Even though it’s been a full whole week since the start of the new NBA season, I still have some thoughts and feelings on the first two nights, Tuesday and Wednesday, of NBA action. It’s due in part to the excitement over the start of the season. You know, the thrill over the new super teams ( ahem, LeBron James joining the Lakers ), new players from the draft, new arenas from business ventures, and such. And it’s due in part to the actual realization of these things. You know, the games on opening night, the highlight plays from superstar players ( ahem, Jayson Tatum ), the way the new Milwaukee Bucks arena looks on t.v., and other things.
First things first, on opening night, there were two games: Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers and Golden State vs OKC. We were forced, no matter what, to focus on at least two of the important things about the beginning of the season: the super teams and the super players. The interesting thing, though, is that the super teams weren’t all that super and the super players weren’t all that super either.
It was late in the second quarter when I’d just come back from getting a pizza and checked the stats of Celtics-76ers to see that Kyrie Irving, the comeback king and the team’s anchor, hadn’t scored yet. I felt then that not only would the Celtics lose, but the reason for it would be Kyrie’s disappointing showmanship in his much anticipated return from injury. Of course, Boston needed Kyrie against the Embiid-Simmons duo, then you add in Fultz, which makes them an undefeatable trio. The Celtics themselves brought Kyrie from Cleveland along with Gordon Hayward from Utah to make an incomparable scoring backcourt duo. So, Kyrie’s lack of thrill on the offensive end was disappointing to watch. By the end of regulation, Kyrie had seven points on 2-for-14 shooting. The Celtics won, though, 105-87. This brings me to my next and I guess, main point.
It was Jayson Tatum who flew in like Superman to opening night with 23 points and handed his team the win. It all makes sense now. Tatum was just a finalist for Rookie of the Year last season after being drafted by the Celtics 3rd overall. He played in his first playoffs during the Celtics playoff run last season. But he’s still a newcomer at 20 years old. With Tatum, who is young and scores effortlessly, I guess the Celtics can afford to miss Kyrie on the scoring chart, at least for a single game. Jayson Tatum is undoubtedly the future of the NBA, and he proved that on draft night. Now, he’s undoubtedly the future of the Celtics and he just proved that on opening night. Good job – no, great job – Jayson Tatum.
Then there was Golden State vs OKC, which was far less complicated than Boston and Philly and we knew this by looking at the schedule. A loaded Warriors team with a former Thunder in Kevin Durant vs a team missing Russell Westbrook isn’t the most exciting game for opening night. But there were a few notes from this game. The human highlight reel Westbrook was out due to injury, so this meant that newly-acquired point guard Dennis Schroder started in his place. Schroder’s start was good and made him look better than ol’ Russ. NBA fans on a national level learned how talented the young point guard is, and if nothing else, how useful he might be as a backup to Westbrook. It reminded me of how excited I was for Schroder when he got the starting role for the Hawks and also how excited I am at this point for him to get another chance with another team alongside another superstar point guard. Under Westbrook’s influence, Schroder can showcase how good he is at the sacred position and it might even land him as a starter in a duo opportunity. Of course, it was just great to see Golden State back at it, where Steph Curry was better than Schroder, Westbrook, and all other point guards and players on the court. Curry led the way with 32 points and Durant added 27.
Second night of NBA action proved to be a busier and more exciting experience. Like Golden State, the Milwaukee Bucks got back into the swing of things against the Hornets, and the Eastern Conference leaders won with Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way with 25 points and 18 rebounds. There were a couple of important storylines here. The Bucks have a new coach since firing hall of fame head coach Jason Kidd, and it’s former Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer. Brook Lopez has been added to the mix, and also former Buck Ersan Ilyasova has returned to the squad, in which they were both productive on the offensive end. Last, but certainly not least, the Bucks have a new arena which had a grand opening just two months ago. The new arena looks amazing on television and all the other teams are going to be envious of it when they walk in. The Bucks deserve it.
Night two showcased all of the new faces and new additions to teams. There was Carmelo on the Rockets, DeRozan on the Spurs, and Kawhi on the Raptors, whom all played and provided productive minutes. One rookie battle in particular took over the night, Luka Doncic vs DeAndre Ayton as the Mavericks took on the Suns. As for whose debut was better, the Suns did win by double-digits and Ayton finished with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds compared to Doncic’s 10 points and 8 rebounds. It wasn’t the most likely matchup, as Doncic is a 6’8” power forward and Ayton is a 6’11” center, but they played it well as rookies and Western Conference foes.
So, there were some matchups you liked and some you didn’t and there were so many of them that you had to judge quickly. Melo’s presence on the Rockets gave them a new, but old look. If you don’t yet know what to think of DeRozan on the Spurs or Leonard on the Raps, at least we got to see the two teams in action on the same night and drawing the comparison just got a little bit easier. I will say, the Spurs game was more exciting as they took on the Minnesota Timberwolves. A recently controversial Timberwolves team. A Timberwolves team with a headlining player of their own, Jimmy Butler, who provided a unique matchup for DeRozan at the shooting guard position. Jimmy Butler’s new attitude on his old team contrasted perfectly with DeRozan’s new look as the face of a new team. It was like watching wrestling featuring a classic heel vs babyface feud.
The first two nights say a lot about the new season. It’s only been a week since the start and a lot has happened involving these teams. A lot will happen, and I, for one, as a Milwaukee native and therefore Bucks fanatic, am looking forward to a busy and exciting season.