The sound of squeaking sneakers, the bounce of the ball and the clank of the iron.
These sounds mean it’s the time of year I love: Basketball season.
While I’m a college hoops fanatic, I always have a place in my heart for the pros, and with the opening of the NBA season tonight, I’m genuinely excited.
There is just something about the NBA that brings back memories of my childhood.
From my personal favorite player of Reggie Miller, to the brain-bending amazingness of pre-Wizards Michael Jordan, the NBA always finds a way to draw me in.
But the thing is: I’m a basketball nerd. I find things that excite me that most people wouldn’t care about.
So while others are focusing on the chances of a Heat repeat, or the Lakers’ brand new lineup, I’ll be looking at some other aspects to the NBA season.
-The Celtics are officially Rajon Rondo’s team. The Big 3 are no more with Ray Allen in Miami and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett growing older.
There is a youth movement happening in Boston, and the star point guard is at the center of it.
Rondo is going to have to help scoring, from his own hand and getting the ball to others. The ball needs to go through him.
Along with Rondo, look for rookie Jared Sullinger, guard Courtney Lee and forwards Jeff Green and Brandon Bass to highlight the youth movement.
‰Can James Harden be “The Man?” The Rockets gave up a lot in getting the league’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year.
Gone to the Thunder are reliable scorer Kevin Martin, future big-time player Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and second rounder as well.
That’s a lot for a sixth man, and now there is a talk of an extension that will keep Harden in Houston.
Harden is going to have to step up and be not only a reliable scorer, but also the go-to guy.
Either this experiment will pay off and Harden becomes a regular All-Star or Harden remains the role player he was while in Oklahoma City.
-Is Anthony Davis Rookie of the Year material? There is a very good chance that Davis will be the top rookie by the end of the year, but the Hornets’ center will have competition.
The Wizards’ Bradley Beal, if he gets adequate playing time, could have a chance with his scoring ability. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is talented and will get a bunch of playing time with the woeful Bobcats.
And Andre Drummond from the Pistons has been an absolute beast in the preseason — search for him on YouTube and just watch him dominate.
But Davis is just too good and I think he will help the Hornets get back to the playoffs alongside Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Ryan Anderson.
-The Lakers’ 0-8 preseason record is a mirage. Both Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard were hurt or playing hurt.
Steve Nash is getting his bearings in a new system. Remember “super teams” usually need some time to click.
By January the Lakers will have the best scorer and big man in the league (Howard) healthy along with one of the most dynamic playmakers (Bryant) in NBA history.
Mix that with Pau Gasol, Ron Artest (I refuse to call him by that ridiculous name) Antawn Jamison and other role players, the Lakers should be a favorite to win it all.
-Will Brooklyn compete? When any big name free agent went on the market there was always one team by their name — the Nets.
They were able to land a great backcourt in point guard Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson.
But the frontcourt is a little lacking with center Brook Lopez and the former Mr. Kim Kardashian Kris Humphries. Not that intimidating right?
I feel Brooklyn will be a playoff team this year, but it won’t contend for a title until Jay-Z — the rapper is an owner of the team — and the front office add some depth as well as a decent frontcourt.
But the Nets should be fun to watch and they have a brand new arena to show off.
-Here is the surpise team from each conference.
Eastern: Washington Wizards.
John Wall has help this year. Rookie Beal will give Wall a dependable backcourt mate.
Nene, Okafor and Trevor Ariza will give the Wizards a potent frontcourt. The only thing that could keep them from the playoffs are injuries and a lack of depth.
Western: Golden State Warriors.
This will be the funnest team to watch in the league.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson can shoot the lights out. Andrew Bogut and David Lee give them a very reliable frontcourt.
The only things possibly stopping the the Warriors are injuries.
All four players have been dealing with injuries throughout their entire careers, and if they go down, so do the Warriors’ playoff hopes.
-Rookie of the Year — Andre Drummond, Pistons
-Most Improved Player — Raymond Felton, Knicks
-Sixth Man —Ray Allen, Heat
-MVP — Kevin Durant, Thunder
-Conference Finals — Western: Lakers over Thunder; Eastern: Heat over Celtics
-Finals — Lakers over Heat.
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.
The sound of squeaking sneakers, the bounce of the ball and the clank of the iron.
- Local Sports
VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
- Fleming hangs tough to beat Lewis Fleming County locked into another fight against Lewis County, which beat the Panthers earlier this season, before winning 66-58 on Monday in Morehead. Wilder Williams posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers, who face Ashland on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
- GALLERY: Ashland gets by Greenup County, will meet Fleming in region final Ashland's Steven Friley scored 21 points Monday to lead the Tomcats to an 81-61 win over Greenup County in the 16th Region semifinal in Morehead.
Kittens clamoring for more at state
Ashland girls basketball coaches went the extra mile, and a whole bunch more, to get a first-hand scouting report on the Kittens’ opponent for the State Tournament.
Head coach Bill Bradley and assistant Phil Wittich drove all the way to Henderson — 5 hours, 20 minutes one way Bradley said on the way home — to take in Sunday’s Second Region championship game.
Henderson County, playing on its home floor, defeated University Heights 67-54. The Lady Colonels went unbeaten in their region this season and are 24-5 overall.
EKC hands out hardware
The Eastern Kentucky Conference handed out its 2014 awards on Monday afternoon at a luncheon at Carter Caves.
Barracudas earn kudos from coach
Ashland Area YMCA swimmers impressed coach Ryan Ferguson from start to finish in the three-day Kentucky Y Competitive Swim League State Meet.
- More Local Sports Headlines
- VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights