This basketball season looks like it'll be yet again a skirmish between the same handful of elite squads as always, while the rest of the league looks on. Are there just too many teams?
Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), and Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic) discuss what to expect going into the NBA season.
A few years ago, Kansas City built a new arena in the heart of a resurgent downtown. Despite a few flirtations, though, the Sprint Center remains without a NBA team as an anchor tenant. Fans from other parts of the country often ask if I'm bothered that KC has no pro basketball team—and hasn't since the Kings left.
First, KC fans do have a pro basketball team to root for. They are called the Kansas Jayhawks, and play about 30 miles up the road in the museum/cathedral that is Allen Field House.
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Secondly, despite what an article in a certain upscale eastern publication once claimed, Sprint Center has been a big success, even without the anchor tenant of a major sports team. Besides, the sweetheart deal it would take to get some billionaire to move his NBA club here boggles the mind. The "Kansas City Bucks" or "KC Timberwolves" would likely stink on ice, and fans in this once-proud sports town are not about to buy tickets to see another losing team half-heart it up and down the hardwood.
Especially not with Sporting KC in town. Mock the MLS all you want, fellas. You can bet that NBA executives aren't laughing when they look at SKC's attendance—not with David Stern's retirement announcement and about a third of all NBA teams financially up a creek, sans paddle. Sporting KC set a regular season record in 2012, drawing an average of 19,404 a game to the electric setting of Livestrong Park. That's higher than all but seven teams in your precious NBA. Even the mighty Lakers averaged 18,997 at Staples Center.
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, time for tip-off. We know that you live and die by the Knicks, so give us your Madison Square-centric take on the new season—but maybe start with a few words about those new rivals across the East River.