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Can you call yourself more dominant in a hypothetical situation with fewer rings?
Do these five slow starts concern us?
As the NBA took Tuesday off to observe Election Day, my Week 3 Power Rankings dominated NBA conversations. And by dominated, I mean some people read and talked about them — maybe even left a comment.
Several teams are off to hot starts, and we love celebrating that success. There also are several teams off to slow starts, so we need to figure out if they’re in trouble. We’re dealing with a small sample size, but The Bounce’s Worried Meter doesn’t care about sample sizes, only about warning if you should be concerned. Disclaimer: The Bounce’s Worried Meter measures from least worried (😱) to most worried (😱😱😱😱😱).
Here are five teams we’ll judge with the Worried Meter:
Worried Meter: 😱😱
- Phoenix Suns (No. 11, 3-4, plus-1.8 net rating: Bradley Beal’s back is my only worry — and maybe the early workload for Kevin Durant. However, I’m not judging or worrying about the Suns until I see their Big Three of Durant, Beal and Devin Booker in action.
Worried Meter: 😱
Windy City workout. pic.twitter.com/b9dTG9NqAU
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) November 7, 2023
- Los Angeles Lakers (No. 12, 3-4, plus-3.5 net rating: It feels like LeBron James must do too much for the Lakers to win, and I’m worried about him burning out. Once again, the team shoots 3s like nameless henchmen aim at James Bond. And Anthony Davis still won’t grab the torch.
Worried Meter: 😱😱😱😱
- Sacramento Kings (No. 17, 2-4, minus-5.0 net rating: The Kings were just demolished by the Rockets twice in two days in Houston and no longer sport the best offense ever. But De’Aaron Fox’s absence helps explain why they’re struggling. I believe the Kings will be fine.
Worried Meter: 😱😱
- Miami Heat (No. 19, 3-4, minus-3.1 net rating: The offense remains bad, but Jimmy Butler hasn’t gotten going yet. Once Miami’s season is on the line, they can focus, as last season proved. Plus, the East is weak. I think they’ll figure it out.
Worried Meter: 😱😱😱
The Latest From Shams
West contenders’ key injury updates
Davis left Monday’s Lakers 108-107 loss to the Heat due to hip/groin spasms, finishing with just nine points and six rebounds in 25 minutes.
He said postgame that he expects to be on the court tonight in Houston, and I’m told the plan as of this morning is for Davis to play against the Rockets after undergoing tests Tuesday to make sure there was nothing structurally wrong with the injury. Davis was listed as questionable on the Lakers’ injury report this morning.
- Elsewhere in LA, the Clippers’ Terance Mann is listed as questionable due to an ankle sprain. But I’m told the expectation is that he’ll make his season debut tonight against the Nets under a minutes restriction.
- As noted here yesterday, the Suns are hoping to have their Big Three in full over the next week to 10 days. IOnereturn may come tonight, as Bradley Beal, who has yet to play this season because of a back injury, has been upgraded from out to questionable on Phoenix’s injury report ahead of its game against the Bulls. Booker, as of this morning, was still listed as out (calf strain).
Back to you, Zach.
Wemby’s Good Company
Victor Wembanyama makes his MSG debut
Tonight, Victor Wembanyama debuts at Madison Square Garden, when the Spurs face the Knicks in New York. Debuts — and any star performances — at the Garden are always big deals. Players love playing in front of MSG crowds. The big-time performances seem even larger there.
And Wemby gets his turn to add to the lore of MSG debuts and his mythology. If he has a great game tonight, it will be a cherished moment in a long line of big performances by the 19-year-old, 7-4 phenom. Even without a big game, Wemby will check off debuting at the Garden from his bucket list. Plus, he can top it next season, when he returns to MSG.
Victor Wembanyama is expected to play in his first NBA game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
The legendary venue has hosted some of the most memorable events in sports.
In honor, The Athletic revisits memorable first NBA games at MSG ⤵️https://t.co/phKLECWM0g
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) November 8, 2023
How is this for a coincidence? On this very date in 1984 Michael Jordan played his first NBA game at the Garden. Jordan led the Bulls to a 121-106 victory over the Knicks with 33 points in a duel with Bernard King, who had 34 points. Considering Wemby is almost a foot taller than MJ, the similarities kind of end there.
However, we might get at least one special MSG moment from Wemby. If he can recreate this photo against any Knicks player with Ben Stiller, Jerry Ferrara or Spike Lee in the background, it’ll all be worth it.
Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images
LeBron believes he’d be as dominant without a Miami stint
If you checked Twitter on the NBA’s day off, you might have come across a tweet from LeBron James, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, a four-time champion and four-time NBA Finals MVP. He quote-tweeted an aggregation account saying LeBron believes he’d be just as dominant in his career if he’d never gone to the Miami Heat in 2010. His response:
“You damn right I would still be! I’m CHOSEN! Ain’t nothing changing that! Maybe less 💍’s but DOMINANT from start to finish 👑”
It warrants examining our idea of dominance. Was LeBron always destined to be the all-time scoring leader? I’ve never bought the “I’m not even a scorer” branding he and others threw out there for him, considering he’s had a top-six scoring average of all time since 2008. Health permitting, he was always going to break the record.
Was LeBron destined to win titles? At least one? Absolutely. Let’s say he goes to New York, Chicago or Juventus (assuming they transfer to the Eastern Conference). He was going to get at least one ring. Nobody that great goes without winning a title.
But I don’t know if you can be considered as dominant while winning fewer rings, though that could be nitpicking greatness too much. I also don’t love diving into RINGZZZZ culture, even with a day pass. I do think the Heat helped LeBron learn how to focus even more. Hall of Famers Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh certainly helped.
However, if LeBron could win a ring for Dan Gilbert, he could have won a ring anywhere. Though I’m inclined to agree with LeBron, he also loves moving the goalposts on how he’s compared to Jordan. And we know this is still all about being compared to MJ.
Tyronn Lue called Kawhi Leonard the Clippers’ best player. I mean … yeah?
The Wolves’ dominant defense owes thanks to Anthony Edwards and Rudy Gobert.
Is Ausar Thompson already a historically great shot blocker?
Jay King had a great breakdown of the Celtics using Kristaps Porziņģis’ defensive versatility.
The Joel Embiid–Tyrese Maxey pick-and-roll is a massive problem for defenses.
Screen Game (All times Eastern)
- Main Screen: Warriors–Nuggets (10 p.m. ESPN). Maybe no Jamal Murray in this one, but these are the two best teams in the West and the last two champs.
- Second Screen: Spurs-Knicks (7:30 p.m. ESPN). Wemby makes his Madison Square Garden debut.
- League Pass Game of the Night: Celtics-76ers (7 p.m.). Great measuring stick game for the Sixers.
(Top photo: Cole Burston / Getty Images)