Basketball is back. Officially. It’s like Christmas, your birthday and the day that pregnancy test came back negative all rolled into one. This means that for the next 6 month there will be basketball on TV almost every night of the week. NBA is a long haul commitment, which means things will change dramatically and most expectations will already be outdated as of 2 weeks from now. Even still, let’s all over-react to a few specific things from opening week.
We are in for a miracle year from Durant
Kevin Durant missed most of last year recovering from being rushed back from an injury. It’s only been two games and KD is averaging 32PTS on 42.9 FG%. The sample size is small, but given his previous body of work, no one would be surprised to see this trend continue well into the season. With Durant back, this Thunder team is once again an instant contender armed with three very viable stars. Slot KDs assassin like scoring with Westbrook’s disregard for all living things around him when he hits supernova speed, back that up with Ibaka’s developing midrange game and you have something special.
Provided Enes Kanter gets fewer minutes than the significantly large amount of 0s in his contract signify he should and Dion Waiters drowns on Waiters’ island, this team should do just fine.
What makes it so amazing to watch too is that looking at Durant, you don’t really expect him to perform as well as he does against men who weight about twice as much as him. His body looks as if someone strapped some twigs to a broom stick and then put it on the basketball court. And yet, he finds the way to navigate himself across the court and drop bombs on teams. Get ready for 80 more games of this Durant.
Anthony Davis is stranded
Everybody had high hopes for New Orleans after making the playoffs and acquiring a coach who at least knew what plays were, but something happened. Well, not something, the same thing that happens every year to New Orleans. Injuries.
This year they robbed of Tyreke Evans while continuing to hold Jrue Holiday hostage. This basically means that the Brow has to once again lace up next to a squad that looks not too different from what you fielded in your rec-league this weekend. And that’s sad.
The first couple of games gave us a very real glimpse into how the season can unravel for this team. Unlike Steph Curry, who plays basketball as if he is a human rainbow exploding into a 100 supernovas all at once, Davis plays a position where he needs the inherent support of the team around him. He needs to get the ball in positions to score and operate within the space created by his teammates. That is not a knock on his individual skill, that is simply how the PF position operates in the NBA. When your team cannot create space for you, you end up with a bunch of high elbow touches and not much space to create.
That is precisely what happened to Anthony Davis. We’ve seen him get a lot of touches on that high elbow and try to create for himself. That lead to a lot of difficult shots. Two things need to happen, someone on NOLA needs to learn to facilitate and make Davis’ life easier or Davis needs to come back and develop his on ball creative skills. As much as Davis is already something written by a horror writer come to life, if he manages to (or is forced to by lack of surrounding talent) to also become a primarily ball handler for this team I would invest in a very solid and a very secure bunker for the next 10 years. And given his pedigree as a guard growing up as well as his anatomical composition (basically God going “what if I crossed a pterodactyl with a human”) nothing is out of the scope of possibility.
Kobe Refusing to Go
On opening night in LA, Kobe took 24 shots, making eight. In that span he also made three threes while taking thirteen. He also took zero of your opinion on how you think the game went for him into consideration. Kobe is just refusing to go quietly, controlling games as much as he can, trying to preserve his legacy.
As a Lakers fan, I am trying to talk myself into a season of watching this horror-show. I keep bringing up arguments such as D’Angelo Russell being a very good guard who knows how to play basketball. I enjoy watching Randle go coast to coast like some sort of ferocious bowling ball. But I do not enjoy Kobe taking a ton of contested jumpers that he once made easy and now makes look painstakingly hard. He has been around for 20 years now and while his legacy is great, he refuses to admit it may be in the end. Here is what was quite possibly going through Kobe’s head during the last minute of the game (Lakers down by 1, in a totally winnable game against Minnesota).
So, Randle got the ball. Good. He should pass it any time now. He’s dribbling… Why is he dribbling? Why does he not pass me the ball? Should he really be taking the space they’re giving him? Should he? Why is Byron not calling the timeout? I should call a time-out. Someone needs to call a time-out and give me the ball. I’m calling a time-out.
So Kobe got a timeout to tell everyone that he should get the ball. At least that’s what we assumed he did, but then he didn’t. Kobe fooled everyone by being the in-bounder on a play ran for Lou Williams. A play that gave him a very makeable shot at the game. The shot which he missed. Which means Kobe will be taking the next 80 of these (presumably, if games are ever close, which they won’t be). And that was yet another play by Kobe, refusing to go.
No one likes the Clippers
On paper the Clippers have the best point guard in the game (pure point guard). One of the most loveable and likable big men in the game. One of the greatest coaches to be in the game right now. In reality they also have DeAndre Jordan, Paul Pierce (who hates fun a little bit too much for everyone’s liking), and Lance Stephenson – a human cautionary tale who when engaged can be a decent two way contributor and when not can be that uncle that showed up to your two year old son’s birthday party drunk (he also probably knocked down your mailbox parking) and refuses to leave.
Through their first two games, the Clippers faced some subtle insinuations from Mark Cuban (who surprisingly delivered these in an interview and not via emojis or Cyber Dust). They also had some not too subtle shade thrown their way by DeMarcus Cousins (who unfortunately did not deliver this in a tweet, which he should have. DeMarcus Cousins should be allowed to tweet at all times, especially during dead ball and timeout situations). That’s two for two on the Clippers-hate scale. We already know the Grizzlies hate them and have shown it in the past by body slamming various players. We know the Lakers fans don’t like them. And they make you watch Austin Rivers play meaningful minutes so the world hates them
Bigs shooting threes
I’m not talking stretch four bigs here, I’m talking bigs who traditionally didn’t shoot threes stepping back behind the arc and letting it fly. Last night, Amir Johnson let a few threes fly against the Spurs. Anthony Davis has already put the world on notice (and into state of permanent terror) when he started showing signs of beyond-the-arc precision last year. Now, Boogie is taking up the mantle, having taken 10 threes in his first three games (I’m well on the way to winning my Over 50 3PTA for DeMarcus this year). Sure, he made only 4 of them (4-5 in that first game), but that’s still 40%, and that’s currently a better rate than say Kyle Korver. I’m not saying DeMarcus cousins is now a better three point shooter than Kyle Korver (28.3%), but I am pointing at his stats which are currently better than that of Kyle Korver.
This brings us back to the evolution of basketball where big men have been fighting for minutes and the right to stay on the floor. In order to bring value to the teams, they need to adjust to the modern game and space the floor. In Boogie’s case, he basically just needs to do everything (because when you’re point guard is Rajon Rondo you may actually need Steve from Row 3 to take some triples for you too). Get ready for more shooting bigs.