Since the re-start of the National Basketball Association in the Orlando “Bubble,” I’ve been able really able to concentrate on watching the games during the past week.
During the winter time, my attention is usually occupied with the high school games and my Saint Louis University Billikens radio duties, so my NBA watching time is somewhat limited. That’s why the last couple of weeks of watching the NBA games have been fantastic. The games have started in the middle of the day and continuously roll into the late evening. It’s like heaven.
It reminds me of sitting in a gym and watching grassroots summer basketball games all day or sitting at home at watching the NCAA Tournament from sun up to sundown. The games have been fun to watch and I cannot get enough of them. I find myself looking at the schedule days in advance so I can plan my day at home around the NBA games.
And just think, I’m only talking about the seeding games, which will go on for the next couple of the weeks as teams try to get back in rhythm while getting ready for the upcoming playoffs. Judging by the excitement and competitiveness of the early games, we have a lot to look forward to when the playoffs come around.
The one aspect that I have been locking in on are the talented players from the state of Missouri who have become factors in the league. We have some very talented players from the Show-Me State who will be a big part of what happens down the stretch for their respective teams.
Former Chaminade College Prep All-American Jayson Tatum has really emerged as one of the young stars of the game with the Boston Celtics. After a rough opening performance in the bubble, L’il Jay responded with a 34-point masterpiece against Portland in his second game. In the weeks leading up the shutdown in March, Tatum was averaging 30 points a game and taking his game to an even higher level. He’s put himself right at the top of the list of the NBA’s top stars under the age of 25.
Former Wellston star Ben McLemore has found a home with the Houston Rockets with his consistent 3-point shooting off the bench. Ben has bounced around a little bit since being a first-round pick of Sacramento in 2014, but his perimeter shooting has been a perfect fit for the Rockets, who live and die with the 3-point shot. They are also a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.
OG Anunoby (Jefferson City) is one of the reasons why the Toronto Raptors are in a strong position to defend their world championship. OG was an up and coming standout player for Toronto, but injuries forced him to miss much of the Raptors’ championship season in 2019. Now, the 6’7” guard is healthy and once again showing his form at both ends of the floor.
Michael Porter Jr. (Father Tolton) of the Denver Nuggets had his coming out party in the bubble with a 37-point performance in a victory over Oklahoma City on Monday. The 6’11” Porter is a brilliant offensive talent who is coming back from serious back injuries that have plagued him for the past few years. With the Nuggets missing three starters in the lineup, Porter has taken advantage of the opportunity to shine with the added minutes.
Former CBC standout Patrick McCaw has the rare distinction of being the only player in the league who has been on the past three world championship teams. McCaw was with Golden State’s championship teams in 2018 and 2019 and he was a member of the Raptors championship team last season. He is still currently with the Raptors as a valuable player off the bench.
Landry Shamet, a former standout at Park Hill in the Kansas City area, has found a niche with the Los Angeles Clippers with his excellent 3-point shooting. In his second year in the league, Shamet has already hit some big shots for the Clippers early in his career.
The one local player who is not in the bubble but cannot be forgotten is former Chaminade star Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards. Beal opted out of the league’s re-start, but not before enjoying the best year of his career to date. Beal was averaging 30 points a game, which was second in the league in scoring behind James Harden of the Houston Rockets. He was also averaging five rebounds and six assists a game. He also had back-to-back 50-point performances during the regular season.
Other in-state standouts who are in the bubble include Alec Burks (Grandview) of the Philadelphia 76ers, Anthony Tolliver (Springfield Kickapoo) of the Memphis Grizzlies, Tyler Cook (Chaminade) of the Denver Nuggets and Jontay Porter (Father Tolton) of the Memphis Grizzlies.