Top storylines for NBA opening day 2017
AP Photos (Michael Wyke - Stephen Curry, Eric Risberg - James Harden)
The 2017-2018 NBA season cannot start soon enough, and we're all waiting with bated breath. Several teams have retooled to match up better with defending champions Golden State Warriors, and it will surely be interesting to see how all the moves and machinations of the offseason will bear fruit.
Before we get ahead of ourselves and prematurely proclaim Giannis Antetokounmpo as the hipster MVP pick of the new season, let's zero in on the electrifying pair of games that will open the season on October 18 (PHL time).
Game 1: Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers
- Thomas and Ainge ain't talkin' no more
Isaiah Thomas is still salty about getting shipped by the Boston Celtics to the Cleveland Cavaliers, never the mind that he is probably on the second-best team on the planet, though. What everyone knows is that Thomas is smarting from is the impression that Danny Ainge was not willing to roll the dice on re-signing him after this season to a max deal. That after Thomas nearly single-handedly carried the Celtics to the top seed in the East last season, finishing among the top scorers of the entire league.
Thomas was quoted by several media outlets earlier this week as saying, "I might not ever talk to Danny again. That might not happen. I'll talk to everybody else. But what he did, knowing everything I went through, you don't do that, bro."
This could be the worst, ugliest breakup of 2017.
- It ain't no sports land, says Kyrie
How's this for a hot take? Kyrie Irving doesn't seem to be done throwing shade at his former team, and he one-upped himself by actually taking a potshot at the Land itself.
"Boston, I’m driving in and [thinking], ‘I’m really playing in a real, live sports city?’"
Hold up, THIS is still in the running for worst breakup of the year.
How does one of the top point guards in the game leave a city that gave him so much — and where he won his only title (so far) — and then diss that city at the same time? Did he really have to spark even more drama than there needs to be between these Boston and Cleveland? Between LeBron and himself? I mean, it's not like Cleveland fans were torching Kyrie jerseys, right? They revered him in the Land.
Something tells me, however, that there won't be much reverence when he plays them on opening night.
- Does LBJ x Wade still work?
"Wade to LeBron” and vice-versa were fashionable catchphrases from 2010-2014, and it's tempting to say both guys who are now in their early-to-mid 30s can still be as dynamic as they once were.
The painful reality, though, is that they probably won't be. LeBron is still going to be the best basketball player on the face of the earth, of course, but it's clear that Wade has taken several steps back from his world-beating days. There was one play in the current preseason that typified this — Wade threw up a pass off the backboard in transition to a streaking LeBron, who rose up, but mistimed his jump, resulting in an almost comical miss.
Something tells me a pretty good percentage of Wade-to-LaBron possessions will turn out like that. They’ll get fans' juices going and may even sometimes remind us of the "good ol' days," but more often than not, this power couple will look like shadows of their Miami Heat selves.
Game 2: Houston Rockets @ Golden State Warriors
- Green thinks ain't nobody stands a chance
A few days ago, when asked about beating the Cavaliers in the 2017 Finals, Draymond Green fanned the flames by saying, "It's pretty *bleeping* sick to see how everybody is just in a *bleeping* panic about what to do. You sit back and think, like, these *bleepers*, they know. That's the fun part about it: They know they don't stand a chance."
Nope, Green didn't throw shade just at Cleveland. He pretty much implied that nobody — not Houston, OKC, Boston, San Antonio nor any of the other 25 NBA franchises, have a sliver of hope to beat Golden State this season.
And you know what? In the back of our minds, we know there's some truth to that.
The Warriors were so dominant last season, and now that their league-leading four All-Stars have had more time to gel, it's only reasonable to expect them to be even stronger this season. We'll get a first-hand look at that on opening night, when they go head-to-head against what some are saying is the second-best team in the West, the revamped Rockets.
- Is Chris Paul going to push James Harden and the Rockets to another level?
There's a world somewhere out there where CP3 is still the best point guard in the game, but in this world we live in he may not even be the best point guard on his team.
When Houston traded for Paul, fans and pundits were thrown into a frenzy. Could this be the superstar-level move that finally gets Houston over the hump? On paper, this may be a strong-enough push for the Rockets to be a sure-fire second-seed in the West, but many have also pointed out that putting Paul beside another very ball-dominant guard in James Harden may actually create some friction.
Something tells me, though, that if you asked The Beard if he preferred having Paul to not having him, then the answer would be very predictable. Of course, the game's best shooting guard would love having the game's former best point guard. This is a backcourt dream for Mike D'Antoni and his style of play.
Imaging having CP3 and Clint Capela on one side of the floor, Harden + Ryan Anderson on the other, and them running infinite variations of pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops ad nauseam. It's going to be a perplexing proposition for the Rockets' foes and it's gonna be hella fun to watch, but whether it's enough to unseat the Dubs is still up in the air.
- Can Harden's game silence McHale?
Kevin McHale recently threw some shade at James Harden, saying that the former OKC star is "not a leader." In turn, Harden called his former head coach a "clown," to which McHale replied, "calling me names is not going to change my opinion."
The former Celtic great even added, "It's hard to have a lot of credibility if you don't play good defense…he gets to the point where he's just passive. And Chris Paul's not like that."
I love it when former players harp on current superstars. They tend to compare different styles and different times, and though it's not always on-point in terms of logic, it's always great entertainment.
McHale has never been the type of guy to back down, so I'm sure he'd be more than willing to keep this back-and-forth up with the five-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA First Team member. As for Harden, the only way for him to really silence McHale is through his game…and winning. If Harden will be able to put up a great line on opening night and lace it with an improbable win over the Warriors, then I don't think even McHale can come up with a clever comeback.
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