By Justin Lyons, NBA.com

I know what you're thinking.

Yes, I have mind-reading capabilities like Miss Cleo.

But no, I really do feel where you're coming from. You come to NBA.com and see all this whoopie-do about fantasy basketball. Some have a general idea of what it entails; others pass it off as something that is too complicated for their own interests. We sit here and tell you fantasy hoops is back, and you still sit and wonder what in the world it means. And that's fine. But let's resolve this unnecessary complication, shall we?

This is where fantasy meets reality. We show love to all!
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
I know what you're thinking: So what is fantasy hoops? Let me break it down nice and simple for you: As a user (which is what you are - or will be), you are a general manager. You select a number of NBA players to play on your own personal team. This is why it's called fantasy because for about 99.8 percent of us, we will never actually own our own NBA team. You build your own roster and then receive fantasy points based on how they do in real life. Then, you compete against others (friends, family, co-workers, or strangers) in a race to the top. The team whose lineup - which sees many changes during the season like in real life - garners the most points during the course of a season takes home the goods.

Let it be known, this is not a simulated video game. Fantasy sports has been going on for decades. The advent of the Internet brought it to its prominence seen in society today. The Internet is simply the outlet for you to engage is such a great practice; it makes this process more efficient and simple. Again, this is all on the surface level. For a more in-depth perspective, read the Introduction to Fantasy Basketball piece or participate in many a upcoming chat this season.

So...guess what? I know what you're thinking: Why should I care? First and foremost, you don't have to care. No one is forcing you to like fantasy hoops. It's not like when you were younger and people would ask, "Would you jump off a bridge for it?" No, that's not the case here, and there are certainly more important issues in the world to think about. But if you love the NBA, it's certainly something to consider. It's entertaining. It's competitive. And of course, it's exciting. Let me take you through a little journey.

When I first got involved in fantasy hoops back in high school, I didn't really know what was going on. Like anything else, it's a learning process. All I knew from the get-go was that I had the opportunity to have my own team of players and would receive points based on how they did in real life. That's all. Seeing as I loved sports in the first place, it was a natural fit. And as a fantasy rookie, I had to learn the ropes myself. It's a different type of game. You select players based on their fantasy production - what they will do best to score you points. For example, take Gary Payton: solid point guard, stellar NBA career, great role player, but dude just won't do you any good in fantasy. You catching my drift? It's all about the stats and the production.

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Introduction to Fantasy Basketball
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It's kind of crazy because your team becomes your homeboys. That's who you got and that's who you put your money in. When they step it up, you're happy. When they're underperforming, you have to call a team meeting, sit the players down, reevaluate what they're doing, and pep them up for the next test. (You don't really do that. I pretend to do that in my mind). But really, it's a cool feeling. For example, I found myself asking...myself, "So you're saying Allen Iverson is on my team? Hey, I can get used to that!" You find yourself personally connected to these players like y'all were best friends back in the day! You see AI on ESPN and you neglect all other things in life just to see your buddy handle his business.

You know, there's a connection with fantasy basketball that brings you closer to the game you already love or perhaps only casually like. Fantasy basketball is just an extension or an enhancement of the game. And even if you like it casually, you might find yourself falling in love. Just watch...you'll find yourself more aware of different players. You find yourself staying up watching games you'd never previously watch. And you find yourself staying up late on the Internet following the live scoring to see how Jason Richardson is performing for your team against the Jazz that night.

Then there's the competition. And boy, the competition. I once won a fantasy championship on the last play of the last game of the season. I kid you not. That's how intense it can get. You get a crew of your people together...draft your team, talk a little smack here and there, and try to build it into a contender. All season long, you deal with the up and the downs...you deal with all the drama. Just like the pros do. What happens on the court impacts what you do with your team. Everything goes hand in hand. What's more, it turns sports into a social manifesto. You're in your own little community of people...battling it out each week. And the competition fuels your desire to win. You're always trying to get better. Will it be a free agent pickup or a blockbuster trade that makes the difference? Only time will tell.

Most people have concerns with fantasy basketball, and that's understandable. Their first concern is commitment. Remember that girl/guy you kind of had a crush on but weren't sure if you wanted to go all out for it? Yup, same kind of consideration here. Yes, it is a commitment, whether you make that a serious one or a casual one is up to you. But we aren't talking hours a day here, folks. It's really up to you as to how much you want to deal with it. If you want to win, you might pay more attention. Second concern: lack of knowledge regarding fantasy. You're dealing with a different monster here and getting acclimated takes some time. Some people don't want to make the jump into the fantasy world. Again, understandable. But, my people, I present to you Exhibit A.

Luckily for you, we here at NBA.com know those concerns are present. That's why we got everyone covered from the rookie to the starter to the all-star. If you don't want to get too involved or feel like taking it slow, the Pick One Challenge is right up your alley. If you're looking to step it up a notch, check out the Salary Cap Challenge. And for those who love fantasy basketball and want the goods, then Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner (our draft-and-trade game) is perfect for you. No matter what level you want to compete at, you can get involved! In regards to the second concern, NBA.com has all sorts of information to get you started. And it won't just be there at the beginning of the season; it will be there all season long. Everything at NBA.com is free, from the games to draft preparation to expert analysis. So mosey around the Fantasy Resource Center, pick out which game(s) suit you best and start preparing for a great year ahead. We'll keep you up to speed all year long with insider analysis, advice, chats, Q & A's and more.

I know what you're thinking: Dang, this dude is losing his mind. Hey, I respect that, but hopefully you'll have a better understanding of what we're talking about with fantasy basketball from here on out.

Welcome to the world of fantasy basketball. The world is yours. Give it a shot, stay patient, work hard, and have fun!

Best of luck to ya! Peace!

GET STARTED: Fantasy Resource Center | Introduction to Fantasy Basketball | Game Center