The NBA regular season has picked up where it left off after a summer that had more plot twists than “Shameless,” which happily returns next month. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis have served notice that they might replace Russell Westbrook and James Harden as the MVP candidates, and Golden State has actually lost two more games than some believed possible.
As of this writing, the best the defending champs can do now is 80-2.
Dwyane Wade has already volunteered to come off the bench because a starter’s role on a team he joined weeks ago doesn’t suit him, yet Jameer Nelson was in there closing out the final minutes of New Orleans’ first win of the season hours after joining the team because he was head coach Alvin Gentry’s best option at the point.
Eric Bledsoe issued a trade demand on Twitter as head coach Earl Watson was being fired three games in after his Phoenix Suns were blown out by 42 points against the Clippers, starting off 0-3. So much was crammed into the NBA’s opening week that the most impactful thing that transpired, Gordon Hayward’s horrific ankle fracture, seems like it happened last month instead of last Tuesday.
The Suns lost their season opener 124-76 against a Portland team missing a suspended C.J. McCollum. They then allowed the Lakers to leave their building with a 132-130 win on the second night of a back-to-back. Despite being the more rested team, players couldn’t be bothered to play defense, showing a remarkable apathy that made the on-court product look like a pickup game at your local L.A. Fitness.
They then hit the road to L.A.’s Staples Center and caught a 130-88 loss that was ultimately the final straw in keeping Watson in the head seat. Jay Triano, formerly of the Raptors and Canada’s national basketball team, gets the interim gig, but this doesn’t appear to be a situation where a new voice will make a huge difference. Teams are going to continue having their way with a Suns defense surrendering 228.7 points per game.
Devin Booker and rookie Josh Jackson are the right guys to build around since this team is essentially building from the ground up, but Bledsoe blew up his trade value since teams now know GM Ryan McDonough has no choice but to find him a new home. Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley are left to be the backbone of a painfully young team, and Dudley wasn’t scheduled to debut this season until Monday night against Sacramento. Following a Wednesday night date with a Utah defense that has opened as the NBA’s best, this group hits the road for five games. They’ll be worth fading on most nights.
Other situations worth examining this week regard the East’s worst teams, since circumstances have conspired to weaken them further.
• Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder will miss a few games due to a nasty ankle sprain suffered in Sunday’s loss in Brooklyn, leaving point guard duties in the hands of young Malcolm Delaney, Isaiah Taylor and Josh Maggette.
• If you weren’t aware, two of the guys vying for a starting forward spot with the Bulls knocked each other out of contention, almost quite literally. Bobby Portis hit Nikola Mirotic so hard that the swelling needed to go down just to determine the damage, resulting in an eight-game suspension for the Arkansas product. Finnish lottery pick Lauri Markkanen has taken the job and produced.
• The Knicks are still awful, but at least have Kristaps Porzingis healthy enough to give the team a chance.
• The 76ers still have minute restrictions placed on Joel Embiid, not allowing him to play back-to-backs. Ask yourself why the books are giving you so many points before you take them this week, because there’s going to be a very good reason.