New York Knicks (0-0) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (0-0)
7:30pm ET Tuesday on TNT
The New York Knicks made a bold, if ill-conceived, move this summer, trading away Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez to the Chicago Bulls for Derrick Rose, Justin Holliday and a 2017 2nd-round draft pick. They also signed Rose’s old friend Joakim Noah and guard Brandon Jennings. Rose, Noah and Jennings have all been very good to great in their careers, but they all have distressing medical histories. And not only will the Knicks be praying that Rose can stay healthy, they’re going to have to wait for him to get up to speed as he’s spent much of his time lately in a civil rape trial, one that finally ended Wednesday with his being cleared. The general consensus is that sophomore Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, but GM Phil Jackson seems intent on gambling on the team’s present. Look for ‘Melo to get traded to Golden State by the All Star break (We kid, we kid).
All hail the King! LeBron James and the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers are back and ready to defend their title, with essentially the same cast intact. Backup pest/guard Matthew Dellavedova was shipped out in a sign-and-trade, Timofey Mozgov signed with the Lakers, and Mo Williams retired, while Mike Dunleavy was brought in to fire off three-pointers and create some space in the lane. What this team managed to do in overthrowing the defending champion Warriors in last season’s finals was a miracle, and James’ performance – leading both teams in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks – should silence once and for all the haters who say he wilts in the big moments. It won’t, but it should. Here’s hoping the world gets the finals rubber match it wants.
San Antonio Spurs (0-0) vs. Golden State Warriors (0-0)
10:30pm ET Tuesday on TNT
It’s the dawn of a new era in San Antonio, as the Spurs prepare for the first time in 20 years to go into battle without Hall of Fame lock Tim Duncan. Not surprisingly, head coach Gregg Popovich has done a masterful job of preparing for the transition to life A.D., grooming Kawhi Leonard to be the team’s new leader on both ends of the floor, while bringing in LaMarcus Aldridge to roam the paint, and this offseason adding veteran big man Pau Gasol. Between the epic Cavs-Warriors finals and Duncan’s departure, it’s easy to forget the Spurs had the second-best record in the league last year, but their 67 wins is tied for seventh-most all time. They’ll be playing well into May at least, as usual.
Brace yourself for the most hyped team in NBA history: Steph Curry and the 73-win Warriors responded to losing in the NBA finals to the Cavs by going out and signing Kevin Durant, the active leader in career points per game. It’s hard to recall such a successful team keeping its core intact and then adding a talent of Durant’s magnitude – maybe the 1998 Yankees, who won 114 games and the World Series, and then went out and signed Roger Clemens for the ‘99 season, but Clemens was past his prime and could only pitch every fifth day. The only problems the Warriors are going to confront this season are the fact that there’s only one ball and the potentially crushing weight of expectations. For this vintage of Warriors to get off to a better start than last year’s would mean winning their first 25 games in a row – think about that for a moment. If the Warriors lose a game in October or November, some clown out there will surely write a column asking “What’s Wrong With the Warriors?” No pressure, fellas. If the preseason is any indication, they’ll manage just fine.