The beginning of the NBA season is about a week away, and as teams continue to shape their rosters during training camp, many storylines have already emerged.
From injury to starting over to proving that a team will be around deep into June next year, the season may not have started yet, but the teams and players to watch are already grabbing the basketball world’s attention.
The Possibility of a Three-peat in Miami
Most people didn’t think Miami could win one championship, but the Heat are now back-to-back champions. But can they do it again? If they could, they would cement themselves as one of the dynasties in NBA history, as only the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls have ever won three straight titles.
However, before Miami can think about the legacy they could create, they have to endure 82 games and get to the NBA finals for the fourth straight year, which will be tougher than ever with an incredibly competitive Eastern Conference.
Luckily for the Heat, they happen to have the two-time reigning MVP in LeBron James, who has gotten better every year. The key for Miami this year will be staying healthy. Its players have logged a lot of minutes in the last three years with three finals trips. If they lose key pieces to injury, the three-peat will be a no-go. But with last year’s roster basically intact, if they can stay healthy, you never know. We may be watching history in the making.
The Hype in Brooklyn
On paper, Brooklyn has to have one of the best teams in the league, and possibly the best team in the Nets’ history.
That roster begins with point guard Deron Williams, one of the best in the league. He’ll have a stacked roster to work with options such as Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez. They also brought in defensive stopper Andrei Kirilenko and shooter Jason Terry. Basically, Brooklyn looks set in every position, but what’s unknown is whether they can come together as a team.
Several of these players are reaching the end of their careers, so the challenge for freshly retired and new Head Coach Jason Kidd will not only be to make this team mesh, but to find chemistry in a hurry.
The Lakers’ Injury Status
Despite the star power in L.A. last season, the Lakers never came together, particularly because of injuries. This season, there is one injury in particular that will matter most: Kobe Bryant’s.
This team lives and dies right now on the play of Bryant. Nevertheless, this hard-working, determined superstar needs to be careful not to come back too soon. He’s no longer 25 and is showing signs of slowing down. As badly as he wants to be on the court, he needs to stay healthy if the Lakers want a shot at making the playoffs, because without him, they won’t.
Nevertheless, with Bryant, the Lakers will always be dangerous. His scoring ability can bring in a win any night of the week.
A New Era in Sacramento
The Sacramento Kings have finally finalized where they’ll be playing for a long time: Sacramento. Now that they can actually focus on basketball, it’ll be about rebuilding in the Capital City.
The Kings just announced the contract extension of DeMarcus Cousins and have decent depth at the point guard spot between Isaiah Thomas and Greivis Vasquez.
With new ownership working on a new arena and increasing ticket sales and sponsorship, Sacramento is moving in the right direction. They’re certainly not championship material yet, and may not even be playoff contenders, but the improvement by the Kings should be tangible.
Howard in Houston
The question right now with Dwight Howard is whether he can find a team he can be happy with. With Orlando, he wasn’t winning, but he was the star. With L.A., he wasn’t the focus and that was a problem. Nothing’s been right so far. So, Howard is once again starting over, this time in Houston.
Howard brings a much-needed inside presence, as well as a defensive edge, to a Rockets team that has one great scorer in James Harden and a great distributor in Jeremy Lin.
With his height, wingspan and athletic ability, Howard should be a premier center this year and should turn the Rockets into a playoff contender. But with Howard’s track record, that is not guaranteed.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of October 22nd’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.