When? 7:00 PM Eastern
Where? Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Where can I watch? Fox Sports Ohio and NBA TV
Tunes: I was going to do Till I Collapse by Eminem until my friend Rachel informed me that the title is too apt of a metaphor for Cleveland in general.
So here we are. The Cavaliers are back and it seems that the world wants to watch; this game will be broadcast on NBA TV. The Cavs and Brooklyn Nets were among the most active teams during the offseason, though the two teams had objectives that don't entirely align. The Nets, owned by Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, brought in a new head coach in Jason Kidd (who, due to legal issues won't be available tonight), a defensive anchor in Kevin Garnett to help shore up one of the league's worst defenses, and Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, and Andrei Kirilenko. The mission is clear: a title, now. I am a little bit higher on their chances than most, probably. Garnett and Brook Lopez could make a really imposing frontline, and Deron Williams still puts together stretches of really effective basketball. Time will tell.
What to watch with the Nets
Andrei Kirilenko is out, but the Nets are otherwise healthy. Deron Williams played in the last preseason game and is ready to go. Whether he has the quickness to stay with Kyrie Irving will be pretty important. Irving has a tendency to take games against teams with premier point guards pretty seriously; on the season opener on national tv, the stakes go up a notch. If Williams is able to go toe-to-toe with Irving, a major advantage the Cavaliers might have gets neutralized pretty quickly.
There has been a lot of talk about the new additions for the Nets, but they still have Brook Lopez as a hold-over, and he is really, really good. My feeling is that he will be a perfect fit with Kevin Garnett who can space the floor and defend and rebound. In terms of scoring around the basket, there are few more efficient players than Brook Lopez. Perhaps it will take time for the two to mesh. Once they develop chemistry, though, the two should be able to give the league fits.
Finally, the Nets will be trying to learn what they will get out of Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry who will be asked to score. Do Terry and Pierce have another year of quality basketball left? What is Joe Johnson's role? Can they find a way to get him involved without him just waiting on isolations? The Nets have a lot of interesting pieces. We start to find out how they fit together tonight.
And what about the Cavaliers?
Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett are a pretty intimidating frontcourt. Are Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao up to the challenge? Both Thompson and Varejao appeared to play well off of each other in the preseason, both accumulating Player Efficiency Rating's over 18, with Thompson's a ridiculous 25. If they can match the production of the Nets bigs, Cleveland could have a pretty good shot at stealing a win over an Eastern Conference contender. There is a concern that for the first game of the season, Thompson could be amped up and struggle to play within himself, forcing a shot or two and forgetting his new shooting mechanics. If he keeps himself calm and remembers his calling card is on defense, he can have an effective game.
Same goes for Dion Waiters. He is the wild card of the Cavaliers season in a few respects. Will he try and force his offense? Will he stay within the system and let the game come to him? Will he be able to guard Joe Johnson despite giving up some size? This is a nationally televised game and Waiters wants to be considered one of the best in the game. I hope we get good Dion tonight.
And then there are the injury concerns. Andrew Bynum hasn't been ruled out. It sounds like Tyler Zeller has been cleared. Henry Sims had a great preseason. Can the Cavaliers get solid minutes behind Varejao? And just how many minutes is he going to play? Wait, didn't we draft Anthony Bennett? What about him? Point is, we all know there are a million different questions with this Cavaliers team. The speculation starts to move towards interpretation tonight.
Ultimately though, this game is in Kyrie Irving's hands. Will he put his teammates in a position to succeed? Will he be able to get where ever he wants to on Deron Williams? He wants to be the best player in the world, and he can send a message to the NBA that he is dead serious about that. I am excited. And I know you are going to watch.
Prediction: Kyrie and Dion both have great games, Tristan Thompson struggles a little bit, Brook Lopez plays amazing,
Joe Johnson Irving hits a game winning shot near the end of regulation. Cavs fans have leave the Q happy. Cavs 101, Nets 100.