This is not the moment you've been waiting for. You don't love opening night in the NBA. Outside of the cool TNT montage to open the season that will readily be available for consumption on YouTube later that night and perhaps the ring ceremony if you don't hate the defending champions, nothing from opening night excites you. In fact, opening week is a bore. You dislike how even after of little under a month of preseason, NBA teams are still sloppy out of the gate. If you watch football, you're probably more excited for Sunday's games than you are for Tuesday night basketball this week. If all that is true, why even bother watching?
We watch because of what opening night means. We watch for the seemingly meaningless games in December decided by a desperation 3-pointer at the top of the key that swings the playoff picture dramatically months later. We watch to see records broken. We watch to see beloved players make comebacks from devastating injuries. We watch to see old heads pass on the torch to the new players in the middle of their farewell tours. We watch to see brilliant coaches work their x's and o's out of timeouts to create what looks like a dance when executed properly. We watch to see uncensored moments on live TV like when Stan Van Gundy ordered his players to "FORM A F---ing WALL." We watch because we love the game. Opening Night symbolizes the beginning of all of the things we love about basketball that will unfold over the next eight months.
Recently, the NBA has unveiled a marketing strategy headlined by the catchphrase "This Is Why We Play." Well, let's talk about why we watch them play, and if you don't already, this is why you should watch.
1. Anthony Davis Will Conquer Worlds
Remember last December when Anthony Davis hit a 3-pointer to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder at the buzzer? That was his only 3-pointer last season, and it was probably the biggest shot of his career. That game-winner was the tie-breaker that put the New Orleans Pelicans in the playoffs as the last seed over the Thunder despite the two teams having the same record. I still have absolutely no faith in the roster that New Orleans is putting out, despite Alvin Gentry's revival of the team's offense, and injuries have already started to take prisoners as per usual with this team. One thing is clear, though. Anthony Davis will continue to dominate, and he might even establish himself as the best player in the NBA. I mean, seriously. He was striking fear into the hearts of opponents before, and now he's adding 3-pointers to his arsenal. Sensational.
2. Farewell Tours
Remember the 2008 Finals? This season might be the last we see of some of the heavy-hitters from that series. Outside of the legendary Shannon Brown (hah), Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce are all staring retirement in the face. Pierce might be the furthest away from kicking the proverbial NBA bucket, but it's still sad regardless. Fortunately, all three have the opportunity to impact their teams. Pierce made a major difference for the Washington Wizards last season, and he can do the same with the L.A. Clippers in a reduced role. Garnett and Bryant can serve as incredibly important mentors to Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell, respectively. Just don't hold your breath for a Ray Allen return.
3. Brad Stevens Will Make You Love Him
Remember all of the game-winners Brad Stevens cooked up that the Cs served? This entire Boston Celtics team is just so darn fun. Between them fielding a defensively dominant trio in the starting lineup (Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder), a guy who can score 20 on any given night coming off the bench, Amir Johnson (there's just so much to love about how he plays), and of course, Stevens himself, this team will be entertaining if anything. The metrics placing them at 50+ wins might be wildly inaccurate, but the fun thing about this team is that they might just be able to pull it off despite being average. Even if they don't, this team should be on your LeaguePass radar, especially at the end of games when what Stevens writes on the clipboard turns to gold. Also, I'm here for Marcus Smart getting 30+ minutes per game. I am here for it. So. Much. FUN.
4. The Road to Repeat
Remember when the Golden State Warriors were staring at a 2-1 deficit in the NBA Finals? The hill they overcame to win the championship won't be nearly as tough as it will be to repeat. The San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, L.A. Clippers, and Houston Rockets all improved vastly, and that's without mentioning the Memphis Grizzlies who grabbed two games from the Warriors on the road to their first chip. The good news is that the Warriors didn't get worse, and they're still good enough to be the best team among all the rest. They have 82 games and the playoffs to prove that they deserve a second one.
5. The Western Conference Bloodbath (Again)
Remember all the times you've tried to talk yourself into thinking the Clippers could be champions? Yeah, me too. I caught myself thinking the same, but then I remembered the competition. The Grizzlies and the Clippers are both teams that might be the first seed in the East, but they may have to settle for the fifth and sixth spots in the West. Tough. Teams like the Utah Jazz, the Phoenix Suns, and the Sacramento Kings trying to force their way into the playoff conversation are going to have a tough time when just about maybe two spots are opening up (the Trail Blazers and the Mavericks are likely on their way out). Don't forget, though, that OKC is taking one of those spots, so getting that eighth seed will be tough.
6. Passing the Torch
Remember the last time you wrote the San Antonio Spurs off because of age? Last season, it actually happened, but that might not be because of age. They had an extremely tough first round opponent, and that series was incredibly entertaining. It's a shame that the Clippers couldn't keep the momentum. Fortunately, the Spurs arguably had the best offseason out of any team in the NBA, acquiring LaMarcus Aldridge. It isn't clear yet just how well or how quickly this team will mesh coming off of last year's disappointment, but nothing bad could come from Tim Duncan teaching Aldridge a thing or two as Duncan approaches retirement (which will be never).
7. The Dynamic Duo
You probably don't remember how dominant Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook can be together. They're here to remind us all, and it will be excellent. This might be the most talented team that KD and Westbrook have been on in terms of supporting casts, so it'll be interesting to see how they do with more help. No one knows how KD will feel at the end of the season, and we certainly don't know now. My bet is that how this season goes will have at least some effect on his decision. One thing is for sure, though: Enes Kanter still won't play defense.
8. The Magic Will Finally Be . . . Magic . . . al . . .
Yeah, I'm sorry, that was really bad. Remember when the Orlando Magic were really good with Dwight Howard leading the way? When they return to playoff relevancy, the team will look much different from what they were back in 2010. Last year, many thought that they would make the playoff leap, but ultimately, they fell way short. Victor Oladipo said on Media Day that the team needs to stop using youth as an excuse, and that's extremely true. They have enough talent now to make that push this year, and it needs to come soon to validate their seemingly successful rebuild up to this point. As a side note: I can't wait to see Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja, and Oladipo end lives catching lob passes for bone-crushing dunks this season. This team will be another LeaguePass favorite.
9. Tank Watch
As opposed to recent years, it doesn't appear that many teams are set to lose a bunch of games on purpose. The Lakers have special motivation to do so, seeing as how they only keep their pick if it falls in the top-three. Other than that, only about 4 or five other teams have serious motivation to be bad. Some teams will just be unavoidably bad (looking at you, Brooklyn), and that's just life in the NBA. It happens.
10. Sacramento Not Self-Imploding
Count me in among the people not overly pessimistic about Sacramento's chances this season. There's little chance they make the playoffs, but if they start the season the way they started last season, they'll be in the conversation. Rajon Rondo may not have much left to give in a perplexing career, but he also might surprise everyone by returning to his 2012 form. DeMarcus Cousins will have another great year, and hopefully the additions of veteran shooters, another rim protector, and a pick-and-roll aficionado in Rondo propel him forward. If literally everything goes right for Sacramento, they might find themselves in that last spot in the Western Conference.
11. The Heat Getting Hot Again
Wow, somebody stop me. The Miami Heat look to finally be healthy, and we'll be able to see what what a Dragic-Wade-Deng-Bosh-Whiteside combo looks like in a serious game. Along with their above-average starters in the average Eastern Conference, Pat Riley did a great job in securing depth for an aging team. Amar'e Stoudemire probably doesn't move the needle one bit, but the additions of Gerald Green and Justise Winslow will reap dividends for the team now and in the future. There are plenty of reasons to temper expectations, but there are also plenty of reasons to see this team sitting on top of the Eastern Conference.
12. The Fall of the Toronto Raptors and the Atlanta Hawks
I'm probably super off on this one, and they'll probably end up in the upper half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but I just don't have faith in these teams. Yes, the Raptors gained DeMarre Carroll, but they lost Amir Johnson and Lou Williams. You don't just ditch someone who was the focus of a Drake song. It never works. Thankfully, the Raptors gained Cory Joseph, but that might not be enough to cover the star of "6 Man." For Atlanta, they unraveled in the playoffs. Yes, they made it to the conference finals, but they hobbled there through injuries and, well, I'm not sure. They just got worse all of a sudden. On top of that, they lost Carroll. It's just a bad feeling I have towards these two teams. Something feels off. Feel free to gloat in my face six months from now when they sit atop the East playoff picture.
13. Harden Gets More Help
Ty Lawson will either steal touches from James Harden or he will increase Harden's efficiency by decreasing his need to carry the offense, especially since Dwight Howard has few post moves. Something about me is still negative about this Houston team as well, but if they're good enough to reach the conference finals, then they're probably good enough to make the NBA Finals because of their upgrade at point guard.
14. Will More Walls Be Formed in Detroit?
They might make the playoffs or they might fall short. All I know is that this is the coolest thing ever.
15. Paul George
Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we have Paul George back. His team may not make a ton of noise to alter the playoff picture, but he alone is reason enough to tune in. As the preseason progressed, he went from whining about not wanting to play at the power forward position to owning it, and he's scoring at a superstar rate. If he can hold his own on defense against the taller bigs in the NBA, George can really thrive this season. The playoffs aren't even out of the question because of the addition of Monta Ellis and others. Playing smaller and faster may do wonders to jumpstart Indiana's previously sluggish offense. George is the key, though.
Bonus: 16. The Damian Lillard Show
This guy will be a fantasy gem this year. It's him on an island, and he is going to light up the scoreboard every night. The Trail Blazers really won't be that good this season, but watching Lillard operate will be fun enough. Without Aldridge and the pressure to rack up wins, Lillard can take this year to get better where he has weaknesses. That way, when Portland returns to playoff relevancy, Lillard will be a more complete player, and that starts with his defense. With that being said, watching him score will be a pleasure.
These are just some of the upcoming stories to watch out for this season. There are a multitude of other reasons to watch the NBA this season including seeing how the Milwaukee Bucks will do with increased expectations, waiting for the Philadelphia 76ers to implode, observing how the Bulls handle a new coach and a new offense, the DeAndre Jordan-Dallas drama, and more. All of that starts at 8:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, so stay tuned.