Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

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It’s a great time in sports right now. The World Series is underway between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Cheat- I mean, Astros. Hockey is getting back in a groove, with the Tampa Bay Lightning trying to three-peat. The NFL has shown some surprises this year.

Then, we have the NBA. The early winners of the season may crumble come playoff time, but it’s nice to see the great effort.

One of the more interesting stories this week was that Philadelphia 76ers’ point guard Ben Simmons may be dealing with mental health issues. Even with all the craziness going on in Philadelphia, including Simmons’ one-game suspension last week, Joel Embiid told the fans in their home opener to stand with Simmons. This came not too long after Embiid stated that he didn’t care about his teammate anymore.

Let me point out that mental health is a whole different matter from just pouting about requesting a trade. If Simmons needs to get his business taken care of, we hope for the best. There will be no Simmons slander on this subject.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight, Lowlight, Random Stat

Highlight

Well, hello Dolly! I guess the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics wanted to take this 75th-anniversary thing to the extremes.

New York took control at home last Wednesday to defeat Boston in a double-overtime thriller 138-134. Boston’s Jaylen Brown scored a career-high 46 points in 46 minutes, while New York’s Julius Randle had a near triple-double, finishing with 35 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in 46 minutes.

The game was so good that some are already dubbing it as one of the greatest season openers in league history. Even with all of the matchup’s in-game drama, the context behind it is insane.

Both the Knicks and Celtics are looking to make noise this season after suffering gentlemen’s sweeps (five games) by Atlanta and Brooklyn, respectively, in the playoffs last season. The Knicks and Celtics are also two of the original NBA teams. Kemba Walker, New York’s All-Star point guard, played for Boston the previous two seasons.

Finally, they both play in a “Garden”– the Knicks at Madison Square Garden and the Celtics at TD Garden.

Geez, at this rate, why don’t we just combine the two states to form “New Massachusetts”?

Lowlight

As you might remember from last week’s analysis, I had the Oklahoma City Thunder at the second-to-last spot on my power rankings, right above the Houston Rockets. So far, my prediction is true.

The Thunder are 0-4 to start the season, with blowout losses to the Utah Jazz and the aforementioned Rockets. They might take home even more “L”s when they face the Golden State Warriors and both the L.A. Lakers and Clippers.

On the other hand, OKC selected Australian forward Josh Giddey with the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Through four contests, he’s averaging nine points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.5 steals.

Although this is the “Lowlight” section, production from players such as Giddey is a positive sign.

The Thunder are aiming to rebuild slowly, but surely, with their treasure chest of draft picks they’ve hoarded. Similar to when the 76ers went 10-72 in 2015-16, expecting to lose is currently the painful reality for them.

But hey, at least Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is still hanging around in the Sooner State.

Random Stat

And then there were four.

If you’ve ever hiked up a mountain, you probably know that it becomes harder and harder to reach the top. NBA greatness works like this as well.

Brooklyn Nets’ superstar James Harden has passed Kyle Korver for the fourth-most three-point baskets made in NBA history. The top three spots, from number three to one, are Reggie Miller, Steph Curry and Ray Allen. Curry should pass Allen this season, so don’t be surprised when that shows up as another “Random Stat.”

A former number three overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, Harden has put his skills on display for three teams. He was the sixth man in Oklahoma City. In Houston, he transformed into one of the franchise’s all-time greatest players. Now hooping in Brooklyn, he has a juggernaut team that includes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Irving will join them if he gets vaccinated.

Remember, “The Beard” averaged 30+ points per game in his last three full seasons with the Rockets. We always think of Curry as being a three-point sniper, but Harden is no slouch either. At the end of their careers, will Curry and Harden be the respective leader and runners-up to all-time three-pointers?

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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