It has been just over a week since the start of the new NBA season, and amid all the excitement, the brutality from the opening week has taken a toll on one of the more fancied sides, Boston.
With the biggest signings over the American summer, Boston posted a formidable line-up, one that could contest, and potentially defeat the superior Cleveland Cavaliers in a seven-game series.
Having Kyrie Irving control the ball, and Al Horford in the post in pick and roll situations, the free-agent signing of Gordon Hayward stretched the floor for the Celtics, giving them a versatile two-way wingman who can shoot, and guard some of the best players in the league.
However, Boston’s hearts were crushed six minutes into the first quarter on opening night, in one of the most distressing and ghastly incidents in NBA history.
The injury had a reminiscence of Paul George’s leg break in a USA warm-up match a few years back, and while it was Hayward’s ankle, the player’s immediate response explained the severity of the injury. After an attempt at an alley-oop, the landing of Haywards ankle was caught under LeBron James, spelling the end of his game, and majority of the season.
Depending on the success of the team, he may be able to get back in time for the Playoffs, however, it is an injury both he and the Celtics will want to be cautious with heading into the long-term future.
Yet, while it is still too early to separate the pretenders from the genuine contenders, these injuries can impact a teams’ success severely.
Hayward was just the first domino to fall so far this season, with Jeremy Lin to also suffer a season-ending injury in the next night, after a contactless landing from a layup, rupturing his patella tendon.
While the Nets weren’t predicted to cause much damage in a weakened Eastern conference, their play this year so far have signalled a significant improvement, including a confidence boosting home victory against the Cavaliers.
Whether the injuries are season ending, or even out for just a couple of weeks, it makes it difficult for teams to be able to adjust on the run. For the Rockets for example, losing Chris Paul for 2-4 weeks makes it a tough ask to start the season.
Losing an All-Star for 10-15 games can change a season, especially if travelling on the road.
Anthony Davis tweaked his knee against Portland, Milos Teodosic is out for the Clippers stretching their depth at the point guard position, and Jimmy Butler has been ill, with the Timberwolves losing their last two games with him out of the line-up. The brutality of the NBA has already taken its toll this season.
So what can we take from the first week of the much anticipated season?
Australians will be staring at their screens when Philadelphia takes the court, with Ben Simmons taking the league by storm, posting his first career triple-double against the Detroit Pistons. The rookie from LSU is catching the attention by the entire league, posting averages of 16.4pts, 10rebs and 7.4ast in his first week.
And how about the Spurs? An organisation that made no serious moves in the off-season, retained their All-Star big-man in LaMarcus Aldridge after a rift late last season, and continue to be missing their superstar, Kawai Leonard.
Yet, the media have gone off an organisation that’s a possible threat? They remain undefeated so far this season, with the Clippers the only other franchise to match them in the category.
The organisation is showing that “defence wins championships” mentality. They rank 18th this year in points scored [103ppg], but are 4th in rebounds, 8th in fewest turnovers and 2nd in blocks per game. Greg Popovich is slowly working his way behind the talk of Golden State, Houston and Minnesota.
And in a league dominated by Cleveland and LeBron and Golden State with their big four, the NBA may have a new star on the rise, with Giannis Antetokounmpo carrying his Bucks to a hopeful home-court advantage position this season.
Averaging 36.8pts, 10.8reb and 5.3ast per game in 2017/18, Antetokounmpo is becoming one of the most damaging players off the dribble, on the wing and in the post, and his defence is just as effective with two steals and a block per game also.
So with the first week done and dusted, the fresh NBA season has lived up to its expectations so far, even through the disastrous injuries that have occurred. If this is how the season will go, strap yourselves in, we’re in for one long and exciting journey to crown the 2018 Champions.