The 2012-13 NBA season begins on Tuesday night with a battle of two teams who missed last season's playoffs in the Eastern Conference as the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Washington Wizards.
Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 pick by the Cavaliers in the 2011 NBA Draft, will try to improve on his Rookie of the Year campaign when he averaged 18.5 points per game and 5.4 assists.
He is the face of the Cleveland franchise and is fully healed from a broken right hand suffered in July when he hit a padded wall in frustration during a Cavs summer league practice.
That passion is great, but the NBA isn't soccer, so a point guard needs his strong hand. Irving also had his wisdom teeth removed, but the Duke product is ready to go for opening night.
Maybe it was the reticence with the hand injury, or maybe his teeth bothered him, but Irving didn't enjoy a great preseason. Irving averaged 15.4 points on just 35 percent shooting and 2.9 assists per game in the preseason.
Irving got a new backcourt mate when the Cavaliers tabbed Dion Waiters with the fourth pick in this summer's draft. Waiters was benched once in the preseason when head coach Byron Scott didn't feel Waiters knew the play after a timeout.
Tristan Thompson, the No. 4 pick in the 2011 draft by the Cavs, will replace Antawn Jamison, who joined the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. Jamison averaged 17.2 PPG last season for a Cavaliers team that went 21-45 and finished last in the Central Division.
This season-opener could've meant more than just the reigning fifth-place team in the Central versus the fourth-ranked team in the Southeast. It could've been a matchup of two of the best young point guards in the league.
Washington Wizards' John Wall didn't do his part.
Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, is sidelined by a stress injury to his left knee cap. If he was the only Wizard who was shaky for the season opener, that would hurt, but Washington has experienced an injury-laden training camp.
Nene is suffering from plantar fasciitis in his left foot and his availability Tuesday is in question. Chris Singleton has a shoulder contusion and Kevin Seraphin is battling a strained right calf.
Emeka Okafor, who was acquired with Trevor Ariza from the New Orleans Hornets in the offseason, missed most of the preseason taking care of the knee injury that cost him more than half of last season. When he was scheduled to return, he caught food poisoning. Okafor is a go for Tuesday night.
So too is first-round pick Bradley Beal, who went third overall this past June to the Wizards. Beal was supposed to make up the backcourt of the future in the nation's capital. That will eventually happen, but is on delay for a month while Wall recovers.
"You can't do anything," Wizards' head coach Randy Wittman told the Washington Times. "We've got to keep trying, working, improving with the guys that we have and hope that in due time that they'll get back in the lineup soon."
This is Wittman's first full season on the bench for the Wizards. He replaced Flip Saunders in January.
The Wizards won last season's series 2-1, including a win in Cleveland. The Cavaliers' only victory against the Wizards last season came in D.C.