Welcome, Bol Bol

And tall ball.

Jim Rome
July 23, 2020 - 9:19 am
Bol Bol

USA Today

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When you hear Roundball Rock, you’re only thinking about one thing: the NBA. And the NBA is back. Well, sort of. Kind of. If you squint really hard, it is. 

Because NBA teams in the bubble started scrimmaging yesterday. Two teams, wearing two different jerseys, playing against each other for the first time in more than four months.

And it was the first taste of what is like to be playing games without fans. It means we’re going to have moments like this from before the Clippers-Magic scrimmage.

I’m not sure what’s more surreal – the Orlando Magic being the visiting team in Orlando, the fact that nobody cheered, the fact that nobody was there to cheer them, or the fact that the public address announcer was actually asking the non-existent fans to welcome the Magic.

No fans also means this – a lot of squeaking shoes. At least for now.

Yes, that’s Joakim Noah scoring for the Clippers in a scrimmage in Orlando, but more importantly, did you hear that squeaking. That is some incredible sound.

And it means that guys will score nice buckets, the way Lou Williams did right here, and there will be no fans to respond.

That’s not a criticism of the league or the setup. The court looks good. The video walls around the court are cool. It OBVIOUSLY  just feels different without fans.

As Aaron Gordon said "It was really quiet, so you've got to bring your own energy. You can hear everything that's being said on the floor. ... It kind of has a summer league-type feel to it, and you've really got to bring your own energy."

Doc Rivers, one of the best coaches around and owner of one of the best coach voices around, pointed out the upside that no fans might mean no coach voice for him because he won’t have to be yelling over the noise: "Maybe I will have a better voice by the end of this. Who knows?"

And I’m definitely not going to read too much into how the Clippers looked yesterday. Or how anyone looked yesterday. It was a reminder that there is being in great shape is one thing, being in basketball shape is another. Playing NBA games, even an NBA scrimmage, is a lot different from running on a treadmill or jogging through your neighborhood, and it showed.

I will say that the Clippers were doing some very interesting things with Paul George and that is something to keep an eye on going forward, because it’s a reminder of just how versatile he is on the offensive end.

Again, I’m not reading too much into the first day of scrimmages. But I will be damned if I’m just going to ignore what the Denver Nuggets did against the Washington Wizards.

There has been a lot of buzz over the last few weeks about Denver big man Bol Bol and how much he’s developed over the past year. As a refresher, Manute’s son was expected to be a star at Oregon, but he suffered a foot injury. Then he fell to the second round in last year’s draft.

Denver acquired him, but he has not played in an NBA game. However, over the last few weeks, the hype surrounding him as been building. And the clips on Twitter have been impressive. So the question was: how would he show up in Orlando and how would Denver use him? Would they slowly work him in? Would they throw him into the fire?

Well, here was the starting lineup for the Nuggets yesterday:

Starting at center, 6’11, from Duke, Mason Plumlee

Starting at power forward, 6’7 from Louisiana Tech, Paul Millsap

Starting at small forward, 7’2 from Oregon, Bol Bol

Starting a guard, 6’8 from Syracuse, Jerami Grant

And starting at guard, 7 feet tall, from Serbia, Nikola Jokic

That’s right – Paul Millsap, at 6’7 was the smallest member of the starting lineup. You had a 7’2 guy at small forward. And you had a seven foot tall first-team All-NBA center running the point.

Let’s get nuts.

That’s totally insane and I love it. If you thought the league was all about small ball, the Nuggets would like a word. Here comes Tall Ball. Here comes the long ball.

And Bol Bol was incredible. Again, it’s just a scrimmage, in a bubble, in Orlando, but didn’t just live up to the hype, he smashed it. 16 points, 10 rebounds, 6 blocks.

And he was doing stuff like this:

Block at one end of the court, dribble down, and drain a three at the other. That was impressive as hell. Doing that in your first NBA action? I don’t care if it’s a scrimmage that is still really impressive.

That is jaw dropping when LeBron James does that. It’s mind-blowing when a 7 foot 2 dude does that.

As Michael Malone said before the game: "I can't teach 7-[foot]-2. I can't teach a 7-[foot]-9 wingspan, and I sure as hell can't teach a really soft touch all the way out to the NBA 3-point line."

Nope, you can’t teach any of that. Nor can you teach him showing up the way he did in his first NBA action. And doing it against grown men.

He runs the court really well. He was starting the break, he was finishing on the move. That was awesome.

And he was a force on defense. Six blocks? Are you kidding me?

Ask Michael Malone what he thought afterwards: "It's his first game against NBA competition, and for him to go out there and get 16, 10 with six blocks is great. We put him in the middle of our zone, tried to funnel everything to him, let him block shots. He did a really good job of that. I think he got tired as the game went on, which is to be expected. He played 32 minutes, which was a team high. But he's only going to get better. He did a lot of really good things out there. Proud of him.”

I am too. That was cool as hell. And yes, it was just a scrimmage and it was a game where the Nuggets didn’t have Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Torrey Craig, or Gary Harris. So they’re probably not running that Long Ball lineup out there to start a playoff game, but that was fun. Really, really fun.

Welcome back basketball and welcome back Bol Bol.

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