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Warriors, for their third ring in a row; Houston, Boston, and LeBron’s Lakers, to avoid it

Warriors, for their third ring in a row;  Houston, Boston, and LeBron’s Lakers, to avoid it

The Golden State Warriors start the NBA season on Tuesday with a single goal: to add their third consecutive championship and the fourth in five years against LeBron James, now in the Los Angeles Lakers and the main threat along with the Houston Rockets and the Boston Celtics.

Those of the Bay of San Francisco aspire to match the feats of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant from 2000 to 2002, precisely with the Lakers, the last team to string together three titles in a row, the second longest streak of all time.

«We speak of ‘tripitir’ only because it is in front of us. I think it is not something that is repeated every day, but when the season begins, obviously we put everything on the table, also what is at stake in terms of expectations, “said star point guard Stephen Curry.

“We understand that winning the championship is within our grasp if we take care of our business, and doing it three years in a row is a tremendous opportunity for us. We should not be afraid to speak and go after it, “he added during the preseason.

Only the Lakers, in Los Angeles (2000-2002) and in Minneapolis (1952-1954), and Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls on two occasions (1991-1993 and 1996-1998) were capable of a similar milestone, with the Boston Celtics from 1959 to 1966 holding the absolute record, with eight titles in a row.

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Only a stumble against LeBron’s Cavaliers in the 2016 finals deprived the Warriors of having already celebrated four in a row, instead of now seeking the fourth in five years.

You never stop enjoying it. You just start to focus on the next year. But it is always there. You always see the (champion) flag hanging there and your ring. It never goes away. That’s the beauty of it, “said team coach Steve Kerr, who was also crowned as a player in Jordan’s second stage with the Bulls (1996 to 1998), and in the ranks of the San Antonio Spurs (1999 and 2003).

The Warriors know that they may be facing, perhaps, the last opportunity to continue expanding their legend, since Kevin Durant, MVP of the last two finals, and Klay Thompson, the second member of the “Splash Brothers” along with Stephen Curry, finish their contract next boreal summer.

As if they were short on artillery, the reigning champions were reinforced during the preseason with the dominant interior DeMarcus Cousins, who is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon but who, when healthy, will complete a fearsome quintet on paper, with five All-Stars in their ranks, in addition to luxurious secondary like Andre Iguodala or Shaun Livingston.

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– LeBron, latest Hollywood star –

The only one capable of ending the hegemony of the Warriors was LeBron James in 2016. Along with Kyrie Irving -then also in Cleveland-, the ‘King’ dethroned Golden State. A few months ago, he decided to embark on what will likely be his last NBA adventure: donning the historic purple and gold Los Angeles Lakers jacket.

James will turn 34 on December 30 in Hollywood, surrounded by a team full of young talents such as Brandon Ingram or Lonzo Ball, accompanied by a plethora of veterans such as Rajon Rondo or Lance Stephenson, who arrived with one-year contracts to try to put in trouble. to the Warriors.

However, LeBron, who signed for four seasons, senses that they are still far from competing for the title, and the project seems to be living its first steps.

“We have a long way to go to beat the Warriors. Golden State is Golden State, they have been together for several years now. We have to focus on being better every day and, over time, put ourselves in a position to win the ring, as they have done in recent years, “James told the press.

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– Without Ginobili, Gasol takes the reins –

To this day, Chris Paul and James Harden’s Houston Rockets appear to be the best prepared in the Western Conference to put the defending champs in trouble, as they did last season, forcing them to a Game 7 in their zone final.

The Spurs, now without retired Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker -now in the Charlotte Hornets- or Kawhi Leonard -traded to the Toronto Raptors-, are part of the second group of teams that will try to make noise in the Wild West, with a dozen of teams looking for the playoffs.

Without the Argentine, the Spanish Pau Gasol is called to take a step forward due to his seniority and experience, becoming the benchmark of a team that has also lost the legendary Tim Duncan in recent years.

Meanwhile, in the East, Irving’s Celtics, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and youngsters Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the big favorites of their conference, with the Raptors and the Sixers of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the main opponents. AFP

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