Friday Donuts: 12 Things We'll Miss
PRE-DONUT: Miami Thrice was denied the appetites of their arrogant entitlement and forced to dine on a meal of humility served by a team few served earnest respect, even after five games of The Finals, when their loss remained an inevitability in the eyes of many.
Undoubtedly there remains a stubborn few determined to prove the Heat followed the path of the Blazers, Lakers and Thunder when they "gave away" the series, clinging to the belief that Miami will be the first team to overcome a 4-2 deficit.
Including and beyond the Finals, the gift came in the form of a tightly contested postseason intertwined with a growing tangle of storylines, from the "emergence" of a superstar who'd long been just that, to the image of the infant Thunder clapping with a force thought to be years in the distance, Brandon Roy reclaiming his dominance for 13 brilliant minutes to erase a 23-point lead, Rajon Rondo dislocating his elbow again and again on countless excruciating replays only to play again in the same game, the fall of the Heat and the "chosen one" suffering through jokes and ridicule over his fourth-quarter failings, to the rise of NBA youth behind a wave that will not be denied with Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, the improbable Memphis Grizzlies … and on and on.
With these gifts torn open and the draft fallen behind like the crumpled wrapping paper, looming like the day after a holiday, the day when schools and offices reopen, is the lockout. Still digesting the basketball that drew us in, still reliving those moments that captivated us all, let us take a moment to turn to what may be lost.
Here are 12 events we can hope the lockout will not delay or wash away completely, 12 things we're sure to miss if they are withheld.
DONUT 1: Season Two of ‘As the Heat Turns.'
You may have wished struggle upon them, reveled in their shame, basked in their accomplishments, spread the stories of their greatness, or simply watched without emotional investment in the outcome, but needing to see the journey anyway. Regardless of your personal opinions, one fact stands: you watched. You paid attention and you returned to see what came next. So, what comes next?
DONUT 2: The national evolution of Dirk Nowitzki.
With the critics words devoured, the doubters left without grounds to stand and a championship in hand, the NBA has accepted Dirk for what he's long been to many in Dallas, a superstar. Wearing this new crown, with the burn of 2006 soothed, what will Nowitzki show next season? Few fear a drop off in his persistent drive that has led to a return each season having improved in one facet or another. Now that eyes have seen him for the player he is, can he lead the Mavs back to the promised land? Can he continue to hold open a window of opportunity many have sought to close repeatedly over the past few years?
DONUT 3. The first year of the Kobe Bryant-Mike Brown relationship in LA.
The perception was once that Kobe could not win a Title without Shaq. Then came Pau Gasol and two more rings. After being swept in the Conference Semi-Finals, many have questioned what this Lakers team has left to accomplish, to give. In a manner not befitting a man who coached Los Angeles to seven Finals' appearance, including five wins, Phil Jackson was serenaded with boos as he left the court in his final game as the Lakers coach, and he left as the only coach to oversee a Bryant championship team. How will Mike Brown and Kobe coexist?
DONUT 4. What will Orlando do to appease Dwight Howard?
The new superman may end up staying in Orlando, but one thing is clear, he won't condemn himself to the confines of the fortress of solitude. If the Magic don't bring in championship caliber help, they're likely to find the cape of their hero neatly folded on a counter with a quick note stating, "It's not me. It's you." It won't be easy. Otis Smith, once praised for his moves, has backed the franchise into a corner with bad contracts and under-producing players like Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu; perhaps not impossible to overcome, but certainly not easy.
DONUT 5. The simple joy of Metta World Peace.
Be honest, if Artest changes his name to Metta World Peace as he's reportedly in the process of doing, you can't wait to hear announcers verbally sigh as they call his name. You can almost hear the sarcasm lacing Jeff Van Gundy's voice now. And, what will the back of his jersey say? Will it simply say "Peace," or will it be "World Peace," or does he possibly try to surprise once more by going with "Metta"? Or will he play for a different team? In a different country? On a different planet?
DONUT 6. Will Yao Ming return?
Any true fan of the sport has to find a bit of sorrow for the career path of Yao Ming. Injuries have stolen from the wealth of sights he seemed destined to deliver us all. Could there be one whirlwind caught at the eye of a perfect storm of circumstances that yields one prolonged run with a strong supporting cast and a single postseason push to both remind us of what we've missed while blessing us with a glimpse of what may have been.
DONUT 7: The Chris Paul saga.
Last year, born of the whispers that Paul had become discontent with the direction of the New Orleans franchise, teams lined up in the hopes of acquiring a man who would later remind us all in the playoffs of just how special he can be. With David West opting out of his deal, should he head elsewhere, Paul cannot be pleased. He played nice all season and quieted the rumors that threatened to swallow the team. Will that appeased serenity last?
DONUT 8: How Russell Westbrook handles the criticism.
At only 22 years old, Westbrook heard more than his fair share of negativity after some questionable decision-making in the postseason. Amidst his team's success some went as far as demanding that Oklahoma City could not become a true contender unless they traded the young phenom. It's hard to believe so many would turn on a player still at the infancy of his career, especially as his team reached the Conference Finals, but how he responds to this will define his immediate future, and quite possibly his teams as well.
DONUT 9: How long will Jason Terry wear his robe?
At the Dallas Mavericks exit interviews, Jason Terry showed up wearing a cap, sunglasses and a long white championship robe. Is it wrong to hope we see this at least a few more times next season? If you aren't a fan, seeing the Jet strolling the runway in a robe may have rubbed you the wrong way. However, for Mavs fans, it's hard to deny the joy found in the light-hearted, fun-loving antics as he embraced the moment Dallas had strived and fought so long for.
DONUT 10. What will happen with Steve Nash?
Nash has become the face of the franchise in Phoenix, as well as their lone box-office draw. His personality has kept him from lashing out or demanding a trade as his team quickly fell from a Conference Final appearance to near playoff irrelevance. Time is winding down on his career, and the Suns appear no closer to a championship. Does the team do their best to send him to a contender? Do they ignore his wishes and attempt to get the largest return possible? Or, do they hold on to him, collect as much revenue as possible only to see him eventually leave without any return of assets?
(See Fish's Premium piece on what the Mavs think will happen to Nash here.)
DONUT 11: Which teams will remain bonded during this tumultuous time?
DallasBasketball.com will expand on this theme in the near future, but for now, consider this: The NBA during lockout will be an angry place. Maybe a cover-your-butt place. There will be the temptation for players to slip slightly out of shape, to spend more time back home (rather than in their team cities), to see fade their contact with one another.
Can the Mavs be the exception to the rule? A team with a championship bond that continues to "Be Ready'' for a season to start … whenever that might be?
DONUT 12: Can Dallas' Larry keep appearing around the town and the world?
We've seen Larry at a party in Miami, at a bar in Uptown, on ‘Trix' dining room table and at Mark Cuban's urinal. ... and then his own kitchen counter, under a hood. (Hope Larry washed his hands first.) Will we ever tire of the site?
POST-DONUT: The Premium Mavs Fan winner of the $25 giftcard to Golfsmith is ... Hai Le! Congrats ... and stay tuned for next week's prize, which comes directly from Dirk Nowitzki himself!