And Now We Get Into Full Swing

In 24 hours, every team will have at least one game under its belt. Not that I’m advocating staying home on a Friday night, but if you’re an NBA fan, it’s a good night since there are 13 games tonight. So sponsored by nobody this is what’s on tap tonight in the association:

Milwaukee @ Charlotte – A poll question on the Charlotte Observer asks if the Bobcats will make the playoffs. So far, it’s a close race (between 51 people) but we get to see the first game of that quest. Emeka Okafor could be starting his last season there as he did not get the contract extension but it does not appear to negatively effect him. It is also the start of the Jason Richardson era and he something to prove perhaps since he played in just 51 games last season. And if you want to learn more about Sam Vincent other than the fact that he played at Michigan State, perhaps this will help.

As for the Bucks, they were pretty helpless in the third quarter of their loss in Orlando. They last started 0-2 in 2002-03 but that team is a lot better than the current one. And not that I’m breaking new ground here but I’d think they’d need more than two guys in double figures – Desmond Mason I’m looking in your direction.

Detroit @ Orlando – This teams met in the playoffs. Detroit won in four. It was a pretty cut and dry series but then Orlando added Rashard Lewis, a big man who can do a lot of things like this Lewis heated up during the third quarter against Milwaukee.

As for the Pistons, they played last night and won a pretty cut and dry game over the Miami Heat. They did so without Richard Hamilton, who was celebrating the birth of his daughter. Tayshaun Prince was used in a variety of ways and scored 34 points of course his defenders were Penny Hardaway, Dorell Wright and Udonis Haslem.

Miami @ Indiana – It’s hard to believe that the Heat haven’t won in Indiana in six years but that’s what’s on the line here for Shaq and friends. Their last win was Dec 31, 2001 and I remember it. Why because I wrote it

Alonzo Mourning was in that game but he no longer plays starter’s minutes. The Heat make the flight to Indy of a flat home opening loss to Detroit. They played without Dwyane Wade (offseason shoulder surgery) but there may be news on that front. Wade will not play here but could return sooner than expected.

The Pacers will see if they can repeat showings from the likes of Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger. Each provided doubles-doubles in the wake of absences by Troy Murphy and Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal is expected to make his debut and coach Jim O’Brien is excited.

Toronto @ New Jersey – The last time these teams met was May 4. The Nets then knocked off the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs after ceding the Atlantic Division to them. The Nets proved that they could overcome that and won the series in six games before bowing out to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since then, the Nets have improved their depth, gotten “Curly” back in the starting lineup (Nenad Kristic) and twos thing we learned in Wednesday’s 112-103 overtime win vs. the Bulls is that Richard Jefferson is healthy and that Antoine Wright can be pretty good.

As for the Raptors, they held off the Sixers, 107-96 and if there is rivalry, the Raptors don’t really care. I could predict the answers but I wasn’t there to ask the questions. Doug Smith of the Toronto Star was there and the responses were the typical of guys not taking the bait. It happens all the time, especially in baseball and especially this early in a season.

New York @ Cleveland – The team the helps some aspiring comedy writers come up with material attempts to get serious. They won their season-opener last year in Memphis in double overtime. I’m not going to delve into all the offseason stuff but the Knicks will get their first look at the Zach Randolph-Eddy Curry partnership and the quicker that evolves into something positive the better for all interested parties, considering that the Knicks were 6-11 in the first month of last season. And for the Knicks sake, hopefully it truly was the exhibition season Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford.

While we harp on the negatives (118-182) will do that, the offeseason was a chance for David Lee and Quentin Richardson to get healthy.

As for the Cavaliers, for a team that went to the finals they did little to improve their supporting cast around that LeBron guy. The preseason stunk and the season opener was um (awful would be putting it nicely). They gave up the first six baskets in the paint, stood around and got no first half points from LeBron James, who is now being set up in the post. Obviously that plan could change with a few more losses like Wednesday but the days of the Knicks holding anyone under 90 points and 80 points are so 1999.

Dallas @ Atlanta – The Mavericks weren’t screwing around with their national TV dismantling of the Cavs.  They’ll have another vet in search of his first ring when Juwan Howard suits up.  Of course they have the best sixth man in the league after Jason Terry’s 24 points in the season opener.  I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Hawks-Mavericks game in its’ completion but the Hawks have always intrigued me.

They won seven of eight in the preseason, which may or may not mean something. They will unveil their new logo and some new rookies in Al Horford and Acie Law. Hopefully their performance will be better than 5-of-9 showing on the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Hawks history quiz.

Washington @ Boston – ESPN’s second night of NBA action tips off with this one and this should be a good one.  I and their network executives would very disappointed if it wasn’t.

It’s been a big week for Boston.  Their baseball team won the World Series, the hockey team is good and the college football team is pretty good.  And here are the Celtics.  They have a triple threat in Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and each were interviewed by John Thompson for TNT.  They see no reason why the Celtics can’t win the East even with a point guard so young as Rajon Rondo.  It sounds like Garnett is having a good time.

And it’s always a scene when Gilbert Arenas fires up the Hibachi.  He scored 34 points in the overtime loss at Indiana.  He’s firing up the old confidence and quotes on the bulletin board with this one from his blog:  “Right now, I’m telling the Boston fans: You are going to lose. It’s not going to be a victory for Boston. You might as well just cheer for me, because Boston isn’t winning in Boston for the season opener. I’m sorry.

Portland @ New Orleans – Basketball is back in New Orleans and the Hornets will play a complete schedule their. The early returns were good in their 104-90 (not as close as the final score indicated) victory over the Sacramento Kings.  I didn’t see a minute, millisecond or anything from that game (can’t watch them all) .  But further educating myself reveals why a 26-point lead got to 14 – the reserves.  Byron Scott is vowing changes after one game and that will include rookie Julien Wright’s NBA debut.

As for the Trail Blazers, they hung around in San Antonio but that was a game that you never felt they were going to win.  LaMarcus Aldridge impressed, the guards stunk, especially Brandon Roy.  Roy sought some consultation from the coaching staff  and his parents. All parties reached the same conclusion that Bruce Bowen flustered Roy.  The Hornets don’t have anyone who can do what Bowen does to the extent that he does it so I’d expect Roy to be better in this one.

Denver @ Minnesota – There are two schools of thought on the Nuggets.  One is their depth is good, another is that the depth is not so good.  I liked their depth in Wednesday’s season opener against Seattle.  Jack McCallum was there and was not buying into what the Nuggets are selling, which is 50-55 wins and maybe even 60. None of their injured guys reported any pain (Martin, Nene and Camby).  The Nuggets were 22-19 on the road last season because as coach George Karl put it, they weren’t as casual on the road.

As for the Wolves, Al Jefferson is the big ticket (no pun there), the biggest of the names acquired from the Celtics in the Garnett trade.  The last time the Timberwolves played a game without Garnett on the team these were the starters: Tom Gugliotta, Christian Laettner, Sean Rooks, Darrick Martin and JR Rider. That was back in April 1995 and 12 years later.

I like the Wolves (not as a 50-win juggernaut but as a team that will be young and scrappy).  They’ll have to do so without Randy Foye as he’s out with a knee injury.They also have Ryan Gomes, whose game I’ve thought highly off since he was at Providence.

Sacramento @ San Antonio – The Kings are without Mike Bibby (injured and maybe soon to be traded) and Ron Artest (suspended for six more games and also soon to be traded).  They are the only team in the last five years whose regular season win total has declined and it’s a fairly steep drop 59-55-50-44-33.  There’s a reason why on Opening Night of that season, they started Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, Hedo Turkoglu and Bobby Jackson.  On opening night they started, Kevin Martin, Brad Miller, Kenny Thomas, John Salmons and Orien Greene and that became a 104-90 loss at New Orleans.

The Spurs have won their first two.  They teased Portland by allowing them to stick around and survived a scare in Memphis where they needed Manu Ginobili to score the final nine points of the game.  I have a feeling a Spurs blowout is on tap tonight.

Philadelphia @ Chicago – The Sixers will battle and actually mean it, unlike Art Howe, who said the 2003-2004 Mets were battling when they lost 7-0.  However, it could be another bad Billy King decision.  He couldn’t come up with the correct amount of money to sign Andre Iguodala to a long-term extension before Wednesday’s deadline.  And now he’ll have to match any offer from anyone else next summer or else.

As for the Bulls.  Many think they will win the East.  I don’t even after watching them comeback from 17 points in New Jersey.  They are also part of the big rumor mill but John Paxson said that their quest for Kobe Bryant is essentially over. They also saw Ben Gordon and Luol Deng turn down extensions for 10 million a year.

Warriors @ Clippers – The Warriors had some ugly numbers Wednesday against Utah.  In one of their most highly anticipated home openers ever (I seem to remember Bob Fitzgerald saying it was their most anticipated home opener since Chris Webber’s rookie season), they were outrebounded 56-37, turned it over 20 times and missed 12 free throws.  That led to a 117-96 loss.  Interesting thing about the Warriors only Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson have contracts for next season. Baron Davis can opt-out and several of the younger players have something to prove to Chris Mullin, especially Patrick O’Bryant, the team’s lottery pick in 2006.  One thing that’s assured is that the Warriors could be the most well-read team in the NBA now that Davis has started his own book club .

The Clippers might want to look at the following title from the Los Angeles public library.  How to replace 20 points from your best player.  For the next few months, Elton Brand’s injured Achilles tendon will keep him in a suit.   Look for Chris Kaman to command some attention down low and then Corey Maggette as well as Cuttino Mobley.  Kaman has lost 20 pounds and has a new hair-do, so we’ll see if that changes things for the better.

Lakers @ Phoenix – As of this posting, Kobe Bryant is still a Laker.  The latest rumor has been put to bed (although I could make up some good ones on the various trade trackers that exist.  The Lakers almost pulled off win number one as they rallied from 12 points down on TNT and lost by two to the Rockets.  They now try to end the seven-game losing streak in Phoenix.

Raja Bell gets another chance to be a Kobe Stopper (I think Ruben Patterson has that copyrighted).  Bell was one of many attempting to stop Kevin Durant, who scored 27 points but made two key turnovers down the stretch in Phoenix’s 106-99 win at Seattle Thursday.  Since losing on Opening night to the Lakers last season and including the playoffs, the Suns have won seven of the last eight.  D’Antoni said the Suns weren’t sharp, which they weren’t but they were good defensively in the final minutes and that countered 20 turnovers – seven by Steve Nash.


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