WE ARE BACK GENTLEMEN!!! Season 5 is upon us after what felt like a quick summer. There was no shortage of drama and player movement plus add another 7 teams and we have our biggest season by far. Season 1 had 70 players (which was more than respectable for an opening season) but now we have 176 players and 22 teams!! The hype and noise surrounding the league was unreal and my data usage rates was way over the limit responding to all sorts of questions/inquiries from new and returning players. October 6 was the kickoff date and we ease into the season with 5 interesting games. Shout out to Gopal, Wilbert and Anson for helping out at the scorer's table! Now let's get right to it.
JAZZ vs SONICS: This was the season opener and right away you noticed that ETBL had taken a leap in terms of overall skill and talent. The Sonics are a brand new squad with 8 ETBL rookies but they definitely looked like a team that had been playing with each other for many years. Everyone knew their roles...passed the ball around...ran plays...and most importantly played like team. They would get hype whenever someone made a solid play and encouraged one another throughout. They easily had the best chemistry of then night and it showed in the first half after going back n forth in a tie game (16 a piece)...they reeled off a 13-0 run going into half-time. The second half was alot closer but the damage had already been done in the first half. 6 guys with at least 5points led by their star player Zaid Parekh who was very efficient scoring 18 and 11. He has started his ETBL career in fine fashion as there was no panic to his game and did everything smoothly and with a purpose. Zoobee was the most active out of the bunch and put up a 12/7/5 to start his season on a high note. Looks like he is going to be a big part in what the Sonics do this season as he can do a little bit of everything. Justin and Kam made alot of impact plays throughout the game...getting key boards...deflections...and solid passes that led directly to baskets. VJ, Rahul, Dylan, and Harman all brought energy to the game and this looks to be a fun squad that could make some noise if it continues to play together. Although they won by double digits...they were facing the Jazz squad without Nitharsan who is their first rounder so we still need to see how they do against a healthy contender. Mithun and Suman led the way for the Jazz with 15 and 13 respectivley. These two were really good and it will be interesting to see how they look with Nitharsan back in the mix. Suman suprised me with his range as he hit 2 triples and Mithun was tough to handle when attacking the basket. They are going to have to figure out a way to be decent on the boards as they are very undersized but the offence should be humming once they are fully healthy. Great start to the season for the Sonics.
Final Score: Jazz 44 - 58 Sonics Player of the Game - ZAID PAREKH 18pts/11rebs/1ast/1stl/1blk - 53% Shooting - 2 Triples
HORNETS vs HEAT: This was suppose to be a marquee matchup but injuries/absences for the Hornets really diminished the excitement. Jelton (first rder) was missing along with Arun and Hari but luckily they have a 9 man roster which allowed them to have Subi on the bench to sub in. The first half was back n forth and eventually ended with Jeffrey (former ETBL champ) hitting a triple to put the hornets up by 4. He also let them know he hit the triple with his patented trash talk lol. Nishan also did a great job drawing fouls on reigning defensive player of the year Vasko as he had to sit with 4 fouls. Seemed like things were going the Hornets way even though they were shorthanded but the Heat went to their bread and butter (pass the ball the Milton and cut). Milton may not be same unstoppable beast as he was in his prime but he is still pretty damn good. The footwork and finishing under the rim is impressive but his passing game is underrated and he was able to find some cutters in the 2nd half. Couple this with the fact that the Heat ran out of gas...Billal's crew went on to get an easy 'W' in their season opener. Rameez was hot shooting the ball (4 for 5) and finished with 10 points and he will be an x-factor this season as this team's biggest weakness is their outside shooting. Jeffrey and Subi came to play in this one for the Hornets as they combined for 15pts, 6asts and 5steals! Nishan had a nightmare shooting night (1 for 13) including 4 for 10 at the line. Jelton will need to heal up quick to relieve some of the pressure off Nishan and they should be one of the best backcourts in the league. Bavi will be the key piece to the puzzle as he has youth and athleticism which this team desperately needs. He seemed hesitant on a few plays and it will be up to GM Satish to get him in the right spots to succeed. I expect the Hornets to right the ship very soon. Heat did well but they caught a break against a hobbled squad.
Final Score: Hornets 34 - 49 Heat Player of the Game - MILTON LAIDLEY 17pts/10rebs/1ast/1to - 63.5% Shooting
GRIZZLIES vs NUGGETS: This game featured 2 teams returning with the same core but added some studs to their starting lineups. The Grizzlies (formerly the Suns) added arguably the most athletic person ETBL has ever seen in Ben Okyere. He is 6'4 and can jump out of the gym and is going to be a problem for the rest of the league. The Nuggets however had the size and length to deal with him and tried to contain him as much as possible. He still finished with 22pts/7rebs/2stls and 3 blks!! He might have already won Defensive Player of the Year after just the first 10mins into the game as he blocked or changed numerous shots at the rim. He did go through periods where he was gassed out and that might be the only thing stopping him from destroying it this season...plus the double and triple teams he may face throughout the game. GM Ray also showed off his new toys in Nirsan and Junior who were both terrific in this one combining for 37 points on 56% shooting! We all know what Nirsan can do after a stellar Rookie season but this year it looks like he is just going to get easier looks at the basket with the way the Nuggets pass. Everyone is unselfish and looking to make the right play which is gonna make this team dangerous. They can clearly play defence and rebound and so if their offence is clicking then they will be a serious contender. Junior who made his ETBL debut is gonna be the x-factor as he can handle, pass, and score the rock. He was upset with his 5 turnovers but otherwise he was fantastic in this one. The game came down to the last 2 possessions and the Nuggets were down by 2. Ray drew up a play in the huddle and it looked like the play was for Junior but for whatever reason the ball ended up in Javan's hands who was 1 for 12 up to this point. He had a clear look at a three and let it fly...all net...Nuggets up by 1! Big clutch shot by Jay and now they had to play defence for the last 5 seconds of the game. I think even the janitor knew who the ball was going to on this play and right on cue it was Ben who came to halfcourt to grab the inbounds. He drove to the right side of the paint into Dwayne and lost control/tripped and just shot the ball while falling down...Refs called a travel on the play and Zanoon (coaching on this day) lost his mind and even ran onto the court to show his displeasure lol. It was a tough play regardless and could have gone either way (foul/travel) but he was triple teamed on this last play and a 4th defender was shading him in the paint when he got close so it is unlikely you are going to get that call in that spot. Ben is going to have to trust his teammates in those spots as several of them were wide open (even if his teammates weren't great on this day). Big win for the Nuggets.
Final Score: Grizzlies 44 - 45 Nuggets Player of the Game - NIRSAN KUNARATNAM 19pts/12rebs/2ast/0to - 61.5% Shooting
SPURS vs KINGS: This was the primetime game that most people were looking forward to. GM Pras who was a former teammate of GM Wilbert will now man his own squad and try to secure that championship this season. Both teams were thrown straight into the fire as they kicked off the season and it was a highly competitive first half. It did seem like both teams were feeling each other out and trying to share the ball as much as possible. Fast forward to the second half where both teams ratcheted up the intensity and really went at each other. It was close throughout with the Spurs holding a lead until Senthu and Duzan decided to put the rest of the Kings on their back. Both hit timely triples and played solid defence/grabbed bards which ultimately gave them a 3pt lead with less than 10 seconds left in the game. Duzan was incredible with 25/4/4 and a perfect 8 for 8 from the line. His older bro Senthu made some big time impact plays especially defensively that really kept the Kings in it. Aswath had plenty of good looks from the outside as Duzan garnered a ton of attention on offence but Aswath was off in this one finishing 2 for 11. He made up for it with his defence on the opposing guards finishing with 3 steals and also chipped in 4 assists. He is known to be a solid shooter and so if he can step up and be apart of the 'Big 3' this team will be dangerous. The game really turned in the Kings favor when Donald was thrown out of the game for arguing with the refs after an offensive foul call. This allowed Duzan and Senthu to sneak in for some boards without the big man there. Donald has to be able to control his emotions if this team wants to go all the way as his presence is a game changer. The Spurs still had a chance to tie as Baki got fouled on a 3pt attempt with 0.5seconds left on the clock but he unfortunately missed the 2nd freethrow and had to try and miss the last one for a putback attempt. Duzan who was hounding players on defence all game, got up a little too tight on Baki (tough call in that spot) but luckily for them it did not cost them. Kings start off with a big victory.
Final Score: Spurs 44 - 45 Kings Player of the Game - SENTHU INDRASITHU 16pts/11rebs/1ast/3stls - 50% Shooting - 2 Triples
MAGIC vs BULLETS: This game featured 2 new teams who were looking to make a statement to the league. Nidun made his long awaited debut (mostly cuz the commish thought he would be too good for this league lol) and he did not dissapoint! He was too strong when he was under the basket and made some tough putbacks...and was deadly in transition as he picked the Magic apart (woulda had more assists if his teammates finished). His vision is rediculous and even made this one nasty over the head no look pass to Venush on a cut which hit him in the shoulder but Venush wasn't ready for it. They were able to make quick work of the Magic and put up a whopping 70 points. Almost had 5 players in double figures as this team looks loaded on offence. GM Ruben hit a couple triples while Ajevan hit on his midrange and Venush finished easily at the basket. The Magic's lone brightspot was Mr. Matheos Kostas who was rediculous in this one as he tried to do whatever he could to keep his team in it. Game high 29 points for Matheos and he was a blur out there as his speed gave the Bullets trouble. Who is going to step up and help him is the question as the Magic looked sloppy and unorganized. Luckily it is only the first game of the season and they have plenty of time to work things out. They got to come up with a defensive strategy (maybe zone) as they have two legit bigs in Obaid and PJ that should gobble up the boards and limit teams to one possession. They may have the quickest guard in the league but playing uptempo is probably not the best idea and trying to grind out the games might be the better route. Manish, Babith,and Naren can all shoot so they should definitely improve as the season goes along. If they can hold teams down to around 45 to 50 points they will be alright. Bullets come out shooting while the Magic disappear in week 1.
Final Score: Magic 45 - 70 Bullets Player of the Game - NIDUN CHANDRAKUMAR 22pts/9rebs/5ast/1stl- 57% Shooting