Joshua Hicks is a contributor to WARR and The D & Davis Show
The NBA season is officially back!
Opening night is around the corner as a crazy, yet exciting offseason and eventful preseason are coming to an end. There are a few games that I will definitely be analyzing throughout the opening week.
Who’s The Real Sports City? — First is Kyrie Irving’s return to the Land against his former team the Cleveland Cavaliers (Oct. 17, 7pm, TNT). This will be the first time Irving and the new look Celtics will be playing the new Cavs team since the infamous trade shocked the entire world this past July.
The Celtics and LeBron James have always had some form of rivalry in place, going back to the King’s younger days when he could not get past the C’s until he joined forces with current teammate Dwyane Wade in Miami.
But with James’ current success of beating Boston for seven straight years and his former right hand man joining the Eastern Conference woe, James and his new look Cavs are going to be writing the next chapter in the James-Celtics history book. I look forward to seeing how Kyrie comes out to play against his former teammates in this epic showdown, and see if the King himself will accept a one on one challenge with the young protégé in the final minutes of the game.
Houston, We Could Be a Problem — My second marquee game is the Houston Rockets against the Golden State Warriors (Oct. 17, 9:30 pm, TNT).
Last season’s champs get to receive their rings on opening night and the new look Rockets, maybe the Warriors most promising Western Conference foe, have an opportunity to spoil the night with a win in the loud Oracle Arena. After acquiring future hall-of-famer Chris Paul to team up with James Harden, H-town’s team is more aggressive on both ends of the floor, making them tough contenders.
However, the Warriors got stronger with the addition of Nick “Swaggy P” Young and they should be fortified mentally knowing just how hard it is to repeat in the NBA. Former MVP’s Steph Curry and Kevin Durant will keep coming with offensive assertiveness that really only the Warriors themselves can stop. I look forward to seeing which side will be playing the best defensive game. With both teams shooting at all-world levels from the 3-point line, the team that makes the less amount from downtown will likely make the difference between a happy banner-raising celebration or a crashed party.
Melo Starring Off Broadway — The third game I will be watching closely is Carmelo Anthony playing host to his former New York Knick compatriots as the Oklahoma City Thunder play against the New York Knicks in OKC (Oct. 19, 7pm, TNT)
Melo escaped from a turmoiled disaster in New York to a retooled high-powered offense in the heart of the country. With him playing alongside MVP Russell Westbrook and the newly acquired smooth operator in Paul “PG-13 ”George, he now has a chance to showoff his case for not just now being on a winning franchise, but also show the Knicks that they made a mistake in letting him experience all that turmoil throughout his tenure with the franchise.
I expect Melo to come out on fire, showing the Knicks what they let go and prove that he is still one of the best in the game. But I also want to pay attention to Knicks’ young international star Kristaps Porzingas response to all the hype now that he is lone face of the franchise.
Young Wolves vs. Old Guns — The last game that I will focus on is the Minnesota Timberwolves against the San Antonio Spurs (Oct. 18, 8:30 pm, ESPN). The T-Wolves made big splashes this summer by acquiring rising star Jimmy Butler from the Bulls and free agents Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague.
And now, flaunting a revamped roster complete improving young rising stars in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins — who recently locked in long-term with a new five-year, 148 million dollar extension — the T-Wolves can make some noise, starting with a shot to make a statement against the league’s most perennial winning franchise.
The Spurs, however, are not intent on letting other squads pass them by and they have made some splashes of their own.
San Antonio brought back Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili for at least one more title run, but with Khawhi Leonard becoming an efficient scorer and recent signee Rudy Gay by his side along the Spurs now add a legitimate second option and increase their perimeter defense to help their aging backcourt.
A just locked-up Lamarcus Aldridge also adds to the stability of the Spurs’ near future, something that franchise and fan base should be used to.
I look forward to the defensive matchup comparison between Butler and Leonard. With both teams improving and seemingly equal strength coming off the bench, whoever wins that matchup of all-stars will most likely win the game.
Joshua Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio