The Good, Bad and Ugly of Week 1 Amid Devin Harris Tragedy

In the middle of the NBA’s opening week party, the brother of Dallas Mavericks guard Devin Harris died in a car accident. Bruce Harris car was disabled when it was hit by a 23 year old driver. The car Bruce was in went up in flames and Harris died. Devin Harris, a 14-year NBA veteran, has taken a leave of absence from Dallas and will return, as Rich Carlisle put it, “when he’s ready. He can take as long as he needs.”

The Mavericks have had to absorb the loss of Harris and the ensuing sorrow as they start the season and are winless the opening week. Their lottery pick, Dennis Smith Jr., has only played one game, out with a knee injury. The early start of the season means it is going to take a little longer to find out who is what.

Nevertheless, in the opening week there was the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good

Giannis MVP campaign has started. Game one at Boston, 37 points, 13 rebounds. Game two against LeBron, 34 points, 8 rebounds. Game 3 on a back-to-back, 44 points, 8 rebounds. 110+ points in 3 games. 22 shots per game for Giannis which is an increase of 7 more shots per game over last year.

Stopping Antetokounmpo is something no one can do. He is long and around the rim can finish by attacking the basket from a variety of angles. He can create with the dribble. In the closing seconds of last night’s game, Antetokounmpo blocked the Blazers big man, Jusuf Nurkic, to maintain the victory.

Lonzo Ball’s near triple double. 29 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists at Phoenix, after a disastrous debut in Los Angeles, righted the Baller Brand despite needing 27 shots.  Ball was terrific scoring the ball, delivering 20-foot passes and being a consummate playmaker. He was playing against a horrible defensive team in Phoenix and Ball was consistently wide open but he made the shots the Suns gave him (who did not respect Ball’s jump shot or were flat out tanking.)

In one 4th quarter sequence, Ball went to the rim like he was playing by himself. No one on Phoenix cared. But the most impressive part of Ball’s early game is his acumen. He knows where the ball is coming from and in two games he has been the Lakers leading rebounder. Things will get tougher for Ball with better defenders but Ball showcased against the Suns why the Lakers were sold on him.

Dwight Howard is happy. When Howard is happy the team he is playing for is happy. Howard is pretty simplistic. All he wants to do is touch the ball, not take threes, dunk, rebound and feel important. So feeding him the ball means he will be the good soldier. Kemba Walker is doing just that and Howard is smiling again and putting up numbers similar to Houston 2013. 10.5 shots a game. 61.9% field goals. 15.0 rebounds. 15.0 points, a three year high.

Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins one-two punch. Davis and Cousins don’t have to worry about chemistry. 65 points per game. 27 rebounds. It is the rest of the team that has issues. They lack scorers and are missing a point guard. They had to reach way, way back and sign Jameer Nelson. Davis and Cousins can’t score all the points. That’s the problem.

The Bad

Joel Embiid whining about touches. The last thing we need to hear is Embiid crying that he needs to touch the ball more when he’s touching the ball more than what he did last year. He is sounding like Dwight Howard. Does anyone need to remind him he has played exactly 35 NBA games? Last year, he took 13.8 shots and scored 20 points. This year he is taking 15.5 shots but his scoring has dipped to 14.5. It’s not a surprise. Ben Simmons is back orchestrating the Philly offense and they have J.J. Redick. Embiid has to be patient.

Old Flash is blah. Dwyane Wade looks like a 40 year old. 28%. 5.6 points. An offensive rating of 65. Ouch. Optimstically for Cleveland, Wade’s defense (so far) is a five year high.

Phoenix doesn’t care about new tanking rules. They are in full tank mode. Exhibit A is their joke of a defense. 30th in field goal percentage. 30th in 3-point defense. What they did against Lonzo Ball was an embarrassment. If you didn’t know any better you’d think Phoenix was playing summer league or pick up ball.

On one Lonzo possession, he dribbled in the paint. The Suns were in full retreat/surrender mode as he walked to the hoop with no one within ten feet of him.

In their home opener against the Blazers, they allowed Rip City to shoot nearly 60% from three and this was without suspsended C.J. McCullom for the Blazers.  Against the Clippers, they rolled over on three point defense. Again. And their offense sucks too. Last in shot making. Now that’s how you tank.

Booing your hometown player is grimey. Ratchet behavior from Memphis fans because they are pissed that Chandler Parsons is making nearly $100 mil. It’s not Parson’s fault he was smart enough to have his hand out and someone obliged. Because fans are fans they cheered when Parson made a buzzer beater to end the first quarter in the next game.

The Ugly

Gordon Hayward injury. Gruesome. Sad. Unfortunate for Hayward and the Celtics. Surgery and rehab. Next year a reboot.

Jeremy Lin injury. Gruesome. Sad. Lin knew instantly his year was over. The Nets were trying to build a backcourt with Lin and D’Angelo Russell but have to put that on ice for a year. Surgery and rehab.

Chris Paul injury. Not that surprising because Paul has had knee issues. The problem with Paul’s injury is that it puts all the working out the kinks with James Harden behind schedule.

Bobby Portis punching Nikola Mirotic was a low moment for Portis. Portis broke Mirotic’s face and Mirotic is out, perhaps, eight weeks. John Paxson said that Portis is a “good kid” but that hardly matters when Mirotic has to have surgery. Portis did apologize to his teammates. He has an 8 game suspension.

Kyrie Irving backtracking. Sort of. Irving has had a difficult time being in the spotlight and not having LeBron James cover. First he dissed The Land as not being a sports town. And then he was caught on camera yelling at Philly fan. The fan was trying to goad Irving and Irving complied. “Kyrie, where’s LeBron”, the fan yelled. Irving then yelled back something he shouldn’t have, having to do with sucking his man thang. The fan recorded it, uploaded it to social media. Irving wasn’t contrite. Not at first. He went with the good for Philly fan getting lots of likes because he triggered me. But then he remembered maturity. “At the end of the day we’re human. It’s in the heat of the moment and frustrations arise.” His coach called it a mistake. Brad Stevens said, “There’s a right and wrong and if you’re in the wrong you have to own up to it.” Accountability is a work in progress for Kyrie.