1. The East’s elite is a hotbed for animosity. The NBA isn’t likely to use “Everybody Hates Everybody!” as a marketing tagline, but the bad blood among the Eastern Conference’s top tier is rapidly bubbling over in every possible direction. The Heat and Bulls absolutely hate each other’s guts (gratuitous Filomena Tobias callback). The Nets and Knicks spent so much time jawing back and forth this summer that their “Who runs the city?” exchanges succeeded in boring the entire Internet for the first time in history. The Bulls and Pacers have traded barbs during the preseason, and their heated battle for the Central Division could extend for the next half-decade (or longer) given the young All-Stars in the fold for both teams. The Heat and Nets (ex-Celtics) have plenty of beef, stoked by James’ recent charge of hypocrisy. Then there’s the Heat and Pacers, whose memorable 2013 Eastern Conference finals included a number of moments of mutual disdain.
Those are really just the top-level beefs. The Nets are also looking for revenge after Chicago wounded their pride in the playoffs. The Knicks enter the season needing to prove they won’t be bullied, like they were by the Pacers in the postseason. And the Heat-Knicks rivalry, fairly dormant compared to the 1990s heyday, could pop off at any moment.