Here We Go Again
As anticipated, the Cavs are still holding their own, but opening night showed us some other teams setting the bar this season.
By Kevin Cordon, UC Irvine
Not to worry basketball fans, the NBA season is upon us again and this year, we’ve got one hell-of-a-race on our hands.
The Boston Celtics are back with a new centerpiece in Al Horford, the Golden State Warriors are the new super-villains the league needed and the Cleveland Cavaliers will look to do the impossible and repeat as champions. All the hype of off-season trades has finally settled, and it’s time to watch the revolving door that is the NBA unfold before our eyes.
This 2016-2017 season begins with two of the most important games we could be watching: The Cavaliers hosting the new-look Knicks for their championship ring ceremony and the Warriors taking on one of their biggest rivals in the West, the San Antonio Spurs. Both games are going to set the tone for the season, showing us how hungry the Warriors are with Durant at the helm and whether the Cavs are going to be suffering from a championship hangover. From watching the first day of games of this new season, here’s what I’ve learned.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. New York Knicks
Well, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still the Cavaliers we saw at the end of last season. They got their rings, raised the banner and then jumped right back to work against a Knicks team that still doesn’t look like it will be good for a few years. Kyrie, Lebron & Co. still love fast-breaks and probably fit the label of “Lob City” better than the Clippers do.
A lot of people are saying this is Kyrie’s year, and while it’s still too early to tell, he did have a great opening game. He was back to his usual dribbling trickery and was full of confidence, probably still replaying that title-winning 3 in his head. Looking at the Cavs’ roster, he’s going to have to play lights-out every game though, considering both Mo Williams and Matthew Dellavedova left Cleveland during the offseason, leaving the Cavs’ depth chart very thin at point guard.
In this game, the Cavaliers exerted the dominance we’ve grown used to seeing from them against Eastern Conference teams. Yeah, they scored 117 points and only allowed 88, but that was against a largely-unproven Eastern Conference team in the Knicks. We haven’t seen anything new from the Cavs yet, and their shallow point guard rotation is something to definitely keep an eye on. For now, the confetti is still flying in Cleveland and given the presence of Lebron James, the Cavaliers are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the finals for a shot at back-to-back championships.
Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs
If the Cavs game was indicative of what we’re going to see from the Eastern Conference this season, this game pretty much assured NBA fans that we have no idea what we’re going to see from the West.
The Warriors, sad to say, got DISMANTLED. They were out-rebounded, out-hustled and simply out-played by the San Antonio Spurs. From the very start, the “super-team” Warriors were a step behind and played too fast and sloppy to ever catch up. The Spurs played their calculated style so much better and looked like a well-oiled machine on the first day of the season.
Their stars came to play and didn’t look off despite the absence of big Timmy. Kahwi Leonard and Lamarcus Aldridge continued where they left off last season with superstar performances, and the emergence of Jonathan Simmons has revealed another potential star to supplement 39-year old Manu Ginobli’s decreasing speed. Simmons was all over the place, and if tonight is just the beginning, we’ll be seeing a lot of more of Simmons as his role grows in Gregg Popovich’s offense.
On the Warriors’ side of things, there’s not much to say… Javale McGee scored… if that’s any consolation at all? Tuesday night was just awful for Warrior fans, and they looked disoriented on both sides of the ball. Nobody with a white jersey, not even number 35, had an answer for the Spurs, and they ended up getting blown out by nearly thirty.
The Warriors can’t be written off for one bad game against one of the best teams in the West, but this wasn’t good. Hopefully, it’s a wake-up call for the Warriors that no team is scared of them. They aren’t back-to-back champions, and their line-up is 7 players different from the one that won 73 games last season. It will take them some time to gel, but they will still win a lot of games in a highly competitive Western Conference.
Portland Trailblazers vs. Utah Jazz
On opening night, there was one other team firing on all cylinders in the closest game of the day. The Portland Trailblazers started their season off with a big win over the Utah Jazz and Damian Lillard put the league on notice that he won’t be overlooked again. Probably still upset from his all-star snub, Lillard put on a show and proved why Portland has the second best backcourt in the NBA behind the Warriors’.
They’re not here to mess around anymore and could possibly be in the top four seeds in the West this year if their big men can show up.
The Utah Jazz have the right pieces and will be on the cusp of the playoffs, but they still don’t have all the firepower necessary to get over the hump. This team is still young, though, and will be a force in seasons to come behind the paint dominance of Rudy Gobert and the veteran leadership of newcomers George Hill, Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson.
The NBA looks weirder than ever this year. We’ve got no Kobe, no Kevin Garnett and no Tim Duncan. We’ve got Pau Gasol on the Spurs, Dwight Howard on the Hawks and Jeff Teague on the Pacers. There are teams with fresh starts looking to shake-up the playoffs and the typical contenders have bolstered their rosters for that extra push towards a title. It’s going to be a great season everybody.
P.S. I’m calling it now: Damian Lillard wins M.V.P. Don’t @ Me.