There are worse ways to kick off an NBA season than showcasing four of the league’s eight most watchable teams, but fortunately, we needn’t worry about them.
Cavaliers at Bulls (8pm ET Tuesday, TNT)
The evening begins with LeBron James & LeBron-naires beginning their Eastern Conference title defense in the Windy City, where they’ll face Derrick Rose, one of the league’s most snake-bitten and tone-deaf superstars, and the Bulls.
The Cavaliers’ title quest last season was derailed when Kevin Love suffered a dislocated shoulder in the first round of the playoffs, and then point guard Kyrie Irving went down with a fractured kneecap in Game 1 of the Finals. Love has spent the summer paddle boarding and hiking in Park City, Utah, and has been playing preseason games, but is not yet back to 100%, while Irving has vowed to play with “a lot more rage,” though there’s still no timetable for his return. But there is good news for LeBron, as Tristan Thompson has finally re-signed and should be ready to go.
For the Bulls, Derrick Rose will be sporting a face mask, as he continues to recover from a cracked orbital bone. Rose’s rich injury history has limited him to a grand total of 100 games over the previous four seasons, but perhaps equally distressing for Bulls fans is the news that star shooting guard Jimmy Butler has removed the rear view mirror from his car. The biggest change for the Bulls will be on the sideline, as Fred Hoiberg takes over the head coaching duties from drill sergeant/defensive mastermind Tom Thibodeau.
Pelicans at Warriors (10:30pm ET Tuesday, TNT)
The New Orleans Pelicans hope to improve on their 34-win total of last season, and have brought in former Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry to better leverage the greatness of Anthony “The Brow” Davis. Gentry was credited with having a hand in devising the high-flying offense that led the Golden State Warriors to the title, though it’s unclear New Orleans has yet assembled the necessary raw talent. Gentry is undaunted, though, having already promised Towns a title.
Davis had a monster breakout last season, averaging 24 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. According to John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating, it was the best season ever by a guy not named Wilt, Michael or LeBron. That stat may be little more than bar-fight fodder, but what’s not in doubt is that in a recent survey 86% of NBA general managers said they’d start their franchise with Davis – isn’t that enough reason to watch the kid work?
No? It’s not? OK, then how about the passingest, shootingest, World Championingest offense in the NBA? The Warriors bring back reigning MVP Steph “Chef” Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the gang that defeated the Cavs in last season’s finals.
There will be two notable absences on the Golden State sideline: Gentry, who will be on the enemy bench; and head coach Steve Kerr, who remains on indefinite leave as he addresses serious back issues. Filling in for Kerr is 35-year-old assistant Luke Walton.