The Sweet, Tempered Joy of Preseason

How to know if you’ve become a full-on NBA junkie, volume 1: “You find yourself hearing the words, ‘NBA Preseason Game from China, Cavs vs. Magic on ESPN 2′ and say ‘Wow! This is great! This makes my day!”

Aaaaaaand it did.

You ever try explaining to a woman you’re getting married to in 10 days that you want to stay home so that you can watch two mediocre Eastern conference teams battle it out in Shanghai in a preseason game that has no bearing on standings and probably won’t feature the starters for more than a quarter or so? Oh, yeah, and did I mention I already know who wins, since it’s on tape delay?

But still!

The NFL preseason is infuriating. It’s like football, only not. Sure, you’ve got the guys playing hardcore for roster spots, but for the most part, it’s two yards, a missed tackle, a slipping running back, and a cloud of dust. So it’s a lot like the Chiefs offense this season.

But the NBA preseason is a rare combination. It manages to combine the ridiculousness of the inherent nature of the preseason, while adding in players that are busting their ass to prove their worth, the B level players looking like Gods and getting you to bite on them in fantasy, and the stars annihilating the B squads and sitting out for most of the game.

Take last night’s replay of the Shanghai game. In one game, you had the ridiculousness of the game being played in China, LeBron waving a flag at halftime, Shannon Brown going 3 of 11 in 21 minutes and still putting up 12 points (and looking like he’d be happy to shoot twice as many), and Dwight Howard just absolutely annihilating the Cavs second string.

Hubie Brown on commentary actually said “well, yes, Howard is dominating, but it’s against the second string.” You still have to look at the guy and realize that with his combination of size, talent, and now this crazy desire to destroy everything in his path, Howard could be in for a monster season, even more so than last year. He was second in the league in double doubles behind “El Tigre Monstruoso.” He’s also a freak of nature. He’s also 21. “Big Baby Jesus” was like a child God last night. There was absolutely nothing the Cavs B team could do to him. It was nice, to be able to show the crowd in China the kind of talent he has.

Now, in a preseason football game, you’re not going to see the starters play for more than a series. LT didn’t play in the preseason at all.

But LBJ? Three quarters, 17 points, still led the Cavs in points, and spent the fourth just hanging out and getting face time. It’s nice to see him make the trip, and continuing on his path to the icon he is.

The main show, however, was Thunder Lips. You had to feel bad for the backup Cavs as Howard basically said, “Nah. It may be preseason, but I’m still not losing.” Seeing the Cavs try and stop him was like watching Billy Madison play dodgeball. Just not fair.

The nice thing about these games is that while they’re not regular season caliber, they’re not far from it. And with the deadspot that now exists with baseball’s seasonal demise, Tuesday and Wednesday are free of sports competition! So why aren’t these televised more often? For example, tonight’s game is the first ever meeting of Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant in an NBA regulation game. Exhibition or not, that’s good TV.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.