Second week in NBA sees barriers broken, former MVPs heating up and contenders fading early
The NBA is approaching its third week into one of the strangest seasons it has ever seen.
The league is strictly following its own COVID-19 guidelines and policies set forth in order to protect everyone involved.
While it has been successful – in a report from Shams Charania on Dec. 30, out of 495 tested, zero returned positive – it has also been quite difficult for players to adjust.
Traveling teams who play on the road are required to stay in their hotel rooms (one room for each player, staff member, etc.) for the majority of the day(s) up until it is time for shootaround leading up to the game.
Previously, players would be allowed to roam as long as they met curfew.
On the latest episode of JJ Redick’s podcast “The Old Man and the Three,” he and teammate Josh Hart of the New Orleans Pelicans recorded the episode in their own respective rooms in the hotel while in Oklahoma City following a game against the Thunder.
Becky Hammon continues to break barriers
Assistant head coach of the San Antonio Spurs Becky Hammon made history Wednesday, Dec. 30 when she served as acting head coach of the team after head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
In what was seen as a moment of greatness that could be considered an “about damn time,” instance.
There is hope in believing a woman can coach any NBA team could become the new norm.
Hammon has been in the game as a coach at the professional level for six years under Popovich.
It is expected that once the Hall of Fame coach steps away from the game, Hammon will become the head coach of San Antonio.
Hammon’s moment mirrors an event that broke traditional ground a few months earlier of the Miami Marlins hiring Kim Ng as general manager of the club.
LaMelo Ball’s steady start
In his time leading up the NBA, many questioned point guard Lamelo Ball and his uncharacteristic shot-selection, form and overall attitude, before he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets third overall in the draft.
It’s early but Ball has quickly turned heads.
Through five games, he is averaging nearly 12 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists a game while playing 24 minutes a game as the lead guard off-the-bench.
Ball’s court vision and playmaking ability in transition is special.
He always has his head up, looking to push the court and get easy buckets for either him or his teammates.
When, not if, Ball starts, his numbers will only rise playing along-side guards Devonte’ Graham or Terry Rozier, along with forwards Gordon Hayward and PJ Washington.
Head coach James Borrego has done a good job staggering some of the starters with Ball on the court at the same time, but the pressure to start Ball altogether will come sooner rather than later.
Chef Curry is cookin’ once again
Doubting former two-time MVP Stephen Curry’s ability to lead a team and shoot the lights out of an arena is beyond foolish, yet many did all of last season after watching “Logo [Damian] Lillard” of Portland tear up the bubble.
Lillard’s ridiculous performance in the bubble in Orlando created a shift in the narrative of Curry no longer being the best deep threat in the league.
That narrative was continuously fed after guard Klay Thompson ruptured his Achilles and the Golden State Warriors got off to a slow start on the year getting blasted by Brooklyn and Milwaukee.
Then, Curry had enough.
Following a waxing by Portland to bring in the new year, Curry erupted two nights later against Lillard and the Trailblazers by dropping a career-high 62 points on 18-of-31 shooting from the field and 8-of-16 from downtown.
After the game, Curry let the world know.
“You know the Jordan meme right? I take all that personally,” he said in the post-game interview.
Time to panic in Toronto, Denver?
The Tor-Tampa Bay Raptors have started the 2020-21 season 1-5. It is their worst start since the 2012-13 season, guard Kyle Lowry’s first with the team.
Defense, or lack-of, has been the driving factor here.
Toronto is flat out bad offensively, ranking 26th in offensive-rating in the league so far, according to basketball reference.
The losses of big men Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in free agency have hurt the team on both ends of the floor.
All-star Pascal Siakam has fallen off a cliff and has not been the same player since his bubble performance. Whether it’s mental or physical with injury, Siakam needs to figure it out – the spin move in the key surrounded by three defenders isn’t cutting it anymore.
One has to wonder if teams will fly around the Raptors like vultures at the trade deadline looking to acquire Lowry if the team continues to struggle. (Lowry on the Clippers would be a cheat code, just saying. Don’t ask me how a trade would work, though.)
Denver started the year 1-4 before rattling off two in a row against Minnesota, albeit without center Karl Anthony-Towns, who will miss time with a broken left wrist.
Center Nikola Jokic has gotten his and so has guard Jamal Murray, to an extent.
The bubble version of Murray was a different beast, but the bubble is the exception, not the rule.
However, the rest of the team hasn’t been much of a help early.
Forward Michael Porter Jr. has started off slow, still struggling to fit into his role under head coach Mike Malone.
Guard Gary Harris is still a defensive maestro but it’s looking like he can’t find his shot pre-hip injury, while forward Paul Millsap is steady, but he is also 35 years old.
The losses of wing defenders Jerami Grant and Torrey Craig in the offseason are not talked about enough outside of Denver.