||11-28-2011 02:37 PM
Aldridge: 10 things to look forward to when the NBA comes back
Billy Hunter (left) and David Stern took a big step Saturday toward finally ending everyone's NBA nightmare.
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Forget the score ... at least we (finally) got the game back
So, that happened.
NBA fans, your long (inter)national nightmare is over.
You could write a book about what actually led to Saturday morning's breakthrough that should -- should -- officially end the lockout within the next few days.
Was it the injection of longtime labor man Jim Quinn into the proceedings? Could have been, but George Cohen was equally respected by both sides, and whiffed twice when given an audience with the players and league. Was it the walling off of the combative attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who wasn't involved nearly as much in the final discussions as he had been previously? Maybe, but Kessler was returning from Russia on the morning of Oct. 28, the day that the talks, inexplicably, collapsed. Just 12 hours before, David Stern had appeared giddy, yelling 'tomorrow!' when Billy Hunter had indicated the two sides were "within striking distance" of a deal.
Much will be written in the days and weeks to come about who won and lost, about the details of the agreement. Forgive me. I'm detailed out.
The people who depend on the NBA for their livelihoods, who work at the arenas and in the surrounding neighborhoods lost. The players, who gave up $3 billion in future salaries based on the previous collective bargaining agreement, lost. Stern, Hunter and union president Derek Fisher lost; each man had his intelligence, effectiveness and character questioned, and Stern and Hunter in particular took a major hit in terms of legacy.
And you lost. Big time. You lost faith with, and in, this league. You thought no one was listening, or cared. Anyone who is a fan of the orange leather lost, because this episode did nothing to help the league's reputation compared with the NFL, which got through a lockout of its own without missing any regular season games.
So, in quite particular order, here are 10 things I'm really looking forward to seeing, hearing or tasting when the NBA gets back in business beginning Christmas Day:
10) Rings, cars ... or gift certificates to Dillards?: After the Mavs won the Finals, Mark Cuban said that the gaudy, diamond-encrusted championship rings were a cliche and that he wanted to do something completely different. After, oh, all of his players objected, Cubes said he'd relent. But I don't call him the Gray Matter for nothing. I suspect he'll have something up his sleeve on Christmas Night for the ring ceremony at the AAC.
9) We're sorry. We're really, really sorry. Did we mention how sorry we were?: If, in the next week to 10 days, the league and its teams don't commit to the following --announce that two games -- one preseason, one regular season -- are "on the house," meaning free tickets for both season ticket holders and single game buyers, with the remaining seats given out to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis, concurrent with "Fans' Night" celebrations and viewing parties around the country during the first week of the season, with the food (no booze, for obvious reasons) paid for by the NBA, along with season-long discounts on "lower bowl" seats in all arenas (maybe a "band" of 49 to 51 percent off for selected games?) along with increasing the $10 seats in each building from 1,000 to 2,000, along with bringing one fan from every NBA city to All-Star Weekend in Orlando and providing them with A-list tickets and interactions with the players, and doing the same for one fan in every NBA city for the Finals, and next year's Draft, along with giving everyone that has access to DirecTV or Dish Network or whatever cable systems have NBA TV a free month of NBA League Pass, along with taking out full-page ads in each city that simply read "We're Sorry. We Will Do Everything In Our Power to Get You Back. Sincerely, the Players and Teams of the National Basketball Association" -- then I'm gonna be really ticked off.
8) Guys who've been inhaling cheesesteaks trying to fit back into those size 32 shorts.: "Who's gonna be this year's Shawn Kemp?," a GM asked recently, referring to the horrendous look the former Reign Man sported when he showed up for an agent-driven exhibition game in Atlantic City during the '98 lockout. It was one of the rare times when I actually did a double-take; you couldn't believe how fat Kemp was. And you know that some player this time, maybe thinking the lockout wouldn't really end until late January, or not at all, has been less than stellar when it comes to maintaining his offseason conditioning program.
7) The return of some favorites: Bad Blake, Year Two; KG scowlin' and cussin'; Nasty Nash surveying, probing, going baseline, coming back out, then cuffing the ball in those meathook hands and finding the open man; Cousin LaMarcus, getting all swole; the Thunder. God, the Thunder; a full season of 'Melo and STAT and Smooth together; Rick Adelman making a palatable stew out of all those assorted legumes and stock he has in Minnesota; CP3, playing for a contract; Dwight Howard, playing for a contract; the Magic's GM, Otis Smith, as he figures out the best possible resolution to a horribly difficult situation; what escape mechanisms (underground, under ocean tunnel? diamond mine trolley like in the Indiana Jones movies?) that Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith use to get out of China; Jimmer!!!!; my man McHale back on a bench in Houston; Frank Vogel: real or mirage in Indy; finding out who will bite and give J.J. Barea a huge contract; Kyrie Irving, who has played in about 20 games since the end of his high school career and is now the No. 1 pick with No. 1 expectations for the Cavaliers; the Spurs, loading up for one final run behind one great group of players and coaches; Tanter, behind the mic again at Staples; nights with Prokhorov in Newark as he counts the minutes until he can open the wallet wide and say, 'Come to Brooklyn, my friend. Come to Brooklyn'; Doug Doin' Work in Philly; 3 Deezy Without the Beard; the Grizzle with real fan expectations in Memphis to live up to; Diesel in the Studio with the Chuckster; the goofy "Kiss Me" arena segments in every city, even the ones that end with Kendrick Perkins smooching Thabo Sefolosha on the cheek; Caron Butler, back and ballin' for the Mavs again (or, maybe, the Clippers? Or the Nets? Or the Heat?); Dwane Casey trying to put a winning foundation down in Toronto; the Grand Experiment finally getting under way at Golden State with Mark Jackson, Jerry West, Bob Myers, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and a cast of thousands.
6) These. At first, I hated them. Then they kind of grew on me.
5) The first time Mike Brown really gets all hip deep up into the Kobester for a missed assignment, or a forced shot, or ... just because. The rightness or wrongness of whatever Brown is upset with is irrelevant. It's how Bryant responds to it that will tell the tale.
4) Rookies, rookies, rookies: Can't wait to see Kyrie Irving (see below), Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter and Jan Vesely; Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Nolan Smith and Kenneth Faried.
3) The Sublime Derrick Rose (a phrase that somebody smarter than me should trademark, immediately). How will Rose follow up his MVP season -- one that could get him a ridiculous raise on an extension under the new CBA rules? How will he use his failures against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals? Remember: most great players never win a championship. Rose is a great player. Which way will he fall?
2) How will the SuperFriends respond? Everybody outside of South Beach had a big ol' laugh watching LeBron and D-Wade fall to the Mavs. But this isn't an episode of CSI: Miami where the plot is wrapped up in 48 neat minutes. There's a next season, and the Heat now have a year of experience with one another. They should have a full season -- kind of -- with Udonis Haslem in the middle. They'll almost certainly add another significant free agent. And LeBron, like the later-generation Terminators, is a learning computer. He forgets nothing. And should keep getting better. I suspect you haven't heard the last from him.
1) Cats and Dogs, Living Together ... Mass Hysteria!: I watched with envy when the NFL lockout ended and that league began a week-long free-agent signing frenzy. Everyone up for grabs, no time to think, just pure, unfettered capitalism at work. But now, the NBA will have the same crazy signing period the same day camps open! Do you understand that there are some teams with four or five guys under contract? How do you do a three-man weave when you only have four guys to run it? We heard for months that the previous system was a killer for small-market and small-revenue producing teams. How much discipline will they show on Dec. 9? It will be great fun to find out.