We are a week and a half into the 2009-2010 NBA season and a few things seem certain, the Celtics look dominant, Pau Gasol is vital to the Lakers and the top echelon teams got a lot better during the off season.
Boston bolstered their front court with the addition of Rasheed Wallace, who plays sound defense in the post and has the ability to step back and drill threes on offense. His presence will stretch out opposing defenses and create lanes for point guard Rajon Rondo to penetrate and dish. Kevin Garnett’s injury was a question mark leading up to the season opener and the jury is still out as to if he is 100 percent.
Boston’s age leaves a small window for championship runs, and that will be in the back of every player’s mind this season.
Shaq-Kobe, Shaq-D.Wade and now Shaq-LeBron, the list of scorers O’Neal has played with continues to look more and more impressive and two out of his last three stops resulted in a championship.
But how much does the Big Diesel have left? His size will clearly help in the paint against the likes of Orlando’s Dwight Howard, who dominated Cleveland in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, but Shaq’s minutes will be limited and we might not see the Cavaliers full potential until playoff time.
LeBron will make a run at a second consecutive MVP award, averaging 25 points and eight assists through five games, and Mo Williams’ emergence will solidify the backcourt.
The Orlando Magic might get lost in the fray when people talk about Cleveland and Boston, but don’t sleep on this team.
Dwight Howard is one year older, Vince Carter is more athletic than Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson is healthy. With Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter running the floor with Nelson, who was averaging 16 points with five assists last year before getting hurt, makes them a fun team to watch this year, and could wind up playing in its second consecutive NBA Finals.
This decade, the West has proved superior to the East, winning seven out of the last 10 titles. However, this season the East seems much deeper than in years past, leaving only a few teams to seriously contend for the Western crown.
The Lakers came up gold with the addition of Ron Artest.
While Trevor Ariza might turn out to be a better player in the future, the Lakers are built to win now and Artest is a more complete player – 260 pounds more complete.
The purple and gold defense has an incredible amount of size, length and physicality.
Pau Gasol’s pre-season injury has sidelined him for the first five games of the regular season. His 15-foot jumper and 7-foot frame on the glass is sorely missed.
With two tight wins in Oklahoma City and Houston, and an embarrassing loss in Staples Center to the Mavericks, the Lakers desperately need the Spaniard to return.
If Andrew Bynum can stay healthy, Artest can mesh in the triangle offense and Lamar anchors the bench, the Lakers should be back defending their title in June.
Oh yeah, they have Kobe Bryant to fall back on in case all that does not work out.
That leaves the question, Who can knock off the champions? Denver is off to a hot start but their defense, or lack thereof, always seems to bite them during the playoffs.
New Orleans made a sneaky move this offseason by acquiring Emeka Okafor. Okafor, along with All-Star David West, provides Chris Paul an opportunity to put up another huge season, solidifying himself as the game’s best point guard.
When you have Darren Williams and Carlos Boozer on your roster, and Jerry Sloan at the helm, your team will be competitive and the Jazz will be just that.
I’m not completely sold on the Portland Trailblazers just yet. No one can argue their young talent, but it’s hard to crown a team that is so young. They will play every team tough, and figure to go deep in the playoffs. And if we see a Portland/Los Angeles match-up in the playoffs, look out, because the Rose Garden is a death trap for the Lakers.
Every year it seems the Spurs are counted out because of their age but always find a way to stay relevant. This year is no different and they, like the Celtics, are an old bunch but will probably be the best team to challenge the Lakers in the West.
The addition of Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess were nice pickups. Jefferson will give them more athleticism and a running mate with Tony Parker, and McDyess will allow Tim Duncan to play his more comfortable power forward position. Manu Ginobili’s health is always a question mark and besides him the bench looks pretty thin.
With so many teams loaded with talent it’s hard to forecast which teams will mesh well and peak at the right time.
Odds are another chapter in the great Lakers-Celtics rivalry will be written in June and at its conclusion the Lakers will raise its 16th banner giving Kobe one for the thumb.
Kevin Garrity, a senior journalism major, is managing editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.