The Sunshine State's two basketball powers, the perennial threat of the Orlando Magic and new superteam of the Miami Heat, will take center stage on Oct. 28, when the regular season opens to a national television audience on TNT. It's Florida's night to shine, and the other 49 states are just witnesses.
Does the league expect anyone in particular to feel slighted by all of this?
It appears to be a glaring omission that the league's two most storied franchises, each of which happened to appear in the NBA Finals just this June, are on the outside looking in at the league's opening night plans. LeBron James and Dwight Howard will take center stage when the NBA tips things off in October — but what about Kobe Bryant? What about Rajon Rondo?
What about the Celtics and Lakers?
It seems like that would be an obvious question at the league offices. The Celtics and Lakers have combined to win 33 of the first 64 championships in league history — they are the NBA. Regardless of the specific names and faces on the court, those are the two franchises that make the Association what it is today.
But when the teams are this good and this hyped, it only becomes more imperative for the Celtics and Lakers to take center stage. When Kobe is 31 and still in his prime, cranking out championships year after year, when Rondo is 24 and quickly growing into one of the NBA's best point guards, when the Celtics' Big Three is still alive and kicking, and when Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have realized their full potential, now more than ever is the right time to give these two teams the spotlight.
In June, they shared it for seven unforgettable games. That series reminded America of the beauty of great basketball.
Why can't we rekindle that old flame once more?
Here's a proposal that may work for all parties involved: Let's package the Orlando-Miami game into a season-opening doubleheader, with Celtics-Lakers as the nightcap. Everyone wins — except of course for two elite teams that will end up starting their seasons 0-1.
Start off the night with Heat-Magic at 8 p.m. EST, letting the two Florida powerhouses duke it out in front of 18,500 strong at Orlando's new Amway Center. Then at 10:30 in the East and 7:30 out West, we'll have our rematch of Game 7 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It's the best of both worlds.
There's a place for both rivalries in the fibers of today's NBA. The Florida matchup is the new-school rivalry: The Magic are the perennial Eastern Conference contenders, led by two homegrown talents in 2004 draftees Howard and Jameer Nelson, and the Heat are the new menace of the NBA, led by nine-figure mercenaries in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Celtics and Lakers have an old-school animosity for one another. It's a rivalry that respects the game's history and its tradition. Elgin Baylor had Bob Cousy as a thorn in his side; Jerry West had Bill Russell. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar had Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. Now Kobe and Pau have Rondo and the Celtics' veteran Big Three. This rivalry goes way back. It's nearly as old as the game itself.
And in the game today, there's room for both. So why can't we see both on opening night?
It's up to the league offices to make it happen.