Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Word From Soma #4

By: Aly Somani

Aly Somani is a student of the game of basketball and the business of sports. Originally from Toronto, Ontario, Aly decided to “take his talents” to New York City, where he pursued and completed his Masters degree at Columbia University in Manhattan. Aly has experience working with the National Basketball Players Association in a Career Development capacity with players and is now working on an entrepreneurial endeavor. He has a ‘Kobe’ like determination, and an immense passion for the game, we are delighted to have Aly join the NBA Breakdown. Check him out at http://www.alysomani.com/


Eight Story Lines To Watch For This NBA Season

8. Phil Jackson, Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers

The Zen Master, Phil Jackson, is embarking on what he has called his ‘last stand’ as an NBA coach.

Often times, as fans of this game I think we overlook the value of great coaching, and are quick to give credit to the players we see on the court. But every great player will be the first to attribute his success to the coaches that inspired and motivated him throughout his career. By his colleagues and fans of the game alike, Jackson is considered one of the greatest coaches of all time, and the numbers don’t lie.

Jackson has won 11 NBA titles as a coach, surpassing a record set by the late Boston Celtics legend Red Auerbach. He has also won two titles as a player of the New York Knicks in 1970 and 73. Giving him a total of 13 Championships as a player and coach. Jackson’s regular season record stands at a masterly 1098-460 record in the regular season, which included the famed ‘95-‘96 Chicago Bulls who went 72- 10. Jackson’s teams are 48 – 0 in playoff series where they win game 1, proving that mental toughness is as big a factor of success in this game as physical capability, if not more.

His unique coaching style, influenced by Eastern Philosophy, earned him the nickname “the Zen Master”. He often requests his players to meditate throughout the season, and recommends spiritual and philosophical books to his players. Some claim, it was the players he was blessed with that are the result of his success (Jordan, Pippen, Shaq, Kobe). But I urge you to think of all the great players who have played this game and the various journeys their careers have taken and you will notice that success on the court is never achieved alone.

There are multiple pieces in every puzzle, which make it fit together. But without a solid foundation to begin assembling the puzzle, you are but left with a collection of loose pieces.

7. The Shaquille O'Neal Factor

How effective will Shaq be for the Boston Celtics? There are arguments on both sides. The 7 foot 1 inch, 325-pound diesel, was born on March 6, 1972, making him the oldest player in the league at 38 years old. How many 38 year old's, can play ball, let alone throw it down like Shaq. Mr. O’Neal is at the twilight of his career, and is looking to give his career a storybook finish.

The legend has already cemented his place in history with 4 rings, but is as thirsty for his 5th as he was for his 1st, facing Kobe and Lakers in the finals, could be exactly what he needs for us to see glimpses of the Shaq of old. That’s why I have the ‘Big Shamrock” as the number 7 story to watch this season.

6. Super Teams and Super Friends

The emergence of players taking more ownership in the decision of which team they play on has become a new trend as of late, thanks to Lebron and co. Which team will Carmelo Anthony land on and for that matter which team will Chris Paul land on? Will Paul decide to stick it out in New Orleans with Ariza and West, who are far from being a championship contender?

Or will Paul follow through on the comments he made at Melo’s wedding, suggesting that Melo and himself would join forces with Amar'e in New York and create another 'super friends' team? Is this what the NBA is becoming, are players making plans to play on teams with other superstars to increase their chances at a championship. If that does happen, what happens with the small market teams, that don’t have a franchise player, and are they even able to contend in this league, both financially and competitively? I will be eagerly awaiting the NBA trade deadline to see how things unfold?

5. The Collective Bargaining Agreement

A lookout looms. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in July of 2011, and it is coming awfully close, considering that the two sides seem far from reaching a deal. On the one hand, the Players Union is suggesting revenue sharing by all teams, and on the other the League is suggesting some serious cuts in player salaries, somewhere in the middle there has to be a solution.

Over the course of the next few months, various negotiation tactics will be used and exercised by each side and we will be able to get a good understanding of the potential for a NBA lockout next season. What impact would that have on the game, its players, and its fans? Will the new CBA change the way teams are structured both from a personnel and financial standpoint? Hopefully Mr. Billy Hunter, Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association, and Mr. David Stern, Commissioner of the NBA, can reach an agreement, before the July 1st deadline.

4. The Rise of Thunder

I am so impressed with Mr. Kevin Durant. He is talented, humble, well spoken and a beast on the court. You can be rest assured the NBA will be in great hands over the course of the next decade. The Oklahoma City Thunder challenged the Lakers last season in the playoffs by pushing the series to 6 games.

One year older and one year wiser, this team should expect a different level of preparation from opposing teams and should anticipate that the days they used to surprise teams are a story of the past. They will be challenged and tested, throughout the season. Can Kevin Durant lift his team to new heights and be his team's and potentially the league's Most Valuable Player? Can the Thunder as a team, be even more effective and potent than they were last year?

3. Kobe Bryant

Does he still have it? How effective will he be throughout the course of the year? Will the continuous torment he imposes on his body, catch up to him? I highly doubt it. Kobe Bryant is a warrior and he is well aware of what he is capable of, as he sits at the top of the NBA hierarchy, watching his competitors duke it out, for a chance at the Black Mamba and his Lakers. I look forward to seeing Kobe doing what Kobe does best: fight for success.

With his 6 game winning buzzer beaters last season, his phenomenal playoff showing and his 5 NBA titles, it seems odd to say that Kobe can still be motivated, but unfortunately for the rest of the league, he is, more than ever. His greatness is a direct result of the disciplined work ethic and focused approach he has to the game. Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players to ever play this game, and for that he is storyline number 3 to watch this season.

2. The Boston Celtics

One of the most storied franchises in the NBA, having 17th NBA Championships, chasing their 18th, has one of the most determined and motivated group of players this season. From ‘the Big Three’ of Garnett, Allen and Peirce, to the new additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal to fill the void of their current fierce center, Kendrick Perkins, this team is hands down one the favorites to win the NBA title this year. This may be the last year they have to compete at such a high level, so they had better be as motivated as they need too. Being in the new and improved East, their abilities will be tested. But they have a brilliant coach who understands that regular season success does not translate to an NBA Championship, playoff success does. I look forward to seeing how the new additions to this team fit in, and how effective the team will be in transition, considering their lack of speed. Can they capture Championship banner number 18, or will they be victim to the Magic in Orlando, or the Heat in Miami, or will we be witnessing another classic against the Lakers come June?

1. The new ‘Big Three’

Will the critics who have favored this team to win a championship or the Eastern Conference at the very least, be eating their words? Is this just another team? Will Lebron lead the way or will Dwayne Wade? Can Lebron average a triple double? Who will be shooting the final shot in a close game? How will the supporting cast perform?

Do they have enough inside presence to fend off the big’s in the East? These are the questions that loom over the Heat this season. The motivation for Lebron to perform at a level never seen by his fans or his competitors, is more evident than ever and we are all aware, that he has been taking close note, of everything that has been said about him. He is and will be one of the greatest players to ever this game, the question is will this move to Miami translate to a championship, or rather championships? And will the Big Three in Miami be able to mesh quick enough to create a real push at a top seed in the Eastern Conference? The league has never seen this type of hysteria, since Jordan and the Bulls in their 72-10 record setting season.

To say the least, it will be one hell of a show, in every stadium they go (Dr. Seuss moment).

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