It's been a while, gang.
Glad we're back, talking about stuff on the court, and not that off the court stuff, which is about as interesting to basketball fans as married couples talking about their toddlers to single people. There's only so much you can take.
If you missed it, we churned out a monster NBA season preview to get you ready for the mega opening Christmas day slate.
The story that pretty much held us up was the happenings with Chris Paul. In a super-shortened off-season, Paul was rumoured to be going to the Lakers, then in fact dealt to the Lakers, then vetoed from joining the Lakers, then he was supposedly going to the Clippers, then the framework to go the Clippers was completed, then the deal was axed, needing to be reworked.
Finally, the league-owned Hornets accepted a reworked deal that cost the Clippers a budding star in Eric Gordon (among other assets), and finally Paul landed in Los Angeles.
While he didn't get to go to one of the NBA's glamour franchises, he did land in one of the league's premier destinations.
Which begs the question: what is it about NBA players and their desire to play in major markets?
Think about it: the Blue Jays have never had any problems attracting marquee free agents, or retaining some of their own home grown talent. On the other hand, Toronto is an outpost in the NBA.
It's bad enough that everyone knew Chris Bosh was leaving in the 2010 Summer of LeBron free agency period. What's worse is their fans knew they wouldn't be in play for any other of the other big fish switching teams.
There are probably few memorable situations in the NFL where a player refused to play for a certain city: Stanford pivot John Elway not wanting to play for the team that drafted him, Baltimore. He forced a trade to Denver. Similarly, Ole Miss QB Eli Manning told the Chargers not to take him with the first overall pick. He eventually landed with the New York Giants.
Eric Lindros refused to play for the Nordiques when he was drafted by them first overall, but for the most part, NHL players don't usually complain about where they land, or force their way out of a city - except for remarkable circumstances. Think Pat Roy getting lit up by the Red Wings and basically telling management the drubbing would be his last game in Montreal.
These days, more and more NBA players are forcing their way into major markets. If they don't exit via free agency (think Bron, Bosh, Amar'e) and leave their teams with nothing to show for it, they let it be known that getting re-signed to a long term deal for max money isn't a slam dunk (think Carmelo, Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard), forcing their team to trade them or be left with a bigger rebuilding project.
Unless your franchise has a Tim Duncan or Kevin Durant - unassuming superstars who don't crave that mega stardom - there's a good chance your top players will seek greener pastures.
It was one of the biggest concerns heading into the lockout, and judging how the league handled the Paul trade, they are still trying to figure out a way to deter that movement.
But it's not going to change anytime soon, because NBA players are the furthest along in the battle between players and management in any professional league.
Unlike the NFL, where players can be cut at any moment - along with their salaries - NBA players have guaranteed contracts and they know their value.
It's an absolute star-driven league. The 2004 Pistons are about the only title team that has won without a true superstar on their roster. So the star is the key to any successful NBA franchise, whereas a baseball team or hockey team relies on far more parts to find success.
They also have the benefit of recognition. No other major sport offers the kind of face time NBA players get. You can literally see the joy, the intensity, fatigue, frustration, and in some cases, the unraveling of a player in key situations (insert LeBron jokes here).
It's the reason basketball players can talk about their brand. They are the faces of ad campaigns, and are probably the most recognizable players worldwide.
With that that type of power, they can also see what their management team has done during their tenure, and use it as an indicator of what things will be like going forward.
Look at the LeBron and Bosh situations again.
Cavaliers' management surrounded James with no impact player during his entire stay in Cleveland. Despite the tremendous team success, coupled with James' star play, they were never built to withstand more complete teams come playoff time. A lot like what Derrick Rose faced in the playoffs last year.
As for Bosh, Bryan Colangelo was more proactive, constantly trying to bring in some star help for his star forward. Unfortunately, none of those moves - trading for Jermaine O'Neal or Shawn Marion, in particular - created a winner. He also had the luxury of a first overall pick during that period, albeit in a weak draft year.
Those situations alone are enough for a player to take less money somewhere else.
And with that star leverage, come the star perks.
I've read so many comments from frustrated fans at how arrogant and entitled players are.
And they're right. Lots of readers wanted these spoiled players to try to walk a day in their shoes, to know how good they in fact have it.
So, let's turn the argument around: if you had the means to put yourself into the best position possible, what would you want as a young, single, rich 20-something kid? Well, if that were me, I'd like the chance to compete, and play where I wanted to play. Sorry Utah or Milwaukee, but Los Angeles and Miami just happen to be more appealing.
Unfortunately, it's not their fault. They've earned it. The players before them fought hard for those rights, so players today are able to exercise that power.
And it's that reason why the new agreement won't last the full 10 years. You can bet one side will use its opt-out clause in six years.
You can already bet which side that will be.
On to this week's matchups. And just want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season!
Celtics at Knicks (TSN), Sunday at Noon et/9am pt
Rematch of the first round playoff series a year ago, where the Celtics broomed the Knicks out of the postseason. Plenty of attitude on New York's front line to answer notorious big-man meanie Kevin Garnett. Probably be getting into the Christmas cookies by the time this one tips off.
Heat at Mavericks (TSN), Sunday at 2:30pm et/11:30am pt
Rematch of the NBA Finals. How cool that the start of the season drops on Christmas day, forcing LeBron and company to watch the Championship banner get raised in Dallas? Also very interested to see if LeBron will cover Dirk in crunch time (didn't happen in the Finals) and if Dwyane Wade and James will work in tandem in crunch time. Should be into the Christmas bevvies by then.
Bulls at Lakers (TSN2), Sunday at 5pm et/2pm pt
Mega tilt taking the early evening time slot. Kobe and company are Odom-less, and for the first four contests of this year, Bynum-less. The Lakers will also stash the vaunted triangle for a Mike Brown offence. Can you say downgrade? Interesting to see how Rip Hamilton looks as a running mate to Derrick Rose in the clutch. Turkey with all the fixings should be ready to go at this point.
Magic at Thunder (TSN2), Sunday at 8pm et/5pm pt
Our first look at the sexy pick to take home the NBA title this year. Only, no NBA team wins young. Save for Magic Johnson, title teams' rosters are usually dotted with battle-tested veterans. This might just be the exception. Let's see if Kevin Durant and Russ Westbrook worked out their pecking order, and let's see Dwight Howard's body language throughout this game, and for the rest of the year. How close will he resemble the Walking Dead zombies in the barn? Top button of pants should be unbuttoned, if not into the jogging pants at this point.
Clippers at Warriors (TSN2), Sunday at 10:30pm et/7:30pm pt
Was considered a fun throw in game to cap off the Christmas day slate. Now? We're getting our first look at a legitimate title contender and the ultra-explosive version of Stockton-Malone. Golden State is geographically fortunate to be part of the festivities, really. What team do you think feels most slighted by not playing on Christmas? The Hawks? the Spurs? The loudest noises coming out of Warriors camp this offseason were the Monta Ellis stories. Joy. Pass the Ferrero Rocher. Dessert time.