Thunder kick off campaign against Jazz
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Oklahoma City Thunder have NBA Championship aspirations.
The Utah Jazz have Andrew Wiggins aspirations.
The two worlds collide Wednesday night in Salt Lake City as both teams begin their 2013-14 seasons.
The Thunder finished with the best record in the Western Conference last season, but their chances at repeating as NBA Finals finalists ended when Russell Westbrook injured his right knee during the first round of the playoffs.
Problem was, swelling developed and Westbrook went back under the knife. He will miss almost four to six weeks of the regular season, but that won't deter the Thunder.
Replacing Westbrook in the starting lineup will be Reggie Jackson, with Derek Fisher as the primary backup.
It all begins and ends with Kevin Durant for Oklahoma City. He's such a strong player and leader that he won't allow the Thunder to fall too far down the standings.
"We've put in a lot of work and we're all just excited to start," Durant said. "We're looking forward to our first game and trying to start this thing off right."
The Jazz are headed in the opposite direction.
They made the decision to go with youth in the form of Derrick Favors, who inked a long-term extension on Monday, and Enes Kanter.
Both are high former lottery picks and both looked pretty darn good in limited action over the years. Utah let Al Jefferson (Charlotte) and Paul Millsap (Atlanta) walk in free agency.
Another cornerstone for the Jazz was Trey Burke, the national player of the year at the University of Michigan last season. Unfortunately, Burke broke a finger, had surgery and will be out four to six weeks.
Jamal Tinsley was brought in to replace Burke until he comes back. When he does, Burke, Gordon Hayward, Kanter and Favors could form an extremely dangerous nucleus.
And Favors might be the biggest piece. He was acquired in the trade for Deron Williams and recently signed his extension.
"I bought a house," said Favors. "I'm happy to be here."
The Thunder have won eight of the last 10 against the Jazz, including four of their last six at EnergySolutions Arena.
10/30 10:46:09 ET