The NBA kicked off its 2008-2009 regular season last Tuesday and we’re here to tell you who’s worth watching. Obviously you’ll watch your favorite team, but we’ve narrowed down who actually has a chance to make it to playoffs as well as the underdogs to keep your eye on.
The Boston Celtics
Kevin Garnett shakes hands with the commissioner David Stern during the 2008 NBA World Championship.
Yeah yeah, this first one is kind of a no-brainer. The Celtics took the championship last year, and are, once again, a team with whom to be reckoned. They were a totally remade ball club last year, but this season the roster is unchanged. They failed to pick up anyone in the off-season, and actually lost forward James Posey. Although they have staples Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, without Posey they may be hurting on defense. Also, Kendrick Perkins underwent shoulder surgery in the off-season, so we’ll see if he’s able to come back. The Celtics have seasoned players and experience on their side, and have a good chance at winning the East. Still, it’s hard to repeat, and although they’ll definitely have a good season, we’ll see if they can go all the way.
Los Angeles Lakers
Vladimir Radmanovic of the Lakers bumps fist with a referee.
It would be an understatement to say that Kobe Bryant wants another title, he’s hurting for one and the Lakers have a good chance of winning it this season, that is if they can step up their defense. With Bryant, there’s usually no lack of offense and because of this the Lakers, as usual, will have a productive season, but with no solid defensive-minded forwards, it’ll be hard to make it to the finals. Still, the return of Andrew Bynum from a serious knee injury will add depth to the roster that just may be able to push them all the way. Bynum’s return frees Bryant up on the defensive end.
The Cavaliers and the Celtics face off in the final game of the 2008 season finals.
The Cavaliers took second in the Central Division last year with a team full of players unfamiliar with each other. This season look for an improved and more efficient team. With the addition of point guard Maurice Williams, who averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 assists for Milwaukee last season, the Cavs have a decent shot at the finals, as long as LeBron James stays healthy.
The Pistons face the Pacers on Oct. 23, 2008.
The Pistons have always been a team to look at, but that rings true this season more than ever. Last season they made it to conference finals, but they dropped the series to the Celtics. General manager Joe Dumars has promised to shake things up and it looks like this season he’s serious. He fired coach Flip Saunders in the off-season and just last week made a big trade for Allen Iverson of the Nuggets. Iverson just may have the star power to ignite the Pistons, but Dumars gave up Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess in the trade, which just might backfire on him.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers face the Lakers.
Portland went 41-41 last season and failed to make it to playoffs. With some key additions to the roster, in guards Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless and forward Ike Diogu this team could shake up the West, or at least give some top teams a big scare. Also, don’t forget about Greg Oden, the supposed superstar who missed all of last season after micro fracture knee surgery. Oden started the season off with another injury, severely spraining his ankle in the team’s first game against LA. This injury puts him out for at least two weeks. If he can come back from serious surgery, live up to the hype surrounding him and just stay healthy he could give this team what it needs to make a push for the postseason. The Trail Blazers are definitely a team to keep your eye on.
A Season Littered with Injuries
Look for this season to be filled with injuries. Washington’s Gilbert Arenas is out until December recovering from his third knee surgery. San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, who sustained an ankle injury, won’t return until the end of November. Greg Oden is out with an ankle injury for at least two weeks, after spending all of last season recovering from micro fracture knee surgery. In an interesting twist for the Golden State Warriors, Monta Ellis will miss the first 30 games of the season after seriously injuring his ankle in a moped accident. After he tried to cover up the offseason injury he was suspended. Not only does he have to live with the embarrassment of somehow hurting himself on the lamest of all motor vehicles, but he loses $3 million from his contract and has to sit the first month of the season. Also, watch for Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson to miss at least some of the season with injuries. Both were plagued with injuries in the preseason.
Players to Watch
Josh Childress plays against the Boston Celtics on April 23, 2008.
It’s premature, and may seem a little silly, but it’s worth it to note that after this season Kobe Bryant can opt out of his contract and in 2010 big names like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Chris Bosh, Manu Ginobili, Steve Nash, Josh Howard and Dirk Nowitzki could all be free agents. Why is this important? The European leagues are supposedly ready to make big bids for these players.
Don’t believe it? Well, it’s already happening, Josh Childress left Atlanta last summer and signed with Greek club team Olympiacos. It’s rumored that the same team has considered offering Bryant a three-year, $60 million contract. Who wouldn’t take that kind of money? And the prospect of living in Europe is only an added bonus.
So, catch these players in the states while you still can, plane tickets to Europe aren’t cheap.
We're callin' it! Look for Cleveland and LA to battle it out for the coveted NBA Championship in 2009.
More Lakers and Trail Blazers Photos:
More Celtics and Cavaliers Photos: