Drama, the long ball center of early season NBA intrigue
ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 19, 2018 07:22 PM
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 22: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors dunks the ball against the Phoenix Suns during a game on October 22, 2018 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press
There has been some early tinkering to lineups, a few hiccups and lots of drama to start the NBA season.
None of the league’s final four teams from last season — Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Golden State — look like locks to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy this time.
The addition of Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets’ roster produced more thorns than fruit, and now he is out.
In Boston, the Celtics are having early trouble trying to figure out how best to use their overflowing mix of young and veteran talent following the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injuries.
And Cleveland has gotten off to a predictable slow start to the post-LeBron James’ era, but few expected the total collapse by the Cavaliers.
However, there is no drama like championship drama and the defending champion Warriors suddenly look more like the cast of a reality series than a harmonious lineup rolling along and vying for a third straight championship.
Draymond’s Green public outburst at Kevin Durant during the Warriors’ overtime loss to the Clippers on Nov. 12 lingers. Now there is tension on a team that has managed to remain mostly drama-free during its run. Durant’s impending free agency, Green’s lack of an apology, and Steph Curry’s injury has opened a window for teams.
Some of the NBA’s most recent mini-dynasties have dissipated because of infighting.
Squabbling between Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls management at least contributed to their decline after Jordan’s second three-peat and subsequent second retirement in 1999. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t coexist long enough to extend the Los Angeles Lakers’ run of three straight titles from 2000 to 2002.
Green has vowed the Warriors will still be there in the end.
That remains to be seen.
Little guys doing work outside and big men camped out close to the basket is an old-school approach to basketball that’s starting to look as old as James Naismith’s original peach baskets.
The NBA needs to send out thank-you cards to the ABA.
Everyone digs the long ball.
Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the 3-point shot in the league. Over those four decades it’s gone from being one of the handful of innovations carried over from the ABA to a necessity for any player — from guards to seven-footers — wanting to have longevity in the league.
During the 2012-13 season, 33 NBA players listed at 6'8" or taller averaged at least one three-point attempt. That number grew to 124 last season.
The 2018-19 season is barely two months old, but two teams (Boston and Golden State) have already logged 24 made three-pointers in a game. The record of 25 was set late last season by Cleveland.
And in case anyone needed a reminder of the shot’s increased popularity, look no further than Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez. He became the third seven-footer in NBA history to hit eight three-pointers in a game when he did it against Denver last week.
“You see the way the game’s trending, it’s definitely moving in that direction,” Lopez said. “I’m just trying to be professional, do my job, try to get my work in. I want to be as good as I can in every possible area of the game.”
Lopez said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has been supportive of him stepping out beyond the arc.
“Regardless if I miss, if I have off-games where I don’t shoot as well, they just tell me” to keep shooting, Lopez said.
Other veteran big men around the league are hearing similar refrains.
THE WEEK AHEAD
— San Antonio at New Orleans, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): DeMar DeRozan had 26 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points and 12 rebounds during the Spurs’ win in San Antonio earlier this month. The Pelicans look to return the favor after recovering nicely from a six-game losing skid.
— Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): In a pre-Turkey Day appetizer, LeBron James returns to face Cleveland for the first time this season following his free agency departure to L.A.
— New Orleans at Philadelphia, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): The Pelicans get their first crack at the new-look 76ers following their acquisition of Jimmy Butler.
— Portland at Golden State, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): The Warriors get a look at one of their chief challengers in the West when they meet the Blazers for the first time this season.
AP Sports Writer Genaro Armas in Milwaukee contributed to this report.