Posted by Sekou Smith
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – A quick rundown of the favorites to win the NBA title this season includes the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers from the Western Conference and the complete team makeover Miami Heat from the Eastern Conference, with several others considered contenders but not necessarily favorites.
It might be time to tinker with that list now that the Boston Celtics are on the verge of clearing up the only remaining hole on their roster. The addition of the league’s only active O’Neals (Jermaine O’Neal was added weeks ago and Shaquille O’Neal could have his deal completed as early as today) pushes the Celtics right back into the thick of the chase.
The Heat no doubt boast one of the best superstar trios in the league in Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. And the Lakers are obviously stacked with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom leading the charge.
The Celtics still have the original Big 3 — and despite evidence to the contrary early on in the 2010 NBA Finals, Kevin Garnett still has plenty of game left. But it’s not just the addition of Shaq that puts the Celtics in a great place. It’s the sum of their summer activity (Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and the underrated Nate Robinson kept in the fold, the quality draft night additions of Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody and the all-important Doc Rivers coming back for another season, etc.) that keeps them around the top spot in the East.
And thanks to the schedule-makers, we won’t have to wait long to see how the Heat and Celtics match up since the Heat will open against the defending Eastern Conference champ Celtics in Boston on TNT Oct. 26. (The Lakers and Rockets will handle the nightcap on TNT on opening night.)
Go ahead and circle the date now, because it’s entirely possible that we will get an Eastern Conference finals preview on opening night, though we’re sure Orlando and Chicago expect to have a say in who makes it that far.
As star-studded as the Heat crew is, it’s hard to fathom a more complete team (when healthy) than the Celtics. Their collective experience and the shared championship experiences gives them an edge that only the Lakers can match, in terms of seasoned veterans with championship experience (and the Celtics actually might have the edge there).
If their aging legs hold up and the chemistry is right, we might need to make room for the Celtics in the VIP section of Club NBA this season.