Not sure if you ever noticed this, but ESPN tends to overhype things. Deserved or not, if a sporting event is on the network, it gets pumped. Lots of cross promotion.
ESPN was showing the Orlando against San Antonio game Wednesday night, so along those lines on a morning show I usually mute they asked the question who would you want right now: Dwight Howard or Tim Duncan? Talking head Skip Bayless said Tim Duncan, because he shows up in the playoffs. Apparently Skip didn’t watch last year’s playoffs, but whatever.
Howard went out and shut down Duncan, holding him to a career worst 1 for 10 on the night.
“I think everybody has a problem with anything I do on the floor. We got to the Finals last year with the same way I played this year. I’m not going to change who I am, I’m not going to change my personality. I’m not going to change anything about me. I’ve been playing basketball since I was three years old. I never changed one part of myself in this game. I’ve gotten a lot better since I’ve been playing basketball, but one thing that has always been consistent is I’m going to have fun out there. Basketball brings me joy. I don’t care what people say about me smiling too much or having too much fun. Hey, I’m doing something I love. I’m going to be thankful and have fun doing it. …
“I don’t know what he could possibly say. Scottie Pippen said things, also Skip (Bayless). I know in order to win you gotta work hard and that’s one thing that I do. I work extremely hard on both ends. I might have nights where I might not shoot the ball as well but I’m still going to work hard, I’m still going to play defense and do all the small things. Numbers don’t lie…
Only people that we have to listen to are our coaches. Those are the guys that get paid to make us better players. Skip, he’s called everybody out. He’s called LeBron “Prince James.” LeBron’s one of the best players in the world, and he doesn’t think LeBron is good. It’s somebody just talking.”
Skip Bayless’ job is not to make sports comments — it’s to draw viewers. (Goal is the same here, we just try to do it differently.) Saying controversial things can help do that. But in the end it’s somebody just talking. Take it all with a grain of salt.
Anthony Davis challenging Michael Jordan as best opening-game player on record
Davis posted a 32-16-8-3-3 to lead the Pelicans to a 19-point win over the Rockets, considered by many to be the NBA’s second-best team. The performance immediately vaults Davis to the forefront of any MVP discussions.
But for him, it was just par for the course. Davis has repeatedly dazzled inseason openers. When 18-6-2-3 qualifies as the dud, you know Davis is doing something right.
Davis’ box scores in New Orleans’ first game each season:
That makes Davis’ average season-opener game score 24.1, one of the best ever. Only Michael Jordan has a higher mark on record (since 1983, as far back as Basketball-Reference records go; minimum: three games).
Here are the leaders:
Obviously, Davis cares more about how he finishes than starts. The Pelicans have made the playoffs only twice with him, getting swept in the first round in 2015 and falling in the second round last season.
But it should be clear by now: Davis comes to play as soon as the season tips.
PBT Extra: Boston can be team to dethrone Golden State Warriors
I’ve heard it from friends. I’ve seen it on NBA Twitter. I’ve debated it with sports talk radio hosts.
“This NBA season is already decided, nobody has a chance against the Warriors.”
Boston has a shot, as I get into in this PBT Extra.
Absolutely the Warriors are the odds-on favorites to win it all, if healthy they should three-peat. They were my pick. But I believe Boston has a legitimate shot to dethrone the Warriors — they have the wing athletes, the switchability on defense, the scoring, the versatility. A Boston/Golden State Finals is going six or seven games… if we get there. It’s just day two of a long season.
But I believe in Boston.
Boban Marjanovic dunks so hard (with his feet touching floor!), rim must be checked for levelness (video)
The 7-foot-3, 290-pound Clippers center scored 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting with eight rebounds in 18 minutes. The Clippers outscored Denver by seven with Marjanovic on the floor, but got outscored by 16 otherwise in a 107-98 loss last night.
Marjanovic just doesn’t have the stamina to play huge minutes, though he caught an extra breather when officials stopped the game to check the levelness of a rim Marjanovic dunked on – with his feet still on the ground. Incredible!
Three Things to Know: Deandre Ayton outduels Luka Doncic in rookie showdown
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. This was the first full slate of games this season and three of the first four were #LeaguePassAlert games — welcome back NBA.
1) Suns, Deandre Ayton gets best of Mavs’ Luka Doncic in rookie debuts. It’s tedious but let’s start with the required-by-law caveat: It’s just one game — almost any reaction here is an overreaction. What matters is not where Ayton and Doncic are right now but how much better are they around Christmas? March?
That said, Ayton showed an offensive game that comes to him with ease and looked the better of the two promising rookies in an opening night showdown.
Ayton had to go up against DeAndre Jordan and did a good job of letting the offense come to him, not forcing it, and he finished with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, 10 rebounds, and an impressive six assists. (Credit to new coach Igor Kokoskov the Suns moved the ball very well.) Ayton did most of his damage deep in the post, mainly when smaller players were switched onto him, but also nailed a few midrange jumpers. His first bucket came with an and-1 against Doncic down low.
That said, on the defensive end of the floor Ayton has a lot of work to do. He just looked lost, without recognition. The book on him coming in was he had never really been taught to defend until college and he just doesn’t have the understanding yet, and that showed. It’s just a reminder he has a LONG way to go on that end.
Dallas’ Doncic couldn’t get his shot to fall (5-of-16 overall and 0-of-5 from three) but the Dallas offense did look smoother with him running it. He still finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, and four assists — and a few highlight moments to remind you what he can be.
Phoenix’s Devin Booker was the real offensive star of the game — he scored 17 points in the final five minutes to seal the win and had 35 on the night for the Suns.
2) Pelicans beat down Rockets in opener, win by 19 (and it wasn’t that close). Last season, Houston’s switch-everything defense was seventh best in the NBA and the stops/steals it got helped fuel an elite offense. There were a lot of questions through the summer about how much the losses of Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute, and defensive guru assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik (retirement) was going to set them back.
It’s just one game, but the returns are not good.
The Pelicans picked apart the switches, got mismatches and clean looks, and flat-out thrashed Houston in its home opener 131-112. This was a 17 point game at the half and the Pelicans led by as many as 29 at points. Anthony Davis feasted on the Houston defense on his way to 32 points,16 rebounds, eight assists, and three blocks. He looked stronger and was scoring in the post, too, on Clint Capela at times.
The Pelicans big-man trio dominated this game — Nikola Mirotic hit his first six threes and finished with 30 points, and Julius Randle punished switches inside on his way to 25 points and eight rebounds. New Orleans is an interesting combination — they play as fast as any team in the league but will punish teams that go small ball on them. The Rockets struggled with all of that.
Houston will play better — James Harden and Chris Paul were good but not playing at their otherworldly potential, and the defense will improve. But there were other concerns. Carmelo Anthony came off the bench for the first time in his career and looked pedestrian and out of sync, not like a guy who can help the team in May, and shot 3-of-10. Worse yet, Michael Carter-Williams was a mess, getting torched defensively, and on offense the Pelicans at points literally did not guard him and that messed with the spacing and flow of the rest of the offense.
3) Kawhi Leonard looks good — if a bit rusty — in Raptors debut. We saw it with Gordon Hayward in Boston on Tuesday night (and to a degree Kyrie Irving as well): Miss a large chunk of the last season and there’s going to be some expected rust and struggles in the first game of the next season.
That was the Kawhi Leonard story in Toronto. He put up 24 points in his first game, but on 9-of-22 shooting. Early on it was clear the Raptors were feeding him to try to get him rolling, but that had a limited effect (although he did look better in the second half).
It’s just one game, and Leonard was moving and defending well, we need to give him some time to get his game fully back. The Raptors beat the Cavaliers 116-104 and as long as they keep winning Leonard can find his game again without pressure.
BONUS NOTE: Could not end this without a shout out to Allonzo Trier. You might remember him as the player who, when you tuned in to watch Ayton at Arizona last season, you said, “hey, who is No. 35, he’s pretty good?” Trier went undrafted but played his way onto the Knicks’ roster through a solid Summer League (17 points a game) and camp (14.2 average in preseason games, better than Kevin Knox).
Opening night he impressed dropping 15 and making some highlight reel plays. This is a rookie to keep an eye on.