By DYLAN MALONE
The lockout notwithstanding, there have already been an abundance of storylines in the NBA to follow even if you are a casual basketball fan. The shortened season has brought with it an abundance of injuries mainly due to players in full-season swing without having an actual training camp session this year. Throw in pre-season trades, controversy, and surprise teams and we have the NBA 2012 season thus far.
TRADES: The trade most talked about this season thus far is the Chris Paul saga. Anyone who paid attention to the NBA at all knew that Paul was on the move. When the league retracted their agreement with the Lakers that would have sent Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to Houston, it sent shockwaves. After refusing the trade, weeks later the Clippers snuck into the conversation and quickly traded Paul for former IU star Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and others.
Lamar Odom was so devastated by the ease of which LA was going to trade him after he had spent his entire career there, that he demanded a trade (boo hoo). He got his wish and he was sent to Dallas to play for Mark Cuban for…drum roll please…a first-round pick? Ouch. LA misses out on landing Chris Paul AND Dwight Howard, and then loses its greatest asset off-the bench in Lamar Odom.
Tyson Chandler had his choice of playoff bound teams in free agency after the improbable run he helped facilitate in Dallas. Most thought he would stay and help them win another ring, but nearly everyone was shocked when he decided to go to New York, the only big name out of five on top of two unnamed future second-round picks in a three-team trade.
The last transaction I think is a team-changing one involved Indiana luring the second-best option formerly in a Hornets uniform: David West. The Pacers options at the four-spot before landing West included Tyler Hansbrough, an unproven second-year prospect, and Danny Granger, better suited at the three. The Pacers have started 4-2 thus far and have held teams under 100 points in all but their loss last night against the Miami Heat.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: I have five players to watch this season that really intrigue me. I’ll start my top five with Blake Griffin who has a lot to prove this season now that he has help in Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups. Can the Clips make the playoffs this year? If they do, will they have enough fire power and poise to outlast LA, Oklahoma City, or Denver in a seven game series?
#4 LeBron James- I know that everyone is watching him already, but when the tough gets going for the Heat, will LeBron get going this year? After getting his team past the MVP and the Bulls last season, the Heat flopped against the Dallas Mavericks and LeBron was MIA for most of that series. Questions will abound this season until the playoffs are here and James can prove whether or not it was a fluke in his career or a pattern that will mark his legacy.
#3 Derrick Rose and Dirk Nowitzki (tie)- These two all-stars are equally intriguing to watch this season. Both must answer, “What will they do next?” Dirk finally has a ring after a playoff performance that will have the Germans forgetting about David Hasselhoff for a little while, and Rose has Chicago eating out of the palm of his hands after becoming the youngest player in NBA history to earn the league MVP (another great player who used to be a Chicago Bull never did that).
#2 Eric Gordon- After leading the Clipper offense last season in-between injuries, Gordon never really got his chance to shine next to Blake Griffin, but now he’ll get a fresh start for a team that is clearly rebuilding and searching for an identity. Look for the Hornets to surprise people this year, especially if Gordon is healthy.
#1 Ricky Rubio- Everyone scratched their head in the 2009 draft when the Timberwolves used both of their early first-round picks on point guards Johnny Flynn (from Syracuse) and Ricky Rubio (from Spain). To top off yet another bone-head move by the Minnesota front office, Rubio skips town and signs a contract with Spain for two years. Well he’s back now and with a full beard. The half point guard, half wizard is my most intriguing player to watch this season because I now officially have someone to watch in the NBA after Steve Nash retires in a few years. Rubio is going to be special.