Court Vision: Wrapping up a night full of great regular-season debuts
By Ben Golliver
• Eric Freeman of Ball Don't Lie writes that James Harden's monster debut for the Rockets (37 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, four steals and a block) was a matter of Harden being Harden, and being the leader of an offense, at the same time.
Harden didn't look especially different from the player we saw in Oklahoma City. He hit jumpers, slashed to the lane, moved in transition, and did virtually everything else we know him to be capable of doing. What was different is that he was asked to do more of it and didn't suffer whatsoever. The quality of play wasn't different, but the responsibilities were.
The Pistons are not a particularly good team, and the fact that Harden had to play 44 minutes against them suggests rest might be at a premium for the Rockets star this season. But, no matter how much we equivocate, Harden proved that he can lead an offense. Guys don't score 37 points on efficient shooting and find their teammates for good shots just because they had a good matchup. It was a dominant performance.
• Harden caused Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle to pen this monster lede.
All that was left for James Harden to do was drive Royce White to Atlanta.
He did everything else -- much more than even he could have imagined.
There was a steel to his demeanor, an impossible steadiness with the ball in his hands that I'd never witnessed before. Chris Paul was still a long ways from Chris Paul, but already, something was different.
It was the same with Anthony Davis. We don't know if he'll be a star or come close to realizing his ridiculous offensive and defensive promise. We still don't really know what he is right now, and we most certainly don't know what he will become. But that potential for transcendence was on full display tonight, as glimmering and alluring and unmistakable as it was all those years ago.
This game belonged to Damian Lillard. His only slip-ups came as the game closed and he needed to be calmed down by his more veteran teammates in the face of Laker and game-clock pressure. Up until then this guy was brilliant. The Lakers started the game trapping him on screens, trying to get him flustered and coughing up the ball. He responded by passing through or around them, setting up LaMarcus Aldridge for an amazing first half feasting on single coverage. When the Lakers tried to guard Lillard with a single point guard he responded by getting in the lane and dishing or finishing. His fantastic early shooting was icing on the cake. L.A. thought they'd abuse the youngster and stymie Portland's attack at its source. They got schooled instead. That this guy is a rookie in his first NBA game ever makes that performance even more astounding.
• Sixers coach Doug Collins opened the season with a new roster after a busy summer that saw the addition of Andrew Bynum, who is currently out with knee issues. Philly.com has Collins' fearless assessment after a win in game one over the Nuggets.
"If you're going to be in this business, whether you're owning, or GM, or player, or whatever, you better have courage," Collins said. "If you're scared, get a dog."
I’ve been asked about a dozen times why the Magic made an offer to Jameer Nelson during what everyone considers “a rebuilding time.” My answer has simplified every time the question has been asked and now consists of just five words: because he is a leader. Okay, also because Orlando needs to sell tickets, but let’s look at leadership first.
Michael Jordan says he’s “in it for the long haul’’ as owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, telling the Observer Thursday morning he sees the team as his family business going forward.
Jordan described rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a “connector,’’ comparing him to former Chicago Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen: “He’s a very versatile guy. He’s motivated. He loves to play and play hard.’’
He said the Bobcats “made a couple of calls’’ about shooting guard James Harden’s availability before the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Harden to the Houston Rockets this week.