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ISSUE 118 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/5/2004

The new-look NBA?

By Peter Gloviczki
Opinion Editor

Friday, November 5, 2004

After winning the NBA title in 2003-2004, the Detroit Pistons are out to prove, yet again, that defense really does win championships. Last year's Pistons employed a scrappy and aggressive style of play to overcome the offensive-minded Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. In a league known for the high-flying dunks of Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter, as well as the smooth shooting of Peja Stojakovic and Steve Nash, the fact that the Pistons used their defense to secure the championship is quite remarkable.

With their performance this season, the Pistons plan to demonstrate that defense is the key to NBA success. Their forthcoming campaign, however, will not be without its challenges because the upcoming NBA season promises to bring with it a new level of competition.

Within the Eastern Conference, the Pistons will have to fend off the charging Miami Heat, who recently obtained superstar center Shaquille O'Neal from the Lakers. While defensive-minded teams like the Pistons generally rule in the East, the resurgent Heat are poised to challenge that norm. O'Neal gives the Heat a perennial scorer who is not shy about demanding the basketball. For Miami players and fans, as well as the league at large, O'Neal could threaten the existing balance of power in the NBA  in which Western Conference teams, such as the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves, are known as the league's offensive powerhouses, while Eastern Conference teams like the Pistons generally win with their defensive prowess.

While the young season has just begun, the league is alive with speculation about how this campaign will shape up, and who will assert themselves as the NBA's best. At the top of this list, we find O'Neal and his Miami teammates.

Although we have yet to see if the Pistons will be able to rekindle their defensive dominance, or if the high-scoring O'Neal will be able to place his new team among the NBA's major offensive threats, the upcoming season has the potential to be remembered as the finest since Michael Jordan left the game. Jordan redefined the game with his athletic skill and overall presence on the basketball court. He served as the catalyst for what became one of basketball's finest dynasties, winning six NBA titles throughout the 1990s. When Jordan was on the court, it seemed that anything was possible for the Bulls.

During the height of his career, millions of kids, myself included, donned our #23 jerseys and Air Jordan sneakers, as we sought -- if only for a moment -- to imagine what it was like to be Michael Jordan.

This season, when O'Neal takes the court for the Heat, many in Miami are hoping that another dynasty will be born.

With this in mind, the question becomes: Can O'Neal do for the Heat what Jordan did for the Bulls? Can the Heat's rejuvenated offense triumph against the league's strong defensive teams, such as the defending champion Pistons? It may still be too soon to know, but as this NBA season unfolds all eyes are on Miami.

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