NBA Opening Night Preview
NBA Kicks Off with Competitive Slate of Games
Written by: Andrew Ziemba
After the period which no doubt will become to be known as the summer of LeBron (Part 2) vastly changed the landscape of the NBA, not to mention another great summer of Team USA basketball, it’s time to kick off the season.
We begin the NBA’s Opening Night with the two-thirds of the Texas Triangle. A revamped Dallas Mavericks will face off against the reigning NBA champion Spurs – a team that never seems to change much in a league known for being very fickle. It will be interesting to see how this newly minted Mavericks roster squares off against what was essentially the Finals-winning starting lineup for San Antonio. That game tips off at 8:00 pm EST Tuesday night.
Also at 8:00, two very young teams face off when the Orlando Magic head to New Orleans to take on the much-hyped Pelicans. The Magic are hoping to take a step forward this year after a wholly underwhelming performance over the course of last season, and facing a Pelicans team on the verge of becoming serious playoff contenders could be a very good measure of how their season will go.
In the late game, the lackluster, yet ever-relevant LA Lakers, having just lost guard Steve Nash for the season, play host to the Houston Rockets, who complete part three of that powerful group from the Lone Star State. This will be Lakers guard Jeremy Lin’s first meeting with Houston since the Rockets traded him at the beginning of the summer. This game also looks to be Houston center Dwight Howard’s first time facing future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant since Howard’s single, dramatically disastrous season in LA. Syracuse grad Wes Johnson will get the Opening Night starting nod for the first time with Los Angeles, seeming to finally have found a home after four years of bouncing around the West. That game is slated to start at 10:30 pm EST, pending the length of the Dallas-San Antonio matchup.
Finally, here’s the Double-Triple, a look at the storylines (per game) to keep an eye on tonight and as the NBA season opens for business.
Players to Watch:
Anthony Davis – If Davis continues on the path he’s begun, he will most definitely have sealed his spot as one of the five best basketball players in the world. (Update: Davis has been ranked the No. 3 player in the NBA by ESPN) With new weapons such as C Omer Asik alongside him this year, look to see where he leads the Pelicans.
Victor Oladipo – The standout Indiana University product performed very well for a rookie last season, but will be out at least a month after having surgery to reconstruct a facial fracture. It will be interesting to see what Orlando does to fill his spot.
Players to Watch:
Tyson Chandler – Chandler was not happy in New York last season, and wasn’t afraid to let the public know that. Now that he’s back in Dallas, as part of a much better supporting cast, hopefully he will begin to perform as the elite athlete he is known to be.
Kawhi Leonard – Although Leonard will not play on Tuesday night due to an eye infection he will be a big part of the Spurs’ cohesiveness this season. The silent Leonard put on a show in last year’s playoffs, shooting 51% from the field throughout, and 61% versus the Miami Heat in the Finals. He is not a flashy player by any regard, but his play and stats would cause one to think otherwise. With the Mavericks looking to be one of the best in the West this season, Leonard’s play against them may be indicative of how things will go come playoff time.
Things to Watch for:
Trevor Ariza – Ariza is coming off a career season with the Wizards, and looks to be a valuable addition to the Rockets’ backcourt this year. His defensive abilities may even motivate superstar James Harden to work a little harder on that end of the court as well.
How will Kobe play? – It’s no secret that Kobe Bryant is on his way out of the league. Having only played in six games last season, his reconstructed legs will be one of the most interesting factors in this Laker season. There is a potential for a lot of animosity in tonight’s matchup, so keep an eye on how hard he pushes himself versus the Rockets.