2014 / 2015 NBA 赛季前瞻:五个断言/5 SURE THINGS FOR THE 2014/2015 NBA SEASON

5SURETHINGS_TEMP

Written/Illustrated by Rick Kang
Interpreted by Jin Tao

I’m not a gambler. I don’t even know how odds work. Don’t get me wrong – I love winning money (and winning, generally) as much as the next person. It’s the losing of money that I can’t abide.

But I do understand the concept of over/under – and since Grantland actually originated my initial column idea (every team’s League Pass rankings) I thought I’d turn to another tried-and-true sports column cliché instead – making irrationally bold proclamations without any fear of reprisal.

But really, more than anything, it’s just an excuse to write about five “sure” things I’ll be looking forward to this NBA season.

< Con’t after the Chinese below >

我不是一个赌徒,我甚至不知道如何计算胜率。可别误会 – 跟所有的凡夫俗子一样,我当然抵抗不了赢钱的诱惑(基本上只要能赢就行),我只是输不起钱。

可大于/小于(Over/Under)的概念我还是懂的,实际我写专栏的想法还是源于Grantland网站(球队的联赛排名预测),但我想我最终会演变成为体育专栏的又一老套写手  — 做出一些毫无根据大胆狂妄不怕拍砖的主观臆测。

不过说真的,我的最终目的还是为了抒发一些我对于这个NBA赛季所期待的5件事情而已,而“预测”不过是一种写作手法。

1. 这季Derrick Rose比Dwyane Wade场次要多:大于/小于 70

我的预测:Rose大于; Wade小于
不论是NBA或是别的体育项目 –选手们往往都苦于难以寻觅一个响亮的花名。曾几何时,出现过超酷的“冰人”(George Gervin),“J博士”(Julius Irving),“波士顿扼杀者”(Andrew Toney)还有“魔术师” Johnson(废话)。即使是上世纪90年代,我们也有过“答案”(Allen Iverson),“真相”(Paul Pierce),“矩阵”(Shawn Marion)和“耶稣夏特沃斯”(Ray Allen)。

再看看现在那些自封的弱爆的绰号,比如“黑曼巴”(确定么Kobe,它似乎有那么点摸不着头脑  – 返回正题…)还有“酷拽P”(老实说比起本人,我更喜欢他的绰号(Iggy Azalea的私人玩物Nick Young))。

其实这多少要怨Tracy McGrady,谁叫他普及(或者说发明)了“名字首字母加上姓氏第一音节”这种称谓。 于是就有了T-Mac,A-Rod,J-Lo,D-Wade和Who-Care(好吧最后一个是我编的)。继而又引申出另一种变种而平庸的称谓“首字母加上球衣号”,于是又有了CP3和D12。

其结果是,当年轻的Derrick Rose打进了2008年的联赛后,我们决定赏给他一个还颇有想象力的封号“D-Rose”。我的朋友Ray发明的则是“Young Power”(有时简称为“Young P”或“Young Peezy”) -是他强大暴扣与控卫突破的完美写照。 另外一层意思是说虽然螺丝还“年轻”,然而由于由于膝盖伤无缘于两个赛季,他还有多少储备的“能量”不得而知。

而Dwyane Wade,从层面上来看,他和Young P有不少共同之处:都具有强大的爆发力同时依靠体能来增强他们的进攻。他们都来自于芝加哥地区(都打过NACC终四轮)。他们一人有着强大的履历,另一人则是正在充实履历。他们都有各自的亮点。

为何我觉得今年Rose在参与场数上会超越Wade?正如我所说前者还年轻,后者曾有过辉煌。如果Wade在赛季前退休,他仍然是名人堂的一员。Young Power还没有走到这一步。但我认为在他退役之前会由Young Power成为Tru Power(真正有力)。

2. 克利夫兰骑士队的总胜局:大于/小于 55

我的预测:恰好55
让我们先整理一下思路。首先,套用新闻人Grant Napear的一句名言(萨克拉门托国王队的赛事主播) – “如果你不喜欢LeBron James,你就是不喜欢NBA!”到底不喜欢什么?如果是爆破性攻击,那你值得拥有他。如果是令人惊人的传球,那你值得拥有他。防守?那你值得拥有他。除非你不在乎球员的球技,那他可能真的不对你的口味。

也许你会建议我不要再抱LeBron的大腿了 – 我懂你意思。但我要说的是:如果你还在为“The Decision”电视节目而憎恨LeBron,我只能奉劝你一句:早点释怀吧。真的,该干嘛干嘛吧。他跟克利夫兰都已经放下了,你为什么还放不下?

“The Decision”(决定)是否真的是一个错误的决定呢?答案显而易见。他后悔吗?请参阅前面的答案。他的离开是错的吗?绝对不是。LeBron又没有犯罪(即便是他伤了成千上万克利夫兰粉丝的玻璃心可能有点令人遗憾),但终究他的命运由他自己掌控 – 当然对于认为运动员是那些亿万富翁老板车前卒的人们来说就另当辩论了。

Lebron是世界顶尖的球员(以及运动员),与另一位世界排名前十的球员,比他更年轻,比他之前的热浪队小伙伴胜筹更高(从战略角度来说),以及他这一代人气最高的年轻球员(Kyrie “Uncle Drew” Irving)同处一队。我敢说这次不光是比赛振奋人心,团队阵容也是十分强大呢。足以让他们赢得55场(至少)比赛。

3.今年的新人秀有可能是有史以来第四伟大的(继1984年(Jordan,Barkley,Stockton),1996年(AI,Kobe,Nash)和2003年(LeBron,Wade,Bosh)): 75%

我的预测:必须的
我知道我可能把第三位的门槛降低了一点3  – 但坦白说,是因为这一届不会有能够废黜任何以上提到的人物。如果2014届想超越2003届,Andrew Wiggins必须卖力狂炒,Jabari在NBA必须具备雪城时代Carmelo那样的地位,而Dante Exum, Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, Marcus Smart或 Aaron Gordon的任何一个都必须具备成为一线队的全明星出色表现。我并没有冒犯这众优秀人才的意思,只是至少就以上几点来说,我认为不具备超越的可能而已。

但不管怎么说,能够让我认真思考以上几点超越的可能性,就足以说明这一届的潜能有多强大  – 我很期待这一级所展现的综合实力。保守起见我就这么说吧:这届(可能)于2003年更强的一个机有机会的话,还可能与1996年的实力有一拼(Iverson, Kobe, Ray Allen, Marcus Camby, ’toine Walker, Nash, Stojakovic(第二轮!),Marbury(我知道有很多批评他的人,但他至少进入了全明星)等等一些)。

另外,我预测,有人会下注这一届的新人队作为选秀榜的最佳队(不过根据最近几年的结果统计,这不是什么好主意,过去的15年中,只有2012/13 ,2008/09,2005/06,2003/04年以及2002/03赛季的新人队上了NBA乐透的最佳队)。

4.洛杉矶湖人队在赛季中出奇交换可能性:50%

我的预测:毋庸置疑(如果不是这个赛季发生,夏季也肯定会)
我没有任何内幕消息或匿名消息源。我在NBA圈子中只认识一个人(他在多伦多猛龙队的母公司MLSE的人力资源部工作) – 而他并没有透露给我关于联名签署的哪怕一丁点风声。

我只是在凭直觉认为湖人会做出一些不可思议的事情,因为出奇招是他们的强项 – 从70年代初的Wilt,80年代的Magic,到20世纪90年代的Kobe和Shaq,再到00年代后期的Pau Gasol。记住 – 要不是D.Stern因为出众表现被拱手送给了同城对手洛杉矶快船队,他们差点就搞定了Chris Paul。

科比的俗世尘嚣阻碍了湖人队的发展前景,略有风吹草动,便会出现一场席位之争…。Nash要退役了(大概),林书豪的合同即将到期,前途无量高价辞职的Jordan Hill,这种种难道还不会激起队里的民愤吗(如Rondo)?这与Rondo本人无关,你明白我的意思吧?

湖人会做出一些对应,因为纵观历史他们通常都会做出对应。当然,D12(额)签约Nash最终并没有成为什么热门 – 但事实是,这两人都在报章杂志上获得了广泛的赞誉(比如这篇杂志上刊登的[http://blog.lakers.com/lakers/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/lakers_si150.jpg])。如果说历史能告诉我们什么,那就是湖人不怕冒险。

5. Russell Westbrook成为联盟的得分王的几率(至少在KD回归前):75%

我的预测:如果KD晚点回来,我会说这是50/50的几率,完毕!
虽然我特别仰慕Kevin Durant,看他打球都会觉得特别有趣,而我看OKC Thunder就会特别无趣。它们的母公司,他们主场情节严重的播音队以及他们损西雅图队的举动实在勾不起我的兴趣。

而Russell Westbrook就特能勾起我的兴致。长久以来我都被两极化的球员吸引,无论是Allen Iverson的惹火烧身(新闻发布会[http://youtu.be/d29VsG35DQM])或Rasheed Wallace(也有一些不可思议的新闻发布会[http://youtu.be/-yXiWZyJL90]) – 而Russ最近则是成为了服饰搭配达人与篮球警察的眼中钉。

最近几年能够匹敌他那亮瞎眼着装的大概也只有是Young Power或 Blake Griffin–其中有个要比他高得多也重得多。不管你是爱他还是恨他,他打球努力,他在乎(有时稍许有点过头了)。虽然我不愿与他共享一个衣柜,但我愿意共享他的热情与对球场热爱。(当然不是OKC雷人的配色)。

WESTBROOK1

关键是,如果你以为Russ之前投球太多的话,那就播放B.T.O.(一首歌)因为你还什么都没看到呢。他那邪恶的疯狂投球画面简直与Stevie Franchise,Allen Iverson和Marbury如出一辙 – 将90年代后期的感性带入了分析驱动的篮球时代,不光可能毁灭推特还让那些魔球理论家自戳双目。对这些种种我只能说个,好!

我的意思是还有谁能成为得分王?的确,Reggie Jackson和 Serge Ibaka都是很好很伟大的NBA球员,但我实在找不出什么更佳选择。Morrow在拉开防守创造机会上还是不错的,但就非赛季的状况来看,要成为冠军争夺候选人还略逊一筹。

所以先预备好一些Michael Jordan时代那种世界级以及使用率超高的互联网新名词吧:肌肉(Russ谐音)Westbrook时代已正式来临!

双重福利:我个人完全偏颇与主观的联赛排名前五 预测

就想我之前说的,这个想法源自于Grantland网站[http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-annual-nba-league-pass-rankings-part-1/] –感谢神奇的联赛通行证我将有幸亲临这季的比赛现场,所以为什么我就不能搞一个我自己的分析排行榜呢。

1. 克里夫兰骑士
如果你还没有注意到话,我个人比较喜欢看LeBron打篮球。除他之外还有德鲁大叔(Kyrie Irving)和Kevin Love,不管他的绰号了。耶稣夏特沃斯与矩阵的替补阵容。深度可能是一个问题(因为上述的两个家伙都老了!)另外Dion Waiters可能是一个潜在的化学杀手,但单是看着LeBron和另外两个超有天赋的球员在他们的巅峰时期并肩作战,就算是以联赛票价去看一场也是值得的。

2. 金州勇士
看着这些家伙打球就像是看着篮球电玩游戏,为什么呢?Steph Curry和Klay Thompson的投篮你只有在NBA 大片中才见过  – 只有在你“热火朝天”的时候。说实话,金州自Monta Ellis和Baron Von Davis以来变成了联盟通行证的热门 – 他们俩从来没有投不出的球,不管蒙没蒙眼。

tumblr_mxcndbBaL21qcmnsoo2_r1_400

再加上新主帅Steve Kerr的助阵,揣摩他的行事作风  – 这支球队是否担得起它的卖力炒作  – 这真是让我们对它的表现更加期待。作为西海岸的团队更加分 – 作为西岸的一员,我能够在深夜骑士比赛过后继续欣赏他们飚球技。

3. 波特兰开拓者
Damian Lillard不再是NBA的无名小卒,这都要归功于他参与了去年所有的全明星活动,以及在季终对阵火箭队所表现出的神勇  – 但这也仅仅以为着其他人刚发现了我一直以来的关注点。除了可以说是联赛最好的前锋LaMarcus Aldridge,开拓者快打节奏与高得分也为赛事增添了几分精彩。

那么,为什么快船队不在第三名呢?你或许认为,毕竟,他们有个充满活力的控球后卫和一个富有爆发力的大前锋。但是请不要忽略了一个极其微小的细节:Chris Paul是个混账。如果他跟你是一队的,这是好事 – 但他不断抢夺与追求犯规的打法(以及他不停游说裁判)真得能让人感觉累心,尤其是在七场赛的过程中。所以去他的快船吧…

这一点再加上我一直是开拓者的粉丝,从Drexler时代到Rasheed-甚至是炼狱一般被称为Jailblazers的时代(你好,Quintel Woods!)。

但半客观来说,这支球队打球很努力,他们打球不遗余力又有良好的化学反应,而实际上你在看他们打球时也可以感觉到。(因为一般一个队伍相处不和睦的时是有迹象可供推理的 – 像Jailblazers时代的开拓者)。

再一次 – 是西海岸的团队!又可多看一场。

4. 孟菲斯灰熊
通过我把灰熊排在了第4,应该不难察觉我的排行有多么的主观。因为实在是没有任何指标显示他们的排名会这么高。从Z-Bo在学校储藏柜藏枪(我瞎掰的)的年代,但我一直是Z-Bo的粉丝,接着到了密歇根州(这是真的) – 在那里与他组队的是Jason Richardson,那真是个神奇的赛季。

再加上狡猾,学院派奇才Marc Gasol,最被低估的控球后卫Mike Conley,自杀式防守Tony “Gucci” Allen以及一些可靠的3分球命中会让这个赛季成为辉煌的一季,甚至可能超越2011年(当他们在季后赛首轮中爆冷马刺)。

5. 芝加哥公牛
有些人可能会震惊OKC 雷霆队没有进前5(或更高) – 但我就是不太热衷于雷霆。Kevin Durant是一个了不起的球员,我也特别欣赏Russell Westbrook莽撞与 孜孜不倦的行事风格,但我基本上从来没有觉得他们会赢(除了对阵马刺)。

他们的主场比赛真的很烂,他们的解说员往往明目张胆大肆抨击客场球队(在这一点上勇士森林狼和活塞的解说员是最好的 – 且不论他们球队本身的素质。快船队也不错)。既然我们已经说到了这个话题,那就来谈谈其它球队的最差的解说员(以及最自我的主场),包括马刺(Sean Elliott真是彻头彻尾的可怕),火箭队和波士顿(Tommy Heinsohn离开之后他们的主场情节收敛多了)。不怕实话实说,开拓者解说员也是相当的自我。

总之,回到了公牛队。我不喜欢Stacey King和Neil Funk的阵容(虽然我很喜欢这个名字),他们还是不错的 – 再加上健康的Young Power,公牛显然是是值得关注的。但是,如果他出任何差池,他们的联赛排名也会一落千丈(取而代之的则是最佳年轻后场:华盛顿魔术师)。

< English Con’t >

1. Derrick Rose plays more games this season than Dwyane Wade (70)

My prediction: Rose goes over; Wade goes under
The NBA – and all sports in general – suffer from a lack of compelling nicknames. Backintheday you had cool shit like “The Iceman” (George Gervin), “Doctor J” (Julius Irving), “The Boston Strangler” (Andrew Toney) and “Magic” Johnson (duh). Even the 90s gave us “The Answer” (Allen Iverson), “The Truth” (Paul Pierce), “The Matrix” (Shawn Marion) and “Jesus Shuttlesworth” (Ray Allen).

But nowdays we have weak-ass self-applied nicknames like “Black Mamba” (seriously, Kobe? Even worse, it seems to have stuck – but I digress…) and “Swaggy P” (though in all honesty, I love the name “Swaggy P” more than the player himself (Iggy Azalea’s plaything Nick Young)).

I blame it all on Tracy McGrady, who popularized (if not invented) the whole “first-initial-first-syllable-surname” thing. T-Mac begat A-Rod, J-Lo, D-Wade and Who-Care (I might have made that last one up). A variant of this uninspired drivel is the whole “initials-and-jersey-number” thing that’s given us CP3 and D12, among others.

As a result, when a young Derrick Rose entered the league in 2008, we decided to bequeath him a nickname that was a little more imaginative that “D-Rose”. My pal Ray came up with “Young Power” (sometimes abbreviated to “Young P” or “Young Peezy”) – the perfect description for his bionic assaults on the rim and opposing point guards’ ankles. This is a roundabout way of saying that while Rose is still “Young”, after two seasons missed due to knee injuries, there’s just no telling how much “Power” he may have left.

And then you’ve got Dwyane Wade. On the surface, he and Young P have a lot in common: both are explosive players who rely on athleticism to fuel their attack. They’re both from the Chicago-land area (and both played in a NCAA Final Four). One has a lengthy résumé; the other was just starting to build his. Both, however, have a lot to prove.

In order to keep Miami in playoff contention, Wade is going to have to be a full-time NBA player for the first time is three years. Since 2011/2012, Wade has averaged 57 games a season. Back then he had the luxury of LeBron. Now there’s no 6’8″, 250-lb, athletic-freak of a security blanket. And even moreso than Rose, he’s got a lot of miles on those creaky knees – and a lot more games played over his career (and a helluva lot more collisions at the rim). He’s played in five NBA Finals; that’s five playoff runs of at least 21 games added to his odometer. So while Wade has more proven experience, I think it’s going to be harder for him to bounce back this year, especially given how broken and busted he looked in last year’s Finals (but then, the Spurs’ll do that to ya).

Sure, he’s got the motivation. But motivation doesn’t mean much to Father Time (ask Steve Nash). So why do I think that Rose will surpass Wade for the number of games played this year? Like I said, one is still young. The other has had his time. If Wade retired before the season began, he’s still a Hall of Famer. Young Power still has to make his case. And I think he’s going to graduate from “Young Power” to “Tru Power” before his career is done.

2. Number of wins for the Cleveland Cavaliers: over/under 55

My prediction: 55 on the nose
Let’s get a couple of things out the way. First, to paraphrase a popular Grant Napear-ism (play-by-play man for the Sacto Kings) – “If you don’t like LeBron James, you don’t like NBA basketball!” What’s not to like? If it’s offensive explosions, he’s your guy. If it’s mind-boggling passes, he’s your guy. Defense? He’s your guy. Unless may you like your basketball players to suck. Then he’s not your guy.

Perhaps you’re suggesting I surgically remove my mouth from ’bron’s nuts – and I get that. But I’ll say this: if you still hate ’bron for “The Decision”, I’ve got three words for you: Get. Over. It. Seriously. Move on with your life. He and the city of Cleveland have. Why can’t you?

Was “The Decision” (the TV show) a terrible decision? Obviously. Does he regret it? See the previous answer. But was he wrong to leave? Not one bit. LeBron didn’t commit any crime (even though breaking the hearts of millions of Clevelanders may seem like one). And he actively controlled his own destiny – which didn’t sit well with those who think athletes should do as they’re told and remain the pawns of billionaire owners.

LeBron’s the best player (and athlete) in the world and he gets to play with another top 10 player, one who’s a lot younger and more integral (from a strategic POV) to winning than his previous Miami cohorts, as well as one of the most exciting young players of his generation (Kyrie “Uncle Drew” Irving). Not only will Cavs games be electrifying; the team will also be purdy darn’d good. Enough to get to 55 wins (at least).

3. Chances this year’s rookie class with be the fourth greatest of all time (behind 1984 (Jordan, Barkley, Stockton), 1996 (AI, Kobe, Nash) and 2003 (LeBron, Wade, Bosh): 75%

My prediction: this is definitely happening
I’m setting the bar a little low with #3, I know – but that’s only because there’s honestly next to no chance that this class will dethrone any of the ones mentioned above. For the class of 214 to leapfrog the class of 2003, Andrew Wiggins would have to exceed the hype; Jabari would have to be Syracuse-era Carmelo in the NBA; and any one of Dante Exum, Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, Marcus Smart or Aaron Gordon would have to be a first-team All-NBA performer. And no offense to this very deep and talented class, but that just ain’t gonna happen. Well, not all those things anyway.

But the mere fact that I could even possibly consider that some of those things could come to pass indicates how much potential this class has – and I’m excited as hell for this class to show its collective stuff. I will say this much: it’s (potentially) deeper than 2003 with a chance to equal the top-to-bottom excellence of 1996 (Iverson, Kobe, Ray Allen, Marcus Camby, ’toine Walker, Nash, Stojakovic (in the second round!), Marbury (I know he’s got his detractors but he at least he made an All-Star team), etc.).

And furthermore, I’ll predict that someone who was drafted outside the lottery will make the All-Rookie team ahead of one of his more ballyhooed draftmates (of course, recent history shows this is by no means a bold claim. Only 2012/13, 2008/09, 2005/06, 2003/04 and 2002/03 were all-lotto NBA All-Rookie First Teamers in the past 15 years).

4. Chances the L.A. Lakers pull off a miraculous trade during the season: 50%

My prediction: a sure thing (if not this season, definitely by the summer)
I don’t have any inside information or unnamed sources. I know one person within NBA basketball circles (he works in HR for MLSE, which owns the Toronto Raptors) – and he didn’t tell me this or even faintly co-sign the possibility.

I’m just going on the hunch that the Lakers will make something unthinkable happen because that’s just what the Lakers seem to do – from Wilt in the early 70s to Magic in the 80s to Kobe and Shaq in the 90s to Pau Gasol in the late 2000s. Remember – they also pretty much had Chris Paul until D. Stern pulled a power move and gifted him to their crosstown rivals the L.A. Clippers instead.

And while there’s all this hubbub that Kobe is what’s holding the Lakers back, with just a couple sweet moves they could be battling it out for… a playoff spot. Nash is retiring (probably), Jeremy Lin’s contract is expiring; packaged with picks and an expensively resigned Jordan Hill, you’re telling me they couldn’t grab some team’s disgruntled star (such as Rondo)? Not that the Rondo example makes sense per sé, but you catch my drift…

The Lakers will make stuff happen because the Lakers traditionally make stuff happen. Sure, that D12 (ugh) trade and Nash signing didn’t ultimately turn out so hot – but the fact remains that both were widely lauded on paper (and in magazines like this one [http://blog.lakers.com/lakers/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/lakers_si150.jpg]). And if history has told us anything, it’s that the Lakers aren’t afraid to take chances.

5.Chances Russell Westbrook will lead the league in scoring (at least until KD is back): 75%

My prediction: If KD comes back later rather than sooner, I’d say it’s 50/50 he leads the L is scoring, period!
While I respect the hell out of Kevin Durant and he’s admittedly a fun player to watch, I just can’t root for the OKC Thunder. Their owner, their homerific broadcasting team and their jacking of Seattle’s team just turn me off.

But someone who does turn me on is Russell Westbrook. I’ve long been drawn to polarizing players, whether it’s Allen Iverson’s inflammatory play (and press conferences [http://youtu.be/d29VsG35DQM]) or Rasheed Wallace (who had some amazing press conferences [http://youtu.be/-yXiWZyJL90] of his own) – and Russ is just the latest to be hated by closet-racists and basketball’s sanctity police.

The only player of recent vintage to match his destructive forays to the rack are Young Power or Blake Griffin – and one of those guys has six inches and at least 50 pounds on him. But love him or loathe him, he plays hard and he cares (sometimes a li’l too much). While I wouldn’t want to share a wardrobe with the man, I do share his passion and his love of on-court Js (but not in those horrid OKC colorways).

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The point here is, if you thought Russ shot too much before, cue up the B.T.O. cuz you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. He’s gonna jack shots like the unholy offspring of Stevie Franchise, Allen Iverson and Marbury – bringing a late-90s gunning sensibility to the analytics-driven nerd-sketball era that might just destroy Twitter and make Moneyballers’ eyes bleed. To all of which I say, good!

I mean who the hell else is gonna score the ball? Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka are good-to-great NBA players, but I don’t exactly see a wealth of other options sitting on the bench. Morrow was a decent signing for a floor-spacer, but as far as off-season moves go, it’s pretty weak for a so-called title contender.

So get ready for some Michael Jordan-era usage rates and some world-class tut-tutting from Internet dweebs: the Muscle Westbrook Era is officially upon us!

DOUBLE-BONUS: My Own Totally Biased Top 5 League Pass Rankings

Like I mentioned, I stole this idea from Grantland [http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-annual-nba-league-pass-rankings-part-1/] – but there’s no reason why I can’t post my own rankings and “rationale” for the teams I’ll be watching this season thanks to the magic of League Pass.

1. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
In case you hadn’t noticed, I somewhat like how LeBron plays basketball. And on top of that there’s Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) and whatever Kevin Love’s “Uncle Drew” moniker is. And you’ve even got Jesus Shuttlesworth and the Matrix coming off the bench. Depth might be an issue (the two afore-mentioned chaps are old!) and Dion Waiters could be a chemistry-killer in waiting, but watching LeBron play with two other supremely talented players at the peak of their powers is worth the price of League Pass alone.

2. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Watching these guys play is like watching a video game in real life. Why? Steph Curry and Klay Thompson take (and make) shots you’d only put up in NBA Jam – and only then when you’re “on fire”. To be honest, G-State has been a League Pass fave since the days of Monta Ellis and “Blind Man’s Bluff” Baron Von Davis – both of whom never met a shot they wouldn’t take, blindfolded or not.

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Add the intrigue of new coach Steve Kerr and what he will or won’t do – and whether this team will live up to its own considerable hype – only makes them that much more fascinating. Bonus points for being a West Coast team – which means an East Coaster like myself gets to enjoy their late-night tilts after whatever Cavs game I’ll be watching.

3. PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS
Damian Lillard is no longer an NBA unknown thanks to his participation in every All-Star event last year and his series-ending heroics against the Rockets – but that only means everyone else has caught on to what I’d been watching all along. Alongside arguably the best power forward in the L, LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers play up-tempo, high-scoring basketball that’s fun to watch.

So why aren’t the Clippers here instead? After all, they’ve got a dynamic point guard and an explosive PF. But there’s one teeny, tiny detail: Chris Paul is a dick. If he’s on your team, he’s amazing – but the way he constantly flops, grabs and falls in pursuit of fouls (as well as his non-stop lobbying for calls) can grate on you, especially over the course of a seven-game series. So fuck the Clippers…

That and I happen to be a fan of the Blazers historically, starting from the Drexler era to Rasheed’s – and even the purgatory that was known as the Jailblazers period (hello, Quintel Woods!).

But in all semi-objectivity, this team plays hard, they’ve got ’tude to spare and good chemistry, which you can actually see when you watch them play (the corollary being, it’s obvious when a team doesn’t get along – like the Jailblazer-era Portland team).

And again – West Coast team! Easy money for those living on Eastern Standard Time.

4. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
The fact that I’ve got the Grizz at No. 4 should clue you in to how personal this ranking is. By no other metric should they rank this high. But I’ve been a Z-Bo fan since he was storing guns in his hi skool locker (okay, not rilly) and then moved on to Michigan State (this is true) – where I got to see him team up with the windmill-dunking dynamo that was Jason Richardson for one magical season.

Add in the crafty, old skool brilliance of Marc Gasol, the most underrated point guard in the L in Mike Conley, the borderline-homicidal defensive intensity of Tony “Gucci” Allen and some reliable 3-point shooting for the first time in team history and I think this season may even surpass 2011 (when they upset the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs).

5. CHICAGO BULLS
Some folks might be shocked that the OKC Thunder isn’t in here (or higher) – but I just don’t like the Thunder that much. Kevin Durant is an amazing player and I genuinely love Russell Westbrook reckless-and-relentless style, but I almost never root for them to succeed (unless it’s against the Spurs).

And watching their home games sucks because they’re often blowouts versus overmatched teams and their commentating crew are such blatant homers (for my money, the Warriors, the T’Wolves and the Pistons have the best commentators – regardless of the quality of the teams themselves. Honorable mention goes to the Clippers). And while we’re on the topic, the other teams with the worst commentators (and biggest homers) include the Spurs (Sean Elliott is downright terrible), the Rockets and Boston (though without Tommy Heinsohn the homerism is less egregious). And if I’m being completely truthful, the Blazers broadcasters are pretty blatant homers too.

Anyway, back to the Bulls. I don’t love their crew of Stacey King and Neil Funk (though I love that name), but they’re alright – and with a healthy Young Power, the Bulls are obviously exciting to watch. But if he should falter, their League Pass ranking drops like a stone (replacement killers would be the best young backcourt in the L: the Washington Wizards!).

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