Our daily recap helping you unpack the previous day from the NBA is back… just for today. It will return to its regular weekday slot when the seeding games return, but today, with the first games in four months taking place, we’re bringing “Three Things to Know” out of mothballs. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.
1) Welcome back NBA! And not a bad job with the broadcasts, all things considered. For those of us who love the game, it was like the first sunny spring day after a long, snowy winter.
Seeing the world’s best athletes back on the court playing basketball — even in a meaningless scrimmage — brought us joy. We can have a debate about whether sports should return right now, there’s a good case to be made we shouldn’t be playing games. However, the reality is money won that argument so the NBA is back. Why it returned, and some sloppy games, didn’t make it any less joyful to see.
The broadcasts were about as good as could be done, considering the no-fan reality. It was better than expected, although there absolutely was a casual Summer League game feel to the entire thing, especially with games rolling out through the afternoon.
How it sounds to be announced with no fans in attendance. pic.twitter.com/bG02Z8k02B
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 22, 2020
The NBA piped in pre-recorded music, public address announcements, and fan chants from the home team’s arena for the Orlando games. That’s why you heard “Dos! Minutos!” during the Heat game, and may have realized the Brooklyn DJ is their team MVP. The league made good use of the video boards next to the court to provide a home arena feel.
What all that noise did was largely down out the ability — at least on the broadcasts — to hear some uncensored trash talk and comments from players during the games. (Reporters in the bubble at the games seemed to hear more.) I still hope the NBA will offer at least a stream during games where we can hear what happens on the court without as much music and fan noise (as NBC has done with the Premier League streams), but that seems unlikely.
Still, it was great just to have basketball back — and now we can’t wait for the games that matter.
2) Bol Bol announces his presence with authority with 16 points, 10 rebounds in his debut. Coach Mike Malone and his Denver Nuggets were the anti-Rockets Wednesday — they went big. Ginormous really. Seven-foot Nikola Jokic at center and 7’2” Bol Bol at small forward. John Hollinger had the appropriate reaction.
— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) July 22, 2020
However, Tweet of the Day went to Rockets GM Daryl Morey in response to the Nuggets going big.
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) July 22, 2020
With just eight players available, the Nuggets oversized leap into positionless basketball was as much necessity as a gimmick, but Bol took full advantage of the opportunity with a “you better convert my two-way contract to a standard one” kind of game of 16 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks.
This Bol Bol sequence 😨 pic.twitter.com/u6evNeTIx5
— NBA TV (@NBATV) July 22, 2020
“He’s played very well. Let’s not forget, he’s still, in essence, a rookie. Let’s not put the expectations way up there. Let’s let him grow and develop,” the Nuggets Malone said postgame (hat tip Mike Singer at the Denver Post). “But he’s shown me that he has a tremendous amount of talent. He has things, as I’ve mentioned quite a bit, that I can’t teach as a coach. I can’t teach 7-foot-2, I can’t teach a 7-foot-9 wingspan, and I sure as hell can’t teach a really soft touch all the way out to the NBA 3-point line.”
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) July 22, 2020
The broadcast of the Wizards/Nuggets game felt quieter than others during the day, you could hear more from the court. With that, it really did feel more line Summer League, just with names you know and taller players.
For Denver, Jokic had 16 points but eight turnovers and looked rusty. Troy Daniels led the way with 22 points and showed well as the only guard in their rotation. Still, the day belonged to Bol Bol.
Bol Bol 🦄
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) July 22, 2020
3) Paul George, players work to keep the focus on Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and social change. A lot of players came to the NBA restart in Orlando despite misgivings about being a distraction from the important discussions taking place nationally around social justice issues, and particularly Black Lives Matter.
Paul George wasn’t going to let those topics fade into the background after he and the Clippers had a relatively impressive opening scrimmage win over Orlando. At his postgame press conference, every question was answered with a discussion of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and social justice issues.
“[Taylor’s] murderers are still free, so nothing was done yet,” George said. “We’re going to continue to keep this fight going to use our platform to stand up for those that can’t stand anymore…
“There are so many others that have been brutally murdered by the hands of police. That’s all I got. That’s my message for everyone. That will continue to be my answer.”
George wasn’t the first player to do this in Orlando, Boston‘s Jaylen Brown, Portland ‘s C.J. McCollum, Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris, Denver’s Jerami Grant, the Lakers’ Alex Caruso and Dwight Howard, all have redirected post-practice discussions to only social justice matters. Other players, such as LeBron James, have mixed basketball and social change discussion.
During every game Wednesday, the “Black Lives Matter” written on the court couldn’t be missed. That will continue throughout the restart and into the NBA Finals.
Expect the players to keep using their platform to get their message out as well.