NBA 2020-21 Season: The Year After the Most Bizarre Year

So, I was revved up to listen to my Pacers host the Knicks on opening day on SiriusXM, and they did some player interviews prior to the game-- only to switch over to starting to talk about horse racing when the game actually was being played! And other NBA games were still being played on the radio.

SiriusXM better get their act together.

Russell Westbrook does not disappoint. They lost of course; absolutely no one but Robin Lopez plays any defense at all, but Russell is still doing what he does. He opens the season with a triple double, and he’ll easily average a triple double with this Wizards team.

This Raptors fan was very dismayed to see Pascal Siakam walk off the court before game’s end yesterday. It’s only game three of the season - what if things aren’t going his way in game 39? Last season was shaky for him, so he’s gonna buckle under pressure of expectations, like this, already? He’s never done anything remotely like this before, so let’s hope it was a one-off anomaly.

He didn’t play tonight. The Raptors won easily. Not a coincidence.

The Blazers had a dismal pre-season, then kicked off their road tour by beating the Lakers. Then they lost to a determined Clippers team. Next up GS for two games. A tough schedule to start. The new forwards are aggressive defenders, which is good, but they can’t shoot for shit. Gary Trent killed it off the bench against the Lakers, and Enes Kantor is back with us as reserve center, which is good. Barkley thinks Portland is going to win it all, which I think is wildly optimistic.

Well, after the Blazers’ thrashing of GS last night, perhaps I was too hasty. They actually looked like a team that wants to win a few.

The Raptors have some work to do and losing their big men - Gasol and Ibaka hurt. Gasol was an inconsistent shooter but had experience and was a good defender. But the nucleus of the team - VanVleet and Lowry are still there and guys like Boucher are going to have to do more. Anunoby has always been inconsistent but can play very well.

Siakam can too, but it’s easy to be composed when you’re winning most games. It’s tough to be playing in Tampa rather than before strong fans in Toronto, and everyone is frustrated by the situation. So more fortitude is required.

The Raptors have long been troubled by long, scoreless stretches. Third quarters have been challenging so far this season. Toronto netting Giannis was always a wishful long shot. I do think the Raptors will turn things around and easily make the playoffs. But it’s a rebuilding year. Rebuilding is easier when star players show a little perspective and consistency. Siakam will improve, but it will take time.

A frustrating loss for the Raptors to New Orleans. VanVleet has 27 and they outscored in every quarter but the dismal third. They need to show up for the whole game! A good effort but…

The Bulls are utterly atrocious. I confess, I did not expect them to get worse after firing GarPax/Boylen but, at least in the first few games, that appears to be the situation. Optimists are saying that these are just the growing pains that an extremely young team who had next to no offseason/g-league time should expect to experience. Pessimists are saying that the new leadership really only values Patrick Williams and is simply biding their time before they replace every single holdover. I’m not sure which it is yet.

They beat the Wizards twice, and they look like maybe the worst team in the league 6 games in, but between Beal and Westbrook you wouldn’t necessarily expect that. The rest of the losses (blowouts), the Warriors aside, seem to be against top-tier teams. And the Warriors still have Curry, so maybe we shouldn’t be overreacting too much.

Patrick Williams a few games in looks like the real deal. Obviously he’s a work in progress and he kinda doesn’t know what to do out there, but the tools to be an elite wing are clearly there. He has really good instincts around the rim and can finish. LaVine is playing less hero ball, Lauri and Otto seem to be healthy and improved. Coby, Wendell and Hutchinson all look abysmal and are staring “bust” in the face. Gafford has been a pleasant surprise in year 2.

Clearly this is a lottery team, and we play NO defense whatsoever, but I suppose the jury is still out on whether this is a young team on the come, or a team of g-leaguers.

It’s early, but there is reason to think that the Pascal Siakam situation is a bad one. It may be the case that he’s just not a great player, and the first half of 2019-2020 was a fluke, and that placing a lot of weight on his shoulders isn’t going to work out.

It MIGHT work out, too. You never know. But I’ve seen this situation before, and it often turns into a disaster where the guy has to be moved to another team.

I don’t think the Raptors are all that good a team right now, and missing the playoffs is a possibility. They were stupid to let Ibaka go, and if Siakam struggles, what you now have is a team with two really good point guards, Aron Baynes, and a bunch of kids and role players. Chris Boucher, who has played in fewer than 100 NBA games, is the third OLDEST player on the team.

It’s a building year. I think the Raptors will make the playoffs. Baynes is a big unknown at this point. Davis and Boucher need to produce, and that is easier when the team is hot.

Lowry and VanVleet are great players, but not big players. Letting Ibaka go was bad, but it is not clear to me how much control they had. Gasol was getting toothlong but struggled on offence.

Defence is the problem, though. From the games I’ve seen, the Raptors have been fouling their opponents prodigiously once they get tired. Against New Orleans, the Raptors gave up about 30 points worth of foul shots in the 4th compared to getting 12 or so. Gasol and Ibaka were great defenders and plugging this hole will be hard.

Raptors set a franchise record for points in a regulation win by a commanding 144-123 score over Sacramento in a game where they were down by 16 in the first, and the bench - the worst in the league this season in point totals - were absolutely ablaze

Fred VanVleet got a solid 34 points and shot almost 60% in place of an absent Kyle Lowry who bowed out for personal reasons.

Nice to see Siakam play an energized game, coming one rebound shy of the first triple-double of his career. Cool seeing him yell after threes, and heading back to the bench. Let’s hope whatever heebeegeebees he’s had to deal with (for tooooo long) are starting to iron themselves out. Might be a slightly bumpy ride, yet.

Boucher is eventually going to be a defensive beast. He started in the second half (with Len in the first!!!), and by the way he played, he could possibly (should!) start in the first on Sunday against Golden State, after playing one of his best-ever games with 23 points and 3 blocks.

Struggling Norm Powell put in a season-best 22 points, getting a little of his mojo back with one or two of those trademark vicious ninja dunks of his.
Meanwhile Baynes is averging only something like 5 ppg - not enough even for a big. Was sat out tonight. Yeah I guess the Celts don’t miss him.

Sure, they were “eventualy bound to win”, but that they did it in such a resounding fashion was quite satisfying in a reassuring sort of way. This is the team they can be (heh despite the fact that admittedly the Kings couldn’t shoot worth squat after a while and let the D go on a field trip, or somehting.)

Interesting for Kyle to watch that, without him! Heh!

What in the blanking blank is up with Kyrie? Feel sorry for coach Nash to have to put up with this. There’s talk he might just end up completely walking away from the game. Idiot. (Even Durant I find to be peevish and petty most of the time in i-views.)
KI might miss his new teammate James Harden!
In a multi-team deal - he goes to the Nets for at least four draft picks and additional pick swaps. Victor Oladipo goes from Indiana to Houston, and Caris Levert goes from Brooklyn to Indiana.
Looks like Brooklyn have the best top three right now, kinda safe to say.

Kyrie is a lunatic, the Nets get what they get. You can’t plead ignorance here. The brat is throwing a tantrum because he got caught being a selfish douche. I hope this franchise craters.

Durant has low key been a prima donna and malcontent as well. I’m sure he and Harden will get along just fine…not. This team is going to be in a state of constant chaos and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about a brawl in the locker room.

At least the media won’t be doing them any favors, because no 3 players are more consistently disrespectful to them and simultaneously feeding them a constant stream of content for takedown pieces. There’s going to be a cottage industry springing up around negative clickbait Nets stories. At least the entire blogging community is already headquartered in Brooklyn, so they won’t have to go far.

Incidentally, I’m shocked by how many draft picks that Houston was able to garner. I’m sure Brooklyn will probably be outside the lottery for the next couple seasons, but between Kyrie being insane, Durant coming off an injury and consistently wanting a change of scenery, and Harden being fat and lazy…you have to imagine that the bottom could fall out before long and turn those picks after 2023 into a windfall.

In other news…the Bulls are maybe decent? Hmm…

Raptors with a couple decent games. Tough season but tonight Powell and Boucher stepped up. Toronto is 2-5 with games within three points. Their third quarters have been weak but they usually are not getting blown out. With a little more mojo they will turn things around and make the playoffs. They have some new folks and old stars not yet producing. But they’ve shown they can make their players live up to their potential before. Time to keep the faith.

On top of that, as part of this retooling they gave up Jarret Allen, a 22-year-old center who, when he’s on, is an absolute rebounding machine and an efficient scorer. He’s one of my favorite young players right now. If you offered me a choice between acquiring James Harden or Jarrett Allen for the same price, I honestly might choose Allen, who is clearly not as good a player now but is nine years younger and a shitload cheaper. The Cavs made out like bandits on this trade, and good for them somehow worming their way in to it.

From the perspective of the Nets this is one of the most extreme “try to win now” trades in the history of North American professional sports, and I have very severe doubts as to whether or not it will work. They are trading defense to get offense and adding drama to a team that already had lots. Maybe it’ll work this year, but if it does I hope they enjoy it because the team will blow up shortly afterwards and they’ve traded away their first round picks from now until the end of time.

You’d think the Nets would have learned their lesson last time…

First round picks are probably devalued this season because the chance to see many of the players was very limited due to Covid. Yes, it would probably be easy to pick the best hundred players based on previous results alone. But picking #1 from #20, always a bit of a crapshoot, would be harder this year than usual.

Very tough but fascinating article on the Raptors today on “538”.

The Blazers, after starting out with the best team they’ve fielded in a very long time, have now lost their starting center (Nurkic, broken bone in hand), a back-up center (Collins, broken ankle bone), one of their star guards (McCollum, ankle bone fracture), and one of their new forwards (Jones, left foot sprain). Luckily, they now have some depth, but it’s taking some time for the bench players to step up to starting roles.

Most of the games are nail-biters, with last night’s win against the Bulls being one for the record books. With 11 seconds left, and down by five, Lillard hit a three. The Bulls inbounded and Gary Trent (my favorite Blazer) tied up the ball resulting in him having to jump against Levine (a dunk champion). Incredibly, Trent won the jump, slapping the ball away, where Lillard scooped it up. Off balance, he launched a three which went through the hoop at the buzzer. Very reminiscent of the infamous game five buzzer-beater against Oklahoma to win the series in 2019.