Zion Williamson stuns, Lakers stumble: What we saw in the NBA’s opening week


The NBA season is only a few days old, and there’s already been a massive debut from Zion Williamson, a disappointment from the Lakers, a meltdown from the Mavs, and some new bling at the Bay.

Our Panel of NBA Reporters — Rick Bucher, Melissa Rohlin and Yaron Weitzman – addressed what they’ve seen so far and what they’re looking forward to next.

Who had the most notable opening night?

Books: It must be Zion. It had been well over a year since we had seen him play. The vacuum was filled with questions and references to his interest in staying in New Orleans. All of that was brushed aside by his crisp and quick looks as the Pelicans drew everyone’s attention by embarrassing the Nets on their home ground (25 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists in a 130-108 win) . I’d keep an eye on the chemistry between him and Brandon Ingram — you can see BI pushing to find his shot after Zion dominated the ball — but this time last year I was opposite both the Pels and opposite Zion very skeptical and now I’m cautiously optimistic about a renaissance for both.

Rohlin: Zion. He’s been a big question mark this season. Would he be in shape? Would he go with the pelicans? Would he finally be as dominant as projected? Zion answered these questions in a 25-point, 30-minute performance. He’s back and he’s looking good. The question now is… could he actually be a contender for MVP this season?

Zion Williamson dominates in season debut

Zion Williamson dominates in season debut

Zion has faced many bouts of criticism throughout its career, and Colin Cowherd explains why it’s time to shut it down.

Weitzman: I wanted to say Zion, because I was in Brooklyn for this game and watching him bang the Nets after a year’s hiatus was impressive. But let’s add some variety to this list, so how about Ben Simmons’ fights? It’s never a good sign when you have more fouls than points (six fouls, four points) or when your teammates feel the need to cheer you up after the first game.

I know he’s still getting his feet under him after missing an entire season, but I still think it’s fair to say that his performance to date – the fouls combined with the lack of aggressiveness – is worrying was.

What’s the one moment you can’t stop in the first few games of this NBA season?

Books: Ja Morant recovers from a turnover to backboard a Jalen Brunson layup and feed Brandon Clarke for an alley-oop dunk at the other end in OT. Second pick: Zion blows from Ben Simmons for a layup. Captures the return to action for both. Third, watch the Lakers go into warm-ups for almost three minutes and not do a single 3-pointer. When warming up.

Rohlin: The Warriors collect their championship rings.

The only thing that can smooth out the drama is winning. The Warriors know how to win, they were reminded of that ahead of their season opener when they picked up their 16-karat yellow diamonds. Klay Thompson couldn’t stop smiling. Stephen Curry couldn’t stop yelling. And Draymond Green looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. If there’s a team that can overcome drama, it’s this one.

Steph Curry’s Warriors blow out Lakers

Steph Curry's Warriors blow out Lakers

Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe react to the Warriors’ opening win over the Lakers.

Weitzman: It’s a bit random, but there was a play in the fourth quarter of the Pelicans’ opener where Zion drove the ball down the lane from left wing, threw up a left-handed floater and missed it wide. What was so impressive? Within what felt like half a second he was back on the other side of the suit, grabbing the offensive rebound and then putting the ball off the glass (Check out the piece here). Though he missed that too – Larry Nance Jr. picked up the putback and two points – and though it wasn’t one of his thundering dunks, to me it was perhaps the most obvious demonstration of his physical dominance, and imposing and different is Zion. He was basically on the other side of the rim before any Nets player even realized he was about to jump on the rebound.

Has anything you’ve seen this week already changed your mind? one of your preseason forecasts?

Books: Not from our last round table, except maybe the Lakers will be worse than I expected. We haven’t talked about the Knicks — for good reason — but they just might be worth watching.

Rohlin: Yes, yes, I know. I said the Lakers were contenders, which probably led to this question. To be fair, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook had only played 21 games together last season. I thought we should give them a real chance. I was wrong. After just two games, I’m tucking my tail between my legs and running as far as I can from that prediction. Things are not looking good in LakerLand. Westbrook is as lost as ever. You cannot shoot beyond the bow. There’s more drama on this team than Hollywood. If GM Rob Pelinka doesn’t make some major changes soon, this team could be in real trouble – again.

Weitzman: Yes, I’m worried about the networks. Joe Harris and Seth Curry are their only two shooters; both come from injuries and are already missing games. And I think they made a mistake stabbing center because I can’t get over that equation: Any lineup with Ben Simmons at five is too small and gets smacked in the paint (like the Pelicans did in the opener), and any lineup featuring Simmons and their other big Nic Claxton, who is also not a shooter, will have spacing issues. I don’t know how to solve this.

Nets fight in the opener

Nets fight in the opener

The crew identifies Brooklyn’s biggest problem.

What are you looking forward to most in this weekend’s games?

Books: Suns-Clippers on Sunday, Raptors-Nets on Friday, Grizzlies-Mavericks on Saturday. In this order. How are the Mavs and Nets reacting to disappointing season debuts?

Rohlin: Agree with Ric here. I’m looking forward to watching the Clippers play the Suns. These are two teams that could go deep west. It will be interesting to see how they match early on. Kawhi Leonard is back after missing all of last season with a partial cruciate ligament rupture in his right knee. If he stays healthy, the Clippers could play in June. As for the Suns, they had an embarrassing flameout in the playoffs last season in the form of a 33-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of their second round. You will want to start this season strong.

Weitzman: I want to see how Nikola Jokic looks on defense against the Warriors’ five-out offense (the Nuggets and Dubs play Friday night). Also, the Lakers and Sixers, both of whom lost their first two games, each have their first “this should be a win” matchup of the season. The Sixers host the Spurs on Saturday and the Lakers host the Trail Blazers on Sunday. If either of these teams loses, we can all agree that Monday’s debate shows will be fun.

Read more NBA stories:

Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has authored two books, Rebound, about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, and Yao: A Life In Two Worlds. He also has a daily podcast, On The Ball with Ric Bucher. Follow him on Twitter @Ric Bucher.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She has previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He is the author of “Refueling to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Boldest Trial in Professional Sports History.”.” Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

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