Today is like Christmas morning. Tuesday, Oct. 17 marks the start of the 2017-18 NBA season, and we have four teams kicking off the campaign.
I’m elated to have meaningful basketball back. The offseason wasn’t dreadful because the NBA manages to keep itself relevant even when other sports are monopolizing the calendar. We had one of the craziest summers in NBA history and stars of varying magnitudes joined other stars of varying magnitudes to have a shot at toppling the conferences’ most dominant teams — Cleveland and Golden State. Both of those organizations will be in action tonight.
The Cavaliers are one of the franchises who were in headlines all summer long. Kyrie Irving is no longer with the team. LeBron James called the President of the United States a “bum.” Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose will eat up a large piece of the rotation (and that would be an incredible sight if this were 2011). Isaiah Thomas’ hip is still bothering him and no one’s sure of when he’ll return. James may also be playing his final season with the team. There’s just so much that happened. They tip-off against the Boston Celtics at 8 p.m. Eastern on TNT, and the C’s also made some waves this offseason.
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Aside from swapping one All-Star point guard with another, they signed Gordon Hayward and drafted Jayson Tatum. They also traded Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons, which is still a questionable move. Compared to their opponent, they’ve been rather quiet.
The following game features the Houston Rockets traveling to meet the Golden State Warriors in Oracle, and that’s going to be a shootout of seismic proportions. Up until the Irving-Thomas deal, the Los Angeles Clippers trading Chris Paul was the most prominent move of the summer. For the first time since joining the Rockets, James Harden has a legitimate star playing alongside him, and that’ll help dramatically toward the end of the year. Houston then signed P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute to patch their problems on defense. On paper, they’ve built the second-best team in the conference. They’re a legitimate 60-win squad, which would eclipse the current record of 58 back in 1993-94.
Unlike the Rockets, Golden State hasn’t added any stars. They did, however, re-sign Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant (and JaVale McGee), which is enormous. On top of that, Nick Young and Omri Casspi joined the team, and now the Warriors have just a ridiculous amount of marksmen.
Both of these contests are going to be wildly entertaining, and that’ll start the NBA on the right foot.
Boston vs. Cleveland - 8:00 p.m. EST
The most significant thing I’m watching for during this game only happens if LeBron James plays. A left ankle sprain has him listed as “TBD” in the Cavaliers pregame report, and it’d be a damn shame if he didn’t suit up for Kyrie’s homecoming. As we all know, Irving’s departure from Cleveland came out of left field and was a shock to everyone. He wanted to be “the guy” and perfect his craft, and playing in the shadow of LeBron didn’t allow that. The team sent him off to Boston.
We don’t know how this affected everyone who remained with the Cavaliers. James didn’t condemn Irving or anything, but that’s not the kind of guy he is. He was very cordial when reporters asked questions about Kyrie during media day, but I’m sure James is relishing the opportunity to have Irving switch onto him out of a pick-and-roll. That’s like hitting a dragonfly with a sledgehammer. There’s about a zero percent chance that Irving impedes LeBron’s drive to the basket, and he better pray that his weak side help is ready because I don’t think any Celtic fans want their new point guard posterized on opening night. It would, of course, be naive to think that’s the only possibility.
Also Read: Neither Team Got Better In The Irving-Thomas Deal
James, on defense, could switch onto Irving. And that’s like trying to chase a cheetah wearing cement shoes. I’m sure LeBron would be fine, but Irving is the best ball handler the NBA has, and his own shadow has a hard time keeping up with him. I don’t foresee Irving taking James’ ankles, but anything’s possible; he’s such a crafty scorer that even elite defense doesn’t bother him.
If James plays, Cleveland wins. Both rosters are different from last year so chemistry problems will be prevalent on both sides. That means it comes down to talent, and it’s hard to bet against LeBron. Also, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade may be energized by their new scenery and give the Cavs a little bit more than usual. (That’s not to say they do that for the entire season, though.)
Houston vs. Golden State - 10:30 p.m. EST
Living in New York is fantastic. One of the few times living in New York isn’t fantastic is when teams play marquee games on the West Coast. Staying up late absolutely sucks when your body wakes you up early (like 6 a.m.). I’m hoping that the energy from today keeps me going because too much coffee upsets my stomach.
Unlike the preceding game, there are no petty narratives. This matchup is strictly talent. I want to see James Harden and Chris Paul go head-to-head against Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. I want to see Steve Kerr and Mike D’Antoni engage in a chess match. I want to see Draymond Green complain about not getting calls and forget to run back on defense. I want to see Ryan Anderson casually pull up from 35 feet before getting burned on the other end. There’s just so much.
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In all seriousness, though, what I’m awaiting more than anything else is the duo of Harden and Paul and seeing how they work together. We know that both are high-usage, ball-dominant guards, but Paul was the one who wanted to play alongside Harden, so it’s hard to see him getting mad amount a lightened workload because he knew what he was getting himself into. Part of me also thinks Harden welcomes his new backcourt mate. It was clear that the Beard was burned out by the start of the postseason, and Paul can help prevent that.
Golden State wins this game, but I’m not yet sure if it’ll be a blowout or a wire-to-wire contest. Each team has an explosive offense that can put up 130-plus, but the Rockets aren’t known for their defense. Despite adding more pieces, it may take some time to get everyone on the same page, and that bodes well for the Warriors, who are already elite on that end. If they choose to not focus on defense, we’ll have a close game. If they decide to bring the clamps out, it may get ugly.
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