The NBA: LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo and For Once, the Clippers



Can you feel it in the air? The summer heat is fading away. The visitors are ready to flock to I.V. for Halloween celebrations. And it is currently one of the best times of the year to be a sports fan. The World Series is about to start. College football is in full swing, as is the NFL season. But most importantly, ladies and gents, it’s NBA season!

[media-credit id=20201 align="alignleft" width="250"][/media-credit]Unless you have been living under a rock for the past six months, you certainly are aware that the Miami Heat — behind evil mastermind, GM Pat Riley — have successfully opened Pandora’s Box by creating the Miami Super-Heat.

After the most painstakingly brutal hour of television ever invented, a.k.a. “The Decision” (back-to-back episodes of “Paris Hilton’s My New BFF” was a close second), LeBron James joined up with Chris Bosh and the incumbent Dwyane Wade to form the Miami Thrice.

I can’t criticize LeBron for going to Miami. In the end, it seems that LeBron truly believes that you measure the success of a career by the number of championships won. And isn’t that how it is supposed to be? Winning is everything; at the end of the day, it is the name on the front of the jersey that matters, and the Cavs just couldn’t get it done. It’s a shame, but it’s the way it is, and anyone who is surprised by his ditching Cleveland is simply naïve.

Now for the historical spin.

Recently, Michael Jordan lent his opinion on the issue: “There is no way I would have ever called up Larry [Bird] and Magic [Johnson] and said, ‘Hey let’s get together and play on one team.’ In all honesty, I was trying to beat those guys.”

The fact that the media feels the need to compare everyone everything to Michael Jordan proves beyond reasonable doubt that MJ is the greatest basketball player that ever lived. Yes, it is possible for him to be caught, but no, there will never be another Jordan. If Kobe Bryant matches his six rings, he still has work left to do.

Jordan won three straight MVPs and led the Bulls to three straight NBA Championships, retired in the prime of his career to play a little professional baseball, then returned to the Bulls to win three more MVPs and titles in a row. I’ll wait while you read that again…there will never be another MJ.

Is LeBron giving up a chance to be the greatest ever? Yes, but only to an extent. Let’s say the Heat win 70 games this year, LeBron averages a triple-double, and Miami dominates and wins five-plus championships in the coming years. The argument against him would be that he had more help. And it’s true. But wait. Didn’t Magic have James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Didn’t Larry Bird have Kevin McHale and Robert Parish?

So LeBron gave up a chance at becoming one of the greatest individual players in the history of the NBA. So he doesn’t have the competitive fire that MJ had, or that Kobe has. But remember, this competitive drive can be learned, honed and harnessed. Just look at Kobe and his transformation from a selfish, high-flying scorer with an afro wearing #8 into an intelligent, technical, savvy family-man who wears #24 and hits MJ fadeaways to crush opponents. It can happen. And I think we will see this ruthless assassin fire and instinct from LeBron this year.

In the end, I think LeBron is a pompous, egotistical person. But does it matter? I say not. To be real, I am over it, and even legitimately happy that he decided to go to Miami. Will I root for the Heat? Absolutely not. But I will acknowledge that the Heat will be one of the most exciting teams this year. As a basketball fan, I can’t wait to see LeBron running the point like Magic, with Wade on his right and Bosh on his left.

Although it may be hard to believe, there are actually some other interesting storylines heading into the new NBA season. Apart from Miami, here are a few of particular interest to yours truly:

Will the Lakers repeat?

I say yes. Kobe is Kobe. Pau Gasol is Pau Gasol. I would say the key is Andrew Bynum, but I believe the Lakeshow can take the title even if Bynum is the same injury-prone player of a year ago (and it’s looking that way). Lamar Odom started at center — and played very well — for the U.S. national team this summer, and will form a great frontcourt with Gasol. The key is defense. With the new additions of Steve Blake and Matt Barnes, the Lakers added depth and another defense wingman for a team that will have the luxury of resting its stars during the season (Kobe mainly), knowing that it will all come down to the playoffs.

Where will Carmelo Anthony land?

I am assuming that the Denver front office is smart enough to move Anthony now, before they lose him for nothing (like Toronto did when Bosh bolted for South Beach). The most interesting landing spot for Carmelo is obviously New York, where he would be paired with Stoudemire in a Mike D’Antoni fast break offense. I’m intrigued.

Which point guard or guards will make the jump to elite?

The way I see it now, there are three top point guards in the league: Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Steve Nash. Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd are still around and contributing at a high level, but they are old. And the young guns are about to take the jump to the elite.

Look for Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook to lead this charge, with a secondary group of John Wall, Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans not too far behind. All three are great, no doubt, but have shown weaknesses in the past. Rondo has the all-around game, but lacks a consistent shot. The same could be said for Rose and Westbrook, but each year all three have improved. Look for this group to make a huge leap this season, both individually and with their respective teams.

The Clippers!

Yeah baby, a little love for LA’s other team. Blake Griffin is a beast and Eric Gordon will build on his strong showing for Team USA over the summer. I haven’t been this excited about a Clippers team since the Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson, Odom and Michael Olowokandi days (depressing, right?).

How will the East play out?

The East is a three horse race, with one potential surprise. Miami, Boston, and Orlando will continue to reign supreme. In fact, Boston and Orlando have the potential to upset the Heat, because they possess the one thing that can thwart Miami’s big three — size. Dwight Howard, if he ever learns how to play some low-post offense, has the potential to single-handedly take his team to the NBA finals. If Perkins comes back healthy, the Celts will have a massive front-line of Perkins, Jermaine O’Neal, and Shaquille O’Neal.

The Chicago Bulls could surprise and rise into this conversation. Although Boozer is hurt to begin the year, he is the scoring low-post presence Chicago has been looking for and his defensive shortcomings will be masked by Joakim Noah’s prowess. And that guy Derrick Rose is okay too, I guess.

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