Finally, the conversation changes. It’s time for the NBA to ditch the dollars and nonsense of the lockout for the alleys and oops in Lob City, the new nickname for the suddenly exciting Clippers.
For months, all the talk was about lockouts, salary caps, and mediation. Now there are games that count as a new season begins today.
For all practical purposes, Clippers fans have been locked out of competitive basketball for the better part of three decades. Now they get entertainment of the highest order - watching Blake Griffin throw down lob passes from Chris Paul.
The 2011-12 season, shortened to 66 games, debuts today when five marquee games will be played from morning deep into the night. This marks a first step for the league as it looks to bury an offseason marred by a five-month labor dispute and stars trying to force their way out of town.
The day begins with the Celtics facing the Knicks, and then goes to a Finals rematch with Miami at Dallas. Next up is Chicago at the Lakers, followed by the small-market special - Orlando at Oklahoma City - before CP3 makes his regular-season debut as a Clipper at Golden State.
“The lockout was hectic for everybody,’’ Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley said. “We were bored. Now we feel like we’ve got a purpose in life. We can do what we do best.’’
It’s time for postgame news conferences with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, not post-meeting sessions with David Stern and Adam Silver. It’s time for Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks to defend their title on the court, not for Jeffrey Kessler and the players’ union to defend their decision to disband in the courts.
“I don’t even want to talk about the lockout anymore, man!’’ Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant said. “It was just so frustrating to go through that and everything that went on, us meeting and not meeting and not coming to an agreement, and fans getting upset with us. It was tough. But I’m glad we got through it.’’
Once the dispute was finally settled, a whole new drama broke out with Paul and Dwight Howard looking for trades out of New Orleans and Orlando. Howard eventually softened his stance, but his future is still the focus in Orlando.
“I don’t think our situation is going to go away,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “But I think it’ll be a lot more focused on the games than there has been [focus] on the lockout.’’
The Lakers thought they had a deal for Paul, but Stern, acting as the owner of the Hornets, nixed that, and another crisis was born. The Clippers swooped in at the end, seizing some of the spotlight from Kobe and the Lakers for the first time since, well, ever. The two teams met twice in the preseason, and the rivalry escalated. Bryant injured his wrist on a hard foul in the first game and Lakers agitator Matt Barnes shoved Griffin to the court in the second game.
The melodrama surrounding Paul’s request to be traded from New Orleans could have ripple effects in the Western Conference. The Lakers have been grousing since losing out on Paul and sending Lamar Odom to Dallas, but they weren’t the only team hurt by that decision. The Rockets had agreed to send Kevin Martin and Luis Scola to the Hornets as part of a three-team deal that would have landed them Gasol. Instead, they had to abandon designs on signing Nene and do some damage control with Scola and Martin.
Thunder waive Robinson
The Thunder waived guard Nate Robinson, who was acquired from the Celtics last season with Kendrick Perkins . . . Former Celtics guard Eddie House, who had surgery on his left knee last month and is not ready to play, was released by the Heat . . . The Grizzlies signed forward Dante Cunningham after the Bobcats declined to match Memphis’s offer to the restricted free agent, and traded guard Greivis Vasquez to the Hornets for guard/forward Quincy Pondexter.