It feels like the NBA has ushered in a whole new generation of talent. My interest level is at an all-time high. I actually embraced the NBA season before the College Basketball season, which might've been a first. I spent all Christmas day giddily watching NBA games. I've been checking scores semi-frequently. I've even launched a semi-serious hip hop career in my free time (sort of a cross between Joaquin Phoenix and Tamba Hali). To prove my point about how interesting the NBA is right now, I'm gonna give you 7 teams that I would watch if they were on TV right now (that's 8 more than 5 years ago) in order of interest level. I'll let the Dirka Dirka handle the segue....
1. Miami Heat - I couldn't have hated The Decision more. I felt like it was everything wrong with sports all bundled up into a nice, neat, hourlong special. But, I was analyzing The Decision for what it was, instead of examining the long-term effects of it. And the reality is, it created an incredible amount of interest in the NBA. It was a publicity machine. I've come full circle, and am ready to admit that the Miami Heat are awesome, and I'm not even sure if I'm cheering for them yet or not. But, the point is, that I care, something I haven't said about the NBA regular season in, well, forever? The NBA needed a villain, and the Heat have definitely become that, getting vigorously boo'd in every opposing arena. LeDarth gets boo'd essentially every time he touches the ball. They're selling out every arena they visit, while, ironically, not even selling out their own home games. Miami has no fans. We are literally seeing a team that everybody is rooting against. I became intrigued when they failed so spectacularly at the beginning of the season, curious about how that was possible. It's almost like we're witnessing a study on how a team comprised of 3 super-duper stars and little else could fair in the league. This stuff is usually reserved for video games. You had better believe I'll be glued to the TV for every minute of their playoff run, which is sure to be heavily scrutinized every step of the way.
2. Dallas Mavericks - It's meant to say a lot that I put "my team" second on this list. But to be fair, I cheer for the Mavs for two reasons, and two reasons only: Das Man and Mark Cuban. Dallas seems to be in the same situation they've been in the past few years, thriving in the regular season, while nobody believes they could compete with the Lakers in the West. They added Tyson Chandler this year, who is the perfect yeoman to Dirk's Jesus-like qualities. With Brendan Haywood coming off the bench, they finally have the bigs to protect Dirk around the rim (miss DeSagana Diop more then you can believe). I feel like Dirk has one more serious run in him before he fades off into the scheisse. I feel like it's my responsibility to inform everyone that Dirk Nowitzki now ranks 22nd on the NBA's all-time scoring list. If he averages 75 games for the next 5 years at a clip of 20 points per game (all plausible), that would be enough for #5 ALL TIME!! (although, would probably be 6th behind Kobe Bryant).
3. New York Knicks - Yes! Relevance! The biggest, baddest, jew in all the city has brought ball back to the Gaaaaahden. And I ain't talkin' about D'Antoni, although I do give him most of the credit. I was raised on early 90's Knicks teams with the likes of Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, John Starks, and Chris Dudley. I love watching D'Antoni teams get out and run (starring Raymond Felton, who you might remember from UNC in 2005ish, as Steve Nash, and Amar'e Qwangzilla as, well, Amar'e Stoudemire). I love that I share a name with a professional sports team. I love Ronny Turiaf's style. And I love that playoff games are returning to Madison Square Garden, the best basketball venue in the world.
4. Los Angeles Lakers - The former villains of the NBA (I think) almost feel lost in the shuffle now with the Miami Heat in town (3,000 miles away). Don't worry though, they're still the easiest team for me to hate. Kobe Bryant is the lone remaining relevant ranger from the "We must replace Michael Jordan with the next superstar NOW, it doesn't matter if he's as good (Kobe), not nearly as good (Grant Hill), or even good at all (Vince Carter)" phase (Ironically, it may have been LeBron that ended all the unnecessary pedestals for unproven players by bringing an all new skill set to the table). Oh yea, the Lakers: They've entered their annual "Are the Lakers in trouble?" January swoon. They remain one of the best teams so long as they care, although the Christmas day beatdown handed to them by the Heat looms large.
5. Chicago Bulls - This is the team to keep your eye on for the future. With Derrick Rose and Joakim Phoenix Noah still playing under rookie contracts, they have tons of money to play with, even with Carlos Boozer signed to a near max-deal. It's all about how they choose to spend that money though. They already have the alpha dogg of the team in D-Rose (who is most experts' choice for MVP as of now). These same experts also say it's not wise to threaten the alpha dogg with another. He needs more of a Lambda Lambda Lambda sidekick. Timing is the other issue. If spent wisely, say in a mid-season trade this year, the Bulls could vault into the upper-tier of NBA teams.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder - The youngest player with the biggest takeover potential (that is to say, take over the NBA) is still Kevin Durant, who's almost under the radar now with all the other young stars taking over the league. They're still loaded with a young nucleus of talent that have a good chance to produce multiple championships down the line (although changing their colors to black and yellow would quicken the process). Just wait until Blake Griffin decides to leave the Clippers and joins the Thunder along with Bill Self.
7. Los Angeles Clippers - Yeaaaaa buddy. The biggest one man show in the NBA right now is Blake Griffin. I was so impressed watching Griffin in his first game of the season that I texted my buddy, The Leftover Taco, that he was "The best post player in the NBA right now" a whooping 10 minutes into his career. This was obviously meant with some hyperbole, but looking around the league, I'm not sure that it's untrue. Who's better? Dwight Howard? On defense, yea. Tim Duncan? 3 years ago, yea. The Bearded Clam, Pau Gasol? Maybe, if you don't mind an STD or two. The Dirk? Nicht er ist nicht eine post player. There you have it, case closed. You must find time to watch The EarthBlake! Blake Superior! Griffin Impossible! To be fair, those were all stolen, but this one is all mine, The Gingerbread Man, unh!
Take that witchuuuuuu,