I love newbies.
Ever since I was a boy.
Whether it was opening up a new pack of cards and seeing the players in new uniforms. Or being attracted to the new girl at school simply because she was new. Or loving a new toy.
I loved them all for the same reason. It was something new. Something different.
Not much has changed for me over the years.
Today, I love nothing more than dining at the new restaurant in town. Or experimenting with the latest tech gadget. Or keeping myself updated on the new news.
Which brings us to a new basketball season, where so many NBA newbies are having big effects on things during this first week of the 2017-18 NBA season.
There is nothing quite like poring over box scores on NBA Opening Day—whether it was Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday for your team—and checking out the latest happenings.
So glad you asked.
30. Chicago Bulls
The practice punch heard around the NBA world not only sidelined victim Nikola Mirotic from the Chicago Bulls’ lineup for at least a month, it also took out suspended prospect Bobby Portis, who now will miss Chicago’s first eight games. Next man up, rookie 7-foot stretch 4 Lauri Markkanen, replaced both in the starting lineup on Opening Day Thursday at Toronto, scoring 17 points on 12 shots and grabbing 8 rebounds in 33 minutes.
29. Atlanta Hawks
Rookie power forward John Collins came off the bench to help Atlanta beat the Mavericks in Dallas Wednesday, 117-111. Just as he did in Summer League and preseason, Collins killed the Mavs with consistent efficiency, scoring 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while also supplying 5 rebounds and plus-8 in 22 minutes.
28. Brooklyn Nets
The second shoe to drop after Gordon Hayward’s tragic fall occurred in Indiana when Brooklyn point guard Jeremy Lin suffered a season-ending injury, rupturing his patellar tendon in his right knee Wednesday. New acquisition D’Angelo Russell, who had a 30-point performance against the Pacers, will now pick up the starting point guard slack, while sophomore sub Caris LeVert will likely move into Russell’s vacant starting shooting guard slot. As good a prospect as Russell is, remember that the Nets were 7-39 last season without Lin and 13-23 with him. He will be missed.
27. Sacramento Kings
Rookie guard De’Aaron Fox’s 24 minutes off the bench went as well as one could hope in a debut performance, with the speedster scoring 14 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and doling out 4 assists in 24 minutes in Tuesday’s five-point loss to the Rockets. For now, Fox is backing up George Hill and Buddy Hield at the guard spots, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he cracks the starting lineup sometime during the season since the Kings aren’t expected to compete this season.
26. New York Knicks
New Knicks center Enes Kanter did not have much of an Oklahoma City homecoming, with New York losing, 105-84, though the seven-footer did score 10 points on 10 shots and grab 7 rebounds in 22 minutes against his former mates. Fellow giant and incumbent Knicks leader Kristaps Porzingis played alongside Kanter at the power forward slot, and led the Knicks with 31 points and 12 rebounds.
25. Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo feels back at home with the Pacers, reliving his old-school game, perhaps because of his return to college state and school Indiana. He scored 22 points in only 25 minutes in the Pacers’ nine-point victory over the Nets.
24. Los Angeles Lakers
New Lakers center Brook Lopez, who scored 20 points in 28 minutes Thursday versus the Clippers, is showing many surprised Lakers fans that he is indeed their team’s best player. Yes, sometimes those Los Angelenos get carried away with prospect love, christening Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle as the Next Jason Kidd, Kevin Durant and Zach Randolph clones, not realizing those All-Stars were not created overnight. Better to learn that lesson now and realize L.A.’s best players—not prospects—right now are Lopez, Larry Nance, Luol Deng and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Because if head coach Luke Walton continues to play the college-aged kids that are 22-and-under–as most of these Lakers are–then expect more double-digit beatings as the Clippers administered to them Thursday at Staples Center.
23. Orlando Magic
Former Spurs wing Jonathon Simmons is playing starters’ minutes in Frank Vogel’s system—28 on opening day—and is hoping to provide the bench O and D that Orlando has been lacking for so long, basically ever since Dwight Howard left town. The Magic’s Wednesday victory over the Heat, 116-109, was certainly impressive on the offensive end.
22. Detroit Pistons
Guard acquisitions Avery Bradley and Langston Galloway provided a great 1-2 punch in their 102-90 shellacking of the Charlotte Hornets on opening day, with both guards playing standout offense (a combined 31 points on 21 shots) and defense in an impressive home debut in Detroit.
21. Philadelphia 76ers
Rookie point forward Ben Simmons put in his Rookie of the Year application a year later than anticipated, but did so Wednesday night in impressive fashion against a playoff team as strong as Washington in a five-point loss to the Wizards. In 35 minutes, Simmons put up 18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and only 1 turnover. The last rook to post such numbers in his debut? Nobody, although 31 years ago, Chuck Person had an 18-11-5 and 1 rookie showing in his fourth game of his NBA career.
Dennis Smith Jr. wowed the Dallas crowd in his NBA debut Wednesday, scoring on an alley-oop to open the season and the pouring in 16 points and 10 assists in a six-point loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The only other two players who debuted with a 16/10, included Damian Lillard (23 points and 11 assists, five years ago) and Michael Carter-Williams (22 and 12, four years ago).
19. Phoenix Suns
In the most embarrassing season debut in NBA history, the Suns lost to the Trail Blazers by 48 points (124-76) in front of their home Phoenix crowd. As most of his teammates, rookie forward Josh Jackson made a most inauspicious showing, tallying only 11 points, 2 rebounds and no other stats—besides a foul—in 32 minutes.
18. Memphis Grizzlies
Who would’ve thought second-round draft pick Dillon Brooks would lead all rookies in first-game scoring with 19 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and a plus-17 in 29 minutes off the bench? Not a bad follow-up to his Final Four showing with the Oregon Ducks last spring.
17. New Orleans Pelicans
Rajon Rondo, out one month with a sports hernia since arriving via Chicago, is going to be missed by New Orleans, with the first game showing just how far the Pelicans have to go to surpass fellow playoff contenders like the Memphis Grizzlies, who beat the Pelicans Wedneday, 103-91. Head coach Alvin Gentry relied on combo guard Jordan Crawford to shore up Rondo’s absence, but Crawford isn’t a point guard, and history shows that teams with only one healthy quarterback don’t last long in a 25-week season.
16. Charlotte Hornets
We don’t know if it was the Dwight Howard of old, but the Hornets’ new starting center certainly played like one of the League’s top defendeing rebounders, scoring 13 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and blocking 3 shots, while limiting similar player Andre Drummond (8 points on 9 shots) on the flip side in game one.
15. Utah Jazz
Ricky Rubio was a godsend for Utah, but fellow point guard Donovan Mitchell may be the under-the-radar rookie who helps the Jazz maintain playoff-contender status, despite losing All-Star Gordon Hayward in the offseason. Mitchell tore up summer league, stood out in the preseason and started alongside Rubio on opening night Wednesday, scoring 10 points and posting a plus-22 in 25 minutes in his NBA debut, a 10-point home win over Denver.
14. Miami Heat
While the rest of the League goes smaller, Coach Erik Spoelstra goes bigger, starting newbie seven-footer Kelly Olynyk at power forward alongside fellow seven-foot center Hassan Whiteside on Opening Day versus Orlando. Even though the Heat lost by seven, the combo worked pretty well together, with Olynyk putting up 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 21 minutes, while Whiteside finished with 26 points and 22 rebounds.
13. Toronto Raptors
After a stellar preseason, new Raptors wing C.J. Miles kept the good times rolling in his new home Toronto against Chicago, pouring 22 points in 20 minutes of game-time action, as the Raptors won, 117-101, on their opening day Thursday.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves
The NBA schedule-makers picked the wrong team and site (San Antonio) for Jimmy Butler to make his Timberwolves debut. The NBA’s returning No. 1 defense, took Butler out in his Minnesota debut, a game won by the Spurs, 107-99. The All-Star wing finished with 12 points on 12 shots and 3 assists with 3 turnovers in 35 minutes.
11. Boston Celtics
Kyrie Irving couldn’t have got off to a worse start, with his new team losing its first two games to his conference’s top two opponents, but also tragically losing Gordon Hayward for the season to a broken tibia and dislocated ankle. In those two games against Milwaukee and his old team Cleveland, Irving scored a combined 39 points on a combined 42 shots. If there was pressure for Irving to deliver entering this season, it just got even stronger.
10. Washington Wizards
Sharpshooter Jodie Meeks did Jodie Meeks type things on in Washington’s season opener, pouring in 14 points in 19 minutes against the Sixers in a Wizards five-point victory. Meeks, who made 37 percent of his three-pointers in Orlando and Detroit the past three seasons, gives Washington scoring off the bench that was missing for a majority of last season. This will help the alleviate the scoring load from their dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Portland’s 48-point drilling of Phoenix on opening day meant they didn’t miss one-game suspension of C.J. McCollum and they got to showcase some of their guys at the end of the bench. Rookie power forward Caleb Swanigan, who played very well in both summer league and preseason, contributed eight points in 18 minutes. Fellow first-round big man Zach Collins should rejoin Swanigan on bench rotations, giving the Blazers a refreshing new look from two versatile bigs.
Milwaukee may be the one NBA team whose entire first- and second-string units are made up of returning players. Guards DeAndre Liggins, Sterling Brown and power forward D.J. Wilson—none of whom played on opening day—are the only new Bucks acquisitions on roster. The most important of the returnees is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is the “Russell Westbrook” of the East, a do-it-all player whose play singlehandedly carries the team. His first game was a good start—27 points and 13 rebounds in a win against the Celtics—for his MVP run.
Milos Teodosic may grab the highlights and Lou Williams may get the Sixth Man votes, but newcomer guard Patrick Beverley is becoming the barking, defensive face of the new-look L.A. Clippers. After backing up his woofs on Lonzo Ball Thursday and shutting the Lakers rookie down (3 points on 1 of 6 shooting), Beverley showed the national TNT audience that the Clippers’ new identity starts with him on D and ends with All-Defense center DeAndre Jordan finishing the show. That’s not a bad 1-5 defensive tandem.
As LeBron James played his way into shape (an ankle injury sidelined him most of preseason), it was nice to see Coach Tyronn Lue surround his old Cavs in new positions with the new additions of new starting small forward Jae Crowder (LeBron moves to power forward and Kevin Love to center, as Tristan Thompson now comes off the bench), new starting shooting guard Dwyane Wade (as J.R. Smith comes off the bench) and new starting point guard Derrick Rose (at least until Isaiah Thomas recovered from his hip injury).
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Operation Thunder Forward was a success in Game 1 Thursday with new acquisitions Paul George (28 points on 23 shots and 6 rebounds in 39 minutes) and Carmelo Anthony (22 points on 20 shots in 33 minutes) complementing NBA MVP and OKC lifer Russell Westbrook (triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) as expected, as Oklahoma City hosted and beat New York, 105-84.
How fun was it watching the Rockets D up the defending NBA champion Warriors for a Houston win on Golden State’s own floor on opening night? Houston newcomers P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute—mixed with Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon and James Harden—showed they could close out the champs the last two minutes of the game with their own tough, small-ball lineup (fellow Rockets newbie Chris Paul nursed an injury on the sidelines as he rooted his teammates on).
3. Denver Nuggets
Power forward Paul Millsap, who had his run of the East as a four-time All-Star during his four seasons as an Atlanta Hawk, was reintegrated back into the West Wednesday, playing against is former team, the Utah Jazz. Millsap’s numbers were modest—19 points on 15 shots and only 6 rebounds—and served as a reminder how tough this will be out in Denver on an every-night basis in the wild, wild West.
3. San Antonio Spurs
Rudy Gay became the Spurs’ latest supersub as the scoring forward made his San Antonio debut, scoring 14 points and grabbing 5 rebounds off the bench in 24 minutes of action. It was a necessary contribution as Kawhi Leonard didn’t play as he makes his way back from a ailing quad muscle. Gay was 5 for 9 from the field—missing one three-point attempt—while making all four of his free throws as the Spurs beat the T-Wolves by eight.
1. Golden State Warriors
Shooting guard Nick Young made his bid as third Splash Brother in his Warriors debut, making 6 of 7 three-pointers en route to a team-high 23 points in only 26 minutes off the bench. Yes, the Warriors lost to the Rockets, 122-121, but Swaggy P was very instrumental in making this Golden State offense even more potent. More important is the status of Draymond Green. The MRI on his tweaked knee from opening night came back negative, but it’s worth monitoring on as the long season begins.