Now that the NBA is ready to crank up its latest season, the preseason action is starting to appear and stars are beginning to be recognized. There is still a long way to go, but there are already a number of players and moves worth keeping an eye on. Once everyone can get past the China debacle, things should be smooth sailing.
The Boston Celtics are looking to bounce back from an embarrassing performance last season. Jayson Tatum, who had been expected to help carry the team, didn’t exactly bring his A game and things spiraled out of control before anyone realized what had happened. This year, though, the Celtics promise to be in better form and Tatum and assistant coach Jay Laranaga have a deal – what happened last season stays in last season.
The Celtics have already gotten off to a good start in fulfilling that promise, even if the team has only played one game. It beat the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, 107-106, but it didn’t come easy. The Hornets dominated the first half before the Celtics were able to rally in the last two quarters, outscoring their opponents by a mere six points. If the Celtics are going to go all the way this year, they’re going to have to do better than that.
Ben Simmons is going to be a force to be reckoned with as part of the Philadelphia 76ers squad. That is, as long as he is able to keep doing what he did Tuesday night. In an exhibition/preseason game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions in China, the 6’10” Simmons dropped his first career three-pointer just before halftime, breaking his 0-19 streak from beyond the arc. The last time he hit a three-pointer was in 2015 when he was still in college. Despite not attempting another long shot the rest of the game, he still ended up with 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in the 21 minutes he was on the court.
That game wasn’t without a little bit of off-court controversy, though, with two fans being removed for disrupting the fan experience. However, the disruption didn’t take place in China, where it would have been most likely expected. Instead, it happened back on the 76ers home court, the Wells Fargo Center. Fans had gathered to watch the game, but two individuals got a little out of control and had to be removed by security.
Also appearing in China are the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors. Despite recording 13 points in 21 minutes, Russell Westbrook in his new Rockets jersey wasn’t able to put enough on the board to take down the Raptors and they ultimately lost by five points, 134-129. James Harden, a former teammate when they were both with the Oklahoma City Thunder, had a better run, dropping 34 points in 27 minutes.
Westbrook said after the game, “It wasn’t bad. Unfortunately, we didn’t win. That’s the main goal. But it was good to get on the floor for the first time, get up and down, try to find a rhythm. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Thunder did well against the Dallas Mavericks last night, but this wasn’t too surprising. Winning the game 119-104, the Thunder had a pool of talent to choose from, including Dennis Schroder, Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The powerhouse team scored 66 points with a shooting percentage of 63.4 in the first half. Gilgeous-Alexander, who just joined the team, made his debut and scored 24 points. Schroder, who was the team’s sixth man last season, ended the night with 13 points and five assists.
Paul, who had six points and four assists in the first half (he sat out the second half) said of the night, “The spirit was right and the ball was moving. When you practice like that, you always wonder if it’s going to translate to the game. For us tonight, it did.” The president of the NBA Players’ Association added, “We all have talent in that we can create for each other. It just makes the game easier for you when you have multiple guys that can handle the ball.”