With the dawn of a new basketball season upon us and the NBA arsenal left safely at home, we here at the Serious Tip (we of course meaning myself, my 80s-era Yoda action figure, and a Pedro Martinez mini-bobblehead) have decided to list 44 things about the NBA - the good, the bad, the underrated, and the overrated - or one for every million dollars the Knicks are over the luxury tax threshold.
1) Scoring - Although the early 90's Knicks will always be my team, I know not everyone likes 70-58 games all the time. And if I wanted to always watch low-scoring, fundamental, defensive-minded basketball with little to no dunking, I would watch the WNBA.
2) Defensive-minded stoppers - With the above-mentioned rise in offense, the defensive stopper has become an absolute must for any team with championship aspirations. Who doesn't enjoy watching superstars cry to officials when players like Bruce Bowen, Shane Battier, and DeShawn Stevenson cover them like wallpaper and prevent their shot? Oh yeah, there is no more crying to the official.
3) Shaq - The return of the most likable player in sports is always a good thing. Although he is getting a bit long in the tooth, the Big Aristotle is still good for a decent game, a good quote, and presents for underpriviledged kids come Christmas.
4) LeBron - Before last season I was quick to say how overrated LeBron James was. Sure he could dunk and make the occasional great pass, but where was the shot? Then I watched his performance in last year's playoffs. Ladies and gentlemen, when the day comes and I tell my future kids how good Michael Jordan was, I have to tell them about LeBron as well. He is that good.
5) The Return of Ernie Johnson - I was going to call this "More Charles Barkley," but Ernie Johnson's return from cancer treatment should be one of the biggest stories in the NBA world. Welcome back Ernie, no one is better suited to moderate the madness of the TNT NBA studio.
6) Rookies - As exciting as Brandon Roy, Adam Morrison and the other 1st round class of 2006 will be, the FSU alum in me says when Grizzles rookie Alexander Johnson wants to dunk, get out of the way. And of course, there is Renaldo Balkman.
7) More Ron-Ron - Ron Artest is back. And his album My World just "dropped". According to Slam Magazine, it is "the greatest album in the history of rapping basketball players". Wow.
8) The Revenge of Darko Milic - No longer stifled under Ben Wallace's afro, Darko is free to show why he was drafted above Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony. Beware Darko's Dungeon in the Magic Kingdom.
9) Globalization - When I was a kid, I learned how to say Spanish names by listening to baseball announcers say names like Bonilla and Gutierrez. With the infusion of basketball players from around the globe every game will be a lesson in multilingualism.
10) NBA team dancers - Unlike their NFL cheerleader counterparts, the well-dressed ladies of the NBA work only in the most ideal of climates and are not banished to the sidelines. Although their halftime extravaganzas do include the occasional fat guy.
11) Hip-hop - Although we know how much NBA fans love their acoustic rock and little kids in cowboy hats, hopefully there will be no more John Mellencamp Chevy truck commercials. On a related note, the next time the NBA chooses LeAnn Rimes over Busta Rhymes for the all-star game halftime show, I'm leaving for college hoops.
12) The Knicks - Just talking about it makes me mad. Another season of boycotting my team until Isiah is fired.
13) No more Russ Granik - The cult hero has moved on. With the 1st pick of the post-Granik era, the NBA picks Adam Silver. At least he's not Rolando Balkman.
14) Ball-hoggerism - It's a word, I invented it. To Kobe, A.I., etc, with great offensive ability comes great responsibility - the responsibility to get your teammates involved.
15) The Demise of the Really Big Man - Only Shaq, Yao Ming, and Tim Duncan remain. Until Greg Oden makes his debut.
16) The And 1 Syndrome - No one tried to be like Meadowlark Lemon back in the day. Bring back the bounce and the chest pass.
17) Entourages - Like NBA player's guns, these too are best left at home.
18) The New Ball - David Stern, patron saint of PETA lovers everywhere. I hate it when balls are slippery and slide right out the hand. Oops, I just had a Brian Kichen moment.
19) The Education Poll-tax - The new rule that says you have to be 19 or older to play in the NBA means quite simply even if you are one hell of a baller, if you aren't school-savvy enough to get into college, good luck out there. I hear McDonald's is hiring.
20) Practice - We talkin' about practice. And since practice makes perfect, but nobody's perfect, why practice?
21) The Jordan Rules - By no official count, travelling was called twice last year. And the hop-to-the-basket move? The last time that was a moving violation was 1982. Maybe the refs will be more aggressive now that the players can't yell at them.
22) The Iron Fist of David Stern - While Stalin's social and economic policies laid the foundations for the USSR's emergence as a superpower, the harshness with which he conducted Soviet affairs was subsequently repudiated by his successors in the Communist Party leadership. I'm just sayin'.
23) Dwight Howard - Scary good. And not even old enough to drink yet.
24) Chris Bosh - Along with Howard, should be the KG and Duncan of the next generation. But because he plays in Canada he is relatively unknown outside of basketball circles.
25) Mike Bibby - The best of those offensive-minded Kings' teams of a few years back. And he is better now.
26) Brevin Knight - Finally healthy, 3rd in NBA in assists last year with the Bobcats.
27) Gerald Wallace - Another Bobcat. Shawn Marion lite.
28) Pau Gasol - The Bearded Beast from Memphis. Should be mentioned in conversations with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.
29) Elton Brand - Starting to get noticed, but won't get the credit he deserves because the uniform says Clippers.
30) Mehmet Okur - Tied with Nowitzki for 8th in the league in double-doubles last year. How did that happen?
31) Drew Gooden - Gets no publicity under LeBron's shadow. He's good, although he does need to step it up to get to the next level.
32) Kurt Thomas - Provides defense and stability to Amare's offense. And can play the post.
33) Michael Doleac - Held down because of Shaq and Zo, but his homemade salsa brings all the girls to the yard.
34) Nene - One name, big contract, minimal results. His best move was the little dance he did when he was drafted.
35) Vince Carter - I'm a little biased against people who mail in seasons when they don't want to play for a team, but all he does is score and dunk. Like J.R. Rider.
36) Richard Jefferson - Another scorer. Kinda like Latrell Sprewell in stats. Don't believe the hype. The Nets might win the East but won't get deep in the playoffs.
37) The Knicks - I would say Marbury or Francis or Jared Jeffries, but it is so much easier to lump the whole motley crew together. They won't make the playoffs and Isiah should get fired. But you already knew that.
38) Sebastian Telfair - I liked his movie but his play better improve. Hopefully Doc Rivers can cure him from And 1 Syndrome.
39) Grant Hill - I know I shouldn't pick on the wounded, but isn't it time the Magic stopped pinning their season on Hill? If healthy, he should be coming off the bench, not starting.
40) Carlos Boozer - One good season in Cleveland and a big contract in Utah does not a good player make. He's an average power forward, nothing more.
41) Kenyon Martin - Poor man's Carlos Boozer. And he went 2 for 931 in the Finals a few years ago, yet people still bring up John Starks's poor performance.
42) Lamar Odom - All-round o.k., but needs to step it up to be Pippen to Kobe's Michael.
43) Zydrunas Ilgauskas - He's big, gets a few points - pretty much the second coming of Rik Smits. But does that make him an All-Star? LeBron needs a new center. Maybe they can put Wise LeBron at the 5, Business LeBron at the 4, Kid LeBron at the point, and keep Larry Hughes.
44) Don Nelson - Yes, I put a coach on my list. A lot of people are talking about the great job he is going to do with the Warriors. He has been a coach for quite a while and never won a championship. Don't expect him to win it all in Golden State. I don't think he will stay there as long as he stayed in Dallas either. This will be more like his stop with the post-Riley, pre-Van Gundy Knicks.
Well, there you have it. No killer, no filler. Just me, Yoda, and Bobblehead Pedro's views on Nuba League 2006-2007. Took me almost as long to write as it will take the Knicks to get under the salary cap. Hope you enjoy.