After spending much of summer demanding a trade, Bryant is expected to be on the floor for the Lakers despite a wrist injury that kept him out of the team’s final exhibition contest.
NEW YORK After a summer spent expanding its global brand with exhibition games from Shanghai to Rome, the NBA opens a new season on Tuesday looking to win back home fans following a gambling scandal which rocked the sport to its core.
Garnett, who came to Boston in a blockbuster trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, joins Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in Beantown, instantly transforming the crumbling Celtics into championship contenders.
San Antonio will be part of the opening night action against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz take on the Golden State Warriors.
Over the last decade, none have been better at collecting championships than the San Antonio Spurs, who enter the new campaign seeking their fifth title in 10 years.
Stung by the failure, James dedicated himself to an off-season of intense training in his bid to guide the Cavaliers to the championship and secure his place among the game’s greats.
LeBron James is no stranger to the spotlight and is certain to be the focus of attention again after leading the Cavaliers to the NBA finals for the first time last year only to be swept in four games by the Spurs.
Since the Rockets made Yao the top selection in the 2002 NBA draft, the towering 7ft 6ins center has blossomed into one of the NBA’s most dominant players and one of world’s most recognizable athletes.
In Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal the Miami Heat still pack the NBA’s best one-two punch and if the two all-stars can stay healthy another championship could be headed to South Florida.
By Steve Keating
| NEW YORK
There appears, however, to be a new powerhouse taking shape in the Eastern Conference with 10-times all-star Kevin Garnett’s arrival in Boston.
The Phoenix Suns and their high-octane offence led by twice MVP Steve Nash, once again look the best in the West alongside the Spurs and Dallas Mavericks.
The aging Spurs will have a familiar look with 12 players back from last year’s squad, former league and playoff MVP Tim Duncan leading an all-star international cast that includes Frenchman Tony Parker and Argentine Manu Ginobili.
Referee Tim Donaghy’ admission he bet on games he officiated and passed on inside information to bookies has inflicted severe damage to the NBA’s credibility with the toll likely to mount as investigations continue.
While restoring integrity will be the NBA’s newest priority, the goal for the league’s 30 teams remains the same — winning a title.
The Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons also look ready to figure into the Eastern Conference battle.
NBA commissioner David Stern dismissed the incident as nothing more than a rogue employee but the league must now concentrate on regaining the confidence of American and Canadian fans instead of wooing interest abroad.
Yao, however, could be in for some stiff competition off the court following the arrival of compatriot Yi Jianlian, who has hogged the international spotlight since the Milwaukee Bucks took the seven-footer with the sixth overall selection in this year’s draft.
The night’s other matchup will see two of the league’s marketing dynamos clash when Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers host Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets.
Trade rumors have once again started to circulate, the Chicago Bulls reportedly making another bid for Bryant.