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Roundballs Deep: Fight Night!

A few takeaways from the first week of the NBA season.

NBA Referees by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Roundballs Deep: Fight Night!

Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes

The NBA is back baby!  And boy oh boy, did we have ourselves a first week.  Between the adjusted landscape of NBA talent, a solid slate of games, and some REAL DEAL drama filled with real hatred, there was no shortage of content from the first week in the NBA.  Let’s take a look at three major takeaways I have from week 1(ish) of the season.

Rajon Rondo is a scumbag, but punching Chris Paul in the face is awesome.

Finally! An NBA fight worth the hype.  It gets pretty old hearing about some fisticuffs breaking out in a game, only to find the video and see two guys pushing each other gently and respectfully while pretending with their eyes that they MAY DO SOMETHING CRAZY (spoiler: they almost always do not).

That’s because the beef is almost always heat of the moment, adrenaline-fueled tantrums that have no real meat on the bone.  Thankfully, the beef between Rondo and Paul is very real, and by all accounts is one that has been simmering for nearly a decade.  

And let’s be honest: Chris Paul is a dick.  Between his constant bitching to the refs, his intermittent cheap shots to opponents groins, and his gesticulating whenever someone so much as grazes his jersey, he really comes off as a guy who could use a nice multi-layered knuckle sandwich.

So my first thought when I saw this was GET HIS ASS! KNOCK HIS TEETH OUT!

Watching this for the first time while waking up for work at 6AM, I squealed like a little piglet when I saw Rondo’s left fist connect with Paul’s right eye.  “It’s about time somebody beat this dude’s ass” I thought hastily to myself.

But hasty it was indeed.  Because I should know better than to think that Rajon Rondo, the surliest bastard in the entire league with a grudge against half the players in it, was going to be in the right on this.  Upon further review, Rondo did what a proven surly scumbag should more or less be expected to do–he summons a nice compact loogy and dispersed it in spray form all over Pauls face:

So in a battle of scumbags, yes, Rondo remains king of that hill.  Does it remove the satisfaction of seeing Chris Paul slugged in the face? Hell no.  I hope he gets popped again. But I’m also happy to see he’s not one to back down from some real fisticuffs, as he was able to get both a right and left to connect with Rondo’s face as well.  

The fight gets chalked up to a draw, and we all wait for Round 2 on December 13th in Houston.

It will never get old watching LeBron James choke.

Admittedly, this soft spot for me comes from years of watching my beloved Pacers getting vanquished and incinerated year after year by him in the playoffs.  The guy has proven he can do anything at any time, everything when asked, and is about as clutch as they come in big moments in spite of the forced narrative to the contrary that folks like Skip Bayless get paid billions of dollars to hold on to and perpetuate.  

Also admittedly: when he does provide unclutch moments, I am like a kid in a candy store.   And the one spot I can remember him coming up short against us time and time again was at the free throw line.  

For 98% of the game, he’s Dr. Manhattan– the ball and players on both teams seem to move in a way that proves to be at his orchestration, moving their bodies or turning their head just enough for him to explode to the rim or toss a missile to a three point shooter in the corner that no other human could have succeeded in making.  It truly can seem preternatural when he is anywhere near his A-game.

Which is why this tweet gives me a fuzzy, greasy joy that I haven’t felt since watching him shrink and shy away from the moment against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals:

Less than 50 percent!  That is simply delicious.  Maybe former Laker and free-throw great Shaquille O’Neal has some tips for you.  Can’t get much worse!

I have no idea how the Eastern Conference is going to shake out

Here’s how I had them falling out before the season:

  1. Boston
  2. Toronto
  3. Indiana
  4. Milwaukee
  5. Philadelphia
  6. Charlotte
  7. Miami
  8. Washington

Outside of believing Boston to be the heavy favorite to win the conference this year, I had no real idea, only hopes and dreams as to how the top of the East would shake out.   After a week, I have less of a clue how this is going to shape up as the season progresses. Some thoughts:

1. Trouble on the Cs

Boston has struggled early on to get going.  Kyrie Irving is averaging just 17 points per game with a PER of 12.70, both of which fall significantly below league averages.  Gordon Hayward doesn’t look comfortable at all yet coming back from his gruesome injury last year that kept him out all but five minutes of the 2017-2018 season.  

There’s no doubt in my mind they’ll rip off 20 in a row at some point, but their early struggles muddy the conference waters a little further.

2. Pace Makers

I love the look of the Pacers roster this year and have high hopes for them, but they look mediocre through four games.  They haven’t achieved the cohesiveness that shaped a lot of last season, and that could just be the necessary early season growing pains with a couple new players entering the fold.  A little concerning, but something that should be straightened out. And Victor Oladipo is always worth the cost of watching. Watching him beat defenders off the dribble that are playing 3 steps off of him will never get old.  The dude floats.

3. Bucking Up

Milwaukee looks like the real deal.  I base this on the game they played the Pacers and shot what seemed to be 79% from three, but they looked very good.  And of course, early MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo looks fantastic already, averaging 28 points and 16 rebounds through three games.  If this performance was in any way indicative of the teams strengths, they will be a force to reckon with by anyone vying for the top spot.

4. Kawhi You Gotta Be Like that?

I feel like a moron for not fully considering the ramifications of Kawhi Leonard joining a team that was already atop the conference.  Maybe I assumed he wouldn’t stay healthy enough, or be healthy enough in general. Maybe I just don’t trust the Raptors to come through in big moments (I still don’t).  But watching Kawhi Leonard hitting crossover, step-back threes puts a fear in me that DeMar DeRozan never came close to imitating.

Go back to the West you, a**hole.

5. Mistrusting the Process

I just don’t buy the 76ers.  Honestly, it’s mostly because I don’t want to.  Between hearing about how AWESOME they were all of last year and Joel Embiid constantly blabbering about something or other, I took great pleasure in seeing them dismantled limb by limb by the Boston Celtics in the playoffs.  But how many “stars” can you have on one team that are allergic to shooting? I believe the answer is zero.

Philadelphia currently has two of them in Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, and they will absolutely need to shoot the ball confidently for the team to ever reach its potential. They will win plenty of games, but I don’t see how they have the ceiling to reach the level the four teams above them on this list will see.  

6. What Starts With A “W”, But Is Full of Ls

The Wizards are trash, and the only reason they made this list was so I could call them trash.  Every minute they spend trying to compete with this iteration of the team is a waste of time.

Indianapolis born and bred, with love dispersed in uneven and shifting portions between the Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Colts, and Atlanta Braves. Believer and ambassador of the phrase "Don't Be a Hero." Often wish I had never gotten into sports while simultaneously proclaiming sports is the greatest thing in life--it doesn't have to make sense but it's true.

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