Opening night in the Association
Yes, I know what I said at the end of my David Stern screed in yesterday's paper, about being "as unhappy at the start of a new season as I have been in years.'' And yes, I'm bleary-eyed this morning from watching TNT's preseason special, then the Spurs-Blazers game with the banner being unveiled, then the Lakers-Rockets game with Kobe getting booed in intros at Staples Center, then cheered after scoring a couple of baskets in a row. Sad. I was more willing to deny myself of sleep for the first night of eight months of NBA basketball than I was for the World Series. Also, as you surely noticed, more willing to blog about this than about that. Sorry.
It would be dishonorable for me to make predictions now, with the season already started, so I won't. Too bad, because, I must remind you, I picked the two Finals teams last season. But no way do I get that lucky two years in a row. You wouldn't buy who I was picking anyway: Dallas Mavericks vs. ... Washington Wizards. Both of whom should have at least made their conference finals last season, except that the Mavs choked and the two most significant players on the Wizards got hurt right before the playoffs. Nope, I know you're still not buying it. That's why I'm not predicting it, OK?
Anyway, about opening night and more:
* Excellent bounce-back by Stern on the Knicks situation. It's as if he re-read his comments from recent weeks -- or finally grasped the fallout from them -- and said to himself, "I really didn't come strong enough on it, did I?''
* Give Magic Johnson a lot of credit, for going on the "Inside the NBA'' set while the Kobe-trade talk was reaching new heights, and not only not backing off of any questions about it, but also taking shots at both Kobe and the team he serves as a VP. His point: Kobe blew it four years ago by not mending fences with Shaq, and the Lakers blew it by giving in to him. Not exactly news, but pretty important for Magic to say it.
* Not too much pressure on Andrew Bynum, now known dually as the guy the Lakers wouldn't trade for Jason Kidd, and as the guy Kobe gutted via cameraphone for those two fans last summer. (Yes, the actual video is no longer available, and neither is the site the two "entrepreneurs'' created to market it.) So, with so many eyes on him last night, another damning video surfaces on TNT -- of Phil Jackson chewing him out for arriving a half-hour late. Maybe, just maybe, Kobe wasn't exactly wrong about this.
* The Spurs, the most monochromatic champion of all time in any sport, even managed to put on a dull ring ceremony. Including a perfunctory thank-you speech to the fans from Tim Duncan. Not that he wasn't sincere or heartfelt, it was just ... completely devoid of expression or emotion. It was him, and the franchise, to a T. Oddly enough, the game was hit-or-miss until tipoff on being sold out, which instantly brings Duncan's declaration that these are "the best fans in the NBA'' into doubt.
* On the other hand, the Spurs managed to sign Duncan to a cap-friendly $40 million extension. How can you not appreciate that?
* Portland's going to be good one day, but not this year, and not just because they don't have Greg Oden. They're really talented, are very well coached, and can probably hang with teams most of every game and in the standings for decent stretches. But they're so young, and they aren't even close to meshing yet. They gave the Spurs a nice run. Amazingly, they don't seem to miss Zach Randolph or Steve Francis at all.
* Speaking of Franchise: chained to the Houston bench last night. I continue to repeat: What happened to his career?
* The Rockets, with Rick Adelman coaching them and with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady playing the way they did, have a chance to make a deep run into the playoffs. The Lakers, as they stand right now, have no chance.
* Available only on League Pass and on upper-tier sports packages: a real rout by Utah at Golden State. The Warriors were barely a .500 team last year, after all, insane playoff run and all. Still, a respectable showing considering that an earthquake struck late in the first quarter.
* Tonight, Wizards open at Indiana. Even better, on Friday they're the home-opening guest of The Cover Boys, aka The Consensus East Champs, aka the Celtics. Meanwhile, tonight the Cavaliers raise their "We Disgraced the 2007 NBA Finals'' banner.
* In closing, a choice between Kobe and A-Rod for who is currently the biggest pig in professional sports.