Though I've enjoyed filling the basketball-shaped void in my heart with college hoops for the past few weeks, nothing can compare to the pros. But before America (or at least its basketball nerds) can receive the greatest of all gifts in the form of a Christmas Day triple-header, we've still got to sort out who is suiting up for which team.
While the 2011 NBA free agent class won't cause the same hoopla as last season's crop, that is not to say there won't be some serious shuffling, wheeling, and dealing in this year's condensed free agent period. There are a number of factors that could make this just as exciting, if not more so than the Summer of The Decision.
Reason 1: The amnesty provision of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It will allow teams to cut loose a player of their choice whose contract they wish to take off the books, and make them available. Rashard Lewis and his $118 million deal is pretty much the reason this clause was put in place, so expect to see him and other overpaid players like Baron Davis and Brandon Roy to hit the market. It's a shame for Roy, but as a wise man -- I believe Confucius -- once said: if you're owed $68 million, you're knees better be functional.
Reason 2: With no marquee free agents available this offseason, the focus of free agency will not be on fringe teams trying to instantly become contenders by landing a perennial All-Star. Instead the main storyline of free agency will be how elite teams will find the missing pieces to put them over the top. On the surface this may sound less intriguing, but the NBA needs a little irony every now and then and I, for one, cannot wait for the inevitable 72 hours when Samuel Dalembert becomes the central focus of the basketball world.
Reason 3: Speaking of 72 hours, the new CBA now allows teams only 3 days (as opposed to the previous 7) to match an offer for a restricted free agent. This change, coupled with the time crunch before training camp should make for a hectic and entertaining free agency period. Blink and you might miss your favorite player packing his bags and shipping off to
Reason 4: In perhaps the most thrilling of the CBA's new stipulations, players that are amnestied will then have their services auctioned to the highest bidder. Awesome, I know. If the NBA has not yet arranged to do so, this event should be televised live on prime time in high def. I want to be able to see every bead of sweat on Minnesota GM David Kahn's brow in super slow-mo replay after he pulls the trigger (too soon?) and bids $9 million annually for Gilbert Arenas.
Back soon with more predictions on how free agency shakes out.