Friendly Bounce Open Run: Bow down to the Pistons and cower in fear of Kawhi Leonard

Apr 12, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) dribbles the ball down the court during the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons beat the Hornets 116-77. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) dribbles the ball down the court during the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons beat the Hornets 116-77. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /
Apr 12, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) dribbles the ball down the court during the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons beat the Hornets 116-77. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) dribbles the ball down the court during the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons beat the Hornets 116-77. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Welcome back to the Friendly Bounce Open Run.

The Orlando Magic Showed Growth

By: Matt Cianfrone (@Matt_Cianfrone)

Outside of Orlando Magic fans, just about everyone that tuned in to watch the Washington Wizards take on the Orlando Magic did it for non-competitive reasons. For some it was thanks to curiosity about the Wizards new offense. For others the debut of Mario Hezonja. For some it was just purely to watch John Wall play basketball again.

As it turned out, it didn’t matter what the reasoning for checking in was in the first place, people stayed glued to the game. Ultimately a John Wall drive and finish allowed the Wizards to come away with the win, but perhaps of the biggest takeaway from the game had nothing to do with Wall or the Wizards. Instead it was all about the Orlando Magic, who proved on Wednesday that they are going to be much improved.

There are still things to learn, like Elfrid Payton’s bad clock management at the end of the game showed but for the most part the Magic looked grown up throughout the game. Payton and Victor Oladipo made life miserable for Wall and Bradley Beal and the rest of the Magic played their roles to perfection. Aaron Gordon was a pogo stick of energy and dunks. Hezonja shook off airballs to knock in big threes and Oladipo looked like the team’s best player.

Orlando may not make the playoffs this season but if the season opener was any indication they will be in the race for a long while. Considering where they have been recently, that is a giant improvement.


(h/t @World_Wide_Wob)

Are the Pistons Good at Basketball Again?

By Brian Beebe (@bbeebe)

So, the running joke among a couple of my friends over the past few falls goes like this: they ask me how I think the Pistons will look. I tell them they will make the playoffs. They laugh at me and go about swearing about the Lions. Repeat.

I’m not sure where this season is headed, but here’s what I know right now–the Pistons are fun to watch again. No more stilted offense. No rudderless signings trying to jam themselves into spots in which they don’t fit. Seemingly every move right now over the past two offseasons, from Jodie Meeks to Aron Baynes, Stanley Johnson to Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson to Ersan Ilyasova, appears purposeful.

Winning is the best deodorant for any franchise, and this crew has a lot of work to do. There’s a Brandon Jennings decision to be made soon, Jackson has made a handful of questionable 4th quarter decisions with the ball, and Anthony Tolliver is the team’s 4th post player. There’s a 6 games in 9 days West Coast swing looming on the horizon which will be a measuring stick as to where this team is early in the season.

But to think where this franchise was two years ago, and how quickly things appear to be turning around….it’s just good to not be rooting for the joke right now.

Boogie Trap: DeMarcus Cousins is the Glitch in the Matrix

By Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg)

Someone asked me the other day, who my go-to teams on League Pass would be. I told him the same thing I’ve told everyone the past three years. The Sacramento Kings. Well, for the first 20-to-25 or so games.

In year’s past, it’s become clear after about that much time that the Kings are no good. The team, always unstable, explodes, and DeMarcus Cousins walks out of the flames holding body parts of either opponents or teammates. We never can tell. And, truthfully, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is Boogie Cousins and all his Boogie-ness. He’s a one-man league pass show.

I recall a play last season. It was the Kings vs the Memphis Grizzlies. I was shivering with excitement at the prospect of Cousins and Marc Gasol centering it out for a full game. I expected it to be great, but I didn’t expect to see Cousins handle the ball from high above the break, dribble into the chest of Gasol like LeBron James and score a layup. Nope. Didn’t see that coming. Cousins went another level and became perhaps the freakiest player in the NBA.

I thought I had seen everything.

Then, Wednesday night, I watched the Kings play the Los Angeles Clippers. Cousins against DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Again. Shivering. What I didn’t see coming was Cousins transforming into a three-point shooter.

His stat line to finish the game: 32 points, four-of-five from three-point range, 13 rebounds, three assists.


I mean, how?! Cousins attempted eight three’s all of last season! He shot five tonight, and made four of them!

I’ll tell you how. Boogie. Boogie is the glitch. Talk about Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook all you want. DeMarcus Cousins is right there in the conversation. I’m convinced that Cousins’ teammates are just in his way at this point. No wonder he’s so grumpy all the time. Give the ball to Boogie, no matter where he is on the court.


Kawhi Leonard is expanding his game, and the NBA should be scared

By: Ryne Prinz (@ryneprinz)

Kawhi Leonard is only 24 years old, and he’s already been named a Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. So where does he go from here?

Although the sample size is only 1 game, Leonard is already showing improvements to his game. Defensively, he was given the task of guarding Kevin Durant, who is one of the league’s most unstoppable scorers. Kawhi paired his size, length and athleticism with his defensive instincts to hound Durant. Granted, it was KD’s first game back from a foot injury that limited him last year, but the former scoring champ and MVP was only 6 of 19 from the floor, and Leonard certainly didn’t help at all.

The Spurs are going to lean on Kawhi more this season on offense. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, their offensive weapons of the past, are all aging. San Antonio signed power forward LaMarcus Aldridge this offseason, and it’s likely that he will be their number one option, meaning that Kawhi will still receive his fair share of touches.

In game one, Kawhi showed that he’s more than capable of creating. Leonard scored 32 points while shooting 13 of 22. Leonard only made one of his three attempts from downtown, but he’s always proven to be a capable shooter. His baskets came in a variety of ways, including pull up jumpers and bullying post moves. It’s incredibly obvious that Leonard has worked on his offensive game over the offseason, and he’s quietly becoming one of the best two-way players in the NBA. That’s terrifying.

~Lob City Interlude~

C.J. McCollum is the next…Damian Lillard

By: Taylor Smith (@TaylorBojangles)

This iteration of the Portland Trail Blazers is the NBA equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys. (What’s got two thumbs and is making a “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” reference in 2015? This guy.) After losing 80% of his starting lineup from a year ago, GM Neil Olshey went out and assembled a roster full of guys that struggled to find a home elsewhere. Ed Davis. Moe Harkless. Mason Plumlee. Al-Farouq Aminu. Noah Vonleh. Got an outcast? He’s probably on the Blazers this year.

As a result of this summer’s mass exodus, third year guard C.J. McCollum was thrust into the starting backcourt alongside the lone incumbent among the starters, Damian Lillard. McCollum has drawn comparisons to Lillard since being drafted. Why? Well, both were high-scoring guards from little-known schools taken in the lottery by Portland. Neither fits the bill as a traditional point guard, but Olshey and Terry Stotts seemed to think they could coexist. And, after one game against a team on the second half of a brutal back-to-back (New Orleans), I’m willing to jump to a crazy conclusion and declare this experiment a success.

McCollum was straight-up ridiculous in Portland’s resounding 112-94 win over the Pelicans on Wednesday night. He finished with a career-high 37 points on 14-22 shooting from the floor, including 6-9 from three-point range. He chipped-in with six rebounds, because, sure, why not? He single-handedly outscored the Pelicans 22-18 in the first quarter, and had hit five of his eventual six threes in that first frame alone. His lone triple in the second half was an ice-cold, off-the-dribble job from the wing over the outstretched arms of Anthony Davis that essentially iced the game for the Trail Blazers. It was beautiful, and fittingly, Lillard-esque.

Portland may well endure its fair share of struggles this season, but they’ll play an up-tempo style of offense and have athletes at every position. Yes, it’s been one game, but let the “C.J. McCollum for Most Improved Player” campaign begin!

It’s time to stop #wellactually-ing and enjoy Kobe Bryant

By Donnie Kolakowski (@donniebuckets)

Look, I get it. Kobe fans can be unbearable sometimes. They think everything he does is perfect, and that he’s still a Top 10 player in the league. Heck, Kobe himself thinks that.

And his numbers may look okay at first glance, but they’re never efficient anymore. Sure, he dropped over 20 again on opening night, but he averaged just a point a shot, which is better than average for him nowadays. He’s not that effective of a player, and most unbiased basketball fans would agree on that.

But, the hate has gone too far. Every time someone posts a Kobe highlight, there’s someone clamoring for his airballs to be posted as well. Every time someone marvels at him still making tough shots, someone has to point out he misses more of those shots than ever.

This is all fine and well. Maybe they’re technically correct, and Kobe isn’t relevant to the championship picture, nor a star player anymore.

He is one of the all time greats, though. And he is playing his 20th straight season with the same team, and he has won five championships with said team.

Kobe was never one of my favorite players, but he’s one of the best scorers ever. To not appreciate what he brought to the table in his prime is to miss out on a key piece of basketball history.

So, when I get excited when Kobe drains a fadeaway jumper with a toe on the line, don’t tell me what an inefficient shot it is. Or how his team managed to blow a big lead against the Timberwolves. I’m aware of all of this. I’m not some Laker fan insisting he’s still a star, or that the team is going to make a playoff run. I’m just trying to enjoy what might be the last year of an all-time great, and maybe you should too.