On 22 December, the highest level of basketball anywhere in the world, the NBA, made a return to our screens, and the Brooklyn Nets took care of business against the Golden State Warriors.
The season officially tipped off at Barclays centre, where the Nets completely bulldozed the Warriors 125-99, a textbook definition blowout which served its own fair amount of lessons.
“I’M KEVIN DURANT, YOU KNOW WHO I AM”
Nearly two years after this famous quote, the statement continues to remain relevant as Kevin Durant emphatically answers questions about whether or not he can be as good as he was before his lengthy injury.
KD had not played competitive basketball since tearing his Achilles in June 2019 so it was only normal for everyone to not know what to expect, but in typical Durant fashion, it was light work, “easy money” as he would say.
He scored 22 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and notched 3 assists all in 25 minutes on the floor in the first 3 quarters but most importantly, his game looked sharp, he was confident in his own body, which is rare in players that are just making a comeback from a long layoff.
Kevin Durant drained midrange jumpers with ease, elevated for one-handed slams, threaded the ball through defenders to find his teammates at the rim and splashed in 3s, in a performance that must have made Steve Kerr wish he stayed in the Bay Area.
And while he sat out the entire fourth quarter, his attitude seemed much more positive than it has been in recent years, high-fiving every single one of his teammates on the bench and the coaching staff, we should have never doubted this man’s ability.
MIKE D’ANTONI’S INFLUENCE
Another thing that was obvious in this game, right from when the starting fives were getting introduced, any basketball fan could see Mike D’Antoni’s input in the team and on the floor as well.
D’Antoni is famous for his love for small ball, playing with a majority of smaller players to increase mobility and ball movement, an experiment that hasn’t always worked. In fact, it failed miserably at Houston which led to him getting fired from his post as Rockets head coach.
When he took the job as the Brooklyn Nets’ offensive coordinator, working as assistant coach to Steve Nash, it wasn’t clear how much leeway he would be given to implement his ideas, but on the evidence of the first game, it appears he’s being given a lot.
The Nets started the game with three Guards, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris, Kevin Durant as a power forward and DeAndre Jordan as the only true big in the starting five.
On the floor there were flashes of his famous ‘seven seconds or less’ offence which was prominent when he coached the Phoenix Suns with Steve Nash as his star player – now his head coach – so it’s not farfetched to assume they already have that understanding.
ANDREW WIGGINS ENTERING BUST TERRITORY
This is an admittedly harsh but also valid question, how long before we can fully consider Andrew Wiggins a bust? Six years after he was selected first overall, he’s still not looked like he can be the go-to guy for any team or even a reliable second option for a contender.
Even worse is the realisation that he was drafted ahead of Joel Embiid at 3rd, Zach Lavine at 13th, Jusuf Nurkic at 16th, Bogdan Bogdanovic at 27th and Nikola Jokic at 41st, all considerably better players than him from the same draft class.
Although to be fair to him, his career average of 19 points per game in his 6 seasons in the NBA so far, isn’t bad at all, he’s just one of those that consistently fails the eye test and just simply hasn’t hit the heights expected of him on draft night.
His performance in this game was also one to forget, he put up 13 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist in 31 minutes of basketball, making only 4 of his 16 shots, a woeful 25% from the field, those number look ‘bust-like’ to me.
In the absence of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the stage was set for Wiggins to cement his place as the Warriors’ second option to Steph Curry and he fluffed his lines, this season could be make or break for him.