Thursday is usually a marquee night in the NBA as it's the TNT doubleheader night, although TNT did add some other games this year as well with the new TV package kicking in. And I don't think there's any question what the most important thing we will see this Thursday night: Dwyane Wade in a Chicago Bulls No. 3 uniform. Like most around the NBA, I was stunned that Wade left Miami basically over a few million dollars. But the Heat were low-balling the face of the franchise and Wade had always said that if he left south Florida, it would be a return to his hometown. I guess from a marketing perspective, it was a no-brainer for the Bulls as Wade should assure sellouts every night. But Chicago is not a contending team and looked to be in rebuilding mode this year before Wade signed on. Every team in the NBA will have played its opener by the end of Thursday.
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Wizards at Hawks (-3, 206.5)
So much for Washington's grand plan of luring Kevin Durant back to his hometown area. Durant never even gave the Wizards a meeting this offseason even though they hired his former Oklahoma City coach, Scott Brooks, to take over on the bench. I guess Durant wasn't as tight with Brooks as was previously reported. The Wiz were an interesting team a couple of years ago but now have John Wall, Bradley Beal and not much else. The team will be without free agent center Ian Mahinmi for the first 4-6 weeks due to knee surgery. He was going to be the backup to Marcin Gortat. Not sure what to make of the Hawks, but it appears they have taken a step back after losing Al Horford in free agency, trading Jeff Teague and signing past-his-prime Dwight Howard to return to his hometown. The Hawks should make the playoffs for a 10th straight year, but that's about it. They have two guys out with injuries: Jarrett Jack and Tiago Splitter. These teams split four meetings last year.
Key trends: Atlanta is 5-2 against the spread in its past seven home games. The "over/under" is 9-2 in the past 11 meetings in Atlanta.
Early lean: Hawks and over.
Celtics at Bulls (+3, 210.5)
First of the TNT doubleheader. It's not just Wade's debut for Chicago but also Robin Lopez and Rajon Rondo. Too bad the Bulls didn't have Rondo and Wade about five years ago and then maybe they'd be pretty good. Chicago begins life without Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. I'm not sure that Coach Fred Hoiberg lasts his second season. It's the second of a back-to-back for Boston as the Celtics surely were going to beat the visiting Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. Kelly Olynyk missed that one as he works his way back from shoulder surgery, and Marcus Smart was questionable. The Celtics won two of three vs. the Bulls last year but have dropped two in a row in Chicago.
Key trends: The Celtics are 3-8-1 ATS in the past 12 in Chicago. The over is 6-1 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Bulls and over.
Spurs at Kings (+6, 209)
San Antonio began the post-Tim Duncan Era on Tuesday with an incredibly impressive 129-100 win at the Super Warriors. Obviously you can't read too much into one game, but Kawhi Leonard, my MVP pick this year, was by far the best player on the floor with a career-high 35 points, five rebounds and five steals. And Jonathan Simmons was the latest out-of-nowhere breakout guy for San Antonio with 20 points and some great defense off the bench. That result was shocking. It's the second of a back-to-back for the Kings as they were in Phoenix on Wednesday. This will be their first game that matters in their new Golden 1 Center, which is drawing rave reviews. Remember, the Kings a couple of years ago were close to being bought and moved to Seattle, but then-Commissioner David Stern stepped in and found a local buyer in Vivek Ranadive, and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson was able to get the new arena built. The Spurs swept the Kings last year and have won six straight in the series, three in a row in Sacramento. Duncan recorded four 20-20 games against Sacramento, more than any other opponent.
Key trends: The Spurs are 9-2 ATS in the past 11 in Sacramento. The under is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Kings and under. Seems like a huge letdown possibility for the Spurs, and the Kings will be fired up for their first meaningful game in the new building.
Clippers at Trail Blazers (+1.5, 208.5)
The TNT nightcap. It's the season opener for the Clippers, who basically brought the band back to try for one more championship run before a possible roster shakeup as both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin can hit free agency next summer. This franchise still has never reached the Western Conference Finals. On Tuesday, Portland beat visiting Utah 113-104 for its NBA-record 16th straight home-opening victory. Damian Lillard dominated with 39 points. The Blazers have the most returning minutes of any team in the league from last year. Of course, these two teams met in the first round of last year's playoffs, and the Blazers lost the first two games but won the final four because the Clippers lost both Paul and Griffin to injury. The Clippers were 3-1 vs. Portland in the regular season and have won 13 of the past 19 during the season overall.
Key trends: The Blazers are 1-8 ATS in their past nine after scoring at least 100 points in their previous game. The over has hit in 14 of the past 22 meetings in Portland.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
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