Yao Ming looked rusty — which makes sense after 15 months away from the game at this level. He rushed shots and missed things that by Thanksgiving will fall. Luis Scola scored 18 but took 18 shots to do it, including going 2-for-7 on midrange jumpers he can hit. He didn’t look like the player from the World Championships, he seemed bothered by the long arms of the Lakers front line (even without Andrew Bynum they can do that to people).
It’s going to be like that for a while — the Rockets may have two of the better international big men in the game, but it is the guards — Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin — that will carry this team for a while. Maybe a long while.
“It’s going to be Aaron and Kevin,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said after the game Tuesday night. “With those two guys on the floor we did some really good things.”
Brooks and Martin combined for 50 points and hit 7 of 12 from three. Brooks, as he often does against Derek Fisher, seemed to find his way into the paint at will (Steve Blake did slightly better on Brooks, which is the main reason he was in at the end of the game, and it paid off on the last play for L.A.)
When things went wrong for Houston on the Lakers 21-4 run in the third, it came back to the guards as well — the Lakers were bombing threes and the Rockets did not answer.
“Our offense got a little bit stagnant, a little bit on my part,” Brooks said. “We need to run a little offensive sets, a little more pick-and-roll.”
The Lakers are a tough way to open the season, but they are also the measuring stick. There were moments where you saw flashes of this team being able to count more on Yao and the guards being able to have more space because of him. But just flashes. It will take time.
Until then, the Rockets are all about the guards.
Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.
Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.
Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.
“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”
The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.
Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.
LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.
Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?
Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.
LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.
To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.
It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.
With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.
There were a couple of good ones, however.
Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.
One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.
The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.
Bob Kravitz of WTHR
In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”
Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.
The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.
I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.