NBA Restart Week One (7/30 – 8/1)
Before we dig in, I want to earnestly say that the NBA has done a fantastic job with the restart. At the time of writing, zero players in “The Bubble” have tested positive for COVID-19. I don’t know where Adam Silver disappeared the two mystery players to, who had tested positive, but, contrast that to Florida’s prodigal failsons, just 234 miles away, the Miami Marlins. In the epitome of a socially-distanced sport (90 feet between bags, a mile to left field, and a position that is mandated to permanently wear a mask) 19 players or coaches on the Marlins’ staff have contracted COVID. NINETEEN. I can maybe name three Marlins players, and one of them is Derek Jeter, who, in fact, is not a player.
Yet, the NBA, a high-contact sport—where once in the middle of the US’ disturbing AIDS/HIV paranoia, cratered one of its greatest players (Magic Johnson)—we have basketball again. It might have Max Headroom fans, uncanny valley hologram packages, and sanitized, sanctioned equality slogans (which we love) that would feel at home on the shoulders of Metta World Peace or the AND1 Mixtape Tour. This is the NBA at its most TRON, but damnit, basketball is back.
I completely agree with you. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The NBA is, without a doubt, the New Zealand of all professional American sports leagues.
Jazz 106 @ Pelicans 104
Pels should be forced to always wear their white NOLA kits, and the Jazz should be mandated to never wear their whites.
Can I just say, that tertiary Jazz logo—the one with the basketball wedged inside the shape of Utah—is one of the lowest-effort branding elements I’ve ever seen? It’s unimaginatively “basketball orange” and looks like a Lego piece no one would ever use. Jazz, your brand is finally starting to elevate beyond its bland, church casserole origins. Donovan looks great in the modern kits, and those sunset jerseys are fire. All I’m saying is, you’re now better than this. Bring something else to the potluck.
All game the Pels’ danger-bird logo keeps winking at me and I gotta admit, not a huge fan.
“Lonzo’s… now a reliable offensive option.”
Okay, Okay, he had four points on 2/13.
I’m not gonna say he’s a triple-double machine like some will undoubtedly trip over themselves to do, but Lonzo is better in Nawlins. BI is WAY better. Hell, D’Angelo Russell, too, wherever he plays now. What kind of a developmental black hole is the Lake Show? Pretty much the only recent Laker who isn’t better off the squad is Julius Randle, and, no matter how bad the Lakers are at developing talent, the Knicks will be waiting in the wings to shout “hold my beer.”
Even with a sixteen point lead, I spent this whole game thinking “if the Pelicans manage to win this game…” Listen, New Orleans is a fun, young team, and I’d love to see this squad at its peak, but this ain’t it. They have virtually no defense (which is saying something when my guy Jrue Holiday is lacing ’em up), a pretty weak bench, and no one who can take over a game (yet?). All it took to drop this first game was for the Jazz remembering how to shoot, and run pick and rolls to their big like they’ve done for, oh, I don’t know, nearly four decades?
It also probably didn’t help that the one player the league finagled this whole bubble season format to specifically get into the playoffs was on a minutes restriction which they already spent in all of the quarters not named “crunch time.” S’cool though. That one yammington off the Holiday oop in the third quarter was definitely worth having the Thicc God sitting safely six feet away from the rest of the Pelicans bench watching the game slip away. GOOO COACHING!!!
The sad thing here, is that Alvin Gentry actually is good at the whole coaching thing, and has this team in a position no one expected: a nine seed, washed out of the playoffs. If they somehow catch a play-in game, I’ll buy a Lonzo jersey.
Oh, and Zion, who? Old-man Reddick can take it to the iron now.
Clippers 101 @ Lakers 103
Other than the joy I felt watching Dion Waiters, JR Smith and Alex Caruso doing GOAT like things, my only takeaway from this game is as follows. Parents and coaches, I know that we’re living in a different era of basketball that we were used to when we were young (smarter basketball minds have dubbed it the player empowerment era) but, I beg of you all with every fiber of my being, please teach your children to model their games only after one Kawhi Anthony Leonard. Teach them the benefits of removing all semblance of feeling and emotion from their hearts whilst playing a game clearly about nothing more than tossing a round ball in a hoop. If you’re getting killed on the boards, don’t get overly emotional, JUST GRAB MORE REBOUNDS. If you’re team defense is getting somehow getting flummoxed by the other team’s star player, MAYBE YOU SHOULD GUARD THAT GUY BETTER. And if you do everything properly and someone from the opposition starts to complain about your methods (to the officials, no less) just make sure to remind them why the logical conclusions of both of your actions occurred: ALL BALL.
It’s true. Kawhi is the Ivan Drago of the NBA. Every motion is expressionless, devoid of humanity, and brutalist in its efficiency. I’m surprised we got “ALL BALL” instead of whispering in Lebron’s ear “I must break you.”
But Kawhi was not the Lebron punisher that the commentary team was slobbering all over. Nope. Marcus Morris. Riiiight. Lance Stephenson might have something to say, whispered creepily in your ear.
Moving on, If you had to pick between Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, or Dion Waiters as your third scoring option, who would you pick? This sounds like the setup to an NBA-version of fuck, marry, kill, but is actually something the Lakers need to find an answer to.
Joakim Noah looking very biblical.
Magic 128 @ Nets 118
The Nets have the try-hardingest intro graphics/announcements for a team starting Chris Chiozza.
I love how his nickname is Cheese.
Let me get this out of the way: I love the Magic. It’s such a bananas franchise. They exist in a world where the commentary team is gratuitously riding Scott Skiles’ jock. His most important contribution to the franchise was clearing cap space for Horace Grant. Granted (ahem) without the Goggles, the Magic would never make it to the finals to get dressed down by Hakeem and my Rockets. So, actually, hell yeah, Scott Skiles!
Only two teams should be allowed to wear pinstripes: Yankees, and… The Magic. Yeah, I said it. Not the Twins, Reds, and absolutely never the 1996-2003 Rockets. I hate that in this post-ironic world, those Rockets unis which were a frightening lovechild of matinee sci-fi films, pajamas, and inexplicably, zoot suits are having a renaissance.
I live in a delusional, homer-fantasy world where Markelle Fultz is the next Penny Hardaway. Still. Remind me I said that in three years. Or after that sweet airball. Air Penny.
This game had a depressing lack of Mo Bamba.
Did they actually make a guy after the song? How cool! (Definitely the first time anyone’s made this joke.)
Magic were up by 30 and still no old man Crawford. Put old-man Jamal in the game you cowards!
The Magic have one of the most storied histories for big men in the league. Lakers, Spurs, Pistons, and I’m gonna throw the Rockets in there, and maybe a few others have more clout, but, for such a “young” franchise… Magic are there. Shaq alone. Prime, hustle Shaq. Prime Dwight. And now Vucevic. If you’re sleeping on the Magic and aren’t aware of his numbers, he’s got the quietest all-star line you’ll never hear. With the NBA going small ball across the league, Vucevic is a fast and quick 6’11” with a sweet touch. I know that the Kristaps’ and Siakams of the world are looked at as the Dirk heir apparents, but I don’t know if there’s a better big for today’s NBA than Vucevic (sorry Capela).
Don’t let the final ten-point differential fool you into thinking this wasn’t a blow out. The Magic were up on the Brooklyn Also-Rans by 30 at one point. Listen, nothing against the Garrett Temples of the world, but this Broken Nets squad is a shadow, not only of its potential, but of its former self. Jarrett Allen’s still good for a double double and some intimidation in the paint, Levert’s gonna get his. But Kyrie’s T-Rex shoulder and Kevin Durant’s obliterated achilles are not walking into The Bubble.
I’ll add that the Nets could have been left in BK. I’d rather have the lowly Hawks here, and see what they could do in an eight-game run off.
Seconded. Also imagine if they let the Hawks play in their new unis. Fuuuuu…
Man, I would start a change.org petition, or an OnlyFans, or whatever it takes to get the Hawks in those PEACHTREE city unis permanently.
Grizzlies 135 @ Blazers 140
Triple J was a beast, Brandon Clarke was a monster, Grayson Allen still is your local Karen’s favorite ballplayer, yadda yadda yadda. The real story is of how none of us deserve to be in the presence of Ja Morant. I curse anyone who dares vote for Zion to be the Rookie of the Year. I damn your eyes and wish you nothing but plagues. How dare you try to game the system into getting your false idol Zion into the holy land of the NBA Playoffs, Adam Silver?! Blasphemy, I say! BLASPHEMY!
Also, full strength Blazers are pretty dope.
Jaren Jackson Jr is a man possessed. If he continues to play at this level, Memphis will likely be a scary fourth, fifth seed in the Western Conference for the next half decade. Not at all something that Portland would know anything about.
My favourite storyline of this game is that no matter the full-season long-con that the NBA has put on to get that kid in NOLA the Rook prize, Ja is still gonna win it. The only people who (probably) think Zion should be ROY are Zion’s relatives. The cool side effect of the NBA manufacturing more screen time for him, is that we get to see an absurdly talented 30-37 Portland team run wild for eight more games and probably sneak into the playoffs.
I was never a Melo fan, but that elbow he dropped on Grayson Allen was some Macho Man Randy Savage top rope shit, and I am here for it. Also, hands up if you’re down for a lifetime of non-calls for shit like this on that asshole from Duke (no matter who came to mind, it’s still accurate). Zach Collins gave him one, too.
I wish someone blessed Christian Laettner with a Stone Cold Stunner one time.
I love how “fuck Christian Laettner” is a thing that spans generations, and how salty he is about it. But seriously, someone could still rip a stunner on him TODAY, and we’d all retweet that shit 100k times. I take some solace in the fact that while he shut down both the Fab Five and Shaq in college, his pro career was only so good that we can all still hate him for his years at Duke.
Everyone from Duke are assholes. Everyone. Even—and maybe especially—Tim from accounting.
This was one of the better games before the weekend. And that makes sense. The Blazers are basically the Grizz in a few years. Both of these teams are way too good to be bringing up the rear in the West.
Playing Ja is like hooping in A Quiet Place. You hope to God you never wake him up because he might just hit a three, a highlight lay, and then an oop on three consecutive transition plays, murdering your whole damn soul. And still Portland held on.
Skinny Melo looks better than he has in a while. More in shape. The Portland Rehabilitation Center in full force.
Suns 125 @ Wizards 112
I watched this game only to see Rui get his minutes. Lad is a stud. I really hate that he’s been shipped to the Siberia of the NBA, because, while the Suns are actually fun, and have young players who will undoubtedly become stars on their second or third teams, no one should have to watch the Wizards play basketball.
My guy Rui Hachimura, giving the Wizards 21 and 8 of his youth that he’ll never get back. Speaking of misspent youth in basketball purgatory, how long do we give the people of DC to give Rui an offensively racist nickname? I hear they’ve got an opening. #freeRui
No matter how good the Wiz are at being bad, these unis are better (worse?).
Bucks 112 @ Celtics 119
Goddamn, I love those Cream City unis. It’s a shame Jayson Tatum never made it to the game though. Should’ve been a good one.
Dude, those uniforms are straight frothy. Fun fact: Cream City refers to a clay from the Milwaukee area used to make bricks, which seems like a terrible thing to reference with a basketball team, but whatever, when they look this good. I’m inevitably hoping they follow the off-white PSG kits from 18/19, dropping the blue and green for black so they can call them the “Cookies and Cream” city collectin.
This was actually a fairly boring game (hence the extra love given to the unis). The tall Greek man got 36 on 70 PERCENT SHOOTING, and this game was still a snoozer. With Tatum—I was gonna echo you and say “he went HG Wells as the invisible man”—but it was worse than that: 11% from the floor, -13 plus/minus, and a defensive sieve. He was actively harmful. Kinda like eating salt and vinegar chips for breakfast.
Kemba got an efficient 16. Hayward had a Hayward-y 17 on 43%. It just seemed like this was another warm up game for both, and I’m a little concerned that there are more of these ahead. The 1-4 seeds that gain or lose nothing during the 8-game run off using them to slowly get back into rhythm.
Kings 120 @ Spurs 129
LOLOLOLOL, Pt. 2
Another game I’m forced to watch (or at least fast-forward through) because of my unyielding love for Dejounte Murray. I hate the Spurs. Nothing gives me more joy than watching Hakeem “Shake” The Admiral up into the air like he’s on a pogo stick before coolly, and cruelly putting a dagger in his chest. So, just know how much I hate everything about this.
De’Aaron Fox had 39. Some other basketball players also did things. Reminder that old man LMA is at home with a bum shoulder.
Rockets 153 @ Mavericks 149
Boy, did they ever get the Game of the Night right. Whoever programmed tonight’s bill deserves a raise. Goddamn, WHAT A GAME! The PorzinGod showing out, Trey Burke toting an absolute flamethrower from the bench, my favorite adult son Luka getting into a step back-a-thon / Euro step-off with The Beard who’s team had 6’7 Robert Covington AT MOTHERFUCKING CENTER! RoCo’s absolutely filthy denial of that Unicorn two hander was such a reverse poster it practically sucked itself back into the wall like Andy Dufresne’s Racquel Welch wall art in Shawshank. It was 85-75 AT HALFTIME! I only had one gripe from this game and one gripe only: #UnleashBoban
Everything is bigger in Texas (even when it’s actually Orlando), including first half points, step backs, and 6’7” centers.
It’s probably pretty obvious by now that I crush hard on gritty defensive players, and there’s nothing I like more than a savage rejection. Covington sending back KP’s slam like it’s a fajita without cheese (don’t be this person) is pure joy, and will be my good night lullaby for the next month.
With Robert Convington playing center, just a reminder that the Rockets DO have Tyson Chandler. Shoutout to 57-year old Tyson Chandler.
I’m not gonna go homer too hard on this game, but in the first five minutes I knew Harden would go for fifty. As the quarter progressed, you could have convinced me into thinking he’d get fifty in the first half. I bring this up as an excuse to note that in this game, Harden became the number two scorer in Houston history behind the GOAT, Hakeem.
Beard doing beard things: play decent defense, run the court, euro step, make a bucket, draw a foul, and then a flop, all in a sequence, filling up his whole bingo card.
Ah yes, the patented airball to Boban to bucket play.
It’s an icky feeling being a Rockets fan, and having to be comfortable with your team being down 10, 20, in the third, because even if they make 2% more of the billion threes they shoot, they’ll probably come back and win.
At one point the commentary team said “Houston starting to guard some people.”
I’mma need that ALL BALL Kawhi gif for Covington’s block on Luka. But hey, now that he’s playing undersized center, can we call him Rodman Convington? He’s basically Rodman with way less hall of fame defense/rebound badges, but with a three-point shot in his bag. So almost nothing like Rodman, but that won’t stop me. #RodmanCovington
The end of regulation made absolutely no sense. I am still not sure what happened. #RodmanCovington
Harden 49. Kristaps 39. Westbrook 31. Trey Burke 31. Luka with what turned out to be a meager 28. 12 players in double figures. 302 total points.
Heat 125 @ Nuggets 105
Watching the Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. dish to Bol Bol for his first NBA bucket felt like something out of a YA Fantasy novel. It’s that moment when the child of destiny, after having toiled through the trials, tribulations and eventual love triangle entanglements of the journey, finally fulfills the prophecy and saves the world. Except instead of saving the world he’s just assisting on high percentage baskets to a super gully version of Manute Bol.
Dude, why you gotta do me like that? You know in this scenario MPJ’s love triangle was his protracted footsie with U-Dub before inevitably spending his college furlough in fucking Missouri. MPJ’s career has a very Groundhog’s Day vibe. Like it’s caught in a constant restart. Between injuries, and now the pandemic, it feels like the Nuggets are finally taking the plastic off a guy who’s been in the league since 2018.
Has there ever been a more perfect person to play for the Miami Heat than Tyler Herro? He’s an irrationally confident baller from the midwest who, when baptised in the salty waters of South Beach, transformed into a braid wearing hypebeast with an affinity for knocking down Instagram models. Dare I say: White Chocolate 2.0?
I can’t tell if that’s being exceptionally kind, or offensively rude to White Chocolate the First. As for Herro, he’s basically Jimmer Fredette or Grayson Allen, but instead of being insufferable, he chose to embrace South Beach by cosplaying as Razor Ramon.
If I were in a cattier mood, the other Herro comp that I was workshopping was Celebrity All Star Game Jack Harlow.
Bam versus the now svelte Serbian known as the Joker was the main event of this game, but out of nowhere comes Kelly Olynyk to take over the 4th quarter? Is that like when Godzilla fought Rodan then all of a sudden Mothra’s music hit the TitanTron?
*Captain America, “I understood that reference”*
I’m somehow excited for Bol Bol’s 5/4/1, and it’s mostly because of that pass to fucking Mason Plumlee. Let those words sink in.
That was such a flex / FUCK YOU, DAD THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!!
Jazz 94 @ Thunder 110
Just for a second, do a thought exercise for me. Look up the Portland Trail Blazers lineup, then look up the lineup for the Thunder. One is the sixth seed and one is the ninth, just outside the playoff picture. It makes absolutely no sense which is which.
The Thunder have somehow guaranteed a playoff spot with an ancient Chirs Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and a big bully man named Steven. They’re a slightly better sixth seed than they were with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. This is the damn Upside Down. SGA is the real deal, though.
No doubt. SGA is an unbelievable player. There has to be some sort of trophy or commemorative plaque for being the player was traded by a franchise who will forever regret doing so. The One Who Got Away award. Funny because the Thunder already have theirs in James Harden and now the Clippers get theirs in SGA. Sorry Blake Griffin truthers.
I’m not sorry, Blake Griffin truthers.
So, we still haven’t learned anything about the Jazz after the restart. They’re good enough to trip and fall into a victory over the Pels, and get blown out by the Thunder. Spida looks more like Peter B. Parker, Rudy Gobert shot 83% from the floor, and somehow still only had ten with a plus/minus of -14. Either they haven’t found their playoff stride yet, or they have, and that’s grim.
How dare you, sir! Peter B. Parker was a good man who’s just been left out in the sun too long. What he lacks in physicality, he more than makes up for in sheer divorced dad wisdom. Plus he’s super relatable, especially in these dire times (i.e. sobbing uncontrollably in the shower while in full costume, tell me who hasn’t)
Pelicans 103 @ Clippers 126
Lol. 126-103. The Pelicans don’t belong here. Send them and the Thicc God home before Reggie Jackson’s foot kills him.
The Commish’s secret Zion agenda could’ve saved at least 4 teams from unnecessarily coming to the bubble, but no. This feels like the end of Usual Suspects when the detective takes a step back to look at the board and figures out that he’s been duped, except in this case Kevin Spacey trips on his own shoelaces and is immediately arrested in the lobby.
Sixers 121 @ Pacers 127
Remember how utterly abysmal the Sixers were on the road before the restart? Apparently it counts even when they pretend to be on the road. They let TJ Warren go for a fifty spot, including massive buckets at the end to seal it. Listen, Sixers fans, it’s okay to be worried. I would be. You’re staring deep into the unflinching death mask of playoffs on the road. But hey, if you’ve got some free time after your first round exit, might I suggest Matisse Thybulle’s “Life in the Bubble” vlog? That’s some entertaining shit.
Oh, Embiid had 41, and Tobias had 30.
Full disclosure, when I heard about TJ Warren going off I did the squinted eyes JR Smith thing and asked my phone out loud “isn’t he in Phoenix?”
The Pacers continue to stealthily pile up wins, applying pressure to the better teams in the conference while distancing themselves from the chaff. Even without Big D. It doesn’t seem to matter who goes down, or who gets called up for the Pacers, and it’s been like that for years. They’re the Midwest Spurs.
Lakers 92 @ Raptors 107
The Raptors beat Lebron! THE RAPTORS BEAT LEBRON!
Don’t pop that quarantine champs yet, Rap fans, this was a tune up game at best, and hell hath no fury like The King in the Finals. Never mind that this is AD’s team, and as he goes, so do the Lakers.
It’s not odd to be thinking Raps for the Finals, either, as odd as that is. No awkward laughing man, a road that goes through Cream City, and a half dozen super teams hanging out in the West, and yet, The Raptors look like the best team during the restart.
The week’s Almost Valuable Player
The Bucks social media guy who tweeted a clip of Donte DiVincenzo crossing Kemba into the floorboards before hitting a three with the caption Equality and the BLM hashtag. Sometimes creating a perfect piece of art isn’t a conscious act. Sometimes the muse takes hold.
ABABCG Roofing’s Employee of Week: Jusuf Nurkic
Nurkic is a beautiful, ungainly swan. looking like a point-center out there. Five dimes to go with his eight boards, SIX big man rejections (#ABABGCroofing), and eighteen points.
Glorious Basketball Names from Around the World: Mono Vampire
Coming all the way from Thailand, are the Mono Vampire. Named “Mono” because of the company that owns them, and “Vampire” for reasons I know nothing about… this is a great basketball name. Sure it conjures images of Twilight-adjacent vampires swapping spit and other bodily fluids until the whole damn school comes down with the kissing disease, but whatever. It doesn’t matter whether you’re #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob, we’re all Team Mono Vampire.
Mono Vampire sounds like a mid level boss in Metal Gear or a lesser known MF Doom alias and normally I would say that I need one of their jerseys (or shir-seys) ASAP but, alas, I cannot. I’ve been Team Herpes Werewolf since day one.
Illustration by All Ball All Ball Group Chat