Finally, we have reached the first week of the NBA regular season. Only two more days until the Portland Trail Blazers kick off the regular season with an away game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Blazers will play three games in the first week. Here is a mini preview of each opposing team, and my predictions for each game:
Blazers @ Suns Wednesday Oct.30th
The Blazers start the season on Halloween Eve against a Suns team that should be in rebuilding mode this year. This was made even more evident late last week when center, Marcin Gortat, was traded to the Washington Wizards for Emeka Okafor, and a top 12 protected 2014 first round pick. Okafor may or may not be back this year from a herniated disk in his neck, but his expiring contract will be valuable come free agency in 2014. The trade also opens the door for 2013 first round draft pick, Alex Len, to be the starting center.
Eric Bledsoe will be fun to watch, and, one day, could be a potential All-Star, but the rest of this team leaves much to be desired. Goran Dragic is a decent NBA point guard, and the Morris twins seem to play well together, but this is an extremely young team with a first year head coach in Jeff Hornacek.
It seems that no matter who the Suns have on their roster, they always seem to give the Blazers a tough time. However, the Blazers experienced roster, playing against a young, inexperienced team, should give them the edge. I see the Blazers winning their first game, but it could be closer than it should be.
Blazers @ Nuggets Friday, Nov. 1st
The Denver Nuggets made the playoffs last season, but expectations were not met when they were ousted in the first round by the Golden State Warriors. This led to the firing of head coach, George Karl, and the hiring of first year head coach Brian Shaw. Andre Iguodala left the team in free agency and signed a four year deal with the Golden State Warriors.
Danilo Gallinari is a good all-around player, but he is coming off an ACL tear, and who knows when he will be fully healthy. Ty Lawson is a heck of a player and can shoot the rock, but other players will need to step up and help take the load off of his shoulders. Kenneth Faried is a beast, but is rumored to be on the trading block. Double-double machine, JJ Hickson, will provide a lot of energy and hustle plays this year. The ex-Blazer will also be highly motivated to play well against the team who let him walk in free agency.
I think the loss of George Karl for this team will be huge. That, coupled with Brian Shaw trying to turn a team built for speed into a slower paced scheme, and the loss of Iguodala, should bode well for the Blazers in their second game. I also think that the Blazers length will cause problems for the Nuggets. I give the Blazers the edge and the W in this one.
Spurs @ Blazers Saturday Nov. 2nd
The Blazers make their home debut against the Western Conference Champion, San Antonio Spurs, in the second game of a back-to-back. The Hall of Fame trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are still together and still the main focal points of this team. Is this the year that age finally catches up to the triple threat? Kawhi Leonard is a great young talent who should take the next step in his career this year. The Spurs also have the same role players who know what their jobs are in Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw, and Danny Green. Add Marco Belinelli into the mix, and the Spurs should still be a force in the west, barring any injuries or father time catching up to the Duncan/Ginobili/Parker trifecta.
Although the Spurs main trio might show their age at some point this year, it surely wont happen in their 3rd game of the year. Or will it? The Spurs will also be playing their second game of a back-to-back and playing in front of an always loud and energetic Rose Gard…err, I mean, Moda Center crowd. The Blazers have always been a thorn in the Spurs side, no matter what their record is, and are only one of two teams to post a .500 or better all-time record against the Spurs. Yes, you read that right. Only the Blazers (74-74) and the Lakers (75-74) can claim that status. I think the Blazers win a close one in their first home game.
How do you think the Blazers will fare in their first three games of the season? Post your predictions below.