LeBron and Kobe will be focal points

Two of the biggest names in pro basketball the last seven years have been LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Both should make waves in this year’s playoffs for differing reasons.

After moving to Miami over the summer, LeBron has teamed up well with superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to lead the Heat to the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The side starts its playoff march on Saturday in game one of its first round series with the Philadelphia Sixers.

Miami should win that series handily. The bigger picture is how far the Heat can go in the postseason. In this reporter’s eyes the lack of solid big men and a true point guard will hurt LeBron in the second round. Assuming things go to script, that will mean LeBron falters and Miami falls short to the third seed Boston Celtics.

Boston should be fresh off what could be a thrashing of the sixth seed New York Knicks. Granted the Celtics have questions in their frontline with Kendrick Perkins gone and Shaquille O’Neal questionable at best. But Boston’s experience and craftiness will take them through a six/seven game series with the Heat and on to a Eastern Conference Finals match-up with the Chicago Bulls.

There is nothing about the Bulls to indicate they will lose their encounters with the eighth seed Indiana Pacers or the fourth seed Orlando Magic (who should get past the Atlanta Hawks in the first round). From there though they should have their hands full with Boston and although they are potent I see them just losing out to the Celtics in seven games.

Over in the Western Conference, the situation is iffy for Kobe and the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers. They are the third seed and face a Portland Trail Blazers side that is extremely talented. A path back to the NBA Finals would likely involve downing the second seed Dallas Mavericks (assuming they beat the seventh seed Memphis Grizzlies) and defeating the top seed San Antonio Spurs (assuming they defeat the eighth seed New Orleans Hornets and from there stop a fifth seed Denver Nuggets that should upset the fourth seed Oklahoma City Thunder).

The biggest reason why that path is anything but clear has nothing to do with Kobe. He has been playing solid and there are indications that he will excel in every playoff game. But the run to another title centres on the health of big man Andrew Bynum. Without him the Lakers could easily drop out before reaching the finals.