Dramatic Storylines Open NBA Season

At that winter externship mixer (and beyond), you might find yourself in the midst of V.I.S.F.s (very important sports fans). For the Swarthmore Student Body’s convenience, the Phoenix has put together a flash card primer of strong storylines for the young 2012-2013 NBA season. Without further ado…

The Lakers: Reloaded

Facing the dead end created by father time and their apparent replacements as Western Conference Powers looking to permanently put them down, the Lakers front office lived up to its historical resiliency. With the additions of Dwight Howard (formerly of Orlando) and Steve Nash (formerly of Phoenix), the 2009 & 2010 NBA champs reloaded for one last championship run with the 34-year-old Kobe Bryant after consecutive second round playoff exits. With the offensive proficiency of  new point guard Steve Nash and the famously dominating defense of center Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant presumably have less work to do on both ends. That said…

Bearded Blunder?

The refurbished Lakers must still face the Oklahoma City Thunder: a team too fast, too springy, too young, and too energetic for L.A.’s core of 30-plus year old players to handle. While center Kendrick Perkins has proven a thorn in the side of both Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, the hyper-athletic wing duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook can famously torture players like Steve Nash and Metta World Peace. The team is coming off a painful finals loss and Olympic seasoning for three of its stars. But the team also turned its famous core trio into a duo: the Thunder traded reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden to the Houston Rockets just before the opening of the season. Time will tell if the debearding of the team will derail the title hopes of the reigning western conference champions. Oklahoma City is not alone in their need to answer questions of absence. Back East…

Bearish Bull Market?

The Chicago Bulls, owners of the best record in the Eastern Conference in consecutive years, will spend crucial parts of their season without superstar guard Derrick Rose, who sustained an ACL injury during the 2012 playoffs. Rose’s injury has been historically devastating to players who use their speed and agility as much as Rose does, and his offense may be sorely missed on a team that had difficulty scoring outside of Rose and mercurial big man Carlos Boozer. Things are uncertain in the windy city, but their team is at least young. The same cannot be said however…

Green with Rage (or Age?)

… for the Boston Celtics, who seasoned the Chicago Bulls in their heated 2009 playoff duel. The 2008 NBA champions are one down in their erstwhile Big Three, as sharpshooter Ray Allen left the team in free agency for the current archrival Miami Heat. To replace him, the Celtics convinced Jason Terry (formerly of the 2011 champion Mavericks), Courtney Lee (formerly of the Houston Rockets), Leandro Barbosa (formerly of the Indiana Pacers), and Darko Milicic (formerly of the Minnesota Timberwolves and a recurring subject for NBA Memes) to take their talents to Beantown. Like their historical archrivals out west, the Lakers, the Celtics find father time has an emissary on earth to remind them of their age: the Miami Heat.  Age, the Celtics hope however, is nothing but a number. Experienced, hungry, and fiercely resilient, 17-time Champ Boston will never go without a fight. Unlike the other years in their reign over the east, the fighting may be closer to home than they think: for the first time in their division, there may be actual competition. From the Big Apple…

Underachievers No More… Or Not?

There are now not one, but two teams standing between the Boston Celtics and their fifth consecutive division title. The Penn Station Band of the New York Knicks is still trying to integrate former western conference scoring machines Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire into a team that can win more than one playoff game for the first time in nearly ten years(and the first title in 40 years). Across the east river at Atlantic Avenue, the refurbished Brooklyn Nets (moved from NJ by Jay-Z) vocally intend to stand up to the Knicks, Celtics, and Sixers (with Andrew Bynum) in the Atlantic division. With Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks, Brook Lopez, and a former Kardashian family member (Kris Humphries) flanking Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, the Nets hope to take the Knicks’ place in the hearts of at least one borough of the city. Some have expressed doubt about the charisma of such a cast (consider the acting talent of Kris Humphries (nee Kardashian), but a Russian oil oligarch who was spectacularly profiled on 60 minutes and Jay-Z should more than compensate for questionably marketable individual players.

The Nets are not the only former sadsacks looking to upstage their older intercity counterparts. Across the country in LA, the Clippers will try to encroach upon the Laker show’s territory as they build stronger foundations to ‘Lob City’. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Lamar (still a Kardashian) Odom will need all their grit and all their guile to give the 16-time champion Lakers a reason to worry, something the Lakers had, until last year, almost never done in their 30-year history sharing the city. The nations two biggest cities have two competitive basketball teams simultaneously for what may be the first time in history. Size of the city might not matter however, against the reigning NBA champion…

The Reign of the King

Miami Heat. Coming full circle from their bizarre finals implosion in 2011, South Beach earned its parade in June and its rings on opening night. Its three stars (Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh) are flanked by a coterie of sharpshooters, defenders and rebounders in their quest to defend their title. With fellow speedster teams in Chicago and Oklahoma City possibly searching for answers, it seems like the Heat may live up to LeBron’s controversial promise of multiple titles. The catch?  30 year-old Dwyane Wades’ knee troubles, exacerbated by his frenetic style of play, and the lack of relative size on the team (no member of the team is over seven feet tall) might ruin to June 2013 plans of a second consecutive South Beach celebration. For now though, the Miami Heat and their superstar squad open the season on top and with good reason to think they might end the year the same way. Homework or not, don’t miss the fray and the fun of the NBA this year.

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