Here are my Top 10 thoughts from the first night of the NBA season:
1) I can’t believe how much I watched. On Christmas. Our family get-together got postponed because some people were sick (at least that’s what they told us??). So I watched all or a good part of five games, starting with Boston and New York. I’m sure I have never watched that much NBA in a single day in my life. Remember, I’m one who pretty much discounts the regular season and waits for the playoffs. It has always served me well.I think Hubie Brown is the finest NBA analyst going.2) Two good games (Celtics-Knicks, Lakers-Bulls), one dud (Heat-Mavericks) and two so-so games (Thunder-Magic, Warriors-Clippers). By far the most impressive team of the day was the Heat, which looked in mid-season form and overwhelmed Dallas with defense. Could it be that the Mavs, a season after winning the championship, just aren’t very good? I think Dallas lost too much in J.J. Barea, Deshawn Stevenson, Tyson Chandler and others).
3) I could listen to Hubie Brown analyze basketball all day long. He’s the best and he works so well with Mike Tirico. Meanwhile, I was forced to listen to Jeff Van Gundy all day long, literally. He not only did the Heat-Mavericks game in the afternoon, but then he and play-by-play guy Mike Breen flew to Oakland to call the Warriors-Clippers game at night, apparently so they could spend some time with former broadcast partner Mark Jackson, now Golden State’s coach. Van Gundy is too cutesie for me. His schtick wears thin. Give me three games with Brown next time and none with Van Gundy.
4) The Clippers are better. Much better with point guard Chris Paul on board. But I’m not ready to anoint them as challengers to the upper-tier teams in the West yet. Paul and Billups are nice and there is some depth on this team in the backcourt. But there’s not a lot of depth up front and while I like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, I wonder who comes after that.Rajon Rondo was the best point guard I saw during the five NBA games played on Christmas Day.5) Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the NBA. Is that rash? Do you think I’m crazy? I watched him play and then I watched some of the other best point guards play and there was no contest. Not even among Rondo and Paul. Rondo is the reason – the only reason – Boston was even close in its game against the Knicks. OK, Derrick Rose is the returning MVP of the league and he was outstanding for the Bulls on Sunday against the Lakers. But if you pick among Rose, Paul and Rondo, who do you pick? I think I pick Rondo.
6) We’re looking at a 66-game NBA season. How many games does Miami win? I’ll go with 52. Too high? I don’t know, the Heat looked awfully good Sunday. Miami has pretty much the same team back, so it’s fair to question depth. But rookie point guard Norris Cole, out of Cleveland State, was a big help against Dallas. And veteran forward Shane Battier is a nice piece. I think Miami has a chance to make a shambles of the league.
7) I know Boston is trying to make one last run with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. But that’s a team that looks well past its prime, even though the Celtics had New York on the ropes Sunday in Madison Square Garden. Again, Rondo is Boston’s saving grace. Pierce missed the opener with an injury and you wonder how many games the Boston veterans will have to sit out during a condensed NBA schedule.
8) Kobe Bryant is still a terrific player, but if Sunday is any indication he feels the pressure to try and do too much by himself. He did not play well down the stretch of the Lakers’ game against Chicago. His late turnover was a huge mistake and instead of looking for help, he went hunting for the final shot of the game despite being guarded by at least three Chicago players. His shot at the buzzer was blocked. It will be interesting to see what the Lakers do in terms of trying to bring in other players (Dwight Howard?) The Clippers have, at least for the moment, stolen the spotlight.
9) Speaking of Howard, didn’t it look like he was going through the motions for Orlando during its loss to Oklahoma City? Howard didn’t do much in that game and there are varying reports of his level of interesting in being with the Magic. If I were Orlando, I’d look to get rid of him.
10) Oklahoma City has something special. I picked the Thunder to beat Dallas in the West finals last year, but OKC wasn’t quite ready. Now there is no question that the Thunder is ready to make that next move. I think Oklahoma City will get to the Finals this season because there are no holes on that team.