Harden trade dominates headlines in first month of season
Who needs streaming services when the NBA consistently provides this much drama?
Only three weeks in, this NBA season is full of budding storylines, plot twists and enticing new characters. Not to mention the current pandemic threatening the season’s integrity.
Buckle up, this is just the third week of the season.
First domino falls as trade season begins
Former MVP and three-time scoring champion James Harden is joining forces with his old teammate Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets.
This move was a part of a 4-team trade involving the Nets, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers.
Houston received a load in return for Harden highlighted by two-time all-star guard Victor Oladipo, four first-round picks, and four additional first-round pick swaps, for a whopping eight picks in total.
The Cavaliers came away with young talent in the form of center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince while the Pacers welcomed a new scoring catalyst in guard Caris LeVert.
Time will tell the winners and losers of this trade, but surely no team walked away empty-handed.
Yahoo sports reported earlier this week, Houston’s confidence was growing that it could retain their star for the duration of the season.
After a deflating loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and an even more disturbing press conference, the divorce was imminent.
Not 24 hours later, Harden’s tenure in Houston was over.
The Rockets were forced to make a move as Harden’s antics were proving to be detrimental to the organization. Perhaps this trade will breathe new life into a team already acclimating an array of new pieces.
The Nets on the other hand, were forced to pursue Harden due to the uncertainty revolving around their superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, who is currently missing in action for “personal reasons.”
His availability for the rest of the season is a huge question mark.
Insert Harden and Brooklyn now has a new fearsome duo to build around for the future.
The Nets likely have a few moves to make still, namely their frontcourt depth, if they want to outlast a deep Eastern conference.
Ultimately, Harden got what he wanted.
Ball Brothers do battle for the first time
The Charlotte Hornets defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 118-110 Friday, Jan. 8, in a contest that featured polarizing brothers Lonzo and LaMelo Ball playing head-to-head in the NBA for the first time.
LaMelo stole the spotlight with a near triple-double performance, punctuated by a stepback three before the third quarter buzzer over his brother.
It was a spectacle the basketball world longed to see thanks to the hype surrounding the two Chino Hills products.
It was clear to see that these two teams are heading in different directions.
The Pelicans are in year two of the Ball-Brandon Ingram-Zion Wiliamson trio and results thus far have been underwhelming.
Currently 13th in the Western conference, the Pelicans are forced to watch other teams make the leap (i.e. the Phoenix Suns) that their fan base wish was happening in the Big Easy.
It’s the opposite case for the Hornets as Michael Jordan’s squad currently has the seventh-best record in the Eastern conference.
Charlotte, per usual, were ridiculed over the off-season for making moves with no sense of direction.
The team signed Gordon Hayward to a contract no other team was willing to offer, and then drafted LaMelo when it’s two best returning players occupied the same position, in Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham.
Early in the season, those two moves have paid dividends. Hayward brings a veteran dependability to Charlotte, who boasts the fourth youngest roster in the NBA.
The fact that Hayward resembles his former All-Star self is a great sign.
LaMelo similarly is erasing the doubt regarding whether he can be a high-level NBA player. The pre-draft concerns of his maturity, shooting ability and toughness have been largely quelled.
Not only are the Hornets outplaying their expectations, they are having a lot of fun doing it.
His skillset and pace have translated to more opportunities for everyone in the rotation.
Becoming the youngest player to post a triple-double in the very next game, LaMelo is clearly gifted, but his most underrated attribute may be his infectiously jovial personality.
Game Cancellations Bring About New Covid-19 Protocols
Unprecedented obstacles have begun to hit the Association hard. A total of nine games thus far have been indefinitely postponed due to health and safety concerns.
In attempts to address the concerns, the NBA and the league’s player’s association have agreed upon a new list of health and safety protocols that players must abide by.
Those new rules pose firm restrictions on what NBA players can and cannot do, both at home and while on the road.
On the court, interaction from players on opposing teams is to be reduced to a minimum.
Masks are to be enforced more heavily, applicative to personnel on the bench and during team meetings.
Mixed reviews are expected to come from the players as they adjust to the new protocol.
But something has to change if the players want to complete this season. Unlike the National Football League, NBA teams cannot sequester player groups and still maintain an eligible roster.
The sad reality is that the NBA Bubble provided a false sense of hope that the NBA had the pandemic figured out.
Conducting a normal travel-based schedule presents brand new obstacles that the league is attempting to figure out on the fly.
A full list of the new protocols can be found here.