It looks like basketball fans, many of whom had given up hope and were fully prepared for a long, cold winter without professional hoops, have something else to be thankful for this holiday season. After months of sparring and bickering, the NBA has finally gotten its act together. The owners and players have reached a labor agreement that will end the lockout and save the 2011-2012 season, which should have gotten underway nearly a month ago.
The abbreviated season, consisting of 66 rgames instead of the usual 82, will begin on Christmas Day. That's still more than enough time (we don't really need a season that starts before Halloween and lingers into the middle of June anyways) to answer many pivotal questions/
Are the Celtics and their aging Big Three of sharpshooter Ray Allen, the "Big Ticket" Kevin Garnett and Captain/"The Truth" Paul Pierce washed up, or do they have one more championship run in them? KG is no longer the dominating two-way force he once was, but he's still solid, productive, and energetic when healthy. Allen and Pierce showed no signs of slowing down last year and are still effective players, but Rajon Rondo needs to take on more of scoring role.
How will LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh respond to their collective collapse against the Mavericks last June? Another deep playoff run seems guaranteed, but do they have what it takes to win an NBA title? Tell us, LBJ: what should you do?
Have we finally seen the end of the Spurs dynasty? They should make the playoffs again, but probably. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker aren't getting any younger, and this squad just can't keep up with the young bucks in the Association.
How many chumps will Blake Griffin posterize this year? Can his Clippers effectively utilize their talent and take off? (Bill Simmons has his fingers crossed)
Is this the year Kevin Durant wins an MVP award? Can he coexist with Russell Westbrook? I say yes and no, respectively. Westbrook needs to model his game after Magic Johnson, become more of a passer and less of a scorer.
How will the Lakers respond without Phil Jackson? Have we seen the end of their mini-dynasty? Can Andrew Bynum stay healthy? Does Kobe Bryant have too many miles on his knees? Has Ron Artest gone off the deep end?
And what about Dirk Nowitzki's Mavs? Any chance they can repeat? I think they caught lightning in a bottle last season and would be shocked if they returned to the Finals.
Will we still be doing the John Wall six months from now?
Can Jimmer Fredette be an effective NBA player? I think he'll be lucky if he winds up as the next J.J. Redick, and he will have to commit himself to improving his defense.
How will the Knicks play with a full season of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire? They lacked offensive chemistry last year, but might gel better this season.
Can reigning MVP Derrick Rose lead Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and co. to the top of the Eastern Conference? (If the Celtics can't do this, I hope to God that the Bulls can)
Thankfully we'll have the next six months to find out.