OK, so last night didn’t provide the most inspiring slate of games, but our NBA addicts were still happy to get their daily fix. Here’s a quick and uncomprehensive hop around the odds and ends of Thursday night.
Lance Lance Devolution
Jason Concepcion: Lance Stephenson oscillates between high risk and high reward with a frequency that borders on instantaneous. When engaged, he’s a difference-maker who occasionally needs his more level-headed teammates and coaches to pull him back from the ragged, ear-blowing edge of really, really bad ideas. Against the Kings in the first game of the season, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick found themselves having to calm Stephenson down after Born Ready stagger-stepped to the foul line, put the ball behind his back, and lofted a picture-perfect pass to a fan in the second row. In a way, that’s Lance at his best: A player who’s unpredictable is as difficult to guard as he is to play with.
When Lance isn’t engaged, though, it’s like watching a dude who just shotgunned two beers, hit a dutch maybe half an hour ago, but is still like “Oh, I’m good to play.” For instance — this sequence, in which Lance plays defense like he was just recently shot with a tranquilizer dart.
I think my favorite part is at 12 seconds when Lance looks like a drunk on the deck of ship in a storm.
Twenty Questions From a Frustrated Mavericks-Clippers Viewer, Answered by Shea Serrano
Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
What happened last night?
Nothing. It was a total bust.
Wasn’t it supposed to be a very contentious game?
Don’t the Mavericks and Clippers hate each other?
I for sure thought so.
Wasn’t it supposed to be this big thing?
Wasn’t it supposed to be full of tension and frustration and anger and fury?
Where was the nuclear energy?
I don’t know.
Where was the spark?
Same place as the energy, probably.
Why was Mark Cuban the only one who would say anything even a little bit impassioned?
I’ve never missed Jason Terry more than I did last night. There’s no way that game goes the way it did last night if Jason Terry was still wearing a Mavericks uniform. That’s not to say he’d have been out there body-slamming people, because he wouldn’t have. But he would’ve been heard. He would’ve been seen. He would’ve turned the game into a game, you know what I mean? He would’ve made it fun. Or at least talked some kind of shit. That’s what we all wanted to see, really. Last night was zero fun.
Where were Dirk Nowitzki’s teammates?
Shouldn’t at least a couple of them have stood in front of him, FOR him?
Yes. 100 percent. The only part of the game that remotely lived up to the hype came late in the first half. Jordan inadvertently elbowed Nowitzki in the head and Nowitzki retaliated by fouling Jordan with a fair amount of force to prevent a dunk. DeAndre flexed and yelled and Dirk stood there looking angry and saying something to the ref, but that’s it. That’s all that happened. Poor Dirk. He deserves better than that. I was proud that he was the one who tried to buck back against the Clippers, but also a little bit sad that it had to be him.
Why do you have Zaza Pachulia on your team if not to foul and/or pester DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and literally everyone else on the Clippers?
THAT’S WHAT I’M SAYING.
Remember when he head-butted Jason Richardson?
Remember when he tried to put LeBron James in a sleeper hold?
Remember when he got ejected for elbowing Nikola Mirotic in the playoffs?
Remember when he made Kevin Garnett so upset that Garnett hit him like a linebacker?
Remember when he made Zydrunas Ilgauskas so frustrated that Ilgauskas thought it necessary to throw the ball at the back of his head like they were playing dodgeball?
Man, I miss Big Z so much.
So I ask again: Why do you have Zaza Pachulia on your team if not to foul and/or pester DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and literally everyone else on the Clippers?
Did you know that the Mavericks and Clippers play again in 12 days?
And that it’ll be in Dallas?
I don’t imagine DeAndre is going to get that great of a welcome.
I wonder if it’s going to be a better game?
It certainly can’t be worse.
Rafe Bartholomew: Look, I like Kristaps Porzingis. After following him through the meaningless sample size of summer league and two regular-season games, I feel way more comfortable than I should calling him a gamer. He’s all over the court on defense and on the boards, always competing, never seeming discouraged after he gets bodied, then planning ways to win the next post matchup. By just getting after it, by being willing to toss his praying mantis frame into any play he can, he comes up with more blocks and putbacks and steals than you might expect. He looks like he’s built to wilt under pressure, and instead he presses right back against it.
But this spin on Paul Millsap wasn’t fluid, or pretty, or all that special. Even when graded on the curve for 7-foot insect-body Latvians, it wasn’t all that. It was fine. Nice finish at the end. If you wanna jock Porzingis, then drool over his cut down the left side of the paint in the first quarter, when he caught a bounce pass on the run and finished in one motion over Al Horford. That was special.
Danny Chau: When you imagine Jeff Green in his perfect form, what does that look like? A lesser LeBron? A higher-functioning John Salmons? Some gray area between? Dude is 29 years old, a veteran entering his eighth season in the league,1 and I’m still not sure the league quite knows what he is yet — a minor miracle considering how often these vaguely formless types of players wash out of the league. Green has managed to maintain his allure without ever truly capitalizing on it.
1. He sat out 2011-12 due to a heart condition that required surgery.
Soon after acquiring his services in the Kendrick Perkins trade, the Celtics tried to embrace Green as an ideal facilitator for the team, which was always more than a little overblown. Nearly half a decade later, in the Grizzlies’ season opener against the Cavs this week, coach Dave Joerger tried him out for stretches at point guard. Not saying it was an abject failure, or entirely his fault, but in the end, Memphis lost by 30, and he was immediately demoted to the bench last night in the Grizzlies’ win over the Pacers. Thing is, he was awesome in Indy, going 5-for-6 from the field, including two incredibly clutch 3-pointers late in the fourth to seal the victory.
During an Inside the NBA recap, Charles Barkley had noted that he thought Green was going to take it to the next level, that he should’ve been a perennial All-Star by now. That some can still envision that kind of future for him is a testament to … something. Whatever it is, it’s not entirely of Green’s doing. And so, really, this season will be like all the others. He will be as close to his breakout as he is to his next frustrating lull. Optimists will still have enough room to dream, and the skeptics will still have plenty to be frustrated about.