By: Matt Lauterbach
As the NFL season kicks off and progresses through its season, another fall sport has also begun and is in its early stages of the 2021-2022 season. The NBA season is back, and the season is tipped off to start. This season starts the 76 season of NBA competition as the league returns to its full 82 game regular season that started October 19 and will end April 10, 2022. Despite it being the 76 season of NBA competition, the league announced on July 7, 2021, that this season would commemorate its 75 anniversary which was put on hiatus during the Covid-19 pandemic. With commemoration also came the announcement of players selected as the 75 greatest NBA players of all time. The NBA began releasing its early list of players on October 19 as players on the list include Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash.
With the season starting up, several NBA teams have rebuilt their rosters in order to make a run at qualifying for this year's playoffs. One of the teams on the rise happens to be the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls took steps last year after redoing several pieces in the organization. These changes include Arturas Karnisovas as VP of Basketball Operations and Billy Donovan as new head coach. These moves resulted in the team noticing the potential of their best player, Zach Lavine, who made his first NBA AllStar game last year.
This year the Bulls got a supporting cast around Lavine who signed key players such as Lonzo Ball from the New Orleans Pelicans as well as four-time NBA Allstar: DeMar DeRozan from the San Antonio Spurs. With these moves, the Bulls were looked at as playoffs favorites in the Eastern Conference. Andrew Miller of Fansided stated these moves could make them "one of the most exciting of any in the Eastern Conference.” Others, however, are skeptical. USF Senior Nick Howard says, “The Bulls will get to the second round of the playoffs and no further. The reason is they have older and younger players who may not work well together.” So far, the Bulls have won all 4 of their preseason games with dominant victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans. They also claimed a season opening 94-88 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Some NBA teams that are among favorites to win the title this year are the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets. The Nets are looking to rebound after a heartbreaking loss in last year's playoffs with their starting lineup that features nine-time NBA Allstar James Harden and 11-time NBA Allstar Kevin Durant. The Lakers meanwhile added to their starting roster by signing nine-time NBA Allstar Russell Westbrook and 10-time NBA Allstar Carmelo Anthony to a roster that already features LeBron James and Anthony Davis. With the addition of these players, both teams went into the season as heavy favorites to win the NBA Finals with several insiders naming them the best two teams in the league. NBC Sports, James Best, ranks both teams as the two best teams in the league. The Nets opened their season with a rough 127-104 loss to the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. With 81 more games to play in the regular season, there’s still time for these teams to turn their season around and make a deep playoffs push.
Teams in the NBA that appear to be on the downside are the Philadelphia 76ers. After finishing first in the Eastern Conference last year, the team suffered a heartbreaking playoff defeat to the Atlanta Hawks in which point guard Ben Simmons fell under heavy scrutiny for his performance. This led to several fans in Philadelphia as well as head coach Doc Rivers calling out Simmons by name for his poor performance in the series. After weeks of speculation, Simmons requested a trade from Philadelphia. However, the Sixers refused to trade Simmons. Several teammates such as Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris reached out to return him to the team. Simmons did return to the team still with the desire to be traded and during a practice on October 19, things hit a boiling point.
Simmons refused to take part in team drills and was thrown out of practice by Rivers. He was suspended for the season opener against New Orleans on October 20. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Simmons was also “fined $1.4 million for his absence from the four preseason games.“At this point, I think a trade would be the best thing for both sides, just get him out of there,” said USF Senior Alec Dudley. As the season begins, it will be interesting to follow the storylines of what happens between Simmons and the Sixers organization.
With the season already beginning, fans are returning to the stadiums as the Covid-19 Pandemic has ended. With fans returning, several teams are ready to contend among the best in the league to win a championship. Let the games begin!