Seven Things To See This Season: Kobe, LeBron, Shaq, and more…
What’s good, basketball fans?
The title says it all, so we can dispense with the formalities and get down to business right away. As always, you can reach me with your comments, questions and suggestions via email ([email protected]) or the box at the bottom of the page.
A Bulked-Up Kobe
Having dropped the majority of the muscle he gained prior to the trial, Kobe last year looked his weakest since his rookie season. While hardly a pushover, he was noticeably lacking power in the post where previously he had been running over all but the sturdiest of defenders. Now, with the extra armour, he’s less susceptible to minor injuries and better suited to a spot down low if Phil’s plans call for it.
A Bulked-Up Shaq
Kobe’s former teammate and long-time nemesis Shaq did likewise, packing on an extra ten pounds of beef to better cope with the beatings on the block. While The Diesel had previously worked hard to drop weight, opting for mobility over mass, it transpired that the trade-off was not a favourable one come crunch time. With the season on the line, The Man of Steel looked more like Tin Man, hobbling hopelessly on a thigh that, lacking the padding that had previously protected it, sustained a hard shot and never fully recovered. If Big really can go back to his “alien roots” and throw his weight around as he did in his glory days, the defenders of the world will be at his mercy once more.
LeBron and Dwyane
What is there to say about two players that have exceeded all expectations in only their second season? In the past I’d evaluate their performances objectively and attempt to put their achievements into perspective, but I soon gave up on that. Now, I simply break out the popcorn and wait for the highlights to come. If you can’t enjoy watching this pair, you’re probably following the wrong sport.
4. Ron Artest
Guess who’s bizack. That’s right: the man who took fan participation to a new level. Will he be the same player he was before? I don’t know. Will he shut defenders down like the Ron-Ron of old? I don’t know. Will he be one of the most entertaining characters in the league regardless? Most definitely. Whether or not Mr. Artest will handle his on-court affairs as he once did is yet to be seen. What’s guaranteed is that he’ll do at least one thing next year that makes even his family scratch their heads and wonder exactly what he was thinking.
While his consistency is laudable, Andrew Bogut has the sort of game that doctors prescribe as a remedy for insomnia. Marv, on the other hand, has displayed the type of patchy brilliance that always makes for good viewing. Even as a key player on a championship-winning team televised internationally on a weekly basis, he remains an unknown factor having spent his college career backing up fellow ’05 draftee Sean May. Now as the face of an Atlanta franchise rebuilt (or rebuilding – I forget which line they’re currently spinning) for the umpteenth time, he has a chance to step out of his teammate’s substantial shadow and prove that he deserves to have been selected so early.
“What the f*** is that dude thinking?”
My reaction to the news that Jax was to rejoin the purple and gold may not have been phrased particularly eloquently, but it was characteristic of the general response. However, having learnt over the years that Phil normally knows best, I retracted my previous exclamation and adopted the wait-and-see attitude. Cynics suggest that money and Ms. Buss drove the decision, but I’m inclined to believe that P.J. knows something we don’t. If that’s the same something that earned him all those rings, the Lakers are in line for a better season than most predicted.
Having seen how he toyed with Timmy D and the Spurs in Phoenix’s losing effort in the playoffs last year, I’m no longer sure that there’s anyone who can stop STAT if he really wants it. With Q and J.J. sporting new uniforms this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amaré lead the league in scoring. It may be a bold prediction to the purists who hate to admit that athleticism alone can make for such numbers, but it’s a realistic one nonetheless. Just don’t forget where you heard it first.
That’s all for today, folks. Until the next edition of The Blog, take it easy.