Philippine Daily Inquirer

HOLLYWOOD ENDING?

As NBA raises curtains on suspense theater, Lakers and Clippers shine spotlight on Los Angeles

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For five years ,the NBA Finals have returne d to t he same spot, t he longest run eve ri n one Western Conference location.

Lebron James an da nthony Davis wan t to bring them back to Los Angeles.

So do Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

With the Warriors weakened and powerhouse pairs popping up all ove rt he place, the 2019-20 NBA season, unlike many in recent years ,i sa suspense story.

Bot hl At eams will try to give it ah ollywood ending.

When a whirl wind of player movement was finished, the real winner, as James noted, was Staples Center, which i sn o wh ome tot wo tit le contenders in the Lakers—the way it use dto be—an dc lippers—the way it’s never been.

“I agr ee w ith what Bron said, ” Ge orge said. “The Staples Cente ri s wher ey ou want to be w ith the team we got and with the team they have.”

T he F inals’ Western Conference headquarte­r s had moved north in recent years, with golden Stat e bu ildi ng a dynasty in the Bay Area .B ut Kevin Duran ti sg one, Klay Thompson is injured, and even Stephen Curry’s sharpest shooti ngm ight not be able to keep the r ung oing.

It wasn’t good enough last season, when Durant and Thompson were hurt in the final sand Leonard led Toronto to it sf irst championsh­ip.

Leona rdt hen joined fellow Southern California native Geor gew ith the Clippers, who have never even gotten out of the second round but ar en ow considered title favorites.

Davis was traded to the Lakers, who loaded up quickly after flopping in James’ first season.

Those teams meet tuesday on opening night, when the regular seaso nge t ss tarted after a turbulent preseason overshadow­ed by tension between the NBA an dc hina.

The Raptor sge tt heir rings in t hef irst game before facing New Orleans, whose heavily-hyped rookie zion Williamson injured his knee late during exhibition play.

Toronto los tt wo starters to Los Angeles, with Danny Green signing with the Lakers. That coul do pen the door for MVP Giannis Antetokoun­mpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, or the Philadelph­ia 76ers to seize the East title.

T hew ide-openness of the league this season is a far cry from recent years, when travel plans tot he Bay Area in June could be assumed months in advance, or when James’ teams in the East wen t to eight straight NBA Finals.

“You can’t call wh ot he NBA champion is,” Hall of Fame player and TNT analyst Reggi em iller said. “Befor ey ou would have three, fou rt eams that were deadlocked. You know they’re going to be there. This year, given no injuries, a team getting hot, chemistry obviously issues, there’ sa lot of teams that can go for it. But the Laker sand Clipper sbe ing headliners.”

They’ re hardly alone among the con tenders out West. Denver, Portland and Utah all figure to be tough. An ddo n’t coun to u tt he Warriors, who’d like their new Chase Center in San francisco to be the same spring destinatio­n tha tt he Oracle Cente rin Oakland was.

This season ,t hat will be harde rt han ever.

The Staples Center is where you want to be with the team we got and with the team they have

PAUL GEORGE

Los Angeles Clippers

 ?? —AFP ?? After a flop of a first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Lebron James (left) gets to lead a reloaded roster featuring Anthony Davis. The Lakers take on the LA Clippers, who will flaunt their own power pair of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, on opening day.
—AFP After a flop of a first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Lebron James (left) gets to lead a reloaded roster featuring Anthony Davis. The Lakers take on the LA Clippers, who will flaunt their own power pair of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, on opening day.

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