The additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash are profound, but Howard’s last season ended in back surgery and Nash is 38. As many have astutely noted, the Lakers are getting older. Take away the 26-year-old Howard and the other four starters average 34 years. But if they do stay healthy – and they improved their bench significantly with a scorer in Antawn Jamison – then the Heat will have to be at their best in those finals.
4. I wonder if this is finally the year that Kobe Bryant proves to not be the bionic man. Bryant has missed only 17 games in the last five years, but could miss the first game of the season Wednesday against the Mavericks with a sore foot. For the last few years, I’ve had the attitude that rumors of Bryant’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. But his reign as Superman will end some day, won’t it? Won’t it?
5. I wonder if suggestions that the Spurs’ Big Three are the oldest Trio since those Kingston fellows might be true from a relative basketball standpoint. Tim Duncan (36), Manu Ginobili (35) and Tony Parker (30) are certainly not too old to compete with the elite teams. But they were flat in a conference final loss to the Thunder last year and the competition only gets tougher. They may no longer be a huge threat to win a title, but there is a certainty about the Spurs: Don’t go to sleep on them because they may be older, but they’re spry enough to shock someone.
6. I wonder if James Harden, who is only 23, fully grasps what he has done to his future. Yes, he will get $60 million with the Rockets instead of the $54 million the Thunder offered. His ego will be nourished and he’ll have an extra $6 million over the next four years. But he has gone from a perennial contender to a team devoid of talent. He may never compete for a championship again and you can be sure his OKC pals will, although they are weakened by his departure. Harden may not be aware of the saying that money can’t buy happiness, but no one has done a more effective job of positioning himself to find out whether or not that is true.
7. I wonder if George Karl can take a Denver team void of superstars – even with the addition of Andre Iguodala – and motivate them all the way to the NBA Finals. There hasn’t been a contender with fewer marquee names since the 2004 Detroit Pistons won the NBA title, but Karl is as good as there ever has been at inspiring teams to overachieve.
8. I wonder if franchises such as Houston, Atlanta, Orlando that are building for the future will be playing to half-empty buildings in the second half of the season. Or sooner.
9. I wonder if Jeremy Lin is for real.
10. I wonder if Chris Paul will like the Clippers at the end of the season.
11. I wonder if Mark Cuban’s mad scientist approach will pay off in a year or two and if the Mavericks will return to being an elite team. With Dirk Nowitzki out for six weeks or so after minor knee surgery, the Mavericks will be hard-pressed to get off to a good start. Nowitzki has always been a quick healer but he’s never been 34 before, so how quickly will his body recover? The Mavericks have been excellent since Cuban bought the team in 2000. Will they surprise and keep it up this year?
12. And even though it’s 15 months away, I wonder when new commissioner Adam Silver takes office if he will try to out-Stern David Stern by doing something innovative as his first act. For instance, will Silver name the first female Deputy Commissioner in the history of the four major sports? Silver has worked closely with and is a huge fan of Heidi Ueberroth, who, by the way has a father named Peter who was once baseball commissioner. I don’t know if such a thing is in the gene pool, but I don’t know that it’s not. Basketball operations could continue to be run by Joel Litvin and Stu Jackson, with Silver and Ueberroth – who is president of NBA global marketing efforts – concentrating on the business. If it happens, it says here, it won’t be that surprising.
Jan Hubbard has written about basketball since 1976 and worked in the NBA league office for eight years in between media stints. Follow him on Twitter at @whyhub. For Hubbard’s archive from SheridanHoops.com, click here.
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