10 Things to Look Forward to on 2013 NBA Opening Night
- Orlando Magic at Indiana Pacers, 7 p.m. ET
- Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat, 8 p.m. ET
- Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET
Try to contain your excitement, because the NBA's opening night for the 2013-14 season is upon us.
Actually, don't bother containing it.
Yell at the top of your lungs and run around the room like you're celebrating a game-winning shot. Watch endless highlight videos on YouTube until your eyes start watering. Do whatever you need to do in order to get pumped up, so long as it doesn't involve having people slap you across the face.
On Tuesday night, you'll get to see a slate of three games, the first course of what promises to be a highly entertaining season:
There's plenty to look forward to in each contest, which is why I've highlighted the 10 things you should be most excited for. We've got three from each game, plus a bonus that you'll see on the next slide.
Take to the comments section and regale us with tales of what you'll be doing Tuesday night when the NBA returns.
I have to admit that I have a total man-crush on Justin Timberlake.
I'll be plenty excited for the actual basketball being played on opening night, but I'm also stoked to hear JT crooning "Take back the night!" in his trademark falsetto while we get to watch highlights from the game's biggest stars. Whether you like Timberlake or not, it's bound to get you pumped up for the real games.
But remember, what is this video a promo for?
NBA on TNT, everyone's favorite basketball show. It's back in action on Tuesday night, as we'll get to hear Charles Barkley go on some more entertaining tangents and hilarious/informative rants for the first time during live action.
Everything about this is a major positive.
Has Paul George Improved His Ball-Handling?
Paul George's breakout last season was incredible to watch, and he was a deserving All-Star who threatened to burst into the "superstar" category when he received a midcourt high-five from LeBron James during the Eastern Conference Finals.
But there's no way he's done climbing the rungs of the NBA ladder.
George is only in his fourth season at the professional level, and he's going to continue fine-tuning his game until it's as flawless as possible. And for all his defensive prowess, versatility on offense and athleticism, there are still plenty of flaws.
One of the biggest is his dribbling, and you should keep a close eye on him throughout the game with the Orlando Magic to see how tight his handles look. George will inevitably take control of the rock quite often, but he can't afford to let the ball bounce as high and as far away from his body as he has in the past.
The Magic will be looking to swipe it away from him at every opportunity, making this his first official chance to prove to the world that he isn't done improving.
The Inevitable Roy Hibbert Blocks
Last year, you could count on Roy Hibbert to provide spectators with at least a few blocks each and every time he took to the court. Not only did he average 2.6 rejections throughout the 2012-13 season, but he threw back 1.9 per contest during the playoffs.
In addition to that, there were actually 12 games in which he recorded at least five blocks.
There's the potential for a highlight on the defensive end each time Hibbert steps onto the court, and that's especially true against a young and athletic Orlando Magic squad that will love attacking the rim.
Hibbert is bound to show off his skills in other ways, but at least four times (yep, you heard it here first), he's going to block a shot and do the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag in his mind.
The matchup calls for a rim protector, and few are better at keeping the ball away from the iron than Hibbert. His Defensive Player of the Year campaign begins on Oct. 29.
Don't miss out on your first chance to watch Victor Oladipo put on a show as he begins the inevitable push toward Rookie of the Year honors.
Throughout the first seven preseason outings, the first-year guard out of Indiana has been absolutely fantastic. He's averaged 14.4 points (a team-high mark), 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.3 blocks, all while playing under 28 minutes per game.
Whether he starts or comes off the bench to replace Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson, Oladipo will make an impact on this game, even though he's beginning his professional career against the suffocating defense of the Indiana Pacers.
Unless you force him into shooting three-pointers, Oladipo can do it all. He'll be a lockdown defender, a solid facilitator and an athletic specimen who isn't afraid to go in and challenge Roy Hibbert at the rim.
Best of all, he'll be highly motivated to begin his career in style.
Not only is this his debut, but he's playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in front of an Indiana crowd that will likely be filled with people who rooted for him throughout his collegiate career with the Hoosiers.
Oladipo may be playing for the wrong team now, but the Pacers faithful could still cheer for him whenever he produces a highlight or a positive play.
The Return of Derrick Rose
Even on a night that features Paul George, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Justin Timberlake, Derrick Rose is still the premier player to watch. After all, he's getting off to what he called a "new start," as reported by the Associated Press via the New York Daily News.
We haven't seen Rose play a regular-season game in over a calendar year, as he sat out the entire 2012-13 campaign to rehab his torn ACL. But now he's back, and the Chicago Bulls are gunning for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference, a position they can realistically obtain if Rose is at full strength.
So far, there have been absolutely zero indications that he'll be anything less than 100 percent.
Rose has flat-out dominated the preseason, averaging 21.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.2 blocks per game while shooting 50.7 percent from the field. Terrifying as this may be for the rest of the league, he appears to be better than he was before getting injured.
The explosiveness is still there. He's willing to cut off the formerly injured knee and attack the rim with reckless abandon. Taj Gibson agrees, as he told the AP, “He was so fast, so explosive, and I just knew he was back."
But Rose has also added a jumper. During the preseason, the dynamic floor general has shot 52.2 percent from beyond the arc, and that's a whole new facet to his game that didn't exist before.
Rose is hoping to put the league on notice, and it all begins in the highly anticipated battle with the defending champions.
Watching LeBron James Play Basketball
Right now, there isn't a single player in the NBA more thrilling to watch than LeBron James, who figures to be even better in 2013-14 than he was in 2012-13, despite the fact that he just put up one of the all-time great seasons in the sport's history.
LeBron just does it all.
He scores at a high level, makes passes that you couldn't hope to replicate during your hours trying at a local court, defends multiple positions with the best of them and still has time to produce plenty of highlights that will inevitably make it onto SportsCenter.
He's must-watch television at this point. When LeBron is on the screen, you have to pay attention.
There are a few players in the league who draw your eye no matter what they're doing. We're trained to follow the ball when watching a basketball game, but LeBron breaks that habit. Even when he's away from the action, we can't help but keep our gaze squarely on the No. 6 jersey.
When LeBron is playing, there's always a chance for greatness. And you don't want to miss that.
A Battle Between Two Eastern Conference Powers
The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls are two of basketball's uber-elite teams.
Unless you're an Indiana Pacers fan or have nothing but vitriol for LeBron James coursing through your veins, you probably aren't going to deny that. And if you do...you're wrong.
The Heat are the two-time defending champions, embarking on their quest for a three-peat with a stacked roster eerily similar to last year's. It now features two wild cards—Michael Beasley and Greg Oden—who could potentially break out and make the team even stronger.
As for the Bulls, they were a bona fide playoff team even without Derrick Rose, but the presence of the point guard pushes them back into the mix for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference. As long as Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler are healthy, this team will be a true contender.
Plus, is there any lineup in basketball that boasts as much defensive potential as the five-man unit comprised of Rose, Butler, Deng, Taj Gibson and Noah? How do you score on that?
It's exciting enough when two contenders square off. And it's even more exciting when there's nothing but animosity between them.
Kobe Bryant Updates
Will he play?
That's the question on everyone's mind as we gear up for the Los Angeles Lakers' opener against the Los Angeles Clippers. It's such a ubiquitous inquiry that I don't even have to specify who "he" is.
Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles against the Golden State Warriors late in the 2012-13 campaign, and he's been aggressively rehabbing it throughout the offseason. A mortal timetable would have him returning to action much later, but the Mamba has never been restricted by the laws of men.
As of Monday, Kobe has been ruled out for the opener. Mike D'Antoni said as much, as reported by ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin.
Quite frankly, I'm hoping Kobe doesn't announce whether or not he'll play before each and every game and then eventually strides onto the court during warm-ups, stunning the crowd and creating a buzz that can't be hushed. It's not like the Lakers need to announce his return to get the Staples Center filled up. Nor do they need more revenue.
Even though he's the No. 25 player in the league he's aging and coming off an Achilles injury, Kobe is still one of the NBA's biggest stars. He draws crowds and attention like few others, and that won't change in 2013-14.
While the Mamba won't be taking part in the opener against the Los Angeles Clippers, we'll still get some sort of report on when he will be back in action.
For the Los Angeles Clippers, the season rests on the shoulders of Blake Griffin.
Not only does the team need him to step up and become a more well-rounded scorer capable of creating his own offense, but he's one of the few players who can improve his defensive game enough that the frontcourt isn't fatally porous.
No pressure, Blake.
We've seen the exciting big man take steps forward throughout his NBA career, but they haven't been the leaps that so many hoped for after his rookie season. He's become a marginally better defender and shown flashes of a developing post game and mid-range jumper, but consistency has never been in his vocabulary.
This year, it needs to be.
It's now or never for the Clippers, especially after they enjoyed a fantastic offseason that brought in a stronger head coach and a stellar cast of supporting pieces. If the Clippers flop—in a win-loss sense, not the literal one—some prominent players could find themselves on the trading block.
Griffin can't be content to throw down SportsCenter-worthy dunks and become disengaged throughout the rest of the game. The Clippers might still be victorious against a lackluster Lakers squad if he does so during the opener, but that won't work over the course of the season.
How Do the Los Angeles Clippers Look Under Doc Rivers?
Vinny Del Negro did not work for the Los Angeles Clippers.
He wasn't creative enough with his rotations, and he didn't have the strategic mind necessary to help the team avoid falling into predictable half-court sets. As good as the 2012-13 Clippers were in transition, they often stagnated when things slowed down and relied on Chris Paul to do everything.
Doc Rivers won't allow the same thing to happen.
He's a master of maximizing talent while ensuring that there's chemistry in the locker room, and his defensive systems will help negate the lack of a true standout defender. Unless DeAndre Jordan actually becomes one, which looks possible after his set of stellar preseason outings.
When you're watching LAC go to work, don't just look for the alley-oops and huge transition slams that have become so customary in Lob Angeles. Instead, look for more complicated plays and what the team does in half-court sets.
If CP3 doesn't have to create shots for himself and for his teammates with such ridiculous frequency, this team will emerge as a true contender for the coveted No. 1 spot in the Western Conference.