ATLANTA — The college hoops season is young, but Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari’s verbal flop-and-forth at the Champions Classic in Atlanta Tuesday night was as entertaining as any midseason match-up.
Bo McCalebb was noticeably slowed by a wobbly ankle against Cantu, who dominated former number one in these very rankings, Fenerbahe Ulker, by a score of 82-58. That was good enough to give Cantu the big bump and yank the rug out from under the Turks.
For now, at least.
Not only did he install a new offense during camp; he had to do it with an offseason’s worth of fresh bodies. So after a loss in their fifth game, a single question divided most of the Basketball God Fearing world: should CSKA Moscow fire Ettore Messina?
Not the former Laker coach you were expecting? I’m sure this site’s got you covered somewhere.
After spending last year in Mike Brown’s ear as an assistant with the Lakers—Brown called him “one of the great basketball minds in the history of the sport”—the Italian coaching legend returned to CSKA Moscow, the club with whom he had won Euroleague titles in 2006 and 2008.
Messina also won with Kinder Bologna in 1998 and then again in 2001, thanks to 27 points from a 23-year-old Argentine guard named Manu Ginobili in game three of those finals.
If Messina could add a fifth trophy this season, he would become only the second coach in European basketball history to win five continental championships. Only Bozidar Maljkovic and Aleksandir Gomelskiy—for whom the Euroleague’s Coach of the Year trophy is named—have as many. Only Zeljko Obradovic has more, with eight.
But Messina’s fifth trophy felt more than just a few months away Thursday against Barcelona.
Tonight marked the twentieth time in James’ career that he finished either an assist or a rebound shy of a triple-double. But with 13.7 second left, nine assists to his credit and his Miami Heat up 91-89, LeBron rose up for a jumper that hit nothing but white nylon on its way down.
Another triple-double would have to wait. That’s fine with James, who gave the You know guys, it’s all about the wins answer in the locker room when asked about his string of narrow statistical misses.
“I am cursed,” James said. ”I said thank you to my teammates when I walked in here and seen the box score.”
Everyone laughed. Everyone wished they were so cursed.
The Rockets’ new $80 million man spoiled Atlanta’s home opener by dropping a career-high 45 points on the Hawks in Houston’s 109-102 win on Friday night.
Not a bad encore to his 37-point Rocket debut on Halloween. Working those mammoth stat lines into wins should be even more encouraging to Kevin McHale, Daryl Morey and everyone else (outside of Oklahoma City) who had a hand in making Harden so incredibly wealthy this week.
Averaging 39.5 PPG to open a season is insane. Ruthlessly thrashing defenses as the basketball world suspiciously monitors your every move and debates your merits as a franchise cornerstone is another level of crazy, entirely.
Or in Coach Kevin McHale’s words, “James went out and made play after play after play, off the dribble, attacking.”
DeShawn Stevenson tried to stick James whisker for whisker, but Harden got to the rim almost as easily in the half court as he did on the break and finished 14-of-17 from the floor and 15-of-17 from the free throw line.
After spending his first three professional years as mortar for the Great Wall of Kevin and Russell in Oklahoma City, Harden was traded—along with Lazar Hayward, Cole Aldrich and Daequan Cook—to the Rockets for Jeremy Lamb and draft picks shortly before the season got underway.
Houston has since signed Harden to an extension worth $80 million over five years. That much money, and that many years (the new CBA allows one five-year contract per team) can mean only one thing: Houston expects last season’s Sixth Man of the Year to be the Rockets’ Numero Uno.
He looks plenty comfortable in that role to this point.
“It’s different. It’s a lot different, you know, having basically the entire offense run through you,” Harden said after the game.
“I’ve gotta get used to it. Because it’s my job now.”
Harden’s backcourt bud, Jeremy Lin, thinks Harden not only does his own job well, but makes things easier on everyone else wearing red and white, too.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Lin said. ”He frees everybody up.”
“[Harden] knows what he’s doing, how to get to the basket. He can shoot, he can pass, he can rebound, so we’re thankful that he showed up.”