The NBA gets PR. They now how to milk a season and get great expectation/anticipation out of something that hasn’t even happened. They are selling an experience eight weeks before the experience happens. They leak the schedule in August to generate buzz and discussion. They want everyone excited about what is about to happen in autumn and they want to sell tickets and want NBA fans engaged during NFL preseason.
Their national tv schedule the first week of the season was true to form. Make a list of All-Stars and popular love/hate storylines and you could have pretty much guessed the schedule sitting on your couch. Of course it is LeBron in a Laker jersey opening night…wait what? No LeBron opening night?
Ok. That would be major disrespect for the Warriors. Opening night is when the champs get their rings. No one wants to see LeBron vs. Warriors just yet. We all knew the Christmas day game is coming. So instead of LeBron, the saltiness of Westbrook/Durant, Paul George, and Carmelo exiled so the Thunder might have a chance, is good seconds. It will be a good look to see if the Thunder have figured out an offense outside of let Russ dominate everything. Then in the east, the two best teams, the Celtics and Sixers go at it. It’s old school and new school. Plus, it’s a Gordon Hayward redo on opening night. How healthy is he and what does the offense with Jayson Tatum and Hayward look like?
Here’s how they rank in my house:
Lakers vs. Rockets. It is LeBron’s debut in Staples Center in front of the Hollywood crowd and expect a whole bunch of Lakers legends. But Houston is the story. Carmelo trying to stop LeBron or Kyle Kuzma is straight up comedy. Will he even try? The Rockets defense will be trash so they will go full throttle D’Antoni move it or shoot it offense mode. Will D’Antoni give Melo the side eye when Melo is iso-ing too much? James Harden usually goes off in his hometown. If nothing else, this is going to be Hollywood on steroids, an entertainment spectacle or fiasco but still worth the viewing money.
Golden State vs. Thunder. Unless you live in the Bay you have no interest in seeing the Warriors get their rings. It’s all about what the Thunder can do that they couldn’t do six months ago. Ring night usually means the champs lose, they are too giddy and full of themselves. If the Thunder can’t beat the Warrior when the Dubs are high fiving how great they are, OKC is going to be a gloomy situation in 2018-19.
76ers at Celtics. A redo of the playoffs when the young Sixers just fell apart. What is the deal with Ben Simmons shot? Can he actually put the ball in the hole? Has he spent his off-season working on his offense or is his still murdering the rim? Is Gordon Hayward back? And does that mean devaluing Jayson Tatum? The Celtics still don’t have a talented center so guarding Joel Embiid is going to be misery. Embiid will be out for blood. He wants the MVP so every game he’s going to go at it hard.
Celtics at Raptors. Kawhi will be in a new uniform and finally play a game. That’s progress. No one expects any chemistry from the Raptors yet. They have a new coach. They are a team expected to gel after January. But it will be interesting to see if Kyle Lowry is still in a bad mood and what, if anything, that second Raptors team can do against the experienced C’s. As for the Celtics, this is a good test for the prohibitive winners of the East.
Lakers vs. Blazers. LeBron in a Lakers jersey, for real. Yes. It did happen. We get a peek at the Luke Walton offense. How is he going to make the second team with Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson and Jason Hart work? How is he going to integrate Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram in the LeBron universe? And, is Lonzo Ball irrelevant with LeBron having the rock? An angry Damian Lillard will be a joy to watch because he is going to get serious buckets. He destroys the Lakers. Pencil him in for 38.
Pelicans vs. Rockets. Rockets home opener as they are faced with a team with size. The Rockets have no front court to speak of outside of a young Clint Capela. The Pels added Julius Randle and Jahlil Okafor to Anthony Davis and they are going to go straight at the Rockets withering power forward tandem while Davis runs rings around Houston. Chris Paul should get anywhere he wants. Jrue Holiday/James Harden will be entertaining. If the Rockets give up 125 points to the Pels, it’s going to be a long season.
Mavs at Suns. DeAndre Ayton versus DeAndre Jordan. Jordan will dominate him at the rim and inside but if Ayton has a pullup he could make Jordan work. The Suns are a mess until they prove to me they are not. Can Devin Booker give up the ball and make players better? It is also the debut of Luka Doncic who I want to see in the NBA. Rumors are he’s slow but crafty. But NBA relevant crafty or just crafty for a Euro?
Bulls at Sixers. A lot of young players but the Bulls aren’t good so the 76ers will toy with them. Thinking about Joel Embiid and Lauri Markkanen makes me laugh. Ditto Ben Simmons and Kirs Dunn.
Warriors at Jazz. I don’t care about the Warriors until May and the Jazz are Donovan Mitchell or bust. They don’t have enough offensive weapons. A Dateline murder mystery is more compelling.
Raptors at Wizards. John Wall and Bradley Beal and the Wizards flotsam underachieve so much they have stripped my caring about them because it’s only going to be a palace fight somewhere down the line and stars sulking. Dwight Howard is the only thing interesting about this team. Like how bad is he going to blow it up?
Rockets at Clippers. Seriously?