The fact that ESPN is televising NBA preseason games should tell viewers one thing about the league this season:
It's as hyped as ever.
Not even gaggles of preteen girls can scream louder for Twilight than NBA faithful are for October 26. The NBA season will tipoff and everything will be right with the sporting world.
Yes, baseball is currently the "wrong."
With a chance at a three-peat, a star-studded trio and a ton of realignment all leading the offseason headlines, players, analysts and fans have predicted the 2010-2011 season to be one of the best of all time.
But those are just the little guys' words. As of Thursday, the upcoming season got an endorsement from the Big Dog himself.
No, not DMX. David Stern.
Although DMX would be a good nickname for him, too.
The NBA commissioner told ESPN on Thursday before the Los Angeles Lakers played FC Barcelona that fans should expect to see "some of the greatest basketball ever played" this season. His insistence upon greatness is what makes him a top-notch head honcho.
Kudos. But this time, he might want to give some ego back to LeBron James, because everyone knows he needs more.
"Greatest basketball ever played" is a title reserved for the years of Jordan, the decades of Celtics greatness, and the Showtime Lakers. While it makes sense for Stern to promote his league, he's clearly begging a very pertinent question:
Will this season live up to the hype?
Can Kobe Bryant replicate MJ's two three-peats? Can the Miami Heat put its (and several millions of people in Vegas') money where its mouth is? Will players like Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul wind up making super teams elsewhere?
Seems like too much speculation, and not enough guarantees.
The one thing that stands out in the way of the NBA having what Stern called its "most successful season" has to be the parity. Many people think that the conglomerate in South Beach will lead to four or five good teams, and the rest being average or worse.
Which is a serious problem.
These super teams are creating a polarized environment in the league. Sure, the Heat and Lakers will play tremendously competitive games, but what about the others? A Minnesota-Indiana bout might have less fans than a Tampa Bay Rays game.
So around four people.
These bottom feeders cannot contribute to the "greatest basketball ever played" due to the stark disparity in talent. Further, when one of the juggernauts comes to town, the lesser team's fans will only show up to see the stars and leave when their team starts seeing stars.
Is it really the "greatest basketball" if many of the games end in blowouts bigger than Pauly D's hair.
The top shelf teams might be some of the "greatest," but the bottom ones might be some of the worst.
Unfortunately, that's not the only issue. As the generation of prima donnas continues to grow among the NBA's elite, trade requests have become ubiquitous. Players who play less than 20 minutes per game are asking out of places they said they loved weeks before.
Sure, that's not part of the play. But that doesn't mean it has no effect.
These players come onto the court for cities they've turned against publicly. For example, 'Melo might have said he never asked for a trade, but that "idea" didn't come from nowhere. By not shooting it down immediately, he's telling people he wants out of Denver.
So will Denver get to witness this greatness? Or are they stuck with another "Decision" and the ensuing heartbreak?
Since the latter is more likely, let's pray Mayor John Hickenlooper has Cleveland's therapist on speed dial.
The argument that players should use what ever leverage they have is completely valid, as they are entitled to get their money in wheelbarrows if they so choose. That being said, is it possible to have the majority of the players going to four cities with cash, and still have competition nightly?
Competition doesn't mean who can eat the most bratwurst at half time.
That joke was sponsored by Wiener schnitzel.
The problems don't end there, as the league faces issues on the court.
- The two-time defending champion Lakers are plagued with injuries and without a healthy Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, could lose their place as a top competitor out West.
- The pressure and hype surrounding the Miami Heat could make it a disappointing season if the result is anything but a title run.
- Most importantly, however, is that as of now, nearly everyone picked the Heat and Lakers as locks for the NBA finals. If people get their wish, the season could be as predictable and boring as a Tim Duncan post move.
Lastly, the NBA faces a huge issue off the court in the looming lockout, which sounds like the name of a Harry Potter book. Unlike a Rowling novel, the lockout isn't something you would (or can, for that matter) pay to see and no fighting extremely pale dictators.
Unless that's how you describe Stern.
The lockout can change the way many general managers on smaller market teams organize their rosters. If the NBA closing shop for a season becomes imminent, expect a lot of strange moves across the league.
Moves made by owners, who Stern claims lost a combined $370 million last season, desperately trying to save their cash can cause an even greater polarization in the NBA.
Nothing about that last sentence screams "greatest basketball ever."
Despite the fact Stern clearly wants to promote the game and build up the speculation, it seems unnecessary to puff out his chest like Pamela Anderson. Self-promotion is one thing, but doing so on complete projection and hope can be awful advertising
Especially if it blows up in his face. For the NBA's sake, the commissioner should leave phrases with "greatest ever" involved to postseason statements.
Just like Drake. Except he should never say it.
Obviously, NBA fans should hope Stern is right. There's been a drought of 82-game, compelling seasons since No. 23 hung it up for a second time.
But don't be shocked if he isn't.