Arman Zadeh, sports editor
‘Tis the season, Norman nation! The NBA is finally back, and after five painful months of sitting in basketball limbo, this reporter is more than excited to spend the next eight tracking every movement of the upcoming and much anticipated NBA season.
What makes this season so anticipated, you ask?
To start, the Miami Heat are favored to make it to the NBA finals for the fourth time in a row, a feat that has not been accomplished since 1987 when the Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird and Danny Ainge, clashed against their arch rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, and lost (good).
Now, assume Miami does go back to the Finals, their return would solidify this era of Miami basketball as what enthusiasts refer to as a “dynasty”, a term reserved for only the most elite and rare rosters in the history of basketball. Considering this, the 2010-2014 Miami Heat can be, and very well may be, associated with teams like the 1999-2004 Los Angeles Lakers, or the 1957-1969 Boston Celtics, when Bill Russell led the C’s to 11 titles, by generations to come.
Now, as a sane person (Laker fan), that scares me. To see a team that’s not the Lakers, Celtics or Chicago Bulls completely dominate the league is uncomforting.
However, if you are one of those people who cringe at the idea of Miami going to the finals and have been in agonizing pain ever since Lebron took his talents to South Beach, there is a glimmer of hope.
This brings me to my next point. For years, the NBA has been dominated by the Western Conference, with teams like the Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks consistently winning or being serious contenders for an NBA title. Only now, there has been a clear shift of power to the East, beginning really with the rise of Chicago all-star point guard, Derrick Rose.
“The Return” is upon us. After sitting out an entire season to rehabilitate a torn ACL, Rose is finally back to his explosive ways and poses as the first real threat to Miami’s supremacy in the East.
But Chicago is not the only team Miami has to look out for. With a healthy and young Indiana Pacers team emerging, an experienced Brooklyn Nets piecing together its newly acquired veterans and New York Knicks figuring it all out, the East seems like it’s up for grabs. That’s arguably the most action the East has seen in years.
And that brings us to the Western Conference.
Ok, let’s start from the top. The Oklahoma City Thunder. Favored by many to reach the Finals by fans and dissenters alike, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will face tough competition in the new western conference. This is not your father’s western conference.
If I told you three years ago that the Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Spurs were going to rule the west, (mind you this was right at the end of the revitalization of the beloved Boston/ Laker rivalry) you wouldn’t believe me.
But the fact is that a new generation of young players and excellent management has lifted the Golden State Warriors out of basketball shame, brought the aging Spurs’ stars Tony Parker and Tim Duncan back from the dead, and have caused an abrupt power shift within the walls of Staples Center ever since Chris Paul was (wrongfully) stolen from the Lakers and moved to the Clippers; an event that has had serious repercussions by creating a clear schism in LA basketball’s fandom.
“It doesn’t really matter what happens with the Clippers,” senior and long time Laker fan Josh Shirian said. “Even if they cover the walls with their selfies, [the Lakers’] banners will always be up there, reminding [Clipper] ‘fans’ whose town this really is.”
With all this going on, the NBA seems more exciting (and confusing) than ever, so, to close, here are a few things that I think deserve to be followed:
1) John Wall and the Washington Wizards
I predict that this will be John Wall’s true breakout season as he carries Washington back to the playoffs. After the star’s return from injury last season, the Wizards went 19-6 at home, finally giving D.C. fans something to cheer about.
2) Michael Carter-Williams and the Philadelphia 76ers
Wasn’t this team supposed to tank this year? Not with Carter- Williams around, I guess. The rookie has made big waves and headlines this week by carrying the Sixers to a record of 3-0, averaging 20.7 ppg to go along with nine assists, 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 steals in his first week in the NBA.
3) The Los Angeles Lakers
I can’t tell if this team is going to be really bad or pretty good this year. After watching the opening night win over the Clips, I already began hearing radio reporters cheering “LAKERS ARE GOING BACK TO THE NBA FINALS”, in my head. But, alas, I know that’s just a fantasy. However, being purged of the mess that was Dwight Howard, the 2013-2014 Lakers already look like more of a unit than they did at any point last year. Look out for Steve Nash’s health, as well, with his 40th birthday right around the corner.