The NBA season is finally here and you couldn’t ask for a better opening night than Chicago taking on Cleveland and New Orleans getting an immediate chance for an early season measuring stick against the reigning champs and the team that bounced them from the playoffs last season. We get the best team and reigning conference champ in each league taking on teams with plenty of star power. We also get three of the five leading MVP candidates on the same network on the same night (My top five, in admittedly fluid projected order: Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James, and Steph Curry).
I am pumped for an awesome basketball season here at The Sportsgeek, both NBA and college, and there is no better way to start a new season than by notching some winners. So let’s get down to business.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls -3 (Total:
The Cavaliers and Bulls played one of the least compelling series that had multiple buzzer-beaters than I can ever recall. Meaning, the outcomes were tense, but the overall games? Meh. However, there is something special about the appreciation that both teams have for one another; Chicago knowing this is the team they must get past in order to reach the goal, and Cleveland knowing this is one of the very few rosters in the East that can even come close on a talent level.
Things are going to look a little different in Chicago. Gone is Coach Thibs and the grinding, smothering defensive identity that tended to also grind out his players. Insert Fred Hoiberg, a more upbeat and offensively creative head coach. Gone also is Joakim Noah from the starting lineup. He will instead energize the second unit while Nicola Mirotic seeks to provide the additional scoring punch the Bulls have so sorely lacked. Rumor has it Dougie McBuckets may even see a little court time this season under the new regime.
Meanwhile, things in Cleveland look a little different than last time we saw them as well. Namely, everyone is healthy again. I wrote yesterday in the preview column I sincerely think this team can win 65 games this year. They are that much better than everyone else in the East when healthy. And they finally ARE. I think Love, Kyrie and LeBron will look much more seamless together in Year Two and that it will be evident as soon as tonight.
Betting road favorites is often a perilous path in the NBA, but I think Cleveland shines tonight in the opener. LeBron may have his minutes curtailed, but so will Derek Rose. Besides, no way LeBron is restricted too much if the game is tight, as I expect it will be. Cleveland won three of four against the Bulls in the regular season, and of course summarily bounced them from the playoffs.
I’ll take LeBron and Co. tonight in the opener, even in the United Center.