The Golden State Warriors received their 2022 championship rings. They also defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 123-109, and the Boston Celtics topped the Philadelphia 76ers 126-117 as the NBA opened its 2022-23 season.
And TNT’s Charles Barkley was in midseason form when addressing Lakers guard Russell Westbrook’s role with the Lakers. “I admire him. I respect him,” Barkley said. “It’s time for the Lakers to move him. They are taking all his joy out of life and basketball … and it pisses me off.”
There rest of the league’s teams open the season Wednesday and Thursday, including the much anticipated return of New Orleans forward Zion Williamson, who missed all of last season with a foot injury.
Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from Tuesday:
TNT’s Inside the NBA on-air crew
Turner Sports on Monday announced long-term extensions for Inside the NBA’s Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal. Terms were not disclosed but you can count on that crew being together for at least the next five seasons. That’s good news for basketball fans. ‘Inside the NBA’ isn’t caught up in breaking news or breaking down all the nuances of the pick-and-roll or analytics. There are other places for that. Those who like the show get it: it’s an entertainment program, and Johnson is the perfect traffic cop for the irreverent show.
Warriors fans and franchise
Celebrating the 2022 championship one more time on Tuesday on Ring Night, the Warriors and their fans better make sure they appreciate these moments and this era. Because this doesn’t happen often. Outside of Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers with their 17 titles, no franchise has won more than the Warriors’ seven championships and four of those have happened in the previous eight seasons. There will come a day when Steph Curry (33 points, seven assists, six rebounds vs. the Lakers), Klay Thompson and Draymond Green aren’t playing for the Warriors, and the wins and titles won’t come as often as they do now.
James Harden had 16 points, made all eight free throw attempts and was 2-for-3 on 3-pointers and 3-for-4 from the field – just in the first quarter. He was fouled on a 3-point attempt three times – made six free throws and completed a four-point play. Looking more healthy and in shape than he did last season, Harden finished with 35 points eight rebounds and seven assists (alongside Joel Embiid’s 26 points, 15 rebounds and Tyrese Maxey’s 21 points), and that’s the kind of Harden the Sixers need if they are going to get to the conference finals for the first time since 2001.
Last season, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown put to rest any talk that the two couldn’t coexist. They continued their dynamic 1-2 act – each scoring 35 points on a combined 27-for-44 shooting from the field. Tatum also had 12 rebounds. As they continue to improve – Tatum is in MVP candidate territory and Brown is on the verge of All-NBA status – the Celtics should remain contenders in the East.
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla
Under difficult circumstances just before training camp opened, Mazzulla took over for suspended coach Ime Udoka (More on that later). The youngest coach in the league along with Utah’s Will Hardy, Mazzulla earned his first win in the season opener. The son of a high school coach, Mazzulla played at West Virginia and began his coaching career in 2011. Mazzulla was a behind-the-bench assistant last season, but Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens believed in Mazzulla, who has earned the respect of Celtics players. It was a great start for Mazzulla and the Celtics.
The suspended Celtics coach should be on the sideline and getting the Celtics ready for another deep playoff run and possibly a championship. Instead, he is suspended for this season for what the team called “violations of team policies,” and while the organization didn’t say this, Udoka had an inappropriate relationship with a team staffer. In just his first season as an NBA head coach in 2021-22, Udoka displayed a high aptitude for coaching, helping the Celtics go from 23-24 to 51-31. He likely will never coach the Celtics again, and his NBA future is in doubt.
The Sixers retooled their bench in the offseason, acquiring De’Anthony Melton, Montrezl Harrell and Danuel House Jr., but they combined for just eight points, and Boston’s bench outscored Philadelphia’s bench 34-11.
Lakers’ 3-point shooting
The Lakers opened the game 1-for-15 on 3-pointers and finished 10-for-40 from that range. That’s one area the Lakers need drastic improvement. Last season, Los Angeles was 22nd in 3-point percentage and 18th in 3-pointers made. LeBron James (31 points, 14 rebounds, eights assists) was 3-for-10 on 3s, Anthony Davis (27 points), Lonnie Walker IV and Juan Toscano-Anderson each 0-for-3, Russell Westbrook (19 points, 11 rebounds) 1-for-3 and Patrick Beverley 1-for-5.
Transition take fouls
In the offseason, the NBA approved a harsher penalty for transition take fouls, which the league calls, “an intentional foul committed by a defender to deprive the offensive team of a fast-break opportunity.” This season, when the team on defense commits a transition take foul, the offensive team will be awarded one free throw to be taken by any player in the game at that time and the offensive team will retain possession of the basketball. Last season, there were more than 1,700 take fouls, new NBA executive vice president and head of basketball operations Joe Dumars said.
The take foul had become a stain on the NBA game, and FIBA, the international basketball federation, had long ago made the practice a significant penalty. It was long past time the NBA took similar action.
There was just one take foul on Tuesday.