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Overreactions to the First Week of the NBA Season

Dejounte is the new Manu, John Wall is on a new level, Dennis Smith Jr. is a ferocious mountain lion, and Joe Ingles is perfect

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

During a third-quarter timeout of a Rockets-Blazers game in Portland in 1995, a fan sitting 20 or so feet from the Rockets bench was heckling Vernon Maxwell, a notoriously angry and fiery player. Maxwell, already frustrated by the way the game had been going—the Rockets were on their way toward getting blown out by 38 points, and Maxwell was on his way to a stinker of a performance (five points, five turnovers, four fouls)—decided he’d had enough. He scanned the crowd, spotted the fan (a 35-year-old named Steve George), and got up off the bench and moved toward him. He walked 12 rows deep into the stands to where George was, and when he got there he punched George in the face.

Now, of course there are two versions of why this happened. George claimed that all he was doing was making fun of Maxwell’s poor play, and if we assume that to be true then that means Maxwell’s response was an overreaction. Maxwell agreed that George had been taunting him, but he also claimed George had (a) made racist remarks while doing so, and also (b) made mention of Maxwell’s deceased daughter. And if we assume those things to be true, then Maxwell’s response was an underreaction, because I am of the mind that if someone says things like that to you then you should be allowed to hit them in the head with a 2x4 without consequence.

The underreaction/overreaction thing is a fun premise with which to talk about basketball, so let’s do that for some of the things that have happened during the first week of the season. Except let’s only overreact to everything because an overreaction is always better than an underreaction. We’ll do four short ones and four long ones.

Four Short Ones

The Thing

Dejounte Murray becomes only the second guard ever in Spurs history to have more than 15 points and 15 boards in the same game. The first guy to do it: Manu Ginobili. (Bonus: Murray is also the youngest Spur ever to have at least 40 points, 25 rebounds, and 10 assists in his first three games of a season.)

What’s the Correct Overreaction Here?

The correct overreaction is that we’re just two seasons away from a small pocket of people being somewhat mad that Kawhi Leonard won the 2020 Finals MVP over Dejounte.

The Thing

After a week of coming off the bench, J.R. Smith returns to the starting lineup for the Cavaliers.

What’s the Correct Overreaction Here?

There are two possible overreactions here, one of which is wrong and the other of which is right. The first is to say that the Cavs are destined to completely fall apart some time around the All-Star break, and that this early-season starting lineup switch is the first sign of that. “The Cavs roster is horribly built, and LeBron forcing the GM to sign Dwyane Wade is an obvious example of that! They don’t even know who should be starting! It’s all a mess!” That’s the wrong overreaction. The right overreaction is to say that this move is indicative of the maturity and championship pedigree that Wade brings to the Cavs. “You’re talking about a three-time NBA champion who not only left money on the table to go play for the Cavs, but now he’s also asking his coach to let someone else start in his place to help the team! Dwyane Wade is exactly the reason the Cavs are going to beat the Warriors in the Finals this year!”

The Thing

Patrick Beverley bullies Lonzo Ball into a horrible first game in the NBA (Ball shot 16.7 percent from the field, zero percent from the free throw line, and had half as many turnovers as assists in the Lakers’ opening-night loss to the Clippers).

What’s the Correct Overreaction Here?

“LONZO IS A BUST! THIS IS ALL LAVAR’S FAULT!”

The Thing

During the second quarter of a Wizards-Pistons game, John Wall (6-foot-4) goes one-on-one against power forward Tobias Harris (6-foot-9) and, through some form of mysticism or magic, floats in the air high enough that he swats Harris’s shot out of the sky. (It’s important to note that this wasn’t a situation where Wall was running and was able to use his momentum to spring himself up into the sky. He jumped off two feet in the post from basically a standstill. It was unbelievable. Watch the clip above. Look how long he floats in the air and how high he has to get to match not only Tobias’s height but also his extend-o-wingspan.)

What’s the Correct Overreaction Here?

“JOHN WALL IS COMING TO SLIT EVERYONE’S THROAT THIS SEASON!”

Four Longer Ones

Kyrie is very much not here for Philly’s shit

A post shared by Mickstape x (@mickstapeshow) on

The Thing

After the Celtics defeat the Sixers, somebody shouts, “Kyrie! Where’s LeBron?!” as the players walk back toward the locker room through the player tunnel. Kyrie, because he is hilarious, responds by saying back to him, “Suck my dick.”

What’s the Correct Overreaction Here?

This one is a trap. You can pretend to be outraged that Kyrie would say such vulgar things to a fan, and that’s fine, I suppose. If you go that way, though, it’s a lost opportunity, because that’s an overreaction that can only return small gains. You have to think long-term here. All things being equal, it’s always best to go with an overreaction that has a higher return on investment than a smaller one. That’s why the best overreaction here is how, just one week into the season, we’re already seeing the beginning of Kyrie crumbling under the LeBron-based pressure that’s going to be applied to him for the entirety of the season, if not his career. “Nothing like this happened when he was under LeBron’s wing! He’s not ready to be the main star of a team! He can’t even handle a little heckling during a meaningless October game! He’ll never be able to beat LeBron The Person if he can’t even beat LeBron The Suggestion!” That’s the overreaction to make.

The Thing

During the third quarter of a Thunder-Jazz game, Joe Ingles wiggles his way into a wide-open 3-point attempt. As he cocks it back, OKC rookie Terrance Ferguson runs out to try to contest it. He is far too late though, and Ingles, who’d already hit a couple of 3s, splashes it in over him. Ingles, that beautiful bastard, turns and races up the court with Ferguson, the whole time running his mouth at him.

What’s the Correct Overreaction Here?

There is actually no overreaction. Joe Ingles is perfect and so much fun. If you watch that clip and say something like, “Joe Ingles is the best player in the NBA,” then that’s an accurate and verifiable thing. Maybe you could argue that Joe barking at a rookie who wasn’t even really guarding him after making a 3 is corny, but who would ever do that? Because, again: Joe Ingles is perfect.

The Thing

After getting ejected from the Grizzlies-Warriors game in Memphis, Kevin Durant turns toward some fans sitting near courtside, raises his ring finger, then points to it, so as to remind them that he is a world champion.

What’s the Correct Overreaction Here?

Durant is, in my estimation, one of the three most interesting players in the league. Every single thing he does, be it inside of the basketball space or outside of it, is compelling. Like, if you said, “Shea, did you see what Carmelo Anthony said about Donald Trump?” I would say, “Nope,” and that would be the end of it. If, however, you said, “Shea, did you see what Kevin Durant said about Donald Trump?” I would go, “Oh my god I just broke both of my thumbs,” because I would try and tap “kevin durant donald trump” into the Twitter search box on my phone so fast that both of my thumbs would break from the speed at which I was trying to get them to move.

So seeing him get thrown out of a game and then arrogantly tapping his ring finger at Memphis fans on his way out was a deliciously petty and perfect thing, because it opens up so many different ways to overreact. The three best ones:

  • Be upset that he would do such a thing: “It was a classless move! How dare he take a shot at an organization that has not taken the shortcuts to success that he’s taken!”
  • Be excited that he would do such a thing: “We’re getting Post-Championship Evil KD this season! We never really got Post-Championship Evil LeBron but we’re getting Post-Championship Evil KD! This is going to be so much fun watching him shit all over everyone’s feelings!”
  • Be way too invested in why he would do such a thing: “I’m less concerned about the ring thing and more concerned that he decided to goad a referee into kicking him out of a game after he saw Steph get kicked out the game! Why is he the way that he is?! What are the psychological components at play here?! And what does this say about the NBA at large?!”

Pick one of those. Those are all good overreactions.

The Thing

During the third quarter of a Warriors-Mavericks game, rookie Dennis Smith Jr. tries to dunk it over Draymond Green. Green, as he tends to do, clobbers Smith to prevent him from getting the dunk off, then tells him that he’d never dunk on him, then reiterates the thought again in a postgame press scrum.

What’s the Correct Overreaction Here?

You’re actually going to have to wait before you overreact, because the correct overreaction is going to come when Smith, who is a remarkable leaper, eventually catches Draymond at the rim and dunks the flesh off of Draymond’s bones.

I love Dennis Smith Jr. a ton. He’s just this tiny (6ʹ3ʺ), ferocious mountain lion who already, in just the summer league and the first seven days of the proper season, has begun Dunk Headhunting. Watch the play again. Smith receives the ball about nine feet from the rim, and when he does there’s nobody even close to him. He very easily could’ve shot an uncontested bank shot, or even taken one dribble and gotten off an easy layup. He didn’t, though. Instead, he caught the ball, looked around, saw Draymond coming over, took one hard dribble at him, and then exploded upward hoping to obliterate him. Draymond was able to prevent the dunk this time, but Smith, who was already talking about how nobody’s going to be able to stop him from dunking without fouling him, is going to just keep jumping and keep jumping and keep jumping, like a dunk version of that monster from It Follows.

When Smith finally does yam it home over Draymond, it’s going to be a true and real OVERREACTION NIRVANA. People will build statues of the dunk. Someone will start an online petition to scrub the faces off of Mount Rushmore and replace them with a mountainside cutout of the dunk. Somewhere in Vatican City, an unsuspecting tourist will walk through a doorway in St. Peter’s Square, only to have the pope run up behind him and do a doorway slap-dunk version of Smith’s dunk. It’s all going to be excellent.