The dark cloud that is going to hang over this entire NBA Season is the lack of an agreement on a CBA. In recent days the actions of both the league office and the NBAPA do not give you a lot of optimism they will find a deal. The league throwing out words like contraction does not exactly help things. I did have someone ask me if the Raptors would ever get contracted. First of all, I think the whole suggestion of contraction is an idle threat. In the 4 major sports there has never been contraction of a franchise. It almost always is re-location of franchises. But even if contraction were to happen the Raptors would not be in danger for a number of reasons. First and foremost they are profitable. The idea of contraction is to get rid of teams that are dragging down the league as a whole. Teams that are not making money or barely scrapping by. That is not the Raptors and even if attendance takes a dip this season it won't be the Raptors. The second reason is David Stern. It was his idea to expand to Canada and the fact the Grizzlies failed is one of his great regrets. As long as he is running the league I can not imagine the Raptors not being safe. Also as much as we all may complain at times about MLSE, the fact that they are on more then secure financial ground is a reason the Raptors can last for the long term.
So here is a list of things that should be big stories this season.
Future of Mello and Chris Paul- Carmelo Anthony if Denver does nothing will become a free agent and be the marquee name on the Free Agent Market. Having a new G.M from our very own Raptors organization makes the chances of that happening pretty slim that Denver will stand pat. Many feel it is not if Anthony will be traded it is more a case of when. As the season start is now hours away, it would seem clear prior to the season is not going to happen. So the question will be when and until it happens you can expect rumours to fly throughout the season. If the Knicks get off to a slow start this will make the pressure on them to make a deal and get Anthony even more so. That is the team that most feel is on the top of the list of where Anthony wants to go. Also you have Chris Paul sitting in New Orleans and not exactly thrilled to be there. The Hornets can afford to be more picky though with Paul under contract for the next 2 seasons. However if he really is unhappy that is not going to do anything for team moral of a franchise that real needs to turn things around. You want to talk about a team in trouble in terms of being a viable NBA franchise the Hornets would make the top of that list.
Miami Miami Miami- If Lebron James sneezes there may well be a story about it. This season is regardless of if the actually win a title going to be ALL ABOUT THE HEAT. This is like Boston's Big 3 X100. Garnett, Allen and Pierce was a great 3 some but no one thought they could be contenders for a decade if they stuck together. These 3 guys can regardless of if you like it or not. The MWO is not going anywhere anytime soon. They are going to be talked about good, bad or indifferent for the entire season. Already some turbulence with an injury to Mike Miller that may see him out till January. Heat go out and sign Jerry Stackhouse. Basically losing on any night is not an option for this team. Obviously they are not going 82-0 but with ever loss will come a huge amount of drama. But when you throw a Championship style celebration before you win anything and say you are not just out to win this year, but for the next 5 or 6 years, that comes with the territory.
K.D for MVP- Kevin Durant has had a big summer and as fast as Lebron James star has fallen, Kevin Durant has watched his rise. His Thunder made the playoffs last season (I called that one too) and they gave the eventual Champion Lakers there toughest test on the road to the Finals. NBA Elite 11 with him on the cover may never see the light of day but nothing can stop K.D from making the Jump to NBA Ultra Elite in being considered one of the top 3 players in the game. The team around him is growing better as well and at the top of that list is his point guard Westbrook. I like K.D and his Thunder to do EVEN BIGGER THINGS this season. Part of that is K.D living up to the hype as a front runner for the MVP. Greg Who? Yeah Oden was worth that #1 pick wasn't he. While he racks up medical bills Durant is racking up Gold Medals and soon trophies.
Wall vs Griffin - Blake Griffin had he been healthy was the pre-season run away pick to be Rookie of the Year last season. John Wall is that guy this year. But wait a second, Griffin can win that award as well. In rare situation you have two number 1 picks and only one Rookie of the Year Trophy. If you are trying to look for an edge in this it likely goes to Wall. Clippers even if they do turn the corner are still in a tough Western Conference. While the Wizards play in the East where a playoff spot is a much easier goal to get. If the numbers are similar in case of a tie the team in the playoffs will take the prize. Both should be fun to watch and if Griffin has no issues health wise he will push Wall all season to be Rookie of the Year. The gap between these 2 and everyone else is large. The only guy that stands a chance to get in this conversation outside of these two is Cousins in Sacramento.
Kobe - Has there ever been an off-season he was talked about less? This is a guy that thrives on motivation. Phil Jackson is back as well and the chances he sticks around much longer are growing slimmer each year. So combining those two things, and the chance to 3-Peat all make you think sleeping on the Lakers might be a mistake. Injuries have been a big part of the story with Kobe and he still has not had surgery on that troublesome finger. His team also has issues with injuries or more to the point Andrew Bynum does. But the Lakers quietly added some nice parts to improve their depth. Steve Blake could have an impact on the Triangle offence like a Steve Kerr or John Paxson did with Bulls.
Those are 5 big stories that will dominate the season. However the future of the CBA and the Lockout that could happen next season will hang like a dark cloud over it all. It is hard to focus on this season with that hanging over it. Next year's NBA preview might be not about what happens when they play, but if and when they will play. That is something no one should want to happen. More NBA talk tomorrow with Jiggly Bits and The DNB's Season Preview.