Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NBA League Pass Choice, Part 2

Last time, I looked at blackouts and redundant games as two of the factors to consider when choosing which teams to watch on NBA League Pass Choice. This time, I acknowledge the obvious. I want to watch teams that are good, or are at least intriguingly bad. But which teams are those?

It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This may be true, but a lot of beholders behold somewhat similarly. In other words, there may be some people who find the Pistons or Sixers enthralling, but very few of them live outside Michigan and eastern Pennsylvania.

Socrates, a lanky swingman for Panathinaikos, once noticed that beauty and virtue tend to be found together. In the same way, winning and entertaining basketball also have a special relationship. Sure, there are some good teams that are brutal to watch. The nineties Knicks are the Michael Jordan of this category. But teams like the Heat, Magic, and Lakers are all aesthetically pleasing when they're "on." This is true as you go down the standings. The Nuggets and Jazz are more entertaining than the Pacers and Clippers.

As anyone who has watched a James Bond movie can tell you, there are exceptions to the relationship between beauty and virtue. Some of the classic femme fatales are the talented youngsters, the superstar without help, and the Warriors. This category comes down to what style of basketball and storylines you prefer. My particular poisons are young teams and teams with plenty of players I like watching for some reason (an idiosyncratic list). The Houston Rockets are the champions of the latter category, featuring Kyle Lowry, the Chuckwagon, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Yao, Shane Battier, and Chase Budinger.

Using these principles as a guiding light, what teams will I be watching too much of during the 2011 season? The Houston Rockets, who have few blackouts, a lot of intriguing players, and the talent to win 45-55 games. The Milwaukee Bucks, who also have few blackouts, will probably grab the #3 or #4 seed in the East, have a top five center, and could start Corey Maggette and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute next to each other in the kind of strategic min-maxing usually reserved for Dungeons & Dragons. The Utah Jazz, who have the fewest blackouts in my hometown of any 2010 WC playoff team, and should be entertaining. A hidden benefit of choosing these teams? Between these three, only 6 of their 25 games against the Heat, Magic and Lakers will be blacked out.

I will also be watching the OKC Thunder, despite their many TV appearances (and general overrating), mostly because of Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, Kevin Durant, and James Harden's beard. The Sacramento Kings have barely any blackouts, should be entertaining (Cousins-Landry will be a devastating combination sooner or later), and are a "young team on the rise" (phrase copyrighted by the Portland Trail Blazers, Kevin Pritchard, and Paul Allen's phalanx of attack lawyers).

The other two teams are TBD at this point. New York would be intriguing if they weren't blacked out. New Orleans has Chris Paul and not much else. The Blazers should be a great team to watch in November, but I don't know if I want to watch "The Return of Juwan Howard" come February. The Wizards will either be surprisingly good or a complete trainwreck. Either one is acceptable. I'd choose them in a heartbeat if I had faith in Gil's knee. And Toronto should have an interesting offense with Jose Calderon, Linas Kleiza, Andrea Bargnani, and Leandro Barbosa, but I don't know if watching that defense on a regular basis is medically advisable. Or maybe I'll go outside at some point this winter. Life is full of surprises, as the Blazers training staff knows.

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