The NBA pre-season is over. The gladiators of the cage arena are done experimenting with line-up rotations, trial offensives, defensive innovations and fancy new individual moves. It is time for the real deal. Come one, come all, and be dazzled as the NBA regular season unfolds.
The race for the NBA 2020 crown is wide open. Gone are the days when we had a dominant Golden State Warriors team that turned the regular season into a mere formality. Gone too are the days of small-ball, eased out by new innovative ways in positionless ball and skill-ball. The 3-point revolution shows no signs of easing up, but the trifecta artists are no longer confined to the small guards alone. Cage behemoths, originally designated to molest puny intruders in the shaded area, have morphed in speed, size, agility and court-smarts. They can now be seen patrolling everywhere and nowhere. There are new partnerships brought about by the off-season’s ‘Great Migration of Stars’; coupled with the arrival of a rich batch of rookies. (Pls read: Exciting Times Ahead for the Coming NBA Season.) Players are now taller, bigger, faster, smarter, and armed with more skill-sets. No less than today’s cage king himself, Lebron James, is taking on a new challenge as a Laker point guard. It will be a brand new season, with much too many questions waiting to be answered.
Indeed, numerous storylines abound, and some of the more compelling ones listed below will determine the season’s direction.
Will Lebron James, with Anthony Davis and a new supporting crew in tow, be able to bring the LA Lakers to the promised land? Or will the LA Clippers, starring an elite defensive line of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley, finally be able to wrest El-Ay from the Lakers’ grip? Which team will take the Western pennant, and go all the way? (Pls read: Conquering the NBA’s Wild, Wild West.)
Will Steph Curry be able to lead the lesser-endowed Warriors to the top once again? Will a combo of Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson (once fully recovered), plus the addition of D’Angelo Russell be enough in the present star-studded Western Conference? How will the Houston Rockets flow their offense with two ball-dominant MVPs in James Harden and Russell Westbrook? Can Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets’ youth squad take another giant step forward? Or will the entry of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovich boost an already loaded Utah Jazz starting roster that include World Cup veterans Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert? Will Hassan Whiteside help upgrade the Portland Trailblazers’ Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum combo? (Pls read: Rating the Best Combos in the Next NBA Season.)
How will Giannis Antetokounmpo be able to up his game for the Milwaukee Bucks? Or will the Philadelphia 76ers, starring Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and newly-acquired Al Horford, finally wrest control of the East? Will the Boston Celtics’ ‘less-for more’ approach unloading the likes of Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and some in exchange for Kemba Walker and a couple of rookies improve team chemistry? How will Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan be able to hold the Brooklyn Nets afloat while Kevin Durant recovers from his injury? Will their first-ever NBA Finals experience embolden the Kyle Lowry-led Toronto Raptors? (Pls read: Which Beast of the East Will Meet the Best of the West?)
How will the recent shut-out of Team USA affect the style of play in the NBA? Will teams such as the Dallas Mavericks or even the depleted San Antonio Spurs under losing Team USA coach Gregg Popovich take some pages from the Euroball playbook to the NBA? (Pls read: My Take-Aways From the Recently-Concluded FIBA World Cup.) Can the up-tempo type of game continue to rule the league? Will the 3-point revolution continue to gain momentum?
Off the court, more drama continues. Will the league make a stand on the controversial Daryl Morey tweet upsetting China? How will the introduction of today’s load-management program among key players affect the league? How will the trend of player-induced trades and alignments affect future franchise planning considerations? Will measures be taken against teams tanking in favor of future considerations?
These are just some of the burning questions aching to be answered. This October 22, the league opens its regular season with a doubleheader. The first game features the reigning champs Toronto Raptors versus the New Orleans Pelicans with their prized rookie, Zion Williamson. The second game will feature the game most everyone would love to watch. Hold your breath, folks, it’s the first Battle for El-ay between the Lakers and the Clippers. Watch out for it.
Let’s get ready to rumble!!!
Cover Photo courtesy of Clutch Points. Other pics courtesy of Fadeaway World, Silver Screen Scree and Roll, Quora, CBS Sports, YouTube, ABC 7 San Francisco, Vibe, Facebook, Clips Nation, The Talk Sports Media, Journal Sentinel.