LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS VS. UTAH JAZZ
When the two teams meet this season, it will resemble nothing so much as a father-son game. At times last year the Clippers used a starting lineup with only one player older than 21. When L.A. acquired third-year forward Elton Brand from Chicago this summer, the brass expressed excitement over his "veteran leadership." Contrast that with the doddering Jazz, which has only one player under 30 (28-year-old forward Donyell Marshall) among its starters. "Better to be too old," argues Marshall, "than too young."
NEW JERSEY NETS VS. FATE
Call it the curse of the Doctor. Since the Nets sold Julius Erving to Philly in 1976, career-ending injuries ( Jayson Williams), horrid draft picks (Yinka Dare) and even death ( Drazen Petrovic) have doomed this franchise. No one is safe: Last season the team's mascot, Sly, blew out a knee.
STEVE NASH VS. HIS COMB
Though the Mavericks' point guard has never been known for his hops, his hair achieves Kobe-like hang time. Nash's epic case of bed head defies all logic. "You'd think once he started sweating, his hair would calm down," says teammate Dirk Nowitzki, "but it's sticking up the whole game."
HAKEEM OLAJUWON VS. PATRICK EWING
For two decades they were centers of attention, each a benchmark against which the other was measured. Now in their sunset years and after disappointing seasons, they have decamped to upstart teams—Ewing, 39, to Orlando; Olajuwon, 38, to Toronto—still seeking glory and revenge ( Ewing for the 1994 NBA Finals, Olajuwon for the NCAA title game a decade earlier). When they meet in Orlando to open the season, expect them to box each other out as if a spot in the whirlpool were at stake.
RODNEY ROGERS VS. THE MUNCHIES
Eating his way well past his listed 255 pounds last season, the 6'7" Rogers watched his stats plummet. Asked at training camp how the 1999-2000 Sixth Man Award winner looked, Suns coach Scott Skiles said, "Not as good as he should."
GEORGE KARL VS. WALLY WALKER
Since being fired as coach by Sonics exec Walker three years ago, Karl has been fined $75,000 by the league for calling him "a trickster" and "incompetent." When it comes to the Bucks' coach, Walker goes off too—but off the record, for his checkbook's sake.