Enter the Clippers

Brian Schmitz

Orlando Sentinel

You don't follow the bouncing ball any more in the NBA; you follow the bouncing stars.

Free-agentpalooza, with the A-listers calling the shots, has produced instant contenders and revived the dead.

We give you the Heat and the Clippers. The Heat's Big Three will join the Bulls in the East finals, and the Mavericks and Clippers will meet in the West finals.

Yes, the Clippers.

David Stern's decision to send Chris Paul to the other L.A. team has turned the West on its ear. By the end of the season, the once-downtrodden Clips will pass the Lakers. Look for them to upset the Thunder to reach the conference finals.

bschmitz@tribune.com

Where does Howard land?

Mike Berardino

Sun Sentinel

Making preseason predictions is always dicey, but never tougher than in this season's on-the-fly NBA.

Tell me where Dwight Howard and Steve Nash eventually land, and I'd feel a lot more confident about pegging the final four we'll be watching in May.

Lacking that information, I'll go with the Heat over the Bulls in an Eastern Conference finals rematch.