Before each season, there are questions that arise that lovers of the hoops are curious to see how they'll be answered. There is also a group of players who have clouds of doubt hovering about them. I'm going to list a few of them, in no particular order. Some of them you know, some of them you will read perplexed as to why I'd question anything about them. Rookies and other young players do not qualify for listing since there is skepticism around them by default. If you're still with me, the list begins after the random picture...
Gilbert Arenas. I figured I'd start with someone predictable. Everyone knows Gilly's shoe pusher, Adidas, has a slogan titled, "Impossible Is Nothing." Gilly has taken that and put his own spin on it by switching his jersey number for "Nothing"—by the mathematics-based property of substitution. Well, after two years of knee problems and still receiving that max contract bread, he'd better be down to take on the impossible. It isn't a matter of him performing, because when he was last healthy, Arenas averaged the same numbers D-Wade had this past season—with two other 20-point scorers on his team. However, his Wizards team has fallen back to the pack and it will take a supreme effort for them to overtake the Crabhammers, the new all-Black Celts, and Orlando (sorry, no clever nickname for them). Shoot, it'll take more than an average performance for Washington to beat Atlanta. We'll see if Gilbert still has a few tricks up his quirky sleeves.
The "Baby" Bulls. Since about the middle of this decade, Chicago has been one of those young teams on the cusp of being a real contender once they, "grow up." In fact, it's not too long ago that they were co-favorites to win the Eastern Conference. Now it's the end of said decade (weird, huh), and those Bulls are in the same position they were. Kirk Hinrich is almost 30 and he's still grouped in with the young guys. It seems that Derrick Rose knows how to perform in the postseason and wants to be a real threat in May-June. Yes, Vinny Del Negro is a terrible coach, but the fact that team is still "young" is management's fault. Oh, can some psychiatrist get it into Tyrus Thomas' head that he is NOT a jump shooter? And somehow pass the tape of that to Josh Smith in ATL? Thanks.
Vince Carter. Vince's mixture has been diluted with more human and less supernatural. No longer 1/2 man, 1/2 amazing, Carter is coming off his most complete season. Because the Nets were a young team, he was forced into the role of veteran leader; a position he had shunned in Toronto and didn't have to fill while Kidd was in Jersey. Now, Vince finds himself in the scenario that Allen Iverson was in when Denver traded for him. Orlando is hoping to pair Vince with their young superstar in hopes of overcoming that championship hurdle. The Magic need him to provide an element they were missing from last year's Finals team. Carter, even as he loses his uncanny lift, is still a scoring savant—when he's motivated. And even now, once a game, he can call forth that supreme ability and give watchers a glimpse into divinity. As long as he stays focused on basketball, Vince will be a bigger asset to the Magic Kingdom than Mickey Mouse...or at least Donald Duck.
Every significant player from the '05 Draft not named Chris Paul, Deron Williams, or Danny Granger. Aside from the aforementioned players, this entire draft is on the hot seat. Paul and Williams further build HOF legacies by the game, and Granger looks to be an All-Star for years to come. But it's the rest of the draftees—the Blatches, the Marvin Williams, the Boguts—that need to become more vital to their teams. This will be those players' fifth season in the Association, and they are reaching the point where their respective teams are no longer waiting on them to develop and want to see more consistent and productive results. Even Monta Ellis has to have somewhat of a rebound year after an ankle injury. Paul and Williams are the cream of the '05 crop, but those other players should increase their output, or be reduced to throw-ins for trades. Right, Raef Lafrentz?
Lebron James. You may be thinking, "What does Lebron have to prove?" If you're not, then you're probably a Kobe fan and walk around mindlessly saying, "Four Rings," or "Crab Dribble." Anyway, Lebron does have something to prove. He's had sort of a rocky off-season in some people's eyes, and his reputation has taken a bit of a hit. He has nothing to do on the basketball court other than win a title, and that doesn't have to necessarily happen since he's still less than halfway through his career and at least four years away from his prime. I'm sure all of the disappointment some people feel will go away with his first highlight-reel move.
I'm sure there are a few more players in which this is a make-or-break season for them. Leave them in the comments.