With the NBA schedule due to be announced later this month, let’s take a look at five teams who are getting ready for a championship charge, why they have a chance and what’s in it for you if you decide to check them out in person this season.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Skinny – The Clippers are hoping to move out of the Lakers’ shadow and into the title-winning limelight themselves after an encouraging 2015-16 season came to a premature end due to injuries to key players including Chris Paul and JJ Redick in the playoffs, while star player Blake Griffin was absent for most of the season.
It’s expected that this year will be the last that the triumvirate of Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will be together, giving the Clippers faithful hope that their familiarity with each other and a strong supporting cast will mean a season of victories and a sustained playoff push toward the promised land.
What’s in it for me? The Staples Center in downtown L.A. plays host to the Clippers. Within close distance of the fashion and arts districts, as well as Little Tokyo for a bit of pre-game sushi, L.A. has a tonne to offer the out of town visitor. Must-see attractions for the first timer are the Starline Hop On, Hop Off Tour, Universal Studios and Santa Monica Beach. You can also stroll down Rodeo Drive or have a night out in happening West Hollywood.
The Skinny – The most successful team in NBA history are looking to get back to the very top and capture their first title since 2008 to add to the 17 they already own. Returning to the playoffs last season, their season ended prematurely in Round 1 after guard Avery Bradley went down injured in Game 1.
Boston have strengthened in the off-season, with their biggest signing being free agent All Star Al Horford from Atlanta to shore up their defense. With the likes of Bradley healthy again and signs of resurgence last season, the Celtics will think they have a chance to challenge the current champion Cavaliers in the East.
What’s in it for me? As well as being a premier sports town, Boston is chock-full of things to do and sitting as it does on the water, is also one of America’s prettiest cities. The Freedom Trail Run is a must for any first time visitor and you can get around easily and informatively by riding the Beantown Trolley. The bar and restaurant scene is also thriving, with the city’s Little Italy neighbourhood being a personal favourite when it comes to getting some seriously good grub.
San Antonio Spurs
The Skinny – The Spurs are coming off a stellar season in 2015-16, when they finished with a franchise-best 67-15 record before losing in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Despite the retirement of future hall of famer Tim Duncan, the Spurs are well placed for another run at the title this season with up and coming stars such as Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Alridge.
San Antonio are one of the most successful NBA teams in the last 25 years, winning an impressive 16 division titles since 1990 and all 5 of their NBA championships. This well-run organisation does not accept mediocrity, meaning 2016-17 should be another exciting one for Spurs fans.
What’s in it for me? Located in the great state of Texas, San Antonio is a southwestern city that has a load of things to see and do for out of towners. Experience the sights and flavours of old Mexico in Market Square and take a stroll down the San Antonio Riverwalk of a host of restaurants, bars, shops and things to do. Then of course there’s the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Alamo to take in.
The Skinny – The Cavs don’t need an introduction to any current NBA fan. With their first championship still shiny and sitting proudly in Cleveland’s brand new trophy cabinet, they also feature the best known player in the game today in two-time MVP LeBron James. A hometown boy, it was James’ drive and determination that delivered Cleveland its first major title in any sport since 1964 and single-handedly removed the city’s so-called “curse”. Not bad for one guy.
Moving into 2016-17 with LeBron still and aided by his familiar supporting cast of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, the Cavs will believe that they can go all the way once again this year and make it three NBA Finals appearances in a row.
What’s in it for me? Cleveland is a city with a renewed sense of self-belief and reinvigoration, and is one of the hidden gems in the Great Lakes region. As well as attractions such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame there is also an impressive number of craft breweries and distilleries to visit and a vibrant downtown scene with a host of great bars and eateries.
Golden State Warriors
The Skinny – Coming off the best regular season record of ANY team in NBA history – winning an astounding 73 games – the Warriors came up just short of winning it all and making it back to back titles in 2016, thanks to LeBron and his team of destiny. Having cruised to a 3-1 Finals lead with early dominating performances, Golden State will feel they let it slip away and will be determined to make amends in 2017.
So what do you do if you’ve just had the best season in NBA history? Why, you look to improve of course. The Warriors look to, scarily, have done that with the addition of Kevin Durant to the already heavily stacked roster in Oakland that includes current league MVP Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
What’s in it for me? Aside from witnessing a self-styled ‘Super Team’ up close and personal, Golden State’s Oakland home gives you the perfect springboard to explore northern California. Oakland itself contains great attractions such as the Museum of California and the breathtaking Redwood Regional Park, while nearby San Francisco is full to the brim with amazing sights, sounds and experiences to make the Golden State a great choice for an NBA trip.
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