It's surreal to think that finally the 2011-2012 NBA Season is actually going to happen. The promise of owners and players and the league finally reaching a deal only to fall apart at the last minute has been the theme in the longest off-season we've had in years. The drama, at certain points, has been as explosive as a deciding game in a Playoff series, and to all concerned, fans included, this has been a rollercoaster ride. A nauseating ride that left many of us wanting to throw up and just leave by the nth time that we thought that a deal was going to be sealed.
But right when we've all but given up and swore to switch sports out of spite, the unthinkable happened. Everyone involved finally came to an agreement. Yes people, the NBA has returned. Training camps open on December 9, while the first games of the season will be held on December 25.
The highlight: a rematch between the defending champs Mavs and the much-maligned Miami Heat. It's the NBA's Christmas gift as much as it is a token of apology to its fans. Call us too forgiving, but we're just happy to see the league's return, even though at times, said league and its players honestly looked like bitter divorcees fighting tooth-and-nail for every dime and penny.
With that out of the way, what say you we look at the winners and losers of the end of The Great NBA Lockout of 2011?
Winner: Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher has proven many things on the court: He has a bunch of rings, he has his own highlight reel of clutch shots to show his future grandchildren, and he's known as one of the classiest guys in the league. During the lockout, proved to be as savvy as the union's face. The dude was a steady, the calming presence amongst jittery players. And even in the darkest hours of the labor discussion, Fisher held on firmly to represent their cause.
Loser: The Commissioner, David Stern
Technically, David's still pretty much a winner, because his league is going to start after all. But the long, winding, twisty roads the discussions took didn't actually improve his reputation, which in recent years, have been seen as draconian and manipulative. To most casual observers, he was simply another dick in a suit who couldn't get the parties involved to kiss and make up.
Winner: Fantasy NBA Players
Heard that sound? That is the sound of hardcore NBA fans rushing to Yahoo! or some other fantasy sports hub to sign-up or renew their fantasy leagues. Oh, how we've missed wasting hours researching who's going to have a breakout year or deciding which player would be best to start in our lineups. Let the fantasy drafts begin, we say!
Loser: IGN's Fantasy Fantasy League
Fearing the season to be lost, gaming site IGN.com started up a fantasy fantasy league that was to be based on a simulated season in NBA 2K12. It's a novel idea, and one that would have compelled some of us to join if indeed, the real NBA season was cancelled. Now, we love NBA 2K12 as much as all of you couch jocks out there, and it's definitely the most realistic videogame representation of the league ever, but we'd still prefer the real thing.
Winner: The rookies
With the recent crop of fresh talent in the form of Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, and John Wall among others tearing the league a new one, 2011's rookies definitely have their work cut out for them. Pundits are saying that this year's rookie class might be one of the weakest in recent years. But it doesn't matter what they're saying; what matters is that these kids will get to play. Always a treat to see some unheralded draftee exceed his draft position's worth. And we're also rooting for top draft pick, Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, to give the-team-Lebron-dumped something to cheer about.
Loser: The vets
Okay, so we have a shortened season. From 82 games, we're down to 66 games, which should be a boon to those players whose knees have accumulated a lot of mileage over the years. Unfortunately, with the shortened schedule comes a catch: more back-to-back games. This season, we'll also see back-to-back-to-back games, which to any veteran sounds like a death spell. It's a given that we'll see a lot more of those off-nights and sloppy games from the not-so-young.
Winner: Dallas Mavericks
No other team could be more excited than Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and the rest of the Mavs crew as they prepare to defend their hard-earned title this season. If the season had not pushed through, you could just imagine the immensity of the what-if that will surround this team. Yes, they've already won it all, but the possibility of being repeat champions is at its highest now with that championship swagger they're still carrying. The team isn't getting any younger so the extra off-months should have definitely helped rejuvenate their legs, making them early season favorites to be the victors in June all over again.
Loser: International leagues
It was fun while it lasted for the leagues in China and Europe as NBA's locked-out players sought employment opportunities abroad. Even the Philippines had its moment a couple months back when NBA superstars such as Durant, Kobe, and Derrick Rose among a few visited the country for a much-hyped exhibition game. Now, with the NBA back from life support, these players are about to make a return to where they belong.
Winner: The gamblers
Where there are NBA games, there are college students, office workers, bums and tambays looking to profit from betting on the outcomes. In the United States, sure, there are other sports that bettors bite their teeth into--the NFL, MLB, college basketball--but here, the choices are more limited for those who bet on professional sports. You can bet on a horse, but wouldn't you rather bet on your favorite team?
As most of us rejoice in unison, there's a portion of of the population who think that the lockout might be the best thing to have ever happened to the NBA: the neglected girlfriends. We aren't one to generalize, and we're sure that there are women who are just as ecstatic as we are, but they tend to be in the minority. Once the league heats up, and once the Playoffs roll along, we can imagine the throngs of girlfriends who will once again rise up in arms as we obsess and get excited over the game.