The NBA in 24 Seconds

This NBA offseason was one of the most volatile in the history of the league. Lost in the aftermath of the Tim Donaghy and Isiah Thomas scandals was a great basketball postseason followed by karma at its best. Every team that tanked in the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant sweepstakes failed to land in the top two.

So what happened? Things got even crazier.

Boston vaulted from cellar dwellers to prize guys. Oden is out for the year, and all signs look to Kobe Bryant exiting Los Angeles.

Now the NBA season is about to begin and we run the shot clock for the NBA lowdown.

:24 Can Isiah Thomas survive the season? Short answer: no. At the beginning of last year, James Dolan professed if Thomas did not make the playoffs, he would be fired. Well, the Knicks showed improvement, but missed the playoffs. Dolan bluffed. Now, Thomas is in the middle of another mess, one involving a sexual harassment. If Dolan wishes to save any face, he'll get rid of Thomas before he lowers the franchise any lower.

:23 LeBron James or Kobe Bryant? That's the debate a friend and I had recently. As we mulled Kobe trade possibilities, the idea of a straight up deal between Bryant and James came up. We both said no way. We both chose James. We both didn't know what to say after that. Bryant is arguably the best player in the NBA, but it has gotten to the point that no one wants him. I'm getting the feeling we are heading to a Randy Moss-type corollary. If Bryant were to go a team with more pieces and an actual chance at a NBA championship, would he remind everyone why he was considered the second coming just a few years ago. Now, I don't think there is anyone in the world who would take Bryant over James.

:22 How will the NBA react to the Tim Donaghy scandal? Things are still unclear on to what the affects of the Donaghy scandal will have on this season and the postseason. Every time there is a questionable call, will people start to whisper?

Earlier this month, David Stern acknowledged more than half of his 56 referees had violated NBA policies about casino gambling, but said none will be punished because he felt the rules were outdated.

Instead, Stern said he is altering the policies, leaning toward allowing referees to gamble in casinos during the offseason — except for betting in sportsbooks.

You can be assured that Stern will have everyone in the NBA keeping a close watch on the entire league, because the NBA cannot afford another scandal to this degree. And yes, every questionable call will lead to "is he on the take?" questions.

:21 What superstar will be traded? Last year, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce were all rumored to be trade bait. This year, only Pierce has the same home address. And the only reason Pierce is still a Celtic is because Ray Allen and Garnett joined him there.

This year, the superstar at the head of the pack is Kobe Bryant. We all know the situation and who can blame him. Jerry Buss and company have fielded a subpar team with Bryant since the dynasty was dismantled in 2004.

Other than Bryant, Jermaine O'Neal, Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Shawn Marion, and Andrei Kirilenko have all been linked to trade rumors. Of those, the only players I see moving are Kirilenko and O'Neal. Both will go, either at the trade deadline, or right before.

:20 All-NBA Team

C Tim Duncan — The guy is the best post player of the decade, and shows no signs of slowing down.

F Kevin Garnett — Will be rejuvenated in green, and lead the league in rebounds.

F LeBron James — Is one year away from staking claim to best player in the league.

G Kobe Bryant — Is one year away from relinquishing claim as best player in the league.

G Steve Nash — No one runs an offense better than the Canadian.

:19 Fantasy Sleeper of the Year — Rajon Rondo. The last month of last season, when most rookies are exhausted from their first NBA season, Rondo went off. When Doc Rivers finally decided to shorten the rotation and give Rondo the minutes he deserved at the point, the rookie averaged 13 points, 2.5 steals, 5.5 assists, and 5.8 rebounds.

This year, Rondo has a full year under his belt, "The Big Three," and will be pressured to make a lot of open shots. In other words, his points will either stay the same or go up, depending on how well he shoots. His assists will increase, dishing to Allen, Garnett, and Pierce. You are looking at a 14/9/5/2 guy. That's invaluable in fantasy circles. If you want a point guard later in the draft, pick this guy up. You won't be disappointed.

:18 Surprise Team — Atlanta Hawks. When you're picking your surprise team, you truly have to mean it. The Hawks will have one of the best front-courts in the East. Word is that during the offseason rookie Al Horford was already being nicknamed "Beast." Josh Smith is due for an all-star appearance, and Marvin Williams is prime for a breakout performance. In the backcourt, Joe Johnson will continue to progress and Josh Childress is the ideal hustle guy off the bench. The only weakness is at point guard, where the trio of Speedy Claxton, Anthony Johnson, and Acie Law will share the load. How far the Hawks go will depend on the trio's ability to distribute and keep defenses off balanced.

:17 Tim Thomas Award — This is a new award that goes to the player who balls out of his mind, with eyes of a fat new contract waiting in the wings. This year's winner: Jason Williams, Miami and Corey Maggette, LA Clippers (tie). Both players share the same situation. They are both being thrusted into starting roles by default, and both will be asked to make a sizeable contribution. For Jason Williams, with Gary Payton gone and Smush Parker as his backup, Williams will be asked to be the Memphis "White Chocolate," the smart, assist-making producer.

The Clippers will be relying on Maggette to fill the void left by Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston. This means, the forward will be asked to not only lead in scoring, but distribute and lead the team when Sam Cassell is resting his 57-year-old body. Look for him to average a double-double this year and command major money next year.

:16 6th Man — Is Leandro Barbosa still backing up Steve Nash? Yes? Barbosa will be the Sixth Man winner until he decides to go elsewhere. He is priceless to the Suns.

:15 Defensive Player of the Year — Tyson Chandler. Chandler is starting to show why he was a lottery pick for the Chicago Bulls. He grabs every board around him, and Byron Scott will utilize his defensive presence to funnel the opposing team's offense toward him. When it's all said and done, Chandler will average over 12 boards per game, 2 blocks per game, and a dozen changed shots per game.

:14 Comeback player of the year — Peja Stojakovic. The former all-star signed a five-year, $64 million contract as a free agent in July 2006. Last year, he earned all of that money sitting on his living room couch and on the bench. Stojakovic is back this year and the sharp shooter will give the Hornets the deep threat needed to keep Chris Paul distributing and leading the Hornets to a postseason berth.

:13 Most Improved — In the playoffs, Andrea Bargnani showed why he was the top pick in the draft. The Italian showed a moxy that most rookies don't even smell let alone emanate. That playoff zeal will prove dividends this season as he will improve greatly on his 11 points per game and 4 assists per game. Bargnani will also benefit greatly from the double teams placed on Chris Bosh and the attention given to Jason Kapono out on the perimeter. Both will allow Bargnani to display his deft touch and offense prowess around the rim.

:12 Coach of the Year — Rick Adelman. Jeff Van Gundy's time in Houston had greatly been over-extended. Now, the Rockets get to run some offense, and there is hardly anyone better in the NBA at getting teams to score than Adelman. The Rockets will go from a middle of the pack contender to a championship contender.

:11 Rookie of the Year – Easy, Kevin Durant. Do I really have to explain this?

:10 MVP – LeBron James showed last year that he can single-handedly lead a team to the NBA Finals. This year, it will be tougher and more unlikely, but he'll get some help somewhere along the way. James is the first player to lead all forwards in assists for four straight seasons since Larry Bird did it in the 1980s. The King averaged 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. All will go up this year and you will be hard-pressed to find a better candidate for MVP.

In the Eastern Conference:

:9 Central — Chicago keeps getting younger and stronger. Although the Bulls are still without a low-post scoring threat, Tyrus Thomas will attempt to step into that role. The trio of Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, and Luol Deng have been together for four years now and have gelled together. Ben Wallace can still affect the flow of a game on the defensive end, and Joakim Noah will give you all the hustle you need. Andres Nocioni and Thabo Sefolosha off the bench are other key ingredients to a team that has the pieces to make things happen.

:8 Southeast — I think Miami is a year older and a year slower to defend its Southeastern title. Orlando is younger, quicker, and has the Heat's old coach, Stan Van Gundy. The Magic made a big move in signing Rashard Lewis, who will give you 20 points per game and Dwight Howard will give you 20 and 10. The backcourt will be the biggest question mark. Can Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick do the job? Luckily for the Magic, the Southeast is sorry, and they'll do just enough to take the division title.

:7 Atlantic – Boston Celtics. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce. Put me and Radio in that lineup and we'd win the Atlantic.

In the Western Conference:

:6 Southwest — Dallas was a team who never got used to being the favorite and it showed in the Golden State series. In Game 1, Avery Johnson schemed to the No. 8 seed Warriors instead of the other way around. The top team in the NBA doesn't change its play, others adapt to them. The Mavs learned their lesson and with the core still intact, will win the hardest division in pro basketball.

:5 Northwest — All last year, the Nuggets were looking for their identity. Allen Iverson joined the team midseason and the chemistry shifted and everyone looked to Carmelo Anthony and A.I. to do everything. Now the Nuggets have a healthy Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin, plus the two all-stars. All that will lead to a scary situation up in the Rockies.

:4 Pacific — The Phoenix Suns still have the best first six in the Western Conference, chemistry wise. They all know where each other is going to be at any given time. Watching this team play is honestly poetry in motion and will easily trump the others in their division.

:3 Conference Finals — San Antonio vs. Dallas, Chicago vs. Detroit

:2 NBA Finals — San Antonio vs. Chicago

:1 NBA Champion — San Antonio in six

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