The 2021-22 NBA season began last Tuesday, but most of the headlines around the league have very little to do with basketball. Whether it's protests at Barclays Center about Kyrie Irving's vaccine status, the ongoing saga with Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers or infighting within the Los Angeles Lakers, the off-court drama has overshadowed the fact that some great NBA games and tremendous individual performances have been taking place.

No more.

There will continue to be discussion about all of those storylines as the season goes along, but how about we talk some basketball? I'm taking this opportunity to highlight nine cool and interesting things that I noticed during an incredible first week of NBA action.

 

1. Giannis' speedy free throw routine

Remember during the playoffs when opposing crowds continually proved they could count to 10 (usually not very well) while Giannis Antetokounmpo was at the free throw line? Antetokounmpo's routine progressed at a tempo that would induce impatience from molasses, and he was even called for two 10-second violations during the postseason -- one of which came during a crucial juncture of a first-round game against the Miami Heat.

Well, it appears that's not going to be an issue this year. Giannis has significantly shortened his free throw routine, taking just one dribble before letting it fly, much to the dismay of spectators used to taking that time to grab a beverage refill.

The expedited routine takes about five seconds, nearly half as long as last year's, and so far it's been successful. Antetokounmpo has shot 70.4 percent from the line this season, compared to 65.8 percent over the last two seasons combined.

 

2. Paul George is up to the challenge

Captain Obvious wasn't the first to point out that in order for the Clippers to survive with Kawhi Leonard out of the lineup, Paul George would have to play at an All-NBA, possibly MVP level. He's been all that and more in the Clippers' first two games, averaging 35 points, 10.5 rebounds and five assists on 56/44/100 shooting splits. These aren't empty stats, either. He answered Stephen Curry's25-point first quarter in the Warriors' home opener with 16 of his own on 4-for-5 3-point shooting, then hit two incredibly difficult, clutch shots as the Clippers mounted a late comeback against the Grizzlies.

To show just how thin the Clippers' margin of error is this season, they ended up losing both games despite George's heroics.

 

3. The Tyler Herro experience

Tyler Herro has carried his brilliant All-Preseason performance into the regular season, averaging 28.5 points and eight rebounds off the bench in his first two games while notching the first 30-point, 10-rebound game by a non-starter in Miami Heat history in Saturday's overtime loss to the Pacers.

Herro is playing with the snarling swagger and bravado that we saw in the bubble, and shows no signs of slowing. Miami was unable to pull out that win in Indiana, however, partly because...