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NBA Eastern Conference preview

Miami is the reigning champion, but plenty could go wrong for LeBron James and the Heat between now and title No. 2. For one thing, the conference isn't a two-team race as it is in the West.

October 28, 2012|By Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times
  • LeBron James and the Miami Heat look to win their second consecutive championship
LeBron James and the Miami Heat look to win their second consecutive championship (Kin Cheung / Associated…)

One down, seven to go!

If LeBron James thought he had vanquished every critic with his first NBA title, there will always be someone ready to click on the Miami Heat star's infamous You Tube clip.

See whether this sounds familiar:

"Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven," James said in July 2010, referring to the number of championships he intended to win with the Heat.

Dwyane Wade, seated next to James, smiled obligingly at his teammate's bravado.

Team President Pat Riley, shown tightly clasping his hands in front of his mouth, did not.

Riley knows better than to talk lightly about titles. The former Lakers coach trademarked the term "three-peat" only to watch the Detroit Pistons wreck his team's bid for a third consecutive championship in the 1989 Finals.

Plenty could go wrong for James and the Heat between now and title No. 2, not to mention No. 8.

For starters, the Eastern Conference isn't a two-team race this season as in the West.

Boston lost Ray Allen and got better with the arrival of Jason Terry and the return of Jeff Green.

Indiana's small-market approach of no stars, just talent could be poised for a breakthrough after giving the Heat a scare in last season's conference semifinals.

Suddenly flush with playmakers, Brooklyn, and Deron Williams, could be a bigger hit on Broadway than its new cross-town rival.

Heck, even Philadelphia might make a run at this thing if Andrew Bynum's knees and mouth cooperate.

Not that Miami will be an easy out. The Heat added two sharpshooters in Allen and Rashard Lewis, helping them further spread the floor for James and Wade.

James could get to eight titles no sooner than 2019, which his detractors might find symbolic when they consult the Chinese zodiac.

It's the Year of the Pig.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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