Okay so we waited about 20 months to finish off our last season due to the pandemic and while it looked like we were nearing the end of it all...we get hit with this new Omicron variant and as of today (Dec. 20th, 2021) there were about 3800 new cases. At this point, I am ready for the Megatron variant to destroy any last hope of this thing coming to an end. Yes, the symptoms are milder and no real deaths because of this new strain but having to deal with more restrictions and possible lockdowns is definitely dissapointing to say the least. Nonetheless, we will see how things play out but for now we are on our holiday break (great timing!) and will look to resume in the middle of January (if we are ever so lucky). Good news is that we got in another round of games last Sunday and we are fully underway with 20 of 23 teams having completed their opener. We will have our power rankings up this month so stay tuned for that but let's get right to the recaps.
SONICS: The Jazz are the new kids on the block and they made a nice early statement against a veteran squad in the Sonics. They started off hot...cooled down during the middle...and finished off strong with some clutch plays. It seems like everyone on the squad can do something which makes them pretty dangerous even if they were rusty or still working on their chemistry. When they needed stops...Jovan came up big...when they needed a clutch play...Tristan came up with some beautiful passes. I have no idea where they will end up at the end of the season but they have the ingredients to be successful. Chemistry and defining their roles a bit more will lead them to more victories I believe and GM Brett Carr has time to figure that all out. The Sonics were shorthanded but they fought hard and almost pulled this off. Zoobee was incredible with some impressive playmaking even after a long layoff. GM VJ was also solid on both ends of the floor but the rest of the squad didn't come through. Bhavik made his ETBL debut and struggled mightily with his shot but helped out on defence and kept the game close. I expect them to be solid once they have their full squad in action in the new year.
Final Score: Jazz 40 - 34 Sonics Player of the Game - JOVAN BAILEY 5pts/5rebs/4asts/1to - 50% Shooting
PISTONS: The matchup of the day had the new look Heat versus the old-school Pistons. GM Witness (Nitharshan) somehow put together this interesting squad and they got the job done in a closely fought game. Markshun made his ETBL debut and put on a defensive clinic with 3 steals and 4 blocks and was a presence all game long. Nidun meanwhile struggled with his shot in this one but his passing game was elite once again as he was dropping dimes everywhere! The amount of great passing big men this season is crazy but Nidun might still be at the top of the list. When the Heat needed a bucket they looked to Anthony and he came through with a game high 20 points. I have said this before but when the kid is focused and aggressive attacking the basket...he is tough to handle...it's when he settles for long outside shots...he does the defence a favor. He will have to be the offensive catalyst for the squad but also play within the flow of the team. If that happens then this team is a serious contender. The Pistons could not get their outside shot going (2 for 20) and that pretty much did them in. This team has the size, experience and talent to definitely make some noise this season and I expect them to bounce back next game. Big Mike had 19/15/2 and 3 steals but had to earn everything he got. His mobility, size, footwork and shooting is going to be a handful for most teams. If the rest of the guys pitch in and do their part then watch out.
Final Score: Heat 52 - 50 Pistons Player of the Game - ANTHONY JEYAKANTHAN 21pts/3rebs/2stls/0to - 2 Triples
BULLS: The new look Spurs (formerly Pelicans) took on the new look Bulls. Former Pelicans GM, Harrison, stepped down and handed over the reigns to Vijay who has assembled a championship contender to say the least..."I just want to play with my friends and guys that know basketball". Only if all the other teams were lucky enough to have Vijay's list of friends that were also good at basketball lol. Dude just had a rolodex of contacts at his disposal...plus his friends had other friends that were great and so the network was deep. Well, whatever we settled on is going to be a problem for the league as they are combining skilled players with high IQ, defensive ability and mental toughness. They put that on full display and destroyed the Bulls in the first half (41-14). Even Shawn Joseph asked me if the game was over...I mean it basically was. Gopal came off the bench and lit it up as he went 4 for 4 from long range and that was all she wrote. Shang and the rest of the Bulls were shorthanded but they did not look to be in game shape at all and it might take them a while to get there. Maybe this break helps them the most and they will come back hungrier.
Final Score: Spurs 71 - 32 Bulls Player of the Game - GOPAL NARASIMHAIAH 14pts/3rebs/1asts/1stl/0to - 83% Shooting - 4 Triples
KNICKS: The Knicks were another brand new squad and they faced off against the Suns led by Dakoda Lewis. Considering the Knicks were missing their big man, they still put up a great fight especially in the 2nd half. 5 guys had at least 7 points and they had a chance to tie the game with one second left (which they almost pulled off). Kapilan (Kap) hit some big shots and played some great defence while Tevon also came through with some clutch baskets. Jonathan Ibula was big defensively and if they got just a little bit more from Ryan this game might have gone completely different. Ryan couldn't get his shot to drop but I am not worried as he is a great shooter and it's only a matter of time before he picks it up. The Suns have a lot of talent but they didn't seem to be all on the same page in this one and it almost cost them. Dakoda was solid and looks like he will have a big year for them and the rest of the guys chipped in just enough to squeeze this one out. Nick and Birko did some of the dirty work while Reshean had a couple nifty passes in this one which led to easy buckets. Their ceiling is high but let's see if they will reach it.
Final Score: Suns 47 - 45 Knicks Player of the Game - DAKODA LEWIS 17pts/7rebs/1blks - 2 Triples
BUCKS: The new look Kings only had 5 players in this one while the brand new Bucks were missing their centre Robert Scott. Playing on a full size FIBA court I would lean heavily towards the team with the 9 guys versus the team with 5 players. Plus, all the guys on the Bucks seemed to be in decent shape even if they were smokers...but it was King Duzan who smoked them on the court as noone was able to contain him and put the team on his back once again. The Season 5 MVP starts off with a bang as he was all over the court doing whatever he could do to lead this team to victory. His brother Senthu was great defensively while Sanjeeve came up with some huge buckets in this one. Big time effort by the Kings and I will not take anything away from them. But, I still feel like the Bucks dropped the ball in this one by not implementing more fullcourt presses. So many times the guy picking up the ball handler in the backcourt would be called back and asked not to guard full court. Definitely a puzzling move considering that you are basically allowing the Kings to catch their breath and take their time on offence. It's very simple math at this point. They don't have any subs and the Bucks have 4 guys on the bench...absolutely no excuse not to press and trap as much as possible during the game. If you are tired...just sub off...big time missed opportunity to make a statement in the opener and GM Sarjun will have to get his team to regroup and come back strong in the new year. Harrson and Garan were amazing for the Bucks and they have to continue to step up for this team to be successful.
Final Score: Kings 63 - 56 Bucks Player of the Game - DUZAN INDRASITHU 27pts/7rebs/8asts/5stls/ - 55% Shooting - 4 Triples