Oh… and just in case you were wondering if James Harden can play… Count me among the group who thought “very good player, but he ain’t dumping in 37 and 12 too many times this season” after his scintillating opener against Detroit. And I was right. All he did last night was follow it up with 45 points against Atlanta on the road. His 82 points in his first two games will steal headlines, but Jeremy Lin’s 21/10/7 game last night tells me the Rockets might actually have something cooking down in Houston.
So to recap, after five days, James Harden is the NBA MVP and the Los Angeles Lakers are going 0-82.
Yeah. It’s EARLY…. (deeeeeep breaths Laker fans)
We are 3-0-1 with featured picks so far this NBA season, so let’s get on to Saturday’s free pick of the day.
Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets -6 (Total: 184)
It is great to see basketball back in New York City (unless of course if you are a Heat fan – wow…). The Brooklyn Nets will open their new arena in their new city a few days later than expected after Thursday’s cancellation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, but I doubt fans will be any less enthused to see their new-look Nets tonight. Brooklyn was busy in the offseason. Besides moving from New Jersey, they also added underrated (yes, UNDER rated – it’s easy to bag on his contract being a little too large, but at the end of the day he is a top five small forward in the league) Joe Johnson. Paired with Deron Williams, the Nets have one of the best backcourts in the NBA.
The Nets will also rebound nearly as well as any team in the East with the tandem of Kris Humphrey and Brooke Lopez. Lopez has taken a beating (except by Charles Barkley…) from being directly contrasted against Dwight Howard all summer long. But take away Dwight and Bynum, and Lopez is in the discussion along with Roy Hibbert and a few others for third best center in the NBA. Add in Gerald Wallace and MarShon Brooks and the Nets might just have the second best first six in the East. I am looking forward to seeing this team gel and develop to see if they can emerge as a legit contender (as much as anyone can be legit in the East with the Heat around).
Toronto looked good in their opener against Indy…. Until the final five minutes when they let a 10-point lead evaporate into yet another disappointing home loss. Tonight, they face an environment I don’t think they’ll be prepared to handle. They are playing a better team, who is opening their brand new arena, in first Brooklyn sporting event after the wake of the worst natural disaster to strike the city in 50 years. It is going to be loud and it is going to be emotional.
I like the Nets over the Raps anywhere this game is played, but tonight, here, in this environment, I like them BIG. They are laying six, and the number doesn’t even make me blink. Give me the new-look Nets opening the new Barclays Center in style.
Free Pick: Brooklyn Nets -6