The NBA is back, and now that it’s steadily marching forward, toward bigger and better things — the new TV deal, alongside a mild popularity vacuum with the NFL’s abysmal summer of PR, all seemed to indicate that the NBA would continue to fill the void for people who were getting sick of football (even if no one’s really getting sick of football) — the start of the season feels like it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. Luckily for us, opening night features one great doubleheader, one guaranteed stomp, and, for those with League Pass or the right local television subscription, a look into one of the great basketball stars of tomorrow. This is awesome.
There’s a lot to take in, even with a slate of just three games, and it’s important to take note of the who, what, and how of the inaugural evening of NBA basketball. Luckily, we sat down and examined the schedule, and we’ve boiled down the five essential things that anyone interested in watching the games Tuesday night should be keying in on. Not to say that you shouldn’t enjoy the game as a piece of entertainment, of course — because that’s what it is, first and foremost — but consider this a bit of a guiding light.
For starters, the three games on Tuesday (all times Eastern) will be New Orleans against Orlando at 8 p.m. (NBA TV), with San Antonio taking on Dallas in the early slot on TNT (8 p.m.), and Houston and the Lakers playing the late game, at 10:30 p.m., on the same channel. Here are five things you won’t want to miss on the NBA’s 2014-2015 opening night.
5. A rematch of the real 2014 NBA Finals
If you’re the kind of person who has NBA League Pass, then you’re already aware of the tough decisions you’re going to face when tipoffs for the early games come around. But we’ll get to that in a second. First, we’d be remiss if we didn’t illustrate the fact that, for all intents and purposes, the first round of the Western Conference half of the 2014 NBA playoffs contained the real Finals from that year, as the Dallas Mavericks were the only team to push the San Antonio Spurs to seven games. No small part of the NBA game is in the coaching, and Rick Carlisle is one of the few who can stand toe-to-toe with Gregg Popovich in that department.
4. Power forwards, power forwards everywhere
Rightly or wrongly, Anthony Davis has been heralded as everything from “the next Tim Duncan” to “the greatest thing since sliced bread” to “the only validation tanking ever needs,” and the expected role for him is to become the NBA’s next great big man. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen, of course, but the 8 p.m. slot on Tuesday will h0use two legitimate Hall of Fame power forwards (even if Duncan is not-so-secretly a center) in San Antonio and the next great four position hope in the Big Easy. If you’ve ever bemoaned the lack of great bigs in the NBA recently, Tuesday night is for you.
3. The continuing ballad of Kobe Bryant
When we last saw Kobe, he was unsuccessfully trying to fight his way through the recovery of an Achilles’ tendon injury. The results were not so exciting, regardless of how you feel about one of the NBA’s most iconic figures. Now, though, with a successful preseason under his belt and a chip on his shoulder — the chip is always there, we’ll point out — we’re excited to see how the third act of Kobe’s career is going to play out. (And he totally deserved that contract extension.)
2. At least one blowout
In case you missed it, the Lakers project to be a pretty bad team this year. Everyone knows it, even the people who would swear up and down that a geriatric Kobe Bryant could drop 50 points on anyone, any day. The fact that they’re going up against Houston, who have Kobe’s de facto successor as the best shooting guard in the NBA in James Harden, as well as Dwight Howard (who basically stiffed the Lakers for the foreseeable future because he thinks Kobe isn’t good enough anymore), and you’ve got a pretty quality grudge match. The Lakers are probably going to get stomped, and that’s always fun.
1. Basketball being back
We’ve already given you a rundown of items to look out for during the regular season, but the important thing is that this is the time when all of the speculation can finally begin to end — from how much LeBron’s Cavs look like world beaters, or how likely it is that Rajon Rondo will actually get traded from Boston, or whether the Thunder can really make it all the way to the NBA Finals with an ownership group that’s as cheap as they come — as the wondering is replaced with, you know, actual information and data.
So now all that’s left to do is spend one more work day waiting. Get hyped.