The heat is on Miami

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:30 PM ET

Not since the days of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen has the NBA featured a dynamic duo as dominant as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

When sufficiently motivated, both James and Wade can get off whatever shot they want, can stop any opponent from scoring and will always draw an extra defender when a game needs to be won.

From the opening tap to the regular season to the final buzzer when a champion gets crowned, it's going to be difficult to avoid the labour issue that hangs over the NBA much like M.J. would hang in the air in suspended animation when attacking the rim.

The posturing, the gamesmanship, the clash of egos, it's of little significance as the league begins to usher in one of the most anticipated seasons in recent history.

If the league is to shut down operations next season, then shame on it and its players' association, or at worse go with a lockout-shortened season, which isn't unprecedented, if cooler heads don't prevail.

Money and politics aside, the focus will be on basketball on most nights and for most of the season because of the presence of a three-headed monster that surfaced in Miami.

The Heat, dare we say, is on.

No sports franchise has a marquee billing quite like Miami.

No team has a third option quite like Chris Bosh, but there are no guarantees of a championship parade in South Beach, not with Flash nursing a tender hamstring and with so much talent-laden teams residing in the East.

Once LeBron, Wade and Bosh find a rhythm, find Miami's bigs find a way to protect the paint and once the Heat's supporting cast steps up when given open looks, which will be presented, watch out.

The measuring stick for NBA excellence is the 1995 Bulls, a team that won a league-record 72 games, led the league in scoring (105.2 ppg) and yielded the third fewest points (92.9).

The Bulls of M.J., Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper, Horace Grant, Luc Longley and Steve Kerr would win 18 games in a row, lost but twice at home and would post a league-record 33 road wins.

"Those were very unique circumstances with Michael Jordan coming back after his return from baseball,'' said Kerr, who returns as a TV analyst this season. "He was so motivated and it seems like he won about 10 games on his own.

"He had such an incredible edge. I do think LeBron will have an edge this year based on a lot of the criticism that he's received. I think they are going to win a ton of games, they are too talented not to. But there are so many variables and so many things that can go wrong ... With that talent, I'd be shocked if (the Heat) didn't win 60-plus and have the best record in the East going into the playoffs."

The Heat's star power immediately makes it the most attractive draw, surpassing the Lakers, whose potential repeat has suddenly gotten lost, almost forgotten.

With that in mind, here are five storyline worth watching this season.

1. Will the Heat win a championship and topple the Bulls' 72-10 record?

No to both.

Give this team one season and the addition of a true big and Miami will go on a championship run not seen since the 1960 Celtics.

Obviously, injuries can't be predicted, but Miami has too much talent.

It will all be based on defence and interior play.

2. Is Kobe Bryant still the man? Yes.

Older and coming off knee surgery, Bryant isn't likely to post huge numbers during the regular season, but he lives for the playoffs and the chance to join Jordan as a six-time champion serves as motivation.

3. Will the Lakers three-peat?

Yes.

Kobe's presence, the emergence of Ron Artest as a proven playoff performer and the Lakers' frontcourt length and depth make the Lakers the team to beat.

4. When will Carmelo Anthony be traded?

In all likelihood, before the February deadline.

Melo hasn't signed an extension and the Nuggets can't afford to lose him for nothing, unless one considers a trade exception as something, which is what the Raptors essentially got for Bosh

5. Will Kevin Durant win league MVP? Yes.

O.K. City is a team on the rise and no player is rising quicker than Durant.

Once this kid learns how to master the mental aspect of playing, the sky's the limit.

LeBron, a two-time MVP, will now have to play second fiddle to Wade.

Dwight Howard has a chance to cop the award on an Orlando team that is championship worthy.


Videos

Photos