By Sean Simara @Sean_FootyMad @TLE_Sport
The 2015-16 season in the NBA is all set for big returns, big plays and the trash talking has not stopped since the Golden State Warriors were crowned champions in the summer. They were by far the best team and most enjoyable to watch, winning the championship in style, but a few players and some pundits have come out said that there was a lot of luck involved. Injuries swept through the NBA like wildfire, but the Warriors stayed healthy and went all the way. For the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving went down in the finals, leaving Lebron James to carry them on his own.
It was just a step too far. Had they all been fit, the finals would have definitely been a different story. For me, the criticism the Warriors have received is a bit harsh. It’s mostly down to jealousy but this time round things will be a lot harder.
So now we see the return of the superstar Kevin Durant. ‘KD’ missed 55 games last season with a fractured foot. I’m excited to see him return for a number of reasons. One: he’s for sure one of the top 5 players in the league and was badly missed last year. Secondly, he wants ‘his MVP’ title back; Durant stated over the break he’s the ‘best in the game’ – this fighting talk will certainly be interesting to see. Last but not least I want to see him link up once again with Russell Westbrook, who was pretty great without him, so the pair can go on to great things this season. Oklahoma City Thunder, much like Golden State, have incredible home support and also a new coach in Billy Donovan so it’s exciting times ahead.
San Antonio Spurs in the West will also be looking to improve on last season after going out in the first round of the play-offs to the Los Angeles Clippers. Spurs have snapped up the hottest free agent this summer in LaMarcus Aldridge, so they have a new big three in Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan which will be entertaining.
The Clippers last year should have got to the Western Conference Final’s but a game 7 loss to Houston Rockets saw an end to their run. Doc Rivers has added Josh Smith (from the Rockets), Lance Stephenson (Charlotte Hornets) & Paul Pierce (Washington Wizards) to their squad. If ever the Clippers were to get to the finals it is this season.
Staying in California, the Lakers will hope Kobe Bryant stays fit and can guide them to their former glories. Coming to an end of what has been an outstanding career, Kobe will certainly want to go out on a high. So be it the Clippers or Lakers, the Staples Center will be fascinating viewing this year.
Flipping to the Eastern Conference the Cleveland Cavaliers are once again healthy and will play in the finals – it’s just a matter of who they play. Chicago Bulls maybe? There was no shock in the NBA world to learn Derrick Rose was injured at the start of pre-season and has been recovering ever since. Chris Bosh also returns for Miami Heat – his season was cut short due to a blood clot in one of his lungs. A healthy Dwayne Wade could also bring the good times back to South Beach.
Elsewhere in the East I like the look of Atlanta Hawks who should be good again, especially with their strong home record. Also look out for the New York Knicks, but not for anything good. They will be bad, but it will be interesting to see just how badly they fare. Their draft pick Kristaps Porzingis didn’t get the friendliest welcome from the harsh Knicks fans either.
So as you see it’s definitely the year of ‘returns’ all around the NBA. I have to mention James Harden at the Houston Rockets he felt he deserved to have won the MVP over Stephen Curry. So as Harden, Lebron, Durant, maybe even Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davies (New Orleans Pelicans) or Paul George (Indiana Pacers) all chase that MVP crown, the race is on for championship rings too. As a pre-season prediction I will go for in the East the final between Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, and for the West, Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs. Enjoy and follow me for more NBA chat all year long.