As you all know, at 2:30 AM Beirut time, the 64th NBA season kicks off with a rematch of one of last year’s first round playoff series with NBA East Champs Boston Celtics hosting the new look Miami Heat. Well, the Boston Celtics also had made a lot of adjustments, including adding the two O’Neals (Shaquille and Jermaine) to boost their frontcourt and former Cavalier Delonte West, now that starting center Kendrick Perkins is out until January due to an injury sustained in last season’s NBA Finals Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The bigger story of the game however, is going to be the debut of the Miami Thrice, that includes Dwayne Wade in addition to Miami’s two new signings, 2 time reigning MVP LeBron James and former Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh. As you all know, LeBron James received a lot of backlash after his infamous ESPN special “The Decision”, where he decided to screw over the entire city of Cleveland by declaring that he is taking his talents to South Beach (the Miami Heat) rather than playing for his hometown Cavaliers.
This may be one of the most anticipated openers ever, due to having a lot of other storylines, including:
- Shaquille O’Neal playing against his former Miami Heat after delivering a championship there in 2006 with D-Wade’s help. Shaq will also be facing Chris Bosh, who he called the NBA’s RuPaul.
- Delonte West and LeBron James, both former Cavs, will be also playing each other, after rumors surfaced the internet that had something to do with Delonte West sleeping with LeBron James’s mom, which made many people think was the main reason LeBron turned away from Cleveland and “quitting” in the last 4 games of the East conference semis vs. Boston.
- How well can the Miami Thrice function together? In the preseason, they only got 197 seconds of playtime together before Dwayne Wade injured himself against Detroit.
- Could this finally be the year LeBron James gets to win his first title? If he does, will he be playing as many expected Robin to Dwayne Wade’s Batman?
- This could be the last chance for the Boston Celtics to win it all, with their Big Three all hitting the twilight of their careers and may not get another crack at it in a while.
I am expecting it to be a historical opener, and think that Miami will beat the Celtics tonight.
The night continues with another rematch of last year’s first round series, this time from the Western conference though. Western conference finalists Phoenix Suns, playing their first season with Amare Stoudemire, will be visiting the Portland Trailblazers, who were hacked all year by their stars dealing with injuries.
Despite reaching the Western conference finals last year, the Phoenix Suns have a very dim chance of repeating so, after losing Stoudemire in free agency to the New York Knicks, killing the Suns’ run-and-gun fast paced offense. Instead, they acquired Hedo Turkuglo from the Toronto Raptors and brought back Josh Childress from Europe. Meanwhile, the Blazers had a bit of dilemma with Rudy Fernandez during the summer, who was asking to be traded and even threatened to leave the NBA to play back in Spain. Yet all seemed to work out on both sides, with Fernandez showing up to training camp and everything back to normal. Portland also traded Jerryd Bayless to New Orleans for a future draft pick and signed Fabricio Oberto.
This should also play out to be an interesting game, and I pretty much expect the Blazers to win the game tonight.
The final game of the night will be the first game of the champions’ title defense. The Los Angeles Lakers will be seeking their third straight title this season by starting off their season hosting the Houston Rockets. Also, many storylines come into play with this matchup, making it also a very interesting one:
- The Los Angeles Lakers have had a not-so-good preseason, including losing both games in Europe to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Euroleague champions FC Barcelona. I know, Kobe was injured and was having a couple of lousy shooting games and didn’t play much, and that is what worries all Lakers fans. Kobe Bryant says he is ready to play, but as he hits 32, one can only wonder if he is still as good as he was at 30 and even 31. I still have faith in Kobe, as he has built motivation off LeBron James joining his Super Friends in Miami and all the critics who are saying Kobe doesn’t have it in him anymore.
- Houston Rockets center Yao Ming will be making his return after missing out a full year due to an injury sustained against the Lakers in the 2009 playoffs. According to the Rockets’ management, Ming will have a cap of playing no more than 24 minutes per game and will be monitored by team doctors. His playing time may increase, but all depends.
- I am personally expecting the Houston Rockets to surprise the NBA with their great lineup. Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola, and Yao Ming. They have a great team on paper, which makes the Western conference interesting, although I don’t see any team threatening the Lakers in the West, which brings us to
- The Lakers have improved their team and according the team owner Dr. Jerry Buss said back in August that this may be the “greatest Lakers team fielded ever” since he owned the team. And no, Buss didn’t own the team five years ago, he actually has been in charge for over 30 years, in other words, the Showtime Lakers were on his watch and he still thinks that this team is better. I mean, they are returning 9 players from the team that won last season, and they added an amazing point guard in Steve Blake, another tough-minded defensive player in Matt Barnes, and a veteran back-up center in Theo Ratliff. With those three additions, their bench is all toughed up, in addition to the rookies drafted, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, who will be seeing some playtime this year according to 11 time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson, which leads us to our next point:
- Will this be Phil Jackson’s last season? The only thing that seems to stop Jackson from coming back next year will be his health. After all, he’s collecting a very decent salary and is dating Buss’s daughter Jeanie. I think Jackson, like Bryant, is now more motivated than ever to coach this season in order to trump the masterpiece Pat Riley has created in Miami by adding James and Bosh.
- One final point: Will Andrew Bynum be just a role player, or will he able to return a full time player? After suffering injuries in the past 3 years, many, including Jackson, are wondering if Bynum will be able to go through a full NBA season and play full minutes like any other NBA center and deliver performances as he did before hitting the injury bug. I hope he can, after all, he has a lot of potential and I hope him and Blazers’ Greg Oden get to finally get back on track and play amazing basketball without getting hurt.
- On an unrelated note, the Lakers will be receiving their rings for winning their 16th NBA championship, but not all of the players are keeping their rings. Why? Ron Artest decided to give away his ring, first in an auction but recently in a raffle (lottery), to promote the cause of metal health awareness and according to him it will serve as motivation to strive for another ring. Tickets for the raffle cost $2 and you can a buy a minimum of 5 at http://www.ronartest.com .
I expect the Lakers to start their title defense with a win despite the strength of this year’s Rockets.
I am really excited about this season, as David Stern said earlier this summer, this season we might be experiencing the “greatest basketball ever”. All 30 NBA teams are loaded, with teams being better than others of course. Every NBA team has at least one superstar and most have former or current All-Stars, which makes this season more tempting than ever. I advise everyone to watch the three games tonight, and if not all, at least the Heat-Celtics and Rockets-Lakers games.
NBA…Where Amazing (and a bunch of other cool stuff) Happens