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NBA Saturday: Blatt is Right Hire for Cavaliers

The Cavaliers went the unconventional route to hire their next head coach, European icon David Blatt. Was it the right move?

Alex Kennedy



Blatt is Right Hire for Cavaliers

Nine-year NBA veteran Anthony Parker wanted to make something clear before we started our conversation about David Blatt, the new head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two men go way back, since Blatt was the assistant coach who recruited Parker to Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2000 and coached him during some of the most successful years of his professional basketball career.

“I’m one of his biggest fans, so you’re not going to hear me say anything negative about him,” Parker said with a laugh. “If you’re looking for a balanced view of David Blatt, I’m the wrong guy to talk to.”

It’s understandable that Parker would sing Blatt’s praises and fully support his former coach. But after spending the last 24 hours talking to individuals familiar with Blatt – including those who have played for him, competed against him, worked alongside him or evaluated him from a distance – it turns out that Parker’s sentiment is the general consensus around the basketball world. Every single review of Blatt was glowing and finding someone who is willing to say something negative about the 55-year-old is nearly impossible since he is one of the most respected coaches on the planet.

Cleveland hired Blatt to become their new head coach on Friday, inking him to a four-year contract with an annual base salary of $3.33 million and incentives that could increase his yearly pay to $5 million. Some fans were confused by the decision to hire Blatt, as they had never heard of the international coach since he hasn’t played or coached in the NBA. However, the reaction from those in the know was overwhelmingly positive.

Over the last two decades, Blatt has established himself as one of the game’s best overseas coaches and he has a trophy case packed with international championships, Olympic medals and Coach of the Year awards to prove it. He turned around Russia’s national team, winning the 2007 Eurobasket championship and taking home a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics. The word “genius” often gets thrown around when Blatt is being described, as he has a reputation for being an offensive mastermind and one of the best coaches in the world when it comes to game-planning and making adjustments.

Now, he’ll have the opportunity to coach on basketball’s biggest stage, leading a talented Cavaliers team that seems poised for success at some point in the very near future. Blatt explained his decision to coach in the NBA now as saying that it’s “the only challenge I have left.”

Parker, who played for the Cavaliers from 2009 to 2012 several years after leaving Maccabi Tel Aviv, is confident that Blatt will be able to duplicate his success in the NBA.

“I’ve gone on record as saying that he’s the best coach that I’ve played for,” Parker said of Blatt. “I also played for Larry Brown and Doc Rivers, but I don’t really count them in that just because I was on the bench and in street clothes for most of my time with them (laughs) so I never really got to play and experience that. But as far as everybody else, I’ve had great experiences with David. He has a great basketball mind and he’s very creative. I think one of the things that is special with David is his adaptability. You hear about coaches that have a specific style, where they go out and they need certain players to fit their style, but David is really able to adapt to his roster and kind of adjust and tailor the philosophies and strategies to the types of players that he has on the team. He’s had success with the Russian national team, with the teams in Israel, Russia and Italy and with the Olympics. He’s dealt with all kinds of different environments and competitions and rosters and cultures and stuff, but he’s successful. It’s because of how he’s able to adapt and create relationships and get players to buy in to his vision of the team. He’s done well.

“Some coaches have the ability to do the X’s and O’s, the strategies and the philosophies and they have that all ironed out, but they can’t really relate with the players, they can’t really communicate with the players and get them to buy in. Then, there are other coaches that are player coaches who can get players to buy in and have great relationships, but kind of fall short on the X’s and O’s side of things. What makes David unique, and what he has in common with a lot of the great basketball coaches in the world, is that he can do both. If you look at a lot of the coaches who have had long-term success, that’s something that they’re able to do. I think that’s his strength, that he’s able to do both of those things.”

In recent days, Cleveland had narrowed their coaching search to Blatt and former NBA player Tyronn Lue, who has spent the last four years as an assistant coach under Doc Rivers on the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers. A number of teams were trying to hire Blatt as an assistant coach, including the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves, but he wanted to take the reins of his own team. When Cavaliers general manager David Griffin approached Blatt about the head coaching vacancy, he was determined to land the job.

“I feel strongly about my fit for the job and this team’s potential,” Blatt said in a statement. “This is an opportune time to join the Cleveland Cavaliers. We are going to work extremely hard to achieve the kind of results we all expect and know are possible.”

As Blatt pointed out, this was perfect timing for his transition to the NBA, since he’s coming off of an outstanding year. Blatt and Maccabi Tel Aviv completed the triple crown this year (winning the Euroleague, Israeli-League and State Cup), and he was named Coach of the Year as a result.

Former Florida Gators star Alex Tyus played for Blatt and Maccabi Tel Aviv last season. The 26-year-old, who was the MVP of Euroleague for the month of April and made the Israeli League’s All-First Team, wasn’t shocked that Blatt was able to use his success as a springboard for an NBA job.

“We had one of the best seasons in European history,” Tyus said. “We won the triple crown – we won the Israeli Cup, the Israeli League Championship and the Euroleague – which was an amazing experience. It was not a bad year at all (laughs). We won everything.

“I wasn’t surprised to see him become an NBA coach. I’ve never had a coach like him before; he’s just different in terms of how he is off the court and as a player’s coach. He has a totally different approach and it makes you comfortable as a player. I know a lot of guys struggle overseas with different coaches and the European mentality, but he’s definitely different. Even when I look back to high school and college, I think he probably relates to players better than any other coach I’ve ever had. I’m not surprised [he’s getting this opportunity]. I could really see him doing well in the NBA. I’ve always thought of him as an NBA coach.If you’re all in and you’re willing to do anything to help the team win, you’re one of the guys that he really likes and he’s the best coach. He garners a lot of respect from players, and from everyone in Europe. He’s won at a high level in Europe for a long time, and he connects very well with players. He understands our mindset. He can relate to players, and I also think he’s a great guy. He cares about his players and if you’re one of his guys, he’ll really go to bat for you and help you out a lot.”

Around the NBA, many executives applauded Cleveland’s hire and felt that bringing in Blatt is a dare-to-be-great move that could really pay off for them in the long run.

“Cleveland deserves a lot of credit for hiring a guy that a lot of other teams have always liked, but have been afraid to take the plunge on,” said a Western Conference executive. “It’s also a smart move because if Blatt had become an assistant coach with the Warriors, after one or two years he could have become a guy who would have his pick of jobs. He is a brilliant and competitive coach who will definitely be an improvement over Mike Brown. But, of course, there will be challenges as part of the transition process. For example, he is maybe the best game-planner in the world, but now he has a lot more games to worry about and much less time to plan for them. There is a lot of work to do in Cleveland, to fix the culture, which would be a challenge for anyone. The upside though is that if they become a playoff team, Blatt has proven to be the rare coach that can outcoach his opponent when he has time to prepare. In the NBA, this could make him a coach that can steal a playoff series.”

Although hesitant to make the following comparison because he didn’t want to put too much pressure on his former coach, Parker feels that Blatt is very similar to San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

“I think the best comparison is Popovich,” Parker said. “I hate to say that because of the timing of it after the kind of year that the Spurs had and what they’ve done for almost two decades now. But in terms of the coaching style, I mean his teams move the ball, they pass, there’s spacing, they keep it open and, like I said, David tailors his offense based on his roster, similar to what the Spurs have done and the evolution that they’ve kind of undergone since Tim Duncan has been in the league. You see him kind of getting on guys and holding guys accountable, but you won’t ever hear those players saying anything bad about Pop. I think that David is able to walk that line as well. I just hesitate to say Popovich just because of everything that comes along with saying that name and comparing the two. It’s almost like when people are comparing players and say, ‘Oh, he’s the next Michael Jordan.’”

Like Popovich, opposing players dreaded having to face Blatt’s teams.

“I never played for him, but I played a lot against him and I think he has all the abilities to be successful in the NBA,” Dallas Mavericks guard Gal Mekel said of Blatt. “He won every title possible in Europe, he has a great basketball IQ and he always gets the most out of his players.”

“He’s a great dude, he’s literally a genius and he has a lot of ambition,” CSKA Moscow guard Aaron Jackson said. “He is on top of the world – deep young team with the number one draft pick and Kyrie Irving.”

Blatt will inherit a Cavaliers squad that won just 33 games last season, missing the playoffs in the depleted Eastern Conference. However, the roster features young talent such as Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev (who played for Blatt on Russia’s national team) and whoever the team selects with the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s draft.

“If anyone can [maximize Cleveland’s potential], it’s him,” Parker said. “I think one of the key things with David is he’s able to relate to players and get them to buy in. With the Cavaliers, I think there’s definitely talent on the roster, but getting players to buy in, believe in the vision, come together and play as a team is the key, as it is anywhere. But I think it’s a good situation for him because he definitely has talent to work with there. It’s not a situation where he has to wait for two or three years to get players to be able to do anything with. I think that he’ll hit the ground running there and they have the ability to make some noise, so we’ll see.”

“I think he’ll do a great job regardless of who’s there,” Tyus said. “He does well with what he has to work with. He’s the type of coach, especially playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv, where management always had a lot of say on the players that they brought in, so he always had to work with guys that he maybe didn’t necessarily want. That’s a whole European thing; I don’t know if NBA teams work like that too. But he’s always done a good job of having good teams and getting the best out of his players, regardless of who they are and I think that that’s something that’s going to help him out a lot right away playing with Cleveland. He does a great job of adjusting. We played a lot of four-out, one-in [last season], and I know in the NBA that’s something that works sometimes. But I think he’s really good at adjusting to whoever his personnel is, so I think he’ll do well.”

While Blatt has drawn praise for his offensive strategies, Parker and Tyus feel that he’s a well-rounded coach who is equally effective on both ends.

“I think most people, maybe from the outside looking in, would say that his strength is on the offensive end of the ball,” Parker said. “I think that he gets a lot of credit for a lot of the innovative things that he has done offensively and some of the offensive sets that he’s put in that have worked out. Those get a lot of the attention, but he’s a defensive coach as well. I think he’s balanced. I don’t think that he’s light on either end.”

“You just have to be able to make an impact on the game in different ways; that’s something that Blatt really looks for,” Tyus said. “I would say that he’s really good at both offense and defense. He has a good balance. Defensively, he definitely wants his players to be able to guard their man and make plays because those are obviously the most important things defensive wise. And then on offense, he has a lot of good strategies and can use players to their strengths.”

The Cavaliers decided to think outside the box by hiring Blatt, making him the first NBA head coach to come straight from Europe. Only time will tell if Blatt can duplicate his success in the NBA, but the move certainly seems promising today.

Bulls Pursuing Magic’s Arron Afflalo

One name to keep an eye on this summer is Orlando Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who may be traded before the start of the 2014-15 season.

The Charlotte Hornets had previously been mentioned as a potential suitor for Afflalo and now the Chicago Bulls are pursuing the veteran shooting guard as well, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

Orlando is clearly rebuilding, which is why the 28-year-old is “very available.”

The Magic had a number of conversations about Afflalo prior to last year’s trade deadline, but ultimately held onto their swingman.

The Magic have the No. 4 and No. 12 picks in the 2014 NBA Draft, but they could be open to acquiring additional picks or young assets.

Chicago has the No. 16 and No. 19 picks in the draft, which could make them an intriguing trading partner for the Magic.

Last season, Afflalo had a career-year in Orlando, averaging 18.2 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting, which is why his trade value is at an all-time high.

His contract is also very attractive to teams, as he’ll make just $7.5 million in the 2014-15 season and then has an early termination option the following year or can opt in to another $7.5 million salary.

Chicago really struggled to score and shoot the ball last year, so their interest in Afflalo makes a lot of sense.



Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




A Few Good Free Agents Left

David Yapkowitz looks at several free agents still remaining on the market ahead of the season.

David Yapkowitz



The start of the 2017-2018 NBA season is finally here, and teams are required to have their 15-man roster (plus two possible two-way contacts) finalized. Every year there are players that are left off a roster. Some are younger guys who maybe haven’t proven they belong in the league just yet. Some are older veterans looking for that one final hurrah.

A few of these players might take open gigs in the G-League or overseas in hopes of attracting the attention of NBA front offices as the year goes on. Others remain at home, working out and waiting for that call that might never come. And sometimes, the waiting and anticipating pays off as playoff teams come looking for veteran help and tanking teams are on the hunt for unrealized potential.

For most of the veteran guys, their opportunities will likely come later in the season when teams gear up for the playoffs. Here’s a look at a few of the top veteran free agents left that could certainly help a team at some point during this season.

David Lee

Since being traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Boston Celtics three year ago, Lee has adapted to his new role as a veteran big man helping to anchor second units. He is no longer the automatic double-double machine and borderline All-Star he once was, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything left in the tank.

He didn’t really fit quite right in Boston, but in his stops with the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, he still showed he can be a solid contributor off the bench. In 25 games with Mavericks in the 2015-2016 season, Lee put up 8.5 points per game on 63.6 percent shooting while pulling down seven rebounds per. With the Spurs last year, he averaged 7.3 points on 59 percent shooting to go along with 5.6 rebounds. For a playoff team that needs a little big man depth, he is a solid option.

Deron Williams

Much was made about Williams’ disappearing act in the Finals last year, and rightfully so, but lost in all the chatter was the actual solid job he did with the Cleveland Cavaliers leading up to that point. Once in the conversation for best point guard in the league, injuries and poor play in Brooklyn sort of made Williams a forgotten man. The Nets bought out his contract and he joined his hometown Dallas Mavericks.

After a so-so first year in Dallas, Williams looked rejuvenated last year to the point that he actually drew some interest around the trade deadline. With the Mavericks looking to get younger and head closer to that rebuilding path, they cut Williams and allowed him to join a contending team. Over the final 24 games of last season, including four starts, he averaged 7.5 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting, 41.5 percent from the three-point line, and 3.6 assists. Of course, his Finals performance is all anyone cares to remember, but if a team needs a veteran backup point guard, they could do a lot worse.

Monta Ellis

Last season in Indiana, Ellis posted some of the lowest numbers of his career since his rookie season. Heading into a rebuilding year, the Pacers waived Ellis and his name barely came up in free agent rumors during the summer. At his best, Ellis was a borderline All-Star talent who could put up points in a hurry. Despite his reputation as a gunner, Ellis was a bit of an underrated playmaker and was never as bad defensively as most made him out to be.

He never really seemed to find his groove in Indiana. In his first year with the Pacers during the 2015-2016 season, he posted 13.8 points per game, down from 18.9 the previous year in Dallas, and his shooting dropped from 44.5 percent from the field to 42.7 percent. His playoff numbers with the Pacers were down even more than his regular season numbers, despite exploding in the postseason a few years before with Dallas. His starting days are almost assuredly behind him, but as a sixth man type scorer bringing energy off the bench, he’s probably better than a lot of the players currently in that role.

Leandro Barbosa

The Brazilian Blur’s best days are behind him, but similar to Ellis, he can still help a team in need of additional scoring punch off the bench. It was only two years ago that he was a key contributor off the Warriors bench. Firmly on the rebuilding track, the Suns waived Barbosa during the summer. Despite still being a capable player, his name also rarely came up in the free agent rumor mill.

He didn’t play all that much last season for a Phoenix Suns team that is clearly rebuilding, but he still was able to average 6.3 points per game in only 14.4 minutes per. His role on a rebuilding team would be a veteran mentor, but for a playoff team, he’s not a bad option. He showed that he can still play at the NBA level despite losing a step or two. Perhaps later on in the season when teams start looking for playoff help is when he may find his phone starting to ring.

Derrick Williams

The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations that come with being drafted that high. He’s only averaged double figures (12.0) in scoring once in his career and that was during the 2012-2013 season. When he came into the league, he didn’t really have much of a set position. He was a tweener, somewhere in between small forward and power forward. That was prior to the changes occurring in today’s NBA with more of a premium on stretch big men.

During Williams’ time in Cleveland last season, he played in 25 games and averaged 6.2 points per game. What stood out most, however, was his shooting. He shot 50.5 percent from the field, including 40.4 percent from the three-point line, both career-highs. Shooting from long range was always a bit of a weakness for him and prior to last season, he had never shot higher than 33.2 percent from downtown. He also didn’t register much chatter by way of free agent rumors, but if he can reproduce shooting percentages like that, he fits right in with the direction of the league.

With league rosters pretty much set, there likely won’t be much roster movement, if any at all, for the next few months. Teams are looking to see how their new summer acquisitions work out. But after a few months of real game action, other roster needs start to become more apparent. Don’t be surprised if come the new year, teams start knocking on a few of these player’s doorsteps.

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NBA PM: The Wizards Are “More Than Ready” For A Big Year

Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal says his team is “more than ready” for the start of the NBA season.

Buddy Grizzard



With several teams in the Eastern Conference taking a step back, the Washington Wizards will be one of the beneficiaries due to roster continuity. Shooting guard Bradley Beal, one of several key Wizards signed to a long-term contract, said the team is “more than ready” for the season and has large expectations.

“This is going to be a big year for us,” said Beal after a Monday practice. “We’re healthy. There’s no excuse for us [not to] get off to a good start.”

Beal added that, while health is a key for the entire roster, it’s especially important for him after struggling with injuries in the past.

“It’s really a confidence booster, realizing my potential, what I can be, the type of player I can be when I had a healthy season,” said Beal of last year’s campaign. “That’s probably what I was more proud of than anything, playing 70-plus games and then playing in the playoffs every game.”

In Basketball Insiders’ season preview for the Wizards, we noted that Beal was Washington’s most efficient ball handler in the pick and roll last season. Beal said that creating for teammates is something he’s worked on in the offseason and will continue to be a point of emphasis.

“That was great for me and the strides I made throughout the year, working on my ball handling, working on creating for other guys and getting my own shot,” said Beal. “Those are the primary things I’m focused on … being able to create better, getting guys easier shots than before, getting more assists and improve everywhere.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after Friday’s preseason finale in New York that he’s been encouraged by the ball movement he has seen since the start of camp.

“I thought a lot of good things happened in training camp,” said Brooks. “The ball movement was outstanding. Guys were sacrificing for one another on the offensive end.”

One thing that should help the ball movement of the second unit is the arrival of backup point guard Tim Frazier, who missed most of the preseason due to a strained groin. Frazier had nine assists and no turnovers in his preseason debut against the Miami HEAT.

“I feel very comfortable with Tim,” said Brooks. “He finds corner threes, which we like.”

Beal added that one area he hopes to improve, both individually and as a team, is rebounding.

“I think I only had like three rebounds [per game] last year,” said Beal. “I obviously love scoring the ball. That’s something I never worry about. I want to continue to fill up the stat sheet a little bit more and contribute to the game in different areas. I think rebounding was something that hurt us a little bit last year.”

The Wizards host the Philadelphia 76ers to open the season Wednesday, and Brooks said it will take a team effort to defend emerging star Joel Embiid.

“He’s a problem,” said Brooks after Sunday’s practice. “His athleticism is off the charts. We’re going to have to do a good job of staying in front of him. You’re talking about a guy that can put the ball on the floor, that can get to spaces and spots that normally a 6-10 guy doesn’t.”

With a revamped bench, roster continuity and good health entering the season, the Wizards look like a team that could challenge the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors for supremacy in the East. Beal certainly seems to think so.

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NBA Opening Night Storylines

Hours before the 2017-18 season gets set to tip off, here are some storylines to follow for Tuesday’s games.

Dennis Chambers



The long summer is over. We finally made it. NBA opening night is upon us.

Rejoice, hoop heads.

Because the NBA is a perfect concoction of chaos at all times, Tuesday’s opening night slate has some can’t-miss built in headlines that the entire league is going to be glued to.

With a new year set to begin, everyone is on the same page. Whether that page includes the likes of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry or Doug McDermott and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a different story. But still, Tuesday marks day one for all teams and as it stands they’re all equal.

As we get set to sit down and dissect these opening game matchups on Tuesday, let’s highlight the most intriguing storylines that will be followed for the rest of the season. There’s nothing like watching a story grown in the NBA from its inception, right?

Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — 8 p.m. ET (TNT)

This is the game we’ve all been waiting for since late June, when Kyrie Irving let it be known to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that he wanted out from under LeBron’s shadow.

Three years of NBA Finals appearances, the greatest comeback in basketball history, and a ring to show for was all Irving wanted to walk away from. For him, he felt it was his time to shine.

And because the NBA is the perfect mix of beautiful insanity, it would only make sense that Irving would get dealt to the very team that is jostling for position to unseat the Cavs and King James.

The Irving-led Boston Celtics will have to wait a grand total of one second in the new NBA season to begin their matchup with their point guards old teammates and the team that stands in between them a Finals appearance. With Gordon Hayward and Irving together for the first time against meaningful competition, there’s no better way than to check their fit from the jump than by challenging the conference champions in their building.

But Irving’s homecoming isn’t the only storyline heading into the first game of the season. There are some changes on Cleveland’s end as well.

While the main return for Irving — Isaiah Thomas — won’t be suiting up for the Cavs anytime soon due to injury, there are still plenty of new faces to keep an eye on Tuesday night. First and foremost, Flash is in town. After having his contract bought out by the Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade joined forces with his buddy in The Land in hopes of recapturing some of the magic that led them to two championships in South Beach.

By teaming up once again, James and Wade provide some of the best chemistry in the league. Yes, Wade isn’t the player he once was when he and James were winning rings. But something is to be said for knowing exactly where someone will be on the court at all times, and that’s the trait exactly that Wade and James share.

Along with Wade, James and the Cavs are hoping to get some type of resurgence from Derrick Rose and Jeff Green off of the bench. Once Thomas returns to the court for Cleveland, this is arguably the deepest team James has ever been around in Cleveland.

Even with Irving and Hayward on board, Boston will be relying on some role players of their own — namely Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The back-to-back third overall picks will occupy most of the time at the forward spots opposite of Hayward. As the season moves on, the development of both of these wings will be crucial to how dangerous the Celtics can be past their two star players.

Tuesday night will be must-see television at Quicken Loans Arena. New eras for the Eastern Conference heavyweights are about to begin.

And as James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, “The Kid” will be just fine.

Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors — 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

On the Western side of the basketball landscape Tuesday night, the potential conference finals matchup will see its first act when the revamped Rockets head to the Bay Area.

Last season at this time, the basketball world was bracing for what the Warriors would look like after adding Kevin Durant to a 73-win team. And as expected, they dominated. Not even LeBron James could put a stop to them, managing just one win in their finals bout.

This year brings in more of the same questions. Can anyone stop the Warriors? Will Golden State just steamroll their way to another championship, effectively sucking the fun of competition out of the entire league?

Well, a few teams this offseason did their best to try and combat that narrative. One of them being the Rockets, who they added perennial all-star point guard Chris Paul to their backcourt.

Putting Paul in the same backcourt as superstar James Harden has the potential to create some of the biggest headaches for opposing teams. The constant ball movement and open looks the two star guards can provide are nearly endless.

While the league swoons over the Warriors’ ability to hit shots from well beyond the arc, it should be noted that it was Houston last year that led the NBA in three-point shooting, not Golden State. It’s certainly not wise to try and go toe-to-toe with the Warriors at their own game, but if there’s ever a team equipped to do it, it’s Houston. Tuesday night will provide a nice preview look at how things in the Western Conference could shake out in the coming months.

Aside from the barrage of scoring that will take place in this matchup, what would a big game be for the Warriors without a little Draymond Green trash talk?

After Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni told ESPN that, “You’re not gonna stop them. It’s just not gonna happen. They’re not gonna stop us, either,” Green clapped back with a comment of his own, as he always does.

“I don’t know how serious they take defense with that comment,” Green said. “But they added some good defensive players.”

It’s true, the Rockets aren’t considered a defensive stalwart by any means. Last season, Houston was 26th in points allowed, compared to second in points scored. Green may be onto something when it comes to questioning how serious his opponents take defense.

That being said, last year’s Rockets didn’t feature Paul. Even at the age of 32, Paul is still one of the league’s best on-ball defenders. And no matter his age, he’ll always possess that competitive fire he’s been known for over the last 12 years.

Going up against the Warriors at Oracle is usually nothing short of impossible, but if there’s going to be a team to challenge their supremacy this season, we’ll get a good look at how they stack up on night one.

With all of this in mind, let’s not forget that the world’s best league is finally back in action. Give yourself a pat on the back, you made it. Now, go enjoy some basketball.

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