Two significant things will happen this NBA season: David Stern will step down as commissioner, probably five years too late. And for the first time in 20 years, the 76ers, Celtics and Lakers all will be out of the playoffs.
We know the first to be true. The second is pure conjecture, but it’s more likely than not that three of the top NBA franchises in terms of tradition, history, titles and outsized personalities will be booking trips to ping-pong festivities in May. (At least they have moved them from the dynamited old NBA Entertainment headquarters in Secaucus, N.J. to Times Square, if that is any consolation).
Wait, there’s more. Here are my fearless predictions for the 2013-14 season.
1. Jason Kidd will be the Coach of the Year. There’s historical precedence for this, kinda, sorta. Of the last three former players to become head coaches without ever having apprenticed on an NBA bench, two were named Coach of the Year in their first season. That would be the redoubtable Larry Bird in 1998 and the estimable Doc Rivers in 2000 (although Phil Jackson was a more deserving candidate that season.) The other, ahem, was Vinny Del Negro. Bird and Rivers were All-Stars, known for their cerebral play and their toughness. Vinny was, well, a point guard with great hair. Always.
2. Mike Brown will make an important discovery – offense! Like so many of today’s young coaches, the once and present coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers hates offense. Hates it, hates it, hates it, hates it. He had the generation’s greatest open-court player on his roster in Cleveland and insisted on pounding the ball, grinding it out, content to win with defense. But with Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett aboard, Brown will have one of those “Eureka” moments at some point. He may even have had it already, but he certainly won’t admit to it. It’s OK, Mike. It’s OK to let the players run, shoot and score. Really, it is.
3. LBJ to LAL? LOL! We’ve already been inundated with stories that have LeBron James heading west after this season to join the Lakers. Hahahahahahahaha. THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. EVER. We could number the ways in which this scenario is utterly ridiculous – or my man Chris Sheridan could simply re-rerun my Dwight Howard column from last spring. But ask yourself this: Why on earth would the game’s premier player go from a championship-caliber team (and it may even be a three-peater by the time free agency rolls around) to play for a terrible, rebuilding team? If he goes anywhere, it’s back to Cleveland, assuming prediction No. 2 is correct.
4. Kobe will go postal. The only unknown is whether it will happen in 2013 or 2014. It could happen in both. But it’s just a matter of time before Mt. St. Bryant erupts. He is at the end of a Hall of Fame career, desperately wanting that sixth ring to match You Know Who, and he has no chance of getting it with the group he’s with now. None. Will he demand to be traded? Will he demand that GM Mitch Kupchak be fired? Will he demand the return of Phil Jackson (who must be thanking his stars every day not to be entrusted with this mess)? Kobe is not going to suffer in silence. But he is going to suffer.
5. The Boston Celtics will be better than you think. They may even be good enough to make the playoffs, given that there is a big drop in the Eastern Conference after the first five playoff certainties (Miami, Indiana, Chicago, New York, Brooklyn). Who’s next? Cleveland? Detroit? Washington? Toronto? It may be more fun watching teams trying not to make the playoffs in April with a supposed blockbuster draft class awaiting. The Celtics could well be one of those teams, especially if Rajon Rondo returns to form. (His ETA is still unknown.)