Dwight Howard and the Top 4 NBA Stories Heading into 2012-13 Season
There are five riveting NBA narratives heading into the NBA 2012-2013 regular season that should have fans on the edge of their couches, shaking with anticipation.
A few of those stories, though, may need some rehabilitation to renew fan fascination. Consider this list as a re-vision tour; an opportunity to look at well-worn, off-season stories with a new pair of lenses (3-D glasses to be specific).
These stories will be big. And here's why:
Season 2 of "Linsanity in the City'"
An injury truncated the most fascinating underdog story ever dramatized on hardwood.
Linsanity began like a rocket (that's foreshadowing), but Jeremy Lin didn't get a fitting denouement for his spectacular introduction as an NBA celebrity.
It was like watching a television series that begins with such a frantic pace and so many soaring emotional moments that it leaves no room for the narrative complexity needed to sustain attention for the entire season.
In a post-lockout season in which the NBA needed to quickly recapture fan attention, New York management ingeniously managed to sneak Jeremy Lin into the bright lights of MSG in the guise of a bit-role part, only to have him suddenly rise off teammate Landry Field's couch (where he had been sleeping in relative anonymity) and take center stage as the nation's most lovable protagonist.
Lin's subsequent on-court theatrics created a steady diet of infectious cheers, sincere teammate revelry and unrestrained Spike Lee cameos, making "Linsanity in the City" must-see transnational viewing.
Where does our character go from here?
He is coming off knee surgery, finding his way in a new city with new teammates, and trying to avoid the worst kind of typecasting as a Houston Rocket: despite Lin's effusive respect and admiration for Yao Ming, he certainly does not want to physically follow in those numerously fractured steps.
My prediction for Season 2 of "Linsanity in the City" is an up-and-down start to the season. There will be a few episodes of 15-plus scoring performances and 10-plus assist nights for Lin, but these will only be sporadic interruptions to a storyline in which Lin normally struggles with his shot and fights through an ongoing battle with turnovers. At this early stage, his young team will be unable to find its stride.
Then Lin will finally get a conclusion fitting his dramatic beginnings, as the latter portion of the season will find him and his youthful cohorts showing marked signs of basketball maturity. The Rockets will gel at just the right time.
They will pull off a string of big wins (with consecutive big scoring and assist nights from Lin) and push for the eighth playoff spot in the West, which will once again have Lin the talk of the nation.
Sportswriters will get biblical with their headlines: "The Resurrection of Linsanity."
Carmelo Anthony Tries to "Bring It Home"
If a team needs a star with a chip on his shoulder to win an NBA championship, the New York Knicks are well equipped for a title run this season.
Carmelo Anthony was originally cast in the starring role for the show that morphed into "Linsanity in the City." The series was first titled "Bringing it Home," an athletic drama in which a Brooklyn native gets traded back to his home state.
In early drafts of that script, Anthony revives championship hopes for a team in the throes of PMS (Perpetual Mediocrity Syndrome) with prolific scoring performances that reignite a once-fatigued fanbase.
And then at the climax, that native son brings the championship trophy home.
Enter Jeremy Lin screen right and start from scratch.
Melo not only got bumped from the starring role, but he had to spend an entire season feigning gleeful enthusiasm about Lin's improbable emergence.
Worse, Anthony was cast as a perceived shady character who (some observers assumed) was sabotaging Linsanity with his supposedly me-first demands.
Melo dropped weight in the offseason, both of the physical and metaphorical variety. A stellar run with the USA Olympic team has him in great shape, and he will no longer have to field heavy questions about Linsanity and his awkward relationship to that phenomenon.
Expect a newly unburdened Anthony and the Knicks to go deep into the playoffs this year and to make a rematch against the Heat a much more dramatic affair than last year's lopsided encounter.
Steve Nash for the Ring
Steve Nash is a Canadian in pursuit of the American Dream.
He has attained all the individual awards a Canuck could fit into his igloo. Still, whenever Nash dusts either of his two MVP awards, it must be difficult not to notice the glaring absence on his finger.
In an absolutely stunning offseason turn of events, Nash—always a deceptively elusive point guard on the court—evaded the careful watch of reporters tracking his every trade flinch. He was going to New York. No wait, the Toronto Raptors are calling with some serious cash.
Cue a visual of an ankle-breaking Nash crossover dribble and cut to a picture of Nash in a Lakers jersey.
Let's face it, nobody but the freakishly prescient Ron Artest saw that coming.
With Kobe and company, Nash is now going to get a serious shot at adding an NBA championship to the long list of accolades that will be enumerated during his inevitable induction into the Hall of Fame.
To have a chance to watch a 38-year-old point guard with unquestioned heart, class and humility begin his last shot at championship glory is a rare and thrilling fan opportunity, eh?
Dwight Howard's Hollywood Makeover
If any NBA star was due for a makeover after last season, it was Dwight Howard.
A transformation of his tainted image will take time, but Howard already has what he needs to start the process: a fresh start with a new team.
Howard's final stretch in Orlando was not a good look; to wit, he came off like a petulant, fickle kid who wanted to have every cake he could find...and eat it all too.
The vertiginous reports about him staying in Orlando and going to Brooklyn, then staying in Orlando and going to Brooklyn, tested the patience and interest of even the most devoted NBA fan.
Howard has landed in L.A. with a new teammate who does not suffer fools lightly, and matching the generally surly Kobe with the perpetually gregarious Howard is likely to produce some fireworks on and off the court.
The Best Performances Won't Involve Acting
This is my dream for this season:
Just amazing, buzzer-beating NBA drama. No eye-rolling histrionics.
Just hard-nosed drives to the hoop on offense and genuine body-sacrificing charges in the paint.
No wild offensive arm-flailing after every steal or defensive trust-falls at any whisper of contact.
Yes, there are likely to be complications with the league's new commitment to end the flop, but the growing pains will all be worth it. They could restore playground grit and minimize all the professional gripe.
Every time a player turns to an official to whine about a call, refs should have a David Stern-mandated response: "Man up."
Now turn this up and get on the edge of your seat for the NBA 2012-2013 season!