NBA commissioner Adam Silver will be at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night, handing the Golden State Warriors what will be their third set of championship rings from the last four seasons.
A banner will be displayed. Highlights will be shown.
And then the Warriors will have to start all over again.
The NBA’s 73rd season starts Tuesday night, beginning a year in which LeBron James will play for the Los Angeles Lakers, Carmelo Anthony will aim to push the Houston Rockets over the top, and Dwyane Wade will take his 16th and final lap around the league. A new arena is opening in Milwaukee, eight teams will have new coaches, and everyone will be looking to see if the Warriors can win a third straight title.
“None of us are ready for this run to come to an end,” said Golden State’s Draymond Green.
The forward who has been there for all three Warriors’ titles in this four-year run of dominance added, “So we’ve got to continue to approach it like we’ve got zero. And that’s cliche and impossible to do, but you want to try to get as close to that as you possibly can. And that’s my mindset always entering the season.”
They will be the overwhelming favorites, with good reason.
The Warriors still have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Green, plus added All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins — coming off an injury — on a bargain $5.3 million deal. And calling all the shots is coach Steve Kerr, who won five rings as a player and now has three more as a coach.
In this NBA, everybody else is an underdog.
That even applies to Houston — which won 65 games last season, has the reigning MVP in James Harden and an elite point guard in Chris Paul who re-signed for $160 million this summer. The Rockets had the Warriors against the ropes in last season’s Western Conference finals, leading that series 3-2 yet falling after Paul was lost to a hamstring injury.
“We’ve all got one goal, man,” Harden said. “You’ll keep hearing the same story over and over until I’m not here no more. … We kind of, a little bit, we kind of know what it takes to almost get there. But we haven’t gotten there yet.”
The Warriors are the best team and the Rockets had the best record, but the best player, arguably, is now in L.A.
After 15 seasons in the Eastern Conference, James — who has played in each of the last eight NBA Finals — has moved West. He signed a four-year deal in July with the Lakers, one that makes him the biggest star on the league’s glitziest franchise. He has teamed up with talented young players like Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, and former rivals like Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson.
“I’m a basketball player,” James said. “I play ball. That’s what I do and that’s what I live by. And when I do it at the level I do it at, everything else takes care of itself.”
Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto (with the newly acquired Kawhi Leonard) are the top candidates to take over as East champions after James’ departure from that conference. The Celtics get Gordon Hayward back and a healthy Kyrie Irving again. Miami has been trying to get Jimmy Butler from Minnesota, and if they do, the Heat may be able to get back into East contention.
It might be Dirk Nowitzki’s last season in Dallas. Gregg Popovich no longer has Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili with him in San Antonio, and the Spurs (who have been battered by injuries, including one to point guard Dejounte Murray) are no lock to extend their 21-year run of playoff appearances. Sneakerheads will have a big season, because the NBA now says players may wear whatever colors of kicks that they want.
There are plenty of stories.
But in the end, it will be all about someone finding a way to beat Golden State — or not.