Pre-season NBA: LaMelo Ball attracts praise from the D-Wade; James Harden as hot as commercial rumors; Steph Curry cooking

The opening of the NBA 202-21 season is just a few days away, so it’s easy to give up the pre-season in anticipation of reality. But because franchises love to remind us so much, you can’t skip steps. The other pre-season games are essential to gain experience for young players (especially without the Summer League) and to build chemistry with new teammates.

I saw a bit of both Thursdays, as the general selection no. 3, LaMelo Ball, continued to impress with the flash and fumble on the field. Chemically, the Rockets had to see their newest signer, Christian Wood, on the field with their disgruntled superstar, James Harden. Perhaps surprisingly, things went very well.

Here’s a look at Thursday’s scores, along with some thoughts from the night’s action.

NBA pre-season scores for Thursday, December 17th

  • Charlotte Hornets 123, Orlando Magic 115
  • Detroit Pistons 97, Washington Wizards 86
  • Houston Rockets 128, San Antonio Spurs 106
  • Memphis Grizzlies 128, Atlanta Hawks 106
  • Minnesota Timberwolves 129, Dallas Mavericks 127 (OT)
  • Golden State Warriors 113, Sacramento Kings 109
  • Utah Jazz 125, Los Angeles Clippers 105

LaMelo makes it rain

In his first two pre-season games, we took a good look at LaMelo Ball’s impressive passing ability and fun style of play, but there’s one thing he didn’t really do – take pictures. Ball shot 3-for-15 off the field in his first two NBA appearances, including 2-for-9 in the 3-point range, but that changed Thursday night against Magic. Ball looked much more comfortable shooting, making 4 of 9 triples on the way to 18 points – six more than he scored in his first two combined pre-season games.

Ball’s effort was enough to get the attention of former Miami Heat superstar and future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade. Not bad for the third pre-season game.

He doesn’t have the most traditional shooting mechanics, so he’s bound to be a bit rowing, but doing 3 constantly could raise Ball’s ceiling considerably, given his ability to play. It was also a good sign for Hornets fans to see Ball finishing around the rim a few times on Thursday, as he used cunning and English to find bench angles in crowded spaces. It’s far from a finished product, but Charlotte needs to love what she’s seen from Ball so far this season.

Harden is heating up, as are commercial rumors

James Harden obviously looked rusty in his first pre-season action on Tuesday, after appearing late at Rockets camp and probably not in the best shape of his life. It’s still not the offensive car we’ve been used to in recent seasons, but Harden looked much better in Thursday’s victory over Spurs. He collected 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in 27 minutes, going 8-for-14 from the field and 3-for-6 from the 3-point range. He also fell in love with his new teammate Christian Wood with his patented pocket permit between his legs.

It will be very strange if Harden starts the regular season with the Rockets, given that he has already made it known that he wants to leave Houston and it looks like the team would be more options on the table after recent discussions. We’ve seen players like Anthony Davis try to play permanent commercial demands and it gets ugly fast, but there’s no denying that if Harden is on the field, he’s one of the best in the game.

Curry is cooking

Ayesha’s wife may be the family’s cook, but Steph Curry hastily warmed things up Thursday night. After starting 2-for-11 in the 3-point range, Curry was suddenly 6-for-13 in an instant as he scored 16 points in the third quarter on his way to 29 for the second game in a row.

Curry will endure most of the offensive task with Klay Thompson out of this season and it will be fascinating to see how hot he can get on a given night. Warriors’ announcer Bob Fitzgerald predicted that Curry would set the NBA record in a single game for both 3-point and 3-point attempts this season, and you can see why. Depending on how unleashed he is in Steve Kerr’s offense, Curry could have the second title in his sights.

Houston, meet Christian

Since he was hidden in a gentle Detroit Pistons team last season, casual Rockets fans might not have understood why Christian Wood ordered a three-year, $ 41 million contract this season – probably a I do now. Wood’s tempting advantage and unique skill set were fully displayed in his pre-season opener on Thursday as he amassed 27 points, 10 rebounds, a block and a steal in less than 24 minutes.

Wood also hit two three-pointers, presenting the feathered shot that allowed him to shoot with 39% of the depth of last season. The Rockets completely abandoned the center position towards the end of last season, but Wood could be the perfect compromise. It has the size and length to protect the rim, but it also has guarding abilities and can space the floor offensively. It will be fun to watch him work with Harden, no matter how long it takes.

Ja vs. Trae is a delight

It was just a pre-season game, but it was impossible to watch the Hawks-Grizzlies on Thursday without a smile on their face, while two of the league’s best young goalkeepers – Trae Young and Ja Morant – went head to head. Young finished with 15 points and six assists in 26 minutes, but struggled to shoot the ball deep (2-for-8). Morant scored the best tonight, scoring 18 points and 13 assists in 27 minutes.

With Morant just 21 and Young 22, the league will be in excellent hands for the foreseeable future. I’ve seen dynamic young guards before, but the vision they both have to go along with their ability to make them make them watch programming.