Whether you like it or not, the NBA is back.
After Michael Jordan’s retirement from the Bulls in 1998, the league has lacked superstars and memorable teams. But the emergence of Cleveland, Orlando and Boston have re-ignited the NBA and made watching fun again.
With NBA All-Star Weekend behind us, the grind of an 82-game season is in full gear. Six teams have realistic chances at hoisting the O’Brien trophy this June. Let’s run through and look at each teams chances.
Boston Celtics – The reigning NBA champs began the year 27-2 and it looked like their 18th championship was inevitable. But the Celtics hit a bump, losing seven of nine, and appeared beatable. The Big Three (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) still resides in Boston and with the top record in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics have to be considered the favorites.
Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe Bryant is putting together another MVP season, while leading the Lakers to the top record in the NBA. The rest of the West isn’t as strong as before, so another trip to the Finals is a great possibility. But, a second consecutive midseason knee injury to center Andrew Bynum leaves the Lakers thin on the front-line and could harm their chances of earning another trip to the Finals.
Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavs have all the ingredients to win it all. A very tough, defensive oriented team led by the greatest athlete in sport: LeBron James. The addition of point guard Mo Williams seemed to smooth Cleveland’s offense, finally giving James some scoring help. The Cavs lack of inside scoring could keep them from getting past the Celtics.
Orlando Magic – One of the most entertaining teams to watch this season. Orlando, led by center/mutant Dwight Howard, is the most versatile team in the league. But, a season-ending injury to Jameer Nelson leaves the Magic thin at point guard. No doubt Orlando can hang with Boston and Cleveland, but can they outlast them in a seven-game series?
Houston Rockets – Talent has never been a concern for the Rockets. The question is can that talent stay on the floor together. The addition of Ron Artest gave Houston some much-needed toughness. But can Artest, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming avoid the training table? If so, the Rockets could put together a strong run that might surprise a lot of fans.
San Antonio Spurs – The Pittsburgh Steelers of the hardwood. They’re dirty, boring and fundamental. I hate the Spurs, but I respect greatness. Tim Duncan could go down as the most under-appreciated player in the history of the league and coach Greg Popovich doesn’t receive enough credit for what he has done for the franchise. As much as I would like to, you can never count out San Antonio come playoff time.