Full court press ……..

Full court press

By Tophatal

With teams returning for preseason training camp, a number of franchises will seek to make up for last year’s fall from grace during the 2011-12 NBA season . The reigning champions ,the Miami Heat will look to make successful defense of their title , with league MVP and Finals’ MVP LeBron James looking to carry from where he left off in 2012. A dominant season, wherein, James led the franchise in a number of categories , while further emphasizing his legitimacy as the game’s best player. Heat executive , Pat Riley sought to bolster the roster in the off-season by acquiring sharpshooting free agent Ray Allen , who departed from the Boston Celtics under a great deal of controversy. If anything, this deal further boosts the Heat’s credentials as being the prohibitive favorites for this season’s NBA title .

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The Miami Heat will have their “Big Three”returning, as the team embarks upon their schedule . Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will join their erstwhile partner LeBron James in conjunction with Ray Allen. Erik Spoelstra, having won his first NBA title as a coach will look to add to his resume` in seeking a second title. And while the Southeast Divisional champions will almost certainly look re-emphasize their dominance within the division as well as the Eastern Conference . Certainly, there is bound to be the expected challenge from the likes of the Chicago Bulls , Philadelphia 76ers , Atlanta Hawks , Boston Celtics and a now resurgent , New York Knicks . However, I do believe that the Southeast division , as well as the Eastern Conference, will be the Heats to lose !

Inasmuch as I see the Miami Heat repeating as NBA champions , a great deal about their season will be predicated upon the health of the players , and whether or not their “key players” can stay healthy, while being consistent throughout their season. LeBron James, Ray Allen , Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade , will hold the key in terms of the success that this team will be able to achieve.

With the failure of the Los Angeles Lakers not going deep in the 2012 NBA postseason last season, you simply knew that there would be a major shakeup of the roster during the off-season. GM Mitch Kupchak, working in conjunction with head coach Mike Brown made the decision to jettison a number of players from last season’s roster. The most prominent of the players released, were Andrew Bynum , the team’s often erratic and troubled center . With the departure of Bynum, the Lakers made the ambitious move to acquire three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year , Dwight Howardlong with two-time league MVP and All Star point guard Steve Nash . These two prominent free agents join a team that will now be all the more potent ,built around the offensive prowess of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol , but with an aging core of seasoned veterans at the center of this roster , it is by no means a guarantee of success. The last time the Lakers had a team of this magnitude , came by of their roster assembled for the 2003-04 season that was dismantled in the NBA Finals (2004) by the Detroit Pistons.

At present, there’s a great deal of furor being made by former Lakers’ great Shaquille O’Neal and his criticism of Dwight Howard. Whether or not this comes down to jealousy or O’Neal being constructive in his criticism , it begs the question why now , when the former player has become a well-respected NBA television NBA analyst ? However, it does seem there are those who feel there is some justification to O’Neal’s observations and remarks. Bear in mind , Howard opened himself up to a great deal of criticism and scrutiny, with his demeanor in the run-up to his departure from the Orlando Magic. Howard’s intransigence, unwillingness to be upfront in his dealings with the front office led to a great deal of criticism of the player and how he handled this whole episode prior to his departure from the franchise. At the same time it should be noted that with the upheaval within the Magic’s own coaching and executive structure , their handling of this episode was considered a complete farce , with general manager Rob Hennigan and CEO Alec Martins , looking like complete novices, with their rationale and explanations, as to what they desired for the franchise. The Orlando Magic have since tried to infer that the franchise with the addition of Jacque Vaughn as the successor to Stan Van Gundy , and the players acquired in the trade of Dwight Howard , that they are now in a better position to make a credible run at an NBA title. To believe that , one would have to attest to the fact that they believe in the tooth fairy and that leprechauns do in fact run around with a pot of gold granting wishes to individuals who proceeded to be good. So have you been granted a wish by a leprechaun today?

The 67th season of the NBA kicks off officially on the 30th October,2012, when the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat , meet in a conference match-up of these two heated rivals. A number of teams within both conferences are deemed credible aspirants this season, but two franchises in particular have a vested interest in being amongst those thought to be in with a chance of dethroning the Miami Heat. Personally, I am of the opinion that the newly relocated and renamed Brooklyn Nets will remain a work in progress , even with the acquisition of Joe Johnson to form a formidable presence alongside Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams. And with the franchise now moving into their multimillion dollar venue , the Atlantic Yards Development , it begs the question , how successful can this organization be ? Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority stake owner , rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z.

Head coach Avery Johnson and his coaching staff will be in for a torrid time over the course of the season , albeit that there is a general feeling that this team can and will be competitive .

When the Nets sought to bring in Joe Johnson , I thought it somewhat incredulous, given the fact that Johnson , while being a very good guard cannot be viewed as one of the preeminent players at the position , much less the vocal leader on any team that he has ever had the privilege of playing for.He was never the leader that the Atlanta Hawks desired , and the very fact that he now has three years remaining on a contract that owes him in excess of $63 million, it has me wondering how and where GM Billy King sees Johnson fitting in with this team ! I recently read a patron’s article wherein he suggested that the Nets are now in a credible position to successfully challenge the Miami Heat as well as other prominent teams within the Eastern Conference. Given the Nets’ 22-44 record for the 2011-12 season , the team in its present guise would have to make an incredible leap, in terms of improving on last season’s record . Little was made of this , by this patron , other than to suggest that the Brooklyn Nets are just that good. I believe that there is a great deal of naiveté on the part of this patron ! The newly minted Atlantic Yards /Barclays Center venue may well see a great deal of excitement this upcoming season with the Brooklyn Nets , but I seriously doubt that it will come by way of the team becoming a prominent contender for the NBA title. The team is good, but nowhere as good, as is being advertised.

What else needs to be said of the continued idiocy concerning the ongoing machinations of the New York Knicks ? The team’s front office under the guidance of owner James L Dolan and Glen Grunwald. What now seems to be befuddling to the fans and press alike , is the contingencies being made to reintroduce former executive Isaiah Thomas back into the fold, as with retired veteran Rasheed Wallace now coming out of retirement to re-sign with the famed franchise . I’m somewhat surprised at this juncture that the organization hasn’t approached Hall of Fame player Clyde Frazier to gauge his interest in making a comeback , considering the desperation now being shown by Glen Grunwald and the coaching staff led by Mike Woodson. Given the inconsistency shown by the team and the very fact Amare` Stoudemire has shown the infantile like behavior, rather than the leadership qualities sought by the organization. For the greater part of the season it was left to Carmelo Anthony to lead the team by example . And can we please get over the contributions of Jeremy Lin ? The point guard’s momentary glare in the spotlight was a passing fad , he soon fell back to earth with an emphatic thud. One only has to look at Lin’s statistics and specifically the multiple turnovers per game. Aren’t we missing something here? Instead, the press sought place the player into the spotlight while failing to look at his overall game ? Something we should not be surprised by , given the lack of journalistic integrity , there just happens to be in the New York city media market . If bulls#hit were an aroma , somehow and in some way , the New York media market would definitely try sell it to the public and consumer as a worthwhile product , as it’s just the way they are !

It is one thing that Glen Grunwald would bring in Carmelo Anthony and Amare` Stoudemire to a great deal of fanfare , and no doubt so much more by way of expectation. The Knicks being summarily being dispatched in first round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat with consummate ease. The New York Knicks were a poor excuse for a playoff team, as they simply fell apart under the barrage set forth by LeBron James and his teammates during the series . It is hard to understand how anyone can be of the belief that the James Dolan can believe that the addition of Rasheed Wallace , Marcus Camby and an aging Jason Kidd will bring any semblance of success to a team that simply is devoid of defensive —- capability , but the fans in attendance this season can only but hope. And therein lies the drama that surrounds this whole sorry episode concerning this franchise. Does anyone truly believe that the New York Knicks over the course of this season will be a competitive force within the Eastern Conference , then based upon last season’s results clearly this beyond being lackluster they will continue to be an afterthought in the minds of most analysts who will make their prognostications concerning the best teams within the conference as well as the NBA as whole.

There is no denying that the loss of Derrick Rose in the first round of last season’s playoffs, which ended in series’ defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers. With the Bulls’ season ending so abruptly , and with the team being the number one seed coming into the postseason, it was something of an extreme letdown for the organization, and specifically their fans. Rose’s injury came in game one of the series and many felt that Tom Thibodeau erred in his judgment , in keeping the player on-court when the game was well within their grasp. The loss of Rose , the 2011 league MVP was beyond thought-provoking as the Chicago Bulls simply was unable to recover from the loss of Derrick Rose .The player’s recovery has been slow, but for the point guard his return will ensure that the team has a better player than last season . Much of that however, would have to be predicated upon Rose’s teammates and the contributions that they are able to make.

David Stern knows that coming into this season , the league needs to fulfill the wishes of the fans , by offering up an entertaining brand for the consumer. A truncated season of 66 games in 2012 , brought about because the NBA hierarchy saw fit to enforce a league wide lockout of the players , thereby forcing the hand of the NBPA and their executive committee led by Executive Director Billy Hunter and union president Derek Fisher. The new collective bargaining agreement ensures that the two parties are now has a mutual peace accord that is amenable to all both parties. In truth the NBA has an even greater distrust of the union , now than at any other time in the NBA’s history. It remains to be seen how the league and union can now coexist while offering the consumer a brand worth watching.

The league’s franchises have their issues from an economic standpoint , and while the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers remain two the most valuable teams in the NBA. It should be noted also that one half of the NBA franchises were in fact unprofitable , losing collectively in excess of $175 million .With the biggest loss being amassed by the NBA’s worst franchise in 2012 , the Charlotte Bobcats . The franchise remains in a tailspin under the ownership of the beleaguered Michael Jordan and a front office led by CEO Fred Whitfield and GM Rich Cho . The Bobcats’ draft history at best , can be described as monumental mess , and has continued through the haphazard thinking by Jordan and his fellow executives. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, was taken as the number two overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. With the Kentucky Wildcats having produced a plethora of players that were taken in the first round of the NBA Draft(2012). As to whether or not these players will be an undoubted success will be determined by the success of the teams that drafted these rookies.

Could the Minnesota Timberwolves be the surprise team in the Western Conference this upcoming season ? Built around the presence of power forward Kevin Love and the mercurial play of point guard Ricky Rubio , the Timberwolves are hoping to take up from where they left off from last season .The two, are now the fulcrum that drives the team and their progression.

Rick Adelman brings with him a great deal of experience from a coaching standpoint, and it will be that experience along with the Love’s leadership , that is liable to dictate the type of season and the success that the Timberwolves can attain this year. It should be noted that the fans of the team have not been this excited in years , and most certainly not since their heydays when Kevin Garnett was a member of this organization and then a perennial All Star. The years have been lean in recent seasons with the Timberwolves not being part of the NBA postseason foray since 2003-04 . As I alluded to earlier , this could very well be the season where we may well see the Timberwolves rise like a phoenix from the ashes of ineptitude.

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Picture gallery for your perusal.

as the preseason gets underway for the NBA, what expectations do you have for the NBA regular season? Which teams do you believe will be participants in the upcoming postseason and do you believe that the NBA hierarchy has done enough to secure a lasting peace within the league ?

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Picture gallery and slideshow for your perusal.
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(1) Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) is defended by Atlanta Hawks’ Josh Smith in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game , Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in Atlanta. AP Photo/Todd Kirkland ….

Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh (1) goes up to dunk in the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in Atlanta. The Hawks won 92-79 . AP Photo/Todd Kirkland ….

(3) ATLANTA, GA – OCTOBER 07: Chris Bosh (1) , LeBron James (6) , Ray Allen (34) and Dwyane Wade (3) of the Miami Heat watch the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on October 7, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. Copyrighted material all rights reserved … @ Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images ….

(4) Los Angeles Lakers’ Chris Duhon, Jordan Hill, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash talk during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in Fresno, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian ….

(5) Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant , left, and new teammate Steve Nash , second from right, get set to play a preseason NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in Fresno, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian ….

(6) The Brooklyn Nets’ Joe Johnson speaks to reporters as he and his team worked out at the Barclay’s Center for the first time Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 in New York. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle ….

(7) FILE- In this May 17, 2006, file photo, Detroit Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace argues with referee Ken Mauer during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of their NBA playoffs second-round series at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich. The New York Knicks signed Wallace on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 . Wallace, a four-time All-Star, is ending a two-year retirement. AP Photo/Paul Sancya ….

(8) New York Knicks’ Jason Kidd (5) shakes hands with Kurt Thomas during their NBA basketball media day at the team’s training facility in Greenburgh, N.Y., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle …

(9) Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman, center, poses with coaching staff including, from left, Terry Porter, Jack Sikma and T.R. Dunn during the their NBA basketball media day, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, in Minneapolis. Coming into this season, Adelman wanted veteran players, and team president David Kahn made it happen by bringing in Brandon Roy , Andrei Kirilenko and several others in a house-cleaning that Adelman hopes will get the Timberwolves in the playoff picture in the West. AP Photo/Jim Mone …..

(10) Minnesota Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio poses for photos during their NBA basketball media day, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, in Minneapolis. AP Photo/Jim Mone ….

(11) FILE – In this Aug. 8, 2012, file photo, United States’ Kevin Love, left, dunks as Australia’s Brad Newley , right, defends during a men’s quarterfinal basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Love is back in Minnesota after a summer highlighted by an Olympic gold medal. He’s gearing up for one of the most anticipated seasons in the Timberwolves’ hardscrabble history , with training camp starting next week. AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano …..

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