For The Love Of Basketball And Why This NBA Season Matters

Chris Paul

With the return of a new NBA season, love is in the air. Even if said love brings its fair share of frustrations, heartaches and hurdles. The love of basketball is just like any other abnormal relationship. Because as we all know, a "normal relationship" is the greatest oxymoron ever written.

I've spoken on them before, but the names of this older couple evade me. And perhaps such is the way life intended for it to be. The couple, whom I met at a wedding over a year ago, reminded me of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. They had been married for decades, became parents and later grandparents. The natural order of things in life, I guess. We began speaking at the reception long after the speeches had been delivered and food served. Couples married for 50+ years are rare, and it's the reason why I love picking their brains. How do you make something work that's been alive as long as yourself? How do you not go crazy waking up to the same face? What if the other person asks for your last sip of juice? Most importantly, what the hell is love?

What I took to heart most from Ossie and Ruby was this: Love will piss you off. Love will make a person contemplate the limits of his or her sanity. But love remains the most unique gift attainable because, in its most honest form, love never relinquishes an opportunity to teach you a lesson about yourself.

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Basketball season tips off today. A week ago, a buddy of mine asked what story line I was anticipating the most. The answer was simple — all of them. Every single last one.

I'll enjoy watching a league that is as talented across the board with superstars, all-stars and players who are fun to watch as it's been in any time of the past 20 years. We're in a talent boom. The worst thing we, as fans, can do is not appreciate what's in front our eyes in order to continue to praise the legends of yesteryear. It's actually possible to do both. The generational beef between basketball fans — the ones with no regard for the rich history of the game and the ones who go out of their way to blast any and everything associated with today's product — has to stop. Nothing gets accomplished. It's the basketball debate equivalent of a government shutdown.

I'll enjoy watching  Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and the Pelicans because they're still in the "young, fun and still trying to learn their way around" phase. In other words, they're the NBA version of a college freshman.

I'll enjoy watching a full season of a revamped Golden State Warriors squad. The shooting garners all the press (as it should), but it's their fast-break offense that could literally morph Oracle Arena into the Roman Coliseum. Steph Curry leading the break with Klay Thompson on one wing and Andre Iguodala on the other preparing for some sort of aerial theatric that would've given him a dunk contest crown in 2006, and David Lee trailing … that's nuts. I'll also enjoy watching Curry earn his first All-Star berth, which should really be his second.

Believe it or not, I'll enjoy watch teams tank for multiple reasons. One, because placing bets when teams actually decide to mail it in is yet another meaningless topic to wager money on. Two, hearing uncomfortable interviews with coaches and executives as they try to convince us all they're not tanking is bound to produce a laugh or 12. Plus, it'll be like hearing someone try to sound convincing that they aren't sleeping with someone when everyone knows they are. And three, because of the innovative promotional packages teams like the Sixers, Magic and Suns come up with to draw people in to their respective arenas. When the highlight of a team's season may not actually take place during the season, we're bound for fireworks. All the wrong fireworks. I'm here for that.

I'll enjoy watching the Pistons because I've got to see a Brandon Jennings/Josh Smith combination work with my own two eyes to halfway believe it.

I'll enjoy watching the first relevant season in Cleveland basketball in four years. There's a sense of excitement around the team this year with one of the more young and promising rosters in the league. No one on the planet knows what to expect from Andrew Bynum, not even Andrew Bynum. But there's always Kyrie Irving. That alone is enough to play the "Kyrie Crossover Drinking Game" with.

I'll enjoy watching the Knicks despite being anything but a Knicks fan. Carmelo's going to be asked the free-agency question roughly 10,569 times this season. Plus, #KnicksFansTwitter is the single greatest basketball Twitter known to man because of the contrasting styles and personalities. Also, if there isn't at least a YouTube vlog series of J.R. and Chris Smith this year, this Knicks season is a total waste of time, regardless if hell freezes over and they win a championship.

I'll enjoy watching DeMarcus Cousins come into his own this year. He'll average 20-10 on a Kings team that is loaded with sneaky talent, including Ben McLemore, who'll challenge for Rookie of the Year. Why I'm so enamored with the Kings, who won't make the playoffs in 2013-2014, the same way I am with eating cereal at night, I'll never know. But the best-case scenario is Boogie Cousins makes the All-Star team this year, begins to convince fans everywhere he is the best big man in basketball and sheds the "loose cannon" image that has become associated with him. Then he becomes the fifth member of Uncle Drew's team going by the character "Bosco."

I'll enjoy watching Gordon Hayward swiftly rise up the White Guy Power Rankings currently dominated by Kevin Love and Chandler Parsons. He's going to make a half-court shot to win a game this year to make things right in the universe. Book it.

adam-silver-david-stern1

I'll enjoy seeing the balance of power shift from David Stern to Adam Silver. That being said, for as many WTF-worthy moments as Stern may have done to piss us all off in some regard, never forget how popular, lucrative and influential the NBA is today. A good chunk of that credit falls in the lap of Emperor Stern.

I'll enjoy watching the Clippers because Chris Paul is now the leader on a bona fide Finals contender. Another second-round bounce with this squad might cause Donald Sterling to go full-fledged Donald Sterling. And you never go full Donald Sterling under any circumstances. Also, thanks to Doc Rivers, the Clips are almost a lock for the best out-of-timeout plays.

I'll enjoy watching Mike Miller to see if he gives a damn about the regular season this year.

I'll enjoy watching a legit top-heavy Eastern Conference.

I'll enjoy watching JaVale McGee, both for actually good basketball plays and "Shaqtin' A Fool" moments.

I'll enjoy this year's trade deadline because last year's was so uneventful. Pending things go south in Brian Shaw's first year in Denver — which may or may not mean anything because everyone will just get high and order from one of Peyton Manning's Papa Johns anyway — it wouldn't be a surprise to see Kenneth Faried on the trading block. The same goes for big names like Zach Randolph (if last year's rumors repeat themselves), Greg Monroe or even Pau Gasol if this Lakers season goes to hell with gasoline boxers on.

I'll thoroughly enjoy having Inside The NBA back on TV because there truly is no equivalent to any show of its ilk. NBA Inside Stuff, too.

I'll enjoy watching Houston. I'll also enjoy retweeting the party fliers James Harden and Dwight Howard will inevitably host at one of the city's finest gentlemen's clubs. Speaking of Dwight, he's long last in a city he chose willingly and, by all accounts, is focused on at least beginning the public relations rehabilitation process that's going to take more than a Defensive Player of the Year award to rectify. So many factors shape into how this season pans out for Houston such as:  Harden and Howard's cohesiveness, Lin's maturity as a point guard (Patrick Beverley's as well), the Asik/Howard twin-tower dynamic (which really doesn't seem like it could work closing games out given both being putrid free throw shooters at best) and a litany of other issues. All that being said, by a show of hands, who wants to see this team clicking on all cylinders come April and May?

I'll enjoy watching the Dallas Mavericks put up points in bunches with Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Vince Carter. Who exactly is going to play defense is a totally different question.

I'll enjoy watching many of the future Hall of Famers a la Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen and what's left of Steve Nash while I still can. All personal feelings aside, this harks back to the earlier statement. Appreciate what we're watching while it's still here to actually do so. No one says you have to be fan of any of the names mentioned, but respect does carry some sort of weight. Many of those guys began playing while most of us were in middle school or high school. Every relevant life event we've gone through, those guys have been around — getting a driver's license, going to prom, downloading Napster, enlisting in the service, graduation, first love, first kid, first marriage, first hangover, first time buying weed off that weird guy your friend told you about. They've been there, and pretty soon we're going to be looking at a league without those names on the back of jerseys.

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics

I'll enjoy watching watching players like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo return from injury. The game's a lot better off when they're in work clothes. I'll also enjoy hopefully watching Greg Oden remain healthy because if any player in the league deserves at least one fair shot to prove to himself traveling through the depths of personal hells are worth it to live out a dream, it's Oden.

I'll enjoy watching the Washington Wizards hopefully turn the corner from bottom dweller to impending first-round playoff exit. I'm willing to sacrifice cheap tickets for actual meaningful playoff basketball in D.C. The Wiz's trade for Marcin Gortat was, all things considered, a stellar last-minute pickup for Washington and one giving them another option on offense aside from John Wall, Bradley Beal and NeNe. The Wiz Kids are far from perfect, but they're a long way removed from the botched Andray Blatche triple-double days. Plus, there's the tidbit of securing potentially $15 million in cap space next summer, too.

I'll enjoy watching Kevin Durant. Why? Because he's Kevin Durant. And he's Kevin Durant. Seriously, is a reason actually needed? He's coming off a 50-40-90 season, and nothing says he can't replicate the feat aside from historic purposes. He's nearing the prime of his career, scary as all outdoors considering he may not even be there yet. And while the championship window isn't as egregiously wide as it was two years ago due to more teams out West making a charge, the window of opportunity remains. We're talking of a 6'10", 6'11" (hell, he may be seven feet for all we know) swingman who can masquerade as anything from point guard to power forward capable of leading the league in scoring in the most effortless of fashions. He's going to have to keep Oklahoma City within arm's reach of the apex of the Western Conference during Westbrook's absence. And he's going to do so with a scoring barrage that'll captivate the league while making his most powerful claim for MVP. Speaking of MVP, however ...

I'll enjoy watching LeBron James and the Miami Heat. At the pinnacle of his powers — or what's believed to be the pinnacle — LeBron's the best player the NBA has seen since a 1993 Michael Jordan. The argument could be made he's the best player at every position. And while he isn't, the fact an argument can be made speaks volumes. Three-peats are not meant to be easy. And if Miami is to waltz in to its fourth consecutive June with the opportunity to do so, the Heat are perhaps dealing with their toughest road yet. The Pacers took them within an inch of their lives last year and only improved in the offseason. Brooklyn added familiar faces and familiar bad blood. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose and Chicago yearn for nothing more than to finally beat Miami when it counts.

But Miami's built for challenges. There's nothing this team hasn't seen, felt, experienced or heard since the plan came to fruition with July 2010's probate. They're a well-oiled Maserati, and if Dwyane Wade stays healthy, Chris Bosh continues from an extremely productive preseason and the role players fill their roles, Miami's next to impossible to beat. That's because at the end of the day, the Heat have the league's ultimate trump card in James. A young man chasing history. A young man painting his own Sistine Chapel in real time. A young man completely comfortable in his own skin, yet not with his game (imagine if he shoots 80% from the free throw line). Another MVP trophy and Finals MVP trophy before the transitional age of 30, LeBron will have secured five MVPs, three rings and two Olympic gold medals. Ending next June in identical fashion as the last two for James won't produce the question, "How good is LeBron?" Instead, it's, "Where in the top seven or eight all-time does he belong?"

And lastly, I'll enjoy the fact we're on the cusp of entering the greatest sports portion of the calendar when the NBA, NFL, college football and college basketball are all in progress — in other words, the "sports utopia."

This carried on 700 words longer than previously expected. Three episodes of Modern Family came and went typing this, as did three bottles of water. But such is the case when love powers a passion. Time becomes secondary. It's the feeling of realizing nothing on Earth matters more than what makes you happy. Basketball's always done so, and likely always will.

Ossie and Ruby opened my eyes to that.

6 Replies to “For The Love Of Basketball And Why This NBA Season Matters”

  1. Nice read. Except I dunno about DeMarcus...put simply, I don't think dude has the skills to become best big man in the league. His FG% is horrid for a big, and he doesn't make up for it with his defense. But that's the great thing about NBA, it can suddenly "click" for players out of nowhere, and maybe it will yet for him...

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