Dallas Mavericks

Five things to watch for in the NBA this season

The San Antonio Spurs are seeking a repeat and LeBron James is back home in Cleveland. The Spurs begin defense of their title against the Dallas Mavericks, the only team to take San Antonio to seven games during last season’s playoffs. Here are the top storylines to watch as the NBA season gets underway on Tuesday.

Can the Spurs repeat as champions?

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On paper it appears as though San Antonio can just walk in the front door, pick up where they left off and win their second consecutive NBA championship. The core is back in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills. Plus, the Spurs have the game’s best coach in Gregg Popovich. Roll all the ingredients together and this could be a recipe for another title for the Spurs.

Will LeBron deliver a championship to Cleveland?

LeBron James stunned many four years ago when he left Cleveland for the Miami Heat. But after four seasons and two titles, James has decided to take his talents back to Cleveland. Although James is surrounded by quality players in Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Shawn Marion, Anderson Varejao and Mike Miller. But the pressure will be on James to deliver a championship.

Will Rose be able to make it through a full season?

Chicago Bulls fans are holding their breath, hoping that this will finally be the year they’ll get a full season out of point guard Derrick Rose. Over the past three seasons, Rose has undergone a surgery on each knee while missing 181 of a possible 230 games. With a healthy Rose, along with Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and rookie Doug McDermott, the Bulls could seriously contend for the East title.

How does Durant’s injury affect the West?

That surgery to repair a broken bone in his right foot that Kevin Durant underwent on Oct. 16 will have a domino effect as far as playoff seeds in the West are concerned. Last year’s Most Valuable Player in the NBA, Durant could miss the first 25 games this season. That might slide Oklahoma City from a possible No. 1- or 2-seed all the way down to No. 5 or 6. Teams don’t lose a player of Durant’s stature and everything remains status quo.

Will the Heat be a contender or a pretender?

After four straight years of living the good life, this probably will be the season the Miami Heat gets a reality check. That’s because LeBron James won’t be around to carry them, because he’s now carrying the torch in Cleveland. With James at the helm, Miami advanced to the NBA Finals four consecutive seasons and won the 2012 and ’13 titles. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have to step up and do more, and newcomer Luol Deng might be asked to score between 15-20 points per game.

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This story was originally published October 26, 2014 8:47 PM.

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