By Holly MacKenzie
I was finding the basic recaps were getting to be monotonous and boring and I apologize, but once season starts and there are regular highlights and games on TV, it will be easier to write something of interest rather than just spitting out stats. For this Monday, I want to try something different and just give a rundown of some interesting parts of the games this weekend. Knowing myself, I will probably end up getting back to the stats because I’m a numbers kinda girl. Anyway, one thing about the NBA; it is never dull. On a more personal note, I need to give my first ever shout out! I want to congratulate my “coach”, mentor and teacher, Steve Konchalski on his induction into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame this past weekend. Already a 2-time inductee into the Canadian Basketball Hall of fame (once as assistant coach of the Canadian National team in 1976 and again as a builder), our Canadian Coach “K” has led my Alma mater, St. Francis Xavier University to 3 National Championships and 9 conference titles while coaching more than 1000 games and garnering more than 675 wins. He has nabbed the Atlantic Coach of the year award 6 times along the way. He was named Canadian Interuniversity Sport coach of the year in 2001 when he led the X-Men to a perfect 20-0 season and he is the very reason why I chose my university. He is also a man who gives so much to the game and to anyone who wants to learn. My second day on campus I searched him out and ended up spending well over an hour in his office watching game tapes and talking basketball. Ever since then his door has always been open for me as he has encouraged my passion and continued to pass on the love of the game. He always finds time for those who want to learn. He truly is a remarkable man as his respect for the game is unrivaled. He gives more of himself each day and in turn gives more to the basketball world with each practice, game and interaction. I just need to send out my sincerest congratulations on yet another accolade that is beyond deserved.
Alright. Thanks for sticking with me there. Thanks to Sam for letting me pass along my thanks since I am across the country and couldn’t be there to say it in person. There were a slew of games this weekend and while it is still only preseason there were some interesting observations that resulted. The following will be a mash up of thoughts, stats, standout performances and regrettably, injuries as well as players who will be starting the regular season on the chilling list. First and foremost, unfortunately, Adam Morrison of the Charlotte Bobcats may be out for the season after suffering a ligament tear to his left knee. I’m sure you all know that since Mutoni is on the scene and has it posted. That hurts, especially after Morrison had been shooting the lights out averaging 51% shooting through the first 4 games of preseason. The Bobcats just can’t seem to catch a break. I want to root for them, and I do because they are the underdog, but they are kind of like the movie Million Dollar Baby. You watch wanting her to succeed, it looks like she is going to succeed; she is on the cusp of success, and then BAM, after investing your time you are rendered helpless as you watch the inevitable fall. As much as I hate the Lakers drama I’ve gotta give props to Bobcat fans, I don’t think I could handle it. Regardless, losing Morrison certainly won’t help them in their quest to stretch their season out past April.
A lot has been said about Grant Hill, his health and his ability to help the Suns towards their quest for a title. As each game goes on he appears more and more comfortable within the Suns offense and it is hard to believe this is his first time playing with the team. Maybe he will surprise everyone and flourish within this up-tempo offense. In Fridays 118-97 rout of the Clippers, Hill led the Suns with 21 points. Most importantly is the fact that he recognizes what his team needs from him and he finds a way to contribute it. Take Saturday’s game for example, not only did he lead the team in points with 17, but he also lead them in rebounding, with 9. Of course, he followed that up with an 11 minute effort, on Sunday but, most importantly for Suns fans is that D’Antoni is finally resting his starters and giving rookies a chance to show their stuff. This will be a crucial key to the season and fans need to wait and see if D’Antoni will continue to spread out the minutes once the regular season tips off. It is also interesting to note that rookies DJ Strawberry and Alando Tucker are wrangling minutes out of D’Antoni and each have impressed in their own ways. It was great to see Tucker step up and knock down the three to cut the Clips lead down to 3 with just over a minute left to play in Saturday’s game. Then in Sunday’s game, Strawberry had 5 assists and only 1 turnover in his 18 minutes while Tucker continued to impress on the offensive end, scoring 14 points in his 13 minutes on 6-7 shooting. The two rookies played well off of each other, combining for all 12 of the Suns points in a 12-5 run with Strawberry completing a 3-point play to all but seal victory with 42 seconds on the clock. These pressure situations will definitely pay off for the rookies confidence and composure during the 82 game race to the finish.
Clipper fans have to be happy with the contributions of rookie Al Thorton. In their win against Phoenix on Saturday night, Thorton lead the team with 23 points on 8-14 shooting. The following night Thorton lit up the Lakers, leading the Clippers in their 112-96 win with 24 points, 10 coming in the 4th quarter as well as connecting on 4-5 from beyond the arc.
The Lakers have had ups and downs in three games this weekend, going 1-1 with their bench looking spectacular against the Bobcats and then their offense being cringe-worthy in their loss against the Clippers. Kobe Bryant has played limited minutes with an abundance of turnovers while Andrew Bynum is putting together an impressive preseason. Bynum had 8 points and 8 rebounds to go along with 3 blocks and 3 assists in 19 minutes in a 113-93 win over the Bobcats on Friday while he had 16 points on 6-8 field goals in their 112-96 loss against the Clippers on Sunday night. The battle for the starting point guard spot has intensified with Jordan Farmar giving some serious effort, going for 19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals without any turnovers in the game against the Clippers.
Nuggets Guard J.R. Smith has been suspended by the team for the ever ominous and infamous “conduct detrimental to the team” with the Nuggets not commenting any further on the situation. Now comes word that Smith has been summoned on charges of assault, disturbing the peace and destruction of private property on October 13th during an incident which took place in a nightclub. Smith will miss the first 3 games of the regular season. He has long since battled personal issues off-court and many wondered on his status as a Nugget during this off-season. Another player who will start the regular season as a fan is the Mavericks Josh Howard. The league suspended Howard for his part in an altercation with Kings forward Brad Miller on October 16th. Howard will miss the first 2 games of the regular season without pay.
The Timberwolves won a big game over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, battling through 2OT to hang onto a 113-110 victory. Al Jefferson continued to flourish on his new team, scoring 18 points and hauling down 12 boards while Ricky Davis also contributed a big game, finishing with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. For Indiana, Jeff Foster made me choke on my own breath as he made up for the slack of Jermaine O’Neal being out with a knee injury, scoring 12 points and getting up for 20 rebounds, managing to stay out of foul trouble and play 47 minutes.
The Pacers were dealt another loss on Saturday, this time at the hands of the Bulls, 100-88. The rookies for the Bulls had a nice contribution from Jokiam Noah scoring 9 points and getting 10 rebounds while Aaron Gray had 10 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out after 15 minutes of action. Andres Nocioni added 20 points for the Bulls. In the loss, Indiana was led by 2nd year Shawne Williams who had 22 points.
Miami remain winless in 6 games this preseason after losing to the Memphis Grizzlies 104-98. Miami was without Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Smush Parker, Alonzo Mourning and Michael Doleac while Memphis was without leading scorer and rebounder Pau Gasol. Brian Chase led the heat with 19 points while Rudy Gay scored 22 points to lead all scorers in the game. Juan Carlos Navarro had 11 in the game. Mike Conley Jr. did not play in the contest for Memphis.
Milwaukee was led by rookie Yi JianLian and his 15 point, 12 rebound double double to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 106-97 Sunday night. Mo Williams had 20 points and 11 assists for the Bucks. Minnesota was led by their young nucleus as well, with rookie Corey Brewer leading all scorers in the game with 27 points on 10-15 shooting. Al Jefferson continued to rack up the double doubles with 21 points and 13 boards. Regardless of Minnesota’s record this year, he will be one to watch and maybe he will end up taking the most improved player award as he tries to lead this new look Minnesota team.
After averaging 16.8 points in the first 4 games of his preseason career, Kevin Durant played his first game in Seattle, scored 25 points and lost to the Houston Rockets who were led by Durant’s long-time idol Tracy McGrady. Mcgrady led all scorers with 30 points while Shane Battier had 19 and Luis Scola added 10 points and 9 boards. Houston rookie Aaron Brooks finished with 12 points.
In a 111-87 loss to Sacramento, the Portland Trailblazers got a glimpse at their team without Brandon Roy (sitting out the game after playing his preseason debut Friday) and LaMarcus Aldridge and his 19.5ppg preseason average, who was sitting out the contest due to a sore toe. The glimpse was not a good one for Blazers fans and hopefully the two will be healthy for the start of season. In their absence, Jarret Jack put up 19 points and Channing Frye had 18 before fouling out after 25 minutes. Kevin Martin had another solid game for the Kings with 20 points, boosting his preseason shooting percentage to 61% while off season acquisition Mikki Moore had a solid contribution of 13 points and 8 rebounds. Francisco Garcia had 21 points on 5-9 shooting from the floor. Ron Artest did not dress for the Kings because of a leg injury and he will also miss the first 7 games of the regular season as his suspension from a misdemeanor domestic violence charge last May.
It was the Dallas Mavericks over the New Orlean Hornets 103-97 with Josh Howard scoring 22 points, Devin Harris adding 19 and Dirk Nowitzki netting 14 points and 11 rebounds. Chris Paul led New Orleans with 16 points and 11 assists and Rasual Butler added 13 on 6-8 shooting.
If you’re still with me, thanks. I know I didn’t cover all of the games, but there were just too many to try to squeeze in. If I missed your team, sorry I’ll get them next time. As we head into this final week of preseason there are lots of rookies and subplots to watch. After Boston sat both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and lost to Philadelphia by 18 it’ll be interesting to see if they will play their big three in their upcoming games as well as to watch how the three learn to co-exist and feed off of each other. As a Laker fan I have all eyes on Andrew Bynum. Despite the many skeptics I believe the kid has a good work ethic and really wants to succeed. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but I’ve already lost that battle. As for the Suns, as much as it pains me to say it (and I’m blaming it on doing that season preview), they are becoming one of my absolute favorite teams. I’ve always loved watching them but now, damn, it’s a whole other level. I know, myles and jb will probably be less than impressed by this but whatever, I just love watching their team chemistry and seeing how far the offense can take them. Of course, fellow Canadian Nash doesn’t hurt.