Saturday, January 01, 2005

NBA Toasts

As the clock eagerly ticks towards 2005 and everyone (just Anthony) anticipates kissing some slutty hoochie when the ball finally drops, I'll be here in Jersey ringing in the New Year with an NBA Security Rep while monitoring the Bucks/Rockets game. So while I won't be able to make a toast with family or friends, please allow me to make some toasts to the people I'll be spending my New Year's with--the NBA.

--I'd first like to make a toast to arbitrator Roger Kaplan and U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels who agreed that Jermaine O'Neal's suspension be reduced 10 games. Not only did they give my fantasy team a huge boost, but they sent a clear message to both the NBA and its players that positive displays of character, community involvement, and citizenship should be rewarded. For a league so desperate to clean up its image, let's hope that the NBA recognizes this message and includes it somewhere in the new CBA.

--A toast to this year's crop of high school rookies who continue to exceed the expectations bestowed upon them for this season. While some expected Dwight Howard to make a splash right away, not many foresaw positive contributions from Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, Sebastian Telfair, Al Jefferson, and Shaun Livingston this early into the season. To say the least, it's a sign of good things to come.

--A toast to the TNT studio trio of Ernie Johnson, Charley Barkley, and Kenny Smith who continue to provide viewers with far and away the most entertaining studio sports show on any network, in any sport. For all of those contrived pre-game football shows, where the good times feel about as fake as Tara Reid's breasts, we're awfully lucky to have the TNT guys who give us a reason to laugh--not scratch our heads and wonder what in God's name they're laughing about. (And let's hope that Magic Johnson, with his genuinely passionate and thoughtful perspective of the NBA, continues to grace the set with his presence on a more regular basis.)

--A toast to the Suns, Sonics, Wizards, and Magic who have all exceeded pre-season expectations due largely in part to their fast-paced, entertaining styles of play. Let's hope their success carries on throughout the season so more teams will employ this type of basketball.

--A toast to the players that the NBA is hoping will restore the league's reputation: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Emeka Okafor, Dwight Howard, Yao Ming, Richard Jefferson, and Amare Stoudemire among others. Between the ability and the charater that these guys have displayed thus far, I think it's safe to say that the NBA is in good hands.

--A toast to the San Antonio Spurs who have stamped, sealed, and delivered their prominence as the best team in the NBA this season. Most clubs that know the "real" games begin in the spring don't start coming together as a team until usually after the All-Star Break, but the Spurs are playing great team basketball and have simply been taking care of business all season.

--A toast to the international players making their presence felt for the first time this season: Anderson Varejao, Primoz Brezec, Beno Udrih, Andres Nocioni, Carlos Delfino, Nenad Kristic are the most notable names, but look for more to contribute to their teams as the season goes on.

--A toast to the loyal NBA fans that haven't used the 'Palace in the Malice' as an excuse to deter their interest in the NBA. Anyone that claims an isolated incident ruined the NBA for them is just a fraud anyways.

--A toast to the NBDL for steadily becoming a gateway to the NBA and actually living up to its name by developing some solid NBA players like Bobby Simmons, Devin Brown, and Rafer Alston among others. The longer the NBDL sustains this success, the better chance there is that the NBA brings in a complete minor league system.

--A toast to Hubie Brown and Al Michaels, who called a fantastic Christmas Day game between the Lakers and the Heat. A lot of people were skeptical about Hubie because he's been out of the booth for a few years and is getting up there in age, but I'm not sure there's a commentator out there that provides the depth of insight that Hubie does--it's great to have him back (and not ruining fantasy teams with his crappy hockey rotations while coaching). As for Michaels, I'll be honest, I didn't like the fact that a guy who calls MNF and has little basketball experience in his career, was going to be calling the biggest game of the year. But let's face it--Al Michaels has arguably the best voice in all of sports and undoubtedly did his research for this game. I'm looking forward to hearing this combo on ABC throughout the season.

--A toast to the teams in the NBA that are implementing a 'moment of silence' after the national anthem for all of the people affected by the tragic tsunamis in Asia and Africa. And also to the Denver Nuggets and Charlotte Bobcats, who last night collected donations in colloboration with the Red Cross Relief Funds from fans entering into their respective arenas; a very thoughtful idea that shows the true class of these organizations.

--A toast to Grant Hill--the story of the year in the NBA.

--A toast to guys that have finally found a place in the league: Brevin Knight, Bobby Simmons, Mikki Moore, Lee Nailon, Danny Fortson, and Damon Jones--players that have always played their butts off and are only now getting their first real opportunities to shine.

--A toast to the NBA for featuring Carmen Electra, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Kelly Ripa in some of their promos. We don't care why they like basketball or how they became an NBA fan, but we sure as hell like looking at them.

--A toast to Allen Iverson--one of the good guys in the league.

--And finally, a toast to the NBA for bouncing back strong after a potentially crippling incident. With the spotlight directly on them for the last 40 odd days, they've deflected the negative attention by playing some great basketball and putting forth more community involvement than ever before. Here's to continuing this success throughout the rest of the season.

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