Lakers expect to stifle Rockets

The long awaited NBA season gets
under way on Tuesday and a pair of matches take place from 6.30pm Cayman time
on TNT that have basketball fans in Cayman buzzing.

First up are the new-look Miami
Heat taking on the Boston Celtics. From there comes the Los Angeles Lakers
facing the Houston Rockets. Both are match-ups from last year’s playoffs with
the Lakers also taking the opportunity to hold its championship ceremony.

The majority of NBA followers in
Cayman see a good start for the Celtics and Lakers. Among them is arguably
Cayman’s best local coach Duran ‘Trini’ Whittaker. The Windsor Park native is
fresh off of claiming his second consecutive national men’s title with the
Wolves basketball club and states the Celtics and Lakers should win.

“Tuesday’s match depends on the
health of Dwayne Wade’s hamstring,” Whittaker said. “In transition the Heat are
unstoppable. Even though Miami have the second-best player in the world in
LeBron James, Boston should win. With Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal (not
related) in the paint I’m picking the Celtics to win by three.

“I’m a proud Laker hater and I hope
Kobe Bryant drops off in form a bit. I hate the fact that he’s so good but I
must say he’s a beast and that should be
clear on Tuesday.”

Another local who expects similar
results is Ian Charlery. A prominent racer in last year’s local Time Attack
autocross series, Charlery is quite a adamant sports fans. The George Town
native readily pledges his allegiance to the Lakers though and states Tuesday
is the start of many wins to come.

“You done know I’m a Lakers fan,”
Charlery said. “I’ve watched every preseason game already, that’s how serious I
am. They didn’t get worst, they got better. Buy your Kobe jersey from now,
don’t wait until the NBA Finals. The Lakers are going to take it on Tuesday.

“As far as the Celtics and Heat
that is going to be a nice game. (Rajon) Rondo will handle his business and the
big three of (Ray) Allen, (Paul) Pierce and (Kevin) Garnett are
well-experienced. Boston has been together awhile, unlike the Heat, so they
know how to prepare as a team. The Celtics will win, I say by five or seven,
and will bring a lot of questions on ESPN.”

In regards to who will win the NBA
title this season both Whittaker and Charlery have differing opinions.
Whittaker, who coaches the Wolves in the Appleby Under-19 Basketball League
this week, states his Celtics will be the team to beat.

“I support the Celtics and I’m a
big Garnett fan. In fact I named our basketball club the Wolves because he used
to play for the (Minnesota) Timberwolves. Is a Lakers three-peat possible? It
is with the best player in the league in Kobe. But you can’t count out Boston
and I’m picking the Celtics this year to win. If Miami plays defence then it
can win but it will be hard for any team to get into the paint with Shaq, Glen
“Big Baby” Davis and company. Like a lot of people, I’m looking forward to this
season. It feels like years ago when the Big Three came to Boston.”

Charlery, who is involved in drag
racing now behind the wheel of his blue Subaru Impreza Sti, points to the
improved emphasis on defence as the biggest reason why his Lakers will deliver
a championship.

“I feel really good about this
season. We didn’t have a good bench and now we have a decent one. I’m just
hoping Steve Blake can shine and do better than Jordan Farmar. The Lakers are a
better team this year; (Ron) Artest lost 20lbs, (Matt) Barnes is there and is a
good defender and (Sasha) Vujacic is an under-rated defender. The Oklahoma City
Thunder may be a team to watch with Kevin Durant starring for them. But it’s
all about defence and the Lakers are going to win again. It’s going to happen
and Kobe will get his sixth ring.”

Outside of the sports community,
other members of the Cayman public prefer the Lakers to repeat as well. Among
them is local politician Dwayne ‘John John’ Seymour. In spite of the legal
trouble he’s currently facing Seymour did say in passing that he and other
government ministers support the purple and gold.

“I follow the NBA very keenly,”
Seymour said. “In fact the Hon. Minister of Youth and Sports Mark Scotland and
myself are both avid Lakers supporters. I’m a big Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson
fan. But you know Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman were my favourites.”

One area that both Whittaker and
Charlery can agree on is that the Boston Celtics are the best side in the East.
In spite of the Heat sporting a trio of stars the consensus is that the
original Big Three will square off with the Lakers again in the finals. Charlery’s
one caveat is that the Orlando Magic could surprise everyone.

“Don’t put the Heat in the finals
just yet. People are sleeping on Boston and Orlando. You have to watch out for
(Dwight) Howard, who is developing a jumper. The Celtics are much improved with
not just one but two O’Neals. If Carmelo (Anthony) goes to the (New York)
Knicks then they can make some noise.

“The Celtics are the best team,
hands-down, in the East. I like the fact that they used the excuse that they
lost Kendrick Perkins for last year’s Finals loss. At this point I think the
Heat might come second to Boston and then the Magic.”

One of the biggest debates among
NBA circles now is in regards to who the best player is in the league. Numerous
stars are in the discussion like Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Yet most arguments centre on Kobe, who has five championships to his name, and
LeBron, who is a two-time league MVP. Interestingly both Whittaker and Charlery
agree Bryant is better. Whittaker points to Kobe’s achievements as the deciding
factor.

“First of all let me be clear. Kobe
gets my respect, I don’t hate him just the Lakers. I hated the Lakers from the
late 80s, from time I was a kid, when Magic took on Bird. Kobe’s up there with
Michael Jordan as one of the greatest players ever. He scored 81 points in a
game, he’s won a bunch of titles and LeBron, for all intensive purposes, hasn’t
won anything.

“Mind you I’m rooting for LeBron
because all of the heat he took for leaving Cleveland. I could see how most
people would have dogged him if he left for more money. But he didn’t do that.
He left $20 million on the table in Cleveland. LeBron put the whole state of
Ohio on the map in my opinion so he deserves more respect. I don’t understand the
hatred out there for him.”

Charlery states the only reason why
there is a discussion about the subject is because LeBron is being billed as
the face of the NBA.

“It shouldn’t even be an argument.
The only reason it is I feel is because Kobe is portrayed as the villain while
LeBron is the hero of the league. On the court you cannot compare the two.
LeBron can’t really shoot the ball like Kobe. LeBron doesn’t have the post-up
game or footwork Kobe has. Heck I’d say (Miami team-mate Dwayne) Wade is a better
player than LeBron.”