I feel myself circling the NBA, slowly getting drawn in like the wayward Voyageur 2 satellite, getting sucked into the orbit of a gas giant.
As I’ve written before, I admire and respect professional basketball players but I will always prefer hockey for cultural and historic reasons.
It’s not my fault. I’m Canadian. We’re raised with the history and social weight of hockey on our culture. We define ourselves by that sport.
I also think the NBA and the Raptors are hurt by the fact that I can remember when Toronto was first awarded a franchise. I was 12 and had just started a unit on basketball in gym class. It was hard to get into something when I was just getting the basics down myself.
I think that’s what basketball is up against in Canada – the NHL is a monolithic presence that was here before you and will be around for generations to come (Note: Not applicable in Quebec City).
Meanwhile, the NBA is still the new kid on the block and is batting .500 on retaining franchises in this country.
That and, let’s be honest, it’s hard to take a team seriously when it’s named after Jurassic Park.
But the last NBA season was awesome. Just about everyone I know was incensed by the way Lebron James and Chris Bosh joined the Miami Heat. Watching other teams give everything they had against the new villains of the league created drama from game-to-game.
The emergence of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder as the baby faces of the NBA was also enjoyable. Here was a team that played the right way and was created through the draft, also “the right way”.
Then, of course, there was the triumph of Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. A team of veterans who had always missed out on the playoffs, the Mavs finally won and – best of all – did it against the villainous Heat, who had loaded up on young superstars.
It was a thrilling post-season.
But the NBA’s labour lockout killed much of that momentum. As every sports fan has griped, it’s hard to put up with billionaires complaining about millionaires and vice versa. From a professional standpoint, it’s fucking boring sending out updates on labour negotiations.
It’s draining and lacks all the passion and drama of, y’know, actual games.
But here we are, less than two weeks before the opening tip off between the Boston Celtics and Knick in New York City at noon, Eastern time, on Christmas Day, and I’m getting excited.
It really started to hit me Friday. I picked out two keepers for the Canadian Press and Friends fantasy basketball league - Serge Ibaka and Jrue Holiday are the first members of the French Lick Hicks – and then went to Raptors training camp to do a story and shoot some video.
The pool will be having it’s live, in-person draft this Saturday and features sports writers or editors from the Canadian Press, the National Post and the Score’s Basketball Jones.
Between that fantasy league and seeing young teams like the Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers grow (or tank) and the continuing dog-and-pony show in South Beach, I’m finding myself getting sucked into the NBA for the first time ever.