Imagine for a moment that you’re the NBA schedule maker and you’ve been given unilateral power to pick the pair of premier matchups basketball fans across the globe will tune in for to start your organization’s 76th season. You will, of course, have the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics there as a repeat of the Finals matchup (maybe even playing against one another!), but the other two teams you put in that slot are totally up to you!
Maybe you go for the “This league!!11!1!” angle and throw the clown show Brooklyn Nets or Phoenix Suns in there. You could use the draw of the Warriors and Celtics to give one of the league’s new-look team some shine, like the Cavs or Timberwolves (don’t laugh, it’s part of a bit). There’s always the reliable title-contenders like, I don’t know, your Milwaukee Bucks, the LA Clippers, the Denver Nuggets. Or, if you’re actually Adam Silver and Company, you could choose to drop these jokers into this mess:
Yes, after all we’ve seen these two franchise go through recently — which is primarily a lot of losing, whining, failure, losing, strife, drama, whining, and did I mention losing? — the league has decided it will subject us innocent citizens of the world to prime time Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers basketball.
Whoopee. With luck, we will see both of these teams get a thorough “kick me sign” treatment on the road.
But hey, I’m here to help celebrate basketball and its return to our lives. Sure, I wouldn’t have picked these particular dorks to represent the league, but in an NBA overflowing with them I get its hard to choose who gets to be first among equals.
The Warriors and Celtics are teams who have real aspirations of post-season success, so at least catching them on opening night when they’re fresh should up the odds of fireworks for us watching at home.
Let’s get to the gambling!
Sixers @ Celtics (6:30 PM Central)
We’ll start festivities in the city that made Samuel Adams’s Triple IPA world-famous and didn’t do much else besides that in the intervening ~250 years.
The Boston Celtics have transformed themselves this offseason having lost their referee-grievance-addicted head coach Ime Udoka to what we vaguely know to be improper behavior in the workplace. They added Malcolm Brogdon on the off-chance his 30 year-old legs still work (he’s played 54, 56, and 36 games in the past three seasons respectively). Blake Griffin finally landed with the franchise most compatible to his particular brand of competitive failure. Jaylen Brown didn’t bother to learn how to dribble over the summer. This sequence happened and Marcus Smart is still gainfully employed:
For all that, the Celtics walk into tomorrow night’s matchup as the betting favorite, holding a -145 money line and a -2.5 spread over an opponent that, quite frankly, should’ve been put out of its misery and contracted years ago.
Every time I remember the Sixers exist I stare at my laptop screen completely dumbfounded that Doc Rivers is still employed as their coach. Unsurprisingly, James Harden pouted his way to this team last year and immediately started beefing with Doc about being asked to play basketball, and then posted the least amount of production in the playoffs since his third year in the league (and this with walking catastrophe Joel Embiid sidelined with a broken face part of the way). Embiid just could not stop talking about his enormous persecution complex and how disrespected and hated and underrated and scorned he is by The Media before losing the MVP vote to Serbian horseman Nikola Jokic in a Roosevelt v. Hoover-style result. Philadelphia has accomplished nothing of note since Joel Embiid showed up, and if the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend towards justice, they will accomplish less than nothing between now and whenever he demands a trade to Miami.
Philadelphia is a +125 and +2.5 underdog in this one.
Prediction: Boston has something to prove and should benefit from a rowdy home crowd and the “rally around ourselves” effect after having their head coach suspended in disgrace. I do anticipate a close game which would leave me weary of beating the spread, but Boston should be able to navigate a close finish to the game. Boston win 114-112.
Lakers @ Warriors (9:00 PM Central)
I have a little less vitriol for this side of the bracket because, to be frank, neither organization does a lot to move the neutral observer emotionally. They leave me feeling like a Golden State Warrior player who just saw one of our ““veteran” “team leaders”” punch out the young guy who won’t shut up.
What’s leaving me even colder is the fact that DraftKings won’t even offer me the opportunity to place a bet on Donte DiVincenzo posting a single stat in this game! He was by far Golden State’s biggest offseason acquisition and the bookies won’t even bother offering him a chance to lose my hard-earned money. With the Warriors sitting at -6.5 favorites over the Lakers (a line I believe to be way too low given the relative quality of this LA team) there is every chance Donte will get an opportunity to take the court and show what he’s got in garbage time. Give the people the odds they want!
New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is more or less doomed. Barring Anthony Davis relearning how to play basketball, the roster he has been asked to manage is 1) Old 2) Hasn’t sent Russell Westbrook home to sit things out until he’s traded 3) Is 4/5ths guys I’ve literally never heard of before and 4) Old. Outside of the LeBron James early-season burst, the Lakers rightfully deserve the +205 underdog status they have going into this game. Hell, their win total over-under of 45.5 feels almost assuredly out of reach. Maybe a mid-season trade will revamp their trajectory, but I’ve my doubts — especially in a one-off game to start the year.
Prediction: It’ll be a live-televised romp which will feature a ton of camera time panning to an expressionless LeBron James contemplating how he’ll team up with his son Bronny in Miami in two year’s time. The difference in quality between the starting units and bench guys is stark between the Warriors and Lakers, and not even Draymond Green could ruin Ring Night for Golden State. Warriors win 120-96.
With all that said, what do you make of the NBA’s opening night slate? And what about the “people’s opening night” on Wednesday when 24 of the league’s 30 teams will be playing? Is there a particular matchup there you’re keeping your eye on? Does Milwaukee sitting at O/U 52.5 wins feel a little dicey to anyone else? Let us know in the comments below!