Turkish center Ömer Aşık shines in debut for the Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik slam dunks over Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris, Oct. 28. AP PhotoPlaying in his first game for the New Orleans Pelicans, Turkish center Ömer Aşık helped his side grab a 101-84 win Oct. 28 against the Orlando Magic by scoring 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking five shots.
“That’s what I saw in him when he was in Chicago (2010-2012),” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said of Aşık, who was acquired from Houston in an offseason trade. “He was only playing less than half the game, but when he came into the game there defense went through the roof. There were times where he would finish just because he was so good on that end. I want him to focus more on finishing around the basket, scoring a little bit.”
All-Star Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 26 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and tied a career high with nine blocks.
“We just know that we’re a load in that paint - him with his great body and me able to move around, just try to follow the ball and get rebounds,” said Davis. “It’s a good combination.”
Aşık was especially effective in the first-half, when he played 18 minutes and scored 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and two blocks.
Davis and Aşık combined for 16 offensive rebounds, and the Pelicans finished with 32 second-chance points.
“They cover up a lot of mistakes that you tend to make just by being aggressive,” Williams said.
Tobias Harris scored 25 points and Nikola Vucevic added 15 points and 23 rebounds for the Magic, who never led in the second half.
In Los Angeles, the Houston Rockets gave the Lakers a nightmare start to the season in a 108-90 rout that saw Los Angeles lose their top draft pick Julius Randle to what is reportedly a broken right leg.
James Harden scored 32 points, Dwight Howard put up 13 and 11 in his return to Los Angeles, and the Rockets took a 17-point lead into halftime and piled on.
Kobe Bryant, playing for the first time since last December, scored 19 points in 29 minutes but the only fight the Lakers showed was in Bryant’s late confrontation with Howard.
The two players shared one contentious 2012-2013 season together in Los Angeles and bad blood boiled over in the fourth when Howard elbowed Bryant and the two exchanged words and drew technical fouls.
But things completely went sour for Los Angeles a few minutes later when Randle, their number seven overall draft pick, went down and stayed there for several minutes before being carted off the court.
In San Antonio, the San Antonio Spurs picked up right where they left off, collecting their championship rings before beginning their title defense with a 101-100 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Spurs, despite their superb record in ring ceremony games, needed every minute of the contest to hold off their Texas-state rivals, who gave them their most difficult challenge of last year’s playoffs.
“We moved the ball much better in the second half,” said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who came off the bench to score 20 points in one of three opening-night NBA contests.
“The defense was great. Tony had a couple of big baskets and it was a very close game. Anything could have happened.”
The Spurs rolled to their fifth NBA title in June by dismantling the LeBron James-led Miami Heat. But first they had to get past the Mavericks in an epic seven-game series in the Western Conference semifinals.
San Antonio received their championship rings in a pre-game ceremony which also included raising their fifth championship banner in franchise history. The Spurs are now 5-0 in games where they received their championship rings.
“The ring ceremony got me emotional,” said Ginobili. “This is a great start. I can’t complain.”