Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Amway Center Everything changed for the Orlando Magic on draft night in 2016. It was then the franchise shifted its direction, moving away from the methodical draft-based rebuild and into a win-now mode. The team traded away former second overall pick Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka. They continued their remodeling with a massive free agent spending spree that included signing in another rim-protecting center in Bismack Biyombo. All this with a new coach in Frank Vogel, hired after Scott Skiles' sudden resignation. The Magic team that takes the Amway Center court Wednesday in the season opener against the visiting Miami Heat is going to be hardly recognizable to the team that finished in April. Orlando has seven new players and heightened expectations after a four-year playoff drought." Everybody is ready," Magic forward Aaron Gordon said. "Offseason is great, but this is what we live for. This is what we live to do. It's so much fun. We know we can do something special and we are looking to seize that opportunity." The Magic remain one of the league's biggest mysteries entering the season, but things have changed drastically in Miami too. The Heat's championship dynasty is completely gone. Dwyane Wade surprisingly left for the Chicago Bulls after 13 years in Miami. LeBron James left two seasons ago for the Cleveland Cavaliers. And the Heat have not cleared Chris Bosh to play after continuing heart problems keep him on the sideline. Miami must rely on a multi-faceted versatile offensive attack and balanced scoring to succeed." A big strength of our roster is versatility, depth," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "And that we have multiple guys that can have nights, where it's not one or two guys dominant. And that's a strength." It is certainly a different situation for Miami, which does not have the superstar players or the sure path to the postseason. They are relying more heavily on young players -- including Hassan Whiteside, whom the Heat signed to a fresh four-year, $98.4 million deal. The Heat have always been good about mining role players and will need their support more than ever to defy the odds and reach the playoffs. But they still have the steady hand of veteran point guard Goran Dragic running with Whiteside to help fill that void. As the teams battle changes and adjustments to new rosters and new teammates, the Magic and the Heat will be trying to feel comfortable in their new skins." It's going to be an 82-game process," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "Ideally, you hit the ground running. But you don't want to overreact if you don't. If things aren't working early, you're really just learning about your team. You are able to make adjustments either by improving what you're doing or changing what you're doing."
Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse INDIANAPOLIS - The NBA season kicks off on Wednesday night for the Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks. New faces in both places breed renewed optimism entering the 2016-17 season. The Pacers parted with head coach Frank Vogel after last season, and team president Larry Bird said he wanted to redefine the way his team plays. The overhaul also brought point guard Jeff Teague, power forward Thaddeus Young and center Al Jefferson to the Pacers, who tout superior athleticism and depth than previous seasons. Indiana's franchise player Paul George is looking forward to testing the new-look team in the regular season." I don't want to jump the gun and say this is the best team I've been on, but it's shaping up to be," George said. "I've got a new group with unbelievable talent." The Pacers face another of their former coaches, Rick Carlisle, who is entering his ninth season with the Mavericks. Indiana's new coach, Nate McMillan brings a style of play to the franchise that might not be recognized." I think our roster puts us in a position to play any style," McMillan said. "We want to play with a lot more ball movement. Our guys have to commit to running." There's a lot of talk about George, Myles Turner and the new Pacer players, but former Maverick Monta Ellis will have a lot to say about the team's success this season after his most diligent offseason in several years." I rededicated myself this summer in the gym," Ellis told NBA.com. "Last year was tough. I let the team down. It's a new beginning and I wanted to be part of that." Ellis is hoping to help the Pacers defeat his former team on opening night. Last season, he averaged 18.0 points per game against the Mavericks. For Dallas, the new faces on the team include two NBA champions from Golden State- Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. The Mavericks haven't made it out of the first round of the playoffs since winning a championship in 2011, and they will be relying heavily on these new additions to get over that hump." They're champions," said Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki. "They're great players and they're part of a championship team, so they know how to play and they know how to win." A lot of eyes will be on Barnes in particular after signing a $94 million contract. His preseason performance brought heaps of criticism in Dallas." There's going to be bigger expectations and I'll have a larger role on this team," Barnes told ESPN.com. "But the biggest thing I've learned in my four years I've been in the league is that winning is the biggest priority." One of the issues for the Mavericks moving forward will be the aging point guards. Despite the talent, Deron Williams, Devin Harris and J. J. Barea are all on the wrong side of 30. As the NBA continues to play a faster game, the Mavs could struggle keeping up at that position. Last year, the Mavericks and Pacers had identical offensive numbers. Dallas averaged 102.3 points per game, while the Pacers averaged 102.2. In Wednesday's matchup, look for a high scoring contest as each team will try to get out and run on opening night. The Pacers won both games against the Mavericks last season.
Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Barclays Center NEW YORK -- Carey Price is a former Hart Memorial Trophy winner as the National Hockey League's most valuable player. As a veteran of five different teams dating back to the 2008-09 season, Al Montoya is the textbook definition of a journeyman backup. Price and Montoya have plenty in common this season, though: The Montreal Canadiens simply don't lose in regulation with either one of them in net. The Canadiens (5-0-1)will look to remain perfect in regulation Wednesday night, when they visit the New York Islanders at Barclays Center. Montreal, the lone NHL team still unbeaten in regulation, is coming off a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night. New York (3-3-0) last played Sunday, when it beat the Minnesota Wild 6-3. Montoya will draw the start Wednesday in place of Price, who started and won each of the Canadiens' past three games. Montoya opened the season by going 2-0-1 as Price recovered from a lengthy bout with the flu. The game will be a reunion of sorts for Montoya, who played 51 games for the Islanders -- the most he has played for any NHL team -- while the team was still housed at Nassau Coliseum during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons." It'll be a special game," Montoya said Tuesday. "I spent the start of my career in Long Island. It's a fantastic organization, team and staff. It's a special place for me, but now that they're in Brooklyn, I look forward to going there and getting a win." Montoya is 3-0-0 in three career appearances against the Islanders. He last opposed New York on Feb. 3, 2015, when he stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced in the Florida Panthers' 4-2 win at Nassau Coliseum. Perhaps the presence of Montoya will help the Canadiens remain among the NHL's elite all season. Montreal opened last year 9-0-0 but fell apart after Price sustained a season-ending knee injury Nov. 25. The Canadiens ended up missing the playoffs entirely with a 38-38-6 record. Nobody has to remind Montreal coach Michel Therrien how early it is in the season, but he said Tuesday he likes what he is seeing of the Canadiens on and off the ice." We got off to a good start last year," Therrien said. "Guys buy into the team concept. It's important. The atmosphere of this hockey team has been solid since training camp." The Islanders will look to maintain the offensive flow they finally found Sunday, when defensemen Johnny Boychuk, Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey and centers John Tavares (two goals) and Alan Quine all scored goals in the rout of the Wild. New York scored three goals or fewer in each of its first five games, the franchise's longest such streak at the start of a season since 2009-10." We got some big goals from all parts of the lineup," Tavares told Newsday. "It takes a little time to find your game and find that rhythm, and I thought we did some good things tonight." The Islanders ranked 10th in the NHL in goals scored last season." Hopefully that'll give them a boost to get going, to get on the board like that," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. No. 1 goalie Jaroslav Halak is likely to start for the Islanders after sitting out Sunday's game in favor of Thomas Greiss. Halak, who is 2-2-0 this season, will also be facing a former team. He played 101 games with the Canadiens during his first four NHL seasons. The last time Halak faced the Canadiens on Nov. 20, 2015, he was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period of a 5-3 loss. Greiss ended up absorbing the loss in that game after allowing the decisive goal in the second period.
Time: 07:30 P.M. EST Venue: Air Canada Centre TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors tip-off the 2016-17 season Wednesday night when they host the Detroit Pistons. The Raptors enter the season following their most successful campaign in franchise history. Last year, Toronto set a club record for wins (56), won their third straight Atlantic Division title and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in team history." Last year is last year. Every year is a new year," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "We've got to come out, scratch, execute, have the same mentality that we've got to be the hardest working team on the court that night to win. If we come out and just try to show our press clippings on the floor, it's not going to work." We've got to have that hard-work mentality and that hard hat mentality to be successful in the Eastern Conference." Toronto returns 11 players from last year's team, including All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Detroit starts the season without starting point guard Reggie Jackson, who will miss at least the first month because of tendonitis in his left knee. The Pistons ended a six-year playoff drought last season, finishing with a 44-38 record good for eighth in the Eastern Conference. They were swept by the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers in four games in the first round. Detroit, in its second season under Stan Van Gundy, finished 15th out of 30 in points scored per possession and 13th in points allowed per possession. In order to continue improving, general manager Jeff Bower went out and added to his club's depth in the offseason giving 27-year-old power forward Jon Leuer a four-year deal in free agency, signed Boban Marjanovic away from the San Antonio Spurs via an offer sheet and added veteran point guard Ish Smith." To me what you don't want to do is have a ceiling on this group," Van Gundy told the Oakland Press. "I look at it and say I have great respect out there for the other teams, I think the East has gotten better again. ... I get it, all but at the same time I look at it and say, 'Why not us? Why not?'"If we're willing to do what it takes, and people take a step forward and we commit more defensively, why not us. Why does there have to be a ceiling on us. Why can't we be that team, contenders. I think the guys have high expectations." On Monday, the Pistons made a move to bolster its lineup claiming guard Beno Udrih off waivers from the Miami Heat and released guard Ray McCallum. Udrih is a 12-year veteran who averages 8.5 points and 3.4 assists in his career. The 6-foot-4 Slovenian played for the Heat and Memphis Grizzlies last season, averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 assists.
Time: 07:30 P.M. EST Venue: TD Garden BOSTON -- With expectations raised after the signing of free agent Al Horford, the Boston Celtics open the season with a home game against the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night. That's the Nets -- the gift that just keeps on giving for the Celtics after the monster trade between the teams in 2013." Part of the reason I came here was because -- and I had a good situation in Atlanta like we've established before -- but when I looked at the guys who were here, I was like: 'It would be great to play with those guys,'" Horford said as he and his new team prepped for the opener. "We can build out from there." Signing a four-year, $113 million contract that surprised the basketball world and made him the biggest free agent signing ever for the tradition-rich Celtics, Horford left his Atlanta home and also left a Hawks team that eliminated the Celtics in the first round of last year's playoffs. But when he looked at Boston, he saw a team that went from 25 to 40 to 48 wins in the three years under coach Brad Stevens. He saw a team with depth. And he saw a team that even had a bright drafting future -- and that is where the Nets come in. Back in 2013, the Celtics sent aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn in a mega-deal that brought Boston all kinds of draft picks from what turned out to be a bad Nets team. The haul got them the No. 3 pick in the most recent draft, and the Celtics used that selection to take athlete Jaylen Brown. After this season, which doesn't figure to see the Nets suddenly spring into the playoff picture, the Celtics have the right to swap picks with Brooklyn. That would put Boston back in the lottery regardless of where the Celtics finish -- and the Celtics also have the Nets' top pick in 2018. Asked about the future selections, Celtics offensive leader Isaiah Thomas shrugged it off, saying, "I worry about scoring the ball, getting my teammates involved and winning games. I don't know nothing about those first-round picks. And I wasn't a first-round pick, so I don't care about first-rounders." Even without what awaits down the line as the building continues, the Celtics, still looking for their first playoff-series win under Stevens, are in the discussion regarding the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. They should at least improve on last year's 48 wins. Kenny Atkinson is the new Nets coach, and he has his team firing 3-pointers, something that won't help low-post center Brook Lopez a whole lot. But that is the current plan." I think we can (make the playoffs)," swingman Bojan Bogdanovic told the New York Post. "They can write what they want. ... But we're going to work hard to give it our best. When we get in a game, we have a chance to beat anybody. It's going to be tough, but if we play like we practice, we have a chance." Atkinson was instrumental in bringing Lin-sanity back to New York, where Jeremy Lin became a phenomenon for the Knicks and now runs the show in Brooklyn. The Celtics come into the opener without Kelly Olynyk (recovering from shoulder surgery) and Marcus Smart (sprained ankle). They cut R. J. Hunter and draft pick Ben Bentil, keeping James Young, and they also signed 6-foot-11 Ryan Kelly, who starts the season with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League. Veteran shooting guard Randy Foye will miss the opener for the Nets due to a mild hamstring pull, but Brooklyn comes in with a positive attitude." If you've got a lot of guys working hard every day, it's contagious," veteran forward Luis Scola said.
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: FedExForum The Memphis Grizzlies hope to build off last year's playoff appearance. The Minnesota Timberwolves are just hoping to get to the playoffs for the first time in years. Those two teams will open their 2016-17 seasons on Wednesday in Memphis. And they'll each do so with new coaches. Memphis' David Fizdale is in his first year as an NBA head coach. Fizdale, 42, spent the last six seasons as an assistant with the Miami Heat. He inherits a club that finished 42-40 last season, which was good enough for the seventh seed in the Western Conference. Fizdale has said he hopes to instill a balanced system in Memphis, with Mike Conley Jr. as the focal point. The Grizzlies also have weapons in Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and new addition Chandler Parsons." When you know that the offense isn't just predicated on one guy and that every movement you make gives you a chance to be a part of the action, to make you a weapon, it's empowering," Fizdale told Sports Illustrated. Conley begins this season on the heels of the largest contract in NBA history. This past offseason, the Grizzlies signed Conley to a five-year, $153 million deal to keep the point guard in Memphis. That will put an added weight on the shoulders of the nine-year NBA veteran." As far as the pressure, it's hard to really gauge that because I put pressure on myself to perform regardless," Conley told ESPN.com this offseason. "The amount of money I make is not going to change how I approach the game." Like Memphis, Minnesota enters the season with a new coach and high expectations. Tom Thibodeau, former Chicago Bulls coach, takes over after the Timberwolves let interim coach Sam Mitchell go following last year's 29-win season. Thibodeau begins his first year in Minnesota with a pair of Rookies of the Year at his disposal. Karl-Anthony Towns emerged for a stellar rookie campaign last season, averaging a double-double (18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds). His honor as the top rookie came one year after Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins earned the award. Wiggins led the team with 20.7 points per game last season. Minnesota has been starved for a winning team for years. The Timberwolves haven't finished above .500 since the 2004-05 season and had the fifth-worst record in the league last year. Thibodeau never had a losing season in five years as the Bulls' coach and was ousted after going 50-32 two years ago. A record like that in Minnesota this year would be a huge step forward for the young Timberwolves. But even Thibodeau knows Minnesota has a ways to go in order to be competitive in the West." We don't want to fool ourselves," he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We're a 29-win team. We want to close the gap." These same two teams faced off in the preseason, with the Timberwolves topping the Grizzlies 101-94 in Minneapolis a week ago.
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: BMO Harris Bradley Center MILWAUKEE -- There were a lot of questions facing the Milwaukee Bucks as they prepared to open training camp. Now, on the eve of the 2016-17 season opener, there are even more. Last season was a forgettable one for the Bucks, who were fresh off the heels of a surprise surge into the playoffs but plummeted back into the realm of lottery participants with a 33-39 record. Milwaukee struggled in all aspects of the game, but it was the Bucks' defensive effort that was most concerning. Among the best in the NBA in 2015-16, the Bucks finished 17th in both points per game (103.2) and defensive shooting percentage (45.4 percent). A lot of that drop-off had to do with Milwaukee's reliance on younger players; veterans Jared Dudley and Zaza Pachulia were shipped elsewhere last season, leaving the Bucks' collection of young -- but long -- talent to learn on the fly." It's being able to use our length, deflections, rebounding the ball," coach Jason Kidd said. "I thought in preseason we had some halves or quarters where we didn't (play strong defense); but, as a whole, the different combinations we had were positive ones." The team also struggled to score -- especially from beyond the 3-point arc, where the Bucks were among the league's worst in attempts, makes and percentage. So when shooting guard Khris Middleton went down on the eve of training camp with an ACL injury, there was reason for concern. But the Bucks are confident that the offseason additions of Matthew Dellavadova, Mirza Teletovich, Jason Terry and Tony Snell will complement Milwaukee forwards Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will handle the bulk of the Bucks' ballhandling duties." It's the balance, being able to finish in the paint, and we create a lot of threes," Kidd said. "We have to be able to make them. Tony (Snell), Mirza, Delly. Now, Giannis and Jabari are shooting more. You have Jason Terry and Malcolm." They'll have their work cut out for them right off the bat, as the Charlotte Hornets come to town looking to build off a breakout 48-victory campaign that culminated in a hard-fought, seven-game playoff series with the Miami Heat. Charlotte returns much of the same group from last season but will have to deal with some depth issues early on. A bone bruise in his right knee kept Cody Zeller out of action for a majority of Charlotte's preseason; as a result, he will see limited minutes to start the season. Power forward Marvin Williams is expected to start Wednesday despite suffering a non-displaced fracture of his left middle finger. But his primary backup, 7-footer Frank Kaminsky, has battled a sprained foot and is listed as questionable." Marvin is fine, so he'll start," coach Steve Clifford told the Charlotte Observer. "In these first two games, they downsize a lot anyway, so (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) could play some there. Also, Spencer (Hawes) can play some (at power forward)." Charlotte won the 2015-16 season series, 3-1. Kemba Walker averaged 19.3 points and 4.8 assists in those four games to lead the Hornets while Parker paced the Bucks with 15.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. After facing the Bucks, the Hornets travel to Miami on Friday for a rematch with the Heat before opening the home portion of their schedule Saturday night against the Boston Celtics. Milwaukee will return to action Saturday, at home against Brooklyn, before heading to Detroit on Sunday for the first road contest of the season.
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: Wells Fargo Center The Oklahoma City Thunder are starting over without Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka and the Philadelphia 76ers are starting over with Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. Philadelphia, however, will have to wait a while longer for top overall draft pick Ben Simmons. The two teams square off in an NBA season opener Wednesday night in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Thunder went 55-27 last season, but lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals after building a 3-1 lead. Oklahoma City traded Ibaka, a veteran forward, to the Orlando Magic and saw Durant, a perennial All-Star, sign a free agent contract with Golden State. That would appear to put the bulk of the offensive burden on Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who averaged 23.4 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds last season." It's not totally up to me how we play," Westbrook told USA Today. "We have to adjust to how guys play. My job is to be able to adjust to Steven (Adams) and (Andre) Roberson; those guys have gotten better. We have to be able to adjust to the team you have, adjust on a night-in, night-out basis how you want to play." Adams, a rugged 7-foot center from New Zealand, is expected to improve upon last season's averages of 8.0 points and 6.7 rebounds after playing well in the playoffs. Roberson, known for his defense, scored at a 4.8 point-per-game clip last season. Westbrook's supporting cast also includes guard Victor Oladipo, who came over from Orlando in the Ibaka trade after averaging 16 points a game last year from the Magic. Rookie forward Domantas Sabonis, who was also part of that deal, is expected to contribute off the bench. The Sixers, whose 10-72 record last season fell one loss short of equaling the all-time record for futility, will finally unveil Embiid and Saric. The third pick in the 2014 draft, Embiid has missed the last two seasons as a result of two foot surgeries. Saric, who was acquired in a draft-day deal from Orlando in 2014, played overseas. Both showed promise in the preseason. Embiid, a native of Cameroon, averaged 11.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in just 14.7 minutes a game while Saric, a Croatian, averaged 10.2 points and 4.5 rebounds over 21.1 minutes." I can't wait (for Wednesday's game)," Embiid told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "That's going to be my first official NBA game. I just went through the preseason. I thought I got better game-by-game. I'm looking to finally get that first game." Simmons, a forward from LSU, fractured his right foot in training camp and underwent surgery in early October. He will be out until at least January. The Sixers will also be without guard Jerryd Bayless (right wrist ligament damage) for at least two weeks, and center/forward Nerlens Noel (left knee surgery) for three to five weeks. Center Jahlil Okafor was also limited to a single preseason game because of a sore right knee.
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: Smoothie King Center NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Pelicans were a MASH unit last season, so riddled with injuries that their players missed a combined total of 351 games, forcing coach Alvin Gentry to use 42 starting lineup combinations. Now that the calendar has flipped to the 2016-17 season -- with the home opener Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets at Smoothie King Center -- Gentry wouldn't be blamed if he enlisted the aid of a French Quarter voodoo priestess as a way of ensuring the good health of his players, especially All-Star forward Anthony Davis. Davis, the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, never missed a game in his 40-game, NCAA championship, freshman season at Kentucky. But, in four NBA seasons, the Pelicans' franchise player has missed 68 games with injuries. A medical flow chart indicates he has injured 13 body parts. Davis' porcelain reputation can be explained in part by his pedal-to-the-metal style and his penchant for throwing his body into the expensive seats chasing down loose balls. But after Davis' season-ending knee injury last March, which required arthroscopic surgery, forced him to withdraw from the U. S. Olympic team, he spent the summer fully rehabbing and continuing to add muscle to his athletic frame. Then, with the Pelicans playing in China on Oct. 12, Davis stepped on the foot of Houston Nene's foot and suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain. But Davis returned for the preseason finale on Friday and is scheduled to start Wednesday." It doesn't concern me," Davis, who averaged 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks last year, said about his recent injury history. "It's basketball. Injuries are part of basketball." It just seems that the Pelicans have more than most other teams. General manger Dell Demps said Tuesday he does not expect guard Tyreke Evans (knee) to hit the floor until December. Forward Quincy Pondexter (knee), who has not played since April 2015, has had a few setbacks in his recovery and "is probably going to take a little bit longer." In addition, starting point guard Jrue Holiday is healthy but is caring for wife Lauren, who last month gave birth and then underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. The Pelicans have placed no timetable on when Holiday will return to the team. Evans' injury and Holiday's unavailability contribute to the Pelicans' decision to keep guard-forward Lance Stephenson, releasing Alonzo Gee even though Gee had a $1.2 million guaranteed contract." With the injuries to Tyreke and Jrue not being with the team, we felt we needed a little more playmaking," Demps said. ("Lance) can go out and create and make plays for others." "Anybody would be disappointed, but it's just a part of it," Gentry said. "You hope that everybody gets better." While much of the NBA seems to be enamored with small ball, the Nuggets appear to be getting bigger. Coach Mike Malone paired big men Jusuf Nurkic (7-0) and Nikola Jokic (6-11) during the preseason and appears ready to give it a try for real. Nurkic has shown the ability to draw fouls as the Nuggets work their offense through him, and he is strong on the offensive glass and finishing near the basket. Jokic has been a cog in the Nuggets' high-post offense and has shown the ability to pick and pop. Both are considered capable passers." There's definitely some Balkan buddy ball going on with those two guys," Malone said. "They do look for each other, which is great. They're so skilled, and the great thing about Nikola is that he can space the floor, so it's not like we have two guys that are stuck on the block, which takes away driving lanes from our perimeter players. The floor is open."
Time: 07:08 P.M. EST Venue: Progressive Field There is no bleeding to stop for Trevor Bauer. The Indians lead the Chicago Cubs 1-0 in the World Series after Cleveland took a 6-0 victory in Game 1 Tuesday at Progressive Field, and Bauer just aims to hold serve in Game 2 on Wednesday. Rain might be another story, as Bauer takes the lead leg of the Indians' playoffs-long race to hand the ball to a dominant bullpen. Major League Baseball moved up the start time for Game 2 an hour to 7:08 p.m. ET because of heavy precipitation in the forecast later in the evening for Northeast Ohio. Bauer isn't plotting to halt Mother Nature. He also claims -- as he did before his last start -- the health of his right hand is no longer a worry. Bauer said Tuesday, after his previous postseason start in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series ended in the first inning, his wounded finger has healed. That claim didn't hold water at Toronto. His hand uncontrollably gushed blood and ended the 25-year-old fireballer's start after 21 pitches and two-thirds of one inning." Going into Toronto, the doctors told me they were confident it would be OK. I was confident it would be fine," said Bauer, who survives with a snug grip on two- and four-seam fastballs perfected in extra sessions with Game 1 hero Corey Kluber. "It hadn't bled the two days before that at all. So I feel confident every time I take the mound. I wouldn't take the mound if I didn't feel confident I'd be able to pitch and help the team. So, yeah, I'm confident like I was back then too." Bauer cut his hand repairing his drone, but was a workhorse in the regular season, averaging 110.4 pitches in 35 starts. Control can be fleeting for Bauer, whose eccentric personality is a plus in the clubhouse according to manager Terry Francona. If his fastball is live -- and with just 99 pitches thrown total in the first two rounds of the playoffs, energy and stamina should not be hindrances -- Bauer can be a force. He had 168 strikeouts in the regular season. The Cubs counter with their No. 1b starter, Jake Arrieta, after Jon Lester allowed three runs and took the loss Tuesday. Chicago looks to beat the odds against teams losing the first game of the World Series, who are 40-70 overall in the Fall Classic. Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award in 2015 with a record of 22-6 and 1.77 ERA. This season, he had 18 wins (3.10 ERA), but has not been the same dominating presence in the playoffs. In two games, Arrieta is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA. Opponents are hitting .273 against him compared to .194 in the regular season." It's why you play the whole season," Arrieta said. "To hopefully be in this position to be one of the last two teams standing with an opportunity to win a World Series for your organization, your city, for your team, friends and family. So it means a ton. You know, there's only two of 30 that even get these opportunities. Not many players -- there are some players that go their whole career without being able to get to the postseason. So we're all very fortunate." Stacking a lineup already loaded with fastball-smashing lefties might be reason for Cubs manager Joe Maddon to carry extra confidence into Game 2." They're obviously very talented, but the Red Sox were very talented, and the Blue Jays are obviously very talented too," Bauer said. "At the end of the day, they're just hitters. They get outs nine out of 10 times, like all the rest of them. It comes down to executing pitches, executing a game plan." The surprising return of Kyle Schwarber allows Maddon to back up National League MVP candidate Kris Bryant with a run of power bats -- first baseman Anthony Rizzo, left fielder Ben Zobrist, Schwarber and possibly Jason Heyward. Maddon said it was not a given that Miguel Montero, a left-handed hitter and Arrieta's preferred backstop all season, would start Game 2 over rookie Willson Contreras, who is best equipped to slow the Cleveland running game. Heyward's atrocious postseason landed him on the bench Tuesday for the second consecutive playoff game." Jason's been struggling at the plate -- that's it," Maddon said of starting Chris Coghlan, who entered Game 1 with a .063 career postseason batting average. "That doesn't mean it's going to look like this (Wednesday)." Schwarber smacked a double in the fourth inning of Game 1 for his first hit of the entire season, proof positive the left-handed slugger hasn't lost his immense power rehabbing from torn knee ligaments since April. He walked in the seventh, laying off a pair of two-strike offerings from left-handed reliever Andrew Miller. Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks, allowed two home runs in his lone start against the Red Sox, and gave up 20 home runs in the regular season. Indians manager Terry Francona said they are banking on Bauer's wounded pinkie holding up, and Cleveland holding down Chicago's offense." If it doesn't work," Francona said, "I'm going to make the doctor come up here and talk to you (media). I don't think that finger's going to be the reason he wins or loses." Josh Tomlin is scheduled to start Game 3 at Wrigley Field for the Indians against Kyle Hendricks, but the Indians have not announced a starter for Saturday's Game 4. John Lackey is scheduled to go in Game 4 for the Cubs. Though Francona would not say it directly, the Indians are weighing giving the ball back to Kluber -- he threw 88 pitches in six-plus Tuesday -- on Saturday. That would definitely be the case if the Indians were in position to sweep the series. Francona is 9-0 all-time as a manager in the World Series." We've said who our first three starters are, but just to be fair to them, we need to wait until everybody pitches just because it's not just if one guy can handle and maybe come back early," Francona said. "Because once you do that, then the other guys pretty much have to, too, or you're really not helping yourself. So we've talked to all the starters. They understand how we feel about things. But we also need to wait and see because, as we noticed with drone attacks, that things can happen."
Time: 09:30 P.M. EST Venue: Rogers Place EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Washington Capitals have been giving up an average of two goals a game. The Edmonton Oilers have been scoring an average of nearly four a game. So, something has to give when these two teams play Wednesday night at Rogers Place. The date in Edmonton marks the beginning of a four-game Western Canadian road swing for the Caps (3-1-1). The Oilers go into the game on a three-game winning streak, including Sunday's 3-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets outdoors at the Heritage Classic. The Caps spoke Tuesday about limiting the Oilers chances, controlling what the Oilers can do. The Oilers are a team that hasn't made the playoffs in a decade, yet one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference is talking about damage control. It shows just how things feel very different in Edmonton right now. Caps coach Barry Trotz said it all begins with limiting Connor McDavid, who leads the Oilers with nine points in six games." Just like any elite player, with Connor, (there's) elite speed and skill. If you give time and space, even if you don't give him the time and space, he's still going to make some plays," said Trotz We're just going to have to try and control him, keep him in front as much as we can." But Trotz said it's the depth of the Oilers that gets you. Of any of the skaters who have played this season, only two have yet to get a point." We made the comment as a staff that they've got skill on the three lines, actually, the four lines," said Trotz. "But they have one player who's a heavy sort of physical type player on each line." They're playing really good, they're the top team in the league right now." Wait, we're talking about the Oilers, right?Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said his team needs to focus on shutting down the Oilers top line of McDavid, Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle. They have 19 points in the first six games of the season." Their team is off to a good start and I am sure they have a lot to do with it," said Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen. "They have two really skilled guys and then Lucic is that up-and-down winger, straight lines. I think he probably creates some space for them by driving the net and being around the net." On Monday, Oilers goalie Cam Talbot was named the NHL's first star of the week. He's already the second Oiler this season to get the honor -- McDavid got the nod after the first week of the season. He'll be staring down a Washington team that has just 13 goals scored this season, but an offence led by sniper Alex Ovechkin can explode at any time. Talbot said he expects Ovechkin to "shoot, shoot, shoot. Every time the puck gets on his stick he seems to be putting it to the net. I've got to be ready every time he's on the ice, but he's not the only weapon they have." Oilers coach Todd McLellan said it's important not to get carried away by the Oilers' early successes." It's still so early in the year, and we're still a development-type team, a team that is growing. A growth team, that's what I called us before. Our club has a lot of work to do and we're not, by any means, getting ahead of ourselves. It's nice to feel a bit of positive energy at the beginning of the year, where we haven't had that in the past. We've worked hard to earn that. But, there's way too much hockey in front of us." Look for the Caps to try some new line combinations Wednesday, including T. J. Oshie with Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson.
Time: 10:00 P.M. EST Venue: Talking Stick Resort Arena PHOENIX -- After a season of injuries and indecision, the Phoenix Suns hope they have tweaked their young roster correctly as they open the 2016-17 season against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. Two years ago, the Suns' best three guards (Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas) all played the same position. But the logjam at point guard quickly went from unworkable to untenable, beginning a spiral that forced a reboot to the Suns' rebuilding plans. Now the Suns kick off the 2016-17 season with three guards with defined positions and roles. Bledsoe is the survivor of the purge and the undisputed point guard, hoping to rebound from injuries that forced him to watch most of last season's 23-59 disaster from the sideline. Devin Booker, who rose from the ashes of a terrible season, is now the starting shooting guard and face of the franchise a few days shy of his 20th birthday. He became the fourth-youngest player in league history (behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant) to score 1,000 points in a season. Brandon Knight, plagued by injuries and inconsistency but an undeniable offensive force, will come off the bench as a sixth man who will see major playing time in coach Earl Watson's rotation that now includes former Suns Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley and a host of promising but unproven talent. With Bledsoe, Booker, Knight and Barbosa heading up the guard rotation, the Suns waived Archie Goodwin on Monday and opted to keep John Jenkins and Tyler Ulis at the end of the bench. Goodwin had several highlight-reel moments during his three seasons with the Suns but never enough to warrant serious playing time. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that Goodwin had requested a change of scenery." We felt like we got down to 16 really good, quality NBA players. Archie and his agents for the last few months asked us to accommodate a trade request," McDonough said. "With that in mind, we told Archie and his agent we'd try to help him move to a team where he'd have an opportunity and play. Unfortunately, we weren't able to work out a deal. This time of a year, it's hard." Forward P. J. Tucker, who underwent back surgery in September, was cleared to play on Tuesday and will come off the bench. T. J. Warren, coming off season-ending foot surgery himself, will start at forward with Dudley and Tyson Chandler at center. While the Suns have missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, the Kings are trying to break a 10-year postseason drought. Despite an explosive season from center DeMarcus Cousins, who ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring at 26.9 points per game, the Kings won only 33 games -- the most in Cousins' six season in Sacramento. The Kings won three out of four meetings with the Suns last season, and Cousins was a big reason. Sacramento will start the season without starting point guard Darren Collison, who will begin an eight-game suspension due to a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery. Ty Lawson will start at the point for the Kings, looking to rebound after two poor seasons and two DUI arrests in 2015. The Kings will open the season with 11 games in the first 17 days. Most of those games will be with Lawson as the only true point guard on the roster." It's going to be a rough stretch," Lawson told the Sacramento Bee. "If things go bad, we've just got to stick together. We can't pull apart. Things are going to happen, but I feel like if we stay positive and stick together, we'll be able to get through it." Former Sun and new King Matt Barnes will miss his first game with the Kings due to rib and knee problems.
Time: 10:30 P.M. EST Venue: STAPLES Center LOS ANGELES -- Another chapter of storylines unfolds when the Los Angeles Lakers tip off their 2016-17 campaign Wednesday night. Last season, it was Kobe Bryant's final year that grabbed the headlines, punctuated by a 60-point performance in his last game and a rare Lakers win. This time it's Luke Walton stepping into the spotlight as he begins his first season as coach when the Lakers face the Houston Rockets at Staples Center in the season opener for both clubs. Walton replaces Byron Scott, who was dismissed after a franchise-worst 17-65 run last season. While Scott was known as a taskmaster and clashed with players, Walton brings a laid-back approach that the Lakers believe suits his young club well." I like leading by love," Walton said, according to the L. A. Times. "But I had hippie parents so that's to be expected. It's the way I was raised." Walton, formerly the top assistant at Golden State under Steve Kerr, rose as a hot coaching property last season by guiding the Warriors to a 39-4 mark and winning an NBA-record 24 in a row to open the season as interim coach during Kerr's absence for health reasons. Walton already was on the radar of up-and-coming assistants destined for NBA coaching jobs, but that successful stretch expedited his elevation. Obviously, the Lakers' job has major challenges. Walton will attempt to mix a crop of young talent (D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and rookie No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram) and blend it with a core of veterans (Lou Williams, Luol Deng, Jose Calderon, Timofey Mozgov and Nick Young)." There's no better guy to lead a franchise and teach a franchise from a youthful perspective that he brings to the game with maturity and knowledge," Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson told the Orange County Register recently. "He sees the game on a different level. There's so many levels at this game. There's so many games within a game. Few can see it with substance the way that he does." Mike D'Antoni will return for the first time as a head coach since he quit the Lakers' job after the 2013-14 season because the club refused to extend him a long-term deal. James Harden, the NBA's second-leading scorer at 29 points per game last season, leads a Rockets team that will play for the first time in three campaigns without center Dwight Howard, who bolted to Atlanta as a free agent." I think everybody is excited, everybody's ready to get going. We've had a good preseason," said D'Antoni, whose club finished 5-2 in exhibitions. "We've got still a lot of growth that's got to going on and we've got to get a lot better, but I think we're at a reasonably good point." The Rockets will play without guard Patrick Beverly, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday. Beverly is expected to miss at least three weeks." We have to have a couple of guys (who) are going to step up without Pat," D'Antoni said. In addition to Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Nene are among those players expected to carry to the load.
Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh will play for position in the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division race when they clash Thursday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. It is pretty much an elimination game for the Panthers and close to that for the Hokies. A win would keep the 25th-ranked Hokies (5-2, 3-1 ACC) on the road to the conference title game Dec. 3 in Orlando. They hold the tiebreaker over present division leader North Carolina (6-2, 4-1), which is off this weekend. The unranked Panthers (5-2, 2-1) need a win to keep the pressure on the division-leading Tar Heels, who hold the tiebreaker over Pitt. A loss wouldn't eliminate the Hokies from the title race but would leave them needing the Tar Heels to lose at least one of their remaining conference games against Georgia Tech, Duke, and North Carolina State to regain the advantage in the tiebreaker. A Panthers defeat would leave Pitt them on the outside and hoping for some sort of multiple-team deadlock at the end of the regular season that doesn't include both North Carolina and Virginia Tech, which both would hold tiebreakers over the Panthers. Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi acknowledges the Thursday contest is pretty much a "must-win" game." Yeah, I would say so," Narduzzi said. "I would say so. Based on how things look and I think every ACC game is a must win as we go on, as far as what you want to do. You're a 5-2 football team, and each one of these games is important." The Hokies are 1-2 away from Blacksburg's Lane Stadium, and the trip to Pittsburgh represents their biggest road test of the season. Virginia Tech is headed for a place where it hasn't experienced much success. The Hokies' last road win over the Panthers was in 1999 in the old Pitt Stadium, when both teams labored in the Big East Conference. The Panthers have won all four meetings played at Heinz Field and have won six of the past seven meetings overall." It's not something we've addressed," Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuentes said of the Hokies' recent struggles vs. the Panthers. "I know that Pitt has been very good and we haven't, for whatever reason, whether it was there or here, haven't had much success in recent history. But it's not something we dwell on." Hokies running back Travon McMillian said, "This is a totally different team than we've had in the past." Narduzzi sees the Panthers' recent success as a non-factor." If we need the past to help with our confidence, then we probably got issues, 'Hey, we got a chance to win because this is what happened in the past,'" he said. "It doesn't matter." This is a new football team. They're coming in here, they have never come in here in October 2016 to play us. So they get a chance to come here, and it's a new show, in my opinion." What concerns Narduzzi more is a Hokies' offense led by versatile quarterback Jerod Evans (229 yards a game passing and 60 rushing) and McMillian, who is coming off a 131-yard rushing performance in Tech's 37-16 thumping of Miami last week. The Tech defense that held Miami to just 42 yards rushing and recorded eight sacks. It is, Narduzzi acknowledges, the best defense his team has faced so far." Based on the stats, without a question," he said. The Hokies have yielded only nine touchdown passes this year while also recording nine interceptions. Pitt itself is no slouch defensively, holding opponents to less than 97 yards a game rushing and sacking opposing quarterbacks 25 times, which is tied for fourth-best total in the country. Defensive end Ejuan Price has a national-best nine sacks. The Panthers also are one of the top rushing teams. Behind junior James Conner (76 yards a game) and a stable of backups, the Panthers rank 20th in the country with their average of 239 rushing yards per game." You can tell the makeup of their team starts with running the football and stopping the run," Fuentes said. "And they've been successful at that, and that is why they're winning ballgames." Pitt is coming of a bye week, but Narduzzi isn't convinced that will be an advantage." You can go either way," he said. "You would like to keep the momentum. You would like to keep playing and stay in that same rhythm. However, it did give us a chance to get fresh and get healthy. I don't think it will play a big part either way. That won't be an excuse or a benefit."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Quarterback Blake Bortles said Tuesday that he's not a fan of the mustard-colored uniforms that the Jacksonville Jaguars will don for their Thursday night road game against the Tennessee Titans." I think they could have done a better job, and I think they should choose a different color," he said. Truth is, whatever color uniform Jacksonville has modeled the last few years, the players haven't looked good in them. And if it can't muster up a better response for this game than it did in a lackluster 33-16 loss to the Oakland Raiders Sunday, it could lead to the kind of midseason changes no team wants to make. Some felt the Jaguars could be a surprise team this year, citing the offseason additions they made to a leaky defense. Instead, they have permitted nearly 27 points per game, putting pressure on an offense that hasn't been able to keep pace. Bortles has had trouble throwing the ball to his teammates, tossing nine interceptions in the first six games and only making marginal improvements in his accuracy. The running game remains a non-entity most weeks, forcing Bortles to throw nearly 40 times a game and making the offense too one-dimensional. With a 2-4 record, coach Gus Bradley is squarely on a scalding seat. This is his fourth year in charge, and the one-time Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator is just 14-40. Another poor performance in this one could lead to a firing that owner Shad Khan, who truly likes Bradley, wouldn't want to preside over but might have no choice. Yet Jacksonville still isn't out of the picture in the AFC South, a claim that can also be made by their opponent. Tennessee (3-4) missed on a great chance to tie Houston for first when it coughed up a lead in the last two minutes Sunday against Indianapolis, losing 34-26. So this game, despite the lack of pizzazz that comes with putting the Jaguars and Titans in prime time, will have meaning. And from Tennessee's perspective, it could have even more meaning if it was able to make a play or two at the end of last week's game, or in earlier defeats against Oakland and Houston." These have all been close games," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "We've just got to find a way -- especially like this week, that last drive, we felt like if we could hold them to a field goal, we could win that game." Instead, Tennessee couldn't keep tight end Jack Doyle from beating linebacker Avery Williamson in coverage for the 7-yard touchdown pass that gave the Colts a 27-23 lead. Then quarterback Marcus Mariota was strip-sacked on the first play following the ensuing kickoff, and Robert Mathis returned the fumble 14 yards for the game-clinching score. The loss dropped Mariota to 2-8 at home. Two of this year's three defeats were marked by late miscues from the second-year pro, who followed up two efficient performances with one that was a little sloppier." He doesn't want to let anybody down, so he doesn't want to make mistakes for his teammates, for this team, for this organization," Mularkey said. "If it's gray to him, he doesn't want to take the risk. I want him to be aggressive but smart. We definitely have the confidence in him." Tennessee will have to play without guard Quinton Spain (knee), who figures to be out for at least the next two games after being injured in the second quarter Sunday. That could make it a bit easier for Jacksonville to neutralize DeMarco Murray, the NFL's third-leading rusher with 633 yards. But the Jaguars have injury concerns of their own. Nose tackle Roy Miller is out for the year after tearing his right Achilles tendon against Oakland and will be replaced by backup Abry Jones. And if Jacksonville can't up its standard of play Thursday night, it may have far greater worries than the loss of its nose guard.--There's talk that if Bortles can't turn things around, the coaching staff could bench him for backup Chad Henne. That would be an admission that Bortles isn't the long-term answer. He hasn't helped his cause by tossing nine interceptions in the first six games, and needs to improve his completion percentage as well.
No. 22 Navy can edge closer to a spot in the American Athletic Conference title game with a win against South Florida at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Friday. The Midshipmen (5-1, 4-0) are the only remaining undefeated team in AAC play and sit atop the West Division with four league games remaining. South Florida suffered its first league setback last week against Temple and dropped to second place behind the Owls in the East Division. Navy has been dominant with its triple-option attack, led by senior quarterback Will Worth. However, Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo is wary of the Bulls, who are scoring a league-best 42.4 points per game." It's another highly explosive offense, another tough challenge for our defense," Niumatalolo said. "They spread you out with a lot of different formations and stretch you vertically and horizontally." South Florida (6-2, 3-1) is looking to bounce back from the disappointing 46-30 loss to Temple. The setback not only knocked the Bulls from first-place, it also ended a nine-game winning streak against their AAC division opponents. Navy and its high-powered offense could pose an even bigger challenge." We really didn't do much of anything right. In every aspect, we did something wrong," Bulls coach Willie Taggart said about the loss to Temple. "You just can't play that way against a good team on the road and expect to win." The Bulls do have enough talent on offense to get into a shootout with Navy. South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers has been one of the most dominant players in the AAC and has completed 117 of his 200 pass attempts for 1,722 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. He is also the team's leading rusher with 745 yards and eight touchdowns on 108 carries. Navy has spent time at practice this week preparing for the multi-faceted Flowers." Flowers is a bigger kid and maybe a more powerful runner, but they are very similar," Niumatalolo said. "Whenever the quarterback is able to carry the football it presents some problems. He has great running ability and a strong arm. He throws a really good deep ball." South Florida wide receiver Rodney Adams is one of Flowers' favorite targets and he has 34 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns. Adams also has had some success against Navy, returning a kickoff for a touchdown in the Bulls' 29-17 loss in Annapolis last year. Flowers also likes to throw to D'Ernest Johnson, who has 18 catches for 171 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for 321 yards and four touchdowns on 59 carries. Marlon Mack is the primary running back for the Bulls with 659 yards rushing on 97 carries with 10 touchdowns. The Bulls will face a stern challenge from the Navy defense, which has forced at least one turnover in 24 of the last 26 games, including in five of six games this year. The Midshipmen are 5-0 when the defense creates a turnover. On offense, Navy will look to run the ball against the Bulls, who have given up huge chunks of yards in their two losses. In the loss to Temple, South Florida allowed 319 rushing yards. Florida State ran for 478 yards in its 55-35 victory over the Bulls on Sept. 24." In both losses we didn't stop the run and couldn't get off the field," Taggart said. "We have a ranked Navy team coming in here that is going to run the ball so we have another tough challenge ahead of us." Navy averages 293.2 rushing yards per game. Last week in a 42-28 victory over Memphis, the Midshipmen had 447 rushing yards. Worth ran for a career-high 201 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries. He also completed three of his four pass attempts for 85 yards with two touchdowns and was named the AAC Offensive Player of the Week. Worth has now scored a touchdown in every game this year and leads the Midshipmen with nine rushing scores on the season. Not bad for a quarterback who is only starting because of a season-ending knee injury to Tago Smith." I thought Will could run our offense, but he's playing a lot better than I thought he would," Niumatalolo said.