Sportsdesk | October 30, 2013
The National Basketball Association was officially welcomed back last night when LeBron James and Miami topped Chicago by the relatively comfortable margin of 105-97.
Los Angeles Lakers also surprisingly beat their crosstown rivals Clippers 116-103 despite Kobe Bryant’s absence. A cast of journeymen and castoffs were able to combine for the shock win, as Clippers are expected to be a top contender in the Western Conference.
With Indiana also beating Orlando 97-87, basketball was back. We look at five storylines that will play out as another new NBA season gets underway.
1. Still the champs: New year, same story. Miami Heat enter this season as they did the last, as champions of the NBA. Reigning MVP LeBron James, above, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are attempting to get the Heat to their fourth straight NBA finals appearance, something that only Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics of old were able to accomplish.
2. He’s back: Derrick Rose, finally, is back. It took 18 months (forgetting a few pre-season games) for the Chicago Bulls star to make his return to the NBA, after tearing up his knee in a play-off game in April 2012. The Bulls have been a contender with Rose in the past, and they should be fighting for the title again now that he is back on the court.
3. He’s not back. Yet: Out West, Kobe Bryant is still working his way back from a torn Achilles’ in last season’s play-offs. Los Angeles Lakers almost certainly will not go far without Bryant, but with him, it would be hard to say that they are not contenders to reach the play-offs, even in a typically talent-laden Western Conference.
4. Farewell, commissioner: David Stern will hand out his last championship rings on Tuesday night in Miami, to the Heat staff and players. Stern leaves early next year and turns the reins of the league over to deputy Adam Silver. “Under Stern”, who will have served a 30-year term as commissioner, the league was transformed into a global sports giant.
5. Things to watch: Will Memphis or Golden State finally morph from would-be contenders into title threats? Will Dwight Howard realise shine in Houston after a lost year with the Lakers? Can San Antonio make another run at winning it all? Will teams tank to enhance their chances of drafting presumed 2014 No 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, above, next June?