Tune in on Wednesday, Oct. 17 when the NBA’s 73rd season tips off with a doubleheader featuring the Philadelphia 76ers visiting the Boston Celtics, followed by the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder. The first six days of the 2018-19 season showcases 15 different teams playing 11 national television games across TNT, Sky Sports, ESPN and NBA TV as part of Kia NBA Tip-Off 2018 – all the games will be broadcast on NBA LEAGUE PASS.
WINDS OF CHANGE: Several NBA stars changed teams in the offseason. Of course, the list is headlined by four-time Kia NBA MVP LeBron James, who joined the Los Angeles Lakers after reaching the NBA Finals with Eastern Conference teams in each of the previous eight seasons. Two-time Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard was acquired by the Toronto Raptors, who won an East-leading 59 games in 2017-18. Other big names with new addresses include 10-time NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony (Houston Rockets), four-time All-Stars DeMarcus Cousins (Golden State) and DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs), and four-time NBA champion Tony Parker (Charlotte Hornets).
GOLDEN ERA: As two-time defending NBA champions, the Warriors are seeking to become the fourth franchise to win at least three consecutive titles. They are also looking to join the Boston Celtics as the only teams to make the NBA Finals five years in a row. Golden State has added a fifth All-Star to its core quartet of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, with Cousins set to contribute upon his return from injury.
ROCKET MEN: The Rockets won a franchise-record 65 games last season and nearly defeated the Warriors in the 2018 Western Conference Finals behind Kia NBA MVP James Harden, nine-time All-Star Chris Paul and Kia NBA Most Improved Player runner-up Clint Capela. Houston made a few notable changes during the offseason, highlighted by the addition of Anthony, one of the top-20 scorers in NBA history. Other newcomers expected to contribute include former Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams as well as forwards Marquese Chriss and James Ennis.
RIVALRY REVIVED: The classic rivalry between Boston and Philadelphia is heating up again now that both teams have re-established themselves as contenders in the East. The Celtics and 76ers will meet four times on national television this season, including prominent slots on opening night and Christmas Day. Boston’s potential starting lineup features veteran All-Stars Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving as well as emerging standouts Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Philadelphia is led by All-Star Joel Embiid, whose individual goal this season is to win the Kia NBA MVP Award, and reigning Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons.
WILD, WILD WEST: Only three games separated third place from ninth place in the Western Conference last season. Expect another dramatic race this season as teams that missed the 2018 NBA Playoffs gear up for a run. The new-look Lakers are hoping to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2013. The Denver Nuggets, who boast one of the NBA’s best young cores, were eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the 2017-18 season. The LA Clippers return 12 players from last season’s 42-40 team. And the Memphis Grizzlies, playoff participants in seven of the last eight seasons, welcome back star guard Mike Conley, who missed 70 games last season.
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks headline an exciting rookie class. Ayton (Bahamas/Nigeria) is an athletic marvel with a rapidly developing skill set. Doncic (Slovenia) was named MVP of the prestigious EuroLeague at age 19 last season, when he led Real Madrid to a championship. Other potential rookie standouts include Marvin Bagley III of the Sacramento Kings, Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Grizzlies, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks, Collin Sexton of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Clippers.
INTERNATIONAL INTRIGUE: Ayton and Doncic are the latest additions to an outstanding crop of young international players. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece/Nigeria), a potential MVP candidate with the Milwaukee Bucks, has been an All-Star in each of the last two seasons. Embiid (Cameroon) started the 2018 NBA All-Star Game in his second season, while his 76ers teammate Simmons (Australia) joined Oscar Robertson as the only NBA rookies to average at least 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Denver’s Nikola Jokic (Serbia) has the fourth-most triple-doubles in the NBA over the last two seasons – an especially impressive feat for a center.
SIDELINE SHUFFLE: A busy offseason of coaching changes has created opportunities for five men to make their debuts as full-time NBA head coaches. Igor Kokoškov (Phoenix), Nick Nurse (Toronto) and Lloyd Pierce (Atlanta) are NBA head coaches for the first time. Kokoškov, a Serbian native, is the first NBA head coach born and raised outside North America. J.B. Bickerstaff (Memphis) and James Borrego (Charlotte) are former interim head coaches who are now filling the role on a full-time basis for the first time. Borrego is the second Hispanic-American to be named a full-time NBA head coach, following former Suns head coach Earl Watson.