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Wake up, dust off your finest Jordans, throw on a pair of sunglasses and tell the world to deal with it, because the NBA is finally back on your television tonight. Three games featuring five playoff teams from a year ago, including the defending champion Golden State Warriors, return us to the hardwood. So much has transpired this offseason, it can be easy to get caught up in it. Such is life in the 24/7/365 NBA, if you allow it to be.

We can only say and think so much about basketball, however, without there being any games. Before the first tip-off of the season (Cavs/Bulls or, if you prefer, Hawks/Pistons, tonight at 8 pm), let’s spare a thought – not necessarily a prediction, though there will be more than a fair share of those – to each franchise, in alphabetical order. Some of them may be painfully obvious or extremely misguided, because I guess I don’t think about the Minnesota Timberwolves nearly enough. Anyway, best of luck to the following teams, especially the Knicks. Those dudes are gonna need it.

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The Eastern Conference Finals are now over, and LeBron James will be attending his fifth consecutive NBA Finals. We got what we expected, which isn’t necessarily what we wanted, but it isn’t what we didn’t want either. In a season full of surprise and intrigue – aren’t they all in the age of Moreyball? – and barring a miraculous, unprecedented comeback from the Houston Rockets, it may very well be that we receive a Cavs-Warriors Finals. That would pit the league’s current MVP, Steph Curry, against the Most Valuable Player of the last decade, James. And that would be barrel-of-chimpanzees fun.

So much of the narrative of the Finals, like the NBA itself, will revolve around LeBron, and that is perfectly alright. What we must not forget, however, is that this next series will feature the Finals debut of J.R. Smith, bomb detonation expert and titan of social media. For that, we should be grateful.

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Jacque Vaughn’s time in Orlando has come to a merciful, if somewhat misguided, end. The Magic have parted ways with the 39-year-old former point guard who struggled to coax the NBA’s fourth-youngest roster at the start of the season to competitiveness in a historically feeble Eastern Conference. Elsewhere, the Eastern Conference named an entire starting five as its Player of the Month, and Adam Silver is reportedly open to changing the playoff structure.

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Knicks fans wear paper bags on their heads during loss to Rockets

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I’ve avoided this for so long. I ignored it like a ne’er-do-well roommate, years behind on his rent but always at the forefront of craft IPA and porter trends that cost more than a cigarette addiction in New York City. Speaking of, the apple has truly gone rotten in Madison Square Garden, as your New York Knickerbockers have plummeted to a new low. “But the cap space!” you say. I know. I know. It’s always the cap space, until it’s not. Elsewhere, the best team in the Eastern Conference (which is sort of like being the best dissenter in a Soviet gulag, but still) is up for sale, and the Pistons bring new meaning to the phrase “addition by subtraction.”

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Lance

On November 7th, at the behest of Blog Serf James Vasiliou, I attended my first game in the Time Warner Cable Arena of this NBA season. Much has changed since last year, of course; the historically dismal Charlotte Bobcats had re-branded themselves as the Charlotte Hornets, returning to this city one of the most recognizable symbols of its growth during the 1990s and revitalizing a brand which had never really been the same since George Shinn moved the team to New Orleans in 2002. I fully intended to write about how the Charlotte Hornets, rather than the Bobcats, had returned to their place as a rallying point for a city, a way of telling the rest of America that Charlotte hosts more than simply heartless financial institutions and an airport you hate to stop through on your way to Boston, or Philadelphia, or Dublin. I intended to write about how the Bobcats’ postseason appearance last year, only its second in franchise history, became the perfect setup for this season and the re-emergence of the Hornets at just the right time. I wanted to write about how much better purple and teal look than grey, orange, navy and whatever other random colors the Bobcats haphazardly slapped on their uniforms each season to sell more gear to their beleaguered fanbase. I wanted to write about Al Jefferson’s jump hook (I’ll do that anyway, don’t worry).

Instead, I became positively enchanted with the Hornets’ shiniest new toy. No matter what happened on the court, I could not steal a glance away from him. This is how I learned to stop worrying and love Lance Stephenson.

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LMA

Let’s talk about the playoffs. LaMarcus Aldridge is staking his claim as the best power forward in the game. Blake Griffin, meanwhile, is shakily maintaining his throne after a disappointing first game against the Golden State Warriors. Chris Paul’s family lineage indicates a history of assistance, but the fourth quarter is when he takes it all upon himself. The Mavs are stressing out the usually unflappable Spurs, whose now 38-year-old anchor must take more responsibility. Wizards gonna Wiz, and Grizzlies gonna Grizz. The Hawks are up on the toast of the East, the Indiana Pacers, and their defensive master has more in common with Russell Stover than Bill Russell. The Thunder are not dominating as usual. Even the Bobcats are pushing the mighty Heat, with Al Jefferson trying to do his best Willis Reed impersonation. This is the first round of the NBA playoffs. Does it get any better than this?

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Bogut

One of the most consistently entertaining teams in the league this season has been the Golden State Warriors, with the long-range bombs of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, as well as the lockdown defense and all-around excellence of Andre Iguodala, contributing to the spectacle. The sixth seed in the mighty Western Conference will face the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, which looked like a deceivingly even matchup on paper until a rib injury removed key cog Andrew Bogut from the lineup. Elsewhere, I promise this is the last time I talk about the New York Knickerbockers basketball franchise until the end of the playoffs. Also, the Pacers are in dire need of a renaissance from both Paul George and Roy Hibbert if they want to make their date against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

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