So here we go.
I am sure there were times when you wondered if there’d be an NBA season during the lockout and considering what’s about to unfold with the HOTH, I would imagine there will be times in the next four months when a lot of you will wonder if it’s even worth it that the season was salvaged.
Yes, there will be times when it looks like an unmitigated disaster, just as there will be times when it looks like the grand plan is unfolding perfectly, just as there will be times when it’s somewhere in between.
That’s the nature of the beast and you know I’m going to offer these words of caution:
Do not get too bent out of shape the nights they get drilled; do not get too euphoric on the nights they win. Both are going to happen, the former perhaps more often than the latter, but appreciate the game, the “wow” moments inside the game, and watch for incremental improvement of the guys whose futures seem tied to the franchise.
Look, I have no clue how many wins they’ll get in the 66-games that begin tonight, no one does.
They could win 14, they could win 18, they could win 26. There are an awful lot of awful basketball teams throughout the league and it is virtually impossible to say how this season will unfold.
But as it begins, here are some specific things you should probably pay attention to over the course of the next 66 games to see if they occur:
Intensity and consistency of effort on defence
We have been told, and told, and told, and told, that this season is about “culture change” and an emphasis on defence that will – they hope – be a foundation to build on.
What’s it mean? Specifically? Well, if you listen to Dwane Casey, or watch good defensive teams, it means more tenacity, more circumstances where big men show hard on screens to “impact the ball” and far less free passage to the rim for opposing guards and wings.
A willingness to get physical
Not dirty, but physical. Not beating on people or taking flagrant fouls or fighting; it’s setting hard screens and fighting strongly on those set against you; it’s boxing out with aggression, turning and facing and knocking your man away. Solid basketball.
So there’s two on the defensive end. Want two on the other?
If DeMar DeRozan is going to take the next step offensively – to steal one of the more boring clichés of the day – he simply has to develop a better outside shot. If he doesn’t, it’ll be more of the same – good but not great – and a season of lost opportunity.
Davis in the post
Dwane caught a few of us off-guard when he said he saw Ed Davis as a legitimate post presence off the bench. Me? I’m dubious right now, I don’t for a second think he’s strong enough but if that’s what they want to do, that’s what you have to look for.
Anyway, folks, it’s going to be an up-and-down year, I can assure you that. But if there is one thing you need to remember, it’s this:
It’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s not get to worked up about. Enjoy it for what it is. A wonderful sport played by gifted athletes.
Helluva finish in New York, great finish in L.A., Heat look really good, Oklahoma City starts with a bang and I couldn’t stay up for Golden State-Clippers.
Not a bad start to the season and judging by the buzz I was getting from even casual fans, that whole “fans will never come back because of the lockout” thing might not be happening.
Of course, give us a week of games that more resemble the dog’s breakfasts we’re going to see over the course of the abomination of a season and we’ll see how everyone’s really feeling.
But yesterday? Yesterday was good.
And if this wasn’t the best intro to a sports season ever, I don’t know what was.
This is truly exceptional.
Best part of Christmas?
Super Son seeing his Super Great Grandpa’s WW1 medals for the first time.
Can’t beat that.
That is one wacky pucks franchise that shares the arena with the Raptors, isn’t it?
The word on the street from my pucks friends is that the Leaves have a tendency to treat the media with disdain – all of it, not just us like the silly Mayor of The City I’m Glad I Don’t Live In – but Christmas might have taken the cake.
The coach – he of the unspecial teams – puts out a tweet in the morning announcing his own contract extension in some joking manner; the general manager kind of confirms it in the same method in the afternoon and I type this late, late at night, there’s still no word from the franchise in any official manner.
Look, it’s no skin off my nose how they do their business but that’s kind of lame, isn’t it? Pretty big story they got out in a rather weak manner.
But how cool would it have been had some enterprising pucks reporter found independent confirmation by talking to Wilson’s family?
That would have been sweet.
Hope you all had some fine eating over the last couple of days.
I sure did.
And if you’ve got to rank the components of a typical Grunt Family Christmas from top to bottom, you go with:
Stuffing (lots of savoury).
The crisp skin of a roasted turkey (eaten while carving).
Mashed potatoes (with a lot of that gravy).
Brussel sprouts (sautéed by Super Uncle).
Nanaimo bars (homemade, of course).
Turkey (not a huge fan, actually).
Any vegetable (a kid at heart).
What have you got?
Oh yeah, we’ve got the IGBT going tonight starting around 7; if the wireless works in Cleveland, that is.
And since Dwane’s keeping his starting lineup to himself these days, check back here about noon for a post-shootaround update with any news.