The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the internet
Dwyane Wade admits to Goodwill that he has some nerves about returning to Miami as a member of the Bulls tomorrow night, but he isn’t interested in romanticizing his time with the Heat. Wade reiterates that he’s holding no grudges against the organization he won three titles with, but he also makes it clearer than ever that he took the communication strategy of Pat Riley during free agency as disrespect. Once a presumed “Heat Lifer,” the future Hall of Famer suggests that title is only appropriate for Riley, who has now seen most of his prized acquisitions (Wade, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal) walk away from the franchise earlier than expected.
Thunder GM Sam Presti hasn’t stopped reshaping Oklahoma City’s roster since Kevin Durant left this summer, and his moves haven’t inspired confidence in Spinella. The Thunder have prioritized athleticism at the expense of shooting for an already space-challenged group, yet they sit at 6-1 on the young season. Defense has carried them in their most impressive victories, and Spinella breaks down the different looks they’re generating around Russell Westbrook on offense. Coach Billy Donovan will have to keep evolving his scheme to counter defenses bent on bottling up the lone remaining Thunder star.
Pau Gasol is in the process of transforming into the “aging star joining a contender” role, and his game has not been a simple plug-and-play in San Antonio. But the low-stress, ultra-competent basketball culture in Spurs Land has kept the burden on Gasol minuscule, and Gregg Popovich’s track record of adaption has chilled any distress about the areas in which the big man’s presence hasn’t worked out just yet (i.e. his poor fit alongside LaMarcus Aldridge).
The Wolves are everyone’s darling, and their 1-5 start is harshing our mellow. Despite their youth and complete lack of winning experience, expectations for an expedited development process accompanied coach Tom Thibodeau’s arrival. Harper insists (rightly) that a rough start to Minnesota’s season shouldn’t objectively worry anyone, but he also investigates the cause of the Wolves’ struggles: poor third-quarter performance. Youth is a factor, but an atrocious at-the-rim efficiency on both ends jumps out as the stat most responsible for their struggles in the third period.
There’s trouble in Orlando. The Magic roster was weird to begin with, but the one presumed certainty about the new additions was that the frontcourt would lock down the paint. Not only has Nikola Vucevic gotten even worse as a rim protector, but Bismack Biyombo has been meh and Serge Ibaka has been downright awful in that space. If the latter can’t buck the trend as the season unfolds, the trade to bring him in from Oklahoma City will have been an abject disaster.