NBA Opening Games: Winners and Losers

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Finally, the NBA is up and running. The first nights of the 2021-2022 Season have already brought us moments of excitement and drama, fueling the never-ending narrative clash that’s so intrinsic for hoops enthusiasts. In these early showings, some performances stood out, with great matchups, highlights, and signature moments. It’s great to have such a level of excellence back on our TV screen.

However, the NBA is not only made of brilliance. Now that all of the 30 teams made a season debut, the gap between the great and the flawed became clear:

NBA Opening Games: Winners and Losers

Winner: Pat Riley

The Heat’s offseason has to be considered an early success. Not only did they manage to grab key signings on the Free Agency market (Markieff Morris, PJ Tucker, and Kyle Lowry). They also worked wonders on player development. Tyler Herro looks like he’s about to make a breakout year. Bam Adebayo is even more aggressive and efficient. The overall fit with Jimmy Butler is beautiful on the eye test and also on numbers. Against the short-handed Bucks, Miami closed the game still on the 3rd quarter with a very active defense and frenetic ball movement. They limited Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo to a combined 8-25 from the field. Merits to the godfather of the Heat organization.

Loser: Mark Cuban

It’s worrisome the way Dallas has built around Luka Doncic. If you have a generational talent with infinite upside, you need better groundwork. There’s little to no evolution for the supporting cast year in and year out. For how much time do we expect Luka to keep carrying a subpar roster? Why is the organization apparently wasting his time? The blowout loss to Atlanta is a testament to that lack of ambition and know-how in the organization.

Winner: NBA young stars

In recent years, NBA Draft classes came flooded with talent. New large contract deals for Luka, Jaren Jackson Jr., Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr, Mikal Bridges are examples (even though the Suns are overthinking the DeAndre Ayton situation). Through the first matches of the season, it’s wild to witness second and third-year players already taking over in NBA games, sometimes being straightforwardly the best players on the floor. And we are talking about guys in a 20-23 age range: Jordan Poole, Ja Morant, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Herro, Porter, and more. There are too many young starlets legitimately helping their teams get hardly-fought wins. The league is in good hands.

Loser: Ben Simmons, Daryl Morey, and the entire 76ers organization

Well, let’s say it already. This turmoil is becoming tired. All of the updates state the same thing. This unnecessary drama is another argument for how poorly managed the Sixers franchise has been through recent years. Ben is out there losing money and trade value. The other Sixers players got in the middle of an intern crisis. Daryl Morey won’t back down on his trade demands. Everybody loses.

Winner: Obi Toppin, Evan Fournier, Julius Randle,  Tom Thibodeau, and – why not – Spike Lee

This game was just a classic: the strident and crowded Garden. Against a solid Celtics side with a scoring career-high from Jaylen Brown. Double overtime after multiple clutch shots from Fournier and Randle. Thousands of fans blustering the name of lifelong Knicks fan Obi Toppin, who was having a rough game until Thibs threw him close to the dunker’s spot. Spike Lee had tears in his eyes. Everything about that game is a win.

Loser: Newly hired NBA coaches

It’s probably not indicative, but only one of the debuting coaches managed to get a win. Wes Unseld Jr, from the Wizards, had a solid outing against Toronto on the road. On the other hand, there are some red flags around the new faces. Udoka has a promising tactical concept for the Celtics, but his rotation decisions – mainly in the overtime periods – might have impacted the chances of a win. Even though Carlisle’s Pacers looked good in the first half, he couldn’t make his team hold the lead against the Hornets, losing on the final possession. They both might eventually figure it out, but in most concerning scenarios, familiar faces like Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups are facing the risk of making their teams retrogress. We shall see.

Winner: You, me, and every NBA fan

We witnessed high-intensity, fierce competitiveness, gritty, and defiant clutch endings. Yet, this is just the first matches of the season. That’s a great time to be alive and love basketball. The 2021-2022 season is about to present us with incredible experiences. We are all winners.

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