B y T o m D a n e h y
THINGS THAT ARE guaranteed to happen in the NBA this year:
The Utah Jazz will win more than 50 games, challenge for the division crown, play hard every night, then lose in the first round of the playoffs. The Jazz exist just so we Phoenix Suns fans won't feel so bad when our team gets knocked out in the second round.
I don't know how those Salt Lake City fans take it. Well, I guess Mormons are real polite. Heck, they even put on white shirts and ties to go out for a bike ride.
The Jazz feature guaranteed Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone and a supporting cast that does absolutely no supporting whatsoever. Every year, these two guys play their butts off every night (amazingly, Stockton and Malone have missed only four games each due to injury in their careers!) with devastating efficiency. Stockton runs the show, Malone runs the floor and the Jazz run over people.
Until they hit the playoffs and then they develop a case of the yips. This is a team that should have made the NBA Finals at least a couple times, but rarely gets past the first round. Real frustrating.
The Suns will break our hearts by again losing to the Houston Rockets in the second round.
I once read a book by Ian Fleming (no, it wasn't Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) which he separated into three sections entitled: "Happenstance," "Circumstance" and "Enemy Action." Those Brits are so clever. Anyway, if the Suns meet up with Houston in the second round, I'm not even gonna watch.
Three years ago, the Suns reached the NBA Finals against Chicago and all they had to do to win the title was split their four games at home. Turns out they couldn't even win one home game. Two years ago, the Suns win the first two games in Houston, then come back and lose two at home and end up losing the series in seven games. And last year the Suns go up three games to one on Houston, have two of the last three games at home and still lose to the Rockets.
It's way beyond "Enemy Action"; it's total surrender. Fortunately, the Suns got rid of Dan Majerle, the guy who was waving the white flag. The dude kept throwing up nasty three-pointers, then running around yelling "Brick alert! Brick alert!"
Sure, sure, Charles Barkley got hurt two years ago and Danny Manning went down with a knee injury last year, but injuries are part of the game. Every championship team needs some luck along the way, and that luck is most often manifested in the form of team health. The Suns are going to have to remain healthy and miss the Rockets in the playoffs if they're going to make the NBA Finals. They'll probably talk bravely about wanting to play the Rockets to get the monkey off their backs, but that "monkey" looks like it just ate the Three Tenors and Luther Vandross whole and is looking for a staggering Southwestern basketball team to have for dessert.
Dennis Rodman will have a sex-change operation, but nobody is sure from what and to what.
All you Chicago Bulls fans hanging your championship hats on Rodman's move to the Bulls need to get real. If you think that dude can keep his head out of his butt for 82 regular-season games plus the playoffs, you probably also believe Rush Limbaugh can go 15 minutes without saying something really stupid. Can't be done; it's in their nature.
I really wish Rodman were within shouting range of normal. If he were, he'd be my favorite player. He works so hard and does so many amazing things on the court. Heck, if I were the coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, I'd strap Sean Rooks in a chair and prop his eyelids open like they did to Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange and make him watch non-stop footage of Rodman battling for rebounds. There's no way Rodman should be getting 18 boards a game, but he does. (Of course, it would be my luck that Rooks would react like McDowell, treat it like aversion therapy, and get sick at the thought of rebounding, which he already apparently does.)
Rodman is a sick puppy and he's absolutely guaranteed to do something stupid at exactly the wrong time to screw things up. And don't give me this stuff about Jordan will keep him straight. Michael Jordan couldn't even keep his agent in line.
The Houston Rockets will three-peat. Only a fool bets against a two-time defending champion, especially one with Hakeem Olajuwon. And I'm no fool. Well, sometimes.
SIDELINESBIBBY'S COMING! BIBBY'S COMING! It's still more than a month away, but the December 13 non-conference basketball game between Salpointe Catholic and Phoenix Shadow Mountain High Schools is already causing quite a stir. Shadow Mountain boasts two-time Arizona State Player of the Year Mike Bibby, who's signed with the UA and is perhaps the most eagerly-awaited Wildcat player in the Lute Olson era.
It will be Bibby's only appearance in Tucson this year and fan interest has been high, sometimes even bizarrely so. The Salpointe athletic office has been deluged with calls requesting ticket information. One UA booster reportedly called and asked to buy 500 tickets! (The Salpointe gym only holds a few hundred more than that.)
Salpointe officials are considering switching the game to a larger, neutral site, perhaps Amphi or Pueblo High Schools or even the UA. Wherever the game is played, it's going to be huge.
Oh, and despite the fact that Shadow Mountain has at least two All-State players (Nick Green, who has signed with Oregon, transferred over this season), don't be at all surprised if Salpointe wins the game. The Lancers are loaded, led by the best player in the city, Brian Smith, who has signed with the University of San Diego.
Salpointe will be without one and possibly two of its starters for the game. Missing for sure will be six-foot-ten junior center Brian Stewart, who recently had back surgery and is out until Christmas. Even so, the defending regional champs are deep and talented and a solid contender for the state title.
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