Re­vamped Wolves, Rock­ets, Thun­der lookin’ good ... Canada an­nounces pre­lim­i­nary list of play­ers for the start of World cup qual­i­fy­ing ... Kan­ter fires back at LeBron

The Province - - SPORTS - Ryan Wol­stat has the lat­est news from the hard­court rworl­w­stoalts@tapto@spt­moset­d­miae.dcioam.comTwitTtweirt:t@erw:@ol­w­stoaltsstu­antsun

Sev­eral Western Con­fer­ence squads loaded up this sum­mer in pur­suit of the pow­er­house Golden State War­riors, a team heav­ily favoured to re­peat as NBA cham­pi­ons. Min­ne­sota added Jimmy

But­ler, per­haps for­merly the East’s best two-way player. Ok­la­homa City gifted reign­ing MVP Rus­sell West­brook with both Paul Ge­orge, an­other great two-way threat, and Carmelo An­thony, one of the pre-em­i­nent scor­ers of his gen­er­a­tion. Chris

Paul, one of the best point guards to ever play the game, joined MVP-run­ner-up

James Har­den in Houston. It is far too early in the 2017-18 sea­son to make any de­fin­i­tive calls, but the in­stant anal­y­sis of the moves show mixed re­sults (all stats prior to Tues­day’s games):

At 8-5, Min­ne­sota is off to its best start since 200304, a sea­son that saw the Wolves win a fran­chis­ere­cord 58 games and fall to the Lak­ers in six games in the con­fer­ence fi­nals.

But­ler has taken a step back of­fen­sively (a whop­ping 7.7 fewer points per game than when he did ev­ery­thing for Chicago last year) and has not played up to his usual stan­dards there yet, but he is tak­ing pres­sure off young fran­chise cor­ner­stones Karl-An­thony

Towns and An­drew Wig­gins. The of­fence has been great (8th in ef­fi­ciency), the de­fence a tire fire (26th) but, for once, you can see the shape of some­thing of sub­stance start­ing to emerge in Min­ne­sota.

While Ok­la­homa City’s 6-7 record makes it ap­pear they are among the big­gest early dis­ap­point­ments, don’t be fooled. OKC ac­tu­ally has been solid, with three of the losses com­ing by four points or fewer.

Aside from com­pletely dis­in­te­grat­ing in the clutch (un­like in 2016-17, when West­brook boosted his MVP case by clos­ing con­tests like prime Michael Jor­dan), the Thun­der has mostly looked good, with only the Bos­ton Celtics al­low­ing fewer points per 100 pos­ses­sions, per stats.nba.com.

OKC is third in the NBA in net rat­ing (points scored per 100 pos­ses­sions mi­nus points al­lowed) in the first half of games, but just 12th from there.

Houston has been the odd­est story. De­spite los­ing Paul to in­jury fol­low­ing open­ing night’s one-point win against Golden State, the Rock­ets roared into an 11-3 start, prior to Tues­day’s meet­ing with the Rap­tors.

Har­den has been in­cred­i­ble, with re­cent lines of 56 points and 13 as­sists, 26 and 15, 35 and 13 and 38 and eight. Har­den ranks first in as­sists per game, sec­ond in scor­ing, first in win shares and value over re­place­ment player. So, can Paul ac­tu­ally help him carry the load, or will he just get in the way once he re­turns to ac­tion?

New Or­leans made its move late last sea­son, ac­quir­ing DeMar­cus Cousins and pair­ing him with fel­low dom­i­nant big man An­thony

Davis and the re­sults have been en­cour­ag­ing.

The Pel­i­cans have gone against the grain in this small­ball era by build­ing around a pair of mon­strously-skilled giants. A peren­ni­ally dis­mal fran­chise is now solidly in the play­off mix at this early stage, mostly thanks to Cousins and Davis.

They al­ready have a pair of games where each notched at least 30 points and 10 re­bounds, the first time a duo has man­aged that since

Charles Barkley and Moses Malone in 1985-86. No team­mates have ever av­er­aged 25 and 10 for an en­tire sea­son and only nine have man­aged 20 and 10. Imag­ine if they ever get team­mates who com­ple­ment their strengt hs (i.e. shoot­ers).

ROS­TER CLAR­ITY

FIBA changes to the qual­i­fi­ca­tion process and sched­ule have neutered Canada’s com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages for years to come. The NBA’s sec­ond-lead­ing provider of play­ers won’t have those play­ers avail­able to com­pete for their coun­try for most qual­i­fi­ca­tion pe­ri­ods due to the NBA and Euro-League com­mit­ments.

How­ever, the depth of tal­ent in this coun­try has al­lowed Canada Bas­ket­ball to an­nounce an im­pres­sive pre­lim­i­nary list for the start of FIBA Bas­ket­ball World Cup qual­i­fy­ing nonethe­less.

For­mer NCAA stand­outs like Melvin Ejim, Dyshawn Pierre, An­thony Ben­nett, Brady Hes­lip, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Duane No­tice dot the po­ten­tial pool (com­mit­ments are not guar­an­teed based on a num­ber of fac­tors), along with ex-Car­leton Uni­ver­sity stars Phil and Thomas Scrubb, na­tional

team vet­er­ans Jer­maine An­der­son, Joel An­thony, Olu Ashaolu and Levon Kendall,

and oth­ers like Rap­tors 905 play­ers Kaza Keane, Richard Amardi and Aaron Best. Canada hosts Ba­hamas in Hal­i­fax on Fri­day, Nov. 24, then trav­els to the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic. The U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands also is in Group D, with seven teams emerg­ing from 16 com­peti­tors in the Amer­i­cas with World Cup berths. Ry­er­son Uni­ver­sity’s Roy

Rana is the head coach, his as­sis­tants are Michael Meeks, Jack Sikma, Dave Smart and Nathaniel Mitchell.

“I ad­mire (the play­ers’) com­mit­ment to Canada and I hope all Cana­di­ans will sup­port us loudly in Hal­i­fax and across the coun­try,” Rana said in a press re­lease.

AROUND THE RIM

LeBron James had a lot of fun rid­ing the sub­way in New York City this week, then help­ing his Cavs storm back from a huge deficit to stun the Knicks, be­fore tak­ing to In­sta­gram. Knicks cen­tre Enes Kan­ter tried to get in the last word, though: “We al­ready have a king (of New York, which James pro­claimed to be). It’s Kristaps

Porzingis,” Kan­ter de­creed … Dur­ing the comeback, James eclipsed 20 points and 10 as­sists in a vic­tory for the 130th time in his ca­reer. Only Magic John­son, Paul and Isiah Thomas have done that more of­ten.

James Har­den has led the Rock­ets to a 11-3 record.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.