The basketball off-season is over. And only 1,230 games are left until the play-offs start.
So, before they raise that banner in Cleveland and the season finally begins tonight (tomorrow morning HKT), let’s empty the notebook and go over 10 more things to know going into this NBA season:
1. The champs: The opportunity is there for Cleveland to get off to a fast start. The Cavaliers play 10 of their first 14 games at home, and the four road contests are all merely one-game trips. LeBron James and his teammates won’t have to pack anything bigger than an overnight bag until a two-game trip takes them to Philadelphia and Milwaukee on November 27 and 29. (PS: Defending champions are 55-14 on opening night, including 8-1 in the last nine years.)
2. Lebron’s legend: LeBron James has been a first-team All-NBA selection 10 times, including each of the last nine seasons. If he’s a first-teamer again this year, he’ll become the third player in league history with 11 such selections joining only Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone. The other 10-timers besides James are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, Michael Jordan, Bob Pettit and Elgin Baylor. Besides James, no other active player has more than five first-team nods (Dwight Howard and Kevin Durant).
3. For openers: Miami has the longest active streak of opening-night wins, with five straight going into their Game 1 of this season at Orlando on Wednesday. Atlanta has the longest active Game 1 losing streak, having dropped each of its last four openers.
4. Steph at the line: Golden State’s Stephen Curry – the two-time reigning MVP – enters this season as the third-best free throw shooter in NBA history, having made 90.16 per cent of his tries. He’s within reach of No. 1 Steve Nash (90.43) and No. 2 Mark Price (90.39).
5. We should have seen it coming: Last season, Golden State became the fifth team to start 14-0 or better in NBA history. Of those five, only one went on to win the title. The 1993-94 Houston Rockets started 15-0 and won the championship – but the 1948-49 Washington Capitols (15-0), 1957-58 Boston Celtics (14-0), 2002-03 Dallas Mavericks (14-0) and last season’s Warriors all fell short in their title quests.
6. Drive for five: DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers will bid this season to win his fifth straight field-goal percentage title. The only other two players to lead the league in shooting five straight times are Wilt Chamberlain (1964-65 through 1968-69) and Shaquille O’Neal (1997-98 through 2001-02).
7. Road warriors: San Antonio has a chance to become the only current NBA franchise with a winning road record. If the Spurs go 28-13 away from home this season – doable, considering they were 27-14 on the road last season – they would then be 829-828 in opposing arenas all-time. On average, NBA teams win 37.9 per cent of their road games.
8. Pop watch: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is nine wins shy of tying Larry Brown (1,098) for No. 7 on the NBA’s all-time list. He’s also 66 shy of No. 6 Phil Jackson (1,155).
9. Mexico suns: Phoenix has 39 “home” games this season instead of the usual 41. The Suns are playing twice in Mexico City, and will be the home team there for games against Dallas on January 12 and San Antonio on January 14. “We have an incredibly strong and supportive Hispanic fan base in Arizona, and these two games present a unique opportunity to strengthen our relationship with NBA fans in both Arizona and Mexico,” Suns President Jason Rowley said.
10. Planning ahead: For those who need to fill their calendars, take note of the following dates:
All-Star weekend in New Orleans is February 17-19; playoffs start April 15; second round starts May 1; conference finals will start May 14, 15 or 16; the NBA Draft lottery is May 16; the NBA Finals start on June 1 and a Game 7, if necessary, would be June 18. The draft is June 22.