By Joseph Yamulla, Contributing Writer ||
The NBA season officially kicked off this past week as teams reported to training camp. Every season is highly anticipated by basketball fans. However, this past offseason has been filled with dramatic headlines that created hype and enthusiasm in the sports world early on.
Perhaps the most dramatic occurrence in the offseason had to deal with Lebron James’ decision to leave the Miami Heat and return to play for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only was this a headline story for the NBA but also one of the best stories in recent sports history.
Prior to the 2010 season, Lebron James was the poster boy of the NBA. He was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, and played his entire career with the hometown team in Cleveland that drafted him. After coming up short for seven seasons in Cleveland, James decided to leave the Cavaliers and join an incredibly talented basketball team in Miami. This move, obviously, made Lebron James the player that everyone loved to hate and root against.
After spending four seasons and winning two championships in Miami, James made the dramatic and unexpected decision in July to return to Cleveland and attempt to win a championship for the city that drafted him right out of high school. James issued a powerful letter describing why he is returning to Cleveland with the dramatic conclusion of, “Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get. In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”
In doing so, Lebron James has mended a lot of hurt that was caused when he left the Cavaliers, and also created an incredible amount of excitement to see him wear the #23 Cleveland jersey once again. It would be an incredible story if Lebron James can win a championship for a city who has needed something to cheer about for a long time.
Lebron James is a huge contributor to the excitement for this NBA season, but he, of course, is not the sole factor. The San Antonio Spurs, the team that beat James’ Miami Heat in the NBA Finals is returning strong this season. Many expected 38 year-old veteran center, Tim Duncan, to retire after winning the championship. However, he wants to come back and have a chance at repeating his victory. The Spurs definitely have the roster to accomplish this task. Along with Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Park, and the young cold-blooded Kawhi Leonard are all back for San Antonio this season.
Coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs are always a well-oiled machine and very well-coached team that can make deep playoff runs.
Kevin Durant is coming off winning the NBA MVP award, and is leading an Oklahoma Thunder team which definitely has the talent top to bottom to win the Western Conference. Durant and teammate, Russell Westbrook, will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the NBA this season. Look for the Thunder to be one of the top three teams in the West.
It will also be very interesting to see how the Miami Heat respond to losing their superstar Lebron James. The team still has all-star and NBA champion veterans Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Newcomers Luol Deng, Danny Granger, and rookie Shabazz Napier will have to step up and fill the huge void that James left behind. The Heat still have a roster that can lead them to the playoffs, and a Miami vs. Cleveland matchup would definitely be something to see.
Out in Los Angeles, the Clippers will continue to have a strong team. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Jamal Crawford are a dynamic nucleus to a contending team under head coach Doc Rivers.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have their work cut out for them. Superstar Kobe Bryant should be healthy this season, however, his supporting cast is very young and not yet very seasoned. Still, it has been seen in the past that if Kobe Bryant is healthy, he can do some special things, regardless of who is on his team. The Lakers just may surprise some people out there who do not believe that they can contend this season.
The Indiana Pacers have been title contenders for the past couple seasons, led by all-star Paul George, David West, George Hill, and Roy Hibbert. However, they got gutted back on August 1st.
During a scrimmage for Team USA in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, Paul George suffered a gruesome compound fracture of his tibia and fibula in his right leg. Doctors say that George will miss all of the 2014-2015 season, but he should return 100% once he is fully recovered after a year.
For this season though, it is a mess for the Indiana Pacers. The team’s president of basketball operations, Larry Bird, has a full plate of decisions to make on how to structure his team without his best player, Paul George.
There are plenty of teams with a lot of young talent coming off playoff runs as well. These teams include the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies, Brooklyn Nets, and the Atlanta Hawks. Each of these teams has the ability to return to the playoffs this year and make a lot of noise. It is definitely worth keeping an eye on them.
The unmentioned teams who did not make the playoffs and are looking for rebound seasons are, the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz, and the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a tough 19-63 season, but the future is bright under head coach, Brett Brown. The Sixers’ point-guard, Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year. Rookie center, Nerlens Noel, is starting his NBA career after an ACL tear postponed it last season. If their first-round draft pick, Joel Embiid, can stay healthy, Philadelphia should have an incredibly strong basketball team within the next few years.
The offseason truly was filled with unexpected surprises that created a lot of buzz for fans to get excited about. Opening night is Oct. 28, and there will definitely be a lot to watch in the NBA this year. So buckle up and get prepared for another great season in the NBA.
First-year Joe Yamulla is a contributing writer. His email is email@example.com.