Happy New Year!
With the new NBA season set to tip off with four games tonight, here are some of the things I’ll be watching for in tonight’s action.
Boston @ Cleveland, 7:30pm
I can’t wait to see LeBron again this season. Last year, coming off the Olympics, you could see that his focus was on improving defensively. Now, without a summer in the spotlight, I’m curious to see if he’s made any improvements to his already unreal game. Is this the year we finally see LeBron use his Karl Malone-like body to beast on people inside?
Also, I’m curious to see what kind of pregame theatrics the Cavs come up with. You know Shaq can’t stand to be out of the spotlight, I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to one-up LeBron’s chalk thing with something of his own.
As for Boston, I really want to see how Rondo responds to not getting a contract extension. Last year he was a triple-double waiting to happen in the playoffs, but at the same time, Boston was not a threat.
Are we going to see the more subdued Rondo that won the title in ’08, or will it be the ’09 version that was the centerpiece of that team?
And of course, I’m looking forward to seeing Rasheed Wallace’s giant new cornrows. Those would have been ugly 4 years ago. Nice throwback hairstyle, 'Sheed.
Washington @ Dallas, 8:30pm
Curious to see the return of the former Agent Zero. I wrote last season that he could be this decade’s Grant Hill, and not in a good way. Three knee surgeries in 17 months is a terrible route to take to NBA superstardom. It’s nearly impossible to bounce back from that.
Arenas says he’s healthy. We’ll find out tonight.
Houston @ Portland, 10:00pm
Greg Oden had a monster preseason. Rick Kamla of NBATV says he would be “shocked” if Oden doesn’t average a double-double this season. I really like Kamla, but he does realize that this is the same guy who couldn’t get minutes over Joel Prysbilla last season, right?
A double-double isn’t necessarily out of the question, but I think just establishing himself as a formidable NBA Center is a more likely first step than averaging a double-double.
And if you aren’t familiar with Aaron Brooks, point guard of the Rockets, you are in for a treat tonight. The guy is hands down the fastest player in the NBA. He is lightning quick.
The Rockets want to play more up-tempo with Yao out this season, so they could be a fun team to watch if they just let Brooks push the ball up the floor like he was shot out of a cannon every possession.
Clippers @ Lakers, 10:30pm
I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff anyway, but I’m really anxious for the ring ceremony tonight. Not because I necessarily want to see Kobe and company try on their ridiculously oversized bling for the first time, but more because I’m wondering what Ron Artest is going to be doing that whole time.
Will he just stay back in the locker room? Will he slide into the back of the line in the hopes that Dr. Buss will mistakenly give him one, too? Will he wander around the background like a curious dinosaur from Jurassic Park leaning in over Kobe’s shoulder to get a closer look?
These are the most important questions heading into tonight’s Lakers/Clippers matchup because the result is already predetermined: Lakers by 25.