What to watch this NBA season

With the NBA tipping off its regular season this week, it’s time to break away from football for a moment to check out three plot lines of the 2007-2008 NBA season.

p. **1.** The Kobe Bryant trade — It seems only a matter of time now before the Lakers’ mega-star is dealt. Reportedly the man himself will only sign off on a trade (he’s got a no-trade clause in his contract, giving him the right to nix any trade he disapproves) to Chicago, Dallas or Phoenix, but Chicago is the only real possibility of the three. Given the salary situation, the Bulls will have to find a third team to include in the deal in order to make it work (the latest rumor has this team as the Kings). A fair deal for both teams would be a package of Ben Gordon, Luol Deng (a legitimate contender to be a superstar in this league) and either Tyrus Thomas or Joakim Noah for Kobe. The Lakers would get some building blocks to work with and team with Jordan Farmar, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum, and the Bulls would become the instant front runners in the East. And for all the talk of Kobe’s attitude problems (and yeah, he’s got plenty), all you need to do is look to Randy Moss and the Patriots to see how well a star player can do with a change of scenery.

p. **2.** Celtics overrated — Ever since they traded for Ray Allen on draft night and Kevin Garnett some weeks later, Boston has been a trendy pick for Eastern Conference champs. While the talent of Allen and Garnett, along with that of veteran Celtic Paul Pierce, is certainly impressive, I see no way in which this team does any better than a first round playoff exit. First off, what are the odds that these three veteran superstars, each used to being the number one option wherever he’s played, come together to stay healthy and play as one cohesive unit all season long? Probably not very good. Factor in that they are weak at the point guard position with Rajon Rondo and that their bench is non-existent, and I don’t see the Big Three in Beantown making it to the NBA Finals.

p. **3.** The contenders — Although there are likely to be a fair share of surprise teams (watch out for Milwaukee and Charlotte in the East, and New Orleans and Memphis in the West), the NBA looks to be dominated by the usual suspects this season. In the East, I like Chicago (even if they don’t get Kobe) and Detroit, but I think everybody’s sleeping on the Wizards. They were playing very well last season before getting bitten by the injury bug, and have assembled quite the supporting cast around super-scorer Gilbert Arenas. Sorry Cleveland, but lightning’s not going to strike twice, as LeBron’s going to learn how truly weak his supporting cast is. I like Washington as the Eastern Conference’s NBA Finals representative.

p. As for the Western Conference, Houston looks solid with a couple of key additions that could put them as far as the second round of the playoffs, but this season is once again going to come down to Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio. I think the Mavericks will bounce back, but not to the point of knocking off Phoenix or San Antonio. As good as the Spurs are, I think with an extra year on the legs of veteran contributors like Bruce Bowen, Brent Barry and Robert Horry, they won’t be able to hang with the Suns. Plus, Steve Nash is going to be possessed this year. He doesn’t have too many years left in him, either, and I expect him to play like it’s his last shot. Suns and Wizards in the Finals. It’s nice to think about, at least.

p. __E-mail Jeff Dooley at jadool@wm.edu.__


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