Back when us three bloggers were at T.U.P., Ricky and Bobby would do something called "The Ballad of Ricky-Bobby." It was basically a souped-up email exchange between bros talking sports. Bobby would throw up some pics, mess around in MS Paint, and the next thing you knew, The Ballad turned into one of T.U.P.'s best features. Plus, the title was so obviously ripped off from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, it immediately was hysterical without further review. It also made me super jealous that I wasn't allowed in on it.
Thus, I decided to start it up again with a twist -- ME! It's a bit abridged compared to the original, but still rocking very hard. Each week, one of us three will ask the other two some questions about the sports world around us. The other two will answer the best they can. It will be super grand. Anywho, without further ado:
Z.W.: You two turds are NBA fans. With news that the two sides are nowhere close to a deal to end the lockout and the first two weeks already gone, what are your feelings? Are Etan Thomas' comments true (Thomas is pretending to be an owner)?
"The fans will always side with us no matter what the facts are. They don't see us as greedy; they see the players as greedy. They don't see us as being unreasonable; they see the players as being unreasonable. Their anger will turn directly toward the players once they no longer have basketball in their living rooms."
Finally, besides Kyle Korver (and, of course, D-Rose), who should I like in the NBA that is underrated in your eyes (playing ability and coolness)? Let us begin.
Bobby: I've hit the same burn out with the NBA lockout that I did with the NFL lockout. I still follow it, somewhat casually, but I'm basically numb to all updates and news. I just really want to know and react to everything when it ends. On a scale of 1-10 (ten being most optimistic), I'm probably about a four. Really just hoping it ends. The momentum last season had is something I'd like the NBA to keep going. Whether that translates to more ratings or not remains to be seen, but how could it possibly hurt? As far as Etan Thomas goes, I always side with the players on these things, right or wrong. I just don't understand how players in any lockout of any sport ever have leverage. The owners are billionaires with decades of time to make more money. The players are millionaires (or at least six figure-aires) with only a few short years to make much less money. Shouldn't that leverage crush players in negotiation every time?
Cool players to root for: you're on Blake Griffin, I assume. Outside of him, I'm going to claim Rajon Rondo before Ricky does. While Rose burned the Rondo-Rose debate to the ground last season, I still love Rondo simply because I've never seen a basketball player with a game like quite like his. He hates shooting, sucks at free throws, and passes like an absolute God. I wish I could watch him 3x more than I already get to. His ball fake is a transcendent NBA move that I would put on par with Kareem's sky hook (no hyperbole).
Outside of him? Love Lamar Odom, though picking Celtics and Lakers players, respectively, probably hurts the 'underrated' argument, as both dudes get tons of exposure. Odom has this quality where you watch him play, think "he's so good at almost everything!" but that ability *still* doesn't extrapolate to elite league numbers over the course of the season. It's kinda sad, but then you see his laid back personality, and it helps make things more understandable.
To end this -- and keep the pattern going of me picking over-exposed players as underrated -- I love Dirk Nowitzki. People might look at last year's finals as the Heat blowing it, but Dirk was out of his mind in the playoffs. It's hard to see there ever being another NBA player like him. His one-legged kill shot, his range and his skillset -- specifically factoring in his height and general slowness -- are just such a gift to see on the court.
Ricky: I do think they'll be a season, though one that's probably cut in half. Last time there was a lockout, the year after Jordan's Bulls would win their sixth championship, the league resumed on February 5. I expect something similar this time around. The players simply have too much to lose by missing an entire season. Being as the NBA is such a star-driven league, it's easy only think about guys like LeBron and Carmelo, dudes who would likely to able to survive missing a season's worth of team pay checks thanks to endorsement money and appearance fees. Of course, it's their lesser known and lesser compensated peers that stand to lose the most. So the players will cave, eventually, even if there's a bit of funny math going on in some of the team books.
This discussion can easily go the labor vs. management, red state/blue state route, but really, what's the point of that? It's funny, I always get so faux worked up when these labor disputes pop up in sports about how the owners are greedy and the players are victims. But once they end? It's like I forget the whole thing ever happened. So let's change gears a bit and talk about what the NBA will be like when it returns. I expect there will be a ton of excitement, and not only for "absence makes the heart grow fonder" reasons.
What's the most common complaint for casual fans about the NBA? It's that the season is too long. 82 regular season NBA games is a whole lot of NBA games, and playoffs feel even more dragged out. Well, that won't be a problem this year. Just 40ish games to decide what usually takes 82. That'll give the NBA some of that coveted NFL flavor: the less games there are, the more important they become. While a March contest against the Bucks once felt like a mostly meaningless affair, now it will carry extra weight. When combined with last season's momentum, general optimism stemming from the end of the lockout, and new found excitement sure to stem from a condensed transaction period, I think the NBA could potentially be looking at a supremely buzzworthy season.