By Albert Luna
3 Things I Like and Don’t Like
What a time to be a fan of the NBA. Not only have we lived through a part of NBA history that may not be seen again (with the Warriors jumping out to the best start in league history, but also the Philadelphia 76ers making history of their own on their way to the worst start in league history). OK, maybe that last part was a little bit off the mark. However, with this latest NBA column, there is so much to talk about so let’s get right to it. Here are three things I like and don’t like, plus power rankings.
Like: Kobe Bryant announcing his retirement early
I am by no means a fan of Kobe hanging up his jersey after this season. He is one of the best players ever to step onto the hardwood and reminded people so much of Michael Jordan, just from an attitude and work ethic. However, as one of the greatest Lakers ever has always said, he does not want to be playing if he isn’t one of the best in the league. After three seasons filled with injuries and a mediocre team, Bryant has finally come to terms that he is not what he once was. That is OK though, he needs no more validation. The timing of yesterday’s announcement is big because now it allows Kobe to get the proper sendoff that he deserves, one last victory lap if you will, to be recognized and honored from now until mid-April. Kobe, although he has fizzled out since 2012 when he was at the end of his prime, is rightfully going out with all the praise and recognition he deserves.
Don’t Like: The Rockets and Clippers play of late
I grouped both of these teams together because the expectations at the beginning of the season were essentially the same for both clubs: win a championship. After the first month or so of the season, both look very far from it. The Rockets have fired former Head Coach Kevin McHale just over two weeks into the season, after many said that he lost the focus of star James Harden. The Clippers have not made any drastic changes yet besides deciding that Lance Stephenson simply is not good anymore and regulating him to the end of the bench. Both teams still sport losing records, although they have picked up some sloppy wins of late to better their early records. Do not quote me, but if there is going to be something drastic (such as a trade, or firing) that will affect the NBA landscape, it is coming out of either Houston or L.A.
Like: Paul George’s comeback
The Pacers woke up Monday morning to find themselves at second in the Eastern Conference despite losing starters Roy Hibbert and David West from last year. That is in large part to the play of star Paul George, who has been superb in his comeback from a gruesome broken leg suffered in August of 2014. George has regained the form that had many pegging him as a future superstar in the league. He looks comfortable on the court again and despite barely playing, his way back into the groove of things is clearly already carrying the load for the Pacers both offensively and defensively.
- Golden State Warriors – 18-0 and quite possibly on track to be the best team in NBA history, no more validation needed.
- San Antonio Spurs – LaMarcus Aldridge’s numbers are a bit down, but that’s OK, as long as Kawhi Leonard keeps producing at this rate. San Antonio quietly only at three losses on the season.
- Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavs have played some sloppy basketball of late against the Hornets and Nets games coming down too close to the wire, but fear not, with LeBron looking as LeBron as ever. Their weak bench can’t get Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert back quick enough.
- Oklahoma City Thunder – Kevin Durant’s return has yielded four straight wins for the Thunder, proving that Westbrook might impact stats, but Durant is the source of winning.
- Indiana Pacers – The Pacers have enjoyed this five-game winning streak thanks to Paul George, as explained above.
- Miami Heat – The Heat are a bit inconsistent but they seem to finally be firing out their defensive scheme, in large part to the play of Hassan Whiteside, who is blocking shots at a historic rate.
- Toronto Raptors – Although they blew a game on Sunday at home to the Suns, the Raptors’ impressive victory over the Cavs on Wednesday along with the emergence of their starters finally playing up to expectations, the Raptors are trending upward.
- Chicago Bulls – The Bulls have not played too many games thus far but still are looking solid under their new coach, Fred Hoiberg, who needs to figure out how to get his team to score the ball on a more consistent basis.
- Charlotte Hornets – How about the Hornets? They seem to have a legitimate playoff team on their hands once again after missing out last year. Jeremy Lamb is making OKC think twice about trading him while Jeremy Lin is a decent backup.
- Memphis Grizzlies – The Grizz get the nod over the Hawks and the Mavs here due to their great play of late. After opening the season 3-6, they have shown they are still contenders in a Western Conference that does not seems as competitive as in years past.
Be sure to check back next week, same time, for the latest installment of the NBA column.
Albert Luna may be reached at ALuna32@NMSU.edu
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