The Cleveland Cavaliers begin their inaugural title defense against a new-look New York Knicks and tip off the 2016-17 NBA season in Tuesday night’s showdown at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavs, who miraculously erased a 3-1 Finals deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in seven games in June behind Finals MVP LeBron James’ and point guard Kyrie Irving’s stellar play, will receive their championship rings in front of what will be a sell-out crowd.
On the other side, the Knicks, featuring James’ longtime rival and friend Carmelo Anthony as well as new point guard Derrick Rose and a host of fresh faces, will try to spoil a special night that the City of Cleveland has waited 52 years to celebrate. The last time the hard-luck sports town won a title in one of the four major sports was in 1964 when the Browns won the NFL Championship.
"It's just a special night, it's something that no one can ever take away from you no matter how many missed shots, no matter how many turnovers, no matter how many games that you've lost, they can never take that moment away from you," James said. "I'm happy not only for every guy here, but our fans and the organization. It's something that's going to live in the archives forever."
The timing of the ceremony comes at an interesting time. The Cleveland Indians host the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series at 8:00 p.m. ET, and roughly 30 minutes after the Cavs and Knicks tip off.
In terms of personnel, the Cavs bring back a large majority of last season’s title team which includes power forward Kevin Love, center Tristan Thompson and guard J.R. Smith. They also added new players like veteran forwards Mike Dunleavy and Chris Anderson, along with swingman DeAndre Liggins and second-round draft pick Kay Felder.
The Knicks revamped their roster and coaching staff under president Phil Jackson after a miserable 32-50 record. Jackson first brought in former Phoenix head coach Jeff Hornacek, who is trying to further implement the triangle offense that his predecessor Derek Fisher struggled with.
During his three years with the Suns, Hornacek compiled a 101-112 record with a roster composed of mostly young players, unlike a new Knicks roster that does sport some solid veterans and potential.
Jackson also pulled off one of the bigger trades of the offseason when he acquired former MVP but oft-injured Rose from Chicago and signed center Joakim Noah to a massive new contract. The Knicks also signed guards Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings to address a backcourt that struggled mightily the last few seasons.
It’s all in an effort to build around the aging Anthony, who averaged better than 21 points for the 12th straight season, and second-year forward Kristaps Porzingis. The 7-foot-3 Latvian was a Rookie of the Year candidate with 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks over 72 games last season.
Tip-off: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: TNT
Live Stream: TNT Overtime
Betting Odds: Cleveland -9.5
Over/Under: 110 points
Prediction: Cleveland over New York, 103-94