(Reuters) - Five players to watch for during the 2012-13 National Basketball Association (NBA) season that begins on October 30.
The two-time NBA most valuable player’s offseason arrival in Los Angeles adds another star to an already glittering Lakers lineup that includes Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. A gifted playmaker and magician with the ball, Nash ranks fifth on the NBA’s all-time assists list.
The 38-year-old guard is nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career but is a creative genius capable of quarterbacking the action and providing service for Bryant, Howard and Pau Gasol. The Canadian turned down a lucrative offer from the rebuilding Toronto Raptors and a chance to end his career in his home country for a shot at a maiden NBA title.
Howard was the centerpiece of a blockbuster 12-player trade during the offseason that instantly transformed the Lakers into championship contenders. The Lakers will plug the three-time NBA defensive player of the year alongside perennial all-star Kobe Bryant and imposing Spaniard Pau Gasol. The muscular 26-year-old centre averaged over 14 rebounds and 20 points last season with the Orlando Magic but will be eased into the Lakers lineup as he recovers from off-season back surgery.
All eyes will be on LeBron James to see how he follows up a year for the ages that included his first NBA title, league and finals most valuable player honors and an Olympic gold medal.
James averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists last season then upped his game for the playoffs, averaging 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He has left himself a very tough act to follow but appears hungry to keep working in a bid to establish the Heat as an NBA dynasty while cementing his own legacy as one of basketball’s all-time greats.
Lin, whose meteoric rise from obscurity to worldwide fame last season with the New York Knicks triggered the “Linsanity” craze, will be keen to prove he is a quality NBA player with staying power.
He is now a member of the Rockets after New York declined to match Houston’s three-year $25 million offer. Lin came off the bench to average 14.6 points and 6.2 assists in 35 games last season but a knee injury cut short his campaign and took the steam out of the “Linsanity” phenomenon, leaving many to wonder if the Taiwanese-American’s 15 minutes of fame are up.
With 2011 MVP Derrick Rose directing traffic, Chicago were expected to provide the toughest test for LeBron James and the Miami Heat in their quest for an NBA championship last season. But all that changed in flash when Rose, the team’s top scorer, crumpled to the floor with a season-ending knee injury in the Bulls’ playoff opener, which was followed by the team’s first-round loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Rose’s future remains one of the biggest question marks hanging over the new season with speculation the dynamic point guard’s first appearance might not come until after the February 17 All-Star Game.
Compiled by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue