Top stars on unfamiliar teams have revamped the set of contenders trying to dethrone the Los Angeles Lakers as National Basketball Association (NBA) champions with the 2009-2010 season opening on Tuesday.
Shaquille O'Neal will join NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James to try and bring Cleveland Cavaliers their first title. “My mission is to win a ring for the ‘King,’” O’Neal said.
Vince Carter is among five new players who join Dwight Howard with the Magic as the reigning Eastern Conference champions cope with losing top talent, including Hedo Turkoglu to Toronto.
Rasheed Wallace will join Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in powering Celtics while Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess join Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and a Manu Ginobili at Spurs.
But the Lakers have made some changes of their own in a bid to repeat as NBA champions, swinging a deal with the Houston Rockets to bring in forward Ron Artest.
Kobe Bryant and Spanish big man Pau Gasol led the Lakers run to a 65-17 season and a playoff crown last season. Testing the Lakers in the Western Conference will be the Spurs.
The Celtics and Magic figure to be East's top title threats.