The OKC Thunder open against the San Antonio Spurs in a game that could be a preview of the Western Conference Finals. Yes, it’s far too soon to tell — but there isn’t another two-team combination featuring one team that failed to make the playoffs and one that exited in the first round about whom this might be said. Despite tough campaigns last year, both the Thunder and Spurs enter the 2015-16 NBA season rejuvenated and looking like favorites. (Though clearly the Western Conference has other favorites too, like champ Golden State and the LA Clippers.)
The Thunder are a different team with the post-injury return of former MVP Kevin Durant — and the big question around OKC is can new coach Billy Donovan find a way for Durant to share the offense efficiently with Russell Westbrook, who conspicuously raised his profile in Durant’s absence? Former OKC head coach Scott Brooks got the men to play together well, but couldn’t keep his job after losing Durant to injury. Brooks rode Westbrook’s tremendous play hard while the Thunder fought for a playoff spot. But it seemed his reliance on Russell also helped ride him out of town. It’ll be a delicate pas de deux this year between Westbrook and Durant, with new man Billy Donovan choreographing. Donovan is doing a superstar version of dancing with the stars — will he get high scores?