While everyone’s favorite winter sport on ice remains in labor lockdown, the NBA tips off next week, giving hoops fans a warm feeling amid the onset of gloomy weather.
ESPN/NBA analysts Magic Johnson and Jeff Van Gundy took part in a media conference call last week to preview the season. Among the topics they covered was the new-look Lakers, the looking-old Knicks and St. Bonaventure’s contribution to the league, Andrew Nicholson.
The Lakers, of course, added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash during the offseason. Will that infusion of talent, to go with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, be enough to get Bryant another championship ring?
“The possibility is definitely there for [the Lakers] to go to the Finals,” Johnson said.
“I think it’s going to take some time for them to jell. ... It won’t be easy for the Heat, as well. I think the Celtics are going to give them all they want, but I favor the Heat getting there. ... And if we see that matchup [in the Finals], Kobe versus LeBron, I think it will break all the records. I think that the viewership will be off the charts.”
Van Gundy, the former coach, said in his view the Lakers are one of three or four teams that could come out of the West.
“Like Magic, I think Oklahoma City, I would favor them,” Van Gundy said. “I favor them to actually win it all. I think their speed, quickness and depth advantages over L.A. could be the turning point in a possible series. ... I think it’s going to be a Miami-Oklahoma City final, and I just think this year Oklahoma City is going to figure out a way how to win it.”
Johnson was asked whether the Knicks will miss point guard Jeremy Lin, who left New York to sign with Houston.
“We don’t know,” Johnson said, “because it’s funny when you say that because if they go on to have a great season, everybody will say no; if they don’t, then they’re going to say, well, they should have had Jeremy Lin.”
The Knicks have the NBA’s oldest roster. Johnson said that the health of Amare Stoudemire and Marcus Camby are concerns for New York.
“I was thinking about how old the Knicks were,” said Van Gundy, who coached the Knicks for seven seasons, ending in 2002. “Camby and Kurt Thomas played there when I was coaching there, and that’s like years ago.”
Nicholson, the power forward from St. Bonaventure, was drafted 19th overall by the Orlando Magic. Van Gundy mentioned the former Bonnie while assessing the Magic’s chances this year.
“The rookie Nicholson from St. Bonnie’s looks like in the preseason has performed very well,” Van Gundy said. “I think people who think they’ll be a 20-win team - I think they’ll be in the 30s somewhere, depending on their health and breaks and how everyone else plays.”
The NBA has added stiff penalties this year to try to get flopping out of the game. One media person asked Johnson and Van Gundy if that would take “some of the showtime” out of the NBA.
“I don’t think flopping is showtime,” Van Gundy said. “I think flopping is just trying to deceive an official, which I’m glad they’re trying to address. ... Somebody was speculating that no one will get suspended this year. They won’t get six flops in a year. I think if it’s enforced correctly, someone will be suspended after Game One of this year. They’ll get the warning and the six flops all in one game because I think it’s become that big an epidemic.”
Magic, who was the star of the Showtime Lakers teams, talked about his definition of showtime.
“It’s watching LeBron James and Dwyane Wade; it’s watching Kobe Bryant and Gasol, Dwight Howard; it’s watching Kevin Durant, Westbrook and Harden; it’s watching Derrick Rose when he gets back being healthy ... I mean, that’s the real show.”
The Knicks open the season Thursday night against the rival Brooklyn Nets, who will christen their new home, the Barclays Center. TNT will broadcast that game, but most Knicks games will be found on MSG, of course. The YES Network is the TV home of the Nets.
ESPN’s national TV schedule will get under way Friday night, with the Knicks at the Miami Heat and a battle of L.A. between the Lakers and Clippers.
• This weekend is Fox’s turn for an NFL doubleheader. With the Bills on a bye week, we get to see two games on Fox plus one on CBS. The Miami Dolphins are at the New York Jets at 1 p.m. on Channel 4, while Washington is a Pittsburgh in the early game on Channel 29. The New York Giants visit Dallas in the 4:25 p.m. game on Fox 29.
• During tonight’s Football Night in America game between New Orleans and Denver, Dan Patrick on NBC will announce that the TV version of his talk show is moving to NBC Sports Network, starting on Monday. The Dan Patrick Show had been carried on Fox Sports regional networks; it was seen locally on MSG.