NBA 

What did we Learn? 10 thoughts from the NBA’s Opening Night

The NBA season is back in action and can be difficult to keep up with. The waiting, suffering and tests of patience are finally over with. There is no more dealing with the grueling, slow, yet, knee-jerk pace of the NFL season. No more dealing with narratives week to week about which quarterback throws the most accurate passes or discussions about why the read-option will never work.

No. No more, my friends. Now, the discussion shifts to who takes home to Lombardy trophy in June. Who wins the Most Valuable Player trophy? What player will break out on the scene to become the next dominant player in the NBA?

Well, that all began last night. The shackles are removed and the basketball has dropped. In case you missed it, we have you covered here.

We saw two real contenders face off against each other, the return to the court of a legend in full-force, a legendary season-opening performance from the next great player in the NBA and some other minor notes here and there.

With that being said, here are my overreactions thoughts on opening night from the NBA season

1. Anthony Davis has next in this league and it’s very clear.

ESPN heralded Davis as the third best player in the association in their ranking of the top 500 players in the league. When I initially saw the ranking, I vehemently disagreed with it and I still do. It is far too early to call Davis the third best player in the league when Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Chris Paul are still dribbling basketballs.

However, Davis’ play against the Orlando Magic showed exactly why he is touted so highly at such a young age with very little accomplishment on the NBA scene. Davis put up 26 points on 22 shots, 17 rebounds and nine blocks in a 101-84 win over the Orlando Magic. Davis had a defensive rating of 82.5 and rebounded 19.3% of the available rebounds on the court. The Magic guards kept driving into the lane and trying to put shots up over Davis, but found no pathway through his massive wingspan.

If he wanted to, Davis could’ve had a 20-20-10 game against the Magic, but did not put in the effort required against a team already dismantled by the Pelicans. Davis is clearly the next best player in this league. The only question now is how long do we have before he completely takes over. Is it two years from now? Next year? A few months? A few weeks? Tomorrow? We’ll find out soon enough.

2. The San Antonio Spurs are still Spurrin’.

They’re still really good offensively. Defensively, they looked rusty. But that is common on opening night, after all. They still managed to put up points in a well balanced effort. The Spurs managed to have five different guys in double figures and went nine deep into their rotation on opening night.

The Spurs scored 101 points overall in a 101-100 win over their rival Dallas Mavericks. This game shows us the focus never left for the Spurs and they definitely are going to have a chance to repeat this season. Their offense still moves as crisply as ever and they managed to outscore one of the best offensive teams on paper in the Dallas Mavericks.

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 43 points on 28 shots and Parker hit every single one of the four three pointers he took from the field. The Spurs look like they never left the NBA Finals. The ball moves from side to side as crisply as ever. The Spurs had an offensive rating of 113.4 on the night. For opening night when rust is normally prevalent, that is a pretty impressive mark.

They allowed 114.5 points per 100 on the night even in a win, but the defense will come as they matriculate through the season and Kawhi Leonard makes his return to the floor. The Spurs are still legitimate and will be the same contending team we have become used to over the last 15 years.

3. The Dallas Mavericks could have the best offense in the league.

Speaking of the Dallas Mavericks, they weren’t as sharp offensively but still managed to put up a 114.5 offensive rating against the Spurs–one of the best defensive teams in the league last season. The Mavs did a lot of work in transition after forcing 21 turnovers and scoring 22 points off of them.

They used a smart double-team scheme where a help defender would be sent from different areas of the floor when the ball went down low on Spurs’ possessions. The entire team helped on drives and took strong swipes at the ball to force difficult shots. It was a solid defensive strategy for a team without many defensive players on the roster.

But to hell with defense, because teams are going to have to give everything they have to outscore this Mavericks team. Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki had good nights shooting from the floor and the team shot 48% overall. Devin Harris came in and scored 17 points off the bench and will serve as one of the many spark providers for the Mavericks throughout the season.

But here is the scary part: Chandler Parsons only shot 2-10 from the floor and scored just five points in the game. Once Parsons finds his groove and solidifies a role in Carlisle’s offense, watch out.

4. No Love lost between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.

In the fourth quarter of the Lakers-Rockets game with about seven minutes to go in the game, Dwight Howard picked up his fifth foul on the night after elbowing Bryant in the face. There did not seem to be any malicious intent by Howard and he just tried to create space after grabbing a rebound. Bryant crowded him, as a good defender would, in an effort to force a turnover.

Then, after the foul was called, Bryant got into Howard’s face, the two exchanged words, Kobe told Howard to “try him” and then this happened.

Then this happened. And then the Lakers proceeded to lose. It is always cool to see a bit of fire in players today. Especially now with most of the players having relationships with one another because they all play on intersecting AAU circuits. But with the reports of Bryant chasing Howard away and allegedly sabotaging the Lakers’ free agent efforts, you knew something like this would happen at some point this season.

Who knew it would be the first game, though?

5. The Lakers just aren’t very good and Julius Randle’s injury hurts

The Lakers stood no chance against the Rockets last night, losing the game 108-90. They only shot 35% from the field and their lone highlight of the night was Bryant getting in Howard’s face. The Rockets sat James Harden for the entirety of the fourth quarter and he still managed to score 32 points on 17 shots.

They ended up losing Julius Randle for a long time, which hurts both in the short term and the long term. They already lost Steve Nash for the season and to lose another key piece like this gives them virtually no chance to compete in a strong western conference. Kobe’s drive alone is not going to put them in the playoffs, and as the season goes along they will realize that. Randle’s injury stunts his growth as a player and makes it difficult to gauge how he will pan out or be used in the future by the organization.

His new focus will now be rehabbing and trying to get back on the floor as soon as possible. By the way, that probably will not be anytime this season. It would be wise to just let Randle sit the year out and come back strong next season. This year looks like a wasted one and it is probably best to handle Randle in the most cautious manner possible to ensure him a bright future in the league. Sorry, Lakers’ fans. It looks like it is time to start building assets again and looking forward to next season.

6. Trevor Ariza is a three point shooter.

ATHREEEZA! Trevor Ariza hit 5-8 three pointers last night and showed everyone on a national scale that he can actually shoot without John Wall hitting him in the corner for open threes. Long live lord ATHREEEEZA! (cc: Conor Dirks)

7. Anthony Davis and Omer Asik make a great combo.

These two are going to give coaches nightmares. They are going to be so difficult to scheme around defensively for the opposition. Asik allows Davis so much more room for error and gambles defensively. Just take a look at this play here.

Davis is able to gamble on the perimeter because he knows he has Asik at his back protecting the rim. That gives Davis a lot of authority to roam the perimeter and play free safety as an athletic, seven foot power forward with an immense wingspan. Teams just aren’t going to score very much on the inside when these two take the floor together.

8. Kobe Bryant looks decent.

Bryant had 19 poitns on 17 shots against the Houston Rockets. He did not do anything spectacular aside from one sweet dish inside through the defense to one of his big men.

The basketball skill is still there, even if the explosive plays aren’t. He still knows when and where to attack defenses, and that is going to be essential for him as he tries to recover and get used to his new limitations. I believe he can still be a top 20-25 scorer in the league.

Will he do it efficiently? I’m not so sure about that. But we’ll see about that this season, because he clearly has the authority at take any shot he sees fit at this point.

9. Rick Carlisle isn’t perfect.

On the Mavericks’ final possession in their game against the Spurs, they nearly turned the ball over three times trying to gather up a rebound and get the ball across the timeline. Danny Green and Tim Duncan had opportunities to snatch an offensive rebound after a poor box-out by the Mavericks.Then Tony Parker had a chance to steal the ball on a pass up the floor from Monte Ellis with about 22 seconds left on the clock and a one point lead.

The Mavericks could not call their final timeout at this point because Ellis had to dribble the ball to prevent it from being turned over after an arid pass from Parsons. Had they used the timeout then, the ball would be taken out in the backcourt instead of in the front court on the sideline.

There were about 21 ticks on the clock left once the ball crossed the timeline. Devin Harris had the ball and in his hands, and only he and Dirk Nowitzki were on the offensive side of the floor for the Mavericks. There were three Spurs already back on defense and very well positioned. Carlisle should have used his final timeout here. Instead, he let things play out.

Plenty of coaches around the league do this–especially when the team is a savvy, veteran group like the Dallas Mavericks. However, Carlisle is one of the best after-timeout coaches the league has to offer. He has plays drawn up for this scenario, and they probably get a much cleaner look at the basket should he call this timeout.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and it is hard to penalize a coach like Carlisle with such a solid resume for something as small as this. But in a one point game on opening night against the NBA champs and one of the Mavericks biggest rivals, some better clock management would have been nice to see.

10. You will get no sleep on the east coast.

If you stayed up to watch the Rockets dismantle the Mavericks and Kobe Bryant pick on Dwight Howard, you were probably up until about 1:40 a.m. That is rough for your average person who gets up early in the morning and goes to work.

Sleep is essential for your being and your sanity. So I hope you take a nice nap after reading this–just make sure you don’t fall asleep while reading.

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