Tipping off

    The NBA season tipped off with a bang earlier this week. Everyone, from experts to diehards, is making early season predictions. The gradual nature of the league has begun a golden age of Larry Bird/Magic Johnson proportions. However, the beginning of the season always brings obvious expectations as well as questions.

    Take Cleveland’s sensational strong forward LeBron James. Everyone knows that King James will have no problem filling up his box score night in and night out with tons of points, rebounds and assists because that is exactly what he has done since coming into the league. That is just common sense without any prior familiarity with his airiness.

    Here’s another easy one. Despite their impressive late-game victory on opening night against Seattle, Portland is still too young to make a playoff push and therefore won’t exceed 28 victories for the entire season. Although it is a sad reality for what’s remaining of the Blazers’ faithful, the Blazers will only walk off the court with their heads raised high like they did Wednesday night 27 more times this season.

    But enough with the easy, obvious predictions. Let’s tackle some of the more compelling matters of this NBA season.

    At the beginning of a season, no matter the sport, the most talked about question is always which team will hoist the championship trophy when the dust clears. With so many contenders in the NBA, there are inevitably a variety of responses. Some say this is the year Phoenix’s run-and-shoot offense finally reigns supreme. Others claim that the Western power Mavericks, after being snubbed in last year’s NBA Finals, will be the most deserving team in the end.

    While both the Suns and Mavericks have the necessary talent to win the title, it is a fact that they won’t touch the Larry O’Brien trophy when the season comes to a close. Instead, the NBA will continue a trend that Dwyane Wade started last season when the blossoming young star bloomed into a full-fledged champion. Wade, the number-five pick in the 2003 draft, was the first of the up-and-coming stars from his draft class to win a ring. After this season he won’t be alone. The aforementioned King James will put his Cavalier teammates atop his shoulders and lead them all the way to the victory parade. Cleveland might not have the most talent, but what makes the difference is they have the most dominant player in the league.

    Sporting his new number 24 and fresh off a season where he could score at will, James might be recognized around the league as the most gifted all-around player, with his amazing vertical leap and unmatched strength, but for some reason all that talent is never reflected on the most valuable player ballots. Since coming into the league, James has never won an MVP award, which is not a trend that will end this year. However, Kobe Bryant will impress the MVP voters with his high-flying acrobatics and loads of buckets, just enough to overshadow enormous numbers by Wade, James and Kevin Garnett. It’s also worth noting that with Amare Stoudemire returning from knee surgery, Steve Nash won’t be able to edge his fellow MVP competitors with the “I have nobody good to play beside” argument like he did last season.

    Besides the MVP race, the most exciting award competition this season will be for rookie of the year. The frontrunner is Portland’s Mr. Everything, composed and confident guard Brandon Roy. Memphis’ Rudy Gay and Minnesota’s Randy Foye might make a stab at it, but Roy has the advantage of starting, whereas the other two do not. It will be Roy’s sheer brilliance and an opportunity to become the leader of an inexperienced Blazers squad that will win him the award. This one is as simple as Roy to ROY.

    Possibly the biggest surprise in the NBA this season will be the play of the upstart Orlando Magic. After acquiring Darko Milicic late last season (chosen second in the 2003 draft), and returning Grant Hill, the Magic have solidified their backcourt. The impressive play of strong forward Dwight Howard and his 12.5 ‘bounds per game from last season could get the Magic into the postseason.

    With the NBA season extremely fresh, look for tons of people to peer into their crystal balls and fish out hundreds upon millions of wide-ranging predictions. Most will be wrong and a slight few may be right. Just remember that King James and the Cavs will take it all in surprising fashion, Kobe will take the MVP if he shares the ball better, Roy is the same as ROY, and the Magic will enchant their way to the postseason. Those simple “facts” will be the keys to the NBA season.