In the wake of a crazy off-season that saw loads of big names changing address, we are being treated to almost daily showdowns between exes, and today’s slate offers two good ones, as Derrick Rose and the Knicks face the Chicago Bulls, and then the Golden State Warriors, who started last season 24-0 under interim coach Luke Walton, take on Walton’s new team, the post-Kobe Lakers.
New York Knicks (1-3) vs Chicago Bulls (3-1)
8pm ET Friday on ESPN
The Knicks are again terrible, scoring just 98.3 ppg, while giving up 112.1, second-most in the league, for the second-worst point differential in the game at 13.5, just a half-point better than the Philadelphia 76ers. New York lost 118-99 to the Rockets on Wednesday, with Houston’s James Harden lighting them up for 30 points and 15 assists, while Montrezl Harrell came off the bench to contribute 17-10 on 8-of-11 shooting. The Knicks took a 2-0 lead 19 seconds into play on a Courtney Lee 7-footer, but Ryan Anderson would drain a 3 moments later to give the Rockets a lead they would never relinquish on a night when they doubled up the Knicks on rebounds 54-27. New Knick Derrick Rose is shooting well enough from the floor at 45%, but his assists have continued their downward trend, currently at 2.5 a game, less than half of Joakim Noah’s 5.5.
Rose’s former team, the Bulls, are doing just fine, though they suffered their first loss of the season Wednesday against the Celtics, 107-100. Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler had a collective case of clang-itis, shooting just 13 of 34 from the floor, making it impossible to keep pace with Boston, especially on a night when Amir Johnson was out of his head, scoring 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting, while grabbing 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Still and all, the Wade-era Bulls have the NBA’s second-best point differential at 11.5, and have beaten the only team that’s beaten them.
“I know I’m going to get some boos here and there,“ Rose said Wednesday when asked about leading the Knicks into Chicago. It was a rare moment of self-awareness from a man who last year spoke of his concern for his family’s financial security, and just this fall posed smiling for photos with jurors who found him not liable in a rape trial.
Golden State Warriors (4-1) vs Los Angeles Lakers (2-3)
10:30pm ET Friday on ESPN
The Warriors on Thursday got their first series win of the year, dropping the hammer on the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-96, with former Thunder Kevin Durant scoring a game-high 39 points on 15-of-24 shooting, including a career-best 7 3-pointers. Durant’ former running mate, Russell Westbrook, didn’t have nearly as much fun, scoring a season low 20 on 4-of-15 shooting, and making 6 turnovers. The victory moved the Warriors into a three-way tie with OKC and San Antonio atop the West. The Warriors and Durant are predictably adjusting to life together, as they’ve won their last 4 games by an average of 15.75, while Steph Curry (2.4), Klay Thompson (.9) and Draymond Green (1.1) haven’t given up too many shots, though Thompson and Green have both seen their EFG (effective field goal percentage) drop 100 points from last year. Maybe that’s due to Durant, but it seems unlikely, probably just a blip. Anyway, the Warriors are still, like, super good.
Yes, Kobe Bryant was among the 10 best players the game has ever seen. That said, for the last three seasons of his illustrious career, his was among the game’s lesser lights, and his long overdue departure is only a good thing for the future of the franchise. Case in point: new head coach Luke Walton’s Lakers already have as many wins this season as they did through the first 17 games of last season. On Wednesday they beat the Hawks, who last season made it to the conference semis, 123-116, with Lou Williams scoring 16 in the 4th quarter – and they did it on the road, by shooting the lights out: 54% from the floor, 41% from 3, and 90% from the line. Yes, they give up a lot of points – 111 per game – and they lead the league in turnovers at 18 per game, but they’ve got a deep bench with lots of young talent that can finally start to flourish without Black Mamba blocking all the sunlight.