It's about that time again. Basketball fans know what I'm talking about. The NBA tips off the 2009-2010 campaign in a mere two weeks. The greatest athletes from the most athletically demanding sport in existence will all be on display for your viewing pleasure.
No more Sports Center Top Ten's with crappy baseball "highlights"—70 percent of those plays wouldn't be in the top ten if the MLB had any competition during the summer. No more Tuesdays-Fridays having to wait for the NFL to be able to watch sports on television. No more delay, the time is now.
A lot has changed in the league since we last left it, however. Ron Artest is a Laker, Rasheed Wallace is a Celtic, Shaq is a Cavalier, Iverson is a Grizzly and Gilbert Arenas is not out for the season. Yao Ming is.
The strongest teams like the Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Cavs and Spurs seemed to get stronger. Meanwhile bad teams like the Bobcats, Knicks, Bucks, Kings and Timberwolves might have gotten worse.
Middling teams like the Heat, Hawks, Mavericks, Nuggets and Rockets pretty much stayed pat. Add the Wizards into that mix with the return of Gilbert Arenas and you are looking at pretty much the same contending teams as last year.
Since team play will probably be a almost a mirror image of last season, lets focus instead on individual players.
I predict that this is going to be one of the more amazing years for personal statistics that we've seen in a while. With the 2010 free agency period fast approaching players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, just to name a few, will be playing for 120-130 million dollar contracts.
So to celebrate what should be an awesome season I've decided to spotlight the eight players you need to make it your business to watch this season. Without further ado
I can't remember the last time there has been so much added pressure to win a title now, than there is for Danny Ferry and the Cavaliers organization.
Winning a championship could be the difference between keeping a player who averaged 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists last season and loosing him. For the Cavs it's pretty much win a championship or Cleveland can kiss the King goodbye.
How will Dwight Howard do for an encore after last seasons stellar campaign? Superman established himself as the games best center last season and led his team to the NBA Finals for the first time in over a decade.
However, in those Finals, cracks did appear in the armor as Howard disappeared on the offensive end for stretches in the 4th quarter. Will Howard continue his ascent or has he peaked (Howard averaged 20 ppg., 15 rebounds and three assist) We shall see.
The Black Mamba isn't even competing with current NBA players anymore. He is competing with history, with one Michael Jeffery Jordan, for the title of greatest player ever.
Kobe knows that to even get into that conversation he needs at least two more rings and probably a couple more MVP's. So get him while he's hot people.
At 31 and with 13 years of service under his belt Bryant is probably better now than he has ever been, but how long with this last? With the addition of Ron Artest to take some of the scoring load, Bryant's numbers may go down this season, but this year may be his finest yet.
Another one of the class of '03 that has a big payday coming. The man they call Flash has already established himself as one of the games best players, but his team has gone downhill since their '06 Finals win.
Will Dwayne Wade be around in Miami long enough to oversee the development of young potential stars like Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley or will he jet for the home comfort of playing for the Chicago Bulls? Tune in to find out.
Kevin Durant had a monster season for the Thunder last year when he averaged a little over 25 ppg. His ascent to super-stardom has just begun, however, as he will probably average close to 30 a game this season.
The Thunder don't have much going for them, but Durant is definitely a piece to build around.
With Shaq now not clogging the middle, look for Amare Stoudamire to return to all-star caliber play this season. The window may have closed on this teams' championship hopes, but Stoudamire (who turns 27 in a month) is still young enough where he could still be that teams center piece going forward. However, he has to prove that he can A) be the defensive stopper they need and B) stay healthy.
Chris Paul's Hornets are coming off of a season in which they limped into the playoffs and were then soundly beaten by the Denver Nuggets.
The Hornets then traded their center and Paul's favorite target in the paint, Tyson Chandler to Charlotte's for Emeka Okafor. Now, two seasons removed from their trip to the Western Conference Finals, are the Hornets trending down or was last year simply a down year? The answer lies on CP3's shoulders
It has been a tumultuous two seasons for Agent Zero. He has appeared in only 15 games in the last two seasons.
With an 111 million dollar extension signed before the start of last season, it's time for Gilbert Arenas to lead the Wizards pass the first round of the playoffs.
He has made it a point to get his teammates more involved in the preseason at least. So, look for him to add facilitator to his list of already dominant skills. Can the Gil who averaged 28 ppg in 2007 make a come back or have the knee surgeries caught up to him?