NBA season gets underway with an early start
The NBA season kicks off this weekend with an epic opening night matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But it won’t be the biggest, best or most anticipated of the four main sports leagues in the United States.
That honor goes to a game against the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs’ win will be one of the biggest and most anticipated in recent memory.
The Thunder won the previous matchup, a 95-83 victory over the Houston Rockets on March 9.
It’s not quite the same, but it’s a close call, and the stakes are higher.
The NBA is a $3.3 billion business that can’t afford to lose one game.
It doesn’t want to lose the next one.
As the league prepares to host the Spurs for the second time in four seasons, its leaders and coaches are taking a cautious approach.
The league will play with three starting lineups, and four different coaches are serving as the team’s primary assistants.
The most obvious difference will be who starts at point guard.
James Harden will be the No. 1 pick, followed by Patty Mills and Mike Conley.
Kevin Durant will be on the bench and likely won’t play.
There’s also a question mark over who will start at center.
Serge Ibaka and Danny Green will both start.
That leaves the starting lineup as the most significant element.
The starting lineup will consist of James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills.
That’s not going to change.
The only changes are the starting guards.
They’re the only two who can play the point, which is a position that was a huge advantage last season.
Harden, the former MVP and reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has been playing a lot of point guard this season.
He has the most assists in the league, and he leads the league with 11.7 points per game.
Westbrook, the league’s most efficient scorer, is averaging 16.2 points per contest.
He is also shooting 56.3 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from 3-point range.
He’s the best pure scorer in the NBA, and that’s not changing with the new-look lineup.
But he’ll have to play the best of the best, and there’s a chance that could mean more point guard minutes.
Injuries have limited Harden and Westbrook.
Durant has missed seven games this season with a sprained right ankle and has missed the last four games with a strained right calf.
Conley, the Thunder’s second-leading scorer, has missed 11 games.
His numbers have dipped significantly, but he’s still a dangerous offensive threat who could play at a very high level this season if healthy.
The team will need a lot from its two backup point guards in Conley and Green.
They combined for 32 points in their last meeting, but they shot just 38.2 percent.
Conleman has a lot to prove in the playoffs, especially in his fourth year in the position.
Green has had a rough first two seasons, but the Thunder have the luxury of playing him alongside Durant.
He was the second-best player on the team last season and should be the best in the rotation again.
It would be a good way for the Thunder to prepare for the season, which could include a matchup with a Western Conference rival, and a game in the first round against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
The teams are both playing in their first NBA Finals since 2005, when the Spurs won a title.
The game, which will be played at 7 p.m.
Pacific time on TNT, will air on ABC.
The broadcast will be followed by a pregame show that airs on ESPN.
This is the second game in four nights for the NBA this season, and it could be the first time in a decade the league has hosted a second game of this nature.
The first was a preseason game in 2010 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks.
There was plenty of anticipation for this game, especially after the Warriors won in the preseason opener in San Antonio.
Afterward, the NBA announced that the game was moved to Friday night to avoid an early night crowd.
It also drew more than 100,000 fans, according to the NBA.
This time around, the game will be broadcast in the morning on TNT.
There will be a delayed start because of Hurricane Irma, and some fans are expecting it to be delayed.
The start time for the game, though, is expected to be later than the previous one because of the storm.
There has been a lot on the line for the Spurs this season because they have the No and No. 3 picks in the draft lottery and a first-round pick in the 2019 NBA draft.
That could be a concern, especially because they’ve lost both starting guards, starting point guard Manu Ginobili and point guard Tim Duncan.
Ginobilli, who turns 30 on Monday, is one of only two