A couple of off days in a row for the Lakers allow me to look around the league and truly take in the entire association. And with the NBA finally back, a few musings from one happy basketball fan…
*The first few days have provided some fantastic performances with some eye popping numbers from players around the league. Monta Ellis scored 46 points on 24 shots in his 40 minutes of game action to help dispatch the Rockets, essentially carrying over his hot shooting from his last preseason game against the Lakers. Meanwhile, the ageless Jason Kidd tallied 18 assists with only 1(!) turnover to go along with his 12 points to lead the Mavs in their opening night win. Joakim Noah, a player I’ve been high on for some time, had a monster opening night outing – albeit in a losing effort - by scoring 18 points and grabbing 19 rebounds (7 offensive) to go along with 2 each of assists, steals, and blocks. And then Chris Paul had 17 points and 16 assists (only 1 turnover) in his return to action after an injury plagued 2010 campaign.
*But it wasn’t just the veterans that have been playing well to start the season. DeMarcus Cousins opened his NBA career with 14 and 8. Wesley Johnson shot well in his debut. Derek Favors played well last night too, and tonight we get to see John Wall try to fullfill his promise as an elite PG. But, I can’t talk about rookies without mentioning the guy that resides in the other locker-room in Staples. BLAKE GRIFFIN!!! Sorry, got a little excited there, but even though it’s only one game, I don’t see how basketball fans couldn’t be excited about this kid. His all-around skill set is stronger than many remembered from his college days and his athleticism is beyond anyone we’ve seen since a pre-injury Amar’e or a young Shawn Kemp. As for the Laker rooks, Ebanks and Caracter haven’t had the types of starts that really deserve mention, but I think that will change soon enough. With match ups against the Suns and Warriors in the next couple of games, both players should be in the mix for minutes as Ebanks can match up against the many wings that both Pacific Division foes will dispatch and Caracter’s post game can be one ingredient to pound undersized teams when one (or both) of Pau and Odom are on the bench.
*The Heat are going to be a big story all year. The stars they have and the media machine ensure that. So far they’re 1-1 with a win over Philly last night and a loss to Boston in their season opener. Many have jumped to conclusions about the loss to Boston, but I’m not one of them. The Heat undoubtedly have enormous talent. But talent takes time to mold and jell. Wade’s injury during the preseason didn’t help matters, but to think that this team – a team with only a handful of players returning from last year – would have a strong chemistry or could put it together on the fly were ignoring what the past has taught us about team building. I don’t care how talented players are, it takes time to come together. It’s one thing if you’re adding one great player (like the Lakers did with Gasol three seasons ago), but the Heat have added James and Bosh to a team with Wade and working that out will take time. This is why I thought reaching 70 wins was nearly impossible for this team. (That, and travel concerns. As Phil has said many times before, teams traveling from the coasts have a rougher road when trying to win that many games. And Phil would know such things. Since, you know, he’s the last guy to actually accomplish the feat.) Ultimately the Heat will find their way…they’ll have to find it amidst a shower of boos and every team’s best effort each night, but they’ll find it.
*We all saw the Lakers championship rings. They are magnificent and gaudy all at the same time. People like us could never dream of actually having one. Except, you know, Ron Artest is raffling his off so now we all have a chance to own one. If you want to participate in the raffle, you can go here or here for the info.. Also, I agree with commenter busterjonez (who is on his way to buy tickets as I write this) when he said, “If I win, I am going to give the ring back to RonRon. I don’t care if he raffles it off again, but he earned that thing.” Hear, hear.
*We’ll have more on the Lakers tomorrow, what with them facing off against the Suns, but I really can’t get enough of the action that’s going on all over the league. Which reminds me, if you want to catch all the NBA games, NBA League Pass is free through next Tuesday.