NBA Preseason: Kobe and the Lakers, The Rookies, and more…
What’s good, basketball fans?
Spring has sprung. In October.
The tree outside my window has dropped the majority of its leaves, now standing all but naked. The squirrels are once more nowhere to be seen. By five o’clock, every streetlamp casts its orange lustre over the dusty streets. Winter has chased summer into hiding for another year.
For a hoophead, however, it’s springtime again. The players have dropped the off-season weight, the court assistants have cleaned, re-cleaned and polished the floor, and the groupies have broken out the makeup cases. All is as it should be in the basketball world as the community holds its collective breath for the start of the season.
Until then, we’re left with the preseason for amusement, which, for the real fan, is more than enough following a summer of longing looks at the calendar, with the first of November underlined, circled and asterisked in permanent marker. I know I’m not the only one.
Let’s take a quick look at last night’s games.
L.A. Lakers 101, Golden State 93
The big story here was the return of Phil Jackson and his reunion with the Love/Hate king, Mr. Kobe Bryant. The fact that it was held in Hawaii restricted coverage severely, meaning that it was also just about the only story reported.
– Kobe scored twenty-four in the first half, finishing the game with twenty-eight, shooting ten of nineteen. Like his hero, KB8 just doesn’t know when to take it easy.
– B-Dizzle (he prefers it to “B-Diddy”) put in a sloppy seventeen, with ten of them coming from free throws. The Warriors were said to have looked poorly conditioned in the latter stages of the game.
– Smush Parker started. Nobody knows why.
– Monta Ellis looked horrible all night, connecting on only one of his seven shot attempts. Welcome to the league, rookie.
Houston 105, Philadelphia 91
For Houston fans, this was the first chance to see D.A., Brains and Skip running with the Rockets. However, even with the new additions, it was three returning stars – Yao, Tracy and A.I. – who hogged the limelight.
– Iggy had a slick reverse dunk coming off a backdoor cut.
– T-Mac contributed to the highlights with a series of twisting layups, looking as confident attacking the basket as he ever has.
– It looks as if Yao used his time away to work on his jumper. If he can add a consistent fifteen-footer to his repertoire, he’ll be a big step closer to reaching his advertised potential.
– However, The Great Wall looked tired late in the game, noticeably dragging his legs when running back on defence. Given that this was the first summer he has had to himself, it’s understandable that he’s lost a little of his fitness.
– Does Allen Iverson ever age? Even after all the injuries, he still darts from one spot on the court to the next like a startled goldfish.
– Rafer looked very comfortable running Houston’s offence. They’ve made a great acquisition there.
– Stro’ was given a “Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision” prior to the game, delaying his debut.
Orlando 104, Atlanta 93
With the messy business of his signing well in the past, Atlanta fans can sleep a little easier having seen Joe Johnson finally suit up for the Hawks. They were also treated to their first look at Marvin Williams, although it turned out to be a night they’d probably rather forget.
– I don’t buy the idea of J.J. as the primary point guard. The seven assists were a promising sign, but the six turnovers were most definitely not.
– Two of six from the field, four rebounds, five fouls and three turnovers? What happened, Marvin?
– Dwight Howard looked sharp, missing only one field goal en route to fifteen points.
–Forty-first pick Mario Kasun impressed, hitting seven of ten and snatching seven boards. However, like many a European before him, he seems destined for insignificance once the regular season tips off.
Detroit 87, Chicago 76
In the early nineties, this would have been one of the sickest match-ups in the league. As it is, they’re once again a pair of talented teams more than capable of playing entertaining basketball.
– Flip Saunders was received warmly by the Detroit crowd prior to the game. Having recently lost Larry Brown, I think they recognise and admire the loyalty Flip had for Minnesota.
– B.W. threw down a nasty two-handed alley-oop on Tyson Chandler, who should have known better than to step to Big Ben.
– Darko gave us half a reason to remember he existed, scoring seven points in twenty-four minutes on the floor.
– He also gave us reason to forget about him when Michael Sweetney bullied him all over the floor with the greatest of ease. If Ron Artest added ten pounds of muscle, couldn’t Darko bulk up even a little?
Cleveland 96, Boston 86
–LeBron sat this one out, with several minor pains cited. “Abdominal strain” was given as the official injury.
–Paul Pierce seems to have binned the headband, going bare for the first time in a while.
–Brian Scalabrine made his first appearance for Boston. Something about a redheaded man wearing a green jersey that reads “Celtics” just seems right.
–P.P. absolutely killed Luke Jackson on one of his patented step-back moves.
New Jersey 105, Indiana 103
–Ron-Ron was back in the house. The crowd booed him lightly in the early stages of the game, but soon gave up.
–Vince still has his bounce, and he used it to spike home an airballed shot by Nenad Krstic early in the game.
–Another dunk contest champion, Fred Jones, helped pad out the highlight reel, this time with a fast-break alley-oop.
–Anthony Johnson was looking as tubby as he ever has.
–Zoran Planinic had the highlight of the game, hitting the winning layup with a little under six ticks left on the clock. Sadly for him, it might also have been the highlight of his career.
Dallas 96, Sacramento 83
–Shareef and Bonzi played their first games for Sacto.
–‘Reef’s knee braces were so substantial that I wondered if his legs would fall apart if he removed them. I don’t blame New Jersey for passing him up now.
–Like Paul Pierce, Brad Miller also appears to be playing sans headband this year.
–The Mavericks shot sixty-seven percent from the field in the first half.