Two nights' worth of action and already there are plenty of things that have captured our attention. Our 5-on-5 crew weighs in.
1. What grabbed your attention from the first two NBA nights?
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: The Sixers! It's one stupid game, Dwyane Wade didn't play and it may mean nothing. But the popular picks for best and worst teams in the league met and upended the expected result. In the NBA, anything can happen. And the greatest thing about it was that Brett Brown's team -- who smiled wide talking about their coach in training camp -- played with marvelous enthusiasm.
Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: There are trendier and more novel contenders in the West, but the San Antonio Spurs are at it again. Their debut win over Memphis on Wednesday wasn't a 48-minute masterpiece, but the final 10 minutes of the first half was the purest display of basketball through two nights. Everyone on the floor shared the ball and thrived. The Spurs found easy shots early in possessions and smart shots late. They locked down the paint and frustrated a tough Griz team into submission.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: What moved me most is how, after covering this league all of these years, opening night can still feel so new, wild and different. It probably stems from the fact that Twitter and League Pass keep bringing us closer to all of the action and tempt you to try to follow 10 games at the same time. I was at Dwight Howard's debut, trying to focus on the game I was actually covering, but even from press row in Houston, what was happening with those upsets sprung by Philly and Cleveland had you mesmerized. I always like to say that the world of sports, through technology, gets smaller every year. I felt it again on Wednesday night. NBA overload is a beautiful thing.
Justin Verrier, ESPN.com: Sixers and Suns shock the world! The opening weeks of the season are largely empty-calories basketball -- delicious, delicious empty calories. These victories are more likely to be the only ones for Philly and Phoenix in the next month than any harbinger of things to come, but they're also what make basketball so great. We spend months convincing ourselves of a certain reality, then Michael Carter-Williams messes around and almost gets a quadruple-double in his debut against the champs.
Michael Wallace, Heat Index: That the bad teams might actually not be as bad as I initially thought. Here's where you inject the "sample size" and "big-picture perspective" disclaimers, but after just two nights of NBA play, the youth, energy and passion of some of these so-called underdog teams will make no nights easy this season for the conference powers.
2. What has you most intrigued after the first two nights?
Abbott: Anthony Davis, ladies and gentlemen. The sober view is his preseason studliness was not to be trusted, but it's still here. His offensive game is blossoming before our eyes.
Arnovitz: Despite huge disparities in talent across rosters, the league is incredibly competitive. On any given night, Michael Carter-Williams can light up the NBA champs, or the Utah Jazz can be a Gordon Hayward buzzer-beater away from knocking off Oklahoma City. NBA players are good, whether their teams' unstated goals are to win a ring or a draft slot.
Stein: Let's not overthink it. M-C-W! Not a soul saw that performance or scoreline coming. No one. You wouldn't have picked Philly to win that game if you knew that vintage Allen Iverson was coming out of the stands to play for the Sixers one last time.
Verrier: The Cavaliers. You feel like a rubbernecker watching the brittle Andrew Bynum defy science with every leap, but the lumbering specter's eight-minute return almost gets lost in a busy opening-night game that included a healthy Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao, Anthony Bennett's debut, Tristan Thompson looking great and a win over the mighty new-look Nets.
Wallace: That Dwight Howard looks happy and spry and confident and unstoppable -- all at the same time -- for the first time in about three years. That monster 26-rebound game in his Rockets' debut was scary when you consider how much more potent a stronger defensive presence will make that Rockets' offensive juggernaut this season.
3. What disappointed you most from the first two nights?
Abbott: The Nets can't be thrilled about Game 1. Playing a much younger team, they were the ones turning the ball over and getting badly outrebounded. On the plus side, Kevin Garnett looks lively.
Arnovitz: There's no reason to panic, but it was a little disheartening to see the Clippers lay an egg on opening night. The prospect of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan getting the confidence and coaching to become the league's most freakishly formidable front line is tantalizing, but we're going to have to wait a little bit longer before it all comes together.
Stein: I repeat ... let's not overthink it. The Clippers' woeful showing against the Lakers' "B" team was a huge dud. Not too proud of myself, either, after dissing the B team's ability to entertain us until Kobe Bryant comes back in Monday's Power Rankings. They were a ton of fun.
Verrier: It took first-time coach Jeff Hornacek one game to figure out what Vinny Del Negro couldn't in two seasons: Pairing Eric Bledsoe with a good point guard can work! Which is great news for the Suns and Bledsoe (and Bledsoe's agent), but it makes you wonder, again, what could've been had the Clippers invested in a future with Chris Paul and Mini-LeBron in the backcourt.
Wallace: That the NBA still hasn't figured out how to copy the college approach and give us a 24-hour, around-the-clock slate of games that staggers the start times for just one night. Not even a quick trigger finger navigating through NBA League Pass was good enough to keep up with all of the action from league-wide opening night.
4. What has you most hopeful after the first two nights?
Abbott: I hate injuries. Seeing the clouds part as all of these formerly injured guys, from Derrick Rose to Greg Oden, retake the court ... that's awesome.
Arnovitz: That the Warriors are for real. They're going to be entertaining whether they win 55 games or 45, but a world in which Golden State is a sideshow isn't nearly as cool as one where they're a full-length feature with a long run.
Stein: I want to go on record saying that I strongly denounce your attempts to trick me into drawing conclusions after two nights of a six-month regular season. But I will say that what many presumed would be a pretty dull rookie of the year race is off to a promising start. (P.S. -- Seeing Derrick Rose and Andrew Bynum back on the floor -- with Greg Oden next up -- is a pick-me-up, too.)
Verrier: Houston. Not that it wasn't going to work -- though Dwight Howard's previous presumed super-team should cloud all future star pairings -- but, man, can this thing work. The Rockets didn't even play well, against the Bobcats no less, but the seedlings are there: Howard dominating the boards and picking-and-rolling, James Harden slicing up the defense late, and enough around them to support or serve as the means for acquiring more help.
Wallace: That even the alleged tanking teams -- Philly, Phoenix, etc. -- might actually still be entertaining to watch on most nights. Emphasis on "might."
5. What has you rethinking things after the first two nights?
Abbott: Now we know Andrew Bynum will play this season. Just a few minutes is big progress for a guy who missed all of last season and has suffered one setback after another. It's still hard to project big things, but it's much easier than it was a day ago.
Arnovitz: Despite the comedown in Oakland, that the Lakers will put an entertaining product on the floor this season. With all the drama that went down last spring, it's easy to forget that Mike D'Antoni is responsible for much of the fun you see on League Pass every night. Now that he's armed with some weaponry that fits the specifications of his roster, the Lakers should be a blast, even if they don't win every night.
Stein: I'm too old to fall for that one. This is not the NFL, pal. It's an 82-game season, not a 16-gamer. Not going to start "rethinking" things after a mere 48 hours. I know this will be dismissed as a "No Fun League" answer from that stubborn Stein, but anything can happen on a one-game basis in the NBA. I'm not ready to recant any of my stupid predictions just yet.
Verrier: Are we sure Utah is "tanking"? The Jazz already were lumped into the group of dead weight playing for the draft after letting their best players walk and importing the Warriors' worst players. But they've spent the past three seasons compiling five lottery picks, four of whom haven't been allowed a steady 25 minutes a game yet. Why look ahead before figuring out what you have in front of you? So far, the kids don't look half-bad.
Wallace: That the New Orleans Pelicans will be better than I initially expected. Their perimeter depth is phenomenal if Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans can stay relatively healthy, and it already looks like Anthony Davis is ready to take a major step forward with his offensive game. I won't be stunned if they make the playoffs out west and Monty Williams contends for coach of the year recognition.
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Henry Abbott, Kevin Arnovitz, Marc Stein, Justin Verrier and Michael Wallace cover the NBA for ESPN.com.
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