Like the NBA, Five Out is back again, for another attempt at entertaining you.
The NBA is Back!
The NBA returned on Tuesday, with national TNT games between the 76ers and the Celtics, and the Lakers and the Warriors. After a nearly full slate of games on Wednesday, TNT again was the only game in town on Thursday as the Clippers and Bucks played their first game, and the Lakers and 76ers played their second.
I think the NBA should schedule more games on Thursday, as the NFL is simply dismal, but will probably still draw a far larger audience to its generally boring and terrible Thursday game.
It’s great that basketball is back, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen the NBA this talented. The combination of great stars playing longer into their thirties, and young players entering the league with polished offensive games (and less polish elsewhere, generally) has led to the deepest and most talented teams I’ve ever seen, generally.
If people talk about multiple contenders, it’s not because the NBA is mediocre, it’s because so many teams are good.
Two games is pretty early, but I’d say we got something of a look at the 76ers and the Lakers, since they played twice in the first three days. In brief, James Harden looks much like his old self again, and NBA reporters and fans will be reminded, or in many cases, simply discover, what an insanely powerful offensive weapon he is. That said, the 76ers offense doesn’t seem to mesh. Embiid won’t roll, and Harden won’t pass to Embiid 25ft from the basket for him to do whatever he does from there. Something has to change, and I expect the change will be the Philadelphia coach.
The Lakers? They’ve played two excellent teams, in the Warriors and the Clippers, but they’re just not...good. At points last night the Clippers simply triple-covered LeBron James on defense, and there was no one to make him pay, especially not Russell Westbrook, who had an astonishingly bad night on offense - 0-11. Being Westbrook, he did try, he notched 5 steals to go with 3 boards and 4 assists. I’ve rarely seen a roster than made less sense than the Lakers, so it’s a good thing they extended the contract of Rob Pelinka.
The Mighty Southwest?
The Southwest Division of the NBA has three potentially excellent teams, but unusually, only one is from Texas. The San Antonio Spurs roster is a wasteland, and you’re familiar with the Rockets. The Grizzlies on the other hand, we will see tonight, but they look very good. The Pelicans? They look great (admittedly Charlotte looks dreadful, too). With a healthy Zion Williamson, the Pelicans are a problem for any team to defend, and they go 12 deep with usable players. Dallas lost its first game, but erstwhile Rocket Christian Wood looked great “off the bench”.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the top three teams in the Southwest won more than 150 games between them, and the bottom two teams won fewer than 50 combined.
Is the “Take Foul”...gone?
The NBA implemented a rule to reduce the dreaded, hated, vile, “transition take foul” - that is a foul away from the play on a break. The new rule calls for the offense to take one free throw, shot by the player of their choice, and the team on offense will also get the ball side out. So far this has been called a couple of times, but mostly the take foul hasn’t happened. We can hope that it will at some point produce a five point sequence: made FT, three point shot made, with foul, foul free throw made.
If I had my preference I’d simply award one point, and give the ball side out if play must be stopped, or let there be “continuation” on the break, with one point awarded anyway. This probably won’t happen, but I’d rather the take foul not produce a break in the action of the game. Meanwhile, I’ll just be happy that the take foul may be gone!
Rockets Thoughts After Two Games
After two games, I think the Rockets are in a good position for the future. This can be an excellent team. Jalen Green is a bucket. Kevin Porter Jr will be a great whatever he is, and will hopefully learn one or two consistent attacks at the basket. I don’t understand why Stephen Silas got the idea Sengun didn’t work with Green and Porter.
Tari Eason simply changes games, and his development is worth any amount of Garrison Matthews hurt feelings. Jabari Smith is a rookie, and he’s doing rookie things. You are 6’11” Jabari, you’re pretty much always open for the three. Your drive isn’t...good. So just shoot the shot when you get the pass.
Rafael Stone probably needs to take away some of Silas’ toys. Matthews, Fernando, Gordon. I see Fernando as a useful 3rd center. He shouldn’t be starting over Sengun, unless the goal is to get the Rockets into a hole their second unit digs them out of. Probably Tate will take Matthews minutes, and that’s to the good. Gordon needs to go to a contender, even though he’s handy, and calmer than the rest of the team.
Mostly though the Rockets problem is now one of experience and maturity in the game, and not talent. The talent to be a playoff team, maybe more, is now on the roster. It may be the Rockets need a more robust system, as asking a likely set of players with a combined 5 full years NBA experience to run a smooth read-and-react offense might be asking too much.
We’ll see. The tough opening schedule might mask a better team than many think, and by mid-season this Rockets team might be...good?
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