NBA fans sure have a lot to be thankful for. On Christmas Day (December 26, Manila Time), the league resumes on-court action. As we’ve noted in a previous article, the NBA has promised a debut that’s designed to give everyone a pleasant, little slap on the face that announces “We’re back, baby.”
First on that night’s list is a match-up that should put some of the league’s senior stars Paul Pierce, Garnett and Allen to the test right away as the Celtics face the runnin’-n-gunnin’ crew of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and the rest of the Knicks. The game should be a reflection of issues regarding age this season as the condensed schedule will give veterans less time to recuperate and perform at their peak night after night. The 66-game season will be featuring back-to-back-to-back regular season games, and back-to-back outings in the Playoffs, which is something that has rarely happened in the past decades.
Last season’s MVP, Derrick Rose, will also be showcasing his stuff on opening night as his Bulls charge into the Staples Center in Los Angeles where another former MVP, Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers await. Both teams are strong Playoff contenders, and with two extremely competitive star players at both ends, this match-up is also sure to be an explosive one. We’re also keeping a close eye on the battle between the Magic and last year’s Western Conference runner-up, the Oklahoma City Thunder featuring another MVP contender in Kevin Durant.
The match-up between the Clippers and the trigger happy Golden State Warriors, could be the least interesting to watch if it’s possible champions we’re talking about. But the Clippers have Blake Griffin, and the Golden State Warriors don’t play no defense. And if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that that’s a potent formula for more of this.
The biggest headliner though is a much-awaited rematch between the Mavericks and the Heat. Dirk and the Mavs are probably some of the most excited guys this season, if only for a chance to parade their shiny new rings. On the other hand, the Heat, most especially crown-less “king” James, are probably the greenest with envy after their failure to win the title in spite of their top-heavy talent. Will the Heat finally win it all this season? That and so many other intriguing questions surround this season-that-almost-never-was, and the answers will unfold as the games are played. Before that though, here are some of the thoughts—some valid, mostly trivial—lingering in our head as we enter the 2011-2012 NBA Season.
Will the Mavericks repeat?
As all champions do, the Mavs will come out of the gates firing on all cylinders. The residual adrenaline from last June along with the armor of confidence that champions carry will be the primary factors in their early season surge. At some point though, that false air of invincibility dissipates, with key losses here and there, and as the regular season grind gets in motion The Mavericks are an aging team, with their core stars Dirk, Terry, and Kidd all at least 31 years old.
Caron Butler, and two key contributors Tyson Chandler, and J.J. Barea have also jumped ship, making the team’s repeat aspirations an even more arduous task. They are contenders, but it’s going to take an even more focused run than last year’s to get them to the zenith all over again, even with new additions Vince Carter and Lamar Odom.
So who’s going to win it all?
Let’s do a rundown. Tim Duncan and the Spurs have always been perennial candidates, but they’re over the hill, as are the Boston Celtics. The L.A. Lakers will be in the running so long as they have Kobe and Pau Gasol anchoring the team. Perhaps the bigger issue is with their new coach Mike Brown, who in the past, has been criticized for his inability to take full control of his stars as well as his perceived flimsiness under pressure. The hole that Phil Jackson left behind is a pretty big one to fill. And the decision to move Odom, to a rival no less, hurts the team’s chances even more.
Two teams on the rise have their eyes on the prize as well. From the Eastern Conference, we have that team led by the ankle-breaking, rim-rattling Rose who might just be one solid sidekick away from getting to the Finals. On the western shores, the Oklahoma City Thunder led by the duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook has the necessary parts already. They’ve had a taste of success, are hungry, and with another year playing together, this just might be the year that this team peaks and break out of the west, onto the biggest stage of them all.
Our money though is on the Miami Heat. It’s too easy to hate on these guys, but we simply can’t discount the fact that the team is still home to two of the best players in their respective positions. They finished two wins short of the championship last season, and James and Wade are pretty pissed about that. And who knows what can happen when they’re given that extra motivation, right? Coach Erik Spoelstra, Mario Chalmers, plus a healthy Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem should have learned a few things from their unfortunate lack of ability to close out teams on the league’s grandest stage—things that should finally get them over the hump this year and onto the championship podium come June next year.
Will Lebron James finally enter the dunk contest?
Yes, and his announcement will be televised on another ESPN special called “The Decision Part 2” He will throw it down with the best of them—Nate Robinson, Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, and defending dunk champ Blake Griffin. He will reach the finals, but in typical Lebron fashion, will choke on his final dunk, thus losing a nail-biter to, of all players, Nate Robinson. Sorry, Lebron, just playin’! Just win a ring already so we can stop with the nasty.
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