September 29, 2022 4:41 am
NBA 2021-22: 10 things to follow throughout the season

NBA 2021-22: 10 things to follow throughout the season

In the very first seconds of Stephen Curry’s NBA career, he scored an assist and a steal on his first possession. He then attempted a 3-pointer at the professional level for the first time.

It failed.

At that time, not many people expected him to become the most prolific 3-point shooter of all-time in NBA history. as , begins Tuesday night, the countdown to Curry surpassing Ray Allen’s record for most 3’s in a single career continues.

Allen retired with 2,973 3-pointers in regular-season games. Curry is 141 behind, with 2,832 in his career. The Golden State sharpshooter, at his current rate of threes per game (about five per year), could hold the record by mid-2018.

Curry was the only player to average at least five 3’s per night over a full NBA season. It’s something he has done three times. Curry also has four of the five seasons of at least 300 made 3’s, including a record 402 in 2015-16; James Harden had the other 300-plus season on that list.

Allen never made more than 269 3’s in a season. Curry has exceeded that mark six times.

Some other storylines and milestones to watch this season:

CHASING KAREEM

LeBron James could become the NBA’s all-time scoring leader next season.

And technically, this season too.

James is the new season’s No. 3 on the scoring list, 1,561 points away from No. 2 Karl Malone’s 36,928 points. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tops the list with 38,387 points — currently 3,020 ahead of James.

If James averages 25 points per game, which he did last year, he would catch Malone in his 63rd game this season and could reach Abdul-Jabbar’s mark sometime around the midpoint of the 2022-23 campaign.

These numbers are for regular-season games only and, for the purposes of NBA record-keeping that is the official total.

But if you add the playoffs, James will be in line for No. James is currently No. 1 in career scoring this year. With postseason included, he has scored 42,998 points, just 1,151 away from Abdul-Jabbar’s 44,149, meaning that’s well within range for James this season.

James is close to a few milestones this season. He’s 304 assists shy of 10,000, 21 3-pointers away from 2,000, and one triple-double from having 100 of those.

But perhaps the biggest stat quirk of James’ 1,310-game career is this: He averages 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game — but, somehow, has never had a game with exactly 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

POP’S TIME

San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich has 1,310 career regular-season wins, putting him 26 away from outright possession of the NBA record. He is currently No. 3 on the list. 2 Lenny Wilkens (1,332) and No. 1 Don Nelson (1,335).

Popovich is entering his 26th season as coach of the Spurs, extending his NBA record for longevity with one franchise. He doesn’t have many contemporaries in any other sports.

Connie Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 seasons. George Halas coached the Chicago Bears for 40 years (though not consecutively), John McGraw managed the New York Giants for 31, Tom Landry coached the Dallas Cowboys for 29, Curly Lambeau coached the Green Bay Packers for 29, and Don Shula coached the Miami Dolphins for 26. They are the only coaches in all four major American leagues to have spent as much time with a team than Popovich with the Spurs.

Bill Belichick is the NFL leader in current tenure, in Year 22 with New England. Popovich is the only one in the major leagues that comes close to Popovich’s total.

CELEBRATING 75

The NBA is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season. The league’s first game was Nov. 1, 1946, when the New York Knicks visited the Toronto Huskies, back in what was then called the Basketball Association of America.

Toronto, and New York will play each other on Nov. 1, this season. The Raptors also visit the Knicks that evening.

The top 75 players in league history will be unveiled in three 25-player blocks from Tuesday through Thursday.

REMEMBERING WILT

The 60th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game is March 2; he had that night in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks.

Philadelphia (the 76ers) will play the Knicks on March 2 this season as well, in Philadelphia, not Hershey.

But March 2 1962, was not the night Chamberlain obtained the scoring record. It had been around three months since Chamberlain acquired it.

Chamberlain had 78 points on Dec. 8, 1961, for the Warriors in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, breaking the record of 71 points set about a year earlier by Elgin Baylor. So, this year — again keeping with the 60th anniversary theme — the (now Golden State) Warriors are at home on Dec. 8, playing against Portland.

GOLD RUSH

There are 29 players in the NBA this season with at least one Olympic gold medal, on 15 different teams. The Lakers are the most successful team with six Olympic gold medalists — LeBron James (Dwight Howard), Carmelo Anthony (Russell Westbrook), Anthony Davis, and DeAndre Jordan.

Golden State has three Olympic gold medalists (Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, Klay Thomson), as well as Miami (Bam Adebayo (Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler), and Brooklyn (Kevin Durant (James Harden, Kyrie Irving). The two gold medalists in the teams are Milwaukee (Jrue holiday, Khris Middleton), Phoenix, Devin Booker and Chris Paul, and Chicago (DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine).

The other eight clubs have one each: San Antonio (Keldon), Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George, Cleveland (Kevin Love), Detroit [Harrison Barnes], Sacramento (Harrison Barnes], Portland (Damian Lillard), Denver (“JaVale McGee”) and Boston (Jayson Tanum).

Combined, those 29 players have won 36 golds. Anthony and Durant are the three-time Olympic champions. James, Paul, and Green are the two-time winners.

TEAM MILESTONES

There are some reachable team won-lost marks to watch.

On the good side: Philadelphia is 51 wins away from 3,000 as a franchise, a milestone that only the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have reached. And Toronto needs 18 victories to reach the 1,000-win mark.

On the not-so-good side: Detroit is 21 losses away from 3,000, which will have them joining Sacramento, Golden State and New York in that club. It’s only a matter time before Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA Finals MVP, becomes Milwaukee’s alltime leader in most statistical categories.

He enters this season 1,892 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (14,211) for the Bucks’ franchise record there, which is certainly attainable in 2021-22 if Antetokounmpo plays close to a full season. He’s also 1,790 rebounds behind Abdul-Jabbar (7,161), which means that team record won’t realistically be his before the 2022-23 season.

This one, however, is well within reach: Antetokounmpo is a mere 39 blocked shots from matching Alton Lister (804) for the Bucks’ career record.

PRESEASON It might be time to get rid of Sacramento, Golden State, Chicago and Dallas from the NBA title race. They were undefeated at the exhibitions.

If any of those teams go on to win the 2022 NBA championship, it would mark the first time that a team went unbeaten in the preseason and won the title since the Chicago Bulls in 1992-93. Although the Bulls were 9-0 in exhibitions last year, Chicago center Bill Cartwright pointed out that “the preseason’s a preseason and the season’s a season ” and that the Bucks won the title. The Bucks went 0-3 in the preseason and won it. This is good news for Washington (0-4) Portland (0-4) and Washington (0-4), the only three teams that went winless in the exhibitions this year.

The Bulls won the third consecutive title by winning 9-0. The preseason of a champion has been usually the most mundane. Since 1993, the average preseason winning percentage for eventual NBA champions has been .530.

MOVING UP

Some other individual milestones to watch:

— Chris Paul is 59 assists away from matching Mark Jackson for No. 4 on the all-time list, and 60 assists away from matching Steve Nash for No. 3. Paul enters this season with 10,275 assists. He’s also 113 steals away from tying Gary Payton (2,445) for No. He is No. 4 on this career list.

— Jerry West has the fourth-highest career scoring average (27. 030 per game), just ahead of No. 5 Kevin Durant (27. 017) and No. 6 LeBron James (26.998). Here’s how close that race is; if Durant scores 39 points in his first game of the season, he would pass West for the No. 4 — at least until Brooklyn’s next game.

— Golden State’s Andre Iguodala is eight games shy of 1,200 for his career. The Lakers’ Carmelo Anthony is nine away from that milestone, and 200 field goals away from 10,000.

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