Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: It’s NBA time

Former Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early will make his debut for the New York Knicks on Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden.
Former Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early will make his debut for the New York Knicks on Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden.

I’m going to see how long the NBA can hold some of my focus this season, expecting that after a couple of weeks – a month tops – I’ll bid adieu until the postseason.

But I’m willing to give the NBA a chance to hook me. I’m open-minded, so much so that I’ve come up with 10 story lines that I’ll be paying attention to. And hopefully for more than a few weeks.

So here are some of the things I’ll be watching, at least while I’m watching:

1. Cleanthony Early and the New York Knicks.

I think Early can be a factor for the Knicks now and into the future. But he’s joining an interesting team that will be transitioning to Phil Jackson as the man who calls the shots in the front office and newbie coach Derek Fisher. New York really struggled last season, but apparently the Knicks believe the way out is to keep giving the ball to Carmelo Anthony. I hope Early gets the ball some. I want to see what he can do with it.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers.

Come on, everybody’s curious about the Cavaliers now that LeBron is back in town. And Kevin Love. And Kyrie Irving. And a bunch of other interesting players with varied talents. I’m all in on the Cavs. I was even thinking today that it would be cool to try and get to a game in Cleveland this season. Then my mind wandered and I started thinking about M&Ms or Milk Duds or some other delicious candy. But I am looking forward to watching the Cavs and I’ll be pulling for them to win the NBA championship.

3. Can the San Antonio Spurs repeat?

How old is Tim Duncan again? The man doesn’t stop. Barely slows down. And with the equally-ageless Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli around, plus the youthful energy of Kawhi Leonard and others, San Antonio is the cream once again of the West. Oh, and I forgot to mention the Spurs’ coach, Gregg Popovich. You don’t have to like the Spurs. But you have to respect the Spurs.

4. Can Oklahoma City contend without Kevin Durant?

OK, the Thunder won’t be without Durant for that long. He’s schedule to be back on the floor sometime in December, most likely, with a broken bone in his foot. I see a silver lining here. This gives the Thunder an opportunity to play without its superstar for a while. And not long enough to get buried in the standings. It also gives Durant some time to rest and prepare for a 4 1/2-month regular season instead of a six-month season. Even with this injury, quite a few prognosticators are picking OKC to win the NBA title. I’m not sure I would go that far. But I don’t think the Durant injury keeps the Thunder from having a shot.

5. Steve Kerr coaching in Golden State.

I’m going to miss Kerr doing basketball commentary. But I have a feeling he’s going to be a great coach. Kerr strikes me as one of those guys who succeeds at a high level no matter what he does. Normally, I dislike people like that. But I like Kerr and he’s made me a Warriors fan. I think it’s a team to watch.

6. How the West will be won.

Pick the Spurs. But don’t go to sleep on the Thunder or the Los Angeles Clippers. I’m throwing Golden State in there as a team with a chance and I think Dallas will be one of the surprising teams in the league. Then there are Houston, Portland, Memphis, Phoenix – where does it stop?

7. Where are the surprises?

I already mentioned Dallas, which adds Chandler Parsons to the Dirk Nowitzki-Monta Ellis mix. That’s a lot of scoring. Defending could be an issue. What about New Orleans and rising superstar Anthony Davis? The Charlotte Hornets made big improvement last season. Can it continue? I really like Toronto. The Raptors might not be a surprise anymore, but that’s a team that is rising.

8. The Lakers are bad. Really bad. And so are the Celtics.

Los Angeles and Boston were 52-112 last season. Yet the NBA survived with its two most iconic franchises playing like punch lines. Kobe Bryant played in six games last season. He says he’s healthy and ready to go. Good thing, since the supporting cast is dreadfully weak and Kobe, obviously, isn’t the player he once was. Boston needs to free Rajon Rondo and let him go somewhere he can flourish. Sad to see these teams so irrelevant.

9. Speaking of Anthony Davis . . .

Is he the next big thing in the NBA? Could be. But since he’s playing in New Orleans – and the Pelicans aren’t likely to be a .500 team in the West – will anybody notice?

10. How bad can these teams be?

There are some really good teams in the NBA, for sure. But there are some really bad ones, too. Any guess as to what the combined record will be for the following clubs: Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Boston, Orlando, Utah, Minnesota, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento.

Anyway, it all gets started tonight. I know my friends who are NBA fans are excited. And for them, I’m excited. Enjoy.

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