Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
On today’s very busy NBA slate, there are two nationally televised games. The first will be a battle of Western Conference powers as the Los Angeles Lakers travel to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder in a rematch of their epic first round playoff series from last year. The second game, which tips of later tonight on ESPN, pits the the new big three against the new new big three as the Miami Heat will take on the new look New York Knicks.
Thanks to a very active trade deadline for the the Thunder and Knicks, these teams look ready to enter into serious contention in their respective conferences. They may not be ready to win the title this season, but they have both made big time moves that have changed the framework of their franchies.
The Thunder traded away Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green to acquire burly center Kendrick Perkins. Though Perkins will miss 2-3 weeks as a precaution due to a leg injury that the Thunder want to be fully healed by the time he suits up, his addition to a Thunder ballclub that desperately needed toughness was key.
Oklahoma City ditched two soft players in Krstic and Green and got themselves one of the biggest enforcers in the league. One thing that most great teams have is an intimidator, someone that gets into the opponents’ heads simply because they have an edge to them. The Lakers have Ron Artest (and Kobe to some extent), the Celtics still have Kevin Garnett, and so on. Let’s face it, nobody is scared of Kevin Durant, so getting someone like Perkins to shove the opponent in the back a few times after the whistle and to really man the paint was one of the final moves that the Thunder needed to make before becoming serious title contenders.
Now Oklahoma City can go up against the Lakers with size and toughness that they didn’t have last season while also possessing a perfect player to attack the Lakers with in Russell Westbrook. If Kevin Durant could get over the hump and turn into a decent playoff performer, Lakers-Thunder could be a legitimate rivalry, with each side representing a completely opposite side of the spectrum. The Lakers - experience, championship bravado, a great sense of the moment, and celebrities – and the Thunder – youth, innocence, pride and blue collar workers.
The other new rivalry that we may have on our hands wouldn’t be all that new, really. The Knicks and Heat went head to head for four straight years in the late 90′s, with the Knicks winning three of the four meetings. But now there’s a new crop of players in town, with each squad being led by a trio of stars. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh have the clear advantage over the newly formed Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire triad and Miami’s supporting cast is also better but the Knicks always seem to rise to the occasion and with the added firepower that Anthony and Billups bring along, the up and down battles that these two clubs could end up having is an interesting prospect.
Of course, the Knicks’ past pace is actually built for a team like Miami, as the Heat are a more athletic group than New York, so what we could end up seeing is a bunch of Heat wins that, though exciting, will prevent these two teams from recreating the rivalry that the two franchises once had. Wade, James and Bosh have just as much scoring punch as Billups, Anthony and Stoudemire do all while forming the best defense in the league, while the Knicks have quite possibly the worst defense in the NBA.
We’ll see how things play out today before we know how exactly these two ballclubs will match-up but you have to admit that at least in terms of star power, this battle should be a fun one.