This lockout stinks.
I would use stronger language to describe it, but I'm pretty sure that would be against board policy. As an NBA fan, the ridiculousness of watching my favorite sport try its best to make itself irrelevant again just when the sport was returning to the heights...the stomach-wrenching sense of uncertainty as to whether we'll even see a season this year...and the pit-of-your-gut-no-way-it-could-end-like-this-MAKE-IT-STOP thought that this foolishness could mark the end of a magical Big Three Era that has already had to struggle through injuries and bad luck and everything else...it's enough to put anyone into denial.
The problem is, though, for basketball junkies like me there's just no escaping the NBA. I might try to get into the NFL season where (shockingly) my Bengals are actually looking good, and I might have gotten a new part-time job because my gig writing about the NBA has dried up for the moment...but I can't escape the itch. I still spend an absurd amount of time on basketball message boards and blogs, interacting with others like me that are on the verge of NBA withdrawal. I haven't been posting a lot around here lately, but I've sure been lurking. And on another site that I frequent, I'm in the midst of a 4 months long (and counting) discussion of the top-100 players in NBA history. We're up to #56 now, with Alex English as the early leader to win that slot and Sam Jones as our most recent nominee that's up for discussion. I just can't get enough of this game, so right now I'm savoring whatever NBA action I can get.
But that said...
In my heart, I still believe that there will be a season. I don't think the two sides will be dumb enough to entirely throw dynamite into their gold mine. I think that eventually the players will get desperate enough, and the owners will get worried enough, that they will meet somewhere in the middle of their billion-dollar road. But more importantly, I look at history and everything just seems ripe for it to be the year of the Celtics.
Now I know, I know. For those that know me, I'm developing some notoriety as a hopeless optimist. My "Remember who believed..." thread has been up for a few years now, and to date there isn't a championship yet to vindicate me. In fact, I've believed that the Celtics would win every title since the Big Three era began, and the fantastic voyage in 2008 still stands as a solo act. So what, you might be asking, makes this year any different?
The Leap Year Rule.
You've probably have never heard of it, because as far as I know no one has ever really pointed it out before. It was just something I noticed myself this summer, when Kevin Garnett was up for discussion in the top-100 players vote I mentioned above (he finished #13 in the rankings, by the way, which I think is underrated but that's a debate for another day). Anyway, I noticed that there was an odd 4-year pattern to Garnett's career.
1996: In 1995 the Wolves won only 21 games, then drafted KG that summer. KG started his career coming off of the bench for the first few months (October - December of 1995). But then the calendar flipped to '96, and all of a sudden the Wolves moved him into the starting line-up and the Kid started putting up grown man stats...and the team started winning. 1996, the first leap year of Garnett's career, announced his arrival on the big stage. Leap year, big things happen.
2000: Garnett's career had been on a steady rise through his first four years...leading the Wolves to the first playoff games in team history in each of the previous three years and establishing himself as a young star with superstar potential. Well in 2000, Garnett made the leap to superstar status. In his 2nd career leap year, Garnett led the Wolves to the first 50-win season in team history while making his first career 1st Team All NBA squad, finishing 2nd in the MVP vote, and then going on to win a gold medal on the 2000 Olympic team. Leap year, history happens.
2004: The Wolves and Garnett had stagnated a bit after the magical 2000 season...hovering around 50 wins per season but consistently getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by stacked squads in the ridiculous West. But it was 2004, another leap year...which meant more magic. Garnett and the Wolves rampaged through the season, resulting in the best season in Timberwolves history (58 wins, #1 seed in Western Conference). They win their first (and only) two playoff series in team history, making the Western Conference Finals before the team was disintegrated by injuries. And Garnett, oh by the way, made another personal leap by turning in a near-unanimous vote MVP year (only Shaq in 2000 got a higher percentage of MVP votes in NBA history) and also turning in his career signature game with a 32-point/21-rebound/9-combined-blocks/steals effort in his first career game 7. Leap year, HISTORY happens.
2008: We ALL know what happened in 2008. After the mid-2000s were a heartbreaking series of team devastations for Garnett, Allen, and the Celtics, in 2007 the team is brought together against all odds and DOMINATES the season. Championship # 17 walks through that door, the first title in 22 years. Garnett wins the Defensive Player of the Year and is top-3 in the MVP vote. Pierce wins Finals MVP. Ray sets Finals 3-point records. Garnett turns in one of the greatest post-championship interviews in NBA history. Leap year, HISTORY HAPPENS!!!
So now, it's 2012. For three straight years, the Celtics have had the talent but just a series of bad breaks keeping them out of the promised land. But now, it's leap year. And on leap years of KG's career, huge things happen for both him and his team. And a missed season due to lockout/potential retirements would NOT count. In the last 3 leap years KG has won a gold medal one year, an MVP another, and both a DPoY AND a ring on the next. The only award missing from the mantle is a Finals MVP...and now that it's leap year again, history strongly suggests that this is the year for him to take it home...which means #18 HAS to happen this year...which means that the lockout HAS TO END in time for us to have a season. It's destiny. We no longer have to worry about Stern and Hunter ruining our year.
Championship, baby. You read it here first.