Columns & Blogs

Taking the court

If you're an NBA fan, today is your lucky day. The NBA regular season tips off with three games: Suns-Trail Blazers, Heat-Celtics and Rockets-Lakers.

The obvious question on ESPN commentators' lips: Will LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade bring a title back to South Beach or will they will implode under the weight of their own celebrity? In making the rounds online, I've seen a lot of fans saying they hope anyone but the Heat takes home the title. Finally, something on which Laker and non-Laker fans can agree.

But in looking at the Lakers' projected starters, one thing caught my eye: They all are at least 30. With age comes experience, and the Lakers are the two-time defending NBA champions, so they know how to win — and they likely will win again this season. But at some point, they will start to break down. (Kobe Bryant has been battling injuries all offseason.) Who will be there to take advantage when the breakdown begins?

Oklahoma City pushed the Lakers to six games in the first round of last season's playoffs, and all but two of its players are in their 20s. (Nick Collison turns 30 today, and Morris Peterson is 33.) Also, the Thunder has reigning NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, who is only 22. Oklahoma City will be a serious contender, though I don't believe it will reach the Finals. Give the Thunder one more season, then watch out.

Scott Brooks, whom I remember from Sacramento, was passed over a few times for the Kings' head-coaching job. He has done wonders with the Thunder, though he lucked out in the talent department with Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. An emerging Big Three, perhaps?

In the East, I expect Boston will win again because of the experience factor. The Celtics have been to the NBA Finals twice in the past three years, and they will be hungry after falling to the Lakers in the deciding game last season. The roster contains a who's who of top players from the past 10-15 years: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal. Plus, Rajon Rondo's star is rising. This will be it for the Celtics, however, with this current group of stars. Injuries have been an issue, and they will be again, even if the Celtics will fight through them to get back to the Finals.

My prediction: The Lakers complete the three-peat with another win over the Celtics. And then that might it for both teams for a while. Don't worry about them, though — they have plenty of championship trophies to admire.