By Jordon Hall
1. Heat vs. Bulls:
The rivalry goes back to the 1990s when Pat Riley defected from the New York Knicks and joined Alonzo Mourning in Miami to take on the dynasty of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Fast-forward about 15-years later and it’s maybe the most heated rivalry in the NBA today. Both teams have arguably the two best players in the NBA; LeBron James and Derrick Rose. The two-time NBA and Finals MVP against the only player not named James to win an NBA MVP since 2008. Both are without a doubt two of the most explosive players in the NBA today.
Dwyane Wade, the Chicago native, is not afraid to get rough with the Bulls. Joakim Noah has stated many times he hates the Heat more than any one man on the planet. Carlos Boozer, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Luol Deng, Nazr Mohammed and Chris Bosh have all gotten physical in the rivalry since it started three years ago when “ The Big 3” came together. These teams play four times and then more in the playoffs.
2. Heat vs. Nets
When Miami’s “Big 3” started, it ticked off the Celtics’ “Big 3” because Boston coined the term first and also never liked James and Wade.
To be honest, Miami has owned the Celtics the past three seasons. The teams met twice in the playoffs and the Heat came won both series (including an epic seven-game series in 2012). Yet, Garnett and Pierce still believed they could take the Heat, so when they were getting prepared for their final run at the Heat what happens? Garnett and Pierce’s third member of their “Big 3” went to Miami.
Ray Allen went to Miami and the Heat won the championship for a second straight time. Now Pierce and Garnett have moved on to Brooklyn and the rivalry lives. James has stated this summer that Pierce is his biggest rival. James also stated that Pierce and Garnett are hypocrites for how they treated Ray Allen for leaving Boston (Remember how Garnett didn’t shake his hand and Pierce said he “deleted him from his contacts”?).
Remember this rivalry dates back to when the Celtics “Big 3” came together in 2008 and knocked off James’s Cavs and Wade’s Heat numerous times. Then LeBron and Wade came together and the worm turned. Now with Allen in the mix, lets not forget Jason Terry, who has no love lost for Wade and LeBron. This rivalry is just fun to watch.
3. Dwight Howard vs. the Los Angeles Lakers
Dwight Howard went to Houston and accepted less money to be there. That should tell you how horrible last year was for Howard and the Lakers.
So much hype was in Los Angeles last year when Howard joined Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. People were saying they had the team that could beat the Heat in the finals. They instead wound up as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Beginning with the firing of head coach Mike Brown in the fifth game of the season, nearly everything went wrong: Steve Nash injuring his leg in the second game of the season, the front office being inches away from signing 11-time championship-winning coach Phil Jackson, it goes on and on. Jim Buss decided to hire Mike D’Antoni because of in-house bad blood. Then Howard and Bryant did not get along at all.
Then the ultimate tragedy happened — Bryant tore his Achilles. The Spurs swept Howard and the Lakers out of the playoffs, and Howard was ejected in Game Four. The boos from the fans followed him all the way into the locker room while Bryant received a standing ovation.
Kobe will most likely miss the first meeting in Houston. So it comes down to Feb. 19 in L.A. Let’s not forget Bryant unfollowed Howard on twitter. If that doesn’t sound personal to you, I don’t know what does.
4. Clippers vs. Grizzlies
These teams have met in the playoffs for the past two seasons with both winning one series. Doc Rivers come on as head coach for L.A.’s “other team”, and along with additions of J.J Reddick and Jared Dudley, the Clippers may be able to shoot the lights out. Led by last year’s All-Star MVP Chris Paul, the Clips have one goal: a championship.
Dave Joerger is in his first season coaching the Grizzlies, which may slow down the team’s progress at first. But lately, when these teams meet it goes down to the wire.
5. Knicks vs. Nets
It’s the battle for New York. Brooklyn got loaded this year with additions of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko. Combined with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, the Nets have a star-studded lineup. Brooklyn has been trying to claim New York ever since acquiring Williams two years ago, but Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Knicks say other wise. With a sad quick exit from the playoffs last year the Knicks are looking for revenge.
Brooklyn is loaded and has a two-year window to win it all.
6. Pacers vs. Heat
These two teams just do not like each other. The Heat has beaten the Pacers in both of their encounters in the playoffs the last two seasons, but the Pacers did have the Heat on the ropes both times. It took Hall of Fame performances from James and Wade for the Heat to sneak into the NBA Finals. This year the Pacers are finally looking for the knock out punch.
The two teams get physical—ask Tyler Hansbrough and “Birdman” that. Who could forget Paul George’s memorable dunk over the Heat, and Roy Hibbert playing like an old school, 1980s center?
7. Spurs vs. Heat
Do I even need to say anything else? Do you remember their epic seven-game series? Ray Allen’s historic last second shot to save the championship? Tony Parker’s game winning Game One shot? Don’t be surprised to see these two play once again in June.
8. Battle of Los Angeles
I was originally not going to have these teams on here since we know:
A.) Kobe is the king of L.A until he retires.
B.) The Clippers will be the better team until the Lakers do some serious overhaul.
So why put this on here? The Clippers covering the Lakers championship banners with ‘selfies’ at home games.
To Laker Nation, and Kobe Bryant especially, that is personal. It’s the last thing the Lakers have to hold on to for the time being. The Clippers have been acting like L.A. is their town. Until Kobe retires and the Lakers decide to become a mediocre team, which they have never been, the Clippers have to prove to the Lakers and the world that L.A. is their town.
9. Durant vs. LeBron
The two most popular players will always be rivalry. With Kobe being out for the time being, Durant takes the keys as the second most popular player. These two have been getting mentioned as the Larry Bird/Magic Johnson rivalry for the new generation. They have been in the top three for MVP the past three seasons and this season will likely not change.
Even though the Thunder might not make a run back at the finals, Kevin Durant will still be a force. The 2012 Finals is still fresh in his mind. But does he have the team to do it? Not sure, but when these two play it is always fun to watch.
10. Wild card pick—rivalry renewed: Chicago Bulls vs. Detroit Pistons
This rivalry dates back to the 1980s when the Detroit “Bad Boy” Pistons played Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. For three straight post seasons the Pistons owned the Bulls and especially Jordan. The “Jordan Rules” were a special strategy that former St. Bonaventure student, head coach Chuck Daly, designed which was led by floor general Isiah Thomas.
Once Jordan got over the hump and finally took out the Pistons en route to his first championship the rivalry faded. Pistons president Joe Dumars has got himself a team now with additions of Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. Dumars actually had Bulls former head coach Phil Jackson help him recruit new head coach Maurice Cheeks. With a massive frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, Detroit is ready to bang down low against Noah and Boozer and to punish Rose if he comes down the lane.