Without a lockout threatening another nuclear winter, the NBA season kicked off on time for a full 82-game season.
Although the league remains top-heavy heading into the 2012 season, the key contenders have all made some offseason changes.
The Miami Heat won the championship last year, but they still have a long way to go before realizing LeBron James’ declaration of the Heat winning “not four, not five, not six…” rings after he joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Now, they will enter the new year stronger than ever after stealing sharpshooter Ray Allen from their rival, the Boston Celtics. In addition to Allen, the Heat also added veteran and former Seattle Sonic Rashard Lewis to bolster their bench.
Miami weakened their main competition in the Eastern Conference by poaching Allen, but the Celtics replaced him with Jason Terry, who helped the Dallas Mavericks top Miami in the 2010 NBA Finals.
Despite falling short in the Finals last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked poised to begin a potential dynasty, but they broke up part of their young core for financial purposes. Shooting guard James Harden, the glue behind superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that kept the inexperienced squad together, was shipped to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb.
While the San Antonio Spurs aging squad will try to muster one last run at a title, the Los Angeles Lakers retooled their club to help Kobe Bryant chase his sixth ring. The Lakers acquired point guard Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns and landed star center Dwight Howard, all without trading Pau Gasol. They struggled in their first game together on Friday night, losing 99-91 to the Dallas Mavericks, who played without star power forward Dirk Nowitzki.
Due to Hurricane Sandy, the Brooklyn Nets’ long-awaited debut in the Barclays Center will have to wait. The Nets were scheduled to start their season against the New York Knicks, but a make-up date has not yet been determined for the unveiling of a potential rivalry between the New York teams.
Fans of both squads may not recognize their teams. The Nets, equipped with new black and white uniforms, will begin a fresh slate with star point guard Deron Williams, who was re-signed during the offseason. To accompany Williams in the backcourt, Brooklyn acquired Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks.
The Knicks might need to stock up on walking chairs after their offseason acquisitions. In an effort to put the Mike D’Antoni era behind and rebuild their defense, they added big men Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, who helped the Knicks win the East in 1999.
Still wanting to get older, the Knicks signed 39-year-old Jason Kidd, who rejuvenated the Nets franchise in the early 2000’s, and 38-year-old Rasheed Wallace.
A year after becoming the darling of the NBA, Jeremy Lin signed an offer sheet with the Rockets that New York failed to match. To replace Lin at point guard, the Knicks acquired Kidd and Raymond Felton, who played in New York during 2010 before they traded him in the Carmelo Anthony deal.
The Knicks will now start their season on Friday night against the Heat while the Nets open their new arena on Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors.