NBA Opening Night: Way-too-early first impressions from first games of the season
Our NBA scribes break down what we've learned from the first two nights
Tuesday might have been opening night, but Wednesday felt much more like the official start of the NBA season with 22 teams in action. With so many games there was a lot to watch, but our NBA writers have picked out the most important storylines -- or at least the things that stood out most.
While it's just one game, this is the first time we've seen most of these teams this season, so there was sure to be some overreaction. Here are some way-too-early observations from the second night of the NBA season:
Injuries putting damper to opening night excitement
Jack Maloney: The excitement about the start of a new NBA season is nothing new. It happens every single year as October rolls around. This season, however, felt different. Sure, everyone expects the Warriors will take home the title again, but the absolutely ridiculous amount of roster turnover, the exciting young rookie class and the exceptional drama of the offseason, all of it was building towards a uniquely compelling regular season.
And then ... two hours before the season was set to tip, in what now seems like a dreadful case of foreshadowing, Bobby Portis sent his Nikola Mirotic to the hospital with a punch that left his Chicago teammate with facial fractures and a concussion. Then, five minutes into the first game of the season, Gordon Hayward landed awkwardly after an aborted lob attempt, and suffered a that will likely to keep sidelined for the season. In the late game Tuesday night, Draymond Green , though it's unclear how long he'll be out.
Unfortunately, it didn't end Wednesday. Chris Paul was ruled out with what is being called a bruised knee. Jeremy Lin crumpled to the floor in agony with what appears to be a serious knee injury. And JaMychal Green was knocked out of his game with a badly rolled ankle.
Though Hayward's fall is certainly the leading cause, the multitude of serious injuries to start the season has put a serious damper on things. Every time a player goes up for a lob, or lands a little awkwardly, there's a split second of terror in anticipation that it's happened again. Eventually, things will get back to normal and the injuries will heal, but for now, it's not a whole lot of fun to watch basketball.
Philly might have another 'unicorn' in Simmons
James Herbert: During Ben Simmons' regular season debut, several CBS Sports writers who contributed to this story compared him to the likes of Boris Diaw, Lamar Odom and even Anthony Mason. The difference between Simmons and those point forwards is that he doesn't move like a forward at all. His insistence on being labeled a point guard makes sense when you watch the way he handles the ball, surveys the floor and drives to the basket. It just looks weird because he's so huge. Simmons is much stronger than he was in his LSU days, and ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy suggested that he is closer to being a 7-footer than his listed height of 6-10.
A few of his forays to the rim actually reminded me of James Harden, another atypical lefty playmaker -- when Simmons gets a head of steam, he is so crafty and athletic that it is almost impossible to stop him. After recording 18 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in a 120-115 loss to the Wizards, the 76ers rookie told reporters that he felt like he was playing 2K out there. No one thinks of Simmons as a "unicorn," but his attributes do seem like those of a created player.
The Wizards are actually good. Washington just hit the Sixers with stretches of superior athleticism and execution, and while Philly had the energy and scrap to hang around, it was evident who the better team was, starting with the best player on the floor, John Wall.
Wall shot poorly; the jumper wasn't there like it isn't a lot of nights. And yet he racked up 28 points, five rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and a plus-19. Wall took a lot of nights off last season defensively, but set a different tone to start this season. He was physical and aggressive defensively.
Meanwhile, Bradley Beal poured in another 25 points. Otto Porter cooled off from the field after a hot start but made about four really key defensive plays late in the fourth to wrestle control from the Sixers. Marcin Gortat was solid, and Kelly Oubre looked like the kind of fill-in weapon the Wizards badly need off the bench. ( .)
All in all, it's great that the Sixers are the hot new team, but with the unfortunate, awful Hayward injury, and the instability in Cleveland, the Wizards needed to hit the ground running with a great opportunity. They took their first step well on Wednesday.
Will 'Antetokounmpo' fit on the MVP trophy?
Colin Ward-Henninger: Giannis Antetokounmpo was a trendy MVP pick this offseason, but most felt he was still at least a year or two away from supplanting the likes of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant as a true MVP candidate. On Wednesday, he moved up the timeline.
Building off a phenomenal playoff series against the Raptors last season, Giannis picked up right where he left off, thoroughly dominating the Celtics to the tune of 37 points and 13 rebounds on an efficient 13 of 22 from the field and 11 of 13 from the free-throw line.
After the game, Brad Stevens said, "When you watched Giannis tonight, you thought, that's an MVP candidate right there." And with extraterrestrial athleticism like this, can you blame him?
The Boogie-Brow show still isn't working
Oh and hey, guess what? They lost. Again. That drops New Orleans to 7-11 in games that Davis and Cousins have played together, which has to be concerning for the Pelicans, even in such a small sample size.
While Cousins and Davis both put up monster numbers in their season-opening 103-91 loss to the Grizzlies, neither was efficient. Cousins was 9 of 21 from the field, while Davis was 9 of 23, partly a product of the Memphis defense, and partly because the Pelicans got a pitiful four-point, 2-for-11 performance from their third option, Jrue Holiday. Take away Cousins, who was 3 of 9 on 3-pointers, and the team shot 4 of 16 from deep -- not exactly the best way to create space for your superstar 7-footers to operate. Also concerning, by the way, was the fact that Cousins took nine 3-pointers. Gentry has already said Cousins could be the best 3-point shooter on the team, but with how beastly Cousins performs in the paint, having him cast away freely from beyond the arc is a dangerous precedent to set this early in the season.
Magic show potential growth in win
Chris Barnewall: Orlando has struggled to establish a new identity ever since Dwight Howard and the Magic parted ways years ago. Over the years, there has always been one negative consistency with them: When things faltered, which they inevitably do in an NBA season, they would cave. It was something Evan Fournier talked about in the locker room after his team picked up an impressive 116-109 opening night win over Miami.
"I think two or three years ago that's a game we would've lost. It shows growth from us players," Fournier said. "It's a good win, but we have to get the stops."
Orlando originally led the Heat by as much as 17, but Hassan Whiteside came in and helped Miami drag themselves to within two. In previous years Orlando would have collapsed and left the building asking themselves questions about what just happened. This time, the Magic came through in a big way largely because of Fournier.
He finished the game with 23 points and gave hope that maybe this is a different Magic team -- one that can face adversity and come out of it on the positive side. They have a season of continuity and looked incredible at times against Miami. It's only Game 1, but there's a lot to be excited about in Orlando early on.
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