Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells! NBA Christmas all the way!
Aren’t you in the Christmas spirit now that the league is approaching vastly upon their famed Christmas day games? Something in my heart of hearts says this was the plan all along, but then again could all of that animosity, backlash and character purgatory truly be scripted?
Moving away from what many felt the aftermath of the league lockout would provide, the Christmas games are all going to prove to be epic as the matchups include a 2011 NBA Finals rematch between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks.
With games being played, there is the responsibility of determining which player actually carries out his designated role to a T. Last season’s role players were predictable as not much had changed.
This season, however, with trade rumors being launched from sea to shining sea, there could be some disappointments boiling under the surface ready to implode. Key game-changers are rumored to be shuffled around and as everything will be in place come Dec. 25, teams will begin making stands around the league.
But, which players will individually make their mark early on?
2010 Regular Season series: Boston 4-0
2010 Postseason series: Boston 4-0
There are a couple of players, one on each side of the ball, which will determine the outcome. Those two players are Rajon Rondo and Amare Stoudemire.
If it is true that Boston management was trying to find a way out of Rondo World, Rajon may come into this season trying to only further prove his worth to the men who sign his checks.
At least that would be the professional way to handle things.
He is a dynamic point guard that always provides a problem to defenses, because he can athletically wriggle out of tricky situations around the rim. He does not have a perimeter shot, but any mild development of a mid- or long-range shot would assist in problems for the New York Knicks.
The New York Knicks’ game changer will most definitely be Amare Stoudemire.
Last season, he was a little overlooked as a defender and battling against the likes of Kevin Garnett around the basket will most definitely force him to get a little more aggressive. His hardcore finishes around the rim will simply not be enough if he allows Garnett to dial back a few seasons and have a stellar season opener.
Of course if some way, somehow Chris Paul ends up in New York, the game-changing roles may shift. But, as far as what we know about each organization right now, these are the men that need to have the best performances in order for their franchises to have success in one of the most anticipated games of the season.
Scoring Predictions: Rajon Rondo – 15 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals
Amare Stoudemire – 23 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks
Outcome: Boston wins by a margin of 5
2010 Regular Season Series: Dallas 2-0
2010 Postseason Series: Dallas 4-2
Besides the fact that Dallas will not be retrieving their rings while the banner is being raised for their most recent conquest in the NBA Finals against the very team they are facing, the Mavericks are going to have a lot on their hands.
The Miami Heat will not be the same team in disarray as they were during the postseason. There is barely any pressure and the LeBron James they face this time around will not be the same man they faced in the Finals.
At least for his sake, it better not be.
The last vision of James on the court in an official fashion left a bad taste in even the most superior fans’ mouths. He has a lot to make up for, so expect him to start right where he left off. He will be the leading scorer for the Miami in this game.
Dallas’ leading man will of course be Dirk Nowitzki. But, the man who has the most impact on the game will undoubtedly be the re-emerging Shawn Marion.
It is not as if no one knew that he had the potential to be that good. No one really expected him to have the type of influence during the postseason that he had, though. He was a lockdown defender that had a great time routing James during most of his trips up the middle.
The strong showing in the Finals really locks him into Dallas’ lineup and he will be the team’s X-factor.
Scoring Predictions: LeBron James – 30 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds
Shawn Marion – 10 points, 4 rebounds
Outcome – Miami wins by at least 10
2010 Regular Season Series: Los Angeles Lakers 1-1
This is probably one of the most intriguing matchups of the day. The Chicago Bulls’ leading scorer, Derrick Rose battling against the league’s leading veteran in Kobe Bryant will most definitely set the tone for the rest of the season.
These two will be locked in on each other just as Bryant and Paul were defending each other for the extent of the New Orleans series. The Lakers cannot afford another sketchy season like 2010, because it is apparently something that they can no longer immediately fix as they have been able to in the past.
This means that matching guard for guard is simply not an option.
Sorry, no Derek Fisher on Derrick Rose. The Lakers would hopefully not embarrass the aging guard like that.
The more influential matchup will be with Carlos Boozer and Andrew Bynum. Both are at vital points in their careers with their franchises. Boozer has major lapses in action during games and his defense, when he is coupled with Joakim Noah, has failed time and time again.
He has to come into this game with a renewed role and a greater sense of his position on the court.
The Lakers’ starting youngster, Bynum, will have a full year to show that how he ended is not just a fluke. He was the most solid Laker until it came to his awkward breaking point against the Dallas Mavericks where he picked on a man that was literally half his size.
Scoring Predictions: Andrew Bynum 15 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks
Carlos Boozer 12 points, 8 rebounds
Outcome – Los Angeles Lakers win by a margin of 6-plus
Update: Andrew Bynum's status in the first five games of the season has yet to be discussed since it was first determined by the league. The game plan will definitely have to shift in case of his expected absence.
NBA Regular Season Series: OKC Thunder 1-1
Maybe it is just me, but the Orlando Magic team occasionally forces me to sleep when I try to watch the game. I always know what is going to happen. Give the ball to Dwight Howard or leave it up to him to block a great dunk or layup.
There are barely any playmakers on this team and there is small feeling that what we all saw from Jameer Nelson in the postseason in Game 1 is about as fleeting as it proved to be in Games 2, 4, 5 and 6. Howard is Orlando, with a few players around him with a spotty three that rarely ever changes the pace of the game.
So, who will be the primary playmaker from Orlando? Take a wild guess.
Oklahoma City, however, has a lot of young talent just waiting to break out and establish themselves in the NBA.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would be the easy ways out. Serge Ibaka is truly who everyone should keep their eyes on.
Ibaka had a great series against the Denver Nuggets and there are hopes that he will have found a way in the offseason to make those moments not so few and far between.
His shot-blocking is the best aspect of his game. He has terrific timing and with more offensive involvement can put up those solid numbers.
Scoring Predictions: Dwight Howard – 25 points, 15 rebounds, 4 blocks
Serge Ibaka – 16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks
Outcome: OKC Thunder wins by a margin of 7
NBA Regular Season Series: Los Angeles Clippers 2-2
The Los Angeles Clippers are on the rise—immediately. With Blake Griffin leading the Los Angeles Clippers and the pieces around him becoming more stable by the moment (Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan, Al-Farouq Aminu), he can really accelerate the Clippers’ position in the Western Conference.
Chris Kaman’s position right now is up in the air, but everyone can see the height of potential that this group of young men has. The game-changer will undoubtedly be Eric Gordon.
The Clippers have already stated their position on the young guard and they have reached out to his agents to solidify his role with the franchise because he is valued portion of their success. Gordon’s injury halted his production and left the young team in a bad spot as they avidly missed his scoring ability.
Hopefully he can come into this season healthy and ready to put in the work necessary to take the Clippers to the playoffs, as Mo Williams believes so strongly will happen.
The Golden State Warriors seem as if they have a long way to go before viable strides can be made towards the postseason with so many Western Conference teams emerging as contenders ahead of them.
Still, the combination of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry with the newest draft addition of Klay Thompson to the lineup, the Warriors add tremendously to their already high-octane scoring.
But the biggest attribute Thompson brings to the table that he actually plays defense, which is something the Warriors have lacked and it is what has been stopping them against teams with heavy scoring threats as well. The former Washington State guard will be the Warriors standout player in this meeting.
Scoring Predictions: Eric Gordon - 20 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds
Klay Thompson – 12 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds
Outcome: Golden State Warriors by a margin of 8