Basketball is back. In a big way.
Last night’s tour of the Association’s debut for so many teams left an impression and reminded us all why this game is so incredible… here are some unforgettable performances and developments from Wednesday, October 20:
JAYLEN BROWN’S 46-point career night wasn’t enough to steal a double-overtime win from the Knicks in New York. When I switched over to ESPN to watch the final 10 minutes of this game, it was crazy to see how exhausted all of these guys were. JAYSON TATUM couldn’t make a shot to save his life. JULIUS RANDLE made a lot of aggressive, sloppy moves on offense and some of them actually worked! ROBERT WILLIAMS and MITCHELL ROBINSON looked like healthy young bigs who can protect the rim and crash the boards. KEMBA WALKER had a night to forget, and DERRICK ROSE played the hero off the bench.
JA MORANT was unstoppable and spectacular against the Cavs. Every play from him looked like an audition for Top Ten plays of the Night on ESPN. Blocking shots, alley oops, floaters, threes – Morant did it all. DESMOND BANE and DEANTHONY MELTON were terrific sidekicks while JAREN JACKSON struggled to find his role and his rhythm in that offense.
JARRETT ALLEN didn’t miss a shot for Cleveland, going 11 for 11 with 25 points. DARIUS GARLAND started out slow, but turned things up in the 4th quarter against Memphis with 3 three-pointers and an onslaught of smooth passes to Allen and rookie EVAN MOBLEY, who looked like a future superstar in his debut with 17points, 6assists, and 9rebounds.
CHRIS DUARTE, a little-known rookie for the Pacers, put up 27 points in his debut, starting in place of the injured CARIS LEVERT. Basketball card collectors immediately went to eBay to find some of Duarte’s Chronicles Optic Rated Rookies from the new 2021-22 release. Meanwhile, it was hard to deny the problem that is DOMANTAS SABONIS, with 33 points for the Pacers.
The story of the night might be the second-year statement games from LAMELO BALL and ANTHONY EDWARDS. Ball lit up the pacers for 31 points while Edwards torched the Rockets for 29 points in 31 minutes. Both of these players continued their ascent to superstar-dom and made me wish I had bought some silvers or at least a pink-cracked-ice of ANT that I left on the table a month ago at a show.
KARL TOWNS looked incredible and remains one of the must under-rated card investments in the hobby, with 30 points and 10 boards in his debut. Granted, the T-Wolves started out against the hapless young rockets and the sleepy start from JALEN GREEN and KEVIN PORTER JR, both with stats I don’t care to mention, except to say that they combined to go 8 for 26 from the field.
HARRISON BARNES came out of nowhere to hit EIGHT threes and drop 36 on opening night, next to DEAARON FOX, who also started out well with 27 points and 8 assists.
CJ MCCOLLUM (34-5-6) was incredible on a night that DAMIAN LILLARD needs to forget as soon as possible.
Other veterans with fast starts this season include…. Zach Lavine, Jerami Grant, Brandon Ingram, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, and CJ McCollum.
PROSPECTS who actually showed up well last night include my guy NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER (23 points), TYRESE MAXEY (20), GRANT WILLIAMS (15), and even MO BAMBA (18).
Finally, here’s a word of encouragement to take opening week with a grain of salt. Some guys start out slowly. Look at this list of superstar players who struggled in their first games… I mean REALLY STRUGGLED! JAYSON TATUM, DAMIAN LILLARD, DONOVAN MITCHELL, DEVIN BOOKER, MICHAEL PORTER JR, RUSSELL WESTBROOK… and young studs like TYRESE HALLIBURTON, OG ANUNOBY, JAREN JACKSON JR, and everyone on OKC.
I’m not sure what the Kings are doing with MARVIN BAGLEY III, but he didn’t even play. JUSUF NURKIC and JAKOB POELTL and RICHAUN HOLMES deserve at least a mention in this article for playing solid supporting roles in their team’s opener.
BASKETBALL CARD IMPACT — Were any players’ card stocks helped by last night’s debut and my all-too-soon reactions? The hot start can’t hurt Jaylen Brown, Zach Lavine, or LaMelo Ball – that’s for sure! If possible, my watching eyes came away even more bullish on Ja Morant and Julius Randle. Prospect-wise, I’m super impressed with Evan Mobley, Chris Duarte, and Tyrese Maxey. If anything, I’m curious to find any bargain-basement deals on cards of Jerami Grant, CJ McCollum, and Domantas Sabonis…. and ready for tonight’s nationally-televised TILT between Trae Young and Luka Doncic! Let’s Go!