Thought so. So what happened? Only a fight. At least Delonte didn't go all Mad Max this time on his motorcycle packed with loaded weapons.
Less than one week after tempers flared during a two-on-two game in practice, Delonte West and Von Wafer had another altercation earlier this afternoon.
During a three-on-three game with Avery Bradley, Luke Harangody, Semih Erden and assistant coach Tyronn Lue, West began fouling Wafer each time the reserve guard touched the ball. West was increasingly physical to the point that Wafer exited to the locker room midway through the game. As he walked away, West barked obscenities and taunted Wafer.
After Wafer had showered and sat down at his locker, West approached from behind and threw a punch. Wafer didn't see the punch coming but quickly got off of the ground and connected on two punches of his own. He then wrestled West to the ground before being separated by the team's veterans.
Hey, didn't we just see that same exact pose yesterday from Drew Gooden? Man, that must suck to be Q-Rich right now, getting compared to Drew Gooden...
Nice Halloween costume there! It really scared me! wait, you mean that's not a costume, that's just AK47's new hairdo? Oh...
Nationally Televised Friday Games: Magic at Heat, ESPN, 8pm: These two teams hate each other's guts right now. Even Marcin Gortat(!) is running smack. And yet tickets are still available! Per ESPN's Rachel Nichols, "Perhaps city of Miami already nonchalant about LeBron, Wade and Bosh being here together - tickets still available for 2night's home opener."
Lakers at Suns, ESPN, 10:30pm: AccuScore has this game dead even -- each team has a 50% chance of victory. Okay, yes, Phoenix has home court advantage, but serious question here: how are they going to do anything to control the paint? This could be a game worth watching to see a true evaluation of where the Suns are with their new "all small ball, all the time" format.
All The Other Friday Games: Kings at Nets, 7pm: The Nets are in a tie for first place right now! The Prokhorov smiles.
Hawks at 76ers, 7pm: Huzzah! Another chance to see Doug Collins not play his best players as much as possible!
Cavaliers at Craptors, 7pm:Per ESPN's Chris Sheridan, the 2010-2011 Craptors media guide has a section (under Miscellaneous on page 3, for those five folks who have a copy of the media guide) that states: "Any media member wishing to "take my talents to South Beach" will have their credentials confiscated and be escorted from the building." All right, Toronto, I'll give you that one. But it's right back to making fun of your team next week!
Pacers at Bobcats, 7pm: I'm sure it's possible to care even less about a game than I do about this one, but I'd have to try really hard to do that. And trying hard to not care about something is such an oxymoron that I just broke my brain.
Knicks at Celtics, 7:30pm: The Celtics have won 20 of their last 25 games against the Bricks. I doubt that you need to know much more than that about this game.
Nuggets at Hornets, 8pm: No joke here -- I just wanted to say it's fantastic to see George Karl back on the sidelines coaching the Nuggets after all his health troubles last year.
Thunder at Pistons, 8pm: The Pistons are going to lose this game. How do I know? Because of this.
Bucks at Timberwolves, 8pm: There have been rumors of the NBA discussing contracting a team or two. Even though I don't foresee that happening any time soon (we all know how David Stern would consider that a last-gasp kind of move), it's still a possibility. However! "I can say that Minnesota is not one of the teams that would be contracted, nor do we expect that in the future," said owner Glen Taylor, the chairman of the NBA's board of governors. So Minnesota fans have that going for them, which is nice.
Grizzlies at Mavericks, 8:30pm: Let's break this down: the Mavs have two 7-footers, and the Grizzlies are missing Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph due to injuries. This could get uglier than even the Grizzlies' last 9 games against the Mavericks, which they have also lost.
clippers at Warriors, 10:30pm: The Warriors had a decidedly run-and-gun style under the leadership of Don Nelson, but new head coach Keith Smart said we could expect that to change as the team planned on focusing more on defense and rebounding. Nice to see that the players apparently didn't get that memo and are still running and gunning anyway.
* * *
Nationally Televised Saturday Games: Nuggets at Rockets, NBA TV, 8:30pm: Ah, another chance to be entertained by Yao Ming. He's already delivered so much material for this blog in just a couple games!
All The Other Saturday Games: Wizards Generals at Hawks, 7pm: Well, the glass half full outlook for this game, Washington fans? Things can only improve after that game against the Magic!
Kings at Cavaliers, 7:30pm: Just a gut feeling, but for some odd reason, this game might actually be interesting. (Of course, now that I've said that, watch it be a 128-87 blowout...)
Trail Blazers at Knicks, 7:30pm: Well, the Knicks are on a one-game winning streak! That's... something.
Pistons at Bulls, 8pm: You know, I doubt it will really matter if Rose continues his shot-jackery or not in this game... (Did the Pistons seriously win a title only a few years ago?? Hard to believe.)
Timberwolves at Grizzlies, 8pm: According to the ESPN.com schedule, this game is not being televised at all. And the world breathes a sigh of relief...
Bobcats at Bucks, 8:30pm: Both teams on the second night of back-to-backs? No thank you.
Hornets at Spurs, 8:30pm: The Hornets are on a back-to-back here, but the Spurs should have fresh legs. Unfortunately for the Spurs, "fresh legs" for them is a relative term since the average age on that team feels like it's close to 47.
Want a picture that tells you everything you need to know about
the Washington Wizards Generals? Well, here you go.
The Washington Wizards Generals: I'm not going to sugarcoat this: The Wizards Generals got their asses kicked so hard that Nike could use their butts as shoe molds. I've seen coffee shop floor mats with fewer footprints on them. Based on what I witnessed last night, this Generals squad could give "roll over and die" lessons to Vince Carter...who was in his standard "I'm great in nearly meaningless regular season games against crap teams" mode (18 points, 8-for-12, 5 boards).
Unlike the Celtics, the Magic apparently take lesser teams pretty seriously. To wit: Washington shot 37 percent (compared to Orlando's 55 percent), got outrebounded 53-25 (including 11-3 on the offensive glass) and was outscored 56-28 in the colored rectangle.
The Magic led by as many as 35 points before settling for a 112-83 win. Now imagine how lopsided the final score would have been if Orlando hadn't missed 14 free throws and given up 29 points of 21 turnovers.
Dwight Howard's foul shooting: The line: 9-for-19. Roughly the same number most guys in my pickup league could hit by accident.
John Wall: As Basketbawful reader LotharBot pointed out, Wall had a Calvin Murphy in his debut with 14 points and 9 assists. Sure, a lot of those points and assists were racked up during garbage time, but it's still a decent debut. Right? I mean, check out this killer crossover:
I'll say this much: The kid's a shooter. And by "shooter" I don't mean that Wall provides consistent, high-percentage, long-range jump shooting. I mean he apparently loves shooting the Eddy Curry loves Twinkies. Wall jacked up 11 of his team's first 24 shot attempts. He it three of 'em. Wall -- who, I should remind you, is Washington's starting point guard -- finished 6-for-19 on a night in which none of his teammates attempted more than nine shots.
The best part? Wall's first NBA points came off a goal tend by Brandon Bass.
But hey, I guess that's what happens when rookies are mentored by Gilbert Arenas. Speaking of which...
Gilbert Arenas: After missing most of the past three seasons due to injury and suspension, Mr. "I signed a contract for only $111 million to help my team" Arenas missed the game with strained blah blah blah in his blah blah blah. Does it really matter what's wrong with Gil this time? His contract was a bigger waste of time and money than Eddy Curry's copy of P90X.
Andray Blatche: Last year's late-season fantasy stud was a fantasy turd in his season debut: 6 points on 2-for-9 shooting to go with 2 boards, 2 dimes, a steal, 2 turnovers and 4 fouls. Man, I sure hope nobody around here has Blatche on their fantasy team...
Jason Williams: William's performance last night is forcing me to seriously consider giving out a "Worst Player of the Night" award in these posts. His line: 8 minutes, zero points, zero rebounds, 1 assist, zero steals, zero blocked shots, 3 turnovers, 1 personal foul, 2 technical fouls, 1 automatic ejection.
Of course, he still had a better plus-minus score (-2) than John Wall (-31).
John Wall, quote machine, Part 1: "It was tough. It's really telling me what I need to work on, but I already know."
John Wall, quote machine, Part 2: "But as a team aspect, we have a lot we need to work on."
Marcin Gortat, mildly broken English quote machine: "Honestly, I'm sick of listening every hour about Miami -- Miami that, how great they are, how big they are, what kind of record they gonna have. I get every day interviews back in Poland, people calling me about Miami, Miami, what you think about Miami? What you think about Big Three? I'm going to say the same thing: they are a great team, they have three superstars, they got a couple good role players on the team. They looking good on the paper, but they got to start winning."
Stan Van Gundy, quote machine: "You guys can decide what's a big game and what's not. If they give me two wins for tomorrow night, then it's a big game. I'm not big on the human-interest stories."
The Utah Jazz: Oh dear God. After receiving the scorched earth treatment in their season-opening 110-88 loss to Nuggets in Denver, the Jazz came home and got donkey-punched 110-94 by the Work-in-Progress Suns.
It's enough to make John Stockton's gonads shrivel up in his short-shorts.
The sad part of this loss is that Utah is HUGE compared to Phoenix. Hence the stat-paddery by Paul Milsap (19 points, 13 rebounds) and Al Jefferson (20 points, 9 boards). But the Jazz pulled down only one more total rebound and their Offensive Rebound Percentage (30.4) was barely better than the Suns' (27.9). Shooting 42 percent from the field and 3-for-13 on threes didn't help either.
Oh, and then there was the transition D, which gave up 20 fast break points.
This team definitely hasn't gelled yet. In fact, they're more of a gritty paste.
Anyway, Williams was crap in Utah's season opener (3-for-10, 6 assists, 4 turnovers, 4 fouls) and he was crappity crap last night: 13 points on 3-for-12 shooting, 6 assists, 3 turnovers, 5 fouls and a plus-minus score of -16. The only Jazz player with a worse plus-minus was freaking Gordon Hayward (-17).
The obvious lesson: Never proclaim yourself the best [whatever] in the league.
Raja Bell: The Jazz signed Bell to (partially) replace Kyle Korver's shooting. Well, that wasn't happening last night, as Bell missed nine of his 12 shot attempts and went 1-for-5 from downtown.
Steve Nash, captain obvious: "Hakim [Warrick] was great on the glass and hustled. He finished and got to the line. He did a lot of little things that matter. But he also scored, and when he can do that, it makes us a better team."
So when a teammate can score, it makes you a better team? It's like Nash just gave my brain an assist. Thanks, Steve!
Steve Nash, the voice of realism: "We haven't got the chemistry yet and there are no shortcuts. It just takes time. You got to find the understanding and be unselfish and conscious of the other players on the team. But there is no easy formula."
In keeping with the recent overreactions to Nash quotes: STEVE NASH SAYS SUNS HAVE NO CHEMISTRY!!!!
Paul Milsap, quote machine, Part 1: "Things are not going our way."
Paul Milsap, quote machine, Part 2: "We've got to continue to stay with it. I mean we've got to continue to get better."
Paul Milsap, quote machine, Part 3: "We got punched in the mouth twice in our first two games."
Lacktion report: Chris had an easy but fulfilling night of lacktion reporting:
Bullets-Magic: Hilton Armstrong makes his first reservation in the lacktion ledger by countering one successful charity stripe shot (and two assists) in 11:14 with 5 fouls and two giveaways for a 7:3 Voskuhl. Hamady N'Diaye armed himself with a pair of fouls in 3:40 for his first ever suck differential, a +2 that also counted as a 2:0 Voskuhl!
"Oof. Something stinks in here... probably all of my turnovers"
Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to read this interview with Bill Walton done by Trey Kirby over at The Basketball Jones. First off, reading anything to yourself in Bill Walton's voice makes your day 800% better. But beyond that, this is a good interview full of the usual Walton style and some good thoughts into the importance of controlling the paint in the NBA.
Also worth reading? This Deadspin piece. To quote the lede: "This is a story about the new NBA Jam for the Nintendo Wii. It is also a story about the 1990s, the NBA's waning cultural cachet, Bryant "Big Country" Reeves, Asian-Jewish relations, Roenick in NHL '94, nostalgia, and God." What more can you want than that? All it's missing is Greg Ostertag.
And a brief moment of analysis. (I'll keep it brief since I suck at analysis.) Marc Stein had an interesting tweet this afternoon: "Was TUE night in BOS bigger deal than we thought for Heat? Research says only three NBA teams in last 20 years won it all after 0-1 start." To be fair, this is a complicated situation. Considering the lack of preparation time the Heat had to get used to a completely new look, I don't think it was reasonable to expect them to come out looking amazing in their very first game. That being said, the kinds of teams that lose on opening night, regardless of talent level and preparation, might be fundamentally lacking something. It might be an obvious missing piece in offense or defense, but it might also be something like a lack of killer instinct. LeBron doesn't have the same desire to go out and just kill his opponent each and every night like some of the greats did. (Jordan would refuse to lose a game like that, for example.) How much of that will carry over into the postseason? I can't foresee it now. But that is something that will stick in the back of my mind.
Worst of the Night in Pictures:
Steven Tyler may not be experiencing love in elevator, but he is livin' it up while the Celtics are going down
Hey, that pose looks familiar...
Good God! Byron Scott is Spiderman! Well, that explains some things. Or nothing at all. Not sure which yet...
Based on Landry Fields' reaction, I think Demar DeRozan has a taser hidden in his hand
Anyone who want to scare Drew Gooden on Halloween now knows what his biggest fear apparently is: playing defense
Please forgive the Nets if their celebrations seem a little awkward -- they don't have much experience celebrating
Good. Use your aggressive feelings, Cleveland fans. Let the hate flow through you.
Nationally Televised Games: Wizards at Magic, TNT, 8pm: The Magic have a new arena. On the other hand, the Wizards are missing Gilbert Arenas, one of their main weapons. (Damnit. I just can't help myself. The gun jokes write themselves.) In other news, holy crap John Wall is fun to watch. Trust me on this one.
Suns at Jazz, TNT, 10:30pm: Interesting game. These two teams have some similarities: both are higher-scoring offenses who no longer have their leading scorer from last year, and both teams struggled to put up points in their season openers. Oh, and they also share another similarity: I don't get to watch nearly enough of either of them because they're based out West and their games come on too damn late for me a lot of the time, and there's not enough time in the day to DVR their games and watch later on. Can someone please invent some sort of magic time machine soon plzkthx?
The Boston Celtics: One night after beating LeBron's new superteam in Boston, the Celtics boogied to Cleveland to face LeBron's old not-so-superteam. The "Unamazing" Cavaliers trotted out a null-star starting lineup of Anthony Parker, Ramon Sessions, Andy Varejao, J.J. Hickson and Jamario Moon...
...and they beat the Celtics.
To be honest, I'm not really sure what happened here. Maybe it was Ray Allen going 0-for-5 from downtown, or Kevin Garnett's 3-for-8 shooting performance, or the fact that Paul Pierce didn't do all that much (13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists). It could've been the 19 turnovers, or even David Stern's one-commissioner war against Rajon Rondo's headband.
Or maybe the Cavs just wanted it more.
Said Sessions: "It felt like Game 7 of the finals. I've never been to the finals, but that was the type of atmosphere here."
Added Antawn Jamison: "This was for the city, It was for the fans to let them know the Cavs will survive and this is a place where you can still watch good basketball. And most of all, you can watch a team that wins. Guys in this locker room believe."
Concluded Shaq: "We took them a little bit too lightly."
The Detroit Pistons: "Destination Doom" indeed. Detroit opened the season on the road against the New Jersey Nyets, a team that -- in case you forgot or something -- won only 12 games last season and took their rightful place in the "Worst Teams of All Time" wing in the Basketbawful Hall of Shame...
...and they beat the Pistons.
Mind you, Detroit was ahead 95-88 with 1:40 to go before their daring collapsing. But you know what the win burglar was in this one? Foul shooting. The Pistons went 16-for-30 from the line, with our old buddy Ben Wallace (2-for-8) playing the role of Big Chief Brick Layer. You don't have to be a mathlete to understand 14 misguided freebies are a pretty big deal in a 3-point loss.
Terrence Williams: An anonymous reader said: "Terrence Williams deserves a WOTN mention. Dude grabbed a defensive rebound with the Nets up by 3 and was fouled with 1.6 seconds remaining. He just needed to hit one free throw to ice this thing, under the watchful eyes of the new owner. And he missed the both. At least he had a co-game high 3 turnovers."
Tracy McGrady Watch: 13 minutes, zero points, 0-for-3 from the field, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 foul.
Avery Johnson, emotional quote machine: "Nothing is really perfect but this was a beautiful ending. If this was a movie, for a team coming out of a situation we were coming out of, for a new team coming together, it's a beautiful ending."
The Toronto Craptors: The Bricks shot 43 percent from the field, clanked 17 of their 24 three-point attempts and assisted on only 12 of their 38 field goals...
...and they beat the Craptors.
Toronto opened the post-Bosh era with a starting five of Andrea Bargnani, Reggie Evans, Jarrett Jack, Linas Kleiza and DeMar DeRozan. The results were predictable: 38 percent shooting, 3-for-10 from downtown and a home loss to a somewhat less lousy team.
Man, it's going to be a long season for Craptors fans.
Update! From Basketbawful reader The Other Chris:
"Man, it's going to be a long season for Craptors fans."
Nods in silent agreement, sobs in corner.
The attempted game tying three by the Craptors at the end of the game was truly all that is bawful. Jarrett Jack dribbles along the baseline - WHY?? - and then finds the guy, Leandro Barbosa, who:
a) is playing with a cast on his hand
b) was 6/15 at that point
c) according to science, by NBA standards, is basically a midget
He chucks up a heavily contested three from deep in the corner. Airball. Game over.
Amar''''''e Stoudemire: STAT did his best to offset a double-double (19 points and 10 rebounds) and some surprisingly adequate work on the defensive boards (7) by turning the ball over 9 times. By comparison, the Craptors had 11 turnovers as a team.
Memo to Stoudemire: You aren't Steve Nash.
Amar''''''e Stoudemire, quote machine: "You want to beat the teams you feel you're supposed to beat, so tonight was a big win for us."
The Philadelphia 76ers: Their 20 fast break points were offset by the 24 points they gave up off turnovers. Philly also suffered a 31-11 disadvantage in free throw attempts. In fact, none of their starters attempted a single foul shot. By comparison, Dwyane Wade attempted more freebies (12) than the entire Sixers team.
Whaaaat? The Heat got all the whistles?! Big shock there.
Doug Collins, quote machine: "My starters are not necessarily my best players, that's why I said don't get caught up in who's starting."
Also, Collins said before the game his pieces didn't all fit.
Yep. This should end well.
Andre Iguodala: Before the game, he told the fans in attendence that "we're going to get to where you want us to be."
Uh, Iggy, are you entirely sure you know what the fans want you to be?
Update! Dwyane Wade: From Basketbawful reader Anish: "I think a special WOTN mention should go to Dwayne Wade for his exceptional defense on rookie Evan Turner." Indeed it should, Anish.
LeBron James: After last night's 9-turnover outing in Philly, King Crab has 17 turnovers in his first two games. He just loves to give. Much like the farting preacher.
LeBron James, quote machine, Part 1: "When we have our long ball going like that, it's unlimited what we can do offensively."
LeBron James, quote machine, Part 2: "I've been booed my whole NBA career. They boo you because they love the way you play basketball."
LeBron James, quote machine, Part 3: "I've been a friend of that bulls-eye for a long time."
Andrew Bogut: Andy won't be giving himself any high fives today. Not after going 3-for-10 from the free throw line -- including a brutal six missed freebies in the fourth quarter -- in a 95-91 road loss to the Hornets.
Drew Gooden, quote machine: "Teams are scared of our depth."
The Minnesota Timberwolves: Was there any more appropriate way for this dreadful group of sadsack misfits to open a season than with a 117-116 home loss to the Excremento Kings? The Timberpoops were murdalized by a hack-and-slash defense that gave the Purple Paupers a mind-boggling 47-28 edge in free throw attempts.
That's a lot of freebies in a 1-point loss.
Kurt Rambis: Okay, so Kevin Love (11 points, 10 rebounds) logged only 23 minutes, including less than 9 minutes in the second half. Why? According to Rambis, because of Anthony Tolliver's "exceptional" play.
Admittedly, Tolliver had a good game (14 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists and a steal) despite going only 3-for-8 from the field. But c'mon, Kurt. Benching your best player in the first game of the season? Really? What kind of message is that sending? And anyway, you're telling me you couldn't play Love and Tolliver together? Seriously?
Darko Milicic: The 20 Million Dollar Man finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots in 23 minutes. Manna from Heaven! But he got hit with a tech during the fourth quarter for pimp-slapping the ball into the scorer's table after being called for a foul. Did I mention his team lost by a single point? Did I mention that?
Sactown's foul shooting: It's a good thing they got 47 attempts, because they bricked 12 of them. Imagine if the Paupers had lost by a point instead of winning by a digit. I'm just sayin'.
Luke Ridnour, quote machine: "In this league, you've got to play defense. All preseason, that's kind of what carried us and we hung our hat on. It seems like once the lights came on we just didn't execute and do the same things we've done all preseason."
I'm sorry...when exactly did Luke Ridnour start playing defense?
The Memphis Grizzlies: The key to Atlanta's 119-104 road win over the Care Bears? I mean other than Zach Randolph's lower back injury. Zaza Pachulia (17 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocked shots).
Said Memphis coach Lionel Hollins: "Pachulia just killed us on the glass all night long. That was a huge factor."
Teams that can't adjust to Zaza Pachulia will not win.
The Charlotte Bobcats: The Mavericks entered last night's season opener 12-0 all-time against the Bobcats. They ended the game 13-0 all-time.
The 'Cats are an offensively challenged team. We already knew that. So the 39 percent shooting isn't all that shocking. However, the careless ball-handling (21 turnovers) and Warriors-like defense (Dallas shot 55 percent as a team) were a bit of a boggle.
But hey, Kwame Brown (sprained left ankle) didn't play. So there you go.
The Indiana Pacers: There are a select handful of teams in this league that could put up 109 points on 53 percent shooting, score 24 points on the fast break, win the rebounding battle and still lose by double-digits.
The Pacers are one of those teams.
Of course, when you give up a whopping 32 points off 23 turnovers...
Danny Granger, quote machine: "We went stagnant on offense. We froze."
Uhm, your team scored 109 points on 53 percent shooting but gave up 122 points on 50 percent shooting. So, yeah, I don't think your offense is the problem.
The Utah Jazz: Yesterday, I read an article about how Al Jefferson is super excited to start this new era of his career with the Jazz. Well, it must have been the same kind of excitement somebody would feel before a rectal exam, because Big Al played like ass (6 points, 2-for-6, and a plus-minus score of -17) in Utah's 110-88 road loss to the Nuggets.
The Jazz were horrible, going 27-for-70 from the field (and 3-for-13 from distance), giving up 19 points off 22 turnovers and missing 12 free throws. The only area of success for the Mormon Musicians was "not slipping on banana peel and falling on head." So they had that going for them.
Deron Williams: 3-for-10 shooting, 6 assists, 4 turnovers. Remember: Deron is the self-proclaimed best point guard in the league.
George Karl, quote machine: On his next goal now that he's back on the sidelines after cancer treatment: "Try to convince Melo the place he wants to be is really Denver. He just doesn't know it yet."
Carmelo Anthony, quote machine: "Come on, George. Let me play. I'm here. Tonight, I was excited about this game. I can't control what happens out there. Whatever happens, is going to happen. The fans, they want to see basketball. They don't want drama. I don't want drama."
The Houston Rockets: After one grueling game back from injury, Yao Ming was given the night off to protect the peanut brittle out of which he was shaped and molded by Chinese scientists. But even without their "Fragile: Handle With Care" big man, the Rockets managed to earn 52 free throws and score 66 points in the paint en route to a 128-point night.
Too bad they gave up 132 points.
The Warriors -- behind a piping-hot Monta Ellis (46 points, 18-for-24) -- shot 55+ percent from the field and had 27 fast break points. And, amazingly, they won the rebounding battle 45-39.
Said Rockets coach Rick Adelman: "It was just a poor defensive effort. We scored 128 points and we lose. We have to figure out a way to shore that up."
Added Aaron Brooks: "We ran up against a good offensive team, and they shot the ball lights out. We could have played better defense but credit to them, they were feeling it. At times we broke down, but they just made shots."
The Los Angeles Clippers: Nice debut for Blake Griffin -- 20 points, 8-for-14, 14 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal -- but let's face it: The Clippers are who we thought they were.
In fact, now that Vinny Del Negro is coaching them, they're even more who we thought they were than they've ever been. If that makes any sense. Hence the double-digit home loss despite scoring 50 points in the paint and holding the Frail Blazers (who were coming off the second night of back-to-backs) to 40 percent shooting.
It didn't help that the Clips gave up 21 offensive rebounds.
Baron Davis, quote machine: "I hate that we lost."
Baron's line: 8 points, 3-for-11 from the field, 0-for-3 from downtown, 2-for-4 from the line, 3 assists, 4 turnovers. Just FYI.
Mega lacktion report: Chris reports on a night of heavy lacktion:
Celtics-Cavs: Jermaine "The Drain" O'Neal negated a field goal and a pair of boards for the C's with three turnovers and a foulout in 12:22, resulting in a 9:4 Voskuhl! Meanwhile, fellow leperchaun Von Wafer crunched a foul and giveaway on the floor in 6:57, earning a +2 suck differential.
Pistons-Nets: Stephen Graham earned a crumb's worth of playing time - 2:18 to be exact - and provided New Jersey's band of ballers with a brick for a +1.
Heat-Sixers: Joel Anthony may have had a trio of boards in a 17:37 stint as starting big man for the MIAMI THRICE, only to foul four times and lose the rock once for a 5:3 Voskuhl. However, one of the MASSIVE OFFSEASON ACQUISITIONS in South Beach...Juwan Howard!!!!...came through with a celebratory 4.1 trillion (4:05), the first monetary move this year.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia's Darius Songaila fouled once in 4:59 for a +1.
Knicks-Raptors: Timofey Mozgov took 7:26 of Mike D'Antoni's time and countered three boards with four fouls and a turnover for a 5:3 Voskuhl.
Kings-Wolves: Welcome to the Association, Hassan Whiteside! The Purple Paupers' latest big man garnered two fouls in 1:45 for a career-opening +2 that doubled as a 2:0 Voskuhl!!!!
Bucks-Hornets: Keyon Dooling doodled the suckiest statline of the young season so far, in 16:48 - two bricks (once from the French Quarter), three fouls, and a giveaway notched up a +6 suck differential! Meanwhile, DJ Mbenga buzzed into the picture tonight by negating one made free throw in 6:45 with three fouls for a 3:1 Voskuhl.
Bulls-Thunder: Kurt Thomas took himself into the lacktion report tonight by tossing out two fouls in 2:58 for a +2 and a 2:0 Voskuhl! Fellow heifer Omer Asik went a step further and wrote himself a check for 2.5 trillion (2:31)!!!!
Bobcats-Mavs: Desagana Diop dropped a portabello along the way tonight in just 3 seconds, becoming this season's first 8-bit superhero with a SUPER MARIO!
For Dallas, Brian Cardinal baked one brick in exactly 2 minutes for a +1.
Pacers-Spurs: Garrett Temple offered up a full 1.2 trillion (1:12) in honor of San Antonio's rather predictable opening night win.
Jazz-Nuggets: Kyrylo Fesenko has started this season the way he traditionally has played - adhering to a Jake Voskuhl-like gameplan with a ratio of 3:2 after negating a field goal and three assists in 11:09 with a pair of fouls and a giveaway.
Denver's Melvin Ely also earned a Voskuhl in 10:34, in this case a 6:5 ratio after fouling out in response to two boards and a made field goal. Renaldo Balkman fouled twice in 2:08 for a +2.
Rockets-Warriors: Jeff Adrien managed to not truly be lacktive after his first career board - but by leaving the hardwood and shutting down the NES after only 48 seconds, he finds himself putting on the plumber's overalls for a Mario!
Charlie Bell rang up a foul in 4:32 to give the Warriors a +1.
Frail Blazers-Clippers: Jarron Collins made three out of four free throws in 6:22, but fouled thricely and lost the rock once for a 4:3 Voskuhl.
We're only one night into the season, and I'm already yawning and feeling braindead while writing this. Good to see I'm already in midseason form! Lots of material today, let's get to it.
Brief footbawful crossover: Lovie Smith sucks. Per Mike Lombardi, "Smith is among the worst replay-challenge coaches in the NFL; since 2009, only four of his 16 challenges have been overturned." Also, Lovie's logic for his botched challenge/no challenge sequence this past Sunday is pretty much the definition of footbawful.
And one last brief thing before get to the pics and previews. Here are a couple of my favorite NBA-related Twitter posts of the day.
Bobby_BigWheel: I switched from Celtics-Heat to the season premiere of 16 and Pregnant. I wanted to see more scoring.
bruce_arthur: At a Knicks shootaround. Seeing Eddy Curry is like spotting a whale, in more ways than one.
Worst of the Night in Pictures:
I reiterate: oh, how I've missed you, Yao Ming
It may look like an awkward position for man love, but LeBron and Paul Pierce certainly seem to be enjoying it
Our first photographic evidence of _efense this season!
(nature documentary guy voice) "When threatened with competition, the rare White Basketball Player will bare his teeth to show dominance"
Nationally Televised Games:
Bulls at Thunder, ESPN, 8pm: I'm glad this game is on national TV. Kevin Durant is appointment television viewing, as you have hopefully figured out by now. And I'm excited to see the revamped roster in action for the Bulls. You can read Bawful's full game preview at By the Horns since I'm sure he knows much more about the Bulls than I do.
Trail Blazers at Clippers, ESPN, 10:30pm: The Clippers on national TV? That's so sad, it can make an adorable bunny facepalm.
See what you've done, Donald Sterling? You should be ashamed.
Celtics at Cavaliers, 7pm: The Celtics took down Cleveland's most hated man last night. Standing ovation from the Cleveland crowd, anyone? You know that's going to be the highlight of their season. Also, recommended reading: Trey Kirby from The Basketball Jones recently posted about Dan Gilbert's infamous Comic Sans letter that he does not regret.
Pistons at Nets, 7pm: You may be wondering why I didn't call them the Nyets. Well, I figured it's a new season and all, they deserve a fresh start, right? I mean, sure, they have a chance to suck again very soon, but they're going to start with a home win against the woeful Pistons, so I don't feel comfortable making fun of them until they lose.
Heat at 76ers, 7pm: Per the STATS LLC preview of this game, "The Sixers need forward Elton Brand to finally break out after two disappointing seasons since coming over from the Los Angeles Clippers." Yeah, good luck with that, Philly.
Knicks at Raptors, 7pm: Oh, Toronto. Over in hockey land, the Maple Leafs are -- beyond any reasonable explanation -- not godawful this year so far. Thankfully the Craptors are capable of carrying on the tradition of failure for what has lately been Loser City. Look, I don't want Toronto to continue to suck at basketball. I have nothing against their fans. However, I despise the Leafs, so I'll take what I can get right now. And when your team is based around Andrea Bargnani...
Bucks at Hornets, 8pm: Are we still supposed to Fear the Deer? I'm sorry, but I don't trust any Scott Skiles-coached team after the honeymoon period is over and the players start to resent him.
Kings at Timberwolves, 8pm: Oof. Ugly game. However, the constant potential for DeMarcus Cousins to lose his cool and strangle somebody makes pretty much every Purple Paupers game this year worth watching. (I look forward to him getting eight hundred technical fouls for my fantasy team this year while being a double-double machine.)
Hawks at Grizzlies, 8pm: Our first chance to see Larry Drew's new offensive scheme for the Hawks should be interesting. I don't expect much from the Hawks this year, but... "Memphis is 2-13 all-time in season openers, and has dropped nine straight since defeating Seattle to begin the 2000-01 season."
Bobcats at Mavericks, 8:30pm: Did you know Larry Brown is 70? That's almost as impressive as the Mavs winning 50+ games for 10 straight seasons, yet continually being worthless in the playoffs. Also, again citing the STATS LLC game preview, "The Bobcats, who waived Dampier and his $13 million non-guaranteed contract, still have a dynamic frontcourt with Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw." I think that sentence pretty much says it all.
Pacers at Spurs, 8:30pm: I will be the first to admit that the Spurs are getting old in a hurry (that's about the only thing they can do in a hurry at this point...). However, they just absolutely own the Pacers right now. The last time the Pacers won a game at San Antonio? January 4, 2002. That's just turrible.
Jazz at Nuggets, 9pm: An undertalented, overperforming Jazz team rocking their new old-school logo versus a sulking Melo? Awesome.
The Miami Heat: Let me start off by saying it's way, way too early to start making any kind of definitive statements about, well, pretty much anything. I mean, Mike Miller is out and Dwyane Wade played, what, three minutes during the preseason?
Still, nobody expected this pile of oozing open sores and flaming poo. The Super Friends of South Beach (a.k.a. The Nazgul) opened this exciting new era of team stacking by scoring -- waaaaiiiit for it -- nine points in the first quarter.
It seems impossible, but it's true. Despite Pat Riley colluding, er, I mean, convincing three of the league's best players to form that weird three-robot Voltron in Miami, the Heat shambled zombie-like out of the gate, shooting 11-for-41 (26.8 percent) in the first half and falling behind 41-22 with just over two minutes left in the second quarter before "closing" to within 45-30 at halftime.
Of course, last season's Celtics tended to take a little nappy nap after building huge leads, and it happened again last night. The Heat pulled to within three points late, but Boston closed them out, giving NBA fans outside of Miami a giant, throbbing erection. For the game, the Heat shot 36 percent from the field, gave up 17 points off 17 turnovers, and got outscored 38-24 in the paint.
This is the kind of shit that killed Red Auerbach. Just sayin'.
Advanced stat of the game: Miami's Offensive Rating was 90.4, which means they scored at a rate of about 90 points per 100 possessions. With three of the best players in the world. Again, I am just sayin'.
The Nazgul: Let's see. LeBron was the best of the three Ringwraiths, scoring a game-best 31 points (10-for-21 from the field, 8-for-12 from the line). However, it was like some kind of bizarre Cleveland flashback, with King Crab totally dominating the rock. (Yes, forensic investigation revealed only one set of prints on the ball.) Only instead of a triple-double, 'Bron finished with more turnovers (8) than assists and rebounds combined (7).
As for Wade -- remember everybody, this is still his team -- he went 4-for-16 from the field and finished with 13 points, matching assists (6) and rebounds (4) with turnovers (6) and fouls (4).
Last and most certainly least, the RuPaul of Big Men struggled his way to 8 points (3-for-11) and 8 boards. Oh, and according to the AP Game Notes, "Bosh is 2-12 in Boston, the most losses he's had as a visitor against any team." There are no coincidences.
Kevin Garnett: Rough final stretch for KG. While the Heat were coming back in the final minutes, Garnett was fading slowly and sadly away. He bricked a four-footer with 3:41 left. He fouled Udonis Haslem with 3:30 left (Haslem hit both freebies). He lost the rock to D-Wade with 3:11 left. He missed a 16-footer with 2:33 left. He clanged two crucial foul shots with 1:37 left. Then he committed an offensive foul (moving pick) with 1:15 left.
If the Heat had pulled this game out, they would probably would have sent KG a thank you card and a nice fruit basket.
LeBron James, excuse-making machine: "It's a feel-out process. When you have so many options, it's something I'm not accustomed to, having that many threats out on the court at the same time."
Fun fact: According to ESPN Stats and Information: "LeBron James had 31 points and 8 rebounds. Last season, James was 1 of 4 players who had at least 30 points and at least 8 turnovers in a game. The others were Kevin Durant, Monta Eliis and Kobe Bryant. Tuesday was the 7th time in his career in which he's scored at least 30 points but had at least 8 turnovers. That's tied with Allen Iverson for the most such games since LeBron's rookie season."
Huh. Kinda looks like a target doesn't it?
Dwyane Wade, rationalization machine: "This is one of 82. Sorry if everyone thought we were going to go 82-0. It just ain't happening."
Nope. It ain't.
Update! LeBron's new commercial: From Basketbawful reader Austen: "I'd throw in a Worst of the Night for Lebron's new Nike shoe commercial, where he spends what felt like at least 5 minutes whining and moaning about the public reaction to 'The Decision.' Seriously, get over yourself, and shame on you, Nike, for encouraging him."
In case by some oddity you've missed it, here's the commercial:
It's actually a pretty slick commercial, what with the clever dig at Charles Barkley via Chuck's famous "I Am Not A Role Model" commercial (also by Nike) and a great cameo by Don Johnson as Sonny Crocket. But as Austen pointed out, it's basically LeBron and Nike begging you to a) love LeBron for doing what's right for him and b) buy his new shoes.
Memo to LeBron: You had every right to do right by yourself. You chose living in Miami, playing with your friends and what seemed like the best and easiest path to a championship over busting your ass in Cleveland year after year. This is America. There are brave men and women who will fight to the death to protect your constitutional right to be as big an asshat as you want to be.
But we, as fans, also have the right to mock and ridicule you for it. Right? What should we do, LeBron? WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
Man love: This heat has nothing to do with the Miami Heat...
Ssssssss...feel the sizzle!
The Phoenix Suns: Last night, the Seven Seconds or Less Era gave way to the Small Forwards of Doom Era. Notice how one of those sounds wicked-cool and the other sounds like a tragic mistake in basketball logic?
Actually, the Suns were playing pretty well and led 81-75 after three quarters. Then they got outscored 31-11 in the fourth.
Said Steve Nash: "We ran out of gas a little offensively."
Yeah, you could say that. You could also say the Suns were careless and sloppy with the ball, giving up 21 points off 19 turnovers. Without Amar''''''e, they still managed to score 44 points in the paint, but there was no run and very little gun, as Phoenix managed a mere 6 fast break points.
Advanced stat of the game: The Blazers didn't shoot all that well (46 percent as a team), but they cleaned up on the offensive glass, grabbing 18 offensive boards for a mind-boggling Offensive Rebound Rate of 43.9 (compared to 18.9 for the Suns). No defensive rebounding...it's like Amar''''''e never left!
Steve Nash: Nash giveth...and Nash also giveth away. Captain Canada kept the Suns kinda-sorta in the mix by scoring a game-high 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds (almost matching Robin Lopez's 5 boards) and a team-high 6 dimes. Unfortunately, he bobbled the ball away 9 times. It's like he was impersonating Brett Favre or something.
Aim for their hands, Steve. Their hands.
Hedo Turkoglu: I have one word for you: Turkododo. That is all.
Memo to Turk: That's not how basketball is played.
The Houston Rockets: In my Southwest Division preview post, I said something about the Rockets being, what was it, slow as paste? Then they go out and score 17 fast break points against the Lakers in their season opener.
Man, am I good or what?
Anyway, people may want to talk about Mamba's 27 points and 7 assists, but let the record show that the defending chumps were outscored by eight points when Kobe was in the game. No, the Lakers -- who trailed by as many as 15 points and were down by 11 in the third -- had their asses saved by Shannon Brown (who went berzerk from three and scored 14 of his 16 points in a 6.5-minute stretch during the fourth) and Steve Blake (who drilled the go-ahead trey with 18.8 seconds left).
Shades of John Paxson! Or...something.
Meanwhile, the Rockets -- who were outscored 61-48 in the second half -- looked like the Keystone Cops on their final (and potentially game-tying) possession. Luis Scola missed a crappy-looking pooper-scooper with three seconds to go, and then (after a video review awarded possession back to Houston) Aaron Brook got a layup attempt spoon-fed back to him by Lamar Odom.
Said Brooks: "When I caught the ball, I didn't know exactly where I was on the floor. Then I took a dribble and realized where I was, and I tried to drive, but my leg kind of slipped."
Advanced stat of the game: L.A.'s Turnover Percentage was only 10.0, compared to 16.2 for Houston. Specifically, the Lakers gave up only 10 points off 12 turnovers, while the Rockets surrendered 20 points off 21 turnovers. Kind of a big deal in a 2-point loss.
Bonus Fun fact: From ESPN Stats and Information: "The Lakers came back from an 11-point halftime deficit, outscoring the Rockets 61-48 in the second half. It's their third straight season-opening win and their eighth win in their past nine games versus Houston. The Lakers are now 41-22 in season openers, good for an all-time best .651 win percentage."
Wow! The Lakers are just so good on opening night! Just for kicks and giggles, I decided to do a little research. Going back to the 1995-96 season, the Lakers have played 13 of the last 16 season openers at home. As always, I'm just sayin'.
Update! The Lakers' ring ceremony: From AnacondaHL: "Also, there should be a quickie WotN mention to that Lakers ring ceremony, which was so completely awkward for everyone involved. Okay, Fisher's intro of Kobe was pretty funny. And it did show us that there is a massage therapist and an equipment manager with more rings than LeBron."
Okay, I have to know: How much did Kobe pay for the blowjob Fisher gave him during that ceremony. Mein Gott, that was a GFE if I've ever seen one.
Rick Adelman, quote machine: "They're the world champs, and we knew it was going to be tough. But I thought we responded pretty well. I think [for] about seven minutes, we just didn't play the way we're capable of, and they got back in the game."
For the record, seven minutes is about 15 percent of an NBA game. That's a decent chunk of time to not play the way you're capable of. Just sayin'.
Justin Bieber: If there is any justice in this universe, this guy's obituary will one day read: "Died of natural causes during face punches." And that day will be soon.
Lacktion report: Chris and his lacktion reports are back too!
Heat-Celtics: Zydrunas Ilgauskas began a new chapter of riding King Crab's claws by negating a field goal and three boards in 10:39 with two giveaways and four fouls for a 6:4 Voskuhl!
Suns-Frail Blazers: The fabulous Fabricio Oberto forced a rebound in 3:03, but found enough time to finagle a pair of fouls and a turnover for a 3:1 Voskuhl.
Rockets-Lakers: Chuck Hayes countered an assist and block in 14:49 with three fouls for a 3:0 Voskuhl, while our first true lacktion artist of the season is the Lakers' young Derrick Caracter, who provided a caricature of a professional basketballer with a foul and brick in 2:14 for a +2 suck differential that also doubled as a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl!
Finally! Opening Night is upon us! Savor this feeling and enjoy every minute of it since it's looking awfully likely that we'll see a lockout next year. Damnit. Hmmph... Guess I'll just have to watch football instead next year -- oh, wait...
The start of a new season naturally means new uniforms. And this year we even get treated to a completely new jersey style -- 27 teams are now wearing jerseys constructed from "engineered mesh," and uniform numbers are now made from a mesh fabric. Naturally, teams have made some alterations to their uniform designs, logos, and so forth. To get caught up on all the uniform changes this season, check out Paul Lukas' Uni Watch column. Highlights include the Cavaliers new super-boring uniforms, the Jazz have brought back the music-note, the Magic have a new alternate jersey, the Mavericks have changed the color of their road unis, the Warriors have badass new jerseys, and the Timberwolves have removed all the green from their uniforms. (To quote Lukas, "what's the point of depicting a tree line if you can't tell they're trees?")
Surprise, surprise. The Knicks may have broken NBA draft rules by conducting secret workouts of collegiate players for the past several years. What does it say about your organization if you can cheat and still suck?
Oh, and here's a completely random link that will ruin your shit for the rest of the day: The 10 weirdest physics facts, from relativity to quantum physics. Strangely enough, there is no mention of Tracy McGrady's legs being tired without having done any work to make them tired. I suppose that is one question that science still cannot even begin to comprehend.
Nationally Televised Games: Heat at Celtics, TNT, 8pm: What's that? It's only the first night of the season, yet you're already tired of hearing about King Crab's move to the Heat (like these guys)? Well, TNT, ESPN, and the rest of the national media have this to say:
What's truly sad is that I will still be interested in actually watching the Heat play this year, no matter how tired I get of hearing about them. Seeing Wade and LeBron work together will be entertaining, but I'm also just dying to see 37 year old Juwan Howard and 35 year old Zydrunas Ilgauskas protecting the paint.
Oh, and Mike Miller has a broken thumb. The Heat are doomed! Doooooooooooooomed!
Meanwhile, to nobody's surprise, the Celtics are planning to start Shaq at center against the Heat. Considering Jermaine O'Neal will probably pull a muscle and suffer a stress fracture drinking Gatorade on the sidelines, this move somehow makes sense. Then again, we'll just have to watch an ugly offensive effort as Shaq's glacial movements and gargantuan body clog the paint for Rajon Rondo. (Or, according to Chris, "more like clog his own arteries." Touché.)
Rockets at Lakers, TNT, 10:30pm: Thanks to Auto Draft, I have Kevin Martin on my fantasy team. Uggghh. I'm sure that will somehow bite me. Meanwhile, the Rockets should theoretically be on a bounce-back year after missing the playoffs last season. Yao Ming is finally kinda-sorta healthy again, and he will be playing limited minutes to help keep his feet from crumbling like a sandcastle in high tide. Of course it's pretty much a given that he'll still get hurt anyway, but one can dream, right? If nothing else, Rockets fans can play NBA 2K11 and watch in delight as Virtual Yao jumps for a rebound and has his head three feet above the rim. (Realism!)
The Lakers, on the other hand, are coming off their most recent championship. However, Adam Morrison is no longer with the team. This surely must mean their reign of championships is over. You HAVE to have somebody that can slap high fives on the sidelines while looking extraordinarily goofy, and other than Scalabrine, nobody does it as well as Morrison in today's NBA.
All The Other Games: Suns at Trail Blazers, 10:00pm: Well, Amar''''e Stoudemire is finally gone. Suns fans such as AnacondaHL and myself hoped they'd finally acquire someone who has the desire to crash the boards and snag a few rebounds. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Like a soccer mom buying in bulk (because you can never have too much ketchup even if you don't have a main course to put it on, apparently), the Suns have loaded up on small forwards instead of getting a solid big man. Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress, and Hedo Turkoglu? Come on! Did they have a "buy two, get one free" special or something? (Also, Turkoglu Turkododo is likewise on my fantasy team. Here's to hoping Steve Nash continues to be a miracle worker.) Meanwhile, coach Alvin Gentry says the Suns will continue to base their offense around the pick-and-roll, even though they don't really have a solid big man to get points in the pant. Expect lots of bricked long range jump shots coming off the screen. Hurray!
Fun fact of the day: Brandon Roy scored a career high 52 points at the Rose Garden back in December 2008 against the Phoenix Suns.
Last season, the Mavs won 55 games, which was the second-best mark in the Bestern Conference and fourth-best in the league (behind the Cavaliers, Lakers and Magic). Then they lost in the first round of the playoffs for the third time in the last four years. Sure, it was a six-game defeat by San Antonio, but the Spurs were swept clean in the second round. So I'm not sure that speaks very highly of how good the 2009-10 Mavs actually were.
And check it: Despite being a top team in terms of wins and losses, the Mavericks ranked only 8th in Point Differential, 10th in Offensive Efficiency and 12 in Defensive Efficiency. I say "only" because those are decent rankings. But "decent" and "championship-caliber" are two very different things.
And these Mavs are not contenders. I mean, what's changed?
Mark Cuban re-signed Dirk Nowitzki (four years, $80 million) and Brendan Haywood (six years, $55 million), and he traded Erick Dampier's expiring contract (plus Eduardo Najera and Matt Carroll) for Tyson Chandler's expiring deal (and Alexis Ajinca). Lesser (read that, meaningless) deals included drafting Dominque Jones and signing Ian Mahinmi to a one-year contract.
Other than that, all the Mavericks did was get older. The age of the team's top six players ranges between 30 (Caron Butler) to 37 (Jason Kidd). Dirk Nowitzki is still churning out points at a fairly efficient rate, but the rest of the crew seems to be in slow decline.
Why should we expect this squad to get any better?
Okay, there is a wee smidge of hope. Between Butler, Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson, Cuban has $27 million in expiring contracts. And you know what that means: Mid-season trade! Dallas could almost certainly pick up one or two key players with that kind of money. But unless it's a high-caliber All-Star or Superstar-level player -- which seems doubtful -- I don't see the Mavs leaping from also-ran to major player.
This team has finished with at least 50 wins for 10 straight years, and they'll either reach that mark or come close again this year. But another first round exit -- or, if they get a favorable matchup in round one, an elimination in the conference semis -- is about as optimistic an appraisal as I can muster for these guys.
Which means more Mark Cuban facepalms!
This never gets old. Never.
The Houston Rockets
During the 2009-10 campaign, the Rockets were the little engine that almost could. Despite losing Yao Ming to injury and Tracy McGrady to fail, Houston managed to win 42 games with a bunch of gritty role players giving their best. It was a true underdog story. [Insert uplifting music here -- maybe Queen's "We Are The Champions" -- and feel free to shed a single, dramatic tear.]
Unfortunately for the Rockets, they weren't in a movie. So instead of the happy ending where a group of scrappy misfits bust the odds to defeat a group of vastly superior athletes, the team got an early vacation.
So how did the Rockets improve over the summer? They locked up Luis Scola for five years (overpaying him with a $47 million contract), drafted Scola's backup (Patrick Patterson), overpaid ($24 million!) for backup point guard Kyle Lowry, overspent on Brad Miller ($15 million!) for Yao insurance, and traded Trevor Ariza for Courtney Lee.
Other than the Ariza trade, those moves don't look all that great on paper do they? Or a computer screen. Or an Etch-A-Sketch. But I keep hearing about what a crazy-mad genius Daryl Morey, so I'm sure these were championship moves. Now please wait a moment while I mop up all this dripping sarcasm.
Still, if Yao can stay healthy for once, the Rockets have two legit inside threats (Ming and Scola), a great young point guard (Aaron Brooks), a crack perimeter player (Kevin Martin), and a group of solid role players/shooters (Lee, Shane Battier, Chase Buddinger, etc.). The Rockets have talent. They definitely have talent.
What they also have is a franchise player who's body is made of broken glass covered in soggy marshmallow and tissue paper. Meanwhile, their second best player (Martin) is more of a crispy papier-mâché, having missed 88 games over the past three seasons. Oh, and two speedsters (Brooks and Lowry) surrounded by a bunch of guys who have the quickness of a thick paste (Battier, Ming, Miller, Scola, Chuck Hayes, Pat Patterson). It's kind of hard to fast break when most of your team takes 10 seconds or more to cross halfcourt.
Doesn't another Yao injury, 40-45 wins and a brave but ultimately futile playoff chase sound about right? Yeah, it sounds right to me, too.
The Memphis Grizzlies
The general consensus among NBA fans is that the Grizzlies had what was, for them, a wildly successful season last year.
Reality check: That success equated to a 17th place finish in Offensive Efficiency, a 24th place finish in Defensive Efficiency, 40 wins, and yet another year of watching the playoffs from the lavish comfort of their own homes while covered in Victoria's Secret models and hundred dollar bills. Or maybe fifty dollar bills.
When the 2009-10 season was about to open, some Basketbawful readers suggested an "Assist Watch" for the Grizzlies, who opened the year with Allen Iverson, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph on the roster...notorious ball stoppers one and all. Sure, Memphis sent Iverson packing when he started ranting about minutes -- which happened after the first game, mind you -- but that still left the Griz with a "Big Three" who live by the motto "I will go down shooting. And then shoot from my grave."
The result: According to ESPN's John Hollinger, the Grizzlies had the lowest percentage of assisted field goals last season. And according to Basketball-Reference.com, Memphis finished with only three more total assists than the 12-win New Jersey Nets.
Shock. Awe. More shock.
For all their "success," the Care Bares were a shot-happy, defenseless bunch who probably would have won only 30-35 games if they hadn't led the league in offensive rebound percentage (KBAs, baby!).
Don't worry. It gets worse.
During the offseason, owner Michael Heisley made a series of mystifying moves, like way overpaying ($81.6 million!) for Rudy gay, letting Ronnie Brewer walk (after having acquired him from Utah for a first round pick), immediately insulting two smart draft picks (Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez) by offering them 20 percent less than the maximum specified by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and then selling the 25th overall pick in the 2010 draft to the Dallas Mavericks.
Oh, and he signed Acie "One and a half feet in the NBA grave" Law.
The Grizzlies have a beastly frontcourt in Randolph and Marc "Why am I still so underrated anyway?" Gasol, a couple streaky perimeter players in Gay and Mayo, and...Mike Conley at point guard. Ugh.
Adding Henry, Vasques and Tony Allen will improve the team's depth, but I wouldn't trust this bunch any more than I would trust Eddy Curry to guard my ham sandwich. This team won't make the playoffs. Heck, they probably won't win 40 games again. Maybe ever.
Chris Paul is begging, crying, and even screaming for some help. And if the Hornets don't give it to him, he's probably going to leave.
Well, no worries, Chris: Help is on the way!
Here you go: Trevor Ariza, Marco Belinelli, Craig Brackins, Quincy Pondexter, Mustafa Shakur, Jason Smith, Jerryd Bayless! And Aaron Gray!!
Oh dear God. CP3 is so gone.
I mean, the starting five -- Paul, Ariza, David West, Emeka Okafor and Marcus Thornton -- is solid (if not spectacular) enough. But there's no depth. None. The New Orleans bench is like one of those old NBA Live games where the reserves were just a bunch of faceless guys who cheered and clapped in an endless loop. Even if everybody stays healthy and Chris Paul plays like a miniature Godzilla pumped up on Super Soldier serum, this team's ceiling is, what, 40-45 games? Unless coach Monty Williams turns off fatigue so the starters can play 48 minutes a night...oh wait, this isn't NBA Live.
The only winner here is going to be the Knicks when they trade for Paul at the deadline. Just kidding. But not really.
The San Antonio Spurs
Look, can we just agree that the window has closed?
Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. A lot of Spurs backers are pointing at the Tiago Splitter signing and using that as proof that there's still a glimmer of hope. Maybe even more than a glimmer.
I said it before and I'll say it again:
Look, I'm not trying to get lazy with my analysis here. But the Spurs aren't contenders for one key reason: Tim Duncan is in decline. It's hard to tell. I mean, he's played at least 75 games in each of the last five seasons (including 78 last year). His PER has been standing pat at 24+ for the past four seasons, including a fifth-place mark of 24.7 last year (which is only three-tenths of a point off his career PER of 25.0). And he's still in the top 10 in categories like Rebound Percentage, Defensive Rating and Win Shares.
See, that's how freaking amazing Tim Duncan is: Even in decline, he's awesome.
But he's not what he was. He's not. If you have an HD television, you can practically watch his knees creak. And even though he's still amazingly efficient and as smart as ever, he doesn't dominate the way he used to. He doesn't own games like in the old days. And when he has bad nights -- often against the better teams -- they're stinkers. Take his 5-point, 1-for-10 performance in a 110-84 loss in Orlando. Or his 6-point, 2-for-11 outing in a 92-83 home loss to the Lakers. Or even his 4-for-23 brickfest at Indiana.
Everybody has bad nights. And Duncan still has more good nights than bad ones. For instance, he had a 27-rebound game in a win over the Hawks and grabbed another 26 rebounds in that Indy game. But you can't automatically pencil TD in for total domination anymore. Which is a problem, because he's the foundation of San Antonio's offense and defense.
The Celtics can get away with Kevin Garnett's semi-gimpy knees because he anchors their defense but is only a happy addition on offense. Duncan is responsible for everything. Sure, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (assuming their health holds out) take pressure off on the offensive end. But the O begins with Duncan and the D ends with him.
Unfortunately, Duncan is 34 years old and his NBA odometer reads 977 regular season games and 35,577 game played, plus another 170 playoff games and 6,740 minutes played. Timmy has spent the last decade-plus carrying the Spurs on his back -- and make no mistake, Duncan (not Kobe, LeBron, or Shaq) was the best player of the 2000s -- and I just don't think he has it in him to keep doing it and win a championship.
Hey readers. AnacondaHL here, standing in to bring you the Pacific division preview. Let's get this started.
The Golden State Warriors
The Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Lakers
Crappier than people will expect.
The Phoenix Suns
Less crappy than people will expect, but nevertheless, crap.
The Sacramento Kings
Crap up in this bitch.
...ugh, fine, I'll do this properly.
Let's try this a different way. The NBA preseason has come to a close, and without going into a discussion about how well preseason success correlates to regular season records, (oblig link 1, oblig link 2), let's take a look at how the Pacific did:
Good Lordy. To help me get through this, aside from the multiple Pacificos, I'll be posting Basketball Prospectus' SHOENE projection for each team next to my projection and their standing in the West. Also, don't ask me for the rest of the projections, go spend your $10 on this fantastic read that's well worth it.
The Golden State Warriors
So, due to alphabetic obligations, we unfortunately start with the team with the most questionable SHOENE outlook. Is there a factor in the equation that accounts for an awesome switch back to throwback uniforms?
Well if anything there's some consideration to the coach. With the loss of The winningest coach in NBA history, you'd think the Warriors would be set to repeat or worse their 26-56 2009-10 record. Of course everyone knows that I'm joking, and that Don Nelson leaving is addition via subtraction, and Keith Smart has a chance to prove himself, beyond wacky games with limited rosters.
Throw in the growth of Stephen Curry as a star, and the acquisition of David Lee, the pickup of hard worker Sweet Lou, the room for Reggie Williams and Andris Biedrins to develop (and to hopefully improve his 16.0% FT%), and Monta Ellis ready to chuck it up, and the Warriors could be a surprise team in the West playoffs. And did I mention their pickup of Jeremy Lin? He's Asian! And American! And went to Harvard! Best PR use of an Asian player on an NBA basketball team since not Yi.
Still, I just don't see this squad nearly doubling their win total. David Lee's sieve defense is notorious in the Big Apple, and yet he fits right into their "get the steal or bust" methods. If anything, they've solidified their worst-in-the-league 112.4 points surrendered per game, and may give Toronto a run for their money at worst defensive rating next season.
I'm still jealous of their uniforms though.
SHOENE says: 49-33 (4) AHL says: 40-42 (12)
The Los Angeles Clippers
Another year looking strong on paper, another year of disappointment. Don't get hyped up on this team as always, they are fighting to stay out of the bottom of the entire West.
In addition, Eric Gordon's coming off a solid tournament with Team USA. Kaman is Kaman, good for solid numbers. Ryan Gomes was brought in as their utility man. And Baron Davis looks to continue his obligations to this team, while mentoring Eric Bledsoe in the ways of the beard.
And now the bad news, which we all see coming a mile away. Yes, they are the Clippers. Meaning inevitable suck, notable due to inevitable injury. Poor Blake throws himself around the court with reckless disregard, Eric Gordon already seems banged up with a sprained ankle, Baron Davis is Baron Davis (averaging ~63GP per season the past 8 seasons), and Kaman is Kaman (also ~63 GP/season his past 6). That leaves poor Ryan Gomes to hold down the fort with Rasual Butler, Randy Foye, Craig Smith, and DeAndre Jordan. Yea.
Also, Donald Sterling. Still around. Yea. 'Nuff's been said about that.
SHOENE says: 27-55 (15) AHL says: 24-58 (15)
The Los Angeles Lakers
Our World Champion 5th ringers seem like the team to beat. They dumped Morrison while keeping their championship core, adding PG Steve Blake, SF Matt Barnes, and C Theo Ratliff. They even held onto Mr. Sasha Maria Sharapova.
So why the crappy outlook?
To put it simply: age. Projected team weighted age sits at 30.8, 3rd oldest in the league. Bynum's question marks. Kobe's finger. Artest's crazy. Everything's going downhill with this team. Going from 65 wins in 2008, to an astonishing 57 wins last season thanks to a truckload of Kobe game winners, to what this season?
Well of course the Suns fan in me can't help to expect the best out of the Lakers, and I'd love to chase them out of the postseason in Golden State over Dallas fashion. Additionally, I can see the Lakers doing something amazing for PJax before finally blowing it up. Finally, Kobe seems hungrier than ever for number 6.
But honestly they're going to have to rely on Pau much more (not necessarily a bad thing), and are really one Gasol injury away from dropping to the bottom seeds, hence BP's low outlook on their season. I'm just saying, don't be surprised if they aren't even 2nd seed come April, even in this pathetic division.
SHOENE says: 46-36 (8) AHL says: 55-27 (1)
The Phoenix Suns
All we needed was to replace Amar''''''e with a solid rebounder who could block some shots and maybe finish at the basket.
Instead we end up with an Atlanta-esque team of SFs. A team of 7 6th men when we needed 3rd-9th.
How did this go so wrong so fast? Was Steve Kerr actually responsible for good decisions, covering for the crapfest Sarver serves? I mean I knew he was bad, but how do you NOT know how to pull off a sign and trade for an actual asset like David Lee, instead of a trade exception I'm sure you're too stupid to know how to use as well?
Anyways, I still think surprising chemistry prevails in this case, as these guys genuinely seem to like each other. Throw in another age defying season by Nash, and the Phoenix medical staff reviving the corpse of Hedo (not to mention Jason Richardson's $14.4 million contract year), and these guys will likely not end up with records as bad as projected. As much as I'd love to see these guys get 50, it seems the West this year will be logjammed at 49-45 wins.
"There's no question [I get back to being an elite player]. There is no question. Yes, because my body feels good. I'm in great shape. I'm in better shape than I've been in for the last three years. I'm a lot leaner. I'm telling you, a lot of people are going to be shocked. That's all I've got to say."
Since then? Eight preseason minutes. But I'm sure it's all just precautionary. Kind of like how you have to cover fragile things in layer after layer of bubblewrap before you can mail them anywhere. Because otherwise they'll break. Easily.