2015 NBA Preview: The pursuit of the Larry O’Brien trophy begins

Warriors look to defend title; Jazz hope to make postseason

Kaleb Searle | Sports writer | @k_searle87

Fall has arrived.  The weather has cooled and the leaves are turning, which means a new NBA season is just around the corner.  30 NBA teams begin an 82-game journey looking to win the Larry O’Brien trophy that is given out to the winner of the NBA Finals.semSviP9ZyoMYHJNu2Q_dXBJgWfjfPi0k-prTdBadJQ,8NZ-PdRNAVkUO_qZf9wQ5Cdu4iUAemiBg630pR-seQQ

The defending champ Golden State Warriors will have all major pieces returning as they open the season at home Oct. 27 against their first round playoff victims last season, Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.  Golden State’s offense will continue hitting on all cylinders, with reigning MVP Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson’s outside sharpshooting.  The Warriors’ offense set records for 3-point scoring efficiency last season and they don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.  The defending champs will have to start their title defense without head coach Steve Kerr, who is taking time off to recover from offseason back surgeries.  Assistant coach Luke Walton will step into the head coaching duties while Kerr is away.

The Western Conference, crazy as ever, seemingly has no real favorite going into the season and figures to have multiple teams win over 50 games.  The Houston Rockets, who made an appearance in last season’s Western Conference Finals, traded for point guard Ty Lawson in an attempt to get over the hump.  The San Antonio Spurs, perennial contenders, added four-time all-star LaMarcus Aldridge.  The Los Angeles Clippers also made a variety of moves, adding Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, and Paul Pierce in an effort to improve their depth.  The Oklahoma City Thunder have a new coach in Billy Donovan and will have former MVP Kevin Durant back healthy.  They will be looking to get back into contention after missing the playoffs last year with an injury-plagued season.  The Warriors will have no shortage of challengers in the West.

Out East, LeBron James’s quest to deliver a title to his hometown continues.  The Cleveland Cavaliers retained most of their key players, with Tristan Thompson’s contract situation still up in the air.  Cleveland signed veteran point guard Mo Williams over the summer, who figures to be in the starting lineup while Kyrie Irving continues to recover from a knee injury that knocked him out of last season’s Finals.  Williams should provide some much-needed scoring ability to the Cavs’ lineup.  Cleveland will open the season Oct. 27 against the Chicago Bulls, the team many view as the only real contenders with Cleveland for the Eastern Conference title.  The Bulls and new head coach Fred Hoiberg may or may not have the services of former MVP point guard Derrick Rose for that game as he is still recovering from a fractured orbital bone suffered during training camp.kJMP2WIChWuaUDIrESddyoRX6mPXl86ageBxjWLgI2Y,3S3WjUPimHdr1uxTqARcqSnKnZMpM2hgI1LsfyuPx7s,2JZMckJ-6J0c4Q-x03uCFtkLwpPxQ5dFyNpf_9uUz5M,r1f_OJ6u1jlIDzjdFYMy4q7ctUcK996J5kX0R2jm2Lk

On the local front, all eyes are on the Utah Jazz as they try to battle back into playoff contention in the tough Western Conference.  Head coach Quin Snyder had a tremendous impact on the Utah squad during his first year with the team, helping them to a 38-44 record last season, up 13 wins from their 2013-14 total.  The Jazz’s success this season will hinge upon the play of their newly minted “Big 3,” Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert, all of whom figure to be in the all-star discussion this season.  Utah’s defense, which led the league after last season’s all-star break, took a hit this summer when second-year point guard Dante Exum suffered a torn ACL during international play.  This season will mark the first time that this young group has entered the year with real expectations.  How they will respond remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: NBA basketball is back.

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