The 2016-17 NBA season is less than 48 hours old. And while many people have been fixated on the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians in the World Series, the NBA trotted out three intriguing matchups. It was a perfect way to introduce the 2016-17 NBA campaign.
Each contest, headlined by the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, featured a heated rivalry or a budding one. One of those matchups has the potential to be one of the top five rivalries worth watching this NBA season. As the MLB season comes to a close, the NBA season started off with a bang.
NBA rivalries always make things worth paying attention to. Things do not have to go as far as fights on the basketball court, but intense NBA rivalries will carry this season until the NBA playoffs begin.
Many fans who watched the NBA playoffs last season can agree that the majority of the postseason pairings lacked the sizzle of natural NBA rivalries. Some storylines can and will produce themselves, but up until the collapse of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, the storylines were minimal. This NBA season can prove to be different. There are five NBA rivalries worth keying in on, as they may have some playoff implications later on.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Durant Versus Russell Westbrook
Kevin Durant made his Warriors debut last night.
And Russell Westbrook couldn't have cared less: https://t.co/uuRmYoRYlP
— ESPN (@espn) October 26, 2016
Kevin Durant left Russell Westbrook hanging when he bolted the Oklahoma City Thunder in favor of the Golden State Warriors.
It is a move that can either elevate both careers or ruin one. Some people have been quick to label Durant a ring-chaser while calling Westbrook the opposite. The truth is, in order for them to grow, one of them had to go. Things will get interesting when they face each other. It is a guarantee that Russell Westbrook will go after Kevin Durant with something to prove
5. Boston Celtics Versus Atlanta Hawks
One of the most sought-after NBA free agents this offseason was Al Horford. After helping the Atlanta Hawks make it to the NBA playoffs last season, the All-Star jumped ship. His landing spot of all teams was the same Boston Celtics team the Hawks eliminated in six games during the first round.
Things became a bit testy as the best-of-seven series went along. And Horford leaving for the Celtics will only add fuel to the fire. It is still too early to tell how each team will respond to each other as the season progresses. The Hawks did bounce back by adding center Dwight Howard.
4. Chicago Bulls Versus New York Knicks
There is a storm brewing between the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks.
Bulls’ guard Jimmy Butler is all that is left from a quartet of players who had multiple All-Star appearances with the team. Pau Gasol is now with the Spurs, while Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are playing for the New York Knicks. Someone did not leave quietly.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, a former Bulls’ player called Jimmy Butler a diva on his way out. All signs point to those words coming a player who fled to the Knicks.
It will not take long for the fireworks between the Bulls and Knicks to get started. They meet next week. Keep your eyes open on possible ill will, in what could be an NBA rivalry revisited. The hard feelings will be leading to some hard fouls on both the Bulls and Knicks side.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers Versus Golden State Warriors
The rematch of the last two NBA Finals gets some extra sizzle. Kevin Durant now joins (courtesy of The Player’s Tribune) the Golden State Warriors in a hunt for his first NBA title. The defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers will do everything they can to hold off Durant and the Warriors.
— NBA (@NBA) October 24, 2016
Thankfully, the NBA saved the first Cavaliers versus Warriors game for Christmas Day. As long as everyone stays healthy it will be worth the wait.
Unlike most of the NBA rivalries, this one between the Cavaliers and Warriors will not end with a lot of pushing and shoving. It would be good for the storylines if they did get extra aggressive with each other. LeBron James and Draymond Green perhaps getting into a tussle. This more so than all of the other NBA rivalries will be about one-upping each other in a game of finesse.
2. Portland Trailblazers Versus Los Angeles Clippers
One of last season’s playoff parings did not get the ending it deserved. The young, upstart Portland Trailblazers team eliminated an injury-depleted Los Angeles Clippers roster.
It became so bad for the Clippers in the NBA playoffs last season that they lost Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the same game. Otherwise, they would have had little trouble dispatching the Trailblazers.
This season should be more competitive. Portland has added on to their roster to ensure that last April was not a fluke. The Clippers at times have played like the New York Knicks of Doc Rivers’ days — tough and gritty. With the title of the Western Conference’s second-best team up for grabs, the Clippers and Trailblazers will be worth watching as they jockey to best each other every chance they get. This has the makings of one of the great NBA rivalries this year.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers Versus New York Knicks
— NBA TV (@NBATV) October 26, 2016
Throw out the Cleveland Cavaliers blowing out the New York Knicks 117-88 in the NBA Championship ring ceremony. As previously noted, the Knicks have a couple of new players this season. Neither of them are huge fans of LeBron James.
While the LeBron James versus Carmelo Anthony battles have ended amicably on the basketball court, the same cannot be said for James and new starting Knicks’ center Joakim Noah. Their bad blood stems from when Noah was controlling the paint with Bulls.
When you look up the history of LeBron James’ nemesis, Joakim Noah ranks near the top. Now Noah has Carmelo Anthony with him, along with Derrick Rose. As the Knicks gel, this is one of the NBA rivalries that will heat up.
[Featured Image by Al Bello/Getty Images]