Although the season has just begun, there are, with apologies to certain former U.S. president, a few truths that have become self-evident. Here are five very early season stories that created some buzz, at least within this author’s mind.
1. The Celtics are really that good
With Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce leading the way the Celtics leap to a 3-0 start and a ridiculous 16.3 margin of victory per game. Assuming health, this team is clearly for real. But with just one other player scoring in double figures (Rajon Rondo at a tepid 10.3 ppg) and basically every stat being dominated by the Big Three, someone else is going to have to step up, especially with Allen’s health problems last year. It will take more than just a few superstars to win a championship (see 2003-2004 Lakers), it takes role players as well and we haven’t quite seen any such sub quite yet.
2. Kevin Durant misses Greg Oden
This may seem odd to say being that he is averaging 22.6 PPG and 5.4 RPG through his first four professional games and getting all the publicity that could have been directed towards his gigantic rookie counterpart. This is a very young team. Durant is obviously the baby at 18 but Chris Wilcox is still only 25, Jeff Green (the other rookie in town), Johan Petro, and Robert Swift are only 21, and Earl Watson (28) and Damien Wilkins (27) aren’t that old either. In fact, the only player older than Watson is Wally Szczerbiak’s poison pill contract and he’s only 30. They won’t be that good this year with such a young squad and the Sonics look like a team that is just biding time before moving to Oklahoma City. With the potential of losing season and the morbidity of watching fans possibly jump ship from the team while ownership antagonizes the populace, a friendly rivalry with Oden could be about the only Durant had to look forward to this season.
3. New Orleans is a team that will be around
Winning four of their first five games by comfortable margins, the Hornets gave New Orleans something to cheer about during the first week of the season. A balanced attack that includes Tyson Chandler averaging double figures and the ultimate sixth man in Bobby Jackson will give them something to cheer about after the last week of the season. Clearly, this offense is driven by Chris Paul is who has 18.6 PPG and a whopping 12.4 APG, which no doubt has gotten the offensively-challenged Chandler, who has never averaged double figures previously (he maxed out at 9.5 ppg last year). Also, having Peja Stojakovic, is big help. His numbers have been really up-and-down. Look at his shooting these first five games:
-Game 1: 7-12 from the field and 4-7 from three
-Game 2: 7-17 from the field and 4-10 from three
-Game 3: 1-10 from the field and 1-8 from three
-Game 4: 12-21 from the field and 10-13 from three
-Game 5: 2-13 from the field and 1-4 from three.
It’s been a wild ride but, even with a couple of stinkers, a diminished Peja is makes a big difference over Rasual Butler and this team has a chance to move up the playoff ladder.
5. The West is no longer a dominant conference
One of the main reasons for the West’s dominance in recent years has been the big men on the left coast. With Garnett’s move combined with Dwight Howard emergence as a dominating big man, the Tim Duncan’s of the world will not get to relax after the Western Conference Finals. It’s pretty early, but the East is a respectable 8-7 against the West, which is a huge improvement so far. This is not to say the East is ready to overtake the West and will win the NBA Championship; I mean c’mon it’s only the first week.