The NBA season is off to a rousing start and here’s what stands out after the first week of play. Just keep in mind it’s a long season and you shouldn’t be overly disappointed or excited by what you’ve seen from your team so far.
The Philadelphia 76ers didn’t get the memo that they’re supposed to struggle this season.
Michael Carter-Williams had one of the most impressive debuts in recent memory against the Miami Heat with a 22 point, 12 assist, seven rebound, and nine steal game. On Saturday -- on the second night of a back-to-back no less -- MCW scored 26 points and dished out 10 assists in a 107-104 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
I said on the Celtics Beat that he should be getting more attention. He handles the ball very well and knows how to direct a team. The one big knock was his shooting ability -- he’s shooting 47.1% from three for what it’s worth -- but that’s the single easiest skill to improve as a professional basketball player.
We saw Damian Lillard make the transition from college look easy for a point guard last year for the Portland Trail Blazers. It’s not.
Are they a title contender? No. Will they make the playoffs? Probably not. According to @DeanO_ESPN, a .300 team will have a 3-game win streak about 89% of the time. Important w/ regards to Sixers. Let’s just enjoy this while it lasts.
Derrick Rose Is Healthy, But Rusty. Russell Westbrook Lightning Quick On and Off the Court
Derrick Rose finally returned to NBA-action with an improved vertical and looks healthy, but that only counts for so much. You can train all you want but until you step onto the court with defenders (who aren’t your teammates) and the intensity increases 10-fold, you just don’t know how a player will react.
Rose has made only 15 of his 52 shots in Chicago’s first three games. The team is 1-2. He did however, show that didn’t lose his knack for making big plays as he nailed a lovely floater to down the New York Knicks. It’s their only win so far.
It’s a long season and I fully expect his accuracy to improve. That still might not make Bulls fans comfortable.
Speaking of comfortable, Russell Westbrook returned to the court nearly a month earlier than expected (http://scores.espn.go.com/nba/recap?gameId=400488917) after being sidelined for the last six months. He looked sharp physically but like Rose, shot the ball without much efficiency.
Did team’s performance the night before entice him to jump the gun? The Oklahoma City Thunder (2-1) suffered one of their worst losses in the Kevin Durant and Westbrook era; a 100-81 drubbing at the hands of the undefeated Minnesota Timberwolves. What a difference a healthy Kevin Love (Mr. Double-Double) and Ricky Rubio makes. Right now, I’d say they’re the best 1-2 punch in the Western Conference. Minnesota is going to be a top team as long as those two are healthy. I'll have more on them next week.
Durant will be happy to have someone take the pressure off him on offense. There will be less double-teams for the best scorer in the NBA. Once Westbrook gets back into rhythm, OKC should roll through the regular season and the most electrifying duo in the league will help the team win games. A lot of them.
Seth Curry and Klay Thompson are HOT
Remember last year’s playoff run when there were times when Stephen Curry would catch fire and everything he threw up looked like a good shot? He’s still doing that this season for the Golden State Warriors (2-1). Curry has chucked up 27 three-pointers this season already. He’s made 16 of them or 59.3 percent of them.
He’s also not even the hottest player on his team. That honor goes to Klay Thompson who showed flashes of his shooting prowess last season for stretches but now appears to be completely locked in.
Thompson scored a career-best 38 points in the Warriors’ season opening win vs the Los Angeles Lakers. From behind the arc he’s connecting 52.9 percent of the time. Overall from the field, he’s making an astonishing 65.1 percent. That would be one hell of a figure for a center, let alone a two-guard who isn’t afraid to launch shots from well beyond the 3-point line. It’s kind of like a really, really long heat-check.
Some experts say it’s the best shooting backcourt in NBA history. I buy it.
Fear the Beard! Oh, and That Superman Guy, Too
In honor of the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series, I have to give some credit to the Houston Rockets' (3-0) alpha dog. James Harden is fourth in the NBA in scoring at 26 points per game. He scored 16 of his 23 points against the Utah Jazz in the second half as he lead the Rockets back from a 19-point deficit on Saturday night.
He’s the best shooting guard in basketball right now.
It doesn’t hurt to have the best center of this generation playing at a high level either. Dwight Howard looks happy again. A happy Howard means a productive Howard, and a productive Howard is pulling down 17 rebounds a game, tops in the league. He and Omer Asik anchor a defense that is allowing only 93.7 points per game so far. A major improvement over last season and something they’ll need to continue to do if they want to have success in the playoffs.
Walt Bellamy, Hall of Fame Center, Dies
On a more somber note, Walt Bellamy passed away on Saturday at the age of 74. The four-time NBA All-Star averaged 20.1 points and 13.7 rebounds a game in 14 seasons. He won an Olympic medal in 1960 for the United States as well and was the #1 overall pick in the 1962 draft by the Chicago Packers.
To win or to “rig?” That is the question.
The Boston Celtics are 0-3 to start the season. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Actually, I think that should make people happy. Although the Celtics won’t come out and say they’re “throwing away the season” outright, winning might not be the best course of action. The lottery system in for the NBA Draft was put in place to deter teams from tanking but the 2014 draft class is just too damn good.
Interior defense will be a struggle all season long as last night's game against the Detroit Pistons showed. One bright spot was rookie center Vitor Faverani’s 18 rebound and six-block performance against the Bucks on Friday night.
Early returns on Jeff Green have been positive. He leads the Celtics in scoring, averaging 15 points a game. Without Rondo, Green is the go-to guy whenever he’s on the court and shouldn’t have a problem keeping those numbers up or even increasing his scoring output.