- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Someone in the NBA office has a cruel sense of humor. Either that or the schedule-maker discovered a problem very late in the process and devised a quick-fix solution that sticks out like a polka-dot basketball.

The season tipped-off Tuesday with just three games on the schedule. You’ll never have an easier answer for a “What’s-wrong-with-this-picture?” question.

Two games formed a TNT doubleheader, with the defending champion Miami Heat facing the Boston Celtics in the early contest. The nightcap featured the Los Angeles Lakers — favorites to win the Western Conference — against the Dallas Mavericks. Those four teams combined have captured six of the past seven NBA titles.

The only other game on the calendar pitted the Washington Wizards against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Those teams combined have won one NBA title in the past 60 years.

Way to rub it in, NBA, though I’m sure the country thanks you for restricting Wiz-Cavs to local TV only.

At least Washington and Cleveland each get a star turn this season, though just one. That’s better exposure than the Charlotte Bobcats, Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors will receive as the only teams left off the national TV schedule.

If you didn’t already know that the Heat and Lakers are favorites to meet in the NBA Finals next summer, their 25 national appearances apiece across ABC, TNT and ESPN might have give you a clue. But the system isn’t foolproof — the New York Knicks also get 25 airings on the big stage. So does the Oklahoma City Thunder, whose title aspirations took a hit Saturday night when it traded James Harden.

Much has been written about the Thunder’s apparent step back after reaching the Finals last season. Yes, OKC’s chances of returning and winning definitely would be better with Harden still on the roster. But the Lakers figured to be a formidable obstacle, regardless, with the addition of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. And LeBron “I want to be the best of all-time” James feels like he’s just getting started, which could make a hard road for whoever wins the West.

Winning everything is exceedingly difficult for all but a handful of franchises. Miami seems well-positioned to win its third championship and move into a tie with the Pistons, 76ers and Warriors for the fifth-most titles. James still is a long shot to match Michael Jordan’s six rings, and Tim Duncan’s four is no sure thing, either.

“At the end of the day,” James told The Associated Press, “there’s still going to be people that say, ‘Well, he’s not going to be able to win two. He’s not going to be able to do it again.’”

I like his chances to do it again as coach Eric Spoelstra expands Miami’s “position-less” approach. We’ve seen point guards and point forwards before, but James has morphed into a “point power forward,” capitalizing on his unique blend of size, strength and playmaking ability. With a bevy of interchangeable players adept at posting, handling, screening, shooting and cutting, Miami’s game should be a beauty to behold.

While LeBron chases Duncan and MJ, the Lakers look to catch Boston. The Celtics are unlikely to contend this season, but they remain the NBA’s gold standard with 17 banners. However, the Lakers are just one title shy of pulling into a tie, which would highlight the absurd gap between them and every other team.

The Celtics and Lakers are so far ahead of every other franchise it’s almost inconceivable. They have won 33 NBA championships combined.

Guess how many championships all the other franchises have won. That’s right, 33.

Chris Paul’s trade to the Lakers was disallowed by the league last year, but Los Angeles landed in the same dominant position this year when it acquired Howard. He can help Kobe Bryant contend as he eases toward retirement and help the Lakers remain in contention for the next decade.

The Celtics are on the downswing with the departure of Ray Allen and the aging of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but they’re still a popular draw, scheduled to appear in 19 national games. But they’re not as attractive as the once-moribund Los Angeles Clippers whose 23 national appearances place them second behind the Heat, Lakers, Thunder and Knicks.

As for the Wizards, we understand they’re not eye-candy for TV executives. In Washington’s lone ESPN game, the matchup is against the equally-unsexy Detroit Pistons. It’s probably best for everyone involved that the Wizards be kept undercover.

But prime time has begun for the NBA, extras and leading roles alike.

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