Basketball. Basketball. Basketball. Basketball.
Where They At: Oklahoma City Thunder
There is plenty about this game to salivate. It's the home opener. We get our first look at Billy Donovan’s new system and rotation. The old guard/new guard rivalry between the Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. Russell Westbrook playing with a full roster for the first time since hatching from his alien pod last season.
But the hype starts and ends with Kevin Durant playing basketball on a healthy foot. It’s something we haven’t seen in about 18 months, but the Thunder's now and later are tied to the Slim Reaper. He looked dominant in the preseason – can he leave the home fans with no doubt that their MVP is back in form for 2015-16?
Where They At: San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have questions of their own, but in typical Spurs fashion, their problems are good problems. (When was the last time that the Spurs had to work out issues early in the regular season?)
The gaze on their side will be focused on LaMarcus Aldridge, the biggest free agent addition to any team this summer. How he plays within and changes the Spurs' system to fit his isolation game is the biggest storyline, but it overshadows something just as crucial for San Antonio: Kawhi Leonard’s continued development. Leonard, freshly maxed out, is the better player and only getting better entering his fifth season. He’ll contribute efficiently on offense and blow up opponents on the defensive side of the floor. Can he stifle Durant's comeback party?
Westbrook has been bullying Tony Parker for a few years now, and Leonard has slowed down Durant in the relative way that the league’s elite defenders "make him work" for his 30 points. Gregg Popovich, arguably the best basketball coach in the world, is a daunting matchup for Donovan to face so soon, but he signed up for a high-stakes, challenging season.
As Pop figures out his own rotation, it will be intriguing to see if he tries to expose Enes Kanter, who should be coming off the bench. While playing against second units is supposed to keep his defensive issues less of a liability, the Spurs have two crafty bigs with scoring prowess (Aldridge and Tim Duncan) as well as the ability to go small. There may not be anywhere to hide Kanter, so the reality (or lack thereof) of his improved defense from this offseason might be evident.
Regardless, I see an amped Thunder team delivering a victorious Durant/Westbrook show.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 105 Spurs 101 (Ed. note: Never bet against the Spurs. –KY)
|2015-16 NBA Season Game|
|October 29th, 2015|
|Oklahoma City, OK|
|7PM Central Standard Time|
|Injury Report: We know that it's not 2014-15 because no one is injured.|
|This Season's Matchups: N/A|
|Tony Parker||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Danny Green||SG||Andre Roberson|
|Kawhi Leonard||SF||Kevin Durant|
|LaMarcus Aldridge||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Tim Duncan||C||Steven Adams|