1. Contenders dodge major injuries
Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic was putting on a show during their Tuesday night game against the Jazz. In just 15 minutes of action, he had amassed 24 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists—on pace for a 50-point triple-double.
But with just under 2 minutes left in the first half, he had a knee-to-knee collision with Utah’s Rudy Gobert. He immediately went down and appeared to be in significant pain while clutching his right knee. He did not return and would go on to miss the Denver’s next contest against Dallas.
The good news for the Nuggets, who are already without Jamal Murray due to an ACL injury, is that Jokic avoided structural damage to his knee. He made his return last night against Minnesota and looked good, finishing with a monster 26-19 double-double.
And Jokic is not the first guy on a team with championship aspirations who have avoided a major injury this early in the season.
Anthony Davis also had a scary moment earlier this week during the Lakers’ overtime win against the Spurs, when he fell on the court and looked to have suffered a serious knee injury. He stayed in the game and it appears to have been nothing more than a stinger. LeBron James sat out two games due to an ankle injury, but this seems precautionary and the Lakers are not concerned about either of their stars, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
The defending champ’s Jrue Holiday exited their opening game due to a heel contusion, but thankfully his MRI came back clean. He has missed a couple of games, though it appears that the Bucks are just managing him conservatively.
2. Joel Embiid continues to play through injury
Speaking of injuries, last year’s MVP runner-up is playing through a right knee soreness that has been lingering since he suffered a torn meniscus during last season’s playoffs. Embiid appears to have aggravated the injury when he collided with Jonas Valanciunas in their opening game.
Embiid has elected to keep playing to show leadership, but you know the underlying reason why he couldn’t afford to miss games? It all goes back to our favorite friend from Down Under, Ben Simmons. His continued absence means that the Sixers are playing each game shorthanded. Without him, Embiid has to carry a much heavier load on both offense and defense. Given how the East is shaping up to be very competitive this year, dropping games when Embiid is out could be the difference between a guaranteed playoff spot and the play-in. Embiid knows that a team with Tobias Harris as its best player is a JV squad, so he probably feels that he has no choice.
The irony of it is that the Sixers are risking the health of their best player to accommodate a player who has caused nothing but headaches since the offseason. Earlier this week, it was reported that management caved to Simmons’s insanity plea and is no longer withholding his salary. I’ve pinned the blame on Simmons for the longest time, but the Sixers front office keeps botching it.
The way I see it, the Sixers are taking advantage of the now agent-less Embiid, who parted ways with CAA (Leon Rose’s former agency firm) in the offseason. It’s gutsy and admirable that Embiid is playing through pain, but he shouldn’t have to at this stage of the season and most certainly not if he’s been getting proper advice.
No way that a top agent would let his client play through an injury just a week into the regular season, particularly a big man with an injury history like Embiid. If he had someone like Jeff Schwartz, who publicly blasted the Kings for the way they handled Marvin Bagley III, you can be sure that a “him or me” ultimatum to finally end this soap opera would’ve been in play.
This BS saga is now playing out like the Prodigal Son. And like the older son in the story, there looks to be no payoff for Embiid.
3. New foul rules early impact assessment
When the NBA explained how the new foul rules will be enforced this season, the league chose not to be subtle about calling out certain players. In its official information video, the NBA’s Twitter page posted clips involving actual plays of the following:
Trae Young and James Harden
One of the storylines heading into the season is how, if at all, these new rules would affect the production of the aforementioned stars. Let’s take an early look (PPG/FG%/FTA):
Last season: 27.7/.479/7.1
This season (5 games): 22.4/.417/4.4
Last season: 32.0/.482/6.3
This season (6 games): 28.7/.422/5.7
Last season: 25.6/.484/5.9
This season (5 games): 22.6/.416/4.8
Last season: 25.3/.438/8.7
This season (6 games): 22.3/.429/4.3
Last season: 24.6/.466/7.3
This season (6 games): 18.7/.371/5.7
Looks like we’re onto something here.
Everybody’s scoring is down.
Everybody is shooting less free throws. On average, there’s a 27.7% decrease in free throw attempts between them. Trae Young is the most affected with a 50% drop from his per game attempts compared to last season. The entire league is attempting less free throws overall compared to last season, but the difference is very negligible (20.1 vs 21.8 FTAs or 7.7%) compared to the control group.
Everybody’s shooting percentage is also down. Why does it matter? Because no-calls on shots now count as (low-quality) field goal attempts. Plus, if these guys can’t get points from the line, they’d have to get it somewhere, which means more forced shots and misses.
Prior to the start of the season, people were saying that the potential effects of the new foul rules are being overexaggerated. We’re almost two weeks in and it looks like the effects had in fact been grossly played down.
4. RIP Giannis free throw count up
The opposing crowds’ tradition of counting to 10 during Giannis Antetokounmpo’s free throw routine is officially over. Giannis unveiled his new 5-second routine in the offseason and five games into the regular season it’s safe to say it’s here to stay:
He’s shooting 73.5% from the line compared to 68.5% last season, so the new and quicker routine is not just for show. Farewell, Count von Count’s legion, we hardly knew you.
5. Squid Game director has beef with LeBron
LeBron is a very opinionated guy. He previously shared his insights on The Godfather:
and Malcolm X’s autobiography:
Recently, he talked about the Netflix hit Squid Game and how he disliked the ending:
Normally, East Asians are very polite. So Hwang Dong-hyuk’s response to LeBron’s criticism was a bit surprising. He started off graciously by saying that LeBron is “cool and can say what he wants.” Then he brought out the ‘Red Light, Green Light’ doll and absolutely smoked LeBron.
Dong-hyuk rhetorically asked, “Have you seen Space Jam 2?” referencing LeBron’s summer flop that has a 26% Rotten Tomatoes rating. The South Korean director then sardonically added, “That’s my ending. If he has his own that would satisfy him, maybe he could make his own sequel. I’ll check it out and maybe send him a message saying, ‘I liked your whole show, except the ending.’” Somebody get an extra body bag from the show!
LeBron not liking Squid Game’s ending is no surprise, though. The main protagonist had the chance at an easy out by flying to America; but instead of getting on the plane, he seemingly chose to take on the organization that runs the diabolical game. These are basically metaphors for LeBron’s career choices, and we know exactly which one he’d choose.
6. And then there was none
The Chicago Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz (the phrase itself triggers memories, doesn’t it?) in last night’s matchup between conference leaders, which means that there are no more unbeaten teams in the NBA this season.
I planned to write about how dominant the Jazz have been on both ends. Then they come out flat against the Bulls, shooting just 38% from the field and 28.9% from deep. Rudy Gobert continues to be a beast as he maintained his 18-18 average. But Donovan Mitchell’s shooting struggles continue, needing 27 shots for 30 points. I swear, I’ll never write about Utah again.