Finally, the time has arrived. The long, agonizing summer has come to a close. Baseball is wrapping up. The NBA has returned.
I enjoy all sports, but basketball remains my favorite. Now I’m going to share something which will shock and disgust some of you. However, I want to be up-front and honest to avoid confusion later. I love the Chicago Bulls.
Fortunately I was in St. Louis during the now infamous Jazz-Bulls series, allowing me the chance to watch without the added pressure of being behind enemy lines. But that’s another article.
NBA camps across the nation opened this week with many players in different locations. One camp unaffected by the trading frenzy is the Jazz. Greg Ostertag signed a contract extension, all the key free-agents re-upped with the team and rookie Jacque Vaughn impressed critics with his summer-league play.
In all, the Jazz return their entire starting line-up and hope their experience last season will enable them to jump the final hurdle and win an NBA championship. Jazz fans, don’t hold your breath.
I feel sorry for Karl Malone and John Stockton because they will go down in history as possibly the greatest duo to never win an NBA title. Malone was placed in an exclusive club of his own last season, joining Charles Barkley and David Robinson as league MVP’s who have never won an NBA title.
Robinson is joined in San Antonio this season by the league’s top rookie prospect, Tim Duncan. If the Spurs can keep their fragile starters in the line-up, they will challenge the Jazz for the top spot in the Western Conference.
The Lakers begin year two of the Shaq era by adding free-agents Rick Fox and Jon Barry. I wonder if Shaq’s free-throw percentage would increase if he spent his summer shooting free-throws instead of shooting bad movies.
Seattle got the best of the Vin Baker deal simply because Shawn Kemp was “pulling a Pippen” and would not have given 100 percent to the team. Baker is a calmer version of Kemp with a better jump shot who will keep Seattle a contender this season.
Kemp will be happier in Cleveland, where he can try to jump-start a pathetically boring Cavalier team. With the further addition of Tony Dumas and Wesley Person to bolster a backcourt that bid farewell to All-Star Terrell Brandon, the Cavs hope to finally present a challenge to Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
Speaking of the Bulls, Scottie Pippen will miss the first two or three months of the season after foot surgery this week. This is nothing more than a speed bump on the Bulls’ path to another three-peat. Pippen’s absence means three things: We won’t have to listen to him whine about how the Bulls don’t appreciate him, Shawn Kemp may actually get voted onto the Eastern Conference All-Star team, and the Bulls may only win 60 games instead of 70.
When the smoke clears at the end of June, Jordan will have his sixth ring, Philadelphia will be planning who to take with their No. 1 draft pick and the Jazz will have another long summer to talk about how good they will be next year.