Just because there's no meaningful NBA news going on right now doesn't mean we can't anticipate some of the painfully boring stories we're likely to have forced on us during the upcoming season. We've already discussed five of them. Here are five more:6. Kevin Garnett: During his 11 NBA seasons, The Big Ticket has averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds per game, made the All-NBA 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Team six times, made the All-NBA Defensive 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Team six times, made eight All-Star Game appearances, and was named the league's regular season MVP in 2003 (thanks to Sam Cassell). Yet in all that time, the Minnesota Timberwolves have missed the playoffs three times (including the last two seasons) and been unceremoniously booted in the first round seven times. Garnett's only extended playoff run ended in the 2003 Western Conference Finals when Sam I Am came up lame and a flawed Lakers team overwhelmed the suddenly leaderless Wolves.
Garnett is a spectacular player, a fiery competitor, and (seemingly) an all-around nice guy. As such, he's garnered a lot of sentiment from the league's players, coaches, and sportswriters. Some people go so far as to say Garnett "deserves" a better team, and that the Timberwolves organization has "failed" him. Forget the fact that Garnett has gobbled up cap room by demanding back-to-back $100 million contracts, and that he's not really a team leader who inspires his teammates to greater heights.But this isn't meant to be a critique on Garnett. It's simply an observation. And depending on how the dice roll, the possible KG stories depend on how the Timberwolves perform as a team. There are only two possibilities:
6a. They'll suck: This is the most likely scenario. Yes, I know they added Mike James and his gaudy 20 ppg/6 apg averages, but the fact remains that the Wolves are heavy in mediocre guards and weak on frontcourt help for Garnett. At best they'll compete for the 7th or 8th playoff spot and a probably first round playoff exit, at worst they'll miss the playoffs yet again. And, while the Hindenburg is going down in flames, we'll read story after story about how hard all this losing is on KG. Again.
6b. They won't suck: Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Kevin McHale will shock the world by dumping the dead weight contracts of players like Mark Blount, Marco Jaric, and Troy Hudson, then pull off some kind of blockbuster trade for, well, anybody worth having. Then if James, Ricky Davis, and rookie Randy Foye play out of their minds maybe -- just maybe -- the Wolves could crack the 5th or 6th playoff spot. But I honestly don't see this team getting out of the first round. So expect the first half of the season to bring us stories about the Wolves' resurgence, then about how sad it is to see Garnett go out in the first round. Again.Postscript: Since the Timberwolves can't possible turn into a contender this year, much (more) will be made of Kevin McHale's incompetence as a GM and whether or not Garnett will be traded. In other words, the exact same stories we've been reading the last two years.
7. All-Star Picks: Fans and sportswriters get really worked up over the All-Star Game, which is funny considering how utterly meaningless it is. At least in baseball -- my least favorite sport, by the way -- the All-Star Game decides which conference gets home field advantage in the World Series. The NBA All-Star Game is little more than playground ball until the last couple minutes of the 4th quarter. It's not even entertaining to watch anymore. But there will still be numerous angry stories covering the following subjects:
7a. Those who made it but shouldn't have: Even if Shaq only plays five games by the All-Star break, you know he's going to get voted in as a starter. Same with Lebron, Kobe, and half a dozen other guys. Remember a few years ago when Vince Carter hardly played but was named a starter? Of course, David Stern forced Vince to give up his spot in honor of the Michael Jordan Third Retirement Tour. But that's the gimmick...fans get to vote their favorite players into the game, and those players get to start. Yet we'll still have to read people mumbling and grumbling about the inequity of it all, and I'm sure Stephen A. Smith will do some screaming ("ARE YOU TELLING ME A GUY WHO'S PLAYED ONLY FIVE GAMES THIS SEASON DESERVES TO BE A STARTER IN THE NBA ALL-STAR GAME?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!"). Oh, we'll probably hear again about how Yao Ming gets all the Chinese votes. Is it his fault he has a billion fellow countrymen and women who love him?
7b. Those who didn't make it but should have: Last year, a near-travesty was averted when Gilbert Arenas was a late addition to the All-Star Game, but it only happened because the Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal had to sit out due to injury. It was a ridiculous omission, considering that Arenas was among the league leaders in both scoring (28.2 ppg) and assists (5.9 apg). This lead, of course, to many stories about the injustice of the initial snub and the prevailing justice of his inclusion. That, however, was an exception. Most of the time there's no make-ups. People are unjustly left off the roster, there is a week or two of outrage, and then everybody forgets about it. Except the player, of course, who usually has a handful of big games before and/or after the All-Star game, which will cause everyone to remark how the player is proving why he should have been on the All-Star Team.
7c. Subs who should have started: Remember when, as a rookie, Yao Ming edged Shaq in fan balloting and was therefore named the starting center of the Western Conference All-Star team? There was righteous fury over that one. But again, it's a popularity contest, and people always forget that.
8. Officiating: Yes, it sucks. Yes, the officials make mistakes. Lots of them. And yes, they will continue to make mistakes. The coaches and players will make various and sundry subtle comments about it, and sometimes they will even make not-so-subtle comments (ahem, Stan Van Gundy). David Stern, on the other hand, will continue to back the refs unconditionally while assuring everyone that there is no problem, no problem at all, and PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN, I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ!! So in closing, yes...Lebron will continue to travel, Iverson will continue to palm, and Wade will continue to draw ticky-tac fouls. These things will never, ever change.
9. Playoff Positioning: By the time April rolls around, the only stories we'll be reading about are the ones regarding playoff positioning. There are two categories of these stories:
9a. The Homecourt Spots: In most cases, the top two spots will be more or less decided. But there probably will be a lot of jockeying for the third and fourth spots. Take last year's Eastern Conference Playoff race, for instance. The second, third, and fourth seeds finished within three games of each other.
9b. The Non-Homecourt Spots: Several teams will be making a furious push to get into the playoffs, with as many as six or seven teams vying for the final four spots. They'll all have a legitimate chance at success or failure. It's kind of like tossing your table scraps into a kennel and watching the dogs rip each other to shreds for some bread crust and a few chicken bones. But beyond just getting into the playoffs, it will become absolutely critical for these teams to avoid the top two seeds so they could maybe possibly hopefully pull off an upset and make it into the second round. Where they'll lose.Postscript: Many, if not all of the thousands of Playoff Positioning stories will include hoards of pie charts and bar graphs and polyhexial matrixes that describe who might be playing who, how homecourt advantage is actually quite helpful, how most teams that win more games go on to win a series, blah, blah, blah. And like a werewolf transforming under the light of the full moon, these charts and graphs will be cut and pasted into new articles concerning the actual playoff matchups, wherein sportswriters will predict who will win and who will lose, and they'll be right maybe 60 percent of the time, and you'll discover that -- golly gee!! -- the "experts" don't really know any more than you do about who's going to come out on top.10. The NBA Finals: 'Nuff said.