Sunday, November 27, 2011

The NBA is Back!

Who would have thought, randomly flipping through the channels at 3 am early this past saturday morning, that ESPN would all of a sudden announce the end of the much-maligned NBA lockout? Yet, that is exactly what happened. Details of the agreement are still trickling out, but at this point, who cares? All that matters is that both sides were able to come to an agreement. Funny how it took kicking the sniveling Jeffrey Kessler (much like the NFL Lockout) out of the room for Billy Hunter and David Stern to hammer out a deal. With the announcement that there will be a 66 game schedule starting on Christmas, it looks like all of us NBA fans just got an early Christmas present.

The 66 game schedule will allow a more typical NBA season to be played out, unlike the 50 game season that occurred as a result of the 1999 lockout. So what does this mean for the league? There are so many interesting storylines that carry over from last season that need to be played out. Will LeBron and the rest of the Miami Heat learn to win when it counts? Will this be the last hurrah for Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics? How will the New York Knicks fare with Carmelo Anthony on the team the entire season? Could this also be the last hurrah for Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers, at least as an elite team? Could this be the year Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder take their place at the top of the Western Conference? More importantly, which NBA player shows up to camp not having worked out the entire lockout? My money is on Zach Randolph.

D Rose is Back!!
For us, though - what about the Bulls? The regular season Eastern Conference champion, led by Derrick Rose, the reigning MVP, could stand to make a huge jump this year. They need to add a key ingredient (offense from the shooting guard position) but if Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer stay healthy, they learn to play together on the court, and Boozer learns how to play defense, the tools are already there to win. And really, all that matters is Derrick Rose. He single-handedly willed this team to 60+ wins last year. You can imagine that he's been working his ass off the entire lockout. No one in the league cares as much about winning as D Rose, and that attitude permeates through the entire team.

We'll be able to see more about this team, and the rest of the league for that matter, once free agency starts. If the Bulls add some key pieces, there is no question that they can continue their rivalry with the Miami Heat. The Bulls' team defense is exceptional, and we all know that LeBron can be counted on to choke when it matters most. Let's hope that the casual fan hasn't been turned off by the lockout, because we have another potentially epic season on our hands. At least we're lucky enough to get to enjoy it.