Things are certainly different today than they were yesterday.
But that's neither here nor there.
Before we get started, say hello to the biggest reason ESPN needs more flexibility in its game selections. The Denver-Detroit trade went down Monday. That gives them two days to get a crew to Detroit. The game starts early? So what? Cut off Sportcenter by an half-hour and ditch Around the Horn or PTI for a day. What are you showing right now? You can't get NFL injuries, NFL features, NFL previews, NFL tattoos, NFL Yahtzee and a BCS breakdown done in an hour and a half? Or talk to Detroit and get them to push the game back just a half hour, and run your usual lineup for Thursdays. I know teams hate moving start times, but a half hour later for the TV coverage is probably worth it. Even if this is remarkably complicated, it shouldn't be.
Anyway, great slate tonight. Enjoy.
REASONS TO WATCH THE GAMES OF THE NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION TONIGHT:
People Are Strange, When You're A Granger, Faces Are Ugly, When You're Alone
Phoenix at Indiana.
Phoenix will stomp this team. Badly. Let's say the Suns have a bad shooting night. Their defense has improved enough to hold this surprisingly tough Indiana team to under 80 points. Additionally, the Pacers are suffering down low. The good news? Danny Granger is superfreakinghuman. Averaging close to 27 with 4 boards, 1.5 steals, and 2.5 blocks (!), Granger has done it all so far this season, including knocking off the defending champs. But the question becomes if they have enough depth to hang with the Suns. The Pacers have only played 9 players total all season, while the Suns are bludgeoning people with their depth this season. I also look forward to the remarkably awkward matchup of Rasho Nesterovic against Robin Lopez.
Gametime: 7PM EST, League Pass
Answer Unclear, Check Back Later
Detroit at Toronto.
Iverson may or may not play, depending on Chiekh Samb's physical, which will greatly affect the hype of this game. Normally I'd say that's all it would affect because it's the Pistons, and as the Bobcats found out, the Pistons can beat anyone without two of their players. But this Raptors team seems, at least for the moment, different. Skeets is already rallying the Bosh 4 MVP campaign, Jermaine O'Neal seems to be fitting in, and Calderon is as good as expected. Additionally they're getting a consistent team effort, which has been missing for years. So maybe this Raptors team is different. If AI is out, this is a must win for them. If they want to prove they're a legit 3 Seed, they have to blister a team missing an All-Star. Conversely, if Iverson's in, the pressure shifts to Detroit. First night, first game, whatever. This is the NBA. Such is the price of glory. The Pistons may best be suited to match the Raptors regardless, with Wallace and Johnson able to battle the bigs' versatility step for step, and solid perimeter defense. But without Iverson, the problem will be producing enough buckets to keep in line with a Raptors squad averaging 99.3 points per game.
The Battle Of Who Hates Their Team More?:
Bobcats at Knicks.
I keep trying to figure out why everyone cares about Marbury so much. In the past two days, I've had Nate Jones of FanHouse and Rob Mahoney of Upside and Motor and HP trying to convince me that D'Antoni is mismanaging this team by not playing Marbury. This is like saying, "Well, sure, it's cancer. But hey, it's very POWERFUL cancer! Why not give it a chance!"
Perhaps a more apt comparison is saying, "Look, the music at this party is awful. No likes Enya. Okay? No one. But it's okay. I've got a CD of the sound of cats being ground in a blender with Chumbawumba overdubbed on it. This could work!"
That said, there's a lot about this squad that Mike D'Antoni has to absolutely hate. But not as much as Larry Brown hates the Bobcats. They shoot jumpers. They can't defend. They're not in shape. They're not disciplined. And what's worse is that the constant beratement from Brown is likely only serving to exacerbate the issue.
So tonight should be a fun example of what happens when two coaches are both yelling at their own players so loud they can't hear anything. It'll be just like a political show!
7:30PM EST, MSG
Iggy... Can We Call You Iggy? No? Oh, Well, We Don't Care... Iggy... You're Sucking It Up:
Philadelphia at Miami.
Consider this the "Someone Has To Stop Underperforming Bowl." Philly's starting to get it together, with their perimeter shooters knocking down big shots and Cannonball Young doing a little bit of everything as he starts to thrive at the 3. But then there's Andre Iguodala. 12 points, 5 assists, 3 turnovers. For a guy who was supposed to make us look like a fool (like a fool!) for our skepticism over paying him a bajillion dollars, he's not off to a hot start. Never fear, though, tonight he's got Dwayne "I'm trying to do everything and in the end doing nothing" Wade, which means he should get more opportunities.
Wade's in a bad spot right now, and seriously contemplating his long term future in Miami. It's made worse by the fact that in order for them to score, he needs the ball in his hands, but if he's got the ball in his hands, he's turning it over because defenses are adjusting to him. There's just not a whole lot of upside on the roster right now as Beasley is going through growing pains and Marion looks like he just doesn't belong anywhere on this team. I don't know what Riley is waiting for to trade Marion for the assets he needs, but he's waiting too long and every second increases the chances of Wade not resigning in 2010.
Tonight the Sixers should be able to use their inside-outside game, and Andre Miller should give the Heat point guards fits. If they can just put some buckets down, this one should be easy and fun to watch. Also, tune in to check out Marion's new mask.
7:30PM EST League Pass
Big Ugly White Guys And You, A Primer:
Memphis at Sacramento.
The Kings are reeling a bit right now. Even with losing Crazy Pills, they were supposed to be at least close to cohesion and instead they've fallen apart to start the season, and don't have many ways of improving. Kevin Martin is underperforming, Spencer Hawes is randomly inserted and yanked, Theus is on the hot seat, and Brad Miller is still out. The fanbase can't figure out what exactly is supposed to be happening, if there is even a plan in place. Essentially, it's Jason Thompson and a lot of crying.
Conversely, the Grizzlies feel pretty damn good about themselves. They're somehow meshing committed defensive effort and aggressive offensive speed. Marc Gasol is playing well. Rudy Gay is showing more than raw potential and scoring, he's exhibiting leadership and taking the team on. If OJ Mayo is running hot, they can score with anyone. And Mike Conley is coming along, one step at a time. Hell, Darko played well the other night!
Which of course means the Kings will win by 4.
I actually think the Grizz hang on to this. I think these are the types of games that the Grizzlies will split on. They'll win half the games they should be competitive in, and lose half the games they'll be competitive in. But right now they're healthy and they're playing with a lot of fire. This one could be a lot of fun to watch.
10PM EST, League Pass
San Antonio at Minnesota
The Spurs are in trouble right now. And they will be as long as Ginobili as out. Parker and Duncan have been spot on, but the rest of the team this side of Roger Mason hasn’t been able to shoot for sh*t. They’re sure to struggle as long as they lack that third dependable scorer who not only puts points on the board, but appropriately spreads the offense to allow for the role players to have more success.
But, this is Minnesota. So disregard everything I just said. Luckily for the Spurs, they’ll be running into the defenseless baby Wolves a night after being sobered up by a Mavericks beating. They’ll be looking to regain some dignity. TP will take advantage of a lack of both perimeter D and reliable help defense inside, and Duncan should use and abuse The Harbinger all night long while holding him down on the other end. Mark your calendars, folks, tonight is a historic night. Four games into the season, the Spurs will register their first win of ’08-’09! Sorry Wolves fans, I know your lot in life is a difficult one. But until Kevin Love manages to establish and maintain some sort of NBA-level conditioning, Randy Foye establishes himself as an actual point guard or even a consistent scorer, and either Jefferson or Love becomes a reliable post defender, this is going to be the story.
Et tu, Mike Miller? Money Mike has managed an abysmal 12.5% on his threes in the Wolves’ three games this season on a career low 3PA. What’s the deal? Are the Wolves cramping his style in a way the Grizz and Magic never did? Miller’s sure to bounce back, so why not make a statement against a historically excellent defense? I’m sure Bowen will have something to say about that.
8:00 EST, FSNO
I Imagine This Is What a Grown Man Stomping on a Puppy Looks Like (Rob):
There’s a reason the Lakers and the Celtics went to the Finals last season. But while the Lakers inspire amazement with their fluidity, the Celtics open up the mind with the limitless potential of their defense. They wear the bling, and it’s because they can stop anybody. Of course in this one, they won’t have to. I mean, you kind of have to stop Kevin Durant, but I have a feeling this team could do that with their eyes closed. No offense to Durant of course, he’s a very good offensive player. But there’s only so much you can do when you’re one of two guys who can score on your team, and guy #2 is a rookie who is likely to get flustered by a suffocating Celtics D.
But boy, has that rookie been impressive. OKC shocked a lot of people when they took Westbrook at 3, but so far he’s been right on the money. He may not have Bayless’ uncanny ability to finish around the rim, but his ability to take the ball to the basket is certainly comparable and his defense is worlds ahead of where it should be as a rookie point. Jeff Green may be an ill-fit alongside Durant, but Westbrook fits in perfectly.
So the Celtics strut in, lock down on everybody, and give the Durantula nightmares of their grandeur. Any questions?
8:00 EST, CSNE
The Whole Can’t Even Compare to the Sum of Its Parts (Rob):
Washington at Milwaukee
Both of these teams have extraordinary players. Not all of them are extraordinarily talented per se, but many are flat out extraordinary.
- The hairless wonder, CNuv
- The Renaissance Man, Richard Jefferson
- Humble star/hitch-shot extraordinaire Michael Redd
- Perennial typical white point guard, Luke Ridnour
- The enigmatic Ramon Sessions
- Zany Aussie Andrew Bogut.
Tell me that isn’t a reality show waiting to happen. Lining up across the hardwood is:
- The straw-chewing Caron Butler
- Bad hair day Nick Young
- “Remember that one time I got busted for propositioning an undercover cop?” Andray Blatche
- Walking 20-10 Antawn Jamison
- The greatest thinker of the modern era, EtanThomas
- DeShawn “THE WIND BLOW!!! MY FLAT TOP SWANG!!!” Stevenson
Absolutely ridiculous. But somewhere between player to team, that special ingredient is lost in translation. Both teams look very pedestrian on the court, and both will be living in the tar pit of mediocrity in the East. Expect more of the same from this contest. For the Bucks, it’ll be about posting what could be their first and last winning record all season. For the Wizards, it’s about developing some kind of consistency and success without Gilbert and their apparent linchpin, Brendan Haywood. With Haywood, the Wiz were plucky underdogs, winning their fair share of games and sticking it to teams like the Celtics over and over. Without him, they look pitiful on defense. Thomas and Blatche haven’t shown they can match Haywood’s production, impact, and relevance, and until they find a way to, this team is going to flounder.
8:00 EST, SUN
Clippers "at" Lakers
At the very least, and it seems as of right now "the least" might also be the best thing about the Clips, they are entertaining. Its great to see Thornton playing well. But when you base your forward looking approach on Weightwatcher Davis and the corpse of Marcus Camby, you have essential been self PWNed. Eric Gordon gets no burn and you're being outscored by nearly 18 a game. On the bright side, you get to share the court with Andrew Bynum tonight, who's future is so bright, he's gotta wear shade. For a better look at the Clips future, I suggest these.
OMG. Can You Believe Our Seats Are This Good? This Rulez:
Its really too bad that Prop 8 passed in California. Can you imagine the extreme length, upside and motor that Brandanthony Dolphwright's kids would have if they could mate? (BTW, until you have actively searched for photos of these 2 online, you have no idea how time consuming that can be!). The Re-Re-Rebirth of Mr. Big Shot gets cracking tonight and he and the freshly shorn Melo will have to fight it out over who takes control of the offense. On the whole, this addition could make things significantly easier for Anthony, as he can now just focus on scoring, scoring and scoring. Oh wait, that's all he did before, right? Well... Stephen Jackson hasn't gone crazy yet, so there's always that possibility.
Bulls at Cavs.
Hawks at Hornets.
The Hawks have kind of surprised everyone by showing up ready for the season as opposed to languishing in mediocrity for the first three months before showing signs of life. Of course, we're a whole two games in, which means there's plenty of time for the Hawks to look pathetic. Like tonight against the Hornets, for example. It does seem, at least preliminarily, like Joe Johnson has taken some sort of step that he started with the Celtics series. He's leading the league in scoring. Yeah, Joe Johnson. Who'da thunk it. Josh Smith is doing his thing, and Horford is a lock in the middle.
But the Hornets provide an entirely different challenge. This is a team that has won, and won convincingly, without Tyson Chandler, who they get back tonight from an ankle tweak. They are playing focused, they are playing tight, and they are playing with absolutely no mercy. This one could be an amazing matchup or a Hornets beat down. You want to talk measuring sticks? This one comes with a hard price.
8PM, League Pass
No Country For Young Men:
Portland at Utah.
The Jazz are, as usual for the regular season, terrifying. The thing you can't count on is Paul Millsap. If this guy keeps up how he's playing, that changes the whole landscape of Utah. Deron's been out, and it hasn't mattered. They've slaughtered everyone. With their supporting players playing like starters and their starters playing like starters, they're damn near invincible. Portland, conversely, has been wholly disappointing. Roy hasn't had any huge games, Oden's on the shelf, the youngsters look confused. The only guy who's really looking great right now is LaMarcus Aldridge, who's a poor man's Matrix, or maybe a rich man's Al Harrington. If Portland wants to shake off the hypewebs and get back into this thing, they better figure out how to get some stops. Because otherwise, they're going to be in a hole before they can even say "poster boys."
9PM, League Pass
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