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In Zion's Return, The Pelicans Beat The Shit Out Of The Nets In Brooklyn, And Ben Simmons Might As Well Not Have Played

Sarah Stier. Getty Images.

I got the Pelicans at +4000 to win the NBA championship and if the first of 82 regular-season games was any indication, I'm feeling pretty damn good about that. I'm allegedly the 17th-sharpest NBA betting mind on the entire Internet, ahead of Brandon Walker, which makes me laugh.

See, when I make self references at the top of blogs I have the wherewithal (unlike some) to take the piss out of myself and appease British audiences in the same paragraph. So here goes. ALL THAT SAID…I didn't bet on New Orleans tonight. Nope. Opted for the Cavs' moneyline in the prime-time NBA window instead. Then, you know, naturally, Darius Garland played only 13 minutes due to a, um, left eye injury. LOL. Cleveland led the whole way in Toronto then collapsed in the final quarter to lose by three.

Giphy Images.

Anyway…on to the topic of this Pels-Nets game. There was a lot of talk coming in about Zion Williamson for obvious reasons. Five-hundred-something days since he last played in an actual game. He was looking a lot trimmer and in better shape than he ever has, but until you see it on the actual court, you never know.

Safe to say Zion and the rest of New Orleans' Big 3 in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram made a big, fat fucking statement at Barclays Center.

Early on, anyone with any basketball sense whatsoever could discern that Zion was locked, loaded and ready to do Zion things. When this guy gets a full head of steam toward the basket, look the hell out!

You've got Zion, BI and CJ fucking people up and being matchup nightmares on offense. You've got a beast on the glass in Jonas Valanciunas. Holy shit I remembered how to spell his name from last postseason. YES. Aaaaaand Herb Jones is a truly elite wing defender and pretty much always makes the right play. Wise beyond his years. Combine all that with a very capable Pelicans bench, and uhh…yeah this team is gonna be a problem, y'all.

I can't believe how far New Orleans has come from that 1-12 start to last season. Willie Green is a legit coach, and EVP David Griffin went from the precipice of being fired to trading for McCollum and flipping the franchise's fortunes almost overnight.

Oh yeah sorry…I should mention Ben Simmons. The reason I cast him in such an unflattering light in this blog's headline and waited until over 350 words in to dig into him in earnest is intentional. He was that much of a fucking afterthought.

The tantalizing defensive versatility Simmons brings with him was nowhere to be found. Oh, and you won't believe this, but the guy bricked both his free throw attempts. Only one game but wowza, what a dreadful start for a man trying to revive his career.

Kyrie Irving went 6-for-19 shooting on the evening, as the only Nets star who played like one was Kevin Durant in leading all scorers with 32 points. Kyrie brings very little to the hardwood as a defender, so if he isn't spectacular on the other end of the court, so much falls on KD to carry this Brooklyn squad. Doesn't sound viable over, say, a seven-game playoff series — especially if Simmons doesn't snap out of his perpetual funk.

I'm so here for the soap opera between KD, Kyrie and Simmons. Head coach Steve Nash has his work cut out not to be the eventual fall guy. While I hesitate to overreact during such a long season, what the Pelicans just did to these Nets with fair-or-not high expectations was the most interesting development on what was the opening night for many NBA teams.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok