Whatever happens, however, between the new and old Big Three won't matter until they meet, I believe, again in May.
With that hint, my playoff predictions. Check back in, oh, eight months to see how I did:
(1) L.A. Lakers def. (8) Denver Nuggets: 4 games
(5) San Antonio Spurs def. (4) Utah Jazz: 6 games
(3) Dallas Mavericks def. (6) Phoenix Suns: 7 games
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder def. (7) Portland Trail Blazers: 5 games
(1) L.A. Lakers def. (5) San Antonio Spurs: 5 games
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder def. (3) Dallas Mavericks: 7 games
(1) L.A. Lakers def. (2) Oklahoma City Thunder: 7 games -- Remember last year? The Thunder dominated Games 3 and 4 to even the series, fell flat like most inexperienced teams would on the road in Game 5, then came a missed box-out away from taking Game 6. With that experience under their belt, they'll be much more scary on the road and better all around. New acquisition Matt Barnes, however, will do a good job of making Kevin Durant work for all his points, and L.A. will escape.
(1) Miami Heat def. (8) Detroit Pistons: 4 games
(4) Milwaukee Bucks def. (5) Chicago Bulls: 7 games
(3) Boston Celtics def. (6) Atlanta Hawks: 7 games
(2) Orlando Magic def. (7) Philadelphia 76ers: 4 games
(1) Miami Heat def. (4) Milwaukee Bucks: 5 games
(3) Boston Celtics def. (2) Orlando Magic: 6 games
(1) Miami Heat def. (3) Boston Celtics: 6 games -- It's tempting to pick against the team with the win-it-all-or-else expectations, but, c'mon. In the NBA, the best teams, the teams with the best players, usually win. And you can't make an argument that these Celtics are more talented than the Heat. Plus, there's the huge factor that LeBron will be playing with a chip on his shoulder and will be much, much better than he was in last season's six-game loss to the Celtics when his lone sidekick was Mo Williams. Enough said.
L.A. Lakers def. Miami Heat: 6 games -- Something tells me Kobe won't let his chance to be like M.J. and finish a second repeat slip through the cracks. He knows, we all know, this is probably the final year when his Lakers will be the favorites to take home the hardware, and he won't let the new guys on the block steal that opportunity. If everyone is healthy, the Lakers' size will give the Heat fits; Gasol will be his usual dominant self; and if Barnes plays smart defense -- read: no stupid fouls -- he should bother James and/or Wade just enough to help the Lakers send Phil Jackson in a pure state of Zen.