payoff. The Pacers are deep enough to offer the Magic an option plan. Darren Collison or George Hill, Danny Granger or Paul George, and Roy Hibbert (youth, talent) vs. Jeff Foster (expiring contract, veteran experience).  That's a great package and still leaves the Pacers with whoever the Magic don't take, along with David West for scoring. 

Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks have been involved in talks this week with the Magic anyway, according to ESPN. Offering to move Josh Smith or Al Horford along with Joe Johnson puts the Magic in a great position to keep making the playoffs. The Hawks would have Jeff Teague, Kirk Hinrich, and either Smith or Horford to pair with Howard to try and make a run. With Howard having been born in Atlanta, it's got some pull and a good run might talk him into it. Not really, but sure. The biggest objection from Magic fans is that the Magic would never take on Joe Johnson's contract. But this is Otis Smith who took on Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu in one year to try and win. Meanwhile, Johnson is an All-Star, and still is an above-average-to-pretty-good player at both ends without injury issues. 

Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies may wind up moving Rudy Gay anyway if this season keeps up and they have to make a move. The Grizzlies need frontcourt depth. So get Dwight Howard! Genius! OK,it's a long shot, but if moving Gay, Sam Young or O.J. Mayo, and either Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph brings in Howard, that could make the  Grizzlies the best team in the West. They'd have defense and the best low-post-scoring combo in the league. Memphis is unlikely to be able to stay in contention for several years. Why not take the shot now?

Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers have youth, Andre Igoudala as a centerpiece, and a full compliment of picks to add in. The team would be mortgaging the long-term value they've been angling for, but coach Doug Collins has also said that eventually they want to aim to bring in a star. Make a run with Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, and Howard, and if it doesn't work out, move towards the future.

Portland Trail Blazers: Paul Allen wants to avoid the luxury tax. What better way to do that than by trading for Howard's expiring contract? OK, kidding aside, the Blazers are so loaded, they can move Wesley Matthews and either LaMarcus Aldridge or Gerald Wallace. The remaining lineup would be good enough to challenge for the West.

Are any of these teams going to take the risk? No. Because this is not a league of gambling like this. The repercussions for failure would be catastrophic. But if a team really was all about winning a title, renting Howard for 22 games and the playoffs would be the boldest move possible.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 3:04 pm
 

NEWS: Dwight Howard and Deron Williams eat dinner

Posted by Royce Young

Dwight Howard needs to get traded soon. Because otherwise, we're all going to have to take note of his eating habits, among other things.

Via the Star Ledger, Howard told reporters that he had dinner in New Jersey with Deron Williams when the Magic came to town to play the Nets. Why is that at all something we should care about? Well, because of that whole thing where Williams wants Howard to come to the Nets and the whole thing about Howard maybe wanting to go to the Nets.

You're telling me Williams and Howard didn't talk about that stuff over some food? They didn't talk about their future plans? That's why this is a story, despite it completely not being a story. If that makes sense.

Howard tried to downplay it though.

"Since he’s been in the league, every time he comes to town, we go eat dinner and just kick it,'' Howard said after the Magic's shootaround. "We’ve been friends since the Olympics, and so we go out to eat, have a bite.

"[Williams] wanted to be silly and joke about it, but I said 'No, this is not the time. Let’s just go eat, and then go have a good game against each other tomorrow.' That’s it," Howard said.

Williams on the other hand wasn't sure how to handle the situation. When asked, he answered, "I don't even know -- I really don't."

Understandable. I could see how you could be unsure of whether or not you had dinner with a 6-11 man with giant shoulders the night before.

If you recall though, there was quite the stink about a supposed meeting the Nets had with Howard right before the end of the lockout. The Magic reportedly were going to file tampering charges, but Howard adamently denied the report, as well as the Nets. Dinner among friends is legal though.

I guess the big question is, what did they have? If it was steaks, that's a Brooklyn thing, right? Seafood would hint towards Orlando, no? We need these details.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 12:13 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 1:53 am
 

Report: Magic don't want to rebuild after Howard



By Matt Moore


There is a fairly established path to rebuilding. When a team is forced to start over, the way back to contention is to trade the biggest star along with a salary dump for as many young players and draft picks as possible. Then you rebuild through the draft using the picks you acquired and your own picks, which are high on account of you being terrible. This is a fairly proven formula, with the Blazers having had success before injuries wrecked them, and the Thunder currently a Finals contender with that model.

Which is why today's report from ESPN.com should be concerning for Magic's fans and is confusing for the rest of us. From ESPN:
Sources familiar with Orlando's thinking say that a picture of what the Magic will ultimately expect in return for their anchor has indeed begun to emerge, telling ESPN.com this week that Orlando would not hold out for youth and draft picks as the league-owned New Orleans Hornets were ordered to do in the Chris Paul sweepstakes. The Magic, sources say, would instead prefer to bring back multiple established veterans who can keep the team competitive.

Reason being: Orlando has moved into a new arena last season and has a 85-year-old owner in Rich De Vos. Sources say De Vos has little interest in starting over/rebuilding, as evidenced by the recent decisions to trade for Glen "Big Baby" Davis and re-sign Jason Richardson even though Howard's future is so murky.
via What will Magic want for Dwight? - TrueHoop Blog - ESPN. So the Magic are looking at that well-established path back to contention... and wanting to do the exact opposite. The problem is that the Magic would not and cannot get anything back that is comparable to Howard, so they'd be looking at either an aging star, or someone overpaid. Which means problems for the Magic in a few years when those contracts get larger and the talent isn't there. It seems like a cash grab for tickets in order to make casual fans go to games instead of really building towards a championship which perennial season ticket holders and long-term fans would want.

There are several repercussions if this report is accurate.

1. It puts the Lakers squarely in the lead for Howard. If you want established All-Star-level players, the Lakers have them. A package of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, which the Lakers insist they will not send for Howard, would fit this bill exactly. Even if they won't trade those two for Howard directly, the best scenario might be to bring Houston back into talks similar to what they were working on in the vetoed Chris Paul trade. That could net the Lakers a suitable replacement for Gasol in terms of firepower, provide Orlando with an All-Star power forward (Gasol) and the Rockets a franchise center of the future. Either way, if it's stars the Magic wants, the Lakers have them.

2. It severely damages the Nets' approach. Already missing their best trade chip in Brook Lopez due to a broken bone in the foot, the Nets have reportedly been dangling as many as five first-round picks for Howard. If the Magic want legitimate players, the Nets don't have any outside of Deron Williams. Their next best chip, Kris Humphries, cannot be traded until March due to his contract. If the Magic are serious about continuing to contend for the playoffs, the Nets can kiss their chances at Howard goodbye. In related news, the Nets were wiped off the map by the Hawks last night.

3. Speaking of the Hawks, ESPN says the Hawks have made offers regarding a possible trade of Joe Johnson and Josh Smith for Howard. This would be a genius move by Atlanta, even if Howard doesn't re-commit to signing there. You make one playoff run, clear Joe Johnson's cap-killing contract, and if Howard decides to leave, you've got cap space to rebuild with behind Jeff Teague and Al Horford. The immediate question mark is if the Magic would be willing to take on Joe Johnson's contract. Remember, if the Hawks want All-Stars, they have to take on big contracts, and Johnson's a multiple-time All-Star, even if his notoriety isn't on part with that accomplishment. Also keep in mind that Otis Smith traded for Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu last season. Big bad contracts do not scare the man. Still, the Haws are clearly on the outside of this race.

The Magic should be following the same pattern New Orleans did with the trade it actually pulled off. There's a reason the league vetoed the Chris Paul trade offer form the Lakers, and it wasn't because they all of a sudden hate their most popular team. It's because adding big contracts for lesser stars only compounds your situation and sticks you in NBA purgatory: late playoff seeds leading to first-round exits and no traction. That hurts every facet, competitiveness, ticket sales, enthusiasm, morale eventually. But if this is what the Magic want, they're in a position to wait until the trade deadline to get as much as they can. They don't want to start over, they just want to stay in the conversation.
Posted on: December 26, 2011 12:36 pm
 

Adidas sponsorship keeping Howard from Chicago?

Posted by Royce Young

There are a lot of things that go on in the NBA behind closed doors. A lot of things that happen for reasons fans and media don't understand, but simply because that's the way the business operates. Things like one-sided trades made only for money reasons. Things like why players pick certain cities to sign, things like why a player was waived or traded.

Which brings us to Dwight Howard. He's got a couple cities he's considering for his impending free agency next year or that he'd like to be traded to. Los Angeles (with the Lakers), New Jersey, Dallas or Orlando. But as many have asked, why not Chicago? Why aren't the Bulls, with MVP Derrick Rose and a solid pile of assets, in the running?

Could it just be the shoes? Via Yahoo Sports:

And as one high-ranking sneaker executive says, “Adidas simply cannot have its two signature players on the same team in the same market. … Derrick is the face of that market, owns that market, and Adidas can’t possibly have maximum bang for its buck with Dwight there.

“It serves Adidas no purpose. They need them as rivals in competing markets.”

Howard knows this, too. He has an Adidas renewal on deck in the next year, and Los Angeles and Brooklyn guarantee him maximum money.

I want to say that's ridiculous. I want to dismiss that. But that's real life. In the end, the NBA is a business and while all this talk from players about going somewhere where they can win championships sounds good, what rules the day is money and fame. At least for a lot of players. I don't doubt some players truly want that championship and the money and global notoriety come after (Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Rose come to mind), but things like sneaker deals do have a ton of influence.

Rose has a new Adidas contract coming soon which could make him the highest paid sneaker endorser ever. So it does make some sense that Adidas might push Howard to look places other than Chicago.

But think about this. It's crazy. Howard could team with Rose for a long period of time, giving the Bulls maybe the best 1-2 combo in basketball. And yet, potentially, some shoes are stopping that from happening.

That's the NBA for you.
Posted on: December 25, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 12:42 am
 

Theory and Proof: Perk handles Dwight Howard

Posted by Royce Young



OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Thunder topped the Magic 97-89 behind 30 points from Kevin Durant. But that wasn't the story. It was the way the Thunder handled Orlando on both ends, specifically Dwight Howard.

THE THEORY: The new Kendrick Perkins makes Oklahoma City a title contender

THE PROOF: Dwight Howard: 4-12 from the field, 11 points

Perkins shed 32 pounds in the offseason and re-discovered a bit of his old athleticism and agility. But the question for Oklahoma City was if the new Perkins was going to make that much of a difference. Would a quicker, lighter, more agile Perk mean the Thunder could dominate the paint.

OKC's opener against Orlando came down to an essential, simple matchup: Perkins got the better of Dwight Howard. Howard was just 4-12 for 11 points, but here's the kicker: Howard shot just eight free throws.

That's one major improvement from Perkins because of his new body: He doesn't foul. He can move his feet much better and doesn't have to use his hands to keep someone in front of him. It's a big reason Howard only took eight free throws. Perk was quick enough to stop Howard off the dribble.

When Howard can’t roll inside, it completely limits the Magic’s inside-out game, which is what they’re basically designed to do. Orlando started the game 8-9 but went through a 5-30 stretch after that and shot just 37 percent for the game.

“I thought Perk was really good staying between Dwight and the basket,” Scott Brooks said. “That’s what you want to do.”

Perkins basically played Howard by always keep a body pressed against him, staying home and giving him a 12-foot jumper if he wanted it. Howard tried it three times, hitting one. After that, Howard never went near the paint without Perkins' barrel chest right up against him. That’s how he's going to play everyone and that’s why he can change the Thunder defensively almost all on his own.

At one point after Perkins was a little hot after getting tangled with Howard. Ref Bill Kennedy told Perk to chill and then even went over and told Brooks to calm Perkins down. Brooks didn’t look at all interested in that.

“We like him a little angry,” Brooks said. “We like him mad at his opponent.”

Perkins did pick up his first technical of the season though by scuffling with Howard later. That’s No. 1 for Perk, and because of the shortened season, he’s got 12 more until he faces a suspension.

“He told me he’d slow it down when he got to nine,” Brooks said. “I’m trying to talk him into six.”

While Perkins has a new body, he's still got the same old attitude. He's rough, mean and wants to play nasty. With that kind of interior defense, the Lakers won't be able to overpower OKC with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Nene won't give the Thunder big fits. Memphis's duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol shouldn't take down the Thunder inside.

By process of elimination, if that's what the new Perkins is going to do for the Thunder defense, that's championship caliber stuff.

Posted on: December 24, 2011 1:19 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2011 10:03 pm
 

The 12 Things of NBA Christmas



by Matt Moore


GAMES. Sweet merciful games.

The wait is over. Ol' Saint Nick has shimmied down the Christmas tree and that means the NBA has returned to our lives, kicking off with five games Sunday and a righteous quintuple it is. Boston tests an unsteady bench against the new-look Knicks (same old Knicks, except for a good rookie and one big exception down low). The Heat must watch the Mavericks' banner raised and then go toe-to-toe with the team that ousted them in the Finals. The Lakers will try to prove that Lamar Odom wasn't the whole team, Kobe Bryant's wrist is fine, and they are still the most dominant franchise in the West against the MVP Derek Rose and the league's best defense. The Magic try to pretend everything's fine while polishing silverware on the Titanic against a Western Conference favorite, the Oklahoma City Thunder. And finally Lob City premiers against the Golden State Warriors, who are looking for something new under Mark Jackson.

It's going to be fun. So on the night before Christmas, we're hear to stuff the stockings with what you need to know for each game. Here are 12 Things of NBA Christmas.

1. "Later on we'll conspire, while we lay by the fire..."

The Heat failed. And everyone pointed and laughed. After all the pomp and circumstance, the unbelievably arrogant approach to their formation and celebration thereof, followed by a somehow more outrageous backlash against three basketball players who decided to play for the same team through free agency, the Heat were left broken and tarnished by a Mavericks team which lacked neither star power nor confidence. Not that you'd know it by the storylines drawn out. Still, the Heat took a nasty fall. But during the summer and all the way through the lockout, we hardly heard a thing from them. A few appearances from Dwyane Wade. Some exhibition appearances by LeBron James. Chris Bosh went to ESPN for a day. That was it. Nothing outrageous, no outlandish proclamations or denials of the fact they had their tails kicked. Now they return to the scene of the crime, where everything started to turn for them on a warm June night in Dallas, when the series shifted on the back of their inability to stop Dirk Nowitzki.

When the Heat stumbled last season, the idea was that James, Wade, and Bosh needed more time together, and with their teammates. That chemistry couldn't be built in a day, and that even if they struggled early, it would come. Yet even in advancing to the Finals, there were so many moments where the Heat never looked like they truly belonged together, like they were thrust together without a core concept. We're still waiting for a Heat team that, for lack of a better term, makes sense. A mega-scoring, high-rebound-rate, gamble-defending shooting guard. A prolific do-it-all and rarely do enough, lock-down defender, brilliant vision in a Hummer-like body small forward. And a whisper-thin, mid-range joltin', defensively adequate power forward. It's just an odd combination. They had their trial season, and they fell only two games short of a title. But still short. This is their chance to show the world they've learned from their mistakes and that it was a rare combination of factors that led to their demise against the Mavs. With Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea gone, this isn't the same Dallas team that had the formula to stop what no one else could. The Heat can make a statement Sunday.

But we've heard that before.

2. "He's making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice..."

All this Lakers drama. You know what's lost in the talk of the Odom trade, of Kobe's wrist, of the Chris Paul trade that wasn't (and should never have been)? Derrick Rose is coming to Los Angeles and he's bringing all the fury a dissed MVP can bring. None of us have him repeating. Very few experts do. But Rose is consistently the most devastating single player in professional basketball and he's going up against a team still starting Derek Fisher, with Steve Blake backing him up. Blake defended Chris Paul admirably in two preseason games against the Clippers. But Rose's explosiveness is the stuff of legend. Plus, once he gets past his primary defender, there will be no Andrew Bynum, serving five games for being naughty in the worst (clubbing J.J. Barae in last year's playoffs in an all-time disgusting move). Rose instead will face Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts at the rim. McBob is a good player and will pay well or the Lakers. But he ain't Bynum.

Rose sees no reason why he can't repeat as MVP. And after an offseason hearing about everyone else and how LeBron left coal in his ECF stocking by shutting him down, Rose likely has some motivation. I'm reminded of a line from "The Dark Knight." "Turn it off. He doesn't want to talk to us. God help whoever he does want to talk to."

3. "Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la LOB, la la la la"

Tis the season to be jolly in ... Clipper-land? When has that ever been the case? But Sunday means the debut of Lob City (pause for collective groan for people who quickly tire of memes and/or Lakers fans) against the Warriors. Is the pressure too high? Will they be trolled by Yuletide carols? I don't know what that means but it fits with the song; roll with it. The Clippers are facing a team that has been one of the worst defensively over the past decade or so. Mark Jackson is furiously trying to instill a new attitude, but this isn't a great place to start. Kwame Brown is a better interior defender than Andris Biedrins, but isn't good enough to defend two places at once. With Stephen Curry on a bum kneee, the Oop Outlet could be open on Christmas Day. All eyes will be on the Clippers to see if the newest superteam will live up to the billing or disappoint like so many others have. No pressure, there, Blake.

4. "I'll have a Blue Christmas without you..."

The Lakers need Andrew Bnyum. This is the first time you can really say that. They won the title in 2009 without him. They could have won the title in 2010 without him. He was the only thing really keeping them afloat for much of the last half of 2011. And now with Kobe Bryant injured for their opener vs. Chicago, Bynum's injury is even more in focus. It's his overwhelming presence on both ends that makes the Lakers more nasty and tougher to stop. Kobe Bryant can pull this game out, even with a torn ligament in his wrist. He's done it before, he'll do it again. But the Lakers are going to be sorely missing the young stud that holds the key to their future ... one way or another.

5. "All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names, (LIKE PINOCHIO!)..."

I know, I know, I should have spit that one out for the Clippers. But this is also can refer to the Knicks, who for years have been dismissed first as a team terrible in every phase but recently because of their defense. But then one foggy (I don't know if it'll be foggy Saturday night in New York or not), Christmas Eve, Mike D'Antoni came to say, "Tyson Chandler, with your defense so bright, won't you dominate inside against a Celtics team which is paper thin inside tonight?"

The questions are going to continue about the Knicks. Chandler has been with the Knicks for a whole ... week. It may not work at all. But he's got a chance to help redefine what defense for the Knicks means, alongside Mike Woodson. And if things go right, the Knicks could go down in history. OK, let's just start with beating the Celtics in the opener.

6. "Please come home for Christmas."

So say Magic fans to Dwight Howard.

7. "And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun, the near and the dear one, the old and the young"

The Celtics still have the talent, right? I mean, this is a league where older teams win. Dominate, even. Most of the champions are veteran groups. Yes, the Celtics are ... old. But Rajon Rondo's not. Brandon Bass isn't. They have some legs left. And it's not as many months. So on Sunday against the Knicks, it's not like the Celtics are going to be able to compete with the Knicks. In fact, in most of their games against the Knicks under Mike D'Antoni, the Celtics have used the same tactic employed by the Spurs against the Suns for years: They ran them out of the building. The Celtics actually are a great fast-break team, with Allen sprinting to the corner, Rondo running the break and Pierce a brilliant cherry picker.

So even if they're old, this is still likely a better overall team than the Knicks. But this first game could be relevant in showing us how big a hill both teams have to climb, and maybe who'll take early control of the division.

8. "The fire is slowly dying, and my dear, we're still, goodbye-ing. But as long as you love me so, let it snow..."

The Mavericks are going to fade off into the sunset. This is not a young team. Dirk Nowitkzi's game and condition should allow him to play until he's, oh, 60. But think about Petyon Manning. How quickly did this guy, who should have played at a high level into his 40s, see his career change? Granted, different sort of contact sport and all, my point is just that we never know when things change. And if Dirk does suffer any sort of decline because of age, the Mavericks dip too. Jason Kidd is nearly middle-aged, Jason Terry has a lot of frequent flier miles on him and Lamar Odom's no spring chicken. But on Sunday, they get to watch the banner raised in American Airlines, legitimizing Dirk's career and establishing the franchise as world champs. Yeah, it's getting cold, but the world will still love this team for their run last year and they've got enough in them to make another crack at it. Let it snow.

9. "Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh."

Are the Bulls going to be a one-horse open sleigh, or do they have some help? Will Rip Hamilton help the Bulls space the floor against the Lakers? Can Carlos Bozer score on Josh McRoberts after struggling against McBob's Indiana Pacers last season? Can the Bulls score consistently? We know the defense will be there, but the Bulls wanted a scoring upgrade this season. The Lakers, even without Bynum and Odom, are going to be a great test of how far they've come. The Lakers will score. How much the Bulls score will determine if they start the season in a rush or a slide.

10. "Me, I want a hula-hoop..."

In this scenario, Mark Jackson is Alvin and the hula-hoop is a healthy-enough-to-play Stephen Curry. And a defense. And some consistent shooting. And smart basketball. It's a big hula-hoop.

11. "All I want for Christmas is you..."

Blake Griffin got the best Christmas gift possible. The Dunk-o-meter may get broken this season. The Clippers get to test out their new toy Sunday night. Chris Paul will make Blake Griffin the best player he can be. And that is terrifying for the rest of the league.

12. "And the boys of the NYPD choir were singing "Galway Bay," and the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day."

That's from a song about crushed dreams but sticking together because you've built your lives around one another. And after a vicious lockout that divided players, owners, fans and media, games are back. We're stuck with each other. Let's tip it off. Happy Holidays.
 
 
 
 
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