As the owners and players each separately sit down with federal mediator George Cohen today, and then jointly tomorrow, we have the prospect of even more canceled games to look forward to. Commissioner David Stern has been wielding the threat of missed paychecks for the NBPA like a sword, and last week he threatened to cancel the season through Christmas if a deal was not reached today or tomorrow. The season is quickly slipping away, and I’m not at all happy about it. There’s far too much I want to see, far too much at stake, especially after the craziness that was the 2010-11 season. In honor of the percentage of Basketball Related Income that the NBPA would like to receive under the new agreement, I present "53 Things I Want to See this NBA Season, Provided David Stern Doesn’t Take it Away From Us If That Whole Federal Mediator Meeting Goes Badly."
53. As much as it pains me, I want to see the Big Three and the Miami Heat make another run at a title. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh sat proudly on a stage and declared they’d win multiple championships. They came up short in their first run, and they only have so many chances left before their contracts expire or they are no longer in their primes.
52. I want to see whether the Indiana Pacers can build on last season’s surprising success. Larry Bird and David Morway have done a nice job assembling a roster through the draft and some underrated trades. The Pacers haven’t hit many home runs in the draft, but they’ve connected on Paul George, Tyler Hansbrough, Roy Hibbert and Danny Grangers within the last six years. With a bundle of cap space available this offseason, Indiana can make another jump.
51. After seeing his star center’s interview with Esquire, I want to see what Magic general manager Otis Smith can do to try to keep Dwight Howard in Orlando. It’s long been presumed Howard will be on the move in free agency, but Otis can’t possibly just let him walk right out the door.
50. In that same vein, I want to see what’s going to happen with the Chris Paul situation. New Orleans? New York? Los Angeles? Where will the league’s best point guard finish this season?
49. I want to see the Oklahoma City Thunder continue their rose to the top of the Western Conference. Armed with the purest scorer in the league in Kevin Durant and a gaggle of worthy sidekicks (Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and James Harden come to mind), OKC should be at or neap the top of the West for years to come.
48. I want to see Jason Kidd, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett all take one last shot at another ring. The Mavericks, Spurs and Celtics are some of the oldest teams in the NBA, and these icons of my generation deserve (at least) one more go-round before they hang it up for good.
47. I want to see what Mike Brown has in store for us in Los Angeles, and how Kobe Bryant will react to not being the focal point of the offense. Brown has made it clear that he wants to get more touches for Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and I don’t think I’m the only who doesn’t see that going over so well with Kobe.
46. I want to see Blake Griffin dunk.
44. Now that he finally has a roster with some noteworthy talent for – presumably – a full season (obviously not an 82 game season, but for the entirety of whatever season there is – I want to see what Mike D’Antoni can do with the new-look Knicks. Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire are one of the most explosive scoring duos in the NBA, but can D’Antoni get his superstars to buy in on defense?
43. I want to see if Derrick Rose can do it again. Rose took the world by storm last season and carried the Chicago Bulls on his back all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Without another perimeter scoring option to help shoulder the load, can Rose get the Bulls to the same heights?
42. I want to see John Wall go coast-to-coast with the ball in his hands. Right now there’s nobody in the league that’s faster.
41. With Chauncey Billups out of the way and Raymond Felton now in Portland, I want to see Ty Lawson as the starting point guard in Denver. Lawson is one of the best young point guards in the league: he can hit it from three, finish at the basket and find the open man. In George Karl’s offense, he should have a nice opportunity to put up big numbers.
40. With Yao Ming no longer around, I want to see what happens with the Houston Rockets. Although Yao couldn’t be counted on to be a significant contributor the last few seasons due to injuries, the Rockets always had to gear their team around him because he was so valuable when he was on the floor. Now it will be up to Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry to run the show.
38. I want to see if the Toronto Raptors can really get any worse on defense.
37. With the city still reeling from the loss of LeBron James, I want to see the fans in Cleveland embrace Kyrie Irving as one of their own. Kyrie was the best player in college basketball last season in the limited time he was on the floor, and I can’t wait to see him in action for the Cavs.
36. HAND DOWN, MAN DOWN. I want to see if Mark Jackson can back up his guarantee to bring the Golden State Warriors to the playoffs. In one of the league’s best markets, with arguably the best fans, Jackson needs to get the W’s to commit on the defensive end of the floor, which will be tough with players like David Lee, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.
34. After last season’s surprising playoff run, I want to see the Memphis Grizzlies continue to pound teams inside. Zach Randolph miraculously turned into what everyone always thought he could be. Marc Gasol proved to be more than just filler in one of the worst trades in history. And the Grizz made a run without their most talented player in Rudy Gay. They should be even better this year.
33. I want to see if Kevin Johnson, Jimmer Fredette, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins can keep the Kings in Sacramento. With the specter of a move to Anaheim or elsewhere looming over the season, can the young Kings develop enough of a bond with the city to save the team? Can KJ, the mayor of Sactown and a former Phoenix Sun, secure the finances for a new arena?
32. I want to see if Brandon Roy can re-capture the magic he created in the Mavericks series for just one night.
31. I want to see Steve Nash play out the string in Phoenix. The best passer of a generation is toiling away in obscurity on a team that isn’t going anywhere, but he’s still a joy to watch. Whether he’s hitting Marcin Gortat on the pick and roll or finding Jared Dudley for three, I want to see Nash go to work.
30. I want to see if the Atlanta Hawks can finally break through the second round of the playoffs.
29. After years of calling for it, I want to see LeBron James’ improved post game. James responded to a fan question on Twitter asking why he didn’t operate out of the post more often by saying "I never developed that part of my game cause I played on the perimeter mostly my whole life. This off-season I HAVE it now!"
28. I want to (finally) see Ricky Rubio in an NBA uniform.
27. After his sojourn to Turkey, I want to see how Deron Williams is affected by the overseas experience. Will he come back better for it, or will the different style of play have a lasting effect on his game?
26. I want to see if someone will ever give Patrick Ewing a shot at a head coaching job. The former Knicks big man has been tutoring some of the best centers in the game over the last few seasons as a coach (Yao Ming and Dwight Howard), and he says he’s more than just a big man coach. He deserves a chance.
25. I want to see Craig Sager’s suits.
24. I want to see Shaq on Inside the NBA with EJ, Chuck and Kenny, and I want to see what happens when C-Webb is there at the same time.
22. I want to see Greg Monroe work out of the high post. Monroe was a beacon of hope amidst a very bad season for the Detroit Pistons last year, and along with Brandon Knight should lead a new generation of talent for Joe Dumars’ squad; if they ever get rid of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
19. I want to see if the Nets can even come close to filling an arena in their last season in New Jersey.
18. Derrick Williams exploded in the NCAA Tournament last year. I want to see how Rick Adelman finds enough playing time for him, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley on the front line. Williams looks like a power forward, but he thinks he’s a small forward. The Wolves’ best two players play those two positions.
17. The Jazz have a logjam at the power forward position, I want to see how they sort it out. Between Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors, there probably aren’t enough minutes to go around; especially with Enes Kanster now in the mix as well. How will Utah handle the situation?
16. I want to see James Harden’s beard.
15. I want to see if Phil Jackson has really retired for good, or if he’s just waiting for the next opportunity.
14. The Eastern Conference has long been seen as inferior to the West, but a lot of Western Conference players have changed addresses in the last couple of years (Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams, to name two). I want to see if we can get eight teams over .500 in the East for the first time since 2004-05.
13. I want to see if Michael Jordan does better in this go-round as a front office executive. MJ had a pretty poor tenure running the Wizards; Kwame Brown anyone? Can he change the fortunes of his Charlotte Bobcats team that doesn’t look to have much star potential on the roster moving forward? Is Jordan enough of a draw for free agents to want to come play in Charlotte?
12. I want to see if Eric Spoelstra makes it through the year, or if Pat Riley returns to the sideline. You know the rumors will never stop until Spoelstra or Riley leaves the Heat.
11. I want to see if Greg Oden can make a comeback. The Trail Blazers’ big man has been routinely hobbled by knee injuries and hasn’t been able to stay on the floor for an extended period of time. With him and Brandon Roy, they don’t have one good knee between ‘em. Is it time to officially declare it a mistake to draft Oden over Kevin Durant? You can argue it, but nine times out of 10, every NBA general manager is going to take the potential franchise center at No. 1 overall.
10. I want to see the unbelievable crop of point guards out there right now. Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Andre Miller, Chauncey Billups, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Jennings, John Wall, Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Devin Harris, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette. I can’t wait.
9. A disappointment after being traded out of Oklahoma City, I want to see if Jeff Green can become a valuable contributor for the Boston Celtics. Green was the fifth pick in the Oden/Durant draft, and he’s taken some heat for not being much of a defender and not becoming a more valuable scorer. I’d like to see if he can develop some chemistry with the C’s and become a big time piece for their second unit.
8. I want to see who gets booed louder this year: David Stern or the Heat’s Big Three.
7. I want to see Madison Square Garden rocking for a playoff game. There’s no crowd that knows basketball better or demands more from their players. Last year we got a little taste, but if the Knicks can go on an extended playoff run, the Garden will be going insane.
6. The lockout has provided NBA us with lots of cool new sayings and memes. I want to see if "how u", Robert Sarver’s wife’s handbad, #LetUsPlay and other lockout related sayings stick around in the NBA lingo.
5. After languishing for a few seasons behind the best center in the league, I want to see if Marcin Gortat can become a legitimate starting center. The Polish seven footer was solid down the stretch for the Phoenix Suns, can he keep up that pace for a full season? He’s got a nice pick and roll partner in Steve Nash, and the suns really know how to space the floor so their big guys have room to operate.
4. I want to see Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy.
3. I want to see if Metta World Peace plays defense as well as Ron Artest. Ron-Ron will start the season with a new name, but it will be the return of his tenacious defense that the Los Angeles Lakers really need most. In Mike Brown’s system, he’ll have to be able to help Kobe Bryant shut down perimeter scorers.
2. I want to see the Mavericks add Caron Butler to their championship winning mix.
1. Honestly, I just want to see basketball.