After a 141 day hiatus, the NBA is back in action as the seeding games are set to tip-off in Orlando.
The heart-pounding, high-wattage, rim-rattling, sneaker-squeaking, whistle-blowing, clipboard-smashing, gravity-defying, sweet-stroking, shot-blocking, fast-breaking, ankle-breaking, jaw-dropping, virtual-cheering, #NBAtwitter-tweeting, and all-around-can't-miss action is back in our lives and it's oh-so-sweet!
It's a #WholeNewGame and there are enough storylines to pack into an entire season.
- Will LeBron take back the throne?
- Will Kawhi add to his trophy cabinet?
- Will Giannis finally break through?
- Will the small-ball Rockets silence the critics?
- Will the jumbo-sized Sixers reach their potential?
- Will the Raptors defend their title?
- Will Jayson Tatum officially graduate into superstardom?
- Will Luka turn heads in his playoff debut?
- Will Zion shatter every backboard in Orlando?
- Will Ja and JJJ hold on to the eighth seed in the West?
- Will Dame and CJ emerge as a darkhorse?
- Will CP3 stay healthy?
- Will the hometown Magic make a surprise run?
- Will Jimmy, Bam, and the Heat play spoiler?
- Will the Nuggets finally get some respect?
And that's not even close to everything! Need some help in sifting through it all? No sweat! We asked our Global NBA.com writers from all over the world to spill some ink on what they're looking forward to the most with the games back underway.
The small-ball Rockets on the biggest stage
I'm most looking forward to seeing how the Rockets look in the eight seeding games and the playoffs. They're just so different from every other team in Orlando and they're led by two superstars in James Harden and Russell Westbrook who have a lot to prove. We've talked about this a lot already, but winning a championship would forever change the narrative about both of them. Throw in Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni working in some new wrinkles in their scrimmages, and I'm fascinated to see what Houston can do in the bubble. - Scott Rafferty, NBA Canada (@crabdribbles)
MORE: Players with the most to prove in Orlando
The Playoff Race
With so many good teams fighting for that eighth spot in the Western Conference, every day we'll have something to look out for. The race is very tight, especially considering the Play-In factor, and there are so many fun teams involved: Grizzlies, Blazers, Pelicans, Kings... all of them are League Pass darlings in their own right. Even the Spurs and the Suns had good moments throughout the scrimmages and either could make things interesting with a few early wins to claw back into the playoff picture. On top of that, it would be awesome to start the Playoffs with some Play-In games that would bring a colossal sense of urgency with an immediate Game 7-like feel. - Agustín Aboy, NBA Argentina (@aboyagustin)
LeBron going Zero Dark Thirty-23 Mode
Last season's playoffs were fun and all, but I have to admit... the playoffs just don't feel like the playoffs if LeBron isn't there.
To put it in perspective, LeBron has now qualified for the postseason in 14 of his 17 seasons…and in over half of the years of my 26-year-old life, I've tuned in to playoff LeBron doing playoff LeBron things. The past few years, we've seen him activate "Zero Dark Thirty-23 Mode" by muting his social media in order to block out any and all distractions and, as trivial as it may seem, we see him tap into another level.
MORE: What's at stake for LeBron in the playoffs
This year, LeBron looks to have a bit of a bounce in his step after the league's four-month hiatus and at 35, he knows he isn't getting any younger. I've learned to never count LeBron out, so I won't say it's his last chance for a title run, but I do expect to see some very special things from him this postseason. - Gilbert McGregor, NBA Canada (@GMcGregor21)
Zion, Zion and more Zion
He's played all of 19 games and yet I'm 100% comfortable and confident in declaring that he's already one of the five can't-miss supernovas in the league. There's a high-wattage electricity every time he steps on the floor and even when he isn't the best player on the floor, he's the one who commands the attention. You know when you're at a party and there's the one person who simply lights up the room and commanders all of the attention? That's Zion.
The Pelicans are fighting for their playoff lives which means all eight of their seeding games will have something at stake. It's probably no better than a 50-50 coin flip as to whether they make the playoffs and given we have no real idea when the next season will start, all the more reason why it's important to cherish each minute of Zion-mania in the bubble. The most anticipated rookie since LeBron James exceeded all expectations on the floor and I can't wait to watch the rim-rattling tomahawks back in action. - Micah Adams, NBA Global (@MicahAdams13)
The Simmons switch from point guard to power forward
Ben Simmons remains the x-factor for the 76ers' championship aspirations, even more so now with his positional switch to power forward. We've seen how damaging he can be inside when Joel Embiid isn't on the floor, but how will he adapt lining up alongside him in the frontcourt? With his deadly combination of size, athleticism, and playmaking, Simmons has all the capabilities to be a problem for defences and when you throw in the added wrinkle of his increased willingness to shoot from beyond the arc, all eyes will be on the young All-Star in Orlando. - Benyam Kidane, NBA Australia (@BenyamKidane)
Luka, camera, action!
It's easy to look forward to LeBron's quest to win another ring, or hone in on Giannis's chance to reach his first NBA Finals. But there's a pretty special talent in Dallas that's perhaps just as captivating. You know the one... one of the most impactful young players in the history of the league, a top-5 MVP candidate in his second season, and an accomplished overseas champion making his first foray into the NBA Playoffs. I am, of course, talking about Luka Doncic.
What can we expect from Playoff Luka? Doncic's accomplishments in the EuroLeague and in Spain speak for themselves so he shouldn't have that deer in the headlights look that so often happens with young players in their postseason debuts. We know what Luka can do on the court every single game which is takeover and go toe-to-toe with anyone. So while everyone else fawns over LeBron and Giannis, I'll grab the popcorn and settle in for the return of the Luka show. - Leandro Fernández, NBA Argentina (@FernandezLea)
Rui's time to shine
To put it mildly: the Washington Wizards are not exactly in prime position to make much noise. But that doesn't mean they're without intrigue and it all starts with their prized rookie, Rui Hachimura.
MORE: The top rookies to watch in Orlando
Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans - the team's two leading scorers - are out which places Hachimura in prime position to fill it up in the bubble. During three scrimmage games, Hachimura recorded 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and at times looked like a different player with a built-up body and improvements across the board particularly with his ball-handling and shooting. Suddenly, Hachimura looks more like a vet than a wide-eyed rookie which could mean big things for a Wizards team looking towards next season. Expect big things from Hachimura in Orlando. -Takuma Oikawa, NBA Japan (@oitaku)
Can Kawhi add to his trophy tally amidst Clippers uncertainty?
There's no doubt that the LA Clippers are one of the elite contenders on Orlando's campus. Even though they had some ups and downs during the regular season, the Clippers have shown that when healthy they are as devastating as many thought they'd be after adding Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last offseason.
Yes, they're healthy. And yes, they were starting to roll. But something that drew attention during the time they have been at Disney and during the preparation games is that several of their most important players weren't available for different reasons: Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac and Lou Williams. Even Leonard himself was late to join the team. There are no doubts that they have the talent to go very far on the Playoffs, but there's not much time to ramp back up and only time will tell if a lack of continuity in the lead up will have any negative effects. Those ups and downs will be far less forgiving and could ultimately determine whether Leonard wins his third Finals MVP. - Carlos Herrera Luyando, NBA Mexico (@carhluy43)
Who are the Sixers?
If there's one unpredictable team on this return to action it has to be the Sixers. I could see them losing in five games in the first round or reaching the NBA Finals. Nobody has a bigger distance between floor and ceiling. Good luck figuring out which is more likely to come to fruition. Beyond the treetops, Brett Brown's team is full of interesting storylines to look forward to: How is the dynamic between Simmons and Embiid going to look? Can Shake Milton keep his position as the starting point guard, moving Simmons to the four? Is Al Horford going to be more productive coming from the bench? Do they have enough shooting? For the Sixers, the restart offers a world full of possibilities… both good and bad. - Juan Estévez, NBA Argentina (@JuanEstevez90)
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.