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If all the year
were playing holidays, To sport would be as tedious as to work.
FOR ALL of his contributions to modernity, Shakespeare failed to anticipate 24/7, 365-day-a-year pro sports—and who can blame him, living as he did in an age in which "to sport" often meant watching animals tear each other limb from limb? (How little things have changed, sadly, for at least one former NFL quarterback.) Most surprising to the Scribe of Stratford might be the NBA, which has evolved from a seasonal, regional pastime into a year-round international phenomenon that is anything but tedious. This summer alone brought a guilty plea from crooked NBA referee Tim Donaghy (page 81); a successful sexual-harassment suit against New York Knicks coach and general manager Isiah Thomas; the relocation of several of the league's most talented players and the endless vacillation of another; and, oh, yes, some actual hoops, as Team USA romped through the FIBA Americas Championship, enough basketball-related drama to fill several quartos.
"There used to be not much of a hot-stove league in basketball," says senior writer Jack McCallum, SI's pro basketball bard. "Now it's not a hot stove but a blast furnace. We've already had one pure superstar traded, Kevin Garnett; one near superstar traded, Ray Allen; one near superstar wanting to be traded, Shawn Marion; and one absolute superstar who will be traded, Kobe Bryant."
McCallum spent part of July in Las Vegas ostensibly watching practice for the FIBA tournament but really trailing Bryant for any hint of his intentions (page 78). Meanwhile writer-reporter Chris Mannix, who will do many of SI's INSIDE THE NBA columns this season, wandered through a Milwaukee mall with the Bucks' first-round draft pick, Yi Jianlian, talking about the player's adjustment to America's heartland and searching in vain for a Chinese restaurant. "The best we could do," Mannix recalls, "was a Japanese place in the food court."
Senior writer Ian Thomsen, who will contribute to SI.com and to the magazine, spent some 50 hours on the phone with NBA scouts and another 50 organizing material for his comprehensive Enemy Lines ( SI.com/NBA). "For every guy who's going to contribute this year, we have an NBA advance scout breaking down his game," says Thomsen. "It's a great crash course that got me ready for the season. It even got me thinking better of the Knicks."
Thomsen's sources also led him to temper his expectations of the reloaded Celtics. ("Scouts have a lot of questions about whether the chemistry will work among their three stars," he says.) But don't say that to SI associate editor Albert Lin, who grew up in Concord, Mass. Lin joined SI's website in 1998, moved to the magazine in 2003 and is now starting his second season as the NBA editor. "I first saw Kevin Garnett play when he was a high school junior, and I instantly became a fan," says Lin. "He supposedly would've attended Michigan—my alma mater—had he not jumped straight to the NBA, so as a Bostonian, I'm glad to finally be able to have him on my team."
To deal with the jam-packed NBA news cycle, SI's own team is nimbler than ever. SI.com producer Brad Weinstein oversees coverage that will include a regularly updated FanNation blog by Mannix and up-to-the-minute insider news and columns from McCallum, Thomsen, Marty Burns, Steve Aschburner and Paul Forrester. SI's NBA photography, meanwhile, is handled by associate picture editor Marguerite Schropp Lucarelli, who understands that beyond all the sound and fury is a game beautiful in its simplicity. After all, as the late Texas coach Abe Lemons (who clearly knew his Shakespeare) once said, "There really are only two plays: Romeo and Juliet and put the darn ball in the basket."