Views 86 | Time to read: 5 minutes | Uploaded: 11 - 4 - 2014 | By: Drew Fabricius
Last year the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA Finals. However, buzz around the league does not include the defending champs as much as one would think.
They did hire Becky Hammon, making the long-time WBNA star the NBA’s first full time paid assistant female coach. Yet, the commencement of this season is full of much more dramatic and exciting issues for NBA fans.
Perhaps the most significant change in the NBA for this season is the return of Lebron James to Cleveland. There, he joins two time All-Star Kyrie Irving, who was a first overall selection out of Duke in 2011 NBA Draft.
Dominant big man Kevin Love also joins the Cavs, after a highly controversial trade sent Andrew Wiggins to the Timberwolves. Wiggins was the first round draft pick for Cleveland in this year’s draft, but was traded for Love before he could play a regular season game.
This is Lebron’s second “Big Three.” Only this time he has Anderson Varejao. In Miami, the missing piece always seemed to be a center they could rely on. Many think the 6’11” Brazilian will be more than enough for “King James” and his Cavaliers.
On opening night, the Knicks embarrassed Lebron in Cleveland. He had eight turnovers, making just five of the fifteen shots he took, and the Cavs lost 95-90.
However, the next night, on Halloween, James played closer to his expectations. In overtime against the Bulls he scored his team’s first eight points (he finished with 36 points total), as Cleveland hung on for a 114-108 victory.
As Lebron James leads the charge for Cleveland in the Eastern Conference, one Finals hopeful in the West is experiencing severe chaos.
Both Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have gone down with injuries. According to USA Today, Durant has what’s called a Jones Stress Fracture, and could be out for six to eight weeks. With reigning MVP winner out, Oklahoma City would normally rely on Russell Westbrook. But they cannot.
Westbrook recently had surgery on his broken hand, and ESPN says that he could be out at least four weeks. Last year OKC averaged 106.2 points a game. Without Durant (32) and Westbrook (21.8), the Thunder are losing nearly half of their offensive production.
Serge Ibaka was the next highest on the list, with a mere 15.1 PPG. He, along with Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins, will be called upon to lead the offense that is usually built around Durant and Westbrook.
Last year Westbrook tore his meniscus and missed six months. The Thunder were able to rely on Durant, and experiment with other role players in their offense. However, missing both cornerstones to their offense could result in a very slow start for Oklahoma City.
As one team in the Western Conference is dealt two major injuries, another looks to rebound from a major injury.
Kobe Bryant is the face of the Lakers organization. On December 17, 2013 Bryant suffered a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee. He was out for the remainder of the season and the Lakers finished 27-55, the second worst record in the West.
The season prior to that, Kobe tore his Achilles tendon on his left leg.
So, after two devastating injuries, the Lakers hoped that this was the year that everything was in place. They acquired Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin, and drafted Julius Randle in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Then fate struck again. Nash, who only played 15 games last season due to a back injury, re-injured his back while carrying luggage. He will miss the entire 2014-2015 season.
Additionally, Julius Randle, the Lakers’ brand new power forward broke his tibia on opening day against the Rockets. He will likely miss the entire season.
LA went on to lose to Houston 108-90. The next night they lost to Phoenix 119-99. Then they lost to the Clippers 118-111.
The Clippers were their biggest test, as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin lead an explosive playoff contender. The Lakers faired decently on offense, as Kobe scored 31. However, the Lakers suffered unacceptable meltdowns on defense, allowing poor mismatches, and wide open shooters.
New coach Byron Scott puts a great deal of emphasis on defense, and wants more methodical control on offense. "I don't want us to be coming down, forcing up a bunch of threes. I really want us to attack the basket” he said (LA Times).
Clearly, in the midst of major injuries and key free agency moves, NBA fans will now enjoy a new, remodeled league, whose crown is certainly up for grabs.
Photo by Flickr user Keith Allison CC BY 2.0