Words by Phlip
One week into the season, my preseason post has been shot all to hell. But wherever will I start?
James Harden is no longer a member of the OKC Thunder and his absence is shown very apparently in the fortunes of both his former and current teams. The Thunder have seen themselves victim to a sly and savvy Spurs team in the end-game of their Western Conference finals rematch on their opening night, then redeem themselves in a too-close-for-comfort victory over the Trailblazers. To say that James Harden’s production and usually-smart decision making were missed would be an understatement. For evidence of this, one simply needs to peruse his OWN outcomes over the first two games of his season.
After getting a surprise trade that IMMEDIATELY took his name out of the “6th Man of the Year” hat, he quickly took an unexplainably (on the part of the team, not him) contract extension before the season opened, then immediately set about the task of proving he had earned it. Two games into the season, he is averaging 41 points per game. I am being silly when I even NAME a statistic such as that, but it is worth mention that over the first two games of a season, only 3 times has anyone scored more points than this and those two people are Jordan and Wilt (who did two of those three). As odd as the trade seemed at the time, and as much as I WANTED to say that the winners of that trade were the Lakers, the fact of the matter is that – to this point – the winners of that trade have been the Houston Rockets who have also enjoyed fittingly bright play from Jeremy Lin as well.
And now the Lakers…
It was supposed to be easier than THIS. I am not saying that it was supposed to be easy, but lord knows no one expected an 0-3 start. I know the preseason was ugly, but the last two times they lost out in the preseason, they took home rings so I was not worried. With a three-game losing streak to start the season and Steve Nash due to miss time with a fracture in his shin already while the newly-formed team continues to try and gel while installing a new offense that no one on the team apparently understands, I am convinced that Mike Brown will lose his job sometime before my 34th birthday. What they SEEMED to have been given in their most major competitor making a money move and thereby removing THEMSELVES from being the source of problems, has become them replacing that competitor with their own ineptitude. I am not worried (yet), but my concern is well-worn, because Kobe is pissed enough to call fans stupid and Steve Blake is yelling at them at the end of games.
We’ll see how this pans out. At current, he is frontrunning for MVP but I FULLY expect that to not last. He will win “best beard” and perhaps (probably) “most improved” for his troubles.
Miami Heat fans…
Worry not, the Knicks were FIRE hot, and that is bound to happen to every team in the league at least once in a while, even the Bobcats. On the other side of that, the Knicks need not get ahead of THEMselves, as the basket is not that big for them or anyone every night they decide to go hoisting shots. At this point, I am still calling Miami to repeat as champions. They have weathered the storm of criticism and know what it is like. They have also gotten better than they were when they weathered it, despite the moves of all around them to catch up to them. They have one more season of the kind of dominance I see them achieving before age/miles begin to catch up to them along with everyone gunning for them. Realistically, Bulls/Lakers/Spurs dynasties have been what the league has been TRYING to stop from popping up every 5 years and I honestly think this time it will have worked. No, no different teams are going to win championships, but “3-peats” are a dead soldier.
Chicago is doing EXACTLY as I said they would. They played well enough to compete when Rose was out last season and held it together until that time he was back in the playoffs. This season, they will survive the regular season and for that Thibodeau will win Coach of the Year. Unfortunately, Rose – if he returns for the playoffs – will be rusty and might not still have his explosiveness or the time to have adjusted his game for its absence and they will not be able to compete with the Miami Heat.
Boston Fans, PANIC!
An expected 20-pt loss to the Heat to open the season is what it is. Losing to the Bucks by 11 as an encore while continuing to piss and moan and answer questions about Kevin Garnett’s immaturity toward Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo’s brewing hostilities with Dwyane Wade suggests a team in fast decline. The only people who will remain in this barren landscape when it is all over are Rondo and Doc Rivers. I can only say that I hope they have enjoyed the ride, because–…No, wait, I will come back to that. I want to talk about the Rondo/Wade thing first.
See, I have been a NON-fan of how Rondo carries himself, dating back to the Celtics/Bulls series of a couple years back. I thought he was kinda dirty and immature himself, obviously having taken the wrong elements from Kevin Garnett’s “my knees are finished” twilight years, which have coincided with his own startup years. He has been a crowned prince of “throwing rocks and hiding his hands,” but it has seemed that the chippiness with them and the Heat has been mutual and equal. He had (or at least seemed to me) been controlling his aggressiveness and for his troubles, Dwyane Wade seemed to have TRIED to break his arm (y’all remember that). So yeah, I hate to take the side of the Celtics, but this time against Rondo I am calling the Heat the aggressors.
Now, where was I?
I hope they have enjoyed the ride, as their assemblage of the “Big Three” has changed the whole landscape of the league and the time has come for them to start circling the wagons.
Other than some good Hurricane Sandy twitter jokes about the now-postponed Nets/Knicks game, not much has yet happened in the NBA. Things usually progress slowly as it is anyway. Anthony Davis is still my pick as Rookie of the Year, averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game through only two games, and I expect BOTH of those numbers to increase as the season progress. His play against arguably the best Power Forward of all time and surely the best of his generation Tim Duncan on opening night impressed me. And he hits his free throws. If we keep getting the Hornets that showed up against the Jazz, look for them to sneak into the playoffs and bring full-circle the increased value that Stern having fixed the draft in their favor placed into the sale of the team. I am not going to call an MVP watch until people have at least 3 weeks of games under them.
For now, things are not exactly yet active enough to warrant a full-on leaguewide report, but I fully expect things to heat up largely when the election and Hurricane Sandy cleanup have passed us. In the meantime, I am still talking basketball history every Thursday morning over there as well.