LOS ANGELES — It’s back. NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA has returned with the start of games… and still most of the drama was off the court. Come back to NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before in the NBA, plus some of the rumors, drama, and dunks going on.
1) Westbrook ugly debut a reminder these Lakers have work to do
For all the flash and glamour, for all veteran names that make up one of the league’s most expensive rosters, the Lakers are a two-man show when it comes to winning. All the dreams of an 18th title banner in L.A. come back to LeBron and AD. They are everything.
And in the first game of the NBA season, that was almost enough — the Lakers’ dynamic duo combined for 67 points on 57.1% shooting, plus they grabbed 22 rebounds. LeBron’s jumper was falling (10-of-16 outside the paint) while Davis was a defensive force, being physical and intimidating shooters. LeBron and AD were the two best players on the court Tuesday night.
LEBRON TAKING FLIGHT IN YEAR 19 😤 pic.twitter.com/rxLmhgI642
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) October 20, 2021
But it wasn’t enough. They got no help. No other Laker scored in double digits (Carmelo Anthony had nine points on nine shots) while the Warriors showed real depth around their star Stephen Curry (who said he played like trash despite a triple-double). Golden State got the 121-114 win.
This is where Russell Westbrook enters the story. He’s the third star, the guy LeBron wanted and the Lakers gave up a lot of depth to get, but his Laker debut was ugly. Westbrook finished with eight points on 4-of-13 shooting, five rebounds, four assists, and was a -23.
From the moment the Lakers traded for Westbrook there have been questions about fit. Westbrook is not a threat from the outside (1-of-7 shooting outside the paint Tuesday), not a defender, and not a natural fit next to the other Lakers stars. This was never going to be smooth. It was going to take a lot of work.
Every game is not going to look like Game 1 of the season (the Lakers schedule, once they get past the Suns on Friday, softens up considerably for a few weeks), things are going to get better for the Lakers. And they know it.
“It’s just one game,” LeBron said after the loss. “You want to learn from it, you want to get better, but we don’t want to harp on it too much. We know we’ll get better from it, and [Westbrook will] get better from it.”
The Lakers are the favorites and the team to beat out West, but it will be a process, and not always pretty in the regular season. The Lakers won a title with a roster built to defend, this Lakers’ roster is all about the offense, and not all the pieces fit naturally. It’s going to take time to adjust and adapt.
However, the Lakers will put the pieces together better, and if they can get LeBron and Davis to the playoffs healthy — and they play like they did in this opener — the Lakers will be playing into June. They just aren’t going to be able to coast to get there.
2) About that Brooklyn Nets coronation…
The Milwaukee Bucks would like to have a word.
The defending champs have flown under the radar through the preseason, with all the headlines and drama going to Philadelphia (keep reading to No. 3) and Brooklyn, where Kyrie Irving is not playing yet a lot of prognosticators picked the Nets to win the title anyway (*raises hand*).
Tuesday night, the Bucks reminded everyone where the banner hangs and that the road to the 2022 NBA title goes through Milwaukee.
From the opening tip, the Bucks were physically more imposing, they got to their spots on the floor, they moved the ball, and basically did whatever they wanted. Plus, Milwaukee has Giannis Antetokounmpo, who reminded everyone he made a leap during the playoffs last season, he figured things out, and you better not have an MVP conversation without him.
32 PTS & 14 REB
Giannis was back at it again tonight 💪 pic.twitter.com/Vnamre9nnN
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) October 20, 2021
It’s a long season. The Nets will get better and figure things out (with or without Kyrie). But remember where the champions live.
Quick injury update from that game, Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday left the game with what the team called a right heel contusion, but after the game coach Mike Budenholzer said the X-rays were negative and it was nothing serious. Don’t be shocked if Holiday misses a little time, but it doesn’t sound like it will linger.
3) Simmons gets thrown out of 76ers practice, Embiid backs bus up over him
There is nothing Adam Silver likes more on a night where the NBA tries to turn its spotlight to the game itself than to have the headlines grabbed by off-the-court drama.
But on TNT before the tip-off of the NBA season (and on ESPN and other networks all day), the talk was about Ben Simmons and the 76ers.
Simmons has gone from demanding a trade, to holding out, to showing up to training camp and being so disengaged that Doc Rivers threw him out of practice for refusing to jump into some defensive drills (insert your own joke here about how you thought he would only avoid offensive/shooting drills). Quickly, Philadelphia suspended Simmons for one game, the opener Wednesday against
Then Joel Embiid ripped Simmons: “We don’t get paid to come out here and try to babysit somebody.
Here is the big takeaway from a day full of drama and headlines:
Nothing has changed.
Sources familiar with the 76ers thinking said exactly that to NBC Sports. Simmons is trying to force Philly’s hand, but Daryl Morey is not going to suddenly take back 50¢ on the dollar for the All-Star. At some point Morey is going to have to come off the dreams of Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard, but if he waits a month or two into the season, the situation will change for a team or some other superstar will become disgruntled, and the path to a trade that works for Philly will open up.
Until then, the Sixers plan to ignore the tantrums. They’re not paid to be Simmons’ babysitter.