The first of November came and went. No NBA games were played. The Mavericks were scheduled to kick things off by unveiling their inaugural championship banner (insert vomit here), followed by the Rockets visiting the Jazz and of course the main event: the 16-time world champion Los Angeles Lakers defending their home court against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
When 7:30 p.m. rolled around I was watching the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames slap a puck back and forth instead of hearing the familiar voice of Marv Albert or Kevin Harlan welcoming me to a fresh NBA season amongst everything else I miss about opening night (Lawrence Tanter, Jack Nicholson and some B-list celebrity belting the national anthem half-heartedly just to name a few) It was a nascent feeling, like barreling down a bottomless pit.
I approached November 1st in the same manner I approached season openers in the past; by slapping on my New Era Lakers hat, coupled with the now vintage number-18 Sasha Vujacic jersey in gold.
Opening night is a holiday in my books, when everyone cares about one thing and one thing only: basketball. Akin to what turkey is to Thanksgiving and the significance of family and presents to the holidays. Waking up last Tuesday was the first time since I started watching basketball religiously that the season wouldn’t start on time. During the last lockout I was six years old, understandably I preferred slamming on my Fisher Price hoop to watching professional hoops on television.
This year, I discovered how casual basketball fans function, judging by the ambivalence of some of my peers who claimed to be big fans. He or she checks out the first couple games out of curiosity before reverting back to the NFL. The unofficial start of the NBA season is Christmas, with four to five marquee games lined up and rivalries being re-kindled. Christmas is the only day of the year when the NBA has a monopoly over sports and people’s attention spans.
It was a moment we all knew would come but didn’t know how to deal with when it actually did arrive. One of my friends said “I was so rattled last night, I didn’t know how to function.” The sentiment was slightly embellished but it’s a thought that must’ve crossed the mind of more than one Laker fan in the past week.
Will Mike Brown’s penchant for defense transfer to Los Angeles?
Is Kobe going to listen to anyone but Phil Jackson?
And of course, something we’ve all wanted to know since May: was the flameout against the Mavericks a product of exhaustion culminating from the last three seasons or are the Lakers, dare I say it, too old now? I’m praying the latter isn’t true.
Many of my friends question why I still care about the league when millionaires can’t come to an agreement with billionaires over money they’re losing anyways by not playing a single game over the month of November. Like Billy Hunter and David Stern, I don’t have a definitive answer to anything at the moment. I just know that I still prefer to discuss BRI’s and the amnesty clause over other things as it provides the slimmest margin of hope that there might be a season.
On Twitter, ESPN’s NBA editor started the hashtag #LessInterestingNBANames out of utter boredom; and John Hollinger simulated the three opening night matchups (the Lakers won 103-97 in virtual reality).
I really hope this lockout ends sooner rather than later. It’s difficult to sustain hope when some of the key figures of the NBA aren’t emitting any.
The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, has already traded in his Clipper season tickets for LA Kings ones. Kevin Durant is picking up flag football as a past time, and the meetings between the owners and the players appear to be glorified staring contests.
I ran into Jay Triano, the former coach of the Raptors, at a Canadian college basketball game and asked him what his thoughts were on the lockout. He simply said “I’m sure grateful I don’t have to go to those meetings.” Quick tangent: I also asked him about the Kobe 81 game, to that he replied “we didn’t expect him to score [expletive] 31 points in the fourth quarter.” Fourteen Laker games have been cancelled so far by David Stern. We’ve already missed the aforementioned opener against the Thunder and the quarterly beat down of the Golden State Warrior. You know what the worst thing is, that all games are cancelled through November 30th. Among the other key games we miss? Hosting the Spurs on the 9th, the Knicks on the 17th and making a return visit to OKC on the 23rd.
With the Lakers schedule imprinted inside my head (take a look at it here), the date December 2nd warms my heart. It’s when the Lakers pay a visit to Utah, and it’s the first game that doesn’t have the word “cancelled” listed beside it.
All I want for Christmas is NBA basketball.