The final six teams that hadn’t debuted on Tuesday or Wednesday had their season openers on Thursday. The biggest storylines were the debut of Oklahoma City’s new Big Three — OK3? — and Lonzo Ball’s first action in the NBA.
One of those things went very well, and one of them did not. Here’s everything you should know about Thursday’s night around the league.
Giving a grade to the Thunder debut: A-
There was a lot to like from Oklahoma City’s first real game, and Russell Westbrook was at the forefront. The reigning MVP opened the season with a triple-double: 21 points, 16 assists, and 10 rebounds. He’s on pace for 82 of them now, you know. (Imagine a smile and wink with that sentence.)
Westbrook took only 12 shots, and it did seem like he was deferring to his two new co-stars at times. That’s not a bad thing in a season opener, especially given the Thunder won by 21 points.
Carmelo wasn’t great, though
Anthony scored 22 points, so most people will check the “good game” box and keep on moving. But here’s his full line: 22 points on 20 shots, one rebound, one assist, plus-0 during his 33 minutes.
It didn’t look like Anthony or the coaches have found his right role yet. I love him as a pick-and-pop shooter with Westbrook, and we saw it once, but not consistently. The Thunder offense felt like it designated every third or fourth possession as the “get Melo the ball” possession, rather than a fluid sharing system. One rebound for a starting power forward won’t cut it, either. We’re one game into this season and Oklahoma City has plenty of time to figure things out. But there is something to figure out, mind you.
Giving a grade to the Knicks debut: D+
New York is Kristaps Porzingis, who had 31 points and 12 rebounds. We’ll see if the young players can contribute at any point this season. Besides that, this team is pretty awful.
Giving a grade to Lonzo Ball’s debut: C
Ball didn’t get many open looks, and he was really bothered by Patrick Beverley’s hounding defense — see examples here. He finished with three points on 1-of-6 shooting, four assists, nine rebounds, and two turnovers. He could have had more assists with a better Lakers shooting night, though, and I loved his rebounding. It’s going to happen because it’s Lonzo and the Lakers, but there’s no need for any massive panicking after this one.
That said, does Ball have a target on his back?
I’m worried his dad might have accomplished this. See:
Clippers guard Patrick Beverly screamed outside locker room, "Weak ass m****** f******. Bring him out on the... https://t.co/9BO7aCqMjb— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) October 20, 2017
Beverley does things like this, but will the rest of the league take particular pride in shutting down Lonzo only because his dad is a loudmouth? Lonzo, it should be noted, has been incredibly subdued towards the media and in the general public spotlight. This isn’t about him, but he may not be able to shake that LaVar shadow.
Giving a grade to the Los Angeles Clippers: A+
I’m extremely high on the Clippers, who really need good injury luck this year but are bound to finally get some. I like Griffin running the show more, and I like the Beverley-Milos Teodosic backcourt, and I like DeAndre Jordan grabbing 24 (!!!) rebounds on Thursday, and I like Danilo Gallinari as a second shot creator. I don’t love Doc Rivers at the helm, but hopefully his demotion from general manager will free him up for a coaching job closer to what he pulled off in Boston.
That said, I’m expecting the Clippers to start hot even if they fall off later, so don’t lean on their first two weeks too heavily.
Grade the other game: Burn it with fire
The Raptors demolished the Bulls on Thursday in the one non-national television game. No, no, no. Toronto will win regular season games without being fun to watch, and Chicago is just objectively bad.