The Association is finally back in session. In a two-night basketball bonanza, every team played its opening game of the 2013-2014 NBA season.
Though this is simply the dawn of a new season that has yet to take shape, the first games of the season provided plenty of excitement and intrigue. There were tight finishes, high-flying dunks, extraordinary individual performances, and inundation of LeBron James commercials.
Here are some of the hottest stories from this year's early action, and what they might mean as the season unfolds.
Miami Heat Get Rings and Win
Per tradition, the reigning champs opened this year at home where they hosted the Chicago Bulls. Before tipoff, the Heat players received their championship rings and raised a championship banner to the rafters of American Airlines Arena.
The game also marked the return of Derrick Rose to the Bulls' lineup. Rose, who tore an anterior cruciate in his left knee during the 2012 playoffs, has been making bold statements about his highly anticipated return. Bulls fans, including President Obama, have been waiting impatiently for Rose to return to the Bulls, hoping he'll make them a bona fide championship contender. Thus, this game had a playoff-feel from the opening tip.
However, it appeared Rose is still working his way back into form. The Chicago native was 4-of-15 from the field and finished with 12 points as the Bulls lost 107-95.
The biggest take away for the Heat was certainly the distribution of scoring. The Heat had seven players in double figures, and only three players took more than 10 shots, via NBA.com. If the Heat continue to get contributions from outside the Big Three, they could be downright scary.
Durant Lights Up Utah
Kevin Durant (OKC) scored 42 points last night against the Jazz. It was the 28th regular season game with at least 40 pts for Durantula.— Doctor NBA (@DoctorNBA) October 31, 2013
The early weeks of the season will be a trying time for the Thunder, who will be without the services of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook could miss up to six weeks while recovering from knee surgery. It will be interesting to see how Durant plays without Westbrook's scoring support. Look for the Durantula to put up some huge numbers during the opening stretch.
It was clear from the start that Durant was looking to attack. He scored more than half of his points at the free-throw line, making 22 of 24 attempts.
Beyond Durant, the Thunder looked somewhat unassertive. According to ESPN.com, the Jazz outscored the Thunder 56-32 in the paint. If the Thunder hope to maintain their place within the Western Conference's elite, they'll need to get more contributions from role players, particularly Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, who combined for just 12 points.
Warriors Put On Clinic
The Kobe-less Lakers simply didn't have an answer for Golden State's high-octane offense. The Warriors drained 15 of 27 from three-point land and tallied 34 assists as a team, via ESPN.com.
Klay Thompson was brilliant for Golden State, scoring a career-high 38 points in a nearly perfect shooting performance. Thompson was 15-of-19 from the floor and 5-of-7 from long-distance. The sharp-shooter had 27 points at halftime before the Lakers had a chance to catch their breath.
A Warrior is on fire, but it's not Steph Curry. Check out Klay Thompson's first-half shot chart vs. the Lakers: pic.twitter.com/DsNwZKKlaN— The NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) October 31, 2013
Warriors G Klay Thomson says the Lakers have ruled California for far too long. “We want Golden State to be the team out West.”— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 18, 2013
Could the Warriors become a Western Conference giant? Offensively, there is no question. And with the acquisition of Andre Iguodala in the offseason, the Warriors will certainly be tougher defensively. What remains to be seen is how the Warriors play when their shots aren't falling. In other words, the Warriors need to find a way to win ugly games. But for now, they'll keep shooting.