NBA on Sling: New-Look Thunder Roll Into Philly, Rockets Face Lakers

Oct 26, 2016 by Scott Ross

Oklahoma City Thunder (0-0) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (0-0)
8pm ET on ESPN

Now that Kevin Durant has ruined the Golden State Warriors, is it possible we discover tonight that he’s been holding back Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder? No, not at all. The Thunder open their first season ever without Kevin Durant, as does OKC’s last remaining star, Russell Westbrook. In 48 games without Durant over the last two seasons, Westbrook has averaged 30.5 points, 9.2 assists and 7.6 rebounds, notes ESPN’s Marc Stein. It seems unlikely he’ll be able to maintain that intensity for 82 games in a single season, but it’ll be fun to watch him try. And could this be the year that Victor Oladipo, acquired via trade in the offseason from Orlando, ups his game? He had been brought in before Durant ran off to the West Coast, with the hopes of being the piece that would put OKC over the top, but now he’s got some big shoes to fill.

Brace yourselves, Sixers fans. After losing 72 games last season in an effort to win the Ben Simmons Sweepstakes, your golden ticket out of the cellar has broken a bone in his right foot and won’t be back before January, center Nerlens Noel is out for more than a month with knee issues, center Jahlil Okafor has a cranky knee that limited him to 8 minutes in the preseason finale, and Joel Embiid, who’s missed the first two seasons of his pro career with foot injuries, has played just 85 minutes in 6 preseason games. That’s a top-6 pick from each of the last four drafts – amazing.

Houston Rockets (0-0) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (0-0)
10:30pm ET on ESPN

After serving a year in basketball purgatory as an assistant in Philly, Mike D’Antoni is the head coach of the long-running soap opera that is the Houston Rockets, and there might be no player in the NBA more suited in terms of talent and temperament to D’Antoni’s run-and-gun philosophy than James Harden. When he was the coach at Phoenix, D’Antoni espoused the idea of getting off a shot in seven seconds or less (SSOL), and it helped Steve Nash win back-to-back MVP awards, as the Suns made it to consecutive Western Conference finals. Can D’Antoni Harness the frenetic explosiveness of Harden? Will Harden feel unburdened by the constant nastiness between himself and the departed Dwight Howard? Will Harden score 50 points a game? Let’s watch and see.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ post-Kobe Bryant Era begins today, albeit three years late. having won a grand total of 65 games over the last three seasons with a Kobe & Kids lineup, the Lakers finally went out and got some veterans, signing center Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng, and trading for guard Jose Calderon, and . Calderon has a calf injury and Mozgov is dealing with a bruised tailbone, so that’s going well. And who can forget Mehta World Peace, whom they sign ahead of last season. Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle have al shown glimmers of talent, will they be able to realize it now that the spectre of Kobe is no longer looming over them?

ESPN is available to Sling Orange subscribers.

All stats courtesy ESPN and Basketball Reference.

Back to What's On