It wasn’t too long ago that Orlando/Miami was a big Eastern Conference tilt. Now, it’s simply a mismatch. With Dwight Howard (2-for-9, five points, six rebounds) going through the motions somewhat – let’s hope this doesn’t become a habit this season – the Heat toyed with Orlando for a while and then blew them away in the second half, winning their opening preseason game 118-85. Miami has a better, and healthier, supporting cast this year, but it’s still going to come down to the Big Three. And that’s bad news considering they look healthy, confident and comfortable, combining for 47 easy points. LeBron was especially impressive and had two incredible highlights. Near the end of the first half, he almost hit his head on an off-the-backboard alley-oop from Mario Chalmers, and then after the break, he caught Big Baby Davis and smashed his shot from behind. They said Big Baby gained 25 pounds of muscle. Sure that was muscle? Amazingly, this was Orlando’s first preseason loss since 2008, and if they aren’t careful this season could go down the drain pretty quickly … Technically, the Mavs began their title defense last night in a 106-92 home loss to OKC. But with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd sitting out, we were left with a lot of new blood. Lamar Odom and Vince Carter had solid nights. Dominique Jones and Roddy Beaubois were outstanding off the bench (17 points each). But none of it mattered. Early on, the Thunder might as well have not been locked out at all because we felt like we were still watching the Western Conference Finals. Oklahoma City probably never even left Dallas; it wasn’t long before Serge Ibaka was racking up fouls, and Russell Westbrook was coming down full speed, jumping into the air and committing turnovers. Some of the names changed, but the recipe stayed the same for most of the first quarter, and in the second, if the Thunder weren’t intent on turning it over every other possession, they could’ve opened up an insurmountable lead. All of their three-point shooters were money. Actually for most of the fist half, the Thunder were shooting up around 70 percent, and eventually that took its toll. Kevin Durant had 21 points on five shots, and James Harden added 14 off the bench … Cole Aldrich checked in looking like a bad Halloween costume; the shiner on his left eye was one of the worst bruises we’ve seen in a while … It only took about three and a half minutes before we got a Khloe sighting off a reverse lay-up from Odom. As for Odom (14 points), he looked right at home, scoring off the dribble, hitting threes and playing almost exactly like he did in L.A. … Boston survived a last-second missed shot from DeMar DeRozan and a Andrea Bargnani missed tip-in to beat Toronto 76-75 in one of the uglier preseason games you’ll see. We just couldn’t stop looking at the 3D graphic now underneath the Toronto baskets. Very confusing … The Washington Post is reporting that Nick Young is going to take Washington’s $3.7 million qualifying offer. Nothing to analyze here. Young wanted a ton of money, no one was willing to give it and so he’ll have to try again next summer … The Xinjiang Flying Tigers of China are giving strong consideration to releasing forward Kenyon Martin, says Marc Stein of ESPN.com. If Xinjiang does in fact release Martin, they would be the first Chinese team to release an NBA player who signed with them during the lockout. Sources told ESPN.com that only the threat of serious sanctions from Chinese league officials for releasing a player of Martin’s in-season stature has stopped Xinjiang from already doing so. You gotta think K-Mart is sitting somewhere in China reading this and throwing down a “Tiger Woods at the 2005 Masters” fist pump … Keep reading to hear what Andrew Bynum is saying about his knees …
While most see the problems for the Warriors starting with their very limited frontcourt, you could make a case the real issue is actually their Kate Moss-thin perimeter depth. After you get past their starters, the only guy left is an unheralded rookie, Klay Thompson. That’s like going into battle with an AK-47, but with only one round. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone the Warriors are going after Brandon Rush, who’s been deemed expendable by Indiana. Sources say the deal is Rush for Lou Amundson straight up. We like it. Rush plugs a hole and Sweet Lou becomes Tyler Hansbrough Vol. 2. In a shortened, 66-game season filled with long road trips and back-to-back-to-backs, overall depth will be a valuable asset. Teams with the ability to bring quality guys off the bench will stay fresher as the season progresses, which is especially important for older teams like San Antonio, Boston and Dallas … Speaking of thin, did anyone see Kevin Love on Saturday night? Dude looks like a new person. Even his face is different. We’ve commentated before on how everyone says they’ve gained muscle in the summer or lost bad weight, but here’s an instance where you can really see what 25 pounds look like. He says he lost about 25 during the lockout, and it’s visible. Love looks streamlined as opposed to the chubby, round kid who dominated backboards last year. As long as he hasn’t lost any strength, this should only help with his conditioning and injury-prevention. He’s incorporated some intense yoga and a new diet into his routine … Andrew Bynum, the Lakers 24-year-old center with worse knees than his 77-year-old owner Jerry Buss, told ESPN Los Angeles that he feels good. He finished with 14 points in the Lakers intrasquad scrimmage on Friday, tying him with Kobe and Pau as the teams’ high scorer. When asked about Dwight Howard and potentially being on the trading block, Bynum had this to say: “I think Dwight is a great player and obviously if the Lakers can get him for the right deal, it would be worthwhile. But if they want too much in return, it won’t go through.” Bynum won’t be shocked if he gets shipped off to Disney World in the near future. For now though, he might be the Lakers most important player simply because of the risks. Asking him to stay injury-free is too big of a Christmas present. A Bynum injury always feels inevitable, and in a crazy year, with no Odom around, they better hope it doesn’t come at a bad time … ESPN is reporting there is a chance Gilbert Arenas and Baron Davis both end up on the Knicks. Yes, that team really needs anyone to come in and take minutes from a certain few guys, but to take on two players like this at once? They’ll be a lot of babysitting going on. One thing you can say for Davis though is he usually rises to the pressure. When he’s motivated – when he has something to prove – B Dizzle normally comes through. Arenas has fallen off pretty quickly, but he has no shortage of ammunition. If he wants to stick in the league, this is probably his last shot … And newly-acquired Jamal Crawford has gotten right to work in Portland, and his first move: getting that number 11 jersey. According to Joe Freeman of OregonLive.com, Crawford bought the number off Luke Babbitt in a series of back-and-forth negotiations that spanned multiple days, involving LaMarcus Aldridge as a mediator. After everything was said and done, Crawford walked away with No. 11 for a price tag of $12,000. “That was a hard bargain,” said Crawford. “Luke could have been a lawyer, he got me.” … We’re out like Love’s love handles.
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