Posted Jan 13 2012 10:26AM
• Got to hand it to Mike Brown. No sooner does life as new Lakers coach settle into relative calm -- the early-season screeching giving way to a string of victories -- then he sets himself up for searing scrutiny by playing Kobe Bryant an average of 36.8 minutes the first 12 games. Bryant looks great, as usual, and has a bounce again, whether thanks to the offseason treatment in Germany or the extended rest of the lockout. But no way should he be threatening to lead the league in minutes after barely being able to practice in 2010-11. This will be worth remembering in April and May.
• More good news for the East-leading Bulls. Nikola Mirotic, a long-term investment as the 23rd pick in the 2011 Draft, is drawing very positive reviews playing for Real Madrid in the second-best league in the world. "Game after game, he's gaining confidence," said the European scout for one NBA team, "and you can't say he's still a 20-year-old kid." The point being that Mirotic is 20 but doesn't look it. When he will come to the NBA is unclear. The greater certainty is that Chicago got a power-forward prospect who has the chance to deliver a great return for a late-first selection. The Bulls seem to do well with the number 23.
• There is the marketing accomplishment of reaching 10,000 season tickets during an offseason with a lockout and an expected Chris Paul departure. Then there is what happens once the doors open. The Hornets are back to having attendance issues, with an average draw of 14,516, ahead of only the 76ers and Pistons heading into Thursday's games. That's a drop from the 15,131 last season in New Orleans. A slight decrease with a limited sample size -- five of 33 home games -- is not a surprise. But with so much focus on wanting to show how the city will support a team, the turnstile count is a discouraging signal.
• Speaking of which: A big finish last season in Philadelphia, a 7-3 start to this one, new ownership, an energetic coach, a fun team to watch that scores and defends ... and 29th in attendance? On the other hand, the Pistons, Raptors, Pacers and Kings have been the visitors so far. The early schedule did the 76ers business side no favors.
• The sidebar to Jamaal Tinsley's comeback in Utah is that the Jazz are not the vanilla organization covering themselves in bubble wrap most perceive. Late owner Larry Miller was known to get in shouting matches with opponents during games, Jerry Sloan technicals were common, some unique individuals have been on the roster and their fans have a terrible reputation for mean-spirited treatment of opponents. The franchise expects employees, including players, to be solid citizens. But it does not expect flawless people.
• Saturday night in Salt Lake City will be interesting as the Jazz face the Nets, just for the reaction as Deron Williams plays his first game there as an opponent. The guess is that the greeting will be a mix of cheers and boos. He forced last year's trade by making it clear he would not re-sign with Utah, and there is a perception he had at least some hand in Sloan's departure. But Saturday should also be a reminder of how well the Jazz did in the deal that sent D-Will out. The Jazz may well be better in two years, and for many seasons after that, with this roster plus the other Draft picks still to come from the deal.
• Recommended reading: New serenity for Luol Deng, from K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
• This is when everyone learns a lot more about the new Clippers. After getting off pretty easy so far -- seven games the first 17 days, with just one back-to-back -- the first serious schedule test began Wednesday with a win over the Heat and leads into the Lakers on Saturday, followed by three games in three nights, capped by the Mavericks at Staples Center. They'd be wise to find some defense and rebounding along the way.
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Damian Lillard gives the assist to Robin Lopez for the flush.
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DeMar DeRozan rips through the lane and crushes in the right-hand hammer.