Basketball is Back: Students Excited to Tip Off NBA Season

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James Snyder

“Either the Lakers will surprise everyone and do really well, or they will do poorly again,” said Lonzo Ball enthusiast Alex Halpern ’21. “Even so, I still believe that the top teams will remain the Thunder, Warriors, Rockets, Spurs, Celtics, and Cavaliers.”

Thrilling dunks. Chase-down blocks. Corner three-pointers to beat the buzzer and crush the hopes of the opposition. Iconic moments like these are what make the NBA,“where amazing happens,” wring the most emotion out of casual basketball fans. The past five months, however, have drastically changed this ideal in the league.

Since the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals in June 2017, everything from superstars joining new teams in major trades to free agents signing massive contracts has shaken up the dynamic of the league. Even the unveiling of modified uniforms has added to the build-up of what looks to be an exciting season from the start.

The NBA season tipped off on October 17th, 2017, with the Boston Celtics traveling to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers in a battle of Eastern Conference foes. All eyes were on the two starting point guards, Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas, who swapped teams in August 2017. Irving is looking to establish the Boston Celtics as a rising power in the East, with the help of free agent pickup Gordon Hayward, who signed a four-year $128 million contract with the Celtics in July. Thomas, the new Cavalier, is coming off a red-hot 28.9 points-per-game year in Boston and joins forces with the ever dominant LeBron James and scoring power forward Kevin Love, who captured Cleveland’s first major sports championship in 52 years in 2016. Unfortunately, Thomas is still suffering from a hip injury sustained in last season’s playoffs, and he is not projected to return to play until January 2018.

The Cavaliers were able to pull off the win 102-99. Within the first six minutes of the game, however, Hayward suffered a gruesome leg injury after a mid-air collision with LeBron James, and he was quickly taken off the court in a stretcher. Almost immediately, both fans and players were in a total state of shock over the severity of the injury. “It was bigger than basketball,” said Farhan Rahman ’18, as fans, analysts, former and current players, and celebrities all expressed support for the downed Celtic. After the game, Hayward was diagnosed with a fractured ankle and will likely be unable to play again until next season, after he undergoes surgery and rehabilitation.

Later that night, the Houston Rockets faced the Golden State Warriors in a high-scoring affair that ended with a 122-121 Rockets victory. Houston seems poised to challenge the Warriors for the Western Conference title, having added veteran All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the lineup in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. Paul will form one of the the most talented backcourts in the league with the high-scoring play-maker James Harden alongside him.

“I’m excited to see the dynamic of two primary ball handlers [in Paul and Harden]… and how much damage they can do to the Warriors,” said Muhammad Hasan ’18.

The Warriors enter the year off of their second NBA Championship in three seasons and the return of their dominant lineup of household names, including Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. These two former MVPs are surrounded by talent, including the versatile reigning Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green, and the three-point specialist Klay Thompson. Altogether, the Warriors stand as the favorites to repeat as NBA Champions heading into the regular season.

“I’m going to miss the Knicks announcer shouting, ‘Carmeloooooooo Anthonyyyyyyyy.’”

When opening night arrives, fans will certainly notice the redesigned jerseys that each team will be wearing. As of the beginning of the 2017-18 season, Nike will be replacing Adidas as the official on-court apparel and uniform provider of the NBA. The estimated $1 billion deal, spanning eight years, is valued much higher than Adidas’s previous eleven-year deal of $400 million. Analysts believe that this is part of the growing exposure of the NBA and its increasing market value, as the Nike jerseys will feature its signature “Swoosh” logo on the upper-right portion of the uniform. No longer featuring “Home,” “Away,” and “Alternate” jerseys, the uniforms have also been relabeled as “Association,” “Icon,” and “Statement” editions. Although the season is young, there have already several instances of the jerseys ripping due to slight physical contact. Uncommon in years past, these “wardrobe malfunctions” will prove Nike’s mettle in addressing the issue going forward.

Another change that fans will recognize on the uniforms will be the corporate logos embroidered onto the upper-left corner of the jerseys. A smorgasbord of companies ranging from Blue Diamond Almonds to StubHub to General Electric have paid upwards of $4 million a year to have their logos featured on the respective uniforms of the Sacramento Kings, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Boston Celtics.

As this is the first year that NBA teams will have sponsors on their uniforms, many fans see these logos as a distraction. “It’s like the NBA is trying to have sponsors on jerseys like soccer,” said die-hard Knicks supporter Sabareesh Vishwanathan ’19, referring to how professional soccer clubs utilize the empty space on their jerseys to sell ads.

Among students, style on the court will be taking a backseat to the gameplay. “The new uniforms won’t change my experience,” said Varsity Basketball player Jessica Wang ’18. “It’s all about the game, anyway.”

Regardless of what players will be wearing come game day, fans are anticipating the start to a highly competitive new season of basketball with new faces in new places. Western Conference teams, namely the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Minnesota Timberwolves, received a huge boost of star power with players arriving from the East to help take a shot at the dominant Warriors. Already the home of the most recent league MVP Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City bolstered their depth with the additions of All-Stars Paul George from the Indiana Pacers and Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. On their opening night, they were able to defeat the Knicks 105-84 behind Westbrook’s contributions as a scorer, rebounder, and passer, and George and Anthony combining for 50 points. The only high point for the Knicks that night was in star forward Kristaps Porzingis, who led the team with 31 points and 12 rebounds.

The Knicks fanbase seeks to move on from the Anthony era, but is sentimental about having to face his Thunder in their season opener October 19th, 2017. “I knew that it was bound to happen sometime,” lamented Rajiv Ramroop ’18, about the trade. “[Carmelo] has time and time again proved himself to be one of the elite players in the league, and I’m going to miss the Knicks announcer shouting, ‘Carmeloooooooo Anthonyyyyyyyy.’”

As a team, the Knicks look towards a new direction of rebuilding for the future without Anthony and former President Phil Jackson.

James Snyder
“I’m just excited for the return of basketball,” said Allison Chin ’19.

“I am excited to see how the young guys on the team will play this season,” said Vishwanathan.[Kristaps] Porzingis, [Willy] Hernangomez, and [Mindaugus] Kuzminskas just finished playing in the EuroBasket tournament this summer, in which they excelled for their respective nations.” The eighth overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft Frank Ntilikina is also expected to make a big impact in his first year in the league. “I feel like [Ntilikina is] really underrated and [other] rookies like Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk overshadow his athleticism and shooting ability,” commented Ramroop ’18.

During the offseason, the Minnesota Timberwolves improved their roster as well, continuing their offensive-minded movement by signing scorers like Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jamal Crawford, and Jeff Teague.

Hasan is eager to see if the Timberwolves will “instantly play like a Championship contender with the additions of Teague and Butler, and the progression of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins,” as well.

The team has high expectations coming into the year, with some fans like David Ologan ’18 predicting a “breakout year” for Butler, and that the T-Wolves will claim the #4 seed in the West. They began their season October 18th, 2017, on the road against the San Antonio Spurs. Although their Teague, Butler, Gibson and Crawford showed some promise in their debuts with a total of 39 points, the Spurs were able to come away with the win.

If the offseason was an indication of the high level of action to come, the new year will be full of fast-paced, high intensity, nail-biting games that will leave many Bronx Science students on the edge of their seats.

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