Bucks, Clippers, Celtics, Heat, Grizzlies, Sixers… the candidates will be jostling this season to dethrone the Warriors, once again champions in the wake of the flamboyant Stephen Curry, but turned upside down by the altercation between Draymond Green and Jordan Poole, who weakened their osmosis and their tranquility.
This incident, all the more striking as Golden State seems to be stable even on and off the court, is the latest episode in a particularly tumultuous offseason in the NBA.
There was the indictment of Miles Bridges (Hornets), suspected of having hit his wife in front of their children, then the resounding case of Robert Sarver, the owner of the Suns forced to sell his franchise after accusations of racism, sexism and misogyny, and finally the suspension for one year, of Celtics coach Ime Udoka, for an “inappropriate” intimate relationship with a club employee.
So much so that the opening of the championship will allow basketball to regain its rights, with a taste of the play-offs on Tuesday, since Joel Embiid’s Sixers will travel to Boston, finalist of the last exercise, which will therefore try to move forward under acting Joe Mazzulla, Udoka’s deputy.
After which, the Warriors will receive the Lakers of the indestructible LeBron James, with, as a preamble, the traditional presentation of rings to the outgoing champions. A moment of communion with the fans of the Chase Center, to again celebrate the 7th coronation of the franchise – the 4th of the Curry era in six finals since 2015 -, which will not harm a group, whose serenity has been undermined by the punch of Green in Poole, at the beginning of October, in training.
– Returning stars –
“It’s the biggest crisis we’ve had since I’ve been here,” admitted Steve Kerr, of the incident which earned the 32-year-old winger, leader of the dressing room, a fine of an undisclosed amount. , but no suspension.
The coach, anxious to preserve the unity of his group, praised Poole’s desire to appease – who did not demand a stronger sanction, showing a desire to turn the page – and reached out to Green .
“Draymond and I have been through a lot together. There’s been a lot of fights, titles won, titles lost… He broke our trust, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, because I think he deserved it and I think our team shares that opinion,” he said.
A team which in any case appears even stronger, in the wake of the “Splash Brothers” Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, with the return of the promising James Wiseman, drafted in 2nd position in 2020, recovered from a right meniscus injury.
Competition will be raised in the West, where many stars, long absent, will also return to strengthen their team.
Starting with Kawhi Leonard, recovered from a ruptured cruciate ligament. With him, Paul George, who was often injured last season, and John Wall who is trying to come back to life after many glitches, the Clippers are candidates for the title.
– Brooklyn Nets finally? –
Just like the Phoenix Suns, with the best record in the regular season, but then disappointing in the play-offs. Provided that it remains impervious to internal shocks.
Among the outsiders, Memphis will have to confirm its emergence under the impetus of the phenomenon Ja Morant, while in Denver, the return of Jamal Murray, also victim of a serious knee injury, will allow Nikola Jokic, double MVP in title, to no longer feel alone.
As for the Lakers, they are counting on a 100% Anthony Davis, the one who was a major player in the 17th coronation record (tied with Boston) in 2020. The interior is the indispensable lieutenant of LeBron James, soon to be 38, who would like this 20th season not only to be the one where he will – probably – become the best scorer in history ahead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
In the East, in addition to the Celtics, the Bucks of Giannis Antetokounmpo, crowned in 2021, are the favorites. Released in seven matches, by Boston precisely, in the semi-finals of the Eastern Conference, they had paid for the unavailability of Khris Middleton, whose return will be eagerly awaited.
Miami, which failed to reach the final after a hasty shot from its hero Jimmy Butler, will also be revengeful and armed. Even if PJ Tucker went to bring his defensive aggressiveness to Philadelphia, which lacks it in the play-offs.
Finally, it remains to be seen whether Brooklyn, where Kevin Durant remained after his failed attempt to eject coach Steve Nash, can become a team that lives up to its ambitions, with Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons involved.