Tip off: Examiner Week 1 NBA

The Examiner breaks down what is happening this week in the NBA.

WEEK 1 STORY LINES

1. It didn’t work for Blind Faith. Can it for the Boston Celtics? In the late ’60s, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Ginger Baker formed a hyped rock super-group that stayed together long enough to record just one album. Will Paul Pierce, left, Kevin Garnett, right, and Ray Allen — largely soloists in their NBA careers — make beautiful music or strike a sour chord? Preseason reports have them making nice. But with every move magnified in the Boston media fishbowl, the Big Three must jell quickly where it really matters, on the floor.

2. Will Kobe stay or will he go? The Los Angeles Lakers are shopping unhappy superstar Kobe Bryant. But finding a replacement with similar wattage to light up Showtime will be next to impossible. Finding a salary match and a team Bryant deems worthy of waiving his no-trade clause for further complicates the equation. Chicago for Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich? Washington for Gilbert Arenas and Andray Blatche? All compelling possibilities. But are they realistic, or just sports talk radio and Internet fantasies?

3. How much damage has been done to the credibilityof the league in an offseason in which former referee Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy charges for allegedly passing inside information? When commissioner David Stern declined to discipline other referees who broke NBA rules by visiting casinos and then relaxed the rules, did he misjudge the seriousness of the problem? The erosion of trust is already apparent in arenas in the low-key preseason, according to Washington Wizards guard Antonio Daniels. “I’ve heard it already,” Daniels said. “Fans have already thought the games were fixed. Now it’s impossible to convince them of anything different.”

— Kevin Dunleavy

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Tim Duncan, Spurs

In a league that embraces glitz and glamour and promotes its signature franchises in major cities, the low-key Duncan still flies under the radar in small-market San Antonio despite leading his team to four NBA championships in nine years, winning two regular-season MVPs and three Finals MVP trophies. Duncan might have earned more rings and hardware were it not for periodic bouts with plantar fasciitis. Healthy for most of last year, Duncan had his highest scoring (21.8) and rebounding (11.9) averages since 2003-04. Can anyone topple the defending champions if their Big Three — Duncan, 31, Manu Ginobli, 30, and Tony Parker, 25 — are in their prime years and healthy?

— Kevin Dunleavy

KEY GAME

MAVERICKS AT CAVALIERS (Today, 5 p.m.): NBA runner-up Cleveland seemed to be building a solid supporting cast for LeBron James. But the Cavaliers haven’t signed developing frontcourt players Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao. Tonight’s game against Dirk Nowitzki and the formidable Mavs will provide a first look at the downgraded Cavs.

HE SAID WHAT?

The thing that I’m afraid of is not winning another championship. That is the thing that really drives me.” — Superstar Kobe Bryant, on the Lakers’ lack of offseason roster upgrades

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