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From Opening Night through All-Stars Weekend in NBA,10 facts

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Breakout stars, surprise teams, blockbuster transactions, and more from the first 125 days of the 2021-22 season in the NBA.


From the first 125 days of the 2021-22 season, there were record-breaking performances, breakout players, surprise teams, blockbuster transactions, and more.



From Opening Night through All-Star Weekend in the NBA, here are ten things to know



1. The 75th Anniversary Group


The first three evenings of the regular season must be dedicated to the introduction of the 75th Anniversary Team. Reread the following numbers from the original press release: There have been 730 NBA All-Star selections and 158 NBA championships. A total of 110 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Awards and Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Awards have been handed out. Over 1.5 million points were earned.


There are 76 players on the 75th Anniversary Team due to a tie in the voting; all 50 members of the 50th Anniversary team made the list, as did 11 active players, including six who were chosen for the 2022 All-Star Game, where the 75th Anniversary Team was honored in a stunning halftime ceremony.


The image of legend after legend walking onto the center court stage while wearing the distinctive blue blazer with the NBA's 75th Anniversary diamond logo on the breast was only surpassed by behind-the-scenes footage of yesterday's and today's legends honoring one another.



2. Curry sets a new 3-point mark.


Madison Square Garden, New York City, December 14, 2021. Stephen Curry became the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made at that time and place, solidifying his already well-deserved status as the best shooter in NBA history. Steph wouldn't refer to himself as the best until he had that record.


Curry attained the magic number of 2,974 with his second 3-pointer in Golden State's win over the Knicks that night, one more than Ray Allen, who was in attendance to congratulate Curry, and Reggie Miller, the now third-ranked 3-point shooter, who called the game for TNT.


If he couldn't break the record at home, what better place to do so than The Garden, the third game of a four-game road trip? Curry needed 16 3s to break the record heading into Golden State's final home game before the trip, and there was talk that he could do it at home that night against Portland, breaking Klay Thompson's all-time record of 14. Curry did not hit 16 three-pointers against Portland that night, but he did break the record a few months later in the NBA All-Star Game.


Chris Paul became the first player in NBA history to have 20,000 points and 10,000 assists in his career. As previously stated, he is about to be joined by some company.

Carmelo Anthony surpassed Moses Malone for ninth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Melo needs 555 points to pass Shaquille O'Neal for eighth place this season, which is unlikely.

Curry broke his own record for the most consecutive games with a 3-pointer made, which now stands at 179 and counting.


A few other noteworthy achievements from the first half of the season


LeBron James has surpassed 10,000 career rebounds, making him the first player in NBA history to have 30,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 9,000 assists. He enters the second half of the season needing only 38 assists to complete his career triple-double of 30K/10K/10K.





3. Klay returns after a 941-day absence


Klay Thompson returned to the court for the Golden State Warriors in January after missing 941 days due to a pair of catastrophic leg injuries – a torn Achilles and a torn ACL. There may not be a more universally loved player in the league today than Klay Thompson, so his return was cause for celebration among all players and fans who love the game of basketball, which is simply better when Klay is on the court.


Thompson finished with 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting in 20 minutes against Cleveland on Jan. 9, 2022, in his first NBA game since Game 6 of the 2019 Finals. Klay hit three three-pointers and threw down a monster running dunk to cap off his "I'm Back" moment.


Thompson has averaged 17.1 points in his first 16 games back, shooting 41.8 percent from the field, 37.4 percent from 3-point range, and 93.5 percent from the free-throw line. As he works his way back to full strength, he's shown glimpses of his vintage Klay.




4. Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies


There is only one answer to the question of who was the breakout star of the 2021-22 NBA season – Memphis' Ja Morant, who earned his first All-Star selection (as a starter) in his third NBA season thanks to his outstanding and spectacular play on the court every night.


Morant is a highlight waiting to happen for the Grizzlies every night, whether it's a poster dunk, a two-handed block a foot above the rim, a no-look pass, or a spinning 360 layup, to name a few. Morant's game is much more than spectacular feats.


Morant, who stands 6-foot-3 and averages 16.4 points in the paint per game, is the catalyst for Memphis' breakout season. The Grizzlies were third in the Western Conference at 41-19 entering the All-Star break, one of only three teams with 40+ wins (Phoenix and Golden State are the others).



While Morant is the Grizzlies' heartbeat, he's had plenty of help in leading the team from the Play-In Tournament last season to home-court advantage to start the playoffs this season.


Desmond Bane has made a significant improvement in his second season, averaging 17.9 points and ranking 11th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (41.9 percent); Jaren Jackson Jr. is averaging 16.7 points and ranks fourth in the NBA in blocks (2.2 per game); and Dillon Brooks, who has not played since Jan. 8 due to an ankle injury but should be back in a few weeks, is Memphis' second-leading scorer (18.4 ppg).





5. Cleveland's renaissance


The Cleveland Cavaliers finished the 2020-21 season in 13th place in the Eastern Conference with a 22-50 record – tied for the league's fourth-worst record – and entered the 2021-22 season with relatively low expectations: see how the young roster improves, see what No. 3 pick Evan Mobley can provide as a rookie, and compete night in and night out to try to make the playoffs, possibly through the Play-In Tournament.


Following a promising 7-4 start to the season, the Cavaliers announced that starting guard Collin Sexton would be out for the rest of the season due to knee surgery.


But neither that injury, nor the injury to Ricky Rubio six weeks later, which forced the veteran guard to miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, has been able to derail the Cavaliers' comeback.


The Cavs are 35-23 at the break, 13 wins ahead of last season's total with 24 games remaining, and sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs are tied with Philadelphia (currently No. 3 due to a tiebreaker), as both teams are only 2.5 games back of Miami and Chicago at the top of the Eastern Conference.


Mobley has outperformed expectations and teams with Jarrett Allen on the frontline, assisting Cleveland to a fourth-ranked defensive efficiency rating (105.8). Darius Garland has had a breakout season in his third season as a pro, averaging at least 20 points and eight assists.


Garland and Allen both made their All-Star debuts on Sunday in front of their home crowds in Cleveland.



6. DeMar DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls



From Opening Night through All-Star Weekend in the NBA, here are ten things to know

DeMar DeRozan was traded to the Chicago Bulls in a sign-and-trade deal between the Spurs and the Bulls after spending the previous three seasons in San Antonio. DeRozan is in the midst of a career-best year in his 13th NBA season, so the deal has paid off handsomely for Chicago.


DeRozan is the league's fourth leading scorer (28.1 ppg) and second in clutch scoring (114 points in 95 clutch minutes, on 54.1 percent shooting). DeRozan has earned the title of "King of the Mid-Range" after leading the NBA in mid-range field goals made (259) and attempted (516), as well as having 103 more mid-range field goals than any other player (Devin Booker is second at 156). But it's from behind the arc that he's had some of his best moments this season.


DeRozan hit game-winning 3-pointers for the Bulls on the road in back-to-back games, on back-to-back nights, in two different calendar years.


He finished 2021 by sinking the Pacers in Indianapolis with a pull-up 28-footer off one leg. In less than 24 hours, DeRozan opened 2022 with another game-winning triple, this time in the left corner after pump-faking one defender away and rising above another.


If that wasn't enough for DeRozan, he also made history in the final 10 days before the All-Star break by becoming the first player in league history to score at least 35 points on 50 percent shooting or better in seven consecutive games. Wilt Chamberlain had held the record for six straight games, and being able to put your name next to or ahead of Wilt in the record books is an honor.




7. Dominant big men – Embiid and Jokic


Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic have finished in the top two in NBA website's weekly Kia MVP Ladder for the past three weeks, with the two big men trading the top two spots above all other players in the league.


So far this season, both big men have been absolutely dominant. Embiid entered the All-Star break as the NBA's leading scorer, averaging 29.6 points per game, and is attempting to become the first center to win the scoring title since Shaquille O'Neal in 1999-2000. (29.7 ppg). Embiid is a force on both sides of the ball, ranking eighth in rebounding (11.2 rpg) and 11th in blocks (1.4 bpg).


Embiid is one of eight players this season to score 50 or more points in a game, matching his career high of 50 points (in just 27:03, the second-fewest minutes in a 50-point game in the shot clock era) against Orlando on Jan. 19.


Jokic is having an equally good – if not better – season than he did last year, when he was named league MVP for the first time. Jokic's counting stats are incredible – 26.0 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 7.9 apg – as he is the only player in the top ten in points (8th), rebounds (2nd), and assists (7.9 apg) (8th).


He's also on pace to have the highest PER (32.6) in league history, and his on/off numbers may best reflect his genuine influence. The Nuggets outscored their opponents by 10.1 points per 100 possessions while Jokic is on the court, but they are outscored by 10.7 points per 100 possessions when he is off the court.




8• Suns are leading the way.


The Suns entered the All-Star break with a 48-10 record, which was not only the best in the league, but also had seven less losses than any other team (Golden State, 42-17). So far this season, there have been three double-digit win streaks, two of which belong to the Suns, including a team-record 18 straight wins from Oct. 30 to Dec. 2.


So there you have it, the Suns' good news. Then there's the bad news. Chris Paul will be out for the next six to eight weeks due to an avulsion fracture in his right thumb, according to the Suns.


How will the Suns fare without their floor general for the next two months – which is virtually the end of the regular season? Can they keep their lead as the No. 1 seed in the NBA, not just in the West?




9• Harden/Simmons are the front-runners for the trade deadline.


It was a saga that began with Philadelphia's elimination from the 2021 playoffs in the Eastern Conference semifinals on June 20, 2021, and ended with Ben Simmons being traded from the Sixers to the Nets (along with Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks) on Feb. 10, 2022, at the trade deadline.


The blockbuster between the Nets and the Sixers ruled the day on a trade deadline day that saw a number of clubs make deals to improve their chances of making a long playoff run, or maybe simply making the playoffs at all. It's not every day that two All-NBA players are traded for each other, let alone in the same conference where both have championship ambitions. It's also uncommon to see a deal that appears to benefit all parties involved: Simmons gets a fresh start in Brooklyn alongside Kevin Durant (when he returns from injury) and Kyrie Irving (for road games only at this point), while Harden reunites with Daryl Morey and combines with Joel Embiid.




10. The Lakers and the Nets are currently in the Play-In round.


The NBA website conducts a survey of the league's general managers at the start of each season to offer predictions on how the season will unfold. The top two favorites to win the 2022 NBA Finals were the Brooklyn Nets (72 percent) and Los Angeles Lakers (17 percent), with each team winning its respective conference.


Both teams are currently in the Play-In Tournament field in their respective conferences during the All-Star break: Brooklyn is eighth in the East with a 31-28 record, while the Lakers are ninth in the West with a 27-31 record. Throughout the season, both sides have dealt with a variety of challenges, including injuries, Health and Safety Protocols, team camaraderie, and player availability.


Source: NBA official website 


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