The NBA kicks off their 2016-17 season tonight and a number of former Duke Basketball players will be featured in the opening games.
The National Basketball Association will start their season tonight after an eventful offseason. There are three games going on tonight and a number of Blue Devils in action on opening night.
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The first game of the year will feature the Cleveland Cavaliers against the New York Knicks and four Blue Devils. Former Duke guard Kyrie Irving will return to the court after helping lead USA Basketball to the 2016 Olympic gold medal and a historic performance in last year’s NBA Finals. The All-Star and All-NBA PG will be joined by former Blue Devil forward Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy was an All-American helping Duke win the 2001 national title and is entering his 15th NBA season and first year with the Cavs.
Irving and Dunleavy will be facing off against two undrafted former Blue Devils on the Knicks. Lance Thomas signed a contract extension with the Knicks last season after jumping around in the NBA and the D-League to stick to a roster. The Duke forward played an important role on the 2010 National Championship team and is coming off a career year.
Thomas is also helping to mentor fellow undrafted Blue Devil big man Marshall Plumlee, who will see his first NBA regular season action tonight. He was key in the Blue Devils’ 2015 national title and impressed his coaches in the preseason. Hopefully he will be able to receive minutes as a reserve center tonight.
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The second game of the night will be the Utah Jazz against the Portland Trailblazers featuring two Blue Devils coming off career years. Rodney Hood had a breakout season in his second year with the Jazz averaging 14.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. Utah Jazz head coach Quinn Snyder also played for the Blue Devils as was a former assistant under Coach K.
Former Blue Devil Mason Plumlee is also coming off an excellent season after being traded from Brooklyn. He started in every game for the Trailblazers and averaged career-highs with 9.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. The second Plumlee-brother was an All-American at Duke and was part of the 2010 national title team.
Nineteen former Blue Devils will be representing Duke in the NBA heading into the regular season. The Duke Men’s Basketball program has excelled in producing NBA players with Mike Krzyzewski coaching the most all-time number of NBA players, lottery picks, and total combined contract amounts.