Nine first-week NBA storylines not involving Kyrie Irving or Ben Simmons: Rookies dazzle; Giannis’ new routine – CBS Sports - Techy Hunters


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Nine first-week NBA storylines not involving Kyrie Irving or Ben Simmons: Rookies dazzle; Giannis’ new routine – CBS Sports


The 2021-22 NBA season began last Tuesday, but most of the headlines around the league have very little to do with basketball. Whether it’s protests at Barclays Center about Kyrie Irving’s vaccine status, the ongoing saga with Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers or infighting within the Los Angeles Lakers, the off-court drama has overshadowed the fact that some great NBA games and tremendous individual performances have been taking place.

No more.

There will continue to be discussion about all of those storylines as the season goes along, but how about we talk some basketball? I’m taking this opportunity to highlight nine cool and interesting things that I noticed during an incredible first week of NBA action.

1. Giannis’ speedy free throw routine

Remember during the playoffs when opposing crowds continually proved they could count to 10 (usually not very well) while Giannis Antetokounmpo was at the free throw line? Antetokounmpo’s routine progressed at a tempo that would induce impatience from molasses, and he was even called for two 10-second violations during the postseason — one of which came during a crucial juncture of a first-round game against the Miami Heat.

Well, it appears that’s not going to be an issue this year. Giannis has significantly shortened his free throw routine, taking just one dribble before letting it fly, much to the dismay of spectators used to taking that time to grab a beverage refill.

The expedited routine takes about five seconds, nearly half as long as last year’s, and so far it’s been successful. Antetokounmpo has shot 70.4 percent from the line this season, compared to 65.8 percent over the last two seasons combined.

2. Paul George is up to the challenge

Captain Obvious wasn’t the first to point out that in order for the Clippers to survive with Kawhi Leonard out of the lineup, Paul George would have to play at an All-NBA, possibly MVP level. He’s been all that and more in the Clippers’ first two games, averaging 35 points, 10.5 rebounds and five assists on 56/44/100 shooting splits. These aren’t empty stats, either. He answered Stephen Curry’s 25-point first quarter in the Warriors‘ home opener with 16 of his own on 4-for-5 3-point shooting, then hit two incredibly difficult, clutch shots as the Clippers mounted a late comeback against the Grizzlies.

To show just how thin the Clippers’ margin of error is this season, they ended up losing both games despite George’s heroics.

Tyler Herro has carried his brilliant All-Preseason performance into the regular season, averaging 28.5 points and eight rebounds off the bench in his first two games while notching the first 30-point, 10-rebound game by a non-starter in Miami Heat history in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Pacers.

Herro is playing with the snarling swagger and bravado that we saw in the bubble, and shows no signs of slowing. Miami was unable to pull out that win in Indiana, however, partly because …

4. The Heat roster is very thin

Come playoff time, the Heat are going to be an extremely difficult matchup. Getting there, however, could be a slog. Miami boasts one of the best starting lineups in the NBA when healthy, on paper at least, but beyond Tyler Herro the bench is extremely shallow. Miami is going to need significant contributions from relatively unproven reserves like Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Caleb Martin and KZ Okpala, in addition to veterans Markieff Morris and Dewayne Dedmon. It’s certainly possible, but they would need multiple players to have career seasons to lessen the strain on the top six.

5. These rookies are so much fun

The 2021 NBA Draft was one of the most ballyhooed in recent history, and so far it’s lived up to the hype. Check out the first week highlights from some of these lottery picks.

Jalen Green, Houston Rockets (drafted No. 2 overall): 16 points, 3.7 rebounds, three assists, 48 percent 3-point shooting

Green also has the audacity to attempt nonsense like this:

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 3): 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, three assists, 2.3 blocks

Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors (No. 4): 18 points, 10 rebounds, 52 percent field goals made

Chris Duarte (No. 13): 20.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 46 percent 3-point shooting

All of this, and we haven’t even seen Detroit Pistons‘ No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham in action yet due to an ankle injury. There is another rookie, however, who has stood out for reasons that the stats don’t necessarily reflect …

Reports of rookie Davion Mitchell’s defense do not appear to have been exaggerated. So far in his nascent career, the Sacramento Kings‘ No. 9 overall pick has put the clamps on opposing guards in impressive fashion, displaying strength, speed and technique that even makes spectators uncomfortable. Check out this Slack comment from fellow CBS Sports NBA writer Brad Botkin after watching Mitchell go to work against the Utah Jazz: “That guy’s guarding you, you sulk your way over to the corner and hide.”

Watching defensive bully ball like this, you tend to agree with him.

In Utah’s 110-101 win over the Kings on Friday, Jazz players went 4 for 19 with three turnovers when defended by Mitchell, according to matchup data. Not bad for a 6-foot rookie playing against NBA stars for the first time.

James Johnson has played for nine NBA teams, is the only active player born in Wyoming, has a black belt in karate and a 20-0 kickboxing record. As if he could get any more interesting, he is now sporting one of the coolest looks in the NBA.

Getty Images

That’s it. That’s the storyline. Moving on.

I wish I was as confident in anything as Anthony Edwards is at basketball. Shooting 33 percent from the 3-point line as a rookie hasn’t made the 20-year-old shy — he’s gone 9 for 20 (45 percent) from deep in his first two games, hoisting brash absurdity like this in the process:

Edwards is already one of the league’s off-court treasures with his Southern charm and quotable quips, and it looks like he’s continuing the momentum he built in the second half of last season.

9. Generous MVP chants

We get it, you want to show love to your favorite players. But enough is enough. When Stephen Curry gets MVP chants at the free throw line, it’s one thing.

When second-year guard LaMelo Ball gets them on opening night … it’s a little suspect, but the Hornets were in the midst of a 24-0 run, so we’ll allow it.

But when Wizards fans start labeling sixth man extraordinaire Montrezl Harrell as an MVP contender, it’s time to draw the line.

This is a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” situation, where the undeserved MVP chants devalue those showered upon players who truly deserve them. Sure, everyone’s overly excited because it’s the first week of the season and the possibilities are endless, but let’s be a little more judicious.

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