Many of us, prior to the start of this season, had begun to frame the 2012-2013 NBA campaign in the context of a competition involving (1) a famous city rich in media and advertising opportunities, (2) a star offensive player leading his team in hopes of claiming the Larry O'Brien trophy and a subtext of which team would eventually claim the hearts and imaginations of that city's fans. You guessed it, I'm talking about the ... Lakers! Surprise! You thought I was going to rehash the tired discussion of Knicks/Nets inter-borough rivalry, didn't you? Admit it, maybe not out loud, but in your quietest moments, when no one else is around and even the dog is occupied with what the cat/squirrel/any random creature is doing.
Let's look at the situation and do a little comparison shopping, shall we?
The jumping off point has to be the by now proverbial dead horse that is what not even Nostradamus dared (or could) predict, THE DWIGHTMARE. (Sound effects, where is my scary, apocryphal music insert?)
-In the back of all our minds (the dirty little corner we refuse to visit because it scares us so much) we all feared that Dwight Howard never really loved us and, like the cute girl/guy in high school, was only talking to us because she/he wanted to make someone else jealous. Bingo! That is exactly what happened. We convinced ourselves that Dwight was going to take us to the Senior Prom. However, the limo he reserved was sent to California, not to Brooklyn. The dinner reservations we planned had to be cancelled - lost our deposit, by the way - and the red carnation to pin on Dwight's lapel was hastily re-labeled "Brook Lopez."
Next has to be the parallel discussion of which team owns its town's fans and hearts.
-Kobe starring the Lakers has become the Cats of LA. Sure it's a well-attended show but Buss the second is as much a poor copy of his father as Bush the second was of his father. The hot ticket in LaLa Land is CP3 and the Clip Show. Donald Sterling, I'm convinced, no longer believes he is the owner of the former Buffalo franchise and has consequently allowed the people who know what they are doing to put together a team that, if it keeps winning, will continue to replace the Lakers in the vapid souls of Lakers glitterati fandom everywhere. Who would have thought that Billy Crystal beats both Dyan Cannon and Jack Nicholson?
-Meanhwile, back on the East Coast, Melo (I'm not derivative of some '80s soft drink) and the over-the-hill gang have relied on 3-point shooting, Jedi mind-trick defense and a splendid marketing plan that never ceases replaying the recorded image of Willis Reed limping out of the tunnel of Madison Square Garden nearly 40 years ago to convince its obviously drugged and unfathomably besotted fan base that the Knicks are a legitimate contender. It is hard to accept that filmmaker Spike Lee (a truly great director, by the way) really believes this team can actually do anything in the playoffs other than play the role of sacrificial animal on the altar of what looks like another return to the finals for the Heat. Brooklyn fans, of course, are hoping that like that date who is second choice, the team works that much harder to prove itself worthy of our attention and being our default choice. So far, Brook Lopez has done exactly that. His numbers have been exactly what a top-tier center's should be and he has professed his love for Brooklyn on a consistent basis. Joe Johnson has lived up to his personality type by showing his diffidence but is, apparently still willing to be seen with us at the prom. Deron, I suspect, signed up for the role of the attractive date who says yes but thinks better of it, after all. Still, the King and Queen of the Prom sit on the sidelines in Brooklyn and no one can argue that point in any sort of persuasive manner. Dyan Cannon is no one's Superbowl show.
So what is the ultimate purpose of this post? One, to get us thinking about the parallels between the two greatest cities in this country and what promises to become the overall best storyline in the NBA.. As bad as the Lakers have been, they are still the flagship franchise of the NBA and likely will not be this horrible next season. The Nets, Clippers and Knicks have all become not simply legitimate franchises, but the Clippers are legitimate title contenders and arguments can be made for both the Knicks and Nets that each franchise can now see a path to becoming legitimate contenders, as well. These next few years, more attention will be drawn to this burgeoning East Coast/West Coast story and the NBA will benefit, as a result.
To wrap up the comparisons:
Who has the strongest hold on its town's fan base?
-Fight between Knicks and Lakers because of historical hegemony. Clippers likely have the most attention because of the winning and the style of play.
What is the order of "2012 Off-Season Winner?"
1) Clippers - CP3 is the most important player to his team who was eligible to be moved last summer.
2) Nets - Hodgepodge of players is finally starting to become greater than the sum of it parts, still need help.
3) Knicks - Melo is reverting to Melo, defense is reverting to no-defense and Jason Kidd is old.
4) Lakers - Dwight has been a bust (due to injuries), Kobe's selfishness is revealed and Nash HATES this team.
Which arena story is best?
1) Barclays Center - Hands down the benchmark for NBA arenas; proves the point of architecture as uplifting.
2) Staples Center - Two teams play in it and unveiling of statues of Lakers greats is historical record.
3) Madison Square Garden - Renovated but nothing seems drastically different and Dolan may be listening, now.