If you feel like you just saw the Lakers win the title a few weeks ago and now a new NBA season is starting in a few days. Well, you are not imagining things. 2020 is almost over, thank goodness, but we’re still living in a pandemic world. So nothing is the same as we’re used to. That includes professional sports! Tipoff for the 2020–2021 NBA season gets underway this week. There are a few narratives to watch for this upcoming season that should have you glued to your flat screen or hold up in your man cave. This week, the hunt begins for the Larry O’Brien trophy!
1- Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets
The long-awaited return of two-time NBA champ Kevin Durant is finally here! Since Brooklyn signed him and Kyrie Irving over a year ago, fans have been eagerly awaiting to see if Durant can return to his old form. As well as what the Nets will look like with this lethal duo. Is this the “one-two” combination the Nets need to make them a championship caliber team?
Add first-time NBA head coach Steve Nash to the mix and you have a team that will certainly be worth watching! Nash was a development coach with the Warriors when KD played in Golden State. The two developed a good relationship during KD’s time there so the adjustment should be a smooth one for both player and coach. The X-factor? How much drama will Kyrie Irving bring this season. More importantly, how will it affect the chemistry with Durant and the rest of the team? Kyrie has already been fined $25K for not talking to the press during this pre-season’s media week. How will “Coach” Nash handle his drama? How will he keep the team focused on the prize? Watch out for KD and the Nets as they could provide some exciting storylines this season on and off the court!
2- Can King James and the Lakers Repeat?
All eyes will be on LeBron James and the LA Lakers. Can they repeat as NBA champs. If James gets his 5th title, it matches him with legends Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. It also puts him just one behind the GOAT Michael Jordan. Betting experts have LA as the favorite to win it all again. Why? They reloaded with the signings of Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell. This means depth is no longer and issue. It however, will still be a tough road. With only two months since they played their last game in “The Bubble” there was little time to rest and reenergize in preparation for the upcoming season.
Many teams will be gunning for them starting with the Trailblazers, Rockets and Jazz. All three teams faced LA during last season’s playoff run. The Rockets have improved by getting John Wall from Washington who is good for a double-double on any night and added veteran Demarcus Cousins. Head out East and you have the Celtics, Bucks and Heat that are aiming to make it back to the playoffs in hopes of getting to the ‘ship! The Bucks strengthened their roster having signed Giannis Antetokuopmpo to a super max deal. They also added Jrue Holiday and Sam Merrill. Any of these teams would love nothing more than to take the crown from King James.
3- Houston We Have a Problem
James Harden wants out of Houston! While he still has two years left on his contract Harden has made his displeasure known and asked management to trade him. His dream destination is Brooklyn since he feels that’s his best chance of forming a “Big 3” and winning a title, but that request has since expanded to the 76ers and several other teams.
If the Rockets trade him, they will want some blue-chip assets in return. Would Brooklyn give up Kyrie Irving? Highly unlikely. New GM Rafael Stone would probably get a package that includes Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarret Allen and a few 1st round picks. If a trade to Philly happens, look for Houston to ask for Ben Simmons, Mike Scott and also a few 1st round picks. Where Harden lands is anyone’s guess, but the bigger question will be how will he adjust playing in a new system on a new team? On ESPN’s Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin morning talk show Charles Barkley stated “He’s played the exact same way for six or seven years. He’s not going to Brooklyn and say, ‘Oh I’m going to stand around and watch Kyrie and Kevin, Like I want the ball.” Let’s see if Barkley’s words ring true when Harden is traded.
4- Stephen Curry is Back!
After Durant, the next most anticipated return is Stephen Curry! Suffering a broken left-hand last season, Curry is fully healed and ready to show he’s still the best sharpshooter in the league. It has been almost a year since Curry has played any meaningful games and he’s looking to bring the Warriors back to playoff contention.
Unfortunately, he will be without his Splash brothers partner Klay Thompson who is out for the season with an Achilles injury. Will Curry be able to carry Golden State without Klay? Fortunately, Steph still has Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubrie surrounding him. Also working in their favor is they had a total of nine months of rest from the time the league stopped play back in March combined with not having to play in Orlando. Thus, they are not suffering from the same exhaustion as those teams that played in “The Bubble”.
Can Golden State use this to their advantage and knock off some teams to get back to the championship or will the rest work against them and take time to shake off the rust? Either way, it will be fun to watch Curry and the Warriors and how they complete against a Western Conference that is fully stacked!!
5- The Youth Movement
This NBA season you could see a “Youth Movement” in the league that has not been seen since the early 2000s when all-stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony entered the league. There are players like Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks) and Jason Tatum (Boston Celtics) that showcased their game on the playoff stage last season and are on the verge of becoming household names if they continue to lead their teams to the playoffs.
Add to this list players such as Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks), Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns) and Jai Morant (Memphis Grizzlies) who can become all-stars this season if they play up to or exceed their potential. Another group of players to watch out for includes Tyler Herro (Miami Heat), Michael Porter Jr (Denver Nuggets), Bogdan Bogdanovic (Atlanta Hawks) and Coby White (Chicago Bulls) that could potentially break out this NBA season and grab their share of SportsCenter highlights with their exciting play. If any of these players turn out to be the next LeBron, ‘Melo or DWade, the league is in good hands for many years to come!
Opening night the 2020-2021 NBA Season is Wednesday, December 22nd. Get your popcorn ready. This one should be a doozy.