The first TNT Thursday of the year was a welcome respite after the 13-game slate on Wednesday. It's hard to watch that many games, right? But you have to try, and the World Series isn't making things any easier. Before the roundup, a couple of notes related to the NBA's generally-awesome League Pass line of products: 1. GameTime for the Blackberry WITH VIDEO please. 2. Okay, I guess I understand the need to black out the national and local broadcasts, though I'm not real sure why anyone would be watching a game on their computer or phone unless they had no other option at the time. However, I REALLY don't get why these blackouts aren't later added to the League Pass Broadband archives. This has been a problem for awhile, and the league needs to get it fixed. 3. I've had League Pass through DirecTV every year it's been offered, and have also had the broadband option since it became available a few years ago. Still, never once has NBA.com been able to verify my subscriptions without me having to fax or email a copy of my DirecTV bill. Is it really that hard?
PLAYER OF THE DAY
STEVE NASH, SUNS: The guy just doesn't age, even though he looks more like a science teacher than an NBA player at this point. Nash was quietly brilliant against Utah on Thursday, as for one night the Suns gave some hope for fans worried about the team's competitiveness in the era after Amar'e. It doesn't hurt either Nash or the Suns that he now has the league's best back-up point guard for support in Goran Dragic, who also had a fine game in Salt Lake City.
MAGIC 112, WIZARDS 83 (box): The rebounding woes that infected Washington in the preseason continued in their opener against Orlando, but there was plenty else going wrong for the Wizards. John Wall (14 points/19 shots/35 minutes/9 assists) didn't have a particularly auspicious debut, but it was interior defense that killed Washington. Orlando outscored the Wizards 56-26 in the paint and shot 28-of-36 in the painted area. It was just way too easy against JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and company.
WAS PLY POSS +/- GR ORL PLY POSS +/- GR
wall,john 71 22 -31 18.0 howard,dwight 60 18 +24 21.3
martin,cartier 48 11 -3 15.6 nelson,jameer 48 10 +26 18.4
hinrich,kirk 68 10 -25 12.7 carter,vince 52 11 +31 17.3
thornton,al 49 9 -26 9.1 lewis,rashard 48 10 +28 13.4
booker,trevor 20 5 +1 6.4 richardson,quentin 53 4 +26 10.7
mcgee,javale 40 7 -14 6.3 gortat,marcin 37 6 +5 7.3
blatche,andray 49 11 -24 5.9 pietrus,mickael 24 9 -2 7.0
jianlian,yi 56 10 -20 5.6 duhon,chris 39 6 +4 6.8
young,nick 42 6 -4 5.2 anderson,ryan 33 9 -4 6.1
hudson,lester 13 4 +2 0.7 bass,brandon 33 7 +1 4.7
armstrong,hilton 23 3 -5 0.1 redick,j.j. 42 5 +8 1.8
ndiaye,hamady 7 1 +4 0.0 williams,jason 16 4 -2 0.4
wizards,washington 97 97 -29 85.5 magic,orlando 97 97 +29 115.4
SUNS 110, JAZZ 94 (box): This marks two straight lackluster outings for the Jazz to begin the season. The lack of defensive presence is particularly worrisome, a malady that we underscored in Pro Basketball Prospectus 2010-11. I still wonder how the team could have taken a pass on Louis Amundson this summer as the good-defending big man dangled on the open market. Instead, the Jazz got suddenly squeamish about the luxury tax and settled for non-entity Francisco Elson. The big-man combo of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap made the Suns' Hakim Warrick look like, well, Amar'e Stoudemire on pick-and-roll dives. All week, announcers have anointed the Jazz as a sleeper contender in the West. Utah should still be a winning team, but the Jazz has some real problems to solve.
PHX PLY POSS +/- GR UTA PLY POSS +/- GR
nash,steve 64 15 +8 25.1 williams,deron 79 15 -16 19.6
richardson,jason 55 13 +5 19.4 jefferson,al 72 18 -14 19.4
warrick,hakim 52 13 +12 16.6 kirilenko,andrei 62 18 -10 15.6
dragic,goran 30 12 +8 15.1 millsap,paul 67 13 -6 15.5
turkoglu,hedo 42 9 +4 11.7 bell,raja 73 14 -9 11.4
frye,channing 55 12 +9 7.9 hayward,gordon 49 5 -17 7.9
hill,grant 56 9 +4 7.8 fesenko,kyrylo 13 4 -1 4.4
dudley,jared 39 5 +11 6.8 elson,francisco 9 2 -1 1.8
lopez,robin 39 4 +7 3.4 miles,c.j. 30 3 -8 1.6
childress,josh 38 1 +12 3.2 price,ronnie 6 1 +4 1.5
clark,earl---DNP watson,earl 11 1 -2 1.2
suns,phoenix 94 94 +16 117.0 jazz,utah 94 94 -16 100.0
PLY is an estimate of how many possessions on which the player was on the court. POSS is an estimate of possessions a player used. Plus-Minus (+/-) data is from official box scores from NBA.com. Game Rating (GR) reflects a player's Points Created total, or the portion of his team's offense for which he gets credit based on his box score line. This number is then adjusted for estimated defensive performance based on box score counterpart productivity. GR is pace-adjusted so you can compare players from game to game.
Minutiae from around the league
GRIZZLIES: "The Grizzlies exercised fourth-year contract options on guard O.J. Mayo and forward Darrell Arthur, and picked up the third-year option on center Hasheem Thabeet this afternoon. Each player will have guaranteed deals through the 2011-12 season in accordance to the NBA’s rookie salary scale. Neither decision came as a surprise given their roles on the team. But second-year forward DeMarre Carroll wasn’t as fortunate as he learned that the Griz declined to exercise the third-year option on his rookie contract. Carroll will become an unrestricted free agent next summer."
No surprise on Carroll, though this underscores how badly the Grizzlies were reaching when the picked him in the first round last season. As a Mizzou fan, I love Carroll, who is everything you want to admire in a young person. However, at no time while I was watching him as a Tiger did I ever view Carroll as an NBA player. At least he got paid for a couple of years. He may still be able to stick around for another handful of seasons as a defensive stopper. If he has that potential in him, you can be sure he'll reach it.
KNICKS: "This is no shooting-guard experiment. Mike D'Antoni foresees rookie Landry Fields spending the entire season as the starting shooting guard. 'All year,' D'Antoni said when asked how long this could last. 'I'd be surprised if he can't do it.'" (New York Post)
Too early to say whether this is a good or a bad thing, but the Knicks aren't exactly bursting with legit two-guards. However, if Kelenna Azubuike can get back healthy, you have to view him as a better option. Still, Fields apparently has promise as a "3-&-D" player.
PISTONS: "What happens is that you have four bigs, and Greg is going to be a big key to this situation. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in him. Max had played with more energy than I had seen in Greg at times, and yet Greg is going to be someone that is going to continually work hard. His chance is going to come. A lot of it also dealt with the timing and the situation itself. Greg is going to play. Trust me. He's going to get his opportunity."
(Detroit Free Press)
This is Pistons coach John Kuester explaining why first-round pick Greg Monroe didn't play in Detroit's opener. I find myself concerned that Kuester isn't seeing the big picture here, but you can't declare that he's mishandling Monroe on the basis of one night.
THUNDER: "Jeff Green will become a restricted free agent next summer. Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti confirmed to The Oklahoman that contract negotiations between the team and representatives for the 2007 fifth overall pick have ended. The two sides had until Monday to reach a deal on an extension for the fourth-year forward. But barring an unexpected last-minute concession of some kind, Green will be allowed to test the free-agent market in July." (The Oklahoman)
Fourth-year players Kevin Durant and Joakim Noah remain the only members of the 2007 draft class to land extensions. That's the reality of life under an expiring CBA. Green should be fine whatever system is put in place, as should Detroit's Rodney Stuckey, another starter who reportedly is not getting a new deal. The Thunder will likely save money in the long run by not signing Green under the current agreement. However, there is plenty of risk on both sides. For Green, he has to avoid a serious injury and also hope the team doesn't sour on his fit alongside Durant. For the Thunder, a salary rollback or the elimination of restricted free agency may hinder its ability to retain a talented young player.
WARRIORS: "Joe Lacob isn’t going to be the owner of the Warriors by Friday, which was something NBA commissioner David Stern had wanted. Looks like it’s going to be November. Over the past two weeks, all the word was that the completion of the Warriors’ sale was imminent, and that the deal was a lock to go through -- and Stern confirmed all of that in a conference call last week. .... Back in July, Lacob talked of a 60- to 90-day process. We’re over 100 days now since Lacob agreed to buy the team from Chris Cohan for a record $450 million. But the reality of the situation is that the deadline for the deal to be completed is Dec. 31." (CSN Bay Area)
Guess this isn't a big deal. No reason to sound alarm bells just yet. However, the longer this process drags out, the many Warriors fans eager to be rid of Cohan will grow ever more anxious.
A selection of our favorite NBA links
1. From Free Darko, a terrific take on the Houston Rockets, with an especially-heartbreaking passage on Ralph Sampson. The first NBA game I ever attended was in San Antonio, which was playing Golden State not long after Sampson was traded to the Warriors. Sampson was clearly hobbled by that point, but from our seats under one of the baskets, we had to endure a heavy-set guy yelling at him for 48 minutes, calling him a "dog" and barking at him relentlessly. Sampson had as long and painful last few years in the league as any player I can remember, but people tend to forget: Before Sampson got hurt, he was an excellent player.
2. Tom Ziller of Fanhouse, on Kurt Rambis' short-sighted decision to sit Kevin Love during the final eight-plus minutes of Minnesota's 117-116 home loss to a Tyreke Evans-less Sacramento squad in the Wolves' opener. Love is Minny's best player and has been since the day he was acquired on draft day by Kevin McHale a couple of years ago. Rambis is missing the big picture. Even if he was right, and Anthony Tolliver was playing better defense, you have to allow Love to put his stamp on this team.
3. Silver Screen and Roll with some observations on stathead love for the Heat, which has been championed as a favorite to unseat the Lakers.
4. NBA Playbook with a video breakdown of the upwards ascension of Pacers center Roy Hibbert.
5. Hoopspeak with a back-and-forth on the already controversial MVP candidacy of Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.
This weekend in the NBA
WTC VIS @ HOM, GAMETIME NBAPET LINE OFFICIALS
+15 orl @ mia, 8:00 PM EST [ orl by 23 ] Scott Foster, Matt Boland, Scott Wall
+15 lal @ phx, 10:30 PM EST [ phx by 2 ] Joey Crawford, Pat Fraher, Tommy Nunez Jr.
+15 den @ nwo, 8:00 PM EST [ den by 14 ] Bill Spooner, Eric Lewis, James Williams
+12 sac @ njn, 7:00 PM EST [ njn by 3 ] Michael Smith, Brian Forte, Rodney Mott
+11 nyk @ bos, 7:30 PM EST [ nyk by 7 ] Mike Callahan, Josh Tiven, Leon Wood
+ 5 okc @ det, 8:00 PM EST [ okc by 11 ] Marc Davis, Eric Dalen, Sean Wright
+ 3 mil @ min, 8:00 PM EST [ min by 5 ] Ron Garretson, David Guthrie, Marat Kogut
-13 cle @ tor, 7:00 PM EST [ cle by 13 ] Ed Malloy, Courtney Kirkland, Eli Roe
-19 lac @ gsw, 10:30 PM EST [ gsw by 23 ] Bill Kennedy, Bennie Adams, Gary Zielinski
-20 atl @ phi, 7:00 PM EST [ atl by 29 ] Bob Delaney, John Goble, Haywoode Workman
-28 mem @ dal, 8:30 PM EST [ dal by 42 ] Ken Mauer, Nick Buchert, Derrick Collins
-32 ind @ cha, 7:00 PM EST [ ind by 5 ] Jason Phillips, Kane Fitzgerald, David Jones
+31 por @ nyk, 7:30 PM EST [ nyk by 2 ]
+15 nwo @ sas, 8:30 PM EST [ sas by 13 ]
+12 sac @ cle, 7:30 PM EST [ cle by 7 ]
- 1 den @ hou, 8:30 PM EST [ den by 22 ]
-16 det @ chi, 8:00 PM EST [ det by 7 ]
-20 phi @ ind, 8:00 PM EST [ ind by 5 ]
-28 min @ mem, 8:00 PM EST [ min by 13 ]
-32 cha @ mil, 8:30 PM EST [ mil by 21 ]
-51 was @ atl, 7:00 PM EST [ atl by 52 ]
+17 gsw @ lal, 9:30 PM EST [ lal by 1 ]
+12 mia @ njn, 1:00 PM EST [ njn by 2 ]
-19 dal @ lac, 3:30 PM EST [ dal by 31 ]
-29 uta @ okc, 7:00 PM EST [ okc by 34 ]
NOTES --- WTC: junk stat rating the watchability of each game; Referee assignments not yet available for Saturday or Sunday. Also, the point spreads are generated by 2010-11 results only, so don't get too excited about them just yet--there are obviously some wild results in the early going. Over the course of the season, the system generally picks 75-77 percent of the winners straight up. Since I don't gamble, I've never done an analysis of the forecasted point differentials.
Through Thursday, 18 of 1,230 regular-season games (1.5 percent) have been played.
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Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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