THE long wait is over for NBA fans as the league holds no punches in three must-watch games to open the 71st season on Wednesday.
LeBron James and the reigning NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers face a familiar foe in Carmelo Anthony, who leads a New York Knicks team revamped from the coaching staff to the roster, when they open the new season at 7:30 a.m.
Two darkhorse teams in the Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz, then collide at 10 a.m. before the colossal matchup between the owners of the league last season, the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors, kicks off at 10:30 a.m.
Here is a preview of the NBA's season-opening battles:
New York at Cleveland
The Cavaliers will receive their championship rings before facing the new-look Knicks, who added former NBA MVP Derrick Rose and former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah in the offseason. Jeff Hornacek will also make his head-coaching debut with New York, while Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue will coach his first regular-season opener after taking over as head coach last January and leading the Cavaliers to their first NBA title in franchise history. On a trivial note, James opens the season needing 114 points to pass Hakeem Olajuwon for 10th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Utah at Portland
The Trail Blazers, who have won an NBA-record 15 consecutive regular-season home openers, feature one of the NBA’s best backcourts in two-time All-Star Damian Lillard and 2015-16 NBA Most Improved Player CJ McCollum. The two guards led Portland to its third consecutive playoff appearance last season. The Jazz, looking to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012, added veterans Boris Diaw, George Hill and Joe Johnson in the offseason to complement a promising young core. Unfortunately, Utah’s Gordon Hayward, who averaged a team-high 19.7 points last season, will miss the game with a finger injury.
San Antonio at Golden State
Kevin Durant will make his debut with the Warriors, who signed the four-time scoring champion and 2013-14 NBA MVP after a league-record 73-9 season but lost in the Finals to the Cavs. Durant joins two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry and fellow All-Stars Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to make Golden State's potent offense a lot deadlier. The Spurs also brings in six-time All-Star Pau Gasol at center in place of NBA legend Tim Duncan, who retired after 19 seasons with San Antonio. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has a 17-2 record in regular-season openers.
Here's where to watch the games with the NBA broadcast schedule in the Philippines on Oct. 26
· New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers, Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 a.m. on NBA Premium TV
· Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers, Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. on Basketball TV
· San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 10:30 a.m. on ABS-CBN S+A and NBA Premium TV