The N.B.A. is back (so soon!) with a doubleheader on opening night, featuring several of the league’s biggest names: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard.
For Durant, it’s a much-anticipated regular-season debut with the Nets, alongside Kyrie Irving. And for James, it’s a short turnaround for his Los Angeles Lakers after winning the championship just over 10 weeks ago.
Follow along with us live.
What: Warriors @ Nets, 7 p.m. Eastern time; Clippers @ Lakers, 10 p.m.
How to watch: TNT
The Nets beat the Warriors big, 125-99.
Steve Nash got his first win as an N.B.A. head coach in dominating fashion, as the Nets blew out the Golden State Warriors at home, 125-99. The Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant partnership got off to a fast start: Irving had 26 points and Durant added 22, both in 25 minutes. Neither played in the fourth quarter. But for all 48 minutes, the Nets looked like the championship contenders they were billed to be. The Nets were particularly proficient from the perimeter, shooting 15-35 from deep (43 percent). Caris LeVert, who came off the bench, scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.
Golden State, missing Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, struggled mightily on both ends of the floor. Offensively, the Warriors looked as if they would miss even if they threw a basketball into space from the International Space Station. They shot 10-33 from three (30 percent). Stephen Curry, who missed most of last season, looked overmatched, scoring 20 points on 21 shots. He did, however, have 10 assists. Curry did not get much help from his teammates. Andrew Wiggins, whom the Warriors acquired last season, shot 4-16 from the field for 13 points. James Wiseman, the heralded rookie, scored 19 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, a solid debut, but much of his production came in the fourth quarter when the outcome of the game was not in doubt.
4th Quarter: Up and down debut for the Warriors rookie James Wiseman.
James Wiseman, the highly touted prospect whom the Warriors drafted second overall in November, has had a mixed N.B.A. debut after Coach Steve Kerr put him in the starting lineup. So far, through 17 minutes, Wiseman has 10 points and 6 rebounds on 3-of-8 shooting. The 19-year-old looked nimble handling the ball but sometimes struggled finishing under the basket and on the defensive end.
End 3rd Quarter: It might be a wrap.
The game became a blowout early on … is still a blowout entering the final quarter, as the Nets outscored the Warriors by 10 in the third, to lead 99-71. We are all about bright spots here, so we found one for Golden State: Stephen Curry has 10 assists. So there’s that.
Aside from that? The Warriors are shooting 24 percent from 3 and only have two players in double figures. Andrew Wiggins is shooting an awful 4-14 from the field for 13 points. For the Nets, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have combined for 48 points and may not have to play anymore tonight. Caris LeVert has 16 points, Joe Harris has 10, and DeAndre Jordan has 10 rebounds.
3rd Quarter: 3-pointers are only falling for the Nets.
It got ugly here in Brooklyn (depending on your vantage point). The Nets pushed the lead to 31 in the third quarter. The Warriors are only shooting 5 of 21 from deep, compared to 10 of 22 for the Nets. That has essentially been the ball game. Durant now has 16 points; Irving has 26.
3rd Quarter: Yikes.
So, this is Kevin Durant:
And this is how the Warriors are doing:
Halftime: Kyrie Irving leads with 24 points.
The onslaught continued for the Nets, as they ended the first half up 63-45. Kyrie Irving continued to put on a show, pouring in 24 points on 13 shots and hitting several momentum-stopping jump shots to keep the Warriors from sustaining any sort of run. Kevin Durant had 12 points on 11 shots. Caris LeVert ended the half with 12 points.
For Golden State, every point seemed to be a labor. Stephen Curry led with 16 points, but it took 15 shots. He also had 5 assists. Andrew Wiggins shot 2-10 for 8 points. The Nets have looked faster and more aggressive, keeping the game mostly uncompetitive. Their defense also was effective in stopping the Warriors from getting uncontested shots.
One potential red flag for the Nets: They only had 10 assists to 13 turnovers. They’re winning based on a lot of isolation basketball. But who can complain when it works?
Silver: Others need the vaccine ‘much more desperately’ than N.B.A. players.
Commissioner Adam Silver, in a pregame interview on TNT, reiterated that he did not think that N.B.A. players should receive the vaccine right now, saying that he did not want players prioritized over more vulnerable populations.
“While there is no doubt a role our that our players can play at the appropriate time, and whether it’s in the African-American community in certain cases, whether it’s demonstrating to young people that it’s safe to get the vaccine should our players feel that way, I just think right now, given that there’s limited doses and given that there’s another cohort of people out there who need it much more desperately than young, healthy people, my sense is we should wait,” Silver said.
“But ultimately we’ll follow what the public health officials tell us to do. I know we’ve already had some conversations with public health officials who suggested that there is a role that our players can play in demonstrating to the broader public that it is safe to go ahead and get vaccinated.”
2nd Quarter: Caris LeVert is key off the Nets’ bench.
It’s just one game. But Andrew Wiggins, who will now have to fill some of the gap left by Klay Thompson’s absence, has had a rough start to the game. He started 1-8 and has missed multiple wide-open jumpers.
On the other end, Caris LeVert is thriving early on in his role as sixth man for the Nets. He has 12 points on 7 shots along with 3 rebounds and an assist, providing a spark off the bench while Durant and Irving sit for a spell. LeVert’s ability to keep the offense afloat while the Nets’ star duo rests will be crucial as the season progresses.
Side note: TNT’s audio appears to be out of sync with the video. I just heard the clank of a missed jumper seconds after the ball hit the rim on the screen. Look, it’s not just the players who are getting themselves into shape.
End of 1st Quarter: The Warriors are struggling.
The Nets jumped out to a 40-19 lead in the first quarter, while the Warriors looked out of sorts on offense, before the Nets ended the opening frame leading 40-25. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were dominant, scoring 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting combined. Joe Harris also scored 6 points, hitting a pair of triples.
Kelly Oubre, a new Warriors addition, had a rim-rattling dunk and Stephen Curry had 9 points on 3-of-7 shooting to keep the Warriors afloat, but Golden State had trouble generating quality offensive possessions as a whole.
Kevin Durant is hot to start.
It’s a beautiful sight to see. Kevin Durant has hit 4 of his first 5 shots. What’s impressive is that all four of his makes have been different. One was a runner, another a 3-pointer, a pull-up jumper which also sent him to the line, and, finally, a baseline dunk. He scored 8 points in the first three minutes of the game. An impressive start so far, pushing the Nets to an early double-digit lead, 18-8. Kyrie Irving has hit 2 of 3 so far for 5 points.
Klay Thompson says there’s a ‘huge hole in my soul.’
Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors guard who will miss this entire season, said on Instagram shortly before Tuesday night’s game that “It pains me every day knowing I won’t be able to chase a chip.”
Thompson, a five-time All Star, missed all of last year’s campaign after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2019 finals. In November, as he was gearing up to return for this season, Thompson tore his right Achilles’ tendon, one of the most devastating injuries for a basketball player. He had surgery and was ruled out for his second straight season.
“I do not want to be writing this,” Thompson wrote on Tuesday. “My soul is in Brooklyn taking a pregame nap. Unfortunately, reality looks a bit different.”
He added: “There’s a huge hole in my soul when I can’t do what I love and compete against the best players in the world. But I plan on playing for a long time and will continue to work every day to get back on the court and help my team bring more championships to the Bay.”
It’s a reunion for Durant and Curry.
Opening night won’t just be a long-awaited return to the court for Kevin Durant. His teammate, Stephen Curry, with whom Durant won two championships, also will play. Curry, a two-time Most Valuable Player Award winner, missed 60 games last season because of a broken left hand.
Curry and Durant will face each other as opponents for the first time since 2016. After that season, Durant shocked the basketball world by joining Curry in Golden State, forming one of the most talented partnerships in the history of the league.
“You always kind of find yourself in awe of stuff he can do on the floor,” Curry told reporters this week, adding, “That was a big part of our success: kind of feeding off of each other, that energy and that pursuit of greatness every day. Seeing it up close and personal, you had no choice but to meet it every day.”
Durant, for his part, is not outwardly putting extra stock in Tuesday night’s game, even though it is against his former team.
“Playing against old teammates never really ratcheted me up,” Durant told reporters this week. “I always felt like I was on that level no matter who is on the floor. I feel like each game is important to me.”
‘Nerves and anxiety’ for Steve Nash in his coaching debut.
Before his first regular-season game as an N.B.A. head coach, Steve Nash told reporters that Kevin Durant “does look exactly like he did before the injury, but he also needs a little bit of breathing room to get himself acclimated to competitive basketball.”
“The only thing I say about it is that he’s done everything and he’s in absolutely the ultimate position to come back from this injury,” Nash said of Durant, who tore his right Achilles’ tendon during the 2019 N.B.A. finals, which sidelined him for all of last season.
Nash continued: “But I think we also have to give Kevin time to play N.B.A. games and not get carried away.”
As far as his coaching debut — Nash’s first direct involvement in a N.B.A. game since he retired as a player in 2015 — Nash said that this gameday had a “different rhythm but similar nerves and anxiety” as when he was a player.
“I always felt a little nerves until I actually got out there in pregame warm-ups. So I feel that a little bit tonight and that’s probably a good thing,” Nash said.
Here’s hoping the Warriors can be great again.
I’m not ready to say goodbye to the Golden State Warriors.
I find myself pining for the splendor of Steph Curry, the snarl of Draymond Green, the beautiful basketball, the sheer dominance. I fear we may never see it again — at least, not at the level we once did.
Klay Thompson’s shredded Achilles’ tendon probably means a second straight lost season, and possibly a fatal blow to the Warriors’ hopes for a revival. And that’s where I truly become wistful.
I don’t miss the Warriors as a fan would (my San Jose roots notwithstanding). It’s not just that I’ll miss writing about their roundball artistry (though that’s certainly true, too). It’s more personal than that.
To their fans, the Warriors provided endless basketball bliss — a montage of deep 3s and shimmies and raucous parades. To others, they provided a standard of selfless play and joyful domination. They defined an era, and redefined the formula for building a superteam.
But they gave me something far more precious: a final few hours with my father. I just didn’t know it at the time.
Drama for the Clippers. New deals for the Lakers.
In some ways, it feels like Kawhi Leonard joined the Clippers a million years ago. In fact, it was only during the summer of 2019 when the Clippers signed Leonard and traded for Paul George, a momentous one-two punch that reshaped the franchise.
But some of the behind-the-scenes intrigue of that momentous summer recently resurfaced when Johnny Wilkes, a man who claims to be a Leonard family confidante, accused Jerry West, one of the team’s executives, of reneging on a pledge to pay him for helping deliver Leonard to the Clippers.
After Wilkes, who played high school basketball with Leonard’s uncle Dennis Robertson filed a lawsuit, the N.B.A. opened an investigation. The Clippers have denied any wrongdoing, calling Wilkes’s allegations “baseless,” and Leonard told reporters that Wilkes had nothing to do with his decision to sign with the Clippers.
Leonard has never been considered among the N.B.A.’s most charismatic stars, but his short tenure with the Clippers has produced no shortage of drama. Also percolating in the background: his contract situation. Leonard suggested this week that he would decline his player option for next season, meaning he would become a free agent.
Meanwhile, all is copacetic in Laker-land: LeBron James and Anthony Davis both agreed to new long-term deals over the off-season.
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