The NBA begins another season with three matchups on opening night. Some highlights from around the courts:
HOME TEAM SUPREMECY: Opening night in the NBA led to three easy victories by the home teams. The Heat, Lakers and Pacers all came away with double digit wins. Indiana beat Orlando 97-87; Miami topped Chicago 107-95; and the Lakers beat the Clippers 116-103.
BATTLE FOR LA: No Kobe, no problem. The Los Angeles Lakers stunned the Clippers 116-103 as Xavier Henry and the reserves paved the way. With Kobe Bryant watching in street clothes behind Pau Gasol and Steve Nash on the Lakers’ bench, Jodie Meeks scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers spoiled Clippers coach Doc Rivers’ debut.
RETURN OF THE KING: LeBron James scored 17 points, Shane Battier made all four of his 3-point tries, and the Miami Heat took control with 17 straight second-quarter points on the way to spoiling Derrick Rose’s return and beating the Chicago Bulls 107-95 on Tuesday night.
The Heat trailed 9-2 early, then outscored Chicago 52-24 over the remainder of the first half and finished with seven players in double figures. Miami also contained Derrick Rose, who was playing his first game since injuring his knee in April 2012. Rose finished with 12 points in 34 minutes. Carlos Boozer carried the Bulls, scoring 31 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
EVERYBODY PLAYS: Mike D’Antoni said the Lakers might use 11 players in many games this season, since he saw little separation in training camp between the fourth and 11th players on his roster. He was true to his word in the first half of the season opener, using 11 players before halftime. The strategy continued as the reserves scored 76 of the team’s points.
MONEY MAY: Floyd Mayweather Jr. sat courtside at Staples Center next to Diddy. Boxing’s pound-for-pound champion recently bought an apartment across the street in a luxury development, and he spends much of his time between training camps in Hollywood.
At halftime, Mayweather shook hands with Steve Nash. Fans leaned around Mayweather’s imposing bodyguards to get photos.
NO KOBE: The Lakers opened a season without Kobe Bryant on the floor for the first time since 2006.
Bryant is still recovering from surgery on his torn Achilles tendon last April. Coach Mike D’Antoni doesn’t know whether Kobe will be tweeting during games, as he did occasionally last year, but is confident he’s doing everything possible to return.
“We want to get him back as soon as we can, so he’s really concentrating on that,” D’Antoni said. “He talks to the guys on the side. He’ll take Nick (Young) to the side, and I’ll see him talking to different guys. He’ll be there. We touch base all the time, and I’ll get his opinion.”
LET THE BANNERS FLY: Doc Rivers made preseason headlines when he directed the Clippers to cover up the Lakers’ championship banners with larger-than-life portraits of his players during Clippers home games.
Since the Lakers were the home team in Tuesday’s opener, the banners were hanging unobstructed on the Staples Center wall. Rivers took the opportunity to make it clear he meant no disrespect to the 16-time champions down the hallway.
“I didn’t do that because, ‘Man, I don’t like the Lakers,'” Rivers said. “That was no intent at all, and I’ve said that 100 times. That was about, ‘We’re the Clippers, and when we play in our arena, it should be our arena.’ It’s just like thousands of other arenas around the country where two teams share.”
But the longtime Celtics coach slightly wavered from that description a moment later.
“That 2010 banner, I’ve got to say I don’t like seeing,” Rivers said of the banner celebrating the Lakers’ last win over Boston in the NBA finals. “I can ‘fess up to that part.”
HOME COOKING: Paul George and Roy Hibbert picked up where they left off last season leading Indiana to a 97-87 win over Orlando. The two-man tandem looked every bit as dominant in the season opener as they did leading the Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals last season.
George’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter gave Indiana a 69-64 lead and sparked the decisive 17-4 run to open the fourth.
Hibbert nearly matched his career-high for rebounds (17) in the first half. He had eight points but left the game midway through the fourth quarter after injuring his knee in a spill underneath his own basket. Team officials said it was not serious and he could have returned.
But it was George’s 3 that provided the spark Indiana needed to seize control.
“I just think tonight was opening night nerves and jitters and feeling a different environment and different vibe for the first time,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.
NO MORE DELAYS: LeBron James knew it was coming.
He threw an alley-oop lob to Chris Andersen with 20.7 seconds left in the first half, and the ball sort of caromed back to him after the play. As decades of instinct told him to do, he grabbed it.
That’s a no-no this season.
James was whistled for delay of game, a point of emphasis for the league this season in an effort to speed up play. James had a resigned look on his face, knowing the call was coming.
A look at the scoreboard probably put him in a better mood: The Heat led 54-33 at halftime.
ROUGH START: Maybe they were blinded by the rings which weighed nearly 5 ounces each and included 242 round-cut diamonds, 1½ carats of custom baguette-cut diamonds, and three black onyx stones totaling 10.3 carats, but Miami and Chicago got off to a slow start. The Heat lead 17-15 after one quarter as neither team could find much rhythm on offense.
PRESIDENTIAL TWEET: Pat Riley, the President of the Miami Heat, received his ninth NBA championship ring on Tuesday night.
Barack Obama, the President of the United States, was rooting for the other guys.
At 7:07 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, about an hour before tipoff, the following message — “Welcome back, @drose. (hashtag)BullsNation” — was posted to Obama’s Twitter account.
Probably a good chance it’ll get brought up when the Heat visit the White House sometime later this season in recognition of their 2013 NBA title. Obama makes no secret of the fact that he’s a Bulls fan.
CELEBRATION: Tuesday was a day for Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade to celebrate. There was a new banner for his team to raise, a third NBA championship team for his finger, and an 11th pro season for him to begin.
Oh, and there was birthday cake as well.
Wade’s longtime girlfriend, actress Gabrielle Union, turned 41 on Tuesday night. And a few months ago, when Wade saw the schedule for the first time, his first thought was that “we can’t lose on my lady’s birthday.”
How did he do on the birthday-present shopping front?
“Solid,” Wade said. “What can you do? There really isn’t much you can do. A couple nice gifts.”
For the record, Wade will be working on his birthday this year as well. He turns 32 on Jan. 17, a night the Heat play in Philadelphia.
BIG BIRD: Larry Bird has been a larger-than-life personality in his home state.
On Tuesday night, fans got to see just how big. A statue of Bird, which will be dedicated at his alma mater, Indiana State, next weekend was on display inside the Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the Pacers’ season opener.
The statue, which shows Bird in a shooting motion and an Indiana State uniform, stands 15-feet tall, and though Bird said he was “sort of embarrassed” by it, he was happy that it the statue is taller than Magic Johnson’s on the Michigan State campus.
“It should be, c’mon,” Bird said with a chuckle.
Pacers fans won’t get to see it for long. The dedication of the statue is scheduled for Nov. 9, before the Sycamores face Ball State at Terre Haute, Ind.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse is one of the few newer NBA arenas that does not have any permanent statues, so when Bird, a former Pacers coach and the current president of basketball operations, was asked whether he would support putting one in for Reggie Miller, Bird was in favor.
“My feeling was always more along the lines of get your number retired and those sorts of things,” Bird said. “But if they put one in, I would be the first one to see it.”
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