The NBA season begins with the Nets in the first game on Tuesday night vs. the Warriors, with all eyes on Kevin Durant against his former team. Here are three bold predictions and five games to watch as an intriguing Nets season tips off.
Three bold predictions
1. The Nets finally stay healthy and get 100 more games from Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert in this shortened campaign than they did last season. Even if Durant sits often and only logs 50 games, the Nets end up nursing that trio into the playoffs reasonably whole and sound.
2. Steve Nash gets some NBA Coach of the Year love. That’s a huge leap from the flap about him “jumping the line” when he took the Brooklyn job. But league general managers voted him the new coach most likely to impact his team, and the presence of Durant, Irving and Mike D’Antoni should help put him in the mix.
3. The NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award ends up in Brooklyn. Spencer Dinwiddie has been in the mix for the award for years, but he may not even end up in that role this coming season. Nash has left open the possibility of bringing LeVert and his high Usage Rate off the bench to maximize his talent separate from Durant and Irving. Whether it’s Dinwiddie or LeVert, whichever one leads the Nets reserves could be a viable candidate for the award.
Five games to watch
Tuesday night vs. Golden State: The drama starts right from opening night. Durant won two Finals MVPs with the Warriors and was on his way to sealing a third straight before he ruptured his Achilles in the 2019 Finals. Durant’s beef with Draymond Green hastened his exit from Golden State, and now his long-awaited return to the court comes Tuesday against his old team. Now it may be Green who misses the reunion due to injury, but it won’t take away any of the hype.
Friday at Boston: Durant’s Warriors reunion will be tame compared to Kyrie Irving’s return to Boston. The All-Star point guard’s exit was acrimonious and highly scrutinized, and the Boston fans plastered posters of Irving outside TD Garden last season along with the word “coward.” While Irving missed that game with a shoulder impingement, he’ll be healthy this time around. There won’t be any fans in the building, but expect some Christmas Day fireworks.
Jan. 18 vs. Milwaukee: Everybody from league GMs to Las Vegas oddsmakers have installed the Bucks as the most likely team to come out of the Eastern Conference, with Brooklyn right on their heels. This will be the first time for a full-strength Nets team to test itself against the team it could have to go through to reach the NBA Finals.
Feb. 13 at Golden State: Last season was suspended just as the Nets were set to play at Golden State on March 10. Durant wasn’t going to play that game anyway, still recovering from his ruptured Achilles, but now he’ll finally get to suit up at glistening Chase Center.
March 3 at Houston: Sure, the Feb. 18 matchup at Staples Center against LeBron James’ Lakers is mouthwatering. But this tilt to close the first half of the slate carries plenty of intrigue. With the trade deadline expected to be March 25, will this be an up-close look at James Harden or the former MVP’s return to Toyota Center.
The Post’s forecast
44-28. Of course, this record is almost completely reliant upon health, for better or worse. But the Nets should at the least be able to land one of the Eastern Conference’s top four seeds; the real test is what they do with it if they get it. They’ll be measured not in the regular season but the postseason.