|The Atlantic online|
In this week's Atlantic Sports Roundtable, we discuss the tipoff of the 2012-13 NBA season, and whether fans of the league's second-class citizen squads have anything to look forward to.
Hampton Stevens: ... Speaking of, Hollywood's team should provide plenty of drama, as ever. For a return to postseason glory, LA will need to overcome the Mavericks, who smacked back the Lakers on opening night. The Mavs, meanwhile, must face the uncomfortable truth that Kevin Durant is still getting better. We all, unfortunately, will have to deal with Jeremy Lin puns. The champion Heat have added Ray Allen, late of the Celtics, who is trying to reinvent himself as well as win more jewelry.
But beyond simply rooting for any player who went to KU, my NBA fan's heart is a vagabond. This year, it belongs to Brooklyn, yo. The Nets' move from New Jersey to the weird-but-cool new Barclays Center is the best story of the new season.
With apologies to the good folks of the Garden State, New Jersey is a punchline. Brooklyn, however, has held a mythic place in the American imagination for everyone from Whitman to Hasidic Jews and hip-hop moguls. The return of pro sports to the borough feels as good as a sports team moving can. Joe Johnson couldn't bug me more as a player. But put that all-black, Dodgers-like "B" logo on his new uniform, and he suddenly becomes a symbol of a historical wrong made a little more right ...
Jake Simpson: ... The Nets are not going to challenge the Heat anytime soon—after Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, their roster is filled with busts (Brook Lopez) and tabloid fodder (Kris Humphries, a.k.a. The Artist Formerly Known as Mr. Kim Kardashian). But they can challenge the old and decrepit Knicks for Big Apple supremacy, and they can develop a rabid fan base full of beards and skinny jeans.
The rest of the league appears set to be overrun by the Heat now that the Thunder have traded away James Harden, an astoundingly short-sighted move that ensures Oklahoma City will be watching other teams hoist the championship trophy for years to come. The Lakers are trying the same star-heavy recipe that failed in 2004, and it will fail this season too. The Clippers have potential but must prove themselves in the postseason. My pick out of the Western Conference is a throwback: the San Antonio Spurs, who were two wins from the Finals last year and should be just as good this year.
But no one will stop the Heat. They have LeBron at the peak of his powers, a healthy D-Wade, a top-five big man in Chris Bosh, and the best outside shooter in the game in Ray Allen ...
Patrick Hruby: ... at the same time growing socioeconomic inequality has become a major issue in national politics, ongoing competitive imbalance continues to be a drag in the NBA. Well, at least in D.C. Plus Milwaukee. Phoenix. Orlando. Atlanta. Detroit. Charlotte. Cleveland. The Bay Area. I could go on, but you get the point: There are 32 teams in the league, and barring, say, an ultra-contagious torn-knee-ligament virus and/or a series of cataclysmic meteor showers sweeping through Miami, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and (maybe) Boston, 28 of those teams have no chance of winning the championship. None. James Harden is a fine player. Houston is lucky to have him. But he won't be planting a $100 postseason kiss on David Stern's cheek anytime soon. The NBA is a one-percent/99-percent affair, and like a lot of fans, I live and root in the latter group.
Frankly, it kind of sucks ...
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