It's only been a few months, but the NBA landscape has changed dramatically since the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers faced off in the Finals.
For the Boston Celtics, not much has changed in terms of personnel acquisitions, but after ending the season one game shy of the Finals with a depleted roster, the expectations are simple: win the Eastern Conference and earn a chance to play for an NBA title.
They started working towards that goal Tuesday night at TD Garden, taking the Philadelphia 76ers 105 to 87 in the first game of the NBA regular season.
The game got off to a sluggish start for both sides, but the Celtics were bolstered by the play of second-year man Jayson Tatum, who had nine points in the first quarter and finished the game with 23 points.
After the game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the team needed Tatum, who shined in the playoffs, to be great.
"He's a good player and we need him to be good," he said. "As I've told him and all our other wings, if those guys just really commit to being great defensively and making the next right play, everything's going to work out."
Besides what was happening on the court, the talk of the night was the return of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, after each missed months of basketball.
Hayward, who suffered a devastating injury in last year's season opener that kept him out for the rest of the year, was met with a loud ovation when he was introduced as a starter.
Although he struggled to hit anything in the first quarter, he found his mark just after the second period started.
"It was amazing to be out there on the court again for a regular season game," Hayward told reporters in the locker room after the game. "My adrenaline was definitely pumping the first three or four minutes. ...It was great just to be out there, that was a big step for me."
Irving, who had season-ending knee surgery before the playoffs last year, only had seven points and finished two of 14 from the field, but led the team with seven assists.
"When you can't make a damn shot, spread the wealth," he joked after the game. "Guys were making shots. I think I could have delivered a lot better in certain areas. But ... [I'll] get my rhythm back as we continue to go on through the season."
While the Celtics are favored to punch a ticket to the Finals from the Eastern Conference, it's still early and the race has just started.
With LeBron James' finally loosening his grip on the Eastern Conference by packing his bags for Los Angeles, the East is truly up for grabs for the first time in years.
In Philly, the Sixers return one of the most talented young rosters in the league. Led by last year's rookie of the year Ben Simmons, the 76ers will be looking to bounce back after the Celtics knocked them out in the second-round of last year's playoffs, possibly renewing a historic rivalry in the process.
Toronto, which acquired All-NBA playerKawhi Leonard over the summer, also looks to be one of Boston's main foes this season. And after another year of solid development and serious discussion of MVP candidacy, young star Giannis Antetokounmpo will be looking for revenge after the Celtics ousted his Bucks in the first round of the playoffs.
But whatever happens in the East, all roads to the Larry O'Brien trophy will probably have to go through northern California, where the defending champion Golden State Warriors are heavily favored to win another title.
For now, the season is young and there are 81 more regular season games before the playoffs.