The NBA season is upon us, and almost one week old. That means there's just 9 or so more months until the Spurs win another title. It's strange -- these days, even Major League Baseball seems to have more parity. (Hey, I watch college basketball.)
Fully aware of the inevitable outcome of the season, the sports media are trying to foist upon us a series of side stories they think we'll find interesting:
1. When will Ron Artest snap? The meltdown watch always sounds nice in theory, but never turns out to be all that interesting. Watching Dennis Rodman's slow decline only showed the world how devoid of personality the guy is. Even Bob Knight's last chance at Indiana sort of ended with a whimper.
2. Is Oklahoma City ready for the NBA? Sure, at first. A mid-sized city with no other pro teams often makes an ideal destination, because there's no competition. But that honeymoon will be over quick once the Sooner State realizes that their NBA team is the Hornets, a franchise even worse than the Clippers.
3. Can Phil and Kobe coexist? Who the hell cares? First, it's not even a question: they coexisted before, and it should be easier with Shaq out of the equation. Second, I see no reason to root for either of these guys. They have talent and they have results, but there's no degree of likability. I'd respect Phil a little more if he tried a real challenge, like the Hawks. And while I'll never respect Kobe, I might at least tune in if he decided to become a Denver Nugget.
The real question to ask this season is simple: Who will be this season's team of density? In other words, what team is going to best demonstrate a shocking erosion of skills and chemistry, and bring about the most embarrassing defiance of fan expectations? What team will be this season's PR nightmare, reaffirming the purists' suspicions that pro players are spoiled and out of touch? What team will make David Stern cry himself to sleep some nights?
First, the dishonorable mentions. The Knicks are certainly the team to watch for signs of implosion, with the 0-3 start, unrealistic fan expectations, disproportionate media attention, a true center with a heart problem, and Stephon Marbury. But I think this team will err on the side of pathetic, and even elicit a little sympathy (with the occasional lame mockery in Jay Leno monologues). The Lakers are great for schadenfreude: I'm sure some will delight in witnessing Phil Jackson try to squeeze some discipline out of Kwame Brown. I won't be watching, but let me know if Jack Nicholson starts to cry. The Blazers are usually trainwreck-worthy, but I think fans are so jaded at this point that the team would have to do something extraordinary, like encourage Sebastian Telfair to smack around a referee with an Adidas shoe.
But for this season's team of density, I choose the Timberwolves. It's a strange choice -- stars Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak are generally well-respected and positive players -- but this is not a 2-man team. They will be crushed by the inward pressure to regain playoff form, and the outward pressure to restore local pride after the devastating blow the Twin Cities received from the NFL's team of density, the Vikings. Fans will come to realize that they long for the days when their team waited until the postseason to collapse. Oh, and their great rookie hope is Rashad McCants. So mark it down: the Desperate Timberwolves are going to shock the world, and not in a good way.