One of the most unexpected moments of All-Star Weekend came during Saturday’s HORSE contest. Rajon Rondo, a 59% free throw shooter with an infamously iffy jumper, was definitely a surprise choice to compete in a shooting contest. Even more surprising than Rondo’s inclusion was how well he did. Rondo held his own with dead-eye shooter Kevin Durant throughout the contest, matching him three for three at the end of the contest.
The NBA league office hates tanking — the action, the word, the mere suggestion of it.
But there is going to be some serious tanking in the NBA this season, and anybody who watched the Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson game Tuesday (also known as the G-league Ignite vs. Metropolitans 92 from France) knows exactly why.
What. A. Show.
Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, showed why he is a true 7’4″ unicorn who can do seemingly anything. He finished the game with 37 points, hitting 7-of-11 from 3, with five blocks, showed off some handles and even brought the ball up court a couple of times.
Victor Wembanyama is a 🦄
— NBA (@NBA) October 5, 2022
This play sums him up well: at 7’4″ Wembanyama is the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, looks smooth, and when the defender goes under the pick casually drains a 3.
no. but seriously. what in the entire hell is Victor Wembanyama pic.twitter.com/0kflukjwz5
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 5, 2022
Scoot Henderson, expected to go No.2 in the next draft, flashed his explosive athleticism to the tune of 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.
Scoot Henderson has BIG TIME GAME!
⚡️ 28 PTS | 5 REB | 9 AST pic.twitter.com/UZ0RiMznWs
— NBA (@NBA) October 5, 2022
Ja Morant was impressed.
these young bulls the goods .. they going at it early lol
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) October 5, 2022
There was a lot for fans, scouts, and GMs to be impressed with.
For all his shooting an offensive game, Wembanyama was just as impressive on defense. His length and mobility forces players to change their driving angles to the rim. He also showed a fearlessness in going after the big block.
WEMBANYAMA BLOCKED SCOOT AT THE RIM 🚫 pic.twitter.com/6ZCViEpoNT
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 5, 2022
Henderson showed high-level athleticism and an ability to get to the rim at will, but he also set up teammates and an improving shot. Henderson is a dynamic athlete and a season playing against the men of the G League is only going to sharpen his skills.
Henderson made his case Tuesday to be the No.1 pick — scouts say he has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone point guard, a top-10 player in the league, and he looked it in this game. He showed no fear, even going at Wembanyama a few times.
However, Wembanyama will go No.1 because he just breaks the mold, there is nobody like him. Anywhere. He looks like a generational talent, even if there is some work to do to realize it. Wembanyama started to show that Tuesday night.
These two teams face off again on Thursday night in Henderson, Nevada.
The Brooklyn Nets are trying to move on from a turbulent, awkward summer where their two best players tried to get traded — one throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum — and they are tired of talking about it.
“That was the summer. Nobody cares about it now. We’re all here, and we’re going to make it work. We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go. That’s what we’re focusing on.”
No doubt that is the mantra in the locker room, and it’s easy to do during the carefree, optimistic days of training camp or even the first preseason games. The players believe they have moved on.
The real question about these Nets is what happens when adversity hits? And it will hit, it does every team. How will Ben Simmons handle the stress? Irving? Can coach Steve Nash keep the Nets all on task, or will the finger-pointing start, and will the locker room get split?
Those questions are why everyone is finding it hard to predict these Nets — they could win a ring, they could have Durant demanding a trade again by Christmas. Most likely they land in the middle somewhere, but every possibility is on the table.
Speaking of teams being broken up, Scotto also asked about O’Neal’s former team, the Utah Jazz, and Danny Ainge’s decision to trade Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer. Ainge said “this team didn’t believe in each other,” but that’s not how O’Neal saw it. He was surprised the team was blown up.
“I was definitely shocked. I had been there for five years. The team we had for a couple of years fell short. I thought we were going to build on it. Things happened, so keep it moving.”
The question is will the Nets keep moving when things get hard?
However, that wasn’t the case in their first preseason matchup with Toronto on Sunday. In 18 minutes off the bench, Sexton finished with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting (3-for-4 on 3-pointers) to go along with one rebound, two assists, two steals, and two turnovers.
It came as a bit of a surprise to most viewers that Sexton didn’t get the starting nod, but he told Sarah Todd of Deseret News that he expected to come off the bench for this game. He acknowledged that it was because he hasn’t played much since his meniscus surgery, but he expects to start once he gets back to full speed.
Speaking with Collin Sexton this morning, he said that he expected to come off the bench on Sunday because he really hasn't played a lot following his meniscus surgery. He said though that his expectation is to start once he has worked his way back to full speed.
— Sarah Todd (@NBASarah) October 4, 2022
Utah hit the reset button by dealing away four of their five starters from last season. They’ve ushered in a new era that is centered around Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt, and a ton of first round picks. Sexton has talked about wanting to improve on his assists numbers this season, which we should definitely see him get the opportunity to do.
The Jazz have cemented their place in the center of the Victor Wembanyama race, so they’ll have no problem letting their young guys learn through trial and error. Sexton averaged 4.4 assists per game for Cleveland just two years ago. However, he won’t be playing alongside another young guard like Darius Garland, so Sexton should have the ball in his hands more than he ever has in the NBA.
Ben Simmons played in an actual, live basketball game on Monday night.
The results were not bad. Fine. Good in flashes. Simmons ran the floor well and finished with six points on 3-of-6 shooting, five assists and four rebounds. He missed both free throws he took and all three of his makes were at the rim, his three missed shots were all in the paint and included an ugly skyhook-like thing and a turnaround that missed. There was clear rust.
The Nets got him a lot of touches, having him initiate the offense early. Whether that is something that carries over into the season remains to be seen, the offense moved better with the crisp passing and decisions of Kyrie Irving.
Simmons sounded comfortable after the game, quotes via Nick Friedell of ESPN.
“I’m grateful just to be able to step on that floor,” Simmons said. “Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.”
“That’s the one thing, I thought I was going to be nervous,” Simmons said. “But I wasn’t nervous. I was excited.”
Simmons pushed for a trade off these 76ers a year ago, then sat out all last season due to mental health concerns. Having him back on the court for 19 minutes over a couple of shifts was enough for the Nets.
Tyrese Maxey has entered the chat. pic.twitter.com/fCBESlhZ5j
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 3, 2022
Furkan Korkmaz, another player coming off an injury, added 15 His play will add depth to the Sixers roster.
Claxton ran the floor hard and finished with 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting (all at the rim), while Durant led the way with 13 points.