Five Things To Know from NBA opening night: Stephen Curry still good at basketball

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The NBA season tipped off on Tuesday night, and while we were glued to the games you may have been glued to a different channel where they played “guess Bartolo Colon’s weight.” So as you will find five days a week at PBT throughout the season, here are five things to know from the night before in the NBA:

Stephen Curry did not forget how to shoot the basketball over the summer. What too many people tried to spin as the Warriors being “lucky” last season (no team every won an NBA title without being lucky with health/having opponents who weren’t) was them taking advantage of the situation presented them. That happened again in the season opener. The Pelicans didn’t have point guards Jrue Holiday, Norris Cole, or Tyreke Evans due to injury, and that left undersized Nate Robinson — not exactly known as a defensive stopper — and just acquired Ish Smith trying to guard the reigning MVP. That didn’t go very well. Curry dropped 24 points in the first quarter.

Curry was just being Curry, even when the Pelicans defended him it didn’t matter — he was 7-of-9 on contested shots (via NBA.com numbers). He was 7-of-10 at the rim. Curry had seven assists and five hockey assists. It felt like everything the Pelicans and new coach Alvin Gentry tried, Golden State blew up. For example, the Pelicans switched a lot on defense and the Warriors took advantage when Anthony Davis and other bigs were pulled outside — Golden State grabbed the offensive rebound on 45.7 percent of their missed shots. It was just that kind of night.

Curry and the defending champs started the new season off looking a lot like the team that finished last one.

• Bulls fan Barack Obama was in Chicago and liked what he saw. Word started to spread in the morning that the world’s most powerful basketball fan would be in the building for opening night at the United Center, and sure enough, added security precautions made sure it took 20 minutes for reporters to get inside. President Obama and his secret service detail arrived in their courtside seats midway through the first quarter. Obama, who reps all things Chicago sports and has for years, had to have been pleased with what he saw—the ball movement was crisp and the offense was more free-flowing than it ever was last season. During a timeout in the fourth quarter, he got a dap from J.R. Smith, which is surely a defining moment in his presidency. Not that the other players paid him much attention.

“It was really cool for him to come out and support us, him being from here and all,” Jimmy Butler said after the game. “I’m glad we went out and got a win for him. But we were pretty focused on the game.” —Sean Highkin (reporting from Chicago)

• Cleveland’s offense looked awfully familiar. And flat. When last we saw the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals their offense seemed to consist of LeBron James isolations against the world (and we saw how well that worked). That hasn’t changed. The new season started and thanks to injuries — no Kyrie Irving, no Iman Shumpert — and a preseason where LeBron and Kevin Love never played a minute together, the Cavaliers’ offense again was the LeBron show. Way too much LeBron isolating on the left wing, and the Bulls were able to defend it well enough (the Cavaliers had an offensive rating of 93.6 points per 100 possessions in this game). The problem is Love is still working his way back, he and LeBron are still finding chemistry, and then after those two there is just a big drop-off in offensive talent right now (again, due to injuries).  Like last season, the LeBron show gave the Cavs a chance to win at the end, but they fell just short.

What should we take away from this about the Cavaliers? Nothing. Other than that they may struggle a little the first few weeks of the season. This is a very different team from the one we will see in a couple of months, let alone the end of the season and playoffs. (Same is true of the Bulls.)

• That is why the Bulls are starting Nikola Mitotic. All last season, the numbers said the Bulls were better when Mirotic was running with the starting group as a stretch four. It just opened up their offense. But defensive-minded Tom Thibodeau couldn’t bring himself to do it.

On Tuesday night in the season opener, the Cavaliers first two buckets came because Mirotic got beat and missed his rotation. But then he showed why he needs to start and play significant minutes — he hit a couple of threes that both evened up the game, he opened up the floor for Derrick Rose to drive (even if Rose was just 3-of-10 at the rim trying to finish those drives). Mirotic ended up with a team-high 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting (3-of-4 from three) and was a +9 on the night. He got abused a few times on defense, but his pick-and-roll (and pop) coverage, particularly on Love, was not bad. New coach Fred Hoiberg needs to figure out the rotations — Mirotic and Pau Gasol were -2 on the night when paired and you can see where they will struggle on the boards — but the bottom line is he has to play. It’s the one thing Hoiberg can do right that Thibodeau refused to do.

• Detroit looks like it can shoot the rock — and if so watch out. It was one of those things that jumped out during the preseason — the Pistons looked like they could shoot the rock. They shot 36.8 percent from three and hit their long twos as well, and that should open things up for Andre Drummond inside. In the season opener the Pistons showed that was no fluke — they took 29 threes and hit 12 (41.4 percent). Behind 21 points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (4-of-7 from three), the Pistons blitzed the Hawks 106-94 — and this was in a game where Drummond struggled with his post moves (he was 0-of-7 on half-court post ups, but still had 19 points). The Pistons’ defense looked good. Marcus Morris added 18 points. The Pistons starters played 24 minutes and were +27, plus rookie Stanley Johnson looked good off the bench.

Things clicked for Detroit, and while it’s just one game Detroit looked like a team to watch. And I’m not just saying that because I predicted the Pistons would make the playoffs.

Winners, Losers in Kyrie Irving trade to Dallas Mavericks

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Kyrie Irving tried to force his way out of Brooklyn over the summer, but the market for him was thin and his plan didn’t work. He opted in to stay in Brooklyn.

Irving’s plan did work at the trade deadline — he again demanded a trade and this time, he got his wish and was sent to Dallas to team up with Luka Dončić on the Mavericks. It’s a deal with clear winners and losers, but the cases are muddier for both of the principal teams involved. Let’s break down who won and who lost in this latest Kyrie Irving trade. Let’s start with a reminder of what the trade itself involved.

Mavericks receive: Kyrie Irving, Markieff Morris.

Nets receive: Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick, 2027 and 2029 second-round picks.

WINNER: Kyrie Irving

Irving made a brilliant business move demanding a trade before the deadline. His troubles with the Nets going back to the summer stem in part from him not getting the max contract extension he wants — four years, $198.5 million, with no strings. When the Nets weren’t going to give him that extension, Irving forced his way to a new team where he is more likely to get paid (not that it’s close to a lock, the Mavs are reportedly hesitant).

Irving now gets to play next to Dončić, another of the league’s top five players, and is on a team with the potential to contend in a wide-open conference, and he gets a relatively clean slate to prove he is worthy of that massive contract this summer. Irving got what he wanted out of this.

WINNER: Luka Doncic

Luka Dončić was good with this trade — Dallas went to him and got his approval before proceeding with it, reports Marc Stein.

Dončić has been at a historic usage rate this season and was physically wearing down from the load. Dallas desperately needed another shot creator and star next to Dončić to lighten his load. Now, Dallas has that in the guy with maybe the best handles in the league, someone averaging 27.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game and shooting 37.4% from 3.

There are a lot of questions about the fit of Dončić and Irving together — will Irving accept a role as the No.2 option on this team (as he did with Durant most of the time)? How well will Doncic play off the ball? This trade makes the Mavericks’ 23rd-ranked defense worse. And that is just the start. But it’s a move the Mavericks had to make, and now Dončić knows they will do everything they can to land stars to put around him. Which is what he wanted to see.

LOSER: LeBron James and the Lakers

The Dallas Mavericks showed how desperate they were as a franchise with this potentially Faustian trade.

The only team that might have been more desperate? The Lakers. They are squandering an All-NBA level, record-breaking season of a 38-year-old LeBron James, sitting four games below .500 and outside the play-in tournament. LeBron wanted this trade to happen. The Lakers wanted it to happen. Irving wanted it to happen.

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka tried, the problem is the Nets want to retool a contender around Durant immediately — Brooklyn wanted players who can help them win now. That’s not what the Lakers could offer. The Lajers had tempting future picks, but the player at the heart of any offer was Russell Westbrook. The Mavericks could offer more, better players right now plus the picks (there is also a report that Nets owner Joe Tsai didn’t want to send Irving to his preferred destination). Dallas won the day. LeBron’s reaction?

There is no clear path to building a title contender around LeBron and Anthony Davis. Trading for Irving would have been a huge gamble, but that is where the Lakers are now. They have to roll those dice, and they will try again with the next superstar who becomes available.

ASK AGAIN LATER: Brooklyn Nets

There is a case to make the Nets did well in this trade — and maybe even got better by making the roster deeper, and more versatile. They got out of the Kyrie Irving business and don’t have to pay him long-term — if they had made this trade over the summer the conventional wisdom reaction would have been, “good job getting out from under all this.” And the Nets landed a couple of quality players who can help them now in Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith. Brooklyn GM Sean Marks did as well as he could with the situation.

Still, Brooklyn got worse in the short term — any team that trades a superstar does not get equal talent back.

Whether this ultimately is a win or loss for them will hinge on two future moves, or lack of moves:

1) Can the Nets make another trade or two before the deadline? Even with a healthy Durant and what is now a deep and versatile roster, the Nets lack the second high-end star they will need come the postseason (Ben Simmons is not going to be that guy). Brooklyn now has picks and players at its disposal to make more roster upgrades, particularly defensively.

2) Will Kevin Durant stay in Brooklyn, or ask for another trade? Can the Nets keep him happy? Durant didn’t think there was a future in Brooklyn last summer and asked for a trade, but the Nets didn’t really try couldn’t find one to their liking. If the rest of this season goes just okay and the Nets get bounced in the first round, that KD trade request very well could be back on the table, and the Nets could be back to rebuilding, but without their picks to do it.

There is one other disappointment in all this — it looked like the Nets, under Jacque Vaughn, had figured it out. They went 18-2 in the games before Durant got injured. Vaughn had quieted the noise around the team, had them focus on the court, and Brooklyn looked like a real threat in the East. Now that is gone.

ASK AGAIN LATER: Dallas Mavericks

The argument for this being a win for Dallas is it makes them a contender in the wide-open West — they have two superstars who can match any duo in the conference, and have surrounded them with shooting. The Mavericks’ offense should be elite.

The problem in the contender theory is the Mavericks already have the 23rd-ranked defense in the NBA and now have traded away their best defender in Finney-Smith. If the Mavericks are going to fulfill the promise of their offense, they will have to make more trades to upgrade that defense. Reports are the Mavericks are aggressively looking for other moves to bolster that end of the floor.

However, the biggest question for Dallas is the long term — do they want to give Irving the four-year max contract he wants at the end of this season? Marc Stein reported the Mavericks did not promise a new contract to Irving at the end of the year, but you don’t make this trade if you’re not open to it. The Mavericks get a test run through the final third of the season, although Irving will most likely be on his best behavior the next couple of months.

If the Mavericks don’t bring back Irving, they just traded away their two most valuable trade asset players plus a could of high-value picks — Dallas weakened their position to get the next star. Dallas gave up a lot, do they have to pay up now?

WINNERS: Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks

For 20 games when both Irving and Durant were healthy and on the floor — and the distractions quieted down — the Nets looked like a team that could win the East. Now… not so much. The Nets are good, and maybe they have another move or two that returns them to contender status, but that is a long shot. The Nets are a dangerous opponent, but not one the real contenders in the East, the Buck and the Celtics, can beat.

The Philadelphia 76ers are the team the Bucks and Celtics should worry about.

WINNER: Houston Rockets

Remember when Houston traded James Harden to the Nets? The Rockets now control — either outright have or have swap rights — for every Nets first-round pick between now and 2027. Those picks look much more valuable tonight than they did 24 hours ago, and if Durant does ask for a trade and push his way out of Brooklyn this summer then the Rockets could be sitting on a treasure chest. This trade was good news for the Rockets.

LeBron, other NBA players react to Kyrie Irving trade to Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks v Brooklyn Nets
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Is there going to be a football game of some kind next weekend? You’d never know the way the NBA trade deadline can dominate the headlines.

Kyrie Irving is getting traded to the Mavericks, which has blown up the NBA world — Dallas looks like a threat in the West, and there is a countdown clock over Kevin Durant‘s time in Brooklyn. It wasn’t just fans and pundits stunned by the news, NBA players past and present took to Twitter and social media to react and give their thoughts on the Irving trade. Starting with LeBron James and one of the guys in the trade.

Nets reportedly trade Kyrie Irving to Mavericks for Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith, picks

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Dallas desperately needed a second star and shot creator to go next to Luka Dončić.

They got one — Mark Cuban has always been willing to take risks to win. The question about how long this can last comes later.

The Nets are trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, their unprotected 2029 first-round pick their 2027 and 2029 second-round picks, according to multiple reports.

Irving is reportedly “ecstatic” to make the move to Dallas (the hard questions about a future contract will wait until after the season).

Irving reportedly will land in Dallas Monday, take the standard post-trade physical, and could be available for the Mavericks on Wednesday against the Clippers.

Brooklyn had several suitors to choose from but wanted in return players it could slot in around Kevin Durant now (or, once he is healthy and returns) so they could still have a puncher’s chance to win the East. Dinwiddie gives Brooklyn a point guard and shot creator who can play some off the ball — and he returns to Brooklyn, where he made a name for himself in the league. Finney-Smith is a coveted two-way wing who can step in right now. Plus, the Nets add some potentially valuable picks down the line.

That offer gave the Nets more win-now possibilities than they got out of the Lakers’ offer (two future first-rounders and Russell Westbrook) or what the Suns and Clippers put in the mix.

There are questions for Dallas, but ones they believe they can answer — elite talents figure out a way to make it work on the court. Off the court, it helps that both coach Jason Kidd and former Nike executive turned Mavericks GM Nico Harrison have strong relationships with Irving. That’s a start.

The pairing of Dončić and Irving should lead to games and stretches where they look brilliant, but the question is not the highs but the lows — how deep and how prolonged will those be? Irving works well off the ball (as he has done with Durant and LeBron James) and should be able to play off Dončić. However, can Dončić play well off the ball when Irving is hot? Do the Mavericks — with Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock and the rest — have enough around their two stars to be a serious threat in the West? Off the court, can the very different personalities of Irving and Dončić mesh, or at least work well enough not to be a distraction?

The biggest question: Do Cuban and the Mavericks really want to re-sign Irving for the four-years, $198.5 million he demands at the end of the season? There are reports that Dallas (like every other front office in the league, including Brooklyn) is hesitant to do a long-term deal with Irving that gives him that kind of guaranteed money.

But that is a concern for the future — Dallas got its second star. It has vaulted itself into the upper echelons of the Western Conference and positioned itself to contend.

Reports: Stephen Curry out ‘weeks’ with leg injury, Warriors hope for return after All-Star Break

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
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This is bad news for the Warriors. How bad depends on how the word “weeks” is ultimately defined.

Stephen Curry has torn ligaments in his leg — in the shin area just below the knee — and while the team does not have an official timeline he will be out “weeks” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Weeks” is a vague word, and for the Warriors the difference in Curry being out three weeks (with one of those being the All-Star Break) versus him being out six to eight weeks could be the difference in how long a playoff run the Warriors have.

The Warriors are hoping for a Curry return just after the All-Star break, reports Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Of short-term concern, this has Curry out for the All-Star Game where the fans voted him a starter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will bump one of the reserves up to a starting spot — likely Ja Morant, who was third in fan voting — and name an injury replacement for the team. The top candidates are Devin Booker (if he returns from injury this week as expected), De'Aaron Fox or Anthony Edwards.

Longer term, the Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry for an extended period.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. With the team one game above .500 and struggling to avoid the play-in, an extended absence for Curry is trouble for a Warriors team that has never found its footing this season.