By: Ben Pannell
With L.A.’s addition of Dwight Howard (D12), they are put into a group of teams that are loaded with stars. The Lakers have had a huge offseason, but it won’t be a stroll in the park to make the finals. Besides the Lakers, the Thunder is a young, hungry team that was defeated in the finals last year, and is looking to repeat. Along with these two teams, there are other great teams in last year’s champions, the Heat, the Pacers, the Knicks, and the Bulls.
All of these teams showed signs of success last season. Looking at each team, they all have some stars that make up the team. Looking at some of these teams, they show signs of a kind of déjà vu in big teams. In the Bird-Johnson era, there were around four teams that were full of talent, and were always competing. These teams were the Boston Celtics (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Bill Russell), Los Angeles Lakers (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy), Detroit Pistons(Isaiah Thomas, Bill Lambier), and Philadelphia 76ers(Julius Erving, Moses Malone). Through the late -70s and -80s, these teams were in constant battle over who was going to the finals and who was winning it all. The Eastern Conference was thought to be the much tougher, more difficult conference. The Lakers were expected to sail through all of the playoffs until the finals, although that was not always the case. On the other side of the nation, the 76ers, Celtics, and Pistons battled it out to see who would face the Lakers. Each team was eager to show the “Showtime” Lakers what real basketball was like.
The competition of the Eastern Conference is still shown today. Now, with teams like the Miami Heat (LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh), the rising New York Knicks (Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler), the Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah), and the Pacers (Roy Hibbert, Paul George, and Danny Granger). All of these teams have the capability of winning the conference. What is the most surprising of all of these is the Pacers, who have no major stars on their team, but played so well together, they earned the three seed in the playoffs last year. One thing that separates them from these other teams is that they didn’t just have a couple stars then players that couldn’t produce; they had a couple pretty good players, who were surround with solid role players that could all play what they were supposed to.
Although the “Showtime” didn’t have much of a competition in their conference, that doesn’t mean that they were automatically given their spot in the finals. With Magic Johnson on their team, they turned into a run-n-gun offense, which was led by a flashy point guard who was as exciting on the court as he was off the court. With this new style of play, came some arrogance, and some dislike from the other teams. Out of attempts to show the Lakers real basketball, opponents gave them their best shot every night. If the Lakers didn’t come out ready to play, they would be defeated. The run-n-gun offense took a toll on their bodies. After a long season, they were exhausted, where as other teams who ran a more organized offense, were just starting to make a run. The Lakers now are loaded with stars (Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and Kobe Bryant), like the “Showtime” was in their day. Unlike them, though, they will be facing a much tougher challenge. That challenge is the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder is a young team that suffered a heart breaking series, losing to the Miami Heat in the finals. They will be back next year, hungry for not only another trip to the finals, but also for a championship. The Thunder are full of talent (Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant), and are very big under the basketball. They have quick guards, and a good rotation, having James Harden come off the bench to bring a spark of energy.
This upcoming NBA season will be a great one to watch. With the lockout of last year, fans and players are excited for a full 82 game season, one that will seemingly have no disappointments about it. With this being said, I’m anxious to see how all of the superstars have progressed after the Olympics. One thing that will be curious to see is how all of these players will react to playing against each other. It will be interesting to see if they can all keep their competitive edge with each other after a wonderful experience in London.
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