This is the season that David Stern, ABC executives and NBA fans on both coasts have long dreamed about, the Lakers and Boston Celtics finishing atop their conference races for the first time since 1988. . . .
Twenty years ago, Magic Johnson and the Lakers won their fifth title of the 1980s; Larry Bird and the Celtics were stopped short of their fourth by Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals. . . .
The Celtics last reached the NBA Finals in 1987. . . .
Byron Scott of the New Orleans Hornets is a front-runner for coach of the year in the NBA, but things might have turned out a lot differently for the former Arizona State guard if the San Diego Clippers hadn't traded him to the Lakers for Norm Nixon after making him the fourth pick in the 1983 draft. . . .
The last time the Hornets made the playoffs, four years ago, they played in the Eastern Conference, Baron Davis was their point guard and they lost to Lamar Odom and the Miami Heat in a seven-game first-round series. . . .
Wasn't Aaron Rodgers facing enough pressure replacing Brett Favre without the NFL scheduling the Green Bay Packers to open the season on a Monday night? . . .
Tom Brady and the Super Bowl runner-up New England Patriots will have a chance to extend their 19-game regular-season winning streak against the NFL's easiest schedule in terms of opponents' cumulative winning percentage. . . .
When Andruw Jones returns to Atlanta with the Dodgers for the first time this weekend, fans might not recognize the longtime Braves center fielder because of his expanded waistline and shrunken batting average. . . .
A telecast of Tiger Woods' knee surgery probably would draw higher ratings than the tournaments he'll have to miss while recuperating. . . .
After what it's been through the last few years, you'd think that the UCLA football team would be more interested in breaking with tradition, especially with the strains of "Rocky Top" growing louder each day as the Bruins' Labor Day opener against Tennessee approaches. . . .
You wonder what Norm Chow was thinking as the Bruins went "over the wall" on the same day that Chow recruit Mark Sanchez was named USC's starting quarterback and the Trojans ripped through their most spirited practice of the spring -- all with UCLA booster Casey Wasserman looking on as a guest of Pete Carroll. . . .
Emmanuel Moody, a transfer from USC, reportedly has struggled in adapting to Florida's spread offense but ran for 111 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's Orange and Blue spring game at Gainesville, which drew a crowd of 61,000. . . .
Congratulations to founder Ron Orr and everyone else affiliated with USC's annual Swim With Mike charity swim-a-thon, which funds scholarships for physically challenged former athletes. It raised an event-record $1.2 million this year, with satellite events still to come at Hawaii and Stanford. . . .
CBA historian Chuck Miller e-mails to note that, although the three-point shot was popularized by the ABA, it was tried earlier in other leagues, among them the Eastern Professional Basketball League, which later morphed into the CBA. . . .
Speaking of the Eastern League, one of its referees was a moonlighting Dodgers farmhand named Tommy Lasorda, presumably much thinner in the early 1960s. . . .
"McGuire," a one-man play written by Dick Enberg in tribute to the late Marquette basketball coach and Enberg broadcasting partner Al McGuire, makes its West Coast debut with two benefit performances Monday and Tuesday nights at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. . . .
Says Enberg, who joins actor Cotter Smith for a question-and-answer session after each performance and hopes to bring the show to Los Angeles, "I don't think I've been more pleased with anything I've had the privilege to do than this. For 70 minutes, a guy that I cared a lot about is alive again." . . .
Ben Howland offers sound advice to his players contemplating an early jump to the NBA, telling them not to commit too early and keep their options open. . . .
He probably gave different advice when recruiting them.