Day one is in the books, and if there was any general consensus of yesterday’s games, it felt damn good to see professional basketball back on the tube again. Now, with the best record in the league currently held by five teams at 1-0, there isn’t exactly cause for concern just yet. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played in a short amount of time. Regardless, I couldn’t pass up a chance to speak briefly about each squad who took the court yesterday.
Without further adieu, ten random thoughts from yesterday’s holiday treat(s).
1. If you’re a Celtics fan, Sunday’s loss isn’t anything to hold your head about. Rajon Rondo’s 31-13-5 was one of the better showings of the entire day and a great middle finger to Danny Ainge and every single trade rumor he found himself in once the lockout ended. He won’t put those numbers up every night, but it was proof that, when necessary, Rondo can be the most dangerous player on a basketball court. And keep in mind, they damn near won without Celtic great (yes, I said it) Paul Pierce. The fact they nearly snuck out of Madison Square Garden with a W with Sasha Pavolovic as their starting two guard was almost a Christmas miracle in itself! Now, I’m done giving Boston their credit. I should be ashamed of myself and I’m honestly beginning to feel sick.
P.S. – Kevin Garnett is my dude. I can’t wait to hear is Hall of Fame speech and I love the fact he just doesn’t give a single f*ck, but he’s going to run up on the wrong player one day. Like, for instance, I guarantee he wouldn’t put his hands on Stephen Jackson. Channing Frye and Antwan Jamison, yes. Captain Jack. Not a chance in hell.
2. The New York Knicks much anticipated front court’s debut squeaked away with victorious thanks largely to Carmelo Anthony’s 37 points including 17 in the fourth. Sure, some favorable calls were thrown his way (especially that foul call on Celtics weed man Marquis Daniels), but Melo’s scoring prowess was on full display yesterday. There’s a good chance New York can be a top three seed out East, but there must be some sort of back court play. Iman Shumpert’s injury hurts significantly considering the fact he looked really aggressive before bowing out. There has to be some sort of consistent point guard play mainly because I don’t see Carmelo wanting to run the point forward position for too long and Toney Douglas looks better as fire power off the bench. Plus, without a dope floor general, how effective will Chandler actually be?
3. As much as I try, hating on the Mavericks is impossible. I credit it to actually getting a chance to meet Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry while I attended Georgetown, but there’s no true cause for concern just yet. They’re an older team so it makes sense it’ll take more than four quarters to get their regular season legs under them. I do think, however, they’ll miss Tyson Chandler. Brendan Haywood doesn’t scream “starting center” and Vince Carter is going to have to provide some sort of scoring on that starting unit. There are questions surrounding this team, but while I can’t see them repeating as champs, they’re not going to exactly roll over and die in the process.
4. Miami actually played uptempo, which is exactly how they should be operating. Maybe Erik Spoelestra’s meeting with Oregon’s Chip Kelly over the summer will prove dividends. Also, seeing D-Wade and LeBron so willingly play in the post is cause for optimism. It’s not that they, especially James, have to be dynamic post scorers; the entire floor just opens up greatly when they do so, evident in James’ 19 free throw attempts. Outside of LBJ’s 37-10-6-2-2 and Wade’s 26-8-6, Norris Cole looked pretty damn good. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was the starter come playoff time.
5. The Bulls still play defense tighter than Lil Wayne’s jeggings at the MTV VMA’s. The Bulls still go through these odd scoring droughts. And the Bulls still have the talent to run with anybody in the league. While Derrick Rose will get the brunt of the credit for his game winning, driving hook shot, the real MVP of Chicago’s showdown with the Lakers was Loul Deng who drained clutch free throw after clutch free throw and basically made life a living hell for Kobe that last quarter. He did travel on the play that led to Rose’s hook shot however.
6. You know, Josh McRoberts isn’t half bad. As long as he’s coming off your bench. The Lakers have no one to blame for the loss but themselves. They missed several key free throws in the last four minutes of the game which left the window of opportunity wide open for Chicago. Kudos to Derek Fisher for helping end the lockout (right?), but it may be time for Mike Brown to look at starting Steve Blake. Pau Gasol put up a very modest 14 points and eight rebounds. And Kobe logged his regular Kobe-like numbers with 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists (eight turnovers, too). You have to wonder why the hell he didn’t pull up for the jumper with the game on the line though.
7. Dwight Howard does NOT want to be in Orlando. I don’t care what he says. And that’s about all that really needs to be said about the Magic right now.
8. Well, Russell Westbrook still went 6-17, but Oklahoma City showcased why they’re so many people’s favorite to represent the Western Conference in the Finals come June. Some corrections could and will be made to their attack over the next 65 games, but the Thunder are one of the more “ready” teams in the league. Kevin Durant dropped 30 making it look like slight work and James Harden, who is almost certain to be in the discussion for sixth man of the year discussion, added 19.
9. Golden State didn’t make our prediction look so smart on the first night, although they did show some promise. Mark Jackson, at least through one game, had the Warriors playing defense early on. As is the case always with Golden State though, how Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry work together (a combined 8-31) will be huge and go a long way in determining how far this team plans to progress. For what it’s worth, David Lee had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Someone’s fantasy team out there appreciates that.
10. DeAndre Jordan – who somewhat resembles Lamont from “Sanford & Son” – will never be the league’s best free throw shooter, but his block party was something special to witness. D.J. had eight blocks and highlight poster boy Blake Griffin added 22 points and seven rebounds. Yet, when the game was up for grabs midway through the fourth, it was popular MVP pick Chris Paul who put the game out of reach with a handful of big shots. And if my my calculations serve me correct, the Clippers laid the hammer down in the fourth on a 30-18 run while the Lakers handed away a double-digit lead away with under three minutes to go.
The most startling point of the game? Golden State’s crowd actually began chanting “beat L.A.” Somewhere, a lone tear rolled down the face of Ron Harper.