I don't like the ball bearings. I pop them out of all my Paterson Super System 4 reels.
Yes, the emulsion side should face inside.
It can get tight at times. I find if you tap the sides of the reels it will come free.
Open up the reel after loading? I don't quite understand. I never open up the reels. I simply pull the film out to remove it though I must say I do it only with wet film which just slides right out after the final rinse.