LeBron James and the Miami Heat have their sights on a “threepeat” as the NBA season tips off today, but Derrick Rose’s Chicago and free-spending Brooklyn have other ideas.
“King” James and the Heat are trying to become just the third team of the modern era to win three straight titles, a feat accomplished by the Los Angeles Lakers of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan — who did it twice from 1991 to 1993 and 1996 to 1998.
The Heat captured their second straight title in an NBA Finals thriller over San Antonio in June.
Along the way to the title they put together an astonishing 27-game regular-season winning streak and James was a near-unanimous choice for a second straight Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.
However, the Bulls, with former NBA MVP Rose back in action after missing all of last season rehabbing a knee injury, have designs on the Eastern Conference title.
The Brooklyn Nets have also armed themselves for battle in the East, thanks to the deep pockets of Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
The Nets brought in future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the Boston Celtics to join All-Stars Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. Another future Hall of Famer, Jason Kidd, is the big question mark in Brooklyn.
Kidd was tapped as head coach of the Nets shortly after announcing his retirement as a point guard with the New York Knicks.
While Kidd is unquestionably coaching material, it remains to be seen if his inexperience costs the Nets.
“Championship teams are built on being prepared, playing unselfishly and being held accountable, and that’s how I expect to coach this basketball team,” Kidd said.
The tension in the East was evident even before the season began when James and teammate Dwyane Wade implied it was hypocritical of Garnett and Pierce to make a move from Boston when they had criticized former teammate Ray Allen for departing for Miami last year.
“Tell LeBron to worry about Miami,” was the crisp reply from Garnett that promised an extra edge to the Nets-Heat rivalry this season.
The pre-season pot-shots at Miami have not been limited to the East. Kevin Durant, whose Oklahoma City Thunder were beaten in last year’s NBA Finals by Miami, said it was time for an aging Wade to “pass the torch.”
Durant’s assessment that Wade could no longer be considered one of the league’s top 10 players sparked a Twitter feud in which Wade posted a reminder to himself: “Make him respect your place in history ... again.”
It is certainly possible that Wade could get that chance in the NBA Finals.