Your Highly Essential TUP NBA Preview
Have you noticed that Bill Simmons hasn't used his patented "as one of only 13 NBA fans..." line for a while now? It's because he can't. The time when the NBA couldn't exist without MJ seems like so long ago. The NBA is a powerhouse of a sports league now, and, as crazy as this may sound, I actually think Simmons helped play a role in that. Not a LeBron-level role, of course, but I'd guess he has done more for the league than Pops Mensah-Bonsu ever will.
Though he's probably slipped a little through the years, I still contend that Simmons is a great basketball writer. I'm obviously not the only one who thinks this. Simmons' popularity is downright mind-blowing to me. Just look at the Twitter stats. Simmons has over 945,000 followers. By comparison, Jay Cutler has 28,000. JC's favorite musician has 98,000. I have 170.
It's weird if you've been reading him as long as I have, but Simmons' influence really does run deep at this point. Perhaps where this is most evident is in the birth of so many other great basketball writers on the Internet.
People who think sports blogs are only good for dick jokes and drunk photos haven't seen the basketball side of this monster yet. Tom Ziller is great. Bethlehem Shoals is great. True Hoop is great. In this post-FJM world, I don't think there's a better sports blog around than Ball Don't Lie. Noted Bulls fan Kelly Dwyer has Simmons-level knowledge, and J.E. Skeets is on top of everything else. There's a ton of great team-specific blogs, too. Brian really does a wonderful job covering the 76ers at Depressed Fan. Blog-a-Bull is pretty good, and so are the rest of the SB Nation NBA sites.
So, yes, this is my theory: the NBA owes a bit of it's newfound popularity to Internet writers. We cover it better than any other league, any other sport. As such, it's time to fulfill my role and churn out an NBA preview. If you are looking for a straight up Bulls preview, well, I think I pretty much covered everything here and here. We'll have plenty of more Bulls stuff in the upcoming months. That is, unless we catch Patrick Kane at a Taylor Swift concert sometime soon. Oh wait.
Most Polarizing PlayerThe whiniest whiner in the league. As if that's not enough, I present to you with the picture above (HOW IS THAT NOT A FLAGRANT!?). Let's not forget about the whole "throwing Kirk Hinrich into the scores table" incident, either. If KG is the crown punk-bitch of the NBA, Rondo is his apprentice. The only problem is that he isn't James Posey. Rondo's game is so ill that I'm forced to respect it.
What he did in the playoffs against Rose and the Bulls last season was damn near mortifying. Dude's a quadruple-double waiting to happen. He's a human highlights reel. I love watching his game, but part of me (most of me) hates him.
Player Most Likely to Inspire Tanking
That man, incoming Kentucky freshman John Wall, is a point guard. How good is he? Most people think he's better than Derrick Rose was at the same age. If he was able to turn pro out of high school, some people think he would have been the No. 1 pick, ahead of Blake Griffin.
We don't get a sure-fire No. 1 picks in the NBA Draft every year. Sometimes we get prospects like Oden and Durant, Rose and Beasley. But we're also stuck with guys like Andrew Bogut and Andrea Bargnani once in a while. This isn't a Bogut-Bargnani year. This is a Oden-Durant-Rose year. John Wall is that good. Just look at those 360's. This guy is going to dominate college basketball this season. Just watch. Every bad team in the league should start losing on purpose around February to try to get a chance at him.
Shot-In-the-Dark Guess on Team Most Likely to Surprise
Dirk is sixth best player in the NBA. Shawn Marion is back on a relevant team. For all the shit everyone talks about J-Kidd, he's still very capable. Rick Carlisle is a pretty good coach, too. Only thing they have going against them is Jose Juan Barea. I hate him.
Most Interesting Team
Check out the roster: Every guy on the team is the same height. No one taller than 6'9. Seriously. I have no idea if this is going to work or not, but it's damn intriguing.
Do We Like LeBron?
Sure do. I'll give the floor to Stompy on this one. Last night on Twitter, he wrote:
"I grew up with Jordan, so this feels like sacrilege, but *every time* I watch LeBron, I can't help but think he's already the best ever."
I'm not going that far, but I'll take this in another direction: Every time I watch LeBron, I feel as if he could be the greatest athlete in the world at any sport. Best boxer in the world. Best NFL wide receiver. An All-Pro defensive end. A ball-hawking free safety. The greatest soccer goalie the world has ever seen. He could probably pick any Olympic sport and dominate that, too. Not out of the blue, of course. I mean if chose these sports over basketball when he was younger and worked his whole life at them. The man is just incredible. Which brings us to....
NBA Finals. Who Ya Got?
Cavs-Lakers.Sports owe it to us, don't they? We need to see an intergalactic death battle between Kobe and LeBron for a title before it's too late. It's all set up for this year: Kobster's great years are fleeting and he's just two rings away from Jordan, while LeBron is desperately seeking his first for a city he may leave that hasn't won a sports title in 50+ years. This needs to happen. I think it will.