With only 25 percent of its sales pitch on the table, I already know what the NBA can give me for the 2008-2009 season.
I want the Boston Celtics vs. the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.
Don't even bother gift-wrapping this baby. I'll take it as is. To expedite this process, don't even waste time completing the regular season or pressing the formality of three preliminary playoff rounds. While I vigorously root for the NBA to succeed, we're at a stage in the proceedings that often generates few compelling story lines.
Well, I do admit being slightly interested in Phoenix Suns star Amare Stoudemire, who â€” through his frequent ambivalence toward defense and rebounding â€” is this close to turning an entire city against him.
And Mike D'Antoni continues his quest to make the NBA more than a place where post-up and isolation happens. Unfortunately, Mike and the New York Knicks recently pulled the plug on chasing the playoffs this season. I certainly can't argue against throwing the contracts and assorted baggage of their top two scorers overboard, but D'Antoni lacks the bullets necessary to prevent his seven-seconds-or-less style from being little more than an offensive bonanza for the opponent of the day.
For the record, the bullet reference was not a swipe at the off-court history of former Knick Zach Randolph.
Anyway, I also will be interested in following the evolution of Lawrence Frank's flirtation with the dribble-drive motion offense in New Jersey, where Nets point guard Devin Harris is using these swell driving lanes to become a star.
The free-agent class of 2010 was interesting to ponder (for about five minutes), but please wake Charles Barkley and me in another year or so before we resume chatter on that topic.
So, with slight apologies to anyone in Cleveland, Orlando, Denver, Portland or San Antonio (yeah, the Spurs have a strong heartbeat again), I'm ready to watch the Lakers take another big swing at the Celtics.
While the Celtics didn't exactly enjoy a hayride through the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, their history and defending-champ status is â€” in my opinion â€” more engaging than watching a LeBron James-Kobe Bryant cage match.
With their Pack-line defense getting even better at not over-helping (help defense ... what a concept!) against dribble penetration, the 19-2 Celtics have the NBA's top defensive rating. Point guard Rajon Rondo continues to mature, enabling Boston to rank ninth in offensive efficiency and third in assists.
The Lakers, who check in at 16-2, recently inspired Coach Phil Jackson to declare them incapable of winning 70 times this regular season. That seems like code for Phil suggesting that a consistent commitment to defense and resumption of sharing the ball on offense could enable the Lakers to do just that.Phil's public and very strategic tweaking included a favorable review of his team's offensive prowess, which was translated into a rebuke of the Laker defense. But while the Lakers have surrendered 100 or more points four times in their last five games, they still have a defensive rating of third in the NBA.
It also should be noted that with Kobe operating on the "stun" setting, the Lakers' offense is No. 2 in efficiency.
The numbers certainly suggest the Celtics and Lakers are worthy of this desire to witness a rematch of last year's Finals showdown. But the games within the game provide excellent fodder for contemplation.
We obviously can go with the return of Lakers center Andrew Bynum, whose presence (in theory) could prevent Phil's team from being pushed around in the lane by Celtics center Kendrick Perkins and power sub Leon Powe. Another imagination-stoking confrontation would be Bryant's showdown with Paul Pierce, who â€” after outplaying Kobe in the Finals last season â€” announced his claiming of the title of World's Best Player.
Can the mature, teamwork-oriented Kobe resist the temptation to shove Pierce back to Bryant's perception of a hierarchal reality? Can Paul absorb another seeming mortal wound and emerge from the locker room moments later to lead the Celtics to glory?
Will the Celtics' compact, lane-choking defense be superior to the model Jackson has attempted to incorporate this season?
With so much of the actual regular season getting in the way, we may never find out. Potential sabotage to my Lakers-Celtics plan is everywhere.
The Lakers' roll toward greatness could be interrupted if Lamar Odom â€”one of my favorite people in the NBA â€” decides his lowered minutes and statistical production is irreconcilable with the monetary goals in his upcoming free agency. Maybe Lamar will be traded and the subsequent acquisition is a nightmare in terms of team chemistry on and off the court.
Will Bynum remain healthy though the season and early playoff rounds? Can Kobe continue to embrace an almost four-point drop in his per-game scoring average?
Will Boston's loss of free agent James Posey become more of the weakness many critics had hoped to see when the playoffs begin? Can Kevin Garnett's insistence on constant tenacity â€” including practice and shoot-a-rounds â€” inspire his teammates through another multi-month run?
Can LeBron and Mo Williams make enough jump shots to send the Celtics home early?
Will the New Orleans Hornets figure out that losing Jannero Pargo shouldn't be that big of a deal? Will Roger Mason Jr. become a fourth option seemingly needed for San Antonio's Big Three to make another TV ratings-slashing run?
After years of running out of steam, will the Phoenix Suns learn how to walk through the Western Conference playoffs?
With almost seven more months separating us from a dream rematch, there's ample time for anything to occur.
But if 2009 is where Lakers vs. Celtics happens, the exaggerated postponement just might be worthwhile.
Edited by magicbalala245, December 08, 2008 - 11:25 PM.