We’ve had another busy weekend of action with the world’s finest basketball teams, with plenty of storylines being written day-by-day. From the domination of the East to the unpredictable microcosm of the West, there’s been an old-school feel to this season’s action so far, with many pointing to the return of the Bulls and Knicks as a nostalgia trip for all those who followed the peak of NBA that was the nineties.
Quite like the nineties, we’re seeing the results of rule changes and watching the refereeing of games become less whistle-happy, something that Brooklyn's guards might find quite agitating in the coming months. Let’s get into the biggest stories…
Referees to stop rewarding ‘flops’
The art of deceiving a sporting official isn’t unique to a sport. Cricketers shout incredibly loudly for wickets. Footballers roll around for free kicks. Basketballers throw themselves into opponents to win free throws. But to most players in the NBA in recent years, there’s something quite vexatious about the way certain guards and forwards use their jump shots to earn extra points or to guarantee some free attempts at the hoop from the foul line. It was becoming an epidemic in the league, with defenders approaching their opposition with their hands behind their back, just to prevent a foul being given for something they can’t control.
Fear no more, as the NBA’s rules for ‘flopping’ have been amended. Now when an offensive player is shooting, if they jump into a defending player while shooting with little intention of making a shot, then it will not be given. The rule is interpretive and the referee will be left to give their subjective decision, but it can be pretty obvious how to stop these offences, and hopefully, the game will only improve with these changes.
Paul George blames the new ball for bad shots
The NBA changed their provider of balls last year, after spending 38 years in the capable hands of Spalding, they’ve chosen to opt for the new line of Wilson balls (Not the Tom Hanks kind). With any kind of change to the furniture like this, there’s bound to be a few raised eyebrows from those who have to use it every day, as well as from the fans who can’t believe that changing a ball would manage to affect the best basketball players in the world. Similar complaints were heard when the league tried to move from the old leather ball to a new synthetic material, which lasted mere months before it was returned back to the old ones, due to complaints from the players.
Many star players' shooting averages have taken a dip since the start of the new season, but no one was quite prepared to blame the new Wilson balls, until now at least. Clippers guard Paul George came out last night addressing the change, saying “Not to make an excuse or anything, but it’s a different basketball. It doesn’t have the same touch or softness that the Spalding ball had.”
Curry and Morant top the scoring charts for October
Sunday was Halloween, marking not only the start of the ‘Holiday season' but also the end of the first month of NBA action. That means it’s time to take an early look at the league leaders. Who else but Steph Curry would be topping the scoring charts, averaging 28.7 points per game so far this season but he doesn’t stand alone at the top. Grizzlies’ all-star guard Ja Morant is also tied on 28.7 points per game, and not only tops that leaderboard but also is tied first for points scored in the paint, alongside Lakers centre Anthony Davis.
At six foot two inches, Morant has excelled in the paint, a category that he probably wouldn’t be expected to get anywhere near, with his competitors all hanging around the seven-foot-tall description. It’s a testament to his abilities to be amongst the best players in the league, and long may it continue!
Brooklyn’s stars hit their milestones
It’s been a big few weeks for the Brooklyn Nets. After a sub-par start to the season, Steve Nash’s side have finally started to ramp up their performances, grabbing back-to-back home wins over the weekend over the Pacers and Pistons. The first man to hit a milestone was Kevin Durant, who reached 24,000 points last week against the Wizards and is only 292 points behind Allen Iverson, the 25th highest scorer in NBA history. With his current scoring average of around 27 points per game, it should only take KD 11 more games to overtake AI and become the third active player to sit in the top 25 scorers of all-time, with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony already on the board.
James Harden got his first triple-double of the season, the 59th of his career, putting him level with Larry Bird in seventh place for the most career triple-doubles. LaMarcus Aldridge finally brought up 20,000 career points, making him the player in the league’s history to do so, and the seventh active player to hit the milestone. Finally, Joe Harris, the longest-serving Net overtook Jason Kidd for most three-pointers scored in the franchise's history, with his 814th splash since joining Brooklyn from Cleveland back in 2016-17.
Knicks-Raptors mark NBA’s 75th anniversary
It was November 1, 1946, when the Toronto Huskies welcomed the New York Knickerbockers in what would become the first game in NBA history. To mark such an occasion, the Toronto Raptors came to Madison Square Garden on a night that celebrates the 75 years that the NBA has been around. The Raptors might’ve won but it was a great night for all involved, regardless of the scoreline.
Toronto boss Nick Nurse reflected on his first impression of Toronto and discovered that the old Maple Leaf Gardens that hosted the inaugural game, is now in fact a supermarket and athletics centre. The Knicks honoured Walt Frazier, Bob McAdoo, Earl Monroe, and Peter DeBusschere (representing his father, Dave) as they were selected to be part of the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team.