NBA 2001: What Will Happen

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The return of Michael Jordan and his signature tongue highlight the 2001-01 NBA season

Herewith, our quick and dirty guide to the new season. Take these predictions to the bank: the Lakers will three-peat, Orlando will be a great vacation spot in June and Shaquille O'Neal will again dominate despite new rules that suggest otherwise.

Do your own background check on our prognosticators and review our predictions for the MLB and NFL seasons in 2001.

1. Someone will actually debate who is the best player in the NBA, as if it wasn't abundantly clear that Shaquille O'Neal is without peer.
2. Either Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Karl Malone or Chris Webber will fail to make the NBA's First-, Second- or Third-Team at the talent-rich power forward position.
3. The Knicks will fail to challenge for an NBA title whether Spike Lee attends 10, 30 or all 41 home games.
THINGS GUARANTEED TO HAPPEN 1. Charles Barkley will repeatedly say Michael Jordan shouldn't have come back into the league.
2. Charles Barkley will put on an extra 40 pounds.
3. David Stern will thank God, Allah, Vishnu and anybody else he can think of that MJ is back.
1. Due to the closing of the Atlanta Gold Club, visiting NBA teams will eschew the city's nightlife and return quietly to their hotels after pasting the Hawks
2. Derrick Coleman will be a fan favorite in Philadelphia, whose fans have a history of booing the arrivals of Santa Claus and Donovan McNabb.
3. Having put sports in proper perspective since Sept. 11, NBA players will refrain from taunting and posing.
THINGS GUARANTEED NOT TO HAPPEN 1. Rasheed Wallace will play an entire week without picking up a technical foul.
2. Stephon Marbury will emerge as the unselfish floor general for the surprising Phoenix Suns.
3. John Stockton will develop mad hops.
1. Shaquille O'Neal, C, Lakers: The only way to stop him is to let the rest of the Lakers run wild.
2. Tracy McGrady, G, Magic: Return of Grant Hill might actually hinder his chances at individual awards.
3. Tim Duncan, F, Spurs: Predicted success of Spurs over Timberwolves gives Duncan edge over Kevin Garnett.
MVP 1. Shaquille O'Neal, C, Lakers: The player every GM would pick if starting a team.
2. Kevin Garnett, F, Timberwolves: Does more for his not-so-talented team than anybody else.
3. Chris Webber, F, Kings: The big contract means big expectations, but Webber could rise to them
1. Mike Bibby, G, Kings: It's good to be a King, especially after leaving the Grizzlies.
2. Hakeem Olajuwon, C, Raptors: He may no-longer be all-world, but he's all right for Toronto.
3. Mitch Richmond, G, Lakers: As if the champs needed another veteran to provide punch off the bench
BEST ADDITIONS 1. Mike Bibby, G, Kings: Was fourth in the league in assists for an awful Grizzlies team; could lead the league this year.
2. Mitch Richmond, G, Lakers: Still a big-time scorer, and a perfect fit as the third scoring option when Kobe and Shaq need a break.
3. Patrick Ewing, C, Magic: Could the big guy finally get a championship ring?
1. Jordan vs. Pippen: It'll seem as strange as Derek Jeter batting against Mariano Rivera.
2. Rasheed Wallace vs. Self: This guy is capable of getting teed up while driving to the arena
3. Grant Hill vs. Injury: The training room might prove to be the Magic's toughest test in the East.
UPCOMING BATTLES 1. New Jersey Nets vs. Modern Medicine: This team loses at least two players a year to freak injury. Can their doctors keep Kittles, Van Horn, et. al. on the floor?
2. Shaquille O'Neal vs. Refs: New zones mean even more bodies draped on the big guy. Can the officials call a fair game?
3. MJ vs. Good basketball: TV programmers are going to be tempted to show All Michael All the Time. They shouldn't; there are a lot of other good players out there.
1. Magic: Talented and hungry squad led by Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill.
2. Wizards: Even if for only the first 10 games.
3. Lakers: The way Shaquille O'Neal changes a game is marvelous.
FAVORITE TEAMS TO WATCH 1. Kings: Best passing team in the league.
2. Clippers: Young and hungry team means high-energy play.
3. Trail Blazers: A different drama every night.
1. SuperSonics: Enough about Gary Payton's contract and Vin Baker's frame.
2. Bulls: Still waiting for the rebuilding to begin.
3. Jazz: Pick-and-roll ceased to excite around 40 years ago.
LEAST FAVORITE TEAMS TO WATCH 1. Heat: Pat Riley's teams are the worst thing that ever happened to the NBA.
2. Knicks: The five-guard lineup just doesn't work.
3. Bulls: Ugly.
Season Scoring Average: 24.5.
Wizards' Wins: 38.
Playoffs?: No.
ALL AIR JORDAN Season Scoring Average: 26.0.
Wizards' Wins: 35.
Playoffs?: No.
First Round:
Magic over Pacers
Bucks over Hornets
76ers over Heat
Raptors over Knicks

Lakers over Jazz
Spurs over Suns
Kings over Timberwolves
Trail Blazers over Mavericks

Second Round:
Magic over Raptors
Bucks over 76ers

Lakers over Trail Blazers
Spurs over Kings

Conference Finals:
Magic over Bucks
Lakers over Spurs

NBA Finals:
Lakers over Magic
PLAYOFFS First Round:
Magic over Celtics
Bucks over Hornets
76ers over Heat
Raptors over Knicks

Lakers over Jazz
Spurs over Rockets
Kings over Timberwolves
Mavericks over TrailBlazers

Second Round:
Magic over Raptors
Bucks over 76ers

Lakers over Mavericks
Kings over Spurs

Conference Finals:
Magic over Bucks
Lakers over Kings

NBA Finals:
Lakers over Magic