2012-13 NBA Season Storylines To Watch

With the NBA kicking of this week, it’s the perfect time to take a look at all the key storylines fans will be following this season.

Buckle up, because it looks to be one heck of a season.

No Fuel For LeBron’s Haters
LeBron James was cast as a villain for the majority of the past two NBA seasons after his bold and cocky “Decision” to take his talents to South Beach. However, after winning an NBA Championship and putting on one of the more incredible individual performances in recent memory during the playoffs last spring, it appears the stink from two summers ago is finally off LeBron. He is only 27-years-old and it’s clear he still hasn’t reached his peak as a player. Now what can the haters cling to? Lame jokes about his receding hairline? Here’s to hoping to basketball fans have finally moved past his bad decisions two summers ago and they start to enjoy one of the better talents the game of basketball has ever witnessed.

Ray Allen Against The Celtics
Wow, things got nasty between Ray Allen and the Boston Celtics in a hurry. Within weeks of Allen bolting Beantown for South Beach, the haters came out of the woodwork in a hurry. Kevin Garnett claimed to no longer have Ray Allen’s phone number. Doc Rivers lamented to the Boston media how hurt he was by Allen’s decision. And Celtics fans? Look for them to be loud and passionate in booing Allen when he returns to Boston on January 27, 2013.

Allen, who normally doesn’t talk with the media about drama, gave interviews to a couple Miami outlets this month to clear the air and share his side of the story.

Personally, I find it entertaining how much drama a role player who will only get 20-25 minutes per game is generating.

Will There Be Drama In Los Angeles?
On paper, the Los Angeles Lakers should roll to the NBA Finals. However, as the old adage goes, there’s a reason why they play the games. It will be interesting to see how the egos of Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant mesh. Plus, Steve Nash has been winning the battle against Father Time thanks to the amazing work the Phoenix Suns’ training staff has done with his body. It will be interesting to see how the grizzled vet handles the rigors of an 82-game schedule without the safety blanket of the Suns training staff and with Steve Blake being his backup.

How Will Pacers Handle Expectations?
So far, not so good. Real games haven’t even started and already Danny Granger is complaining about his knee. It was looked at by doctors and they assume he can play through some pain, but Granger is complaining about not being able to gut it out. I’m planning on writing a story this week about how the Pacers are dealing with the burden of expectations after talking with the players and Frank Vogul when they are in Toronto on Wednesday. Stay tuned to Sportsnet for that column later this week.

The Brooklyn Nets Will Fail To Meet Expectations
Speaking of failing to meet expectations, look for the Brooklyn Nets to give the New York tabloids plenty of fodder this season as they will struggle to become one of the elite teams in their own division, let alone the Eastern Conference. Sure, the roster looks splashy with names like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, but who on that roster is known for playing gritty defence? Look for the Nets to get killed off dribble penetration and for their bigs to get posterized on a regular basis. If this Nets team doesn’t figure out a way to play effective defence their season will be a resounding disappointment.

Are The Spurs Too Old?
Last season one of the more comical moments came when Gregg Popovich gave Tim Duncan the night off and the box score said it was because Duncan was old. While funny, the reality is Duncan has played 1,111 regular season NBA games and 190 playoff games. The treads on the tires has to be running pretty low at this point. Throw in the fact the rest of their core – Tony Parker (958) and Manu Ginobili (803) – have played a combined 1,761 games in the NBA on top of busy summers playing for their national teams. It will be interesting to see what Popovich can do to ensure his veteran team is fresh for a deep run in the playoffs. But, if last season is any indication, it just means the team’s younger players will get extended minutes during the regular season to help with their development.

Is The Jeremy Lin Fairy Tale Over?
Jeremy Lin became an instant internet and global hit within the matter of weeks and the New York Knicks weren’t sure he could sustain that so they let him sign with the Houston Rockets this summer. Through his first six preseason games Lin has averaged 30.2 minutes per game but he is shooting 13-46 (28%) from the field. Yuck. Hopefully it’s just a matter of rust and once the games start to count he is able to elevate his game.

Can Chicago Stay Afloat Until Rose Returns?
Derrick Rose is scheduled to return from offseason knee surgery in February, but it’s likely the Bulls season could be toast by then. The Bulls are using a backcourt rotation of Kirk Hinrich, Marco Bellinelli, Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Rip Hamilton. Yuck. In my humble opinion, that’s the worst backcourt in the NBA, and the team will struggle mightily until Rose returns.

Howard-Less Magic Get An Early Vacation

The Orlando Magic were eliminated in the first round of the NBA Playoffs tonight, but this may prove to be a blessing in disguise. The Magic need time to put their drama filled season behind them and start to work on unity within the team in the offseason.

With all the chaos of the saga that interrupted their season, the Magic need to close ranks and build on the assets that they do have. Players like Ryan Anderson, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick have all shown their worth over the season, but were undermined by plays designed to get Howard in the paint to dunk. Now with Howard out of the picture, hopefully for good, they can concentrate on being the team that they are and build plays that use the strengths of these underestimated stars.

During the postseason, Nelson had become the leader on the court setting up plays and making it all happen. The Magic had expected Howard to be there to lead them through the postseason, as he had stated when he opted to stay with the team at the end of the trade deadline in March. He is currently in LA recovering from back surgery that ended his season in early April with the Magic.

Any team that takes Howard on has to know that he comes with issues. It would be like signing a Terrell Owens, or Randy Moss in the NFL; no one can deal with their attitudes or egos, but can’t deny that they have some talent.

Howard believes he’s so great that he won’t have a problem finding a team to take him, but it may not be what they bargained for. Sure, they can sign a franchise player, but look at his stats. His only two assets are getting into the paint and throwing down a dunk, and getting rebounds. He can’t shoot a 3-point shot, this past season he only shot 49% in FT’s, and 57% in FG’s.

Basically, his game needs work.

Chris Broussard at ESPN tweeted last week that he “asked 22 execs from 18 NBA teams: if you were [the] Lakers, would you trade Bynum for D Howard straight up? 16 said yes, 6 said no.”

They are all crazy if they think Howard would be an asset to the Lakers. Look at what Bynum has done for the Lakers in the post season. He broke a franchise playoff record of nine blocks in a game, which was previously set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bynum ended the game with 10 blocks against the Denver Nuggets on April 29th, matching two NBA records held by Mark Eaton in 1985, and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1990.

Believe it or not, but the Magic have a good chance at becoming a great team next season as long as they pick up a decent center in the off season. Once they move past the soap opera that plagued them this year, Magic fans can only hope for a refreshed and organized attitude next season.