(Cleveland, OH) — With the most celebrated off season in Cleveland Cavaliers history now in the books, the Cavs will have a chance to unleash their (somewhat) newly acquired arsenal on national television.
LeBron James, Kevin Love and the rest of the new-look Cavs will kick-off their highly anticipated season at home, as they’ll host Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks at the Quicken Loans Arena, Thursday at 8 pm E/T. James, who will play in his eighth home opener as a Cavalier, is determined to kick things off on the right foot.
“The excitement continues to grow,” James said after practice on Sunday. “And I’m looking forward to going out there [Thursday against the Knicks] and having a fun time.”
Both the Cavs and the Knicks missed the playoffs last year, with New York finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference, four games ahead of Cleveland. The two teams split the season series (2-2).
As a member of the Miami Heat last season, James averaged 32.7 points per game against the Knicks.
The game will feature two rookie coaches. European coaching icon David Blatt will mark his debut as a head coach in the NBA, and he plans to spare no expense when it comes to bringing home his first victory in the opening game.
In regards to his rotation to begin the year, Blatt remarked, “We’re gonna have 13 players dressed, and if we need, we’re gonna use every one of them.”
Knicks’ Derek Fisher will also begin his inaugural season as an NBA head coach. Fisher, who played in 81 games for the Oklahoma City Thunder a year ago, is the second player in as many years to immediately jump the ranks from player to coach (Jason Kidd).
“I’m no Phil Jackson, that’s for sure,” Fisher told Marc Berman of the New York Post. “I am not going to try to be or even pretend to be. I’ve for sure taken a lot of the basketball experiences and life experiences and knowledge from working for Phil for so many years. So there will for sure be some things I will try and channel.”
With the most expensive tickets in the league, and Vegas siding with the Cavs as favorites to win the next NBA championship, it’s hard to ignore the media circus that downtown Cleveland will become. As TNT and ESPN jockey into position for their coverage of the most anticipated season opener in Cavalier’s history, comedian Kevin Hart is set to host an open-to-the-public Kendrick Lamar concert just before tipoff.
The city of Cleveland is in a very celebratory mode, and the Cavs head coach hinted that that may be slightly premature.
“Anybody talking about us winning it all,” began coach Blatt on the Cavs being favored to win the NBA title this year, “they’re being unfair to those great NBA teams out there that have either won it, or have been there to win it. And also to us as a team that’s talented, but new, we have a lot of work to do before we can start claiming anything before it’s time.”
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Cavaliers is what exactly to expect from the newly-starting shooting guard Dion Waiters. A key sixth man for Cleveland since being drafted fourth overall in 2012, Waiters has now been inserted into the starting lineup and will be relied on for his lane penetration and spot-up shooting.
“We can’t just come in the game thinking everything is gonna be easy,” Waiters told reporters after practice Tuesday. “We know everybody’s gunning for us. That’s what makes it fun, though.”
The NBA’s newest rendition of the ‘Big Three’ will finally showcase their skills together on national television. The Cavs, one of three teams with 25 national television appearances (Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder) will start their season with a back-to-back, having to travel to Chicago after the Knicks game to play in the Bulls’ home opener on Halloween night.
A rarity in sports, LeBron James brings true championship pedigree to a team with zero championships. As a player with countless accomplishments, Thursday marks the start of the latest test for the game’s best talent.
“First person in the gym, last to leave,” Dion said about his new captain. “More important, he’s a leader, a vocal leader too. I haven’t had that since I been here.”
It’s clear that King James is set to defend his royal court in grand fashion. Coach Blatt just hopes that the rest of the King’s men are ready as well.