Discover more from Marc Stein
The NBA's Texas Triangle is rebounding
Mavericks? Rockets? Spurs? Who are you watching closest?
Professional basketball was never as bleak in Texas as it was last season.
The Lone Star State's 43rd season with three NBA franchises on its map, for the first time in all that time, generated zero playoff teams.
The new season, just three weeks old, is already brighter.
Obviously none of the Texas Triangle residents has come anywhere close to clinching a playoff spot yet. San Antonio, in fact, has lost five consecutive games by a combined 81 points and surrendered 152 points to Indiana last week.
Yet all three teams are eminently watchable.
I threw this question out there on my Saturday radio show at some point during the offseason (not that I, as often lamented here, can remember when exactly) and want to revisit it on this Newsletter Tuesday for discussion purposes as a prelude to the Spurs' Victor Wembanyama taking on Oklahoma City's Chet Holmgren in their first regular-season showdown Tuesday night:
Which of these teams should be classified as Texas' Most Interesting?
It's not at all clear.
The Dallas Mavericks are off to an 8-2 launch in their bid to rebound from last season's 38-44 pratfall while also hoping to prove that a Luka Dončić/Kyrie Irving duo can hush the naysayers and indeed flourish like LeBron James and Irving did as a tag team in Cleveland ... with Luka-related consequences presumably looming if the small-balling Mavericks don't succeed on those initiatives.
The Houston Rockets completely revamped their core in an attempt to force their way back to a competitive roster and are in the midst of a six-game winning streak, leaning heavily on new coach Ime Udoka, offseason signees Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks and an emerging big man in Alperen Şengün who's flourishing in part because Brook Lopez didn't come to town with VanVleet and Brooks in free agency. (That's a very long sentence that didn't even mention Jalen Green or Jabari Smith Jr.)
And then you have the Spurs and their must-see new franchise center who, at an apparent 7-foot-5, inspires so much nightly curiosity that you're bound to tune in whether or not Wemby and Co. are winning or losing.
As a Dallas resident who lives in close proximity to the Mavericks, I will surely be deemed by some of you as too influenced by geography to answer the question in unfettered fashion. So let's open this up to all.
You tell me: Which team’s nightly on-court appeal and likely story arc for the season — Dallas, Houston or San Antonio — strikes you as the most compelling?
The poll will stay open for three days.
PS — Only 57% of last week’s nearly 500 respondents to my poll question about the NBA turning its annual June draft into a two-day event agreed with me that going the two-day route is the right call. I was genuinely surprised that the number was that low.
PPS — I’m doing another poll again so soon as a bit of a test because I think a poor settings choice by yours truly is what limited the last poll we published to only 500-ish respondents. Let’s see if the audience response this time, as hoped, is more robust.
The Stein Line is a reader-supported newsletter, with both Free and Paid subscriptions available, and those who opt for the Paid edition are taking an active role in the reporting by providing vital assistance to bolster my independent coverage of the league. Feel free to forward this post to family and friends interested in the NBA and please consider becoming a Paid subscriber to have full access to all of my posts.
As a reminder: Tuesday editions, on this and every Newsletter Tuesday, go out free to anyone who signs up, just as my Tuesday pieces did in their New York Times incarnation.
Wemby vs. Chet
Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren have actually squared off two times previously if you count their duel at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup in 2021 and their preseason meeting last month.
Of course, for NBA purposes, neither of those count the same like San Antonio at Oklahoma City tonight on TNT at 7:30 PM ET.
My longtime editorhas his own new Substack and did a full-length preview on the matchup at the link embedded in this sentence. An excerpt:
Let’s not get it twisted — Wemby’s the better prospect.
Through 10 games, their scoring, rebounding, blocks, steals and assists per game are a wash, more or less.
But when it comes to shooting — from 2-point territory, 3-point range or the FT line — Holmgren’s way out in front.
Two factors that will eventually work in Wemby’s favor:
He’s 20 months younger. How will Wemby look in April 2025? He’ll still be more than three months younger than Chet is now.
Wemby’s playing out of position most of the time, assuming his eventual position is center. That’s not a critique — the Spurs are providing him a chance to stretch his wings, and he’s taking it.
The Wizards, off to a 2-8 start, have lost eight of their first 10 games for the 16th time in the franchise’s 63 seasons. According to my fellow Substacker, no other franchise has started so poorly more than 13 times.
The Wizards lost in Toronto on Monday night when they surrendered the game's final 16 points over a span of 5:47.
Boston is off to an 8-2 start. It's the 27th time in team history, per Kubatko, that the Celtics have won at least eight of their first 10 games. The Lakers are next in line with 14 such starts.
Damian Lillard is shooting 37.0% from the field and 26.9% on 3-pointers through his first eight games as a Milwaukee Buck. Both figures would obviously represent career-lows for the seven-time All-Star.
The NBA has staged 20 preseason and 12 regular-season games in Mexico since 1992 after Atlanta’s win there last week over Orlando.
Your humble correspondent had the privilege of covering the first regular-season NBA game in Mexico City on Dec. 7, 1997, when Houston beat Dallas, 108-106, at the Palacio de los Deportes.
Mexico City's Capitanes recently drew a crowd of 16,178 to their G League home opener (as pointed out to me by veteran NBA commentator Álvaro Martín). The G League single-game attendance record was set by Toronto's Raptors 905 G League affiliate which drew a crowd of 18,900 to a game at the Air Canada Centre (as it was known then) in December 2017.
The average worth of an NBA team, according to Forbes' most recent compilation of franchise values last month, is $3.85 billion.
The Golden State Warriors are the most valuable franchise on the Forbes list at $7.7 billion, followed by the New York Knicks by the New York Knicks ($6.6 billion) and the Los Angeles Lakers ($6.4 billion) ... with the defending champion Denver Nuggets ($3.4 billion) way down in 15th.
I’m on the radio Saturdays from noon to 1 PM CT on 97.1 (FM) The Freak in Dallas with an hour of live NBA talk. Join us online by clicking the link embedded in this sentence or via the iHeart radio app to listen to The Saturday Stein Line on this or on any Saturday ... or catch the podcasted version of the show once it drops via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your pods:
The Stein Line is a reader-supported publication. To receive full access to all of my posts and support my work, please consider becoming a Paid subscriber. Many, many thanks to everyone who has already joined our community to contribute to and fortify this independent endeavor.