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Fran Blinebury

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Blake Griffin (right) and his new friends in Clipperland have turned L.A. into a true two-team town.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Success at the NBA box office mirrors some Hollywood plots


Posted Jan 26 2012 2:13PM

The Academy Award nominations are out and that means it's time to decide what to wear on the red carpet. While you're trying to figure out which pair of high-tops goes with the crushed velvet tuxedo, don't forget to take one more look back at the 2011 slam dunks at the box office:

Bridesmaids -- After years of constantly being left at the altar in Cleveland, LeBron James moves to Miami to share jokes, shed tears and chase the dream with buddies Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The misadventures of the glamorous threesome sometimes produce comedic results -- losses to Golden State and Milwaukee, NBA Finals -- but still have them yearning to put rings on their fingers.

Joyful Noise -- After years of feeling like they've been lost in the cold of a Minnesota blizzard, Timberwolves fans have their patience and dedication rewarded with a season that puts Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love in the same lineup, giving all a reason to shout.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol -- Daredevil agent Randy Wittman wriggles down a rope dangling from high up in the rafters, trying to defuse a bomb that's been exploding regularly for years at the Verizon Center. He has to fight off clueless enemy agents Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee in order to save the potentially wasted career of John Wall and stop the Wizards from being more laughable than Congress.

War Horse -- One night it looks like he's ready for a quiet, retired life giving rides to little kids in the park or, worse yet, a trip to the glue factory. But when kindly trainer Gregg Popovich insists that he remain in the stable for an occasional night off, the 35-year-old war horse Tim Duncan feels his oats and makes the San Antonio Spurs a long-shot bet at another run for the roses.

We Bought a Zoo -- The New York Knicks front office continues a nearly 40-year tale of woe, empty promises and grand delusions by first signing free agent Amar'e Stoudemire, next trading half the roster for Carmelo Anthony and then dealing for center Tyson Chandler in the horribly mistaken belief that they have become legitimate championship contenders -- or even a playoff team -- in the Eastern Conference.

Footloose -- Never mind all of the uptight, conservative blue-noses who would sneer at their music, clothes and unencumbered sense of style. Here come Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as a couple of unlikely, squawking, but fun-loving kids who dance to their own rhythm and turn an Oklahoma town into the place with the coolest beats and the best record in the Western Conference.

Hangover II -- Just when it didn't look like things could get any uglier and more painful than a bachelor party gone wrong for Kobe Bryant and his pals on the Lakers when they were swept out of the playoffs by Dallas, along comes a torn wrist tendon, a cramped schedule, a horrible bench and Metta World Peace to demonstrate why sequels are usually never a good idea.

The Artist -- His crossover dribble and drive to the basket should be hanging behind a velvet rope in the Louvre. Derrick Rose seems to possess the drive that could one day get him a matching statue with Michael Jordan outside the United Center. Here's a mostly silent star that doesn't need subtitles. He practically leaps off of the screen.

Anonymous -- No All-Star candidates, nobody getting nightly headlines on SportsCenter, not a single player averaging as many as 16 points a game hardly seems the stuff to inspire even a Shakespeare impersonator. But as The Bard and coach Doug Collins would say, first place in the Atlantic Division by any other name for the Sixers is just as sweet.

Friends With Benefits -- Now in an eighth professional season and shooting a career-low .467 from the free-throw line in Orlando, Dwight Howard decides it might be time to seek out pals in New Jersey, Dallas or Los Angeles who can finally put a ring onto his finger while he adjusts his Superman cape.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close -- After all those years of being the skinny, 98-pound weakling cousins who shared the hallway at the Staples Center, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin wake up the forlorn franchise, turn the Clippers into Lob City and set off a slam-dunking, trash-talking, in-your-face, noisy rivalry that shakes up L.A. more than anything since the Northridge quake.

The Help -- When NBA commissioner David Stern cuts off general manager Dell Demps at the knees and vetoes his three-way trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers in return for veteran players, Hornets coach Monty Williams is forced to use a lineup made up of ticket takers, popcorn vendors and beer salesmen to scratch together the worst record in the league.

The Descendants -- Just because they wear the same uniforms and still inhabit the same home arena doesn't mean that what's left of Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks are related in any way to the 2011 NBA champions. Tyson Chandler bails out on the marriage, Lamar Odom struggles to fit in and coach Rick Carlisle takes on the George Clooney role of trying to pick up the pieces.

Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon -- Who are these guys? Where did they come from? Remember when the Utah Jazz meant Jerry Sloan, Karl Malone and John Stockton from way back in the early days of talking pictures? Now coach Tyrone Corbin steps into the starring role on the bench and has transformed Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward, Devin Harris and Raja Bell into a winning combination.

Water For Elephants -- The old myth says that aging elephants carry the bones and tusks of their predecessors to secret burial grounds and trudge off into the forest to die. But in Boston the fading stars of 34-year-old Paul Pierce, 35-year-old Kevin Garnett and 36-year-old Ray Allen continue to lumber up and down the court at TD Garden looking like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard trying to recapture the past.

The Adjustment Bureau -- Memphis was supposed to be singing the blues when Zach Randolph tore knee ligaments and was scratched from the lineup for two months. But Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol step up their offensive games, Marreese Speights arrives to be a contributor and Tony Allen gets the defensive juices flowing again and the Grizzlies change hats and make enough adjustments at the Grind House to remain a solid playoff team.

Happy Feet Two -- First he fought off neck and throat cancer, then he survived the Melo Drama of last season when his best player held the Nuggets franchise hostage, but now George Karl is back dancing on the sidelines like one delighted penguin as his Nuggets are running, defending and moving the ball as a better overall team.

The Devil Inside -- He came out of Kentucky with the size and speed of Secretariat, the ability to jump through the roof and hands that could gobble up rebounds like a thresher going through a wheat field. But DeMarcus Cousins has already claimed his first victim in coach Paul Westphal and now the good citizens of Sacramento are hoping that it doesn't require an exorcism to get rid of the problem.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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