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The Warriors' Steph Curry and the Rockets' James Harden
NBA

NBA on Sling: Warriors’ Title Defense Begins, LeBron, Kyrie & Isaiah Reunite

An off-season of mind-boggling NBA player relocations is finally over, and for all the All-Stars and future Hall-of-Famers who changed addresses, little has changed: The Warriors are still overwhelming favorites to win it all, the Cavs are the best bet to represent the East in the Finals, the Celtics are scrappy upstarts with a punchers chance, the Rockets and Thunder are gonna be fun to watch, the Spurs will win 60…

Tuesday

Boston Celtics vs Cleveland Cavaliers, 8pm ET on TNT

It was the trade that stunned the world, as Kyrie Irving set in motion his trade from Cleveland to Boston in return for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and a couple of draft picks. But neither team was done retooling, as the Cavs brought LeBron’s BFF, Dwyane Wade, and perennial reclamation project Derrick Rose, while Boston added free agents Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris, as well as the #3 pick in the draft, small forward Jayson Tatum out of Duke. When the dust settled, the C’s had returned just 4 guys from a team that had led the Eastern Conference in wins. Both of these teams will be interesting to watch, and both are favored to stage a rematch of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals. Sadly, LeBron James, who’s missed much of the preseason with a bum ankle, is questionable for tonight’s opener, and Kevin Love is listed as day-to-day.

Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors

10:30pm ET on TNT

After years of title dreams derailed by Blake Griffin’s untimely injuries, All World guard Chris Paul made one of his own, leaving the Clippers to join James Harden and the Rockets. Harden will give Paul fits, but Paul should be so happy playing under Mike D’Antoni that he’ll let it slide. The defending world champion Golden State Warriors bring back essentially the same cast intact for a title defense, and the rest of the league should brace themselves, because head coach Steve Kerr has said, “I think we’ll be better this year.” Yikes.

 

Wednesday

Philadelphia 76ers vs Washington Wizards

7pm ET on ESPN

Ben Simmons is healthy! Joel Embiid is healthy(-ish)! Jahlil Okafor is healthy(-ish)! Markelle Fultz is healthy(-ish)! Could this be the year? Probably not — but ESPN has these guys projected for 42 wins, a level they haven’t achieved since the ’04-’05 season. The Sixers even went out and got JJ Reddick to open up space with his long-range jumpers, but also to opine on activity in the White House. As for the Wizards, John Wall and Bradley Beal emerged as one of the game’s premier guard combos, and they’ve got a solid supporting cast – they should reach 50 wins this season for the first time since the ’78-‘79 team.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves vs San Antonio Spurs

9:30pm ET on ESPN

The Chicago Bulls went into teardown mode with the trade of Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, which should give the T’wolves some much needed veteran leadership. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns have been fantastic in their young careers, but last year’s team somehow was among the worst shooting teams in the league despite shooting the lowest percentage of 3’s of any team. What is there to say about the Spurs? Kawhi Leonard is back, as is LaMarcus Aldridge (who just signed an extension), Manu Ginobili, and coach Gregg Popovich, and Tony Parker will be back in time for New Year’s – pencil them in for 60 wins and they’ll get back to you in April.

 

Thursday

New York Knicks vs Oklahoma City Thunder

8pm ET on TNT

The wretched marriage of Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks is finally behind us, and now it is officially Kristaps Porzingis’ team. Praise be and hallelujah! In return for Melo, who got shipped off to OKC, the Knicks got valuable big man Enes Kanter, and they backed up a truckload of money to land Tim Hardaway Jr. to play guard. They’re a work in progress, but at least it’s finally progress. Pity about the owner, though. How will Melo look alongside Russell Westbrook? We’ll see! Also joining them is former Pacer Paul George, who came over in a trade featuring Victor Oladipo. Strange mix of dudes, but maybe being second or third banana is just what Melo needs.

 

Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers

10:30pm ET on TNT

Chris Paul has taken his talents to Houston, leaving DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin to learn to live life with new guard Miloš Teodosić, a 6-5 30-year-old rookie out of Serbia. New teammate Patrick Beverly has said Teodosić “might be the best passer in the NBA right now.” In addition to Teodosić and Beverly, the Clips also added free agent sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari, who’s averaged 18.8 ppg over the last two seasons.  Are you ready for an 82-game season of Lonzo Ball’s dad? Ball – Lonzo, not his dad –missed the final four pre-season games with a sprained ankle, but says he’s ready to go for the opener. The Lakers acquired Brook Lopez and Andrew Bogut to roam the paint, but this team is still very young and a year or three away from the playoffs.

 

Friday

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Milwaukee Bucks

7pm ET on ESPN

The Milwaukee Bucks feature one of the most dynamic players in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who last season became the just the fifth player ever to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, joining Dave Cowens, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James. Sadly, the Bucks didn’t get hi much in the way of help to try to improve on last year’s 42 wins. Shame. Watching him and King James face off will be a hoot.

Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans

9:30pm ET on ESPN

There may be no team in the league with a wider range of potential outcomes than the New Orleans Pelicans. They rolled the dice late last season on a 15-month rental of Boogie Cousins to play alongside Anthony Davis. This will be their first season with some time to train together. Add to the mix Rajon Rondo, who could give Boogie a run for his money in the Mercurial Olympics, and defensive specialist Tony Allen, and you’ve got enough talent and dynamite to make a lot of noise – for good or ill.

All stats courtesy ESPN and Basketball Reference.

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