NEW YORK – The 2019-20 NBA season will tip off on Tuesday night with the Raptors hosting the Pelicans followed by the highly anticipated first battle between the L.A. teams as the Clippers “host” the Lakers, with both games on TNT.
On Wednesday, the marquee matchups on ESPN’s opening night of NBA coverage feature the Celtics at Sixers and the Nuggets at Trail Blazers, in a rematch of last year’s conference semis. Jalen Rose will reprise his role as analyst on the retooled NBA Countdown set prior to those games, alongside new host Maria Taylor and fellow analysts Jay Williams, Paul Pierce, and Richard Jefferson.
Rose recently sat down with DIME at ESPN’s Seaport District Studios to discuss the upcoming NBA season, his thoughts on how the West shakes out, Houston’s boom or bust potential, why he believes the Sixers are a tier above the Bucks, and who would win a playoff series between the two L.A. teams.
Where does Houston fit in the West and, within all the dynamic duos that have formed around the league, do they have the highest ceiling and floor differential with Russ and Harden because of the potential clash but also the possible way it could fit?
You reminded me of something, when MJ said “the ceiling is the roof,” that was the craziest thing ever. Um, absolutely. They have the biggest boom or bust potential of not only any duo but of any team. Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for three straight years. James Harden is the only player in the history of the league that’s going to lead it in made threes, made free throws, total assists. Dynamic offensive player. Their usage is as high as any two players in the history of the league.
So when you put them on a team, as a coach I’m going to tell you what you’re going to see. He’s going to try and make them take turns. He’s going to try and have them start the game, take Russ or James out first depending on the matchup, fatigue, or whatever, and then allow each of them to cook during the game. Then put them out there together at the end to finish it. That don’t necessarily always work with a dynamic duo, because you usually want your two best players to be in sync with one another. And so, while I think they’re willing to make the adjustment and want to do all the things it takes to win and make the necessary sacrifices, when you’re a great player like those dudes, it’s hard to get off that ball.
It is so very hard, and I noticed the trend — and it’s only the preseason — but when Russ had the ball, James was drifting like when Chris Paul had the ball. And that didn’t end well. So the person that has to make the adjustment is James. Welcoming Russ to his team and letting him eat.
And not just eat, but help him eat. Like you mention, he drifts back toward halfcourt and moves off and it semi-sabotages what Russ can do because that spacing collapses on you and that’s the entire way they’ve built that offense.