NBA Whirlwind, One Week In: (Celtics, Terry Rozier, Giannis, Pacers, Bulls, Mavs)
Gordon Hayward’s injury opened the door wide open for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Against the lowly Knicks (get used to that adjective for this year, Kazoo fans) Brown poured in corner three after corner three while Tatum slashed toward the hoop and showcased his athleticism against the defensively-challenged Enes Kanter. To be fair, 95% of NBA power forwards look good against Kanter. Still, Tatum is showing at 19 how he can be helpful in a suddenly bigger role. Defense, as it is with all rookies, will be Tatum’s challenge.
The door was already open for Marcus Smart, and it will continue to be, though he accidentally rolled his ankles on Jaylen Brown in a scrimmage after walking through it. Smart should return within a game or two.
In Smart’s absence, Terry Rozier has played 30 minutes in each of the last two games. Rozier’s defense and rebounding skills were clear last year. He’s now in his third season, and looking to become Avery Bradley-lite. Rozier has dropped in 8 of his first 18 (44%) from deep, is clearing the defensive glass (6 reb per game), and tallied 16 assists, while committing only 3 turnovers. Stevens couldn’t have asked for more.
Thursday: @ Milwaukee (Giannis Rising)
Thursday’s rematch with the Bucks in Milwaukee will be tough. Giannis has been incredible early on, and annihilated Boston at the rim for the easiest 37 points I’ve ever seen, other than maybe the Klay Thompson Sacramento game. Giannis is shooting 66%, averaging 36.8/10.8/5.8 over his first 4 games. Even more ridiculous is his shooting percentage from inside the three-point line (69.5%). The man has connected on 14 of 20 two-pointers, including 79% at the rim. Basically, he’s getting to the iron at will and demoralizing defenses. The first week of the season is a tiny sample, and teams are still figuring out rotations and regular season rhythms, but c’mon.
Saturday: @ Miami
Miami is 2–1, beating the unknown, buzzing quantity that is this new version of the Pacers and the soon-to-be very sad Hawks. Miami is looking to pick up where they left of in April. The Heat are attempting to incorporate Justise Winslow back into action, next to old friend Kelly Olynyk in a bench stretch-5 role. Miami is trying to determine whether or not James Johnson and Dion Waiters can come close to duplicating last year’s success.
Indiana has eight (!) players averaging double figures. They are taking 90 shots per game. Granted, we’re four games in, but they may not be able to finish the marathon season at this pace. They might have to forfeit the final month. With Victor Oladipo, speedy Darren Collison, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, running is a great idea. This is a team with nothing to lose. They won’t be above an 8th seed, but they have enough quality players, that they won’t fall into the 25–33 win pack (ATL, NYK, BKN).
Indiana-Detroit-Orlando will be fighting it out for a chance to get wrecked by the Cavs.
New rosters in Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Sacramento: all will need time to find chemistry, learn each other’s habits.
Chicago is Unseemly
Will the Bulls win 15 games? The Mirotic-Portis fight left Mirotic in hospital. Who knows the full story. Mirotic got paid a month ago after the Bulls resisted. Portis is fighting for minutes on a rudderless ship. This “team” should just fast-forward to April. I wouldn’t want to be Fred Hoiberg. At least players are getting a chance to showcase their skills to enhance their careers…if they can avoid beating each other up. Point guard Jerian Grant is averaging 7 assists! And shooting 12% from deep!
Dallas Down in Dumps
Is Dirk officially done? 29% over first 3, 31% deep. Neither Dennis Smith Jr. nor Dennis Smith Sr. will be able to cure all that ails the Mavs. Good thing Carlisle doesn’t have any hair, because knowing how competitive he is, this year would have caused it to fall out.