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Bob Ryan

Jumping-off points for a new NBA season

Random thoughts as the National Basketball Association, the product of a merger between the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League, embarks on its 69th season.

We will all be closely watching the Cleveland Cavaliers, not just because general manager/star player LeBron James has returned home, but because the new coach is a blank slate as far as the NBA is concerned.

Dave Blatt — make that Framingham’s own Dave Blatt — is an intriguing, textbook “outside the box” selection to coach the Cavaliers. He had never spent so much as one second in the employ of an NBA team, not even as a video coordinator, coffee fetcher, or airport picker-upper. But he is a thoroughly experienced coach at the international level, a man hardly unknown to the NBA community at large. He didn’t know when he signed on to coach the Cavaliers he would be handed the keys, not to a Ford Focus (and I know from Ford Focuses, a fine midsize car) but to a Ferrari.

But he has. He’s got LeBron, he’s got Kyrie Irving, and he’s got Kevin Love as a team foundation. People expect him to at least go the NBA Finals. My voice mail is a bit sketchy, but I’ve checked it thoroughly and I find no evidence of a phone call from him seeking my advice. But I shall offer it, anyway.


Now, Dave. Listen up. You have a rare, precious commodity in Kevin Love. It’s not because he is a ferocious defensive rebounder, or because due to his exceptional outside shooting ability he is, in the current euphemistic terminology, an ideal “Stretch 4.”

It’s because he is the absolute last active player who actually throws an old-fashioned outlet pass, such as the likes of Bill Russell, Wes Unseld, Bill Walton, or even Dennis Rodman (very underrated in this regard) would have been happy to call their own. And so, Dave Blatt of Framingham, Mass., and Princeton University, shame on you if you don’t exploit this rare opportunity to the fullest. You need to ensure that the first offensive thought for your team is getting the ball out and running actual honest-to-goodness fast breaks, and not just attacks when you have “numbers” after a turnover, which is pretty much the only time most teams will risk advancing the basketball in this manner. Listen to me: four on three is a fast-break opportunity. So is five on four.


All free advice, Dave. How can you go wrong?

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I am now entering into bite-my-tongue territory. I am about to say something nice to a Boston audience about a member of the New York Knicks.

Are you ready? I am rooting for Amar’e Stoudemire to have a big year.

People seem to have forgotten what a truly great player he was before injuries did him in. To refresh your memory: a six-time All-Star; a guy who averaged 20-plus seven times in his first eight full seasons, including three of 25 or more; a guy who averaged 29.9 ppg for the Suns in the 2005 playoffs; a guy who was a true inside-outside threat. But that’s not all.

He wants to be more than a jock. He may never have gone to college, but that only means he has become a self-educated person who has a curiosity about things beyond basketball, including, but not restricted to, a study of Judaism. I loved watching him play, and I just find him rootable.


Amar’e will be 32 on Nov. 16, hardly ancient. He is talking big things for himself, and, of course, for his team. Understand that there is no need for a full pity party on his behalf. I think he can find a way to have a fulfilling life with the $23,410,988 he will be paid this season. But please, don’t let that number get in the way of wishing him well on the court. That’s just the NBA being the NBA.

Yes, I know. Most of you will withhold your applause. That, I understand. But I am looking forward to seeing what this guy has to offer.

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I am very curious about the 2014-15 Celtics, who, I believe, will be better than most outsiders think.

What Brad Stevens has at his disposal are many interesting components, and that’s before we get to the subject of a certain All-Star point guard. I like Kelly Olynyk. Any big man who can shoot that well from the outside and who can pass the way he does can enhance an offense. I love Jared Sullinger, an old-fashioned butt kicker who is a born rebounder. I am a bit worried about all this talk about his 3-point shooting. I’d like his big you-know-what down in what Hubie Brown calls the “painted area.” For him, the three should be an enhancement, not a priority.


I like the fact that Evan Turner has something to prove. I like Avery Bradley as a combo guard. I am one of the many who sees Marcus Smart as the second coming of Don Chaney (Young’uns, ask your elders). I think Tyler Zeller may have been a Brinksian heist. I will give Jeff Green the benefit of the doubt — until Thanksgiving.

OK, Mr. Rondo. No, I do not know where he is going to be the morning after the trading deadline, nor does anyone else. The only thing we do know is that he needs to audition for both the Celtics and the entire NBA in this contract year, and this pretty much assures that he will play his fanny off. I am looking forward to seeing how this one transpires.

I see Cleveland, Chicago, Washington, Toronto, Charlotte, and Miami as Eastern Conference playoff locks. I see Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Detroit, Atlanta and, yes, Boston as conceivable playoff teams. I do not expect the Celtics to make the playoffs, but I would not consider it a stop-the-presses moment if they were to do so. I think people will enjoy watching this team.

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Do not ask me who will win the championship. Let’s see the health status of all the contenders in late April before even thinking about it. I hate predictions, anyway. The only ones that matter are those backed up by one’s wallet.

And just remember, Dave Blatt. Don’t you dare walk it up.


Bob Ryan’s column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at