The 2013-14 NBA season is finally upon us and it’s hard to recall any in recent memory that have so many sub-plots and stories gestating from coast to coast. Usually the spotlight shines on a few teams who are deemed favorites at this time of year, but this season is different.
It seems that everywhere you look, there’s a team (or player) with a point to prove in the 2013-14 campaign:
In South Beach LeBron James and company want to prove they can join the all-time greats by winning a third straight title for the Miami Heat. After all, when you say three-peat, you think of the Shaq/Kobe LA Lakers and the Jordan/Pippen Chicago Bulls. Make no mistake that James is yearning to join that elite list and seems to have the team to deliver.
Derrick Rose of the Bulls is keen to show he is back to his best after missing all of last season with an injured knee. The NBA's 2011 MVP is convinced he is more explosive now and Chicago fans can only hope he’s right if they want their team to challenge Miami in the Eastern Conference (a geographical separation of the teams broadly according to their proximity to either coast).
The plucky Indiana Pacers pushed the Heat to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference Finals, so this season is all about demonstrating they have the class to challenge again. They get an instant boost with former All-Star Danny Granger set to return after injury forced him to miss all but five games last season.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are eager to declare they're not too old to help Brooklyn back into the big time. The veteran All-Stars were involved in one of the surprise moves this offseason as they were traded from the Boston Celtics to the Nets.
Moving west, and the San Antonio Spurs want to prove they’re more than capable of getting back to the Finals after coming agonizingly close to the title back in June. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili may be 37 and 36 respectively, but Tony Parker is in his prime and 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard is an emerging star and the steady coaching of Gregg Popovich is a valuable asset too often underplayed.
Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City are out to attest Russell Westbrook’s injury early in the playoffs was the only reason it was the Spurs and not them battling Miami in the Finals. Arguably the NBA’s best duo will be back in action when Westbrook makes his return to the Thunder in the next few months and eases the pressure on Durant.
Dwight Howard feels he made the right choice in leaving the Lakers for the Rockets. The big man will be hoping to thrive in Houston and can become a crowd favorite in what is his third team in the past 14 months. The jury remains out at the moment.
Howard’s former teammate Kobe Bryant is expected to return from last season’s devastating Achilles injury, hoping to lead the Lakers into the playoffs in what is a loaded Western Conference. This would surely be a major accomplishment for the five-time champion given the context and the relative strength of city rivals the Clippers.
New coach Doc Rivers took another step in reminding who’s the town's top dog when he vowed to cover the Lakers’ championship banners during Clippers games - the two teams share the same arena.
Any way you slice it, there’s plenty of intrigue coming from all corners of the league. Whether the Miami Heat claim another title or King James is dethroned at season’s end, the point is that it’s a great time to be an NBA fan. Time to sit back and enjoy one of the world's greatest sport franchise rolling again!