Katelyn E. Clooney
Well, hoops fans, the wait is over.
The 2014-15 NBA season tipped off this past Tuesday night and did not disappoint.
After a nail-biter in San Antonio, preceded by the Spurs getting their championship rings, we were served some Kobe beef in Los Angeles, as Bryant and former teammate, Dwight Howard, had to be separated after a late-game scuffle. Elsewhere, New Orleans Pelicans big man, Anthony Davis, stuffed the stat sheet, as the 21-year-old exploded for 26 points, 17 rebounds, 9 blocks and 3 steals (no, those are not typos).
With just two nights of regular season action in the books, there is still plenty of basketball to look forward to.
After a busy summer in the Association, led by LeBron James’ return, and Kevin Love’s trade, to the Cavaliers, all eyes will certainly be on Cleveland.
However, the are plenty of other things to look for in the current NBA season, including some talented debuts and key returns. Here are a couple of storylines to follow:
The 2014 draft class has long been hailed as the best since 2003, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony were all selected with top five picks. 2014 second-overall pick, Jabari Parker was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a la James, before his high school career even ended.
Will Parker also join James as a Rookie of the Year Award recipient?
I say yes.
I apologize for the cliches, but while Andrew Wiggins may, or may not, have a higher ceiling, Parker is definitely more NBA-ready right now. He averaged 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds in the pre-season and, more importantly, he is on the Milwaukee Bucks. While Wiggins, who was selected first-overall, will certainly get more minutes on the Timberwolves than he would have on the Cavaliers, he will be battling Corey Brewer for the start at the 3.
Not to be overlooked is former Kentucky Wildcat, Nerlens Noel. Noel, the sixth-overall pick in 2013, is looking to follow the path of Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin, who also sat out a full season with an injury, before being named ROY in 2011.
Noel, like Parker and Wiggins, has one thing going for him – he is on a bad team. In fact, calling the Sixers bad is a drastic understatement. However, Noel won’t put up 15 points every game, and his rebounding and blocking (among other assets), will most likely go overlooked.
So, no, Philadephia won’t be home to the ROY for the second straight season (though they will get plenty of ping pong balls for next year’s draft); Parker should easily take home the hardware at the end of the season.
As Noel makes his debut, after recovering from a torn ACL, former MVP’s Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose will also be back on the hardwood.
Bryant looked spry in his first regular season game since December 17, 2013, scoring 19 points in 29 minutes. After suffering a season-ending torn achilles on April 12, 2013, he played in just 6 games last year, before suffering a fractured tibia and, once again, ending his season.
The 36-year-old will attempt another comeback and, hopefully, will provide some entertainment on a dismal Lakers squad. Veteran Steve Nash will not be attempting a comeback, as he is out for the season with a back injury and the team’s one other hope , lottery pick, Julius Randle, left in the fourth quarter of opening night with a broken leg.
Now, Bryant will be asked to produce even more, which I highly doubt he minds; however, he is not a rookie.
Entering his 19th season, Bryant had plenty of mileage even before last year’s two major injuries. He did average over 27 points before tearing his achilles in 2013, but Father Time is steadily knocking. While limiting his minutes may be key to preventing yet another Laker from going down, you try telling Kobe to stay on the bench.
It’s not going to happen.
Rose will also be attempting a comeback for the second straight season. After winning the MVP award in 2011, he tore his ACL in the 2012 playoffs, missed the entire 2012-13 season and suffered a season-ending torn meniscus just ten games into the 2013-14 season.
Rose impressed in FIBA play this summer, helping Team USA win the gold medal, and his signature athleticism was also on full display in the preseason.
Directly contrasting to Bryant, Rose is on a great team in a bad conference. Just how athletic and productive he is will be key to who wins the East. Also in Rose’s favor, he is just 26 years old, a decade younger than Bryant.
If Rose stays healthy, I’m predicting the Bulls to win the East, before losing to San Antonio in the Finals. If not, it will be the Cavs who eventually fall to the Spurs.
However, the season has just begun and plenty of basketball will be played before then. Be sure to watch all the action and be sure to pick up The Student next week as I discuss who I believe will win the scoring title.