I like – like, like-like – the NBA. In fact, I might love the NBA, although I have no plans to marry it.
That’s noteworthy because we drifted apart a while back, decided to see other people. It’s a lot like how things ended between me and baseball. But now? We’re back, baby, hot and heavy. The regular season tipped off Tuesday night with a doubleheader, meaning lots of good stuff on the horizon.
I had planned to use this space to express the thing I enjoy most about the Association, but was unable (or too lazy) to pick just one. So, here, in no particular order, are some of them:
* The broadcasters. This is a deep position in the league, and one that adds a ton to the viewing experience. There are three categories and true standouts in each one: play-by-play (Kevin Harlan, Mike Breen, Marv Albert), the color commentator (Reggie Miller, Jeff Van Gundy) and the studio folks (Ernie, Chuck and Kenny). These guys aren’t just proficient, they are stars and a part of the game.
It’s almost as if there’s something about this sport that lends itself to producing smart, entertaining talent. I mean, Mike Mayock would never make it on a national NBA broadcast yet he’s become a regular in the more popular NFL.
My favorite rising star: Jalen Rose. He’s insightful yet unfiltered and is just the right amount of crazy. Looking forward to seeing how he does on ESPN’s studio set, although I think the Worldwide Leader is erring in not having a true host run things.
* The late-night action. The Lakers-Mavs game Tuesday started at 10 p.m. Central. That’s right in my wheelhouse, giving me just enough time to finish my work, get the family to bed, maybe work out and then tune in.
I’ve been into the late games since I was maybe 10 or 11, back when staying up past 10 p.m. on a weekend seemed exciting. Now, they’re like mini vacations, quick trips to the big city for an event that has everybody buzzing. It makes me feel like I’m doing something cool even when I’m not.
* The disappointments. Yes, the disappointment. Full disclosure: Eddy Curry and Vince Carter are on the floor together as I type. Frankly, I had no idea Curry was still in the league, and I knew that Carter had to be – he won’t leave until they lock him out.
I find myself being drawn to Curry because it’s fun to try to figure out what’s wrong with him. How could he be so big and so offensively capable and yet such a relative bust? I wonder what’s going through his head as he lollygags on defense.
Carter has had a long and productive career just not the kind we expected based on the supernatural athletic ability he showed in college. There’s also something off about his mental approach, but in a different way than Curry. Carter seems to be soft more than lazy or crazy. These guys tease us with their talent, give us hope that they might get over the hump this time … even though we know they won’t.
* The moves. I’m talking personnel here, not footwork. There are two parts to this: It’s easy to lose track of about half the players in the league during the offseason – journeymen, subs, rookies. One of the angles that holds my attention early in the season is trying to pin down who went where. And if he came here from there, who’s replaced him there? It’s like solitaire for hoops nerds.
Meanwhile, there are moves you can’t miss – like James Harden being traded from Oklahoma City to Houston. Blockbuster trades seem as feasible and common in the NBA as any other major pro league. And that adds to the intrigue because there’s so much that goes into it – contract terms, ability, fit, chemistry, destination, background, etc. – and there are so many good journalists to opine and report about it. Following the transactions is akin to playing fantasy sports, but without the wagers and trash talk.
* The visibility. Props to my 8-year-old daughter to opening my eyes to this one. We watch plenty of sports at home, sometimes just for background noise, but she knows more teams and players in the NBA than any other league. Why? Smaller roster sizes and less equipment. Yes, NBA players are highly visible – their facial features, physiques, tattoos and expressions. You wouldn’t get that if they were wearing helmets or hats. We really get to watch these guys – it’s a more personal experience. The more I think about it, the more important that seems.
I better watch a game tomorrow just to make sure.