The NBA is Back!

After what went on for four months and 149 days, we should all be very happy that we are even talking about the NBA this year. What most people don’t realize is the seismic effect sports have on our economy.

Without the NBA, the work of over 2100 employees at the United Center would be cut in half. Restaurants and bars would be empty, stone cold in the shadow of the NBA. Parking attendants would have little to do, and surrounding businesses that rely on Bulls fans to feed their families would have to close their doors for good. Although it is not a full season, and a lot of the premiere games have been cancelled, the fact that we are even playing basketball this season is something to be grateful for in and of itself.

What used to be an 82-game season covering seven months of the year, is now 66 games, spanning over a five month period. What this means to the players is more games in fewer nights. The dreaded back-to-back-to-back games leaves players with fewer days off and less time to rest. For a young team like the Bulls, the new schedule shouldn’t be a problem. But teams like the Celtics and Spurs whose premiere players, Tim Duncan and Paul Pierce, are in the down-slope of their careers, are faced with the daunting challenge of keeping up with the young guys, teams like the Bulls and Thunder.

With the lockout over and the preseason set to begin Dec. 16, we can start to get a sense for which teams are really serious about winning a title this year. Right out of the gate, I look to the Bulls and Thunder, two teams that have remained intact throughout the lockout and will be for the next couple of years. The Bulls are serious about getting a shooting guard to allow Rose to move off the ball more and the Thunder, who made the post season last year, have remained confident that they can repeat or do better than in the past.

Other teams like the Heat, Mavericks and Trailblazers could also be in for good years as well. My surprise team for this year has to be the New York Knicks. After signing Tyson Chandler, the Knicks now have a real “Big 3” and should be in for a pretty good year.

Chances the Bulls bring home a trophy in 2012: 50 percent. The Bulls are good and getting better, but the Miami Heat are too. With the addition of Shane Battier, the Heat’s second ranked defense just got much improved. They should come out of the East as the number one team, with the Bulls, Hawks and Knicks closely trailing. In the end, I think the Heat will be back to the NBA finals. They have too many weapons to go home empty handed in back-to-back seasons. But, you never know with the Bulls.

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