As football fans all across the United States go into a frenzy every time their team takes the field, another sport is slowly building momentum.
The travelling roadshow known as the National Basketball Association.
All 30 NBA teams have completed their training camps and pre-season schedules and the real stuff begins tonight with three matches to kickoff season 2014/15.
The upcoming season presents numerous story lines, some positive – some not.
Injury concerns dominate the headlines as reigning MVP Kevin Durant will miss the first two months of the season with a bone break in his foot.
Hall of Fame bound guard Kobe Bryant returns to his Lakers squad after overcoming a nightmare 2013/14 with a broken patella before already having returned from a ruptured Achilles.
At 37, the naysayers are deafening but Bryant – ever the man to pick a fight to motivate himself – will be in the starting line-up when LA faces rival Houston on opening night.
Two explosive point guards returning from ACL reconstructions (and then some) will be closely watched throughout the season, Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Boston’s Rajon Rondo.
Rondo’s performance late last year after returning from surgery was underwhelming and with his future at Boston in doubt, he will be hoping to return to his triple-double-threatening best.
Rose, who has basically missed two full seasons, showed explosiveness and speed with Team USA in the American summer but questions will remain until his body, namely his knees can withstand the heavy load of an 82-game NBA schedule.
An obvious statement, but many teams playoff and championship fates rest on the health of their prime performers.
In Brooklyn, veteran forward Kevin Garnett is no longer the all-around superstar he once was but his leadership and intensity means he is a must-have on court for Jay-Z’s Nets.
Likewise, All-Star centre Brook Lopez must overcome his lingering foot issues to provide New York’s ‘other team’ with consistent inside scoring.
In Cleveland – LeBron James has returned and formed yet another ‘Big 3′.
King James joins former Number One draft pick Kyrie Irving and the recently acquired Kevin Love – who is a proven star but yet to play in a single playoff match.
James’ durability across his career has been remarkable but each season both Irving and Love have suffered some type of injury, causing them to miss significant time.
The team James deserted, Miami, will be out to prove they were no one-man team as Luol Deng was signed to ‘replace’ the irreplaceable LeBron, while Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade returned to South Beach.
Wade – despite his ailing body – is once again the Heat’s premier player but unlike Deng and Bosh, he has rarely been able to play at full fitness in recent seasons.
New coaches have, as usually, been sprinkled across the league but a couple in particular loom as integral pieces to the 2014/15 jigsaw.
In the Bay Area, championship winning guard Steve Kerr took over from the surprisingly removed Mark Jackson in Golden State.
The Warriors are a playoff team and last season made a strong push in the highly competitive Western conference.
Kerr will be charged with pushing the Dubs over the hump and potentially into a western conference finals appearance and beyond.
Much of the Warriors fate will rest on Australian big man, Andrew Bogut.
An interior presence on both ends, Bogut provides Golden State with an imposing defensive figure and adds some toughness to the team.
The big man from the Dandenong’s in Victoria has suffered some freak injuries which have played havoc with his All-NBA abilities but a healthy Bogut means big things for Stephen Curry and the Warriors.
Finally, no NBA preview is complete without a run-down on the New York Knicks.
Arguably the NBA’s most decorated team – the purple and gold team in LA might argue this – the Knicks have again put together a mediocre squad.
Handicapped by a huge contract given to forward Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks are $14 million over the salary cap, resulting in huge luxury tax fees due for another season.
Carmelo Anthony will again be tasked with carrying a team which lacks any real defensive players outside of Iman Shumpert and any visible chemistry.
As always, if things go south in New York, the Madison Square Garden crowd will let them know and rookie coach Derek Fisher will be under the pump and all in sundry will be calling for legendary coach Phil Jackson to come down from his Presidents office and coach the team.
That storyline in itself will be enough to follow the NBA.
For the patriotic Aussies, we currently have seven players on NBA rosters as the season takes flight.
Bogut with Golden State, championship winning San Antonio pair Patrick Mills and Aron Baynes, second year guard Matthew Dellavedova in Cleveland with King James, improving big man Cameron Bairstow in Chicago, prized lottery draft pick Dante Exum in Utah and Adelaide export Joe Ingles, who after a good career in Europe and the NBL joined the LA Clippers before being dropped and then picked up by Jazz.
Ingles, who was given minimal opportunity in pre-season action with the Clippers was waived but immediately signed by the Jazz, meaning he will hopefully team up with Exum and a young, improving Utah team.
In the NBA, the stars will always shine brightest but with questions lingering over so many – Durant, Cleveland, Kobe, new coaches – there may be a window for a whole new crop to take over the league.
Among that crop, hopefully a few Aussies can contribute and go along for the ride.
Regardless, the 2,460 games across the regular season should provide enough entertainment for us all to tune in at some stage – even if you won’t or don’t watch every game like I will attempt.