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NBA 2012-2013: Reactions to the Opening Week
It is good to see the NBA back, and on schedule as opposed to last year's shortened season. Last season had plenty of major stories, none being bigger then LeBron James winning his first championship. Coming into this season there is more parity then we have seen in sometime. Yes, the Heat are still the favorites to win the championship yet again but aside from them their are still plenty of talented teams that can give them a run for their money. The Western Conference is still a deep conference filled with talented teams, while the East has four or five above average teams and the rest seem to be fighting to stay mediocre. The West has two or three teams that seems to be likely championship contending teams, that could become more if the Clippers and Nuggets make great strides from last season. The Clippers and Nuggets have gotten much deeper over the off-season when Grant Hill, Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford signed with the Clippers. Meanwhile, the Nuggets resigned Javale McGee and traded for the versatile Andre Iguodala. In a perfect world, these moves can thrust them into a championship contender but they still have question marks that can hold them back.
Los Angeles Lakers
One of the biggest stories coming into this season is the changes the Lakers made over the off-season. The Lakers had their hands in two major trades this off-season that netted them two All Stars, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Howard instantly improves their defense due to his athleticism and can become a building block for their inevitable future without Kobe Bryant. Kobe has never had a running mate in the back court of Nash's caliber but it remains to be seen how well the two can play together. Kobe is a high volume shooter that demands the ball in his hands, whereas in order for Nash to be dominant he needs the ball in his hands. That creates a problem. Even more so, the Lakers have always had an issue guarding opposing point guards and Nash's biggest weakness is just that. All of these issues could be fixed with a solid coach on the sidelines, which seems to be the bigger issue in the City of Angels. Mike Brown and Eddie Jordan are implementing the Princeton offense with their new pieces and so far it seems to be a mixed bag. Kobe could essentially play in any offense you run, so he will be fine but it completely neutralizes Steve Nash and his strengths. Pau Gasol can excel in the Princeton offense due to post play, outside touch and his superior passing ability whereas it can neutralize Dwight's athleticism. If the Lakers do not make the Finals, expect to see Mike Brown fired and possibly Dwight going to free agency. The Lakers are off to a terrible start in the season at 0-3 and the pressure will continue to increase.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder made the Finals last season thanks in large part due to the big three that they had. Before the season started, the Thunder traded away their sixth man of the year in James Harden for sharp shooter Kevin Martin and rookie Jeremy Lamb. Harden was an integral part of their offense and served in large part as their point guard in the closing moments of games. They seem to believe that between Eric Maynor and Russell Westbrook that it won't be an issue. Which I would be quick to disagree with. The bigger issue is that the Thunder as a whole is a selfish team and all of their games are similar. Don't get me wrong, the Thunder are talented, but you don't win championships with just talent. You have to sacrifice for the better of your own team. Westbrook doesn't seem to understand that. Most likely, the Thunder will still be okay throughout the regular season and finish with a top seed. However, they most likely will have a tough time with teams like the Spurs, Clippers and Lakers.
Houston fans have to be excited after this first week of the young season. Before the season started, the Rockets fans were less then thrilled by the fact that they missed out on getting a star seeing how their general manager orchestrated so many moves to bring in draft picks and young players to trade for a legitimate star as a building point for the franchise. They didn't have any luck reeling in a star during the off-season but just before the start of the season they landed James Harden. It cost them Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two first round picks but with Harden and Jeremy Lin in the backcourt the Rockets have a new feeling of excitement for the franchise. Combine that excitement with their actual performance in this opening week, and you have some writers (not myself) stating that the Rockets have the best backcourt in the NBA. That's a bit premature if you ask me, but Harden and Lin's games complement each other incredibly well. The Rockets could challenge for a low seed in the playoffs this year but it is far more likely that they continue to build in the off-season and come back as a serious contender next season.
It is fairly easy to say after the first week of the season that the unquestioned best team right now is the Miami Heat. No one would want to play them in a seven game series, because no one right now could beat them. They have so many weapons and with the addition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis their offense is on a whole new level. Ray Allen is known as the best three point shooter in the history of the league and playing alongside guys like Lebron James and Dwayne Wade has him getting plenty of wide open looks. The previous issue with the Heat was spacing on offense and now with them playing a different style of basketball with Chris Bosh at the center position instead of trying to play the traditional way, they have opposing teams on the ropes.
The Celtics lost Ray Allen and while that will be a tough loss at first due to how well he fit into the mold of the team, they will still be okay thanks in large part to the moves they made this off-season. They attempted to become a faster team with better perimeter play and by adding players like Courtney Lee, Leandro Barbosa, Jason Terry and retaining Jeff Green they did just that. Players like Barbosa, Terry and Lee also have plenty of experience in the league and have experienced the playoffs so they will not become shell shocked like some other players. However, Rajon Rondo seems to be taking a more aggressive approach to the offense this season as he has running mates in the offense now but even in the opening night matchup with Heat he was looking for his own shot. It was all in the flow of the offense still but in order for the Celtics to dethrone the Heat, they will need Rondo to continue to be aggressive.