Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Starting Five

1. Gilbert Arenas. To put last night into some sort of context you have to go back to Tuesday April 3, 2007. The Wizards' increasingly un-secret Agent Zero had dropped 33 points, 7 assists, 4 boards and 2 steals in a losing effort against Charlotte. The Wiz had just lost Caron Butler to a season-ending injury earlier in the week but was still going to reach the postseason. They were, after all, an above-.500 team in the (L)East. Arenas would average 28.4 points per game that season, third behind Kobe and Carmelo. He would lead the league in three-pointers made and finish behind Kobe in free throws attempted. He was an All-Star and selected to the All-NBA second team. He was a rising star in the Association and his team was young and deep. And, then the next night his knee got bent all backwards in the second minute of the game and nothing has been the same. Since then, Gil has had more knee surgeries (3) than 30-point games (2). And he has played in fewer than 20 games coming into last night's season-opening tilt at Dallas. But last night you'd be hard pressed to notice that he missed a day. Agent Zero hung 29 up on the revamped Mavericks while dishing out 9 assists. With Arenas playing 38 minutes, the Wizards won, 102-91. Gil is one of my favorite players to watch in person but I've ended up sitting in too many Zero-less Wiz @ Knicks games during the past few seasons to feel totally comfortable buying tickets for Washington's first visit to the Garden in February.

2. Kobe Bryant. After receiving his championship ring and watching his banner unveiled, Kobe was hearing MVP chants just a minute into the game. Thankfully, Marv Albert jumped right on this, noting that the record for earliest MVP chant was being broken. He netted 13 points in the first quarter to see his team didn't come out flat after longer-than-usual pregame goings-on and finished with 33 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists as the Lakers held off the pesky Clippers, 99-92. Bryant didn't come out passive to start the game as he tended to throughout much of last season but he did get as many whistles as last year. He went 11-12 from the charity stripe while the Clippers went 11-16 as a team.

3. Lebron James. Those who don't believe in the 2009-2010 Lebronaliers will see last night's loss to the Celtics as a microcosm of the entire season to come. LBJ was special. The King dropped 38, the highest opening night tally of his career. But his team still lost.After racing out to a 19-5 lead with Lebron only contributing four points, the Cavs were outscored 90 to 70 the rest of the way. Cleveland only made five buckets in the fourth quarter and No. 23 sunk four of them. It looked like last year's playoff series against the Magic all over again. Even with Shaq out there looking decentish (10 points, 10 boards). The Celtics, on the other hand, got 26 points off the bench (compared to 10 for CLE) and looked deep (but more about that later) and impactful performances from the Big Three plus Rondo And Rasheed Wallace.

4. Travis Outlaw. Even though he is playing in his seventh season, the Blazers' small forward remains very much under the radar but the 25-year-old drafted right out of high school in 2003 looks poised to change that. Outlaw scored a game-high 23 points last night even though he came off the bench against the Rockets. He outscored All-Star teammate Brandon Roy by three and former No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden by 21. With the game level at 23 points after one quarter, Outlaw opened the second session with seven straight points (jumper, three, and driving dunk) and the Blazers more or less held that lead the rest of the way.

5. Andrew Bynum. After being called out as the overpaid player in the NBA by Forbes magazine because his career stat line of 8 points, 6 boards and 1.5 blocks per contest doesn't seem to justify the contract he signed after the 2007-08 season, the center from Plainsboro, NJ did his darndest to shed that label. He went for 28 and 13 in the Lakers' win over the Clippers.

Sixth Man. Rasheed Wallace. First of all, it still blows my mind that 'Sheed comes off the bench for the Celtics. Like Artest landing in LaLaLand, the rich get richer in today's NBA. A slightly pudgier version of the player that put up three 100-block, 100-three-pointers earlier in his career (the first ever to accomplish the feat) came off the bench for the C's last night in Cleveland and showed just why the Celtics are being tapped by many to reach the Finals this year. With Boston sluggish out the gates, Wallace entered the game late in the first quarter with his new club trailing, 21-12. Less than ten minutes of action later, he nailed a three to tie the game at 32. Although it was Paul Pierce who carried the day down the stretch there was no denying how crucial Wallace's 24 minutes, 12 points (with 3 treys), 3 boards and 2 blocks were.

Benched. Staying in Cleveland. Before last night's much-hyped season opener between the Celtics and the Cavs at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Lebron James was bopping his head while listening to music on his blue and white New York Yankees headphones. For those (read: me) constantly trying to divine the future from the present it was something worth noting. And with Charles Barkley stating after the game that he considers Cleveland a step below both Boston and Orlando coming into the season, those in the Forest City will probably think dark thoughts while watching former Indians pitchers Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia take the hill for the Phillies and Yankees, respectively, in Game 1 of the World Series tonight in the Bronx.

1 comment:

cardrunners said...

I think this will be the season that tells us a lot about whether Greg Oden turns into an elite center in the league, or if he is another injury plagued Sam Bowie type of guy.