You can embrace NBA again - NBC Sports

You can embrace NBA again
With 26 days to tip-off, here are 26 things to look forward to, from Griffin's highlights to Artest's new name to the Celtics' battle against time and more
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An NBA finals rematch of the Heat-Mavericks on Christmas will help tip-off the season.
November 29, 2011, 12:11 pm

It ended with a handshake. After 149 days, 25 bargaining sessions and countless "no deal" tweets dispatched from countless hotel lobbies, the NBA lockout essentially ended early Saturday morning with a handshake deal between David Stern and Billy Hunter.

If their agreement is approved, training camps will open Dec. 9, and a shortened 66-game season will start with a triple-header on Christmas Day.

I can't say I've processed that announcement yet. I'd already braced myself for a winter without the NBA. I'd reintroduced myself to both college basketball and dinner conversations that didn't just involve me shouting at TNT's announcers through a mouthful of microwaveable entr‚e. I'm tentatively excited but hope that, by Christmas, I'll be ready to start ignoring whoever's across the kitchen table from me again.

1. Knicks-Celtics. Heat-Mavericks. Bulls-Lakers. The season begins with three marquee matchups, and that means you can spend Christmas afternoon sequestered in the living room, writing a sincere thank-you note to the aunt who gave you two pairs of pajama jeans.

2. Kris Humphries can be listed as an "NBA player" instead of an "out-of-work NBA player" in tabloid cover stories about his divorce from Kim Kardashian. Humphries' time as Mr. Kardashian lasted 72 days, or roughly half of the lockout. Donald Sterling has a longer relationship with some of his kidney stones.

3. For the first time since, say, 2005, we can hear the phrase "Yao Ming on ice" without scrolling through the injury report. Ming, who retired following another stress fracture-filled season, has launched his own Napa Valley wine label.

4. Being able to raise a glass of Yao Ming Napa Valley Cabernet and say "This wine has a strong finish. UNLIKE LEBRON JAMES." And everyone will laugh and laugh because LeBron jokes make sense again and you're all drunk.

5. The Spurs are coming off a 61-win season - best in the West and second only to the Bulls - and Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson could have enough in their collective tanks to make another title run. I love that even if Duncan wins a fifth championship, he'll still have the kind of blank facial expression that most of us don't make unless we're watching Whitney.

6. SportsCenter's nightly top 10 plays will become "Blake Griffin, Blake Griffin, Blake Griffin, and a Couple of Other Things You'll Forget About Because BLAKE GRIFFIN". Sorry, NHL highlights. At least we were together longer than Kris and Kim.

7. Will rookie Kemba Walker and new 'Cat Corey Maggette be enough to make Charlotte fans forget that Michael Jordan let Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Tyson Chandler get away? That's a trick question. There aren't any Charlotte fans.

8. Michael Jordan remains the only NBA owner to be prominently featured in an underwear commercial. (Note to Mark Cuban: THIS IS NOT A CHALLENGE.)

9. "If you love basketball, you'll love Groupon", flashes the sidebar ad on WashingtonWizards.com. Actually, if you love basketball, this could be the season you make out with the Wizards themselves (Note to the Kardashians: THIS IS NOT A CHALLENGE). Rookie of the Year runner up John Wall and Rashard Lewis will ... wait, why are you laughing? There's no way this team drops 59 games this season.

10. We'll find out if, after an 11-game college career, Cleveland's No. 1 overall draft pick Kyrie Irving will live up to the hype and the headlines.

11. Cavaliers fans already have started to doodle "Mr. & Mrs. Kyrie Irving" on their Trapper Keepers and have pre-ordered a family pack of Irving replica jerseys while loudly insisting that they can finally listen to "Look Away" without thinking about ... Le ... you know.

12. They're lying (and you're not helping, Cleveland Browns).

13. Seeing the Artist Formerly Known as Ron Artest wearing the name "Peace" stitched across his shoulder blades.

15. I never have to spend another evenings watching an Adrian Brody sci-fi flick.

16. We'll find out whether the aging Celtics will be helped or hurt by the truncated season. On one veiny and wrinkled hand, they don't have to slog through a full 82-game schedule. On the other, the compressed calendar means that they'll be playing back-to-back games, which can't be good for Pierce and Garnett and Allen and their back-back-backs.

17. The Dallas Mavericks will host their first-ever ring ... or whatever ceremony before their Christmas afternoon game against Miami. Shortly after the Finals, Mark Cuban said that "Rings are old school" and hinted that he would be handing out something else. On Saturday, he made the tongue-in-Tweet comment that he'd be giving "solid gold commemorative mouse pads". I secretly hope they'll each be getting a lifesize dinosaur garden sculpture from SkyMall.

18. At least LeBron will get to be part of a ring ceremony. ZING! BAM! EVERYONE DRINK YOUR YAO MING DRINK IT DRINK IT NOW!

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19. Kevin Durant spent the duration of the lockout making appearances all over the place, living like a "Stars! They're Just Like Us!" photo spread: They play flag football! They visit truck stops! They get a massive back tattoo celebrating the state of Maryland! But now he's finally back to doing what he does best: Turning the Thunder into a legitimate threat in the wide-open West.

20. Jimmer Fredette could become the NBA's Tim Tebow, the uber-polarizing player who will endure endless scrutiny of his technique. In meme-speak, Tebowing has been defined as "to get down on one knee and start praying while everyone around you does something completely different." Jimmering will be "to stand around helplessly while everyone around you plays defense."

21. There's a very real possibility that we'll see Chris Bosh cry again.

22. The Knicks have clawed and scratched and Carmelo-ed their way toward relevance, hoping to build on their first 40-plus win season since 2000-01. The Daily News is already photoshopping Chris Paul into a Knicks jersey (with the cringeworthy headline CHRIS-MAS CHEER!), kickstarting another round of Paul-to-New York speculation and another round of 80 proof and ibuprofen in the New Orleans front office. (Seriously: Anthony and Paul and Amare Stoudemire? That's terrifying.)

23. Jersey sales hope to rebound after a 38 percent drop during the lockout. I sincerely hope I'll get to see my neighbor's scrawny arms jutting out of a brand-new "Peace" Lakers jersey.

24. After extra time away from the game, Kevin Garnett will celebrate his first pregame introduction by smashing a backboard with his face, eating a handful of glass shards, then running through the wall of TD Garden, disappearing forever and/or until a creature matching his description shows up in Romanian folk tales.

25. Being unable to watch any University of Kentucky basketball games without picturing each starter in whatever 43 button, quadruple lapel teal-and-taupe suit they'll wear to the NBA draft. Anthony Davis, meet Toronto. Toronto, Anthony Davis.

26. It's the NBA. And it's finally back.

Jelisa Castrodale has learned a lot about life by making a mess of her own. Read more at jelisacastrodale.com , follow her on twitter at twitter.com/gordonshumway, or contact her at jacastrodale@gmail.com

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