Words by Phlip
[Editor’s note: Shaquille O’Neal called Ricky Rubio “the Italian Pete Maravich,” not us…]
And with all that lockout invested in making sure every team in the league was as interesting as any other, we find ourselves back to the same square in which for various reasons – good and bad – we ONLY discuss about 6 (Mavericks, Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Spurs, and Bulls) of the 9 teams who have actually WON a title in the last 30ish years, plus the two that were fine with not pretending to want one (New York Knicks and LA Clippers).
Strangely enough, that seems to be where the smart money has been as far as discussions of this season. If not for the TERRIBLY compacted schedule in which teams have punched the clocks as many as 16 times in just 21 days of season, we’ve really not had time to think about that lockout, though.
Rookies, specifically those named Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio, have the benefit of youth on their sides in this hellish schedule, and are lending the entertainment value thus far, Rubio is as good as we thought he was pretending to be and Irving is more than well-enough carrying his low-expectations team to what is RIGHT now 7th place in the conference, one spot ahead of the Knicks (and yes, Knicks fans, that was a dig at the Knicks). While Rubio’s contributions are not yet adding up to the wins that I thought they would coming into the season, with the ‘Wolves at 10th place in the west, we can attribute that as much to surprising starts from the Jazz, Trailblazers and Nuggets (both the latter of whom I am also eating crow over) as we can the EXPECTED outcome of the OKC Thunder.
The Knicks are in a bad way, and it is 100% to be blamed on defense, or an almost complete lack thereof. When the Lakers started out slow, I was joked into the ground about how they were “finished,” yet at this point, only the plight of the Boston Celtics is worse among teams we might have expected to show up, and their particular issue is something I might call “inevitability,” in that they’ve stood pat on 3 main pieces that were already getting up in age when they arrived in 2007.
Andrew Bynum returned and the Lakers seemed to be hurting much less on the grand scheme of things, with him establishing himself as possibly the best offensive – and definitely at LEAST the second best overall – Center in the NBA. Averages of 16.5 points on 53% shooting and 13.9 rebounds per game more than lay the framework for the argument that he is definitely in the conversation. Games against Miami (where he can dominate) and Orlando (where he SHOULD play with a ‘don’t trade that guy for me’ chip) will be Bynum’s time to shine when the other major pieces on his team will be otherwise occupied.
The Dallas Mavericks…
Lost to both LA teams in the same manner in consecutive games from the SAME SPOT, all in a week where one of their assistant coaches was arrested following a traffic stop on an outstanding warrant. lol
It seemed that the San Antonio Spurs were primed for another one of those seasons that you can almost always Crayola them in for every year, then they went to Miami and went up by about 20 points, only to have LeBron Raymone James take place in the third quarter and lose by 18. Personally, I attribute it to continued animosity from the NBA Finals Sweep of LeBron’s Cavaliers by the Spurs, but I am also known for making silly jokes for my own amusement.
No worries, Spurs fans, they will still be a force to reckon with as long as Gregg Popovich is coaching that team, even if age reduces them to early outs come playoffs time.
Don’t look now, but the Clippers are not necessarily the Cripples these days. Two surefire megastars and one former finals MVP on the roster have them seeming to get it on the court enough to have beaten the Lakers, Heat and Mavericks within one week, a Herculean effort for which we will forgive them for laying that egg against the Jazz in between. So far, comparing the incoming talent to the fact that this IS still the team that Donald Sterling owns, the whole “Lob City” experiment has been a go to this point.
In the early season, I crowned LeBron the MVP-to-be and the Heat the NBA champions to come, and I still believe that. Teams are learning that only injury/illness to Wade or LeBron can slow this team consistently. Sure, a swarming zone to bother ball movement is a good start, but they have usually adjusted their ways around that thus far. At times, it almost feels as if they’re losing games so as to NOT be the #1 seed and heap the expectations that eventually became their damnation last year, but I don’t think anyone has ever done that in history.
All I will say about the 76ers and Pacers is that they are SURPRISES to this point, but I am REALLY not sure how long this will last… Yes, I know they made the playoffs last year, but neither was in position to be taken seriously yet. Both seem to be in better position for that this year – which again contrasts to the plight of the Knickerbockers – but will likely be first-round outs.
Speaking of the Knicks, I hear Gilbert Arenas is still looking for a job these days, too.