By: Jalon Dixon, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of NBA.com
There comes a point in the year for NBA fans where interviews, highlight montages and 2K MyTeam is not enough to satisfy their sweet tooth for live NBA action. After the last few weeks of preseason games and training camp, the season is finally among us.
The start of the league’s 73rd season will tip off on Tuesday, Oct. 16. Opening week features six days of primetime matchups including 11 nationally televised games across TNT, ESPN and NBA TV. Going into the first week, there are a few big storylines that come attached to some of these early matchups.
In the Eastern Conference, the three powerhouses: the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors all square off to send an early message to the rest of the conference about who is the new “King of the East” now that Lebron James is no longer in the East.
The Celtics are bringing back their killer starting lineup of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford for the first time since the first game of last season.
The 76ers go into year two of “The Process” in full effect with the tandem of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, while also bringing back last year’s first overall pick, Markelle Fultz, who is now fully healthy after missing most of last season to a shoulder injury.
The Raptors come in with a change in superstars after trading Demar Derozan for ex-San Antonio Spurs’ star forward Kawhi Leonard. Coming off a season ending quad injury and now playing in a new conference, Leonard has to prove to fans and general managers across the league that he is still the same all star caliber player from his 2016 season with this being his last season under contract before heading into free agency.
With these three teams coming back revamped and motivated, the fight for top team in the conference may be the most competitive it’s been in years.
In the Western Conference, the first week only samples the bloodbath that is yet to come as some of the best teams in the conference square off.
The Golden State Warriors face off with an onslaught of talent as they play both the Oklahoma City Thunder, led by Paul George and Steven Adams with Russell Westbrook still recovering from his knee procedure and the Portland Trailblazers with the dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Then, there is the “Friday Night Lights” match up between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Both teams come into the season with high expectations, with the Rockets falling short of beating the Warriors in the conference finals and the Lakers adding one of the best players in the league in Lebron James. The Western Conference was already considerably the toughest of the two and it just got significantly harder now that the Lakers are back at the forefront of the league with new star power and a young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
The stage is set and the games are about to begin. There are 30 teams, but there can only be one champion.