The 2011 NBA season is finally upon us. We know all the questions that are going to be asked...
Yadda, yadda, yadda...
Here are some questions that are really on fans' minds.
Tim and Kevin, can you hear the fat lady singing?
Both of these teams showed spurts of championship swagger last season. Their centenarian-esque play in the post season proved otherwise
Do Boston and San Antonio have the right mix left in the tank to compete with the likes of Miami, Chicago and OKC?
"Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today," sang the late, great Frank Sinatra. Knicks' fans are hoping Chris Paul will be singing the same tune.
Even though Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick believes that it's not a guarantee.
Although it is doubtful that a CP3 to New York move will create the same ire as "The Decision," it probably won't do much to further David Stern's much-desired league parity.
It looked like Derrick Rose got tired from carrying this Bulls during last year's playoffs.
Chicago is hoping Carlos Boozer can take some of the weight off of the MVP's shoulders.
The new CBA will be a boon for some teams looking for some more financial wiggle room. Who are some prime candidates to get the ax?
One notable candidate is Washington Wizards forward Rashard Lewis. He's projected to make a cool $21 million this year.
(Did you know his contract is worth $126 million overall? That's the exact same amount as fellow Washingtonian athlete Jayson Werth. And they say we have problem with our national debt!)
Cleveland is putting its post-LeBron hopes on young Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson.
The two rookies played a combined total of 47 games in college. So there will likely be a lot of on-the-job training for the both of them.
We know LeBron or D-Wade can run the floor, but when you're burned by J.J. Barea it's time to look for a halfway-decent point guard.
ESPN's Heat Index blog states that T.J. Ford, Sebastian Telfair and Delonte West are prime candidates to run the point in South Beach.
It's a new day for small-market teams in the NBA. The little guys will be getting a lot more money from the new collective bargaining agreement, and big spenders will be penalized harsher for going over the cap. Teams will also be given greater power in re-signing their stud players.
Will the 99 percent (actually more like 80 percent, the percentage of teams that have not won the championship in the last 10 years) be able to use their new funds and bargaining power to level the league's immense competitive inequality?
The "Motor City Miracle" of 2004 seems so long ago. Basketball in Detroit has taken a nosedive the past few seasons. General Manager Joe Dumars will be cleaning house and starting anew with rookie Brandon Knight after a drama-ridden 2010-11 season.
Prince and Rip are likely going to be gone. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports that Pistons are more likely to trade their former All-Stars rather than use the amnesty provision.
The Tracy McGrady experiment also turned out to be a giant dud.
Hamilton and McGrady have 10 All-Star selections between them. Tayshaun Prince has valuable veteran experience. Can they revive their careers somewhere else?
The lightning-quick free-agency period will likely lead to some teams making it rain on players that do not deserve that much dough.
The top contenders for overpayment? This author's bet goes to Jamal Crawford.
The former UConn guard was the darling of the NCAA tournament and is the brightest spot in the Bobcats lineup.
Could Walker pull a Cam Newton and surprise everyone this year?
There are certainly no shortage of candidates this season. (Of course, that depends on your definition of interesting.)
The Wizards bumped up their octane rating with the additions of Jan Vesley and Chris Singelton.
Zach Randolph became the league's darling during the playoffs.
I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.
While Memphis returns the glue of last year's team (and are in good standing to resign Marc Gasol), the other teams in this division will be figuring out how to resign players (Dallas), how to deal their only bright spot (New Orleans), how to figure out a new coach (Houston) and how to get an endorsement deal with Icy Hot (San Antonio).
Look for some surprises in Memphis this season.
The Durant-Westbrook connection hit a few bumps in the road during the playoffs last season. It seemed like Russell didn't want to play Robin to Durant's Batman.
Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman reported that the rumored Westbrook and Glen Perkins for Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green was a ludicrous proposition (albeit for contractual reasons).
The fading Lakers are hungry to stay relevant after last year's playoff embarrassment.
GM Sam Presti needs to put out an "I'm OK, you're OK" memo to make sure all is well in Thunderland.
The Denver Nuggets might as well play their games in China.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith are trying to work their way back from China, while Kenyon Martin seems to be content to ride out the season in Asia.
The injuries have become almost comedic for the Blazers. Even though hospital bills racked up for the Blazers last year, LaMarcus Aldridge grew in to a franchise player.
ESPN reports that Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and their ratchety knees are in the organization's plans, for now.
Chris Paul is as good as gone from the Big Easy. The Hornets are surviving by a thread with only a five players under contract, and the CP3 rumors flying.
You have to wonder how long the league owned team will be staying in NOLA.
Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Jason Heim has put together a list of potential places for the Hornets to go.
Jimmer, love him or hate him, is gonna sell some jerseys.
Big changes are in store for Black Mamba and Co. The old sage Phil Jackson has departed for his Montana ranch. Metta World Peace may be a candidate for amnesty. Andrew Bynum is the subject of a variety of trade rumors.
And Mike Brown was a controversial choice to run the helm.
Can Kobe quell the drama?
Shaq and Barkley have the chance to make Inside the NBA one of the most entertaining pre-game shows in all of professional sports.
Everyone talks about the weather in Minnesota, but nobody does a thing about it.
Nobody talks about the Timberwolves, and it is a good thing that David Kahn is doing something about that.
Derrick Williams is the best prospect that Minnesota has aquired in a long time. Ricky Rubio is finally suiting up. Rick Adelman was a popular choice for coach.
It will probably still be a long, cold season for Wolves fans, but the ice is starting to thaw.
The NBA lockout left egg on both players' and owners' faces.
David Stern did himself no favors by, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard, getting in to a very heated confrontation with Dwayne Wade.
Stern owns the longest tenure of any major professional sports commissioner.
Harvey Dent's immortal words from the movie The Dark Knight could come back to haunt the Commish, "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
The "Reign Man" became infamous for showing up to post-lockout training camp at 275 pounds.
Luckily, fans probably won't see as many soft bodies this time around.
Canadian fans will be asking this question because there will not be much going on with Toronto's basketball team.
Although, new coach Dwane Casey might have a glimmer of hope. ESPN's Chad Ford reports that there is a small chance that first round pick Jonas Valanciunas may play for the Raptors this season.
Could Danny Granger and Co. pull a Hickory High and play spoiler in the East?
The likely won't be able to compete with Miami, Chicago, and Boston, but look for them to improve on last year's eighth seed. Danny Granger, Nick Collison, Roy Hibbert, and newcomer George Hill will provide plenty of excitement in Indianapolis.
Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star reports that the Pacers will have approximately $21 million in cap space, but won't necessarily be throwing money at every shiny free agent.
(Side note: One of the few reasons I'm upset that the lockout is over, no more Hibbert cameos on Parks and Rec.)
Blake Griffin made a thunderous endorsement of the mid-size sedan at last year's All-Star Weekend.
Can the young Clipper soar even higher? He is one of the most popular young faces in the NBA and has brought hope to LA's "other" team.
There are an unprecedented number of foreign players making their pro debut this year. Jan Vessley, Jonas Valanciunas, Nikola Vucevic, Donatas Motiejunas, Bismack Biyombo, are just a few of the names making the leap across the Atlantic.
Minnesota Timberwolves fans will also get to see the long awaited arrival of Spanish phenom Ricky Rubio.
This success of these international players could bring even more validity to European teams as training grounds for NBA players.
According to Howard Beck of the New York Times, the group of owners who were determined to cap players' BRI at 50% were led by Michael Jordan.
Yep, that Michael Jordan. The most recognized sports icon of the last twenty years nearly brought doomsday to the NBA.
Sorry Mike, you're status as preeminent sports icon is fading. You're an owner now.
This was one of the thinnest rookie classes in recent history. Everyone not named Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams seemed to have a lot of questions marks.
This fan hopes the rooks play with a chip on their shoulder for missing the first 18 games of the season (as well as their paychecks).
There were high hopes in Milwaukee last season for Brandon Jennings after making the playoffs for the first time in four years. Due to injuries, the Bucks just missed the cut.
However, with a continued unbeaten Packers team, a Badgers football squad going to the Rose Bowl, and a Badgers basketball team that will contend in the Big Ten, nobody will be talking about the Bucks probably until mid-April.
And then they will probably talk about the Brewers.
This team is playing with a chip on its shoulder. After staving off a relocation threat, Tyreke Evans, Demarcus Cousins, and the Jimmer will be looking to provide some much needed hope to Sac-town.
Does anyone else think Cousins could pull of Mr. T?
Steve Nash is one of the most loyal athletes in the game today. Grant Hill is a basketball sage who has redeemed his legacy since going to Phoenix.
Will these two place loyalty over a championship? Their veteran services will be valued by many teams.
Either way, here's hoping that the twilight years for these two stars will be kind.
After last year's playoff embarrassment at the hands of the Mavs, Jerry Buss was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future and he didn't like what he saw.
Dr. Buss will be gunning for a big name. Most likely Dwight Howard and Chris Paul
ESPN's Chris Brussard thinks it might just be both.
I'll miss Jackson and Van Gundy bickering during ESPN broadcasts.
Actually, I'm more excited about seeing the rookie coach on the sideline, rather than hearing from him behind the announcers table.
Golden State owns one of the most high powered offenses in the league, but their "D" left a lot to be desired.
Can the hard-nosed rookie coach institute some defensive discipline in Golden State?
Basketball fans are as eager to stop hearing the words "Kim Kardashian Fairytale Wedding" as they are "Basketball Related Income".
An interesting post-script to this tale will be if Humphries' post-divorce drama will affect his free-agency suitors.
"Houston..." We have an interesting situation.
This team is talented, but without a superstar.
Fans hope new coach Kevin McHale doesn't make the team go like this.
Basketball sabermetrics (also known as APBRmetrics...blegh) is a growing field.
According to Michael Lewis, Shane Battier could make First Team All NBA Sabermetrics
Utah has a loaded front court. Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap, Mehmet Okur and Derrick Favors make up one of the most formidable front courts in the league.
However, point guard Devin Harris got off to a shaky start in Utah.
Coach Tyrone Corbin will still be looking to pick up the pieces from Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan.
The 76ers axed their rabbit mascot Hip-Hop. (I kind of thought he looked like the Donnie Darko Rabbit)
The team is asking fans to vote for the new mascot.
The Sixers should also ask fans to vote to see if the team should continue paying Elton Brand $35 million over the next two years.
This is what fans would have really missed if the lockout was still going.
The lockout was a public relations fiasco. Will the NBA tweak its much maligned all star weekend to lure disgruntled fans back in to the fold?
After the five month lockout, fans wouldn't mind being thrown a bone.