About Last Night

About Last Night: Returns and debuts across the NBA

Davis and Love are back, while Harris, Portis and Barnes join new teams

One day after a hyperactive NBA trade deadline, many players debuted with their new squad. Several others returned from long absences due to injury. Let’s dive right in.

Back in action

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

When Jimmy Butler played his first home game for the Timberwolves after requesting a trade, there was a mixed reaction among the crowd when he was introduced in the starting lineup.

Some fans booed. Some fans cheered. Many felt awkward.

But after a while, the mixture of boos and cheers were drowned out by the latter as Butler went to work and posted 33 points in a victory for the home team.

The scene was somewhat similar to how things went for Anthony Davis on Friday ― against Butler’s old team at that. Davis, who requested a trade a week and a half ago but wasn’t dealt before the deadline, returned to the Pelicans’ lineup, shrugged off early jeers and went off for 32 points in a 122-117 home triumph.

Davis had initially been out of the lineup for three weeks due to a left index finger injury, but once he was healthy, the Pelicans held the All-Star forward out until after the trade deadline had passed. With no deal done, the team announced Thursday night he’d play the remainder of the season.

Meanwhile, Davis was held out during the entire fourth quarter on Friday. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said he purposefully limited his minutes since Davis had been sidelined since Jan. 18.

“I was not going to have him – first game back – play 38, 40 minutes,” Gentry said afterwards. “We had talked about playing between 22 and 25 minutes. That’s why he didn’t go back in the game. I thought he played well the minutes that he was in there and did a great job. He was typical Anthony.”

As for the boos, which might be sprinkled in at Smoothie King Center throughout the rest of the season, Davis doesn’t appear to have a problem with it.

“I don’t care,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me.”

Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets

When Nets guard Caris LeVert was carried off the court in a stretcher in November, it looked as if his promising season was over. But the third-year player, who was diagnosed with a dislocated foot, was fortunate enough to avoid any fractures. He missed nearly three months and was welcomed to a standing ovation in Brooklyn.

LeVert scored 11 points and tied his career high with five steals, four of which came within a span of four minutes.

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers

After missing the last 50 games due to left foot surgery, Kevin Love returned to the Cavaliers’ lineup on an extremely tight minutes restriction. He scored four points in six minutes, but backed down former teammate Jeff Green for his first bucket since Oct. 24.

New faces in new places

Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers

While everyone was interested in watching how Harris would look in his Sixers debut ― especially alongside the team’s other three All-Star caliber players ― it was the fifth member of their starting lineup that torched Denver all night. JJ Redick carried the team with a season-high 34 points and overshadowed Harris’ debut, but the newly acquired Sixer was still effective in a 117-110 win over the Nuggets. Harris poured in 14 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists.

Bobby Portis, Washington Wizards

The best debut took place in the nation’s capital, where Bobby Portis lit the Cavaliers on fire with a dominant performance off the bench. In the game’s first six minutes, the former Chicago Bull dropped 16 points on 6-for-6 shooting. He ended the night with 30 points as Washington handled Cleveland 119-106.

Jabari Parker, Washington Wizards

After Friday’s win, Portis said he thinks “the Wizards got a steal with me and Jabari because we’re two versatile bigs.” While it’s far too early to determine if the first half of that statement is accurate, Parker showcased an array of skills in his Wizards debut, enough to approach a triple-double. The 6-foot-8 forward recorded seven points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. For reference: The last Wizard to post that stat line without any turnovers was Wes Unseld in 1980.

His most impressive play came when he split two defenders for an aggressive dunk.

Otto Porter Jr., Chicago Bulls

To the other side of the trade: Porter played his first game with Chicago and connected on his first three 3-point attempts (although Portis wasn’t that impressed). His presence helped a floundering Bulls team take down a hot Brooklyn squad as he finished with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field.

He even broke some ankles in the process:

Other debuts

  • Harrison Barnes, Kings: 12 points, 7 rebounds vs. Heat
  • Marquese Chriss, Cavaliers: 13 points, 8 rebounds vs. Wizards
  • Stanley Johnson, Pelicans: 6 points, 2 rebounds vs. Timberwolves
  • Tyler Johnson, Suns: 5 points, 2 assists vs. Warriors
  • Boban Marjanovic, 76ers: 4 points, 2 rebounds vs. Nuggets
  • Thon Maker, Pistons: 0 points, 1 rebounds vs. Knicks

Dunk contest ready

Dennis Smith Jr., who registered a new career high 31 points in just his third game with the New York Knicks, is clearly ready for next Saturday night.

Malone’s jersey retirement

An exciting night in Philly included a special halftime moment when the 76ers sent Moses Malone’s No. 2 jersey to the rafters. The late Malone played a total of five seasons in Philadelphia and helped bring the city a championship in 1983, the same year he won his third Most Valuable Player award.

Malone was reportedly uncomfortable with the idea of his jersey being retired in Philadelphia, but said he’d approve under one condition: The Sixers would have to add 48 extra names to the banner. Those additions? Every teammate Malone had with the 76ers.

Each player’s name surrounded the edge of the banner, joining the Hall of Famer and 13-time All-Star in the Philadelphia rafters.