After a much anticipated wait spanning over four months the NBA made its return from Orlando with a Thursday night doubleheader before an action packed weekend…
Jazz vs. Pelicans
-Mike Conley looked great, and more importantly, comfortable, for perhaps the first time all season. He was aggressive, hunting opportunities around the rim, and his jumper looked in-rhythm. With Bogdonović sidelined for the remainder of the season, Conley’s shot creation will be imperative to Utah making any sort of run (just please god don’t make us watch them play the Rockets for the third year in a row). Maybe a fresh start with this restart is all he needed to get going.
-How about Rudy Gobert scoring the first and last points of the first game of the restart?
-Brandon Ingram just continues his march to stardom, and showed how eager he is to be the one with the ball in his hands when the Pels need a bucket—a welcome 180-degree shift from his Laker days. He isn’t always taking good shots, but I’d rather a guy be overeager to find important shots rather than not look to shoot them at all (reminder: he’s still 22). I am unsure as to why he didn’t pass to Reddick on that last possession though, the play seemed to have been run perfectly for JJ to attempt the game-winner.
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-As many have mentioned before me, Alvin Gentry’s handling of Zion’s minutes was bizarre. I understand he was on a minutes restriction, but shouldn’t his minutes in crunch time have factored into that, especially considering they need every game they can get in their hunt for the 8th seed? Does Gentry not want Zion in his closing lineup?
Lakers vs. Clippers
-My biggest takeaway: criticize LeBron all you like for his lackluster defensive efforts in throwaway matchups in January, but he proved last night that when it’s time to lock in, he’s still one of the league’s premier on-ball defenders. Absolute clamps on two of the best iso wings in the game.
-If there were ever a question of how important Montrez Harrell is to this team, look no further than AD’s 34 points. No one for the Clips stood a chance; that was one of Davis’s best games of the entire season. Can Harrell be the one to slow down AD even a little bit? If Davis is shooting like he did last night, he can just pull Harrell out to the perimeter or shoot over switched guards all night. I honestly don’t know who among the west’s contenders can guard him. Harrell? Jokić? PJ Tucker? Those are all barbecue chicken.
-The Lakers desperately need some reliable shot-creation from one of their guards (not counting Lebron), is Dion Waiters really going to be the guy to bring that? It appeared that way last night. It’s been years, but the last time he was on a true contender (2016 in OKC), he was a real contributor off the bench.
-I am here to shore up the narrative about Kuzma’s defense. It’s not elite, but he at least tries hard and is pretty active on switches and in passing lanes. He’s not the black hole that people seem to think he is. I was happy to see him in the closing lineup last night.
-It’s clear how important Lou Williams is to that team when Kawhi or PG is off the floor, considering how the offense froze without them, but what’s stopping opponents from just hunting him on defense every trip down? Last time these two teams played he was eviscerated on that end.
-I never thought I’d see the day Reggie Jackson starts at point guard and Joakim Noah plays real minutes for a finals contender in 2020. What a year it’s been.
The product in general
-Given the circumstances, the court and atmosphere look great. I love the fans zooming in, although I do wish the broadcasts would commit a little harder to fake fan noise for the “home” team.
-Could the superimposing of logos and advertisements also spell the return of the lost playoffs and finals court graphics? Can’t slip on a computer-generated image.
-I thought the opening messaging and the national anthem were beautifully done. The NBA really seems to have stuck the landing in balancing getting a message across without it overshadowing the excitement and positivity of their product. I also loved what Lebron had to say in his postgame interview, opening night just wouldn’t feel right without some Lebron wisdom.
-All in all, I’m just thrilled that basketball is back, and unlike another American sports league currently in mayhem, it appears it’s here to stay. I give my sincerest thanks and congratulations to all the staff and players who sacrificed and put in the work to make this happen—it has brought and will continue to bring a tremendous amount of joy and relief to countless fans across the world. Basketball is back baby, and tonight’s slate might be even better.