We did this last year, and try to do it for most professional sports seasons. It might be insightful, and maybe even a bit comical. So here it goes: your 2009 NBA preview, from A to Z.
A is for Artest... again. Last year, we started with the same thing for A, because Artest was new to Houston and we wondered what impact he would have on a Rockets team with Yao and Tracy McGrady. This season, he joins Kobe, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and the defending champion Lakers. Does his addition put them over the top, again?
B is for Boston's Big Four. With the addition of Rasheed Wallace, Boston has a scary (and old) starting five, including their big four of Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and emerging point guard Rajon Rondo. It's going to be curious to see how Wallace's addition will change this team: will it be for the better, or will they be too old... "not for this earth, but for this club."
C is for The Curse of the Clippers. The ugly stepchild of the Lakers had their No. 1 overall pick, Blake Griffin, just go down for six weeks with a stress fracture. This franchise gets no luck, and as J.A. Adande pointed out on Twitter, the Clippers' three No. 1 overall draft picks have been Griffin (this injury), Danny Manning (torl ACL) and Michael Olowokandi (he suffered from being Michael Olowokandi). Brutal.
D is for DE-TROIT BASKET-BALL. That always annoys me, but whatever. The Pistons added Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon in the offseason, while losing Allen Iverson, Sheed and Antonio McDyess. It's obvious they are trying to get younger, and rebuild, but I still think they can improve on their 39-43 record from last season.
E is for El Mariachi. And by El Mariachi, I mean Delonte West. This offseason, West was arrested on some incredibly awesome charges. This has nothing to do with the season, I just wanted to bring it up again.
F is for Frequent Flier Miles. Because Quentin Richardson has got lots of 'em after this offseason. Let's recap it: he was traded from New York, to Memphis, to the Clippers, to Minnesota and then finally to Miami, where he is now the starting small forward for the Heat.
G is for GM Sir Charles Barkley. Well, he's not a GM yet... but he did say that he's seen all of these other guys fail at it, and think he deserves his own chance to fail at being a GM. And as you all know, we endorse anything that would involve the Round Mound of Rebound. He wouldn't be that turrrible, would he?
H is for Howard, as in Dwight Howard. He's a beast of a player, and yet he's probably only 20-30% of the player he could be. If he can finally develop into the complete (and completely dominant) player he's meant to be, the Magic will be making many trips deep into the playoffs for years to come.
I is for Inevitable. Because the media is already hyping a Kobe-LeBron finals, as if it's inevitable, before a single game has been played. But I would not count out San Antonio, Boston and Orlando with 82 games left to be played.
J is for Joe Johnson and the Hawks. There are clearly three elite teams in the East: Cleveland, Boston and Orlando. Are the Johnson-led Hawks the best of the rest?
K is for Kobe. He finally got his ring without Shaq, and he still has a loaded team... so we know he won't be satisfied with just that fourth ring, and his mission this year will be to get one for the thumb.
L is for... who else, but Lebron. Last year, during All-Star weekend, he "preliminarily" threw his name into the ring for the 2010 dunk contest. I hope he keeps his word, because it is sure to be entertaining (though he would probably win regardless of the degree of difficulty of his dunks).
M is for MVP. This is where I give you my MVP prediction. While I'm always tempted to go with the hometown guy, Dwyane Wade (he's Wooj's pick for MVP, as usual), I'm going to throw a curve ball and go with Dwight Howard.
N is for the New guys, as in the rookies. Since I've already got something planned for R, my rookie of the year pick will go here. I'm going to go with DeJuan Blair of the Spurs. He put up some monster numbers this preseason, and while he probably doesn't start, he will be a vital contributor of the bench in the Spurs quest for a fourth ring in eight years.
O is for Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder won't be great this year, nor will they make the playoffs in the West. However, they will be lots of fun to watch, and we think Kevin Durant is going to have a huge season. He's really going to break out.
P is for Prenups! Holler, "we want prenups!" Lamar Odom got a prenup with Khloe Kardashian before they "tied the knot." As a result, I'm setting the over/under on how long this marriage lasts for the All-Star break.
Q is for Question. Will Tracy McGrady make it out of the first round of the playoffs? His team did it last year, but he was injured. Hell, will the Rockets even make the playoffs with Yao trying to return from injury, and no Artest?
R is for Repeat. Each time Phil Jackson has won a title with a team (after a different team won the previous year), his team has repeated as champion. Will that streak come to an end this season?
S is for the Summer of 2010. Yes, after this season is the much-hyped Summer of 2010, where the likes of LeBron, D-Wade, et al become free agents. Expect monster seasons from them, and much speculation as to where they will end up... because that's probably all we will hear about until July 1, 2010.
T is for The Turkish Michael Jordan. Hedo Turkoglu bounced out of Orlando and headed north of the border to Toronto, where he joins Chris Bosh. Can the two create some much needed chemistry and improve the Raptors after a 33-49 record last year? And more importantly, will the addition of Turkoglu be enough to keep Bosh satisfied in Toronto so that Bosh re-signs in the offseason?
U is for Useless. Which is exactly what the addition of Shaq will be for the Cavs. I don't think he has enough left in his tank to do for LeBron the same thing he did for Kobe and Wade. And if this season doesn't end in a ring, then the addition of Shaq will have been useless.
V is for Vinsanity. The Magic lost the Turkish MJ, but acquired Vince Carter to add to a team that has a great point guard in Jameer Nelson, and a great big man in Howard. This is the most talented team Carter has played for, and I see this ending very well for the Magic.
W is for Winners. Who we got winning it all this season? Like I said, I like the addition of Carter for the Magic, and if the core of that team can stay healthy, I like them to walk away with the franchise's first championship. For what it's worth, I like the Spurs to come out of the West.
X is for X-factor. This one is a a curve ball: Michael Beasley. He went to rehab this offseason for some drug issues, and as a result, I think his head will be in the right place this season. He put up good numbers as a rookie, but his improvement this season could be a huge factor in the Heat's success.
Y is for the division winners (Y). Here are my predictions for which teams will win each division this season: Boston, Cleveland, Orlando in the East and San Antonio, the Lakers and Portland in the West.
Z is for Zebras. This preseason, we were stuck with replacement officials, but the real officials finally came to terms with the league and will be back in action for the opener. The scrub referees made us realize how good actual officials are, and we are glad they are back.
And since the officials are back, that means we can officially tip-off the NBA season tonight. So enjoy it. Feel free to leave any predictions of your own in the comments. Tomorrow, Wooj will treat you all with a Miami Heat season preview.