We went into last night with eyes peeled wide to assess superstar transfers Shaquille O'Neal and Jason Kidd.
And they were both OK in losses. Neat-o and all that. O'Neal literally fell over on one of his first possessions, and didn't seem to enjoy picking and rolling way out by the elbow, where Steve Nash operates most effectively.
But in general, O'Neal did pretty much what I expected (every link this post is to highlights, BTW) him to do. No joke: I put it in writing to a friend before the game that I thought O'Neal would end up with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and five fouls in 26 minutes of a Phoenix loss. He ended with 15 points, nine rebounds, and five fouls in 29 minutes of a loss.
I'm sure O'Neal gave the Suns plenty to dream on, and I'm rooting for him. But there was also a disturbing lack of quality defense on that team. Shawn Marion is missing, and in the meantime Amare Stoudemire didn't even seem capable of getting a hand in the face of Pau Gasol. That could be a playoff problem.
For his part, Kidd was fresh off two cross-country flights, and as a point guard wasn't afforded O'Neal's opportunity to pick his spots. He also had the misfortune of facing the emergent Chris Paul, who hunts the ball like a barracuda and came up with nine steals. Kidd sparkled enough here and there -- and at times Dallas got pass-happy on the break, which was good to see.
So let's say both of these fall into the too-early-to-tell-but-cautiously-optimistic category.
Which, to my mind, makes last night's spotlight performances interesting.
But there was great basketball last night. From what I saw -- clicking around the League Pass -- these were the players who stole the spotlight from Shaq and Kidd's big night:
LeBron James had his second straight triple-double, with 31 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists in a win over Indiana. Wow.
Chris Bosh! 40 points on 16 shots in a big Toronto win over the Orlando Magic.
Jose Calderon continues a five-game stretch in which he's 37 of 51 from the field (.73%), 11 of 15 from 3-point land (73%), 100% from the foul line (nine out of nine), and averaging 19 points, 11 assists with a measly two turnovers per game.
Chris Paul is wishing he could have come up with one more steal for a tough triple double: 31 points, 11 assists, and nine steals for him on the night -- in a win against Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks.
In losing to the Raptors, Dwight Howard managed nonetheless to have an unbelievable 37 points and 15 rebounds, while only taking 16 shots. (Bosh and Howard combined to shoot 27/32.)
Thanks to a big night at the line, Michael Redd scored 27 points while taking just 11 shots, as his Bucks beat the mighty Pistons.
In Jason Kidd's absence, Vince Carter had 33 points (he took 21 shots), nine rebounds, and seven assists as New Jersey beat Chicago.
Ron Artest had 29 points on 12 shots as the Kings beat the Hawks.
Philadelphia rookie Thaddeus Young had 20 points (eight of 11 from the field) to go with eight rebounds all in just 24 minutes of a lopsided win over New York.
Honorable mention: Troy Murphy had 20 points on 11 shots in a loss, Desmond Mason shot eight for 11, and Baron Davis stuck the game-winner in the faces of the Boston Celtics.
(Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)