Im going to hold off on the Western Conference division previews until later this week. Here’s a wrap-up of all this weekend’s preseason games (if you watched, you were reminded one thing: These games definitely don’t count):
NBA Team Versus Random European Teams
Oklahoma City Thunder 95, Fenerbahce Ulker 82 (Saturday)
The Thunder kicked off the preseason against a team from Istanbul that finished sandwiched between Union Olimpija Ljubljana and Panathinkaikos Athens in the Euroleague Group A standings after Game 10 of the insanely confusing Euroleague standings (look at these standings and tell me if you can figure out what’s going on). Fenerbahce’s lead wing, Bojan Bogdanovic, was drafted by the Miami Heat and traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Norris Cole. He was then moved to the Nets, who wanted to sign him to a deal but couldn’t figure out a buyout with his current team, which kept a guy who could have been called “Bogey” out of the NBA (we need a baller named “Bogey”).
All jokes aside, nothing out of the ordinary here. In the preseason, you keep your eye out for young talent; the guys who have something to prove. Jeremy Lamb filled up the box score with nine points, five boards, four assists, two steals and two blocks and flaunted a plus-18 (although there have been rumors that Kenan Sipahi isn’t an elite defender).
Quick Hits: No surprise, Kevin Durant was the best player on the court, dropping 24 points, eight boards and three assists… Steven Adams put up seven and six, but no one was questioning if he could score seven a night against Istanbul’s best … Ryan Gomes and Daniel Orton were DNP-CD (coaches decision, according to ESPN box scores).
Philadelphia 76ers 106, Bilbao Basket 104 (Sunday)
The Philadelphia 76ers opened their preseason with a narrow victory over Bilbao Basket of the ACB League. Bilbao gaves us a Raul Lopez sighting (he was born on tax day and started 26 games in two seasons with the Utah Jazz) and the first Belgian to get drafted into the NBA, Axel Hervelle. Hervelle did some work on Philly’s bigs, putting up 14 points and 14 boards, including eight offensive rebounds. You’re probably thinking, “But those Belgians, they made you so damn evil,” (I can make Belgian jokes because I am Belgian), because you’ve watched Austin Powers so many times (or you’re not picking up the reference and reading over this with your mouth agape).
Quick Hits: Michael Carter-Wiliiams (MC Dubs is what the kids are calling him) had more fouls (four) than points (three, also had three boards and three steals), but he dished out six assists in 23 minutes … Evan Turner and Tony Wroten both went 10-for-12 from the free-throw line … Bilbao shot 88 percent from the line on 28-of-32 shooting and Philly went 32-for-46 for 74 percent) … Philly’s bench consisted of Gani Lawal, Tim Ohlbrecht, Hollis Thompson, Darius Morris, Tony Wroten and the best name of all, Vander Blue.
The Return (Preseason Edition)
Derrick Rose looked a little tentative in his first preseason game, starting the game pretty laid back without any real aggression. The No. 1 thing to watch with him is the burst; we’re not wondering how his early October jumper is. Coming off those knee troubles, Rose proved that he still has the burst he’s famous for, although he didn’t display it too much vertically. Rose and Russell Westbrook both had (and hopefully still have) those lightning, super-aggressive moves, which legitimately more liquid than the mortals. In the second quarter, Rose was pushing on the break, then just went flipped it from second to fourth gear, making everyone else look like they were standing still. That was the most encouraging, and most important, play of the weekend. Rose finished with 13 points, three assists and two steals on 5-of-12 shooting (3-of-5 from the stripe).
Quick Hits: Erik Murphy does not look quick enough off his feet to play in the NBA (that doesn’t mean he won’t make the team, it means it probably doesn’t matter if he does) … Indiana started Lance Stephenson and Danny Granger came off the bench. Granger went 2-for-10 from the field (he’s a big ???… not one question marks, three question marks) … Chris Copeland played just four minutes and Solomon Hill played 21 minutes. Hill looks like a legitimate NBA wing defender, didn’t get to show off offense, though … Taj Gibson led both teams with 18 points and 12 boards… Joakim Noah DNP with right groin tightness.
Dwight Howard Plays For the Rockets Now (Preseason Edition)
Dwight Howard couldn’t have planned it better himself. In his first preseason game, D12 got to play against Greg Stiemsma, Anthony Davis (way too skinny still), Arinze Onuaku, Jason Smith and Jeff Whitney. Howard had 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting and went 7-for-11 from the stripe (he recently signed an endorsement deal with them; it’s in his contract that if he shoots 11 free throws, he needs to make seven … reports say Rockets are OK with it). Don’t look into Howard’s performance too much, but it sure wasn’t a bad sign (nothing that good can happen against those big men).
Quick Hits: Tyreke Evans left the game after turning his ankle. He played just 10 minutes … Donatas Motiejunas started over Terrence Jones for the Rockets. D-Mo fouled out, had four points, four boards and three assists while going 0-for-3 from the field and T-Jones went for 13 and five on 5-of-7 shooting… Anthony Morrow went 8-for-15 from the field, 3-for-6 from 3, and 7-for-7 from the line to finish with 26 points (led all scorers) … Jeremy Lin went 4-for-7 and I’m sure someone has already written that his jump shot has improved (“guys, he’s shooting 57 percent from the field!) … Omri Casspi went 9-for-10 and finished with 20 points … Jrue Holiday fouled out, had eight turnovers, and Patrick Beverley took the ball from him four times (the kids are calling that cookies for all the old timers who just thought “back in my day, Havlicek stole the ball”) … James Harden scored 21 points on 11 shots (I’m sure Daryl Morey was delighted by his 49 percent True Field Goal %).
A Preseason Rant Featuring the Kobe-Less Lakers
These two Laker games epitomized the NBA preseason. Mark Jackson, Mike D’Antoni and Brian Shaw threw their players into the game with no regard to matchups (and rightfully so). In the Lakers vs. Nuggets game, Steve Nash played 22 minutes and took two shots, as he tried to play inside the confines of the offense, choosing to toss the ball out to a collection of wings that included Nick Young (4-for-16, nine points vs. Denver), Marcus Landry (4-for-11, 13 points vs. Denver) and Jodie Meeks (3-for-10, eight points vs. Denver). The games had no real intensity to them, although no one passed up chances to shoot. Guys like Nick Young and Xavier Henry, both of whom have proven they’re not solid rotational wing options, looked good at times over the two days, but taking something tangible from that seems silly.
These two games were glorified pickup games, but these guys all had uniforms and there wasn’t that one really competitive dude who’s taking it really seriously. We saw Dan Gadzuric, Jordan Farmar, Shawne Williams, Stephen Curry’s brother, Damion James and a guy with the last name Dedmon (which you could pronounce the exact same way Sampson pronounces “dead man” in Half Baked). Just a stroll in the park for everyone involved, with a few fringe-roster guys doing everything in their power to ensure that they’ll get paid this year. This is what the NBA preseason is. Overanalyzing these two games would be criminal, because they looked like practice for both teams (so basically, we talking ’bout practice … not a game).
As we get closer to the regular season starting, the games will start to look better, but for now, the preseason is what we thought it was (Dennis Green voice).
Thanks for reading, folks.