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NBA TIP-OFF; KING TO L.A., GOLDEN DYNASTY LOOMS

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NBA TIP-OFF; KING TO L.A., GOLDEN DYNASTY LOOMS

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) in a game against the Denver Nuggets in the first half on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) in a game against the Denver Nuggets in the first half on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) in a game against the Denver Nuggets in the first half on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) in a game against the Denver Nuggets in the first half on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Patrick McColl, Staff Writer

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A new fall means a new NBA season, and with yet again plenty of movement amongst the stars and well known players in the league, many are looking forward to an interesting season.

The biggest move this offseason was by perhaps the most popular player, LeBron James. LeBron has moved on from his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and has decided to sport the purple and gold in Los Angeles for the Lakers. LeBron signed a record breaking deal back in early July with L.A., a 4-year, $154 million contract to come to the team during free agency.

As with any team that LeBron has been to, there are high expectations. LeBron is expected to lead his team to a playoff spot, teach the younger players on the team, and help attract new stars to L.A., and eventually, bring an NBA Championship. President of Basketball Operations Erving Magic Johnson was a big part of the pitch to bring LeBron to L.A., but is still under pressure to lure other big name stars to the Lakers.

“We’ll have enough room for next summer to give another player a max deal. [General manager] Rob [Pelinka] and I, we already put the strategy together. LeBron, of course, changed some of that, but we’re still going to stay disciplined and hope we’ll be a team that can have a championship run for a long time.” Magic said in a press conference back in July after the LeBron signing.

Even with the expectations as they are, there is a mutual conception that the process in not yet done.

“We are focused on this season. We feel we are gonna have a really good season, and then we know next season we’re gonna have cap space for another player,” Magic said in an interview with ESPN’s First Take.

The Lakers are interesting but make no mistake not the favorite. As of right now, the Golden State Warriors are the odds-on favorite to win the NBA championship again this season, with 1:2 odds or similar from Las Vegas sportsbooks. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green have been the four all-stars leading the team the past two seasons to championships, and with the addition of all-star center Demarcus Cousins, the Warriors are looking even stronger.

Their foes in last year’s conference finals, the Houston Rockets, might be the Warriors biggest threat in the West, coming off a 65 win season. Houston has lost key defensive players like Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, however, and will have to hope that aging star Carmelo Anthony fits very well with the team to get back to their dominance last year. With LeBron on the Lakers, they are some’s pick to get to the Conference Finals, but are still going to have to prove themselves against the tough competition out West. The rest of the Western Conference contains good solid teams with dynamic all-stars which makes the conference so tough. Teams like the Spurs, Jazz, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Thunder, and Trailblazers.

In an Eastern Conference with no LeBron, the Boston Celtics are favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals after a trip to last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. They return this year with their all-stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back from injury, and a young core featuring Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier. Even with the odds stacked against them, Kyrie is still confident.

“Can we beat Golden State in a seven-game series? Yes.” Kyrie Irving said in an interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.

The rest of the East shows some promise this year, though. Mainly from teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Toronto Raptors. Philly’s Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have brought a lot of expectations and won 52 games last season, but still seem to lack behind the Celtics overall talent level and core system. Milwaukee has had success with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo a.k.a. the Greek Freak, but still don’t have any other true stars, and up against powerhouse teams they often just aren’t good enough.

Up North, the Raptors are likely the biggest threat to the Celtics in the East. With a 59 win season last year, the Raptors added a 2-time defensive player of the year and superstar Kawhi Leonard to the squad. Star guard Kyle Lowry should fit nice along Kawhi, and the Raptors are returning with some solid players like Jonas Valančiūnas and Serge Ibaka. If the Raptors are going to beat the Celtics, however, then it will likely be because of a monster performance from Kawhi Leonard.

Nonetheless, with a new NBA season among us, there are new questions to be asked. How will LeBron play in the West? Can the Celtics be good enough to beat the Warriors? Will the Rockets be as good as last year? Nobody knows for certain, but in a short eight months, June will bring the NBA Finals, and we will likely be looking at another Golden State title.

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NBA TIP-OFF; KING TO L.A., GOLDEN DYNASTY LOOMS