After a summer of blockbuster trades and idiotic remarks from Derrick Rose the NBA finally got back underway on Tuesday night. We’re just three days into the 2016 season and now that everyone’s had a go at playing some ball we can start making some rash judgements about team’s and player’s fortunes for the year ahead.
Opening night saw the defending champion Cavs receive their rings amid an hysterical atmosphere in Cleveland, a city that had been starved of sporting success for over 50 years. Their opponents the New York Knicks, a self proclaimed super team, one of aforementioned Rose’s remarks were duly obliging in letting the Cavs run out 117-88 winners on a night of celebration in Cleveland. Despite what Joey Tribbiani would have you believe the Knicks no longer rule so it is hard too read much into the Cavs performance but LeBron was LeBron, Kyrie was Kyrie and they made an average Knicks team look exactly that.
In the headline game of night, a mouthwatering clash between the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs the Spurs dropped an absolute hammer on the Warriors and their shiny new toy Kevin Durant. The Spurs stifled Golden State’s offence and their own superstar Kawhi Leonard made an early case for MVP consideration, pouring in 35 points as well as providing his customary lockdown defence. Predictably following the Spurs’ 129-100 victory the twittersphere went into meltdown, OH MY GOD the Warrior’s are going to miss the playoffs, KD should go hide in a nuclear bunker at not come out till next year, Steph Curry is absolutely T for terrible at basketball. The usual balanced responses.
The reality is that Golden State will be very good this season although there are issues. They did seem to miss Andrew Bogut’s protection of the paint and his replacement Zaza Pachouli is no more than an average big man. Also in going after KD the Warriors sacrificed depth of the bench, this season they are really only six deep, arguably the best six ever assembled but should injuries strike they could be in trouble. Despite these minor issues the Warriors will in all likelihood win roughly 60 games and be right in the mix for a second championship in three years. What we did learn is that the Spurs are going to be really really good this year and will push the Warriors all the way in the West.
Lost amongst all this opening night excitement was a big night from Portland’s main man Damian Lillard. You would be forgiven for thinking that Lillard had spent the summer honing his bars rather than his game having released his debut album last week. However, on the evidence of his 39 point 9 assist performance, against the much fancied Utah Jazz, Lillard’s main talents are still on the court. I haven’t heard his album and apparently it’s not awful but let’s not give up the day job just yet Dame. If Lillard can lead his Blazers squad to a high seed in the West with the kind of brutal scoring we’ve seen so far he is another who could be considered for the league MVP.
The other eye-catching performance from the opening slate of games was Anthony Davis’ 50 point, 16 rebound, 5 assist, 7 steal and 4 block eruption in a losing cause against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. The Pelican’s monobrowed superstar was a forgotten man last season but he was absolutely unstoppable in scoring as many points as the rest of his teammates combined. This stat is telling in two ways, it speaks to Davis’ immense talent but also that he is surrounded by absolute garbage in New Orleans. New Orleans have their franchise player under contract until 2020 but if they are to truly benefit from Davis’ prime years they need to add some complementary pieces otherwise Davis will seek a team who can at leat deliver him regular playoff appearances.
Elsewhere Sixers, Wolves, Suns and Nets all lost, nothing new there. However, there were some positive signs for Wolves and the Sixers as they looked good in patches as they lost close games. The Rockets looked great for three quarters under Mike D’Antoni’s new high paced offence before reverting to last seasons struggles and loosing to the Lakers. The Lakers themselves seem to be benefiting from new coach Luke Walton’s new ideas and his willing to make in game adjustments.
And in Chicago returning hometown hero Dwyane Wade starred in a Bulls win over the Celtics, shooting 4 for 6 from beyond the arc and kindling hope that his return to Chicago will not be the absolute dumpster fire that many have predicted.
There we go Ball Is 4 Lyf, like the shit terminator, is back.