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A NEW SEASON BEGINS FIVE THINGS TO WATCH The NBA season begins tonight when the Cleveland Cavaliers meet the Boston Celtics, one of four games on the docket. Things get under way in Toronto tomorrow night when the star-studded Cavaliers - featuring LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal, not to mention former Raptors players Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker - roll into the Air Canada Centre to meet the new-look Raptors. Here are five things you need to know about the NBA season before the ball goes up.

The best got better The high-water mark for team wins since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season is 67, hit by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000-01 when Shaquille O'Neal was in his prime and his running mate was a young buck named Kobe Bryant. But 60-win seasons are relatively rare in the NBA . In 2000-01, not one team cracked it. Last season, three teams did it, led by the Cleveland Cavaliers who were 66-16. Those same Cavaliers have added an aging O'Neal, along with depth (Parker and Moon from the Raptors), but that's just keeping up with the Joneses this season. The Lakers won 65 games last year and added Ron Artest. The Celtics won 62 games despite missing Kevin Garnett for two months and have added Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels, and have talked openly about gunning for the Chicago Bulls' record of 72-10 set in 1995-96. The Orlando Magic won 59 games and added Vince Carter, while the San Antonio Spurs added Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess to a 54-win team, making them another good bet to crack 60 wins.

It's a young man's game When Michael Jordan made his last all- NBA team in 1998, he was 35 and the average age of the team was 29.2, and that included the presence of second-year pro Tim Duncan, then 22. Last season, the average age of the first team was 27, with Bryant (30) and Dirk Nowitzki (31) bringing up the rear. This season it's quite conceivable the league's elite could get younger still. An all- NBA team of LeBron James, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard would have an average age of 25.

You have to score to win The battle against the dead-ball era appears to be over. The NBA's offensive valley came in 1998-99 when just one team managed to average 100 points a game for the season and the league average dipped to 91.6 points a game compared to 1988-89 when the league average was 109.2 points a game. A series of rules changes to reduce the ability of the defence to impede offensive players on the ball and away from the ball have taken ROOT. Last season, the league average cracked 100 again. With more and more teams putting the ball in the hands of slashing perimeter players and supplementing them with ever improving three-point shooting, scoring could jump again.

Your award winners are ... Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic for most valuable player; Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics, defensive player of the year; Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers for rookie of the year; Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs for sixth man of the year and Greg Oden of the Portland Trail Blazers for most improved player.

And your NBA champions are ... The Los Angeles Lakers repeat as NBA titlists, with Bryant denying O'Neal his final chance at a ring.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 27, 2009


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