This is a monthly check-up of the League. Yes, people will say this is too early, but with slightly more than a month in, it would be a good time to take an early temperature reading on where we are.
1. Los Angeles Lakers – Not a good week to put them up here because of their 4 game losing streak. However, until otherwise proven, they’ll stay here. The B-List (Barnes, Blake, Brown) has been producing, but Fish and Ronron have been sluggish at best. Lamar Odom still doing adequately fine after his Istanbul stint. Kobe’s just chugging along but it is Pau Gasol that’s doing yeoman’s work (20-11) for the Lake Show while we wait for the perpetual wildcard in Andrew Bynum.
Rejuvenation machine at work:
2. San Antonio Spurs – Tim Duncan now moving into old David Robinson mode. The question now with him will be when will he pass George Gervin’s ABA-NBA points total (23,602. Duncan has 20,888). Tony Parker now focused on the game instead of Eva, although the drama never ceases. The break from international duty served Manu Ginobili in great stead (21-4-5, with a preseason coaching masterpiece). It also never ceases to wonder how Richard Jefferson is back (sort of, 15-4 50% shooting from the field). And oh, the wonders of Gary Neal.
Humming along thanks to a PG:
3. Utah Jazz – The comeback kids. They did it in four straight games at one point. They even pulled it off against the Clippers twice. Deron Williams has been great. And yes, Paul Millsap‘s omission on the All-Star ballot is absolutely egregious As egregious as Jerry Sloan never winning the COTY.
4. New Orleans Hornets – A scintillating start that impressed everyone. They then deal for Jarrett Jack, in exchange for the remnants of Peja Stojakovic, to reprise the hole that was ably filled by Janerro Pargo in that magical post-season. Chris knows Jarrett well. They faced off in the ACC (GaTech vs Wake) and came in the same NBA draft class (2005). (Atlanta Hawks fans can continue to drown their sorrows). GM Dell Demps (yep, that guy who played as an import here in the Motherland) deserves kudos for his off-season. Monty Williams still looks like he could still play. One hopes for the continued good health for Chris, because of that huge brace on his knee.
5. Dallas Mavericks – Dirk is playing at a MVP-level. To keep with the theme, Jason Kidd’s keeping things steady. Like Millsap, the Jet was left off the ballot as well. Tyson Chandler is not on the ballot, but he’s playing very well, like his fellow Istanbul mates. It is interesting to note that it looks as though the best former Wizard on the roster is actually the throw-in named DeShawn Stevenson.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder – So Nick Collison is worth $10.5 million this season. Their luck with health seems to have ended with KD and Jeff Green missing time. In his absence, Russell Westbrook has been incredible, maybe too incredible.
The quiet elephant in the room:
7. Denver Nuggets – The elephant in the room in this scenario being Carmelo Anthony, obviously. But Kenyon Martin has still not yet played this season. Yet, the Landlord is making himself home in his absence (5 pts 6 rebs) and Nene being asked to do more. Interesting that Melo is the leading rebounder with 8.3.
8. Phoenix Suns – This one is a little more subtle, because Steve Nash has never made any pronouncements. In fact, his first preference has always been to stay in Phoenix. But he’s 37 already and he really wants to win a ring. And you never really know about the owner. Once again, Robin Lopez‘s injury is costing them. Hakim Warrick just ok right now as the replacement to Amar’e.
Injuries to wreak havoc:
9. Portland Trailblazers – It already has struck with Greg Oden this season. Joel Przybilla is not yet here. And Brandon Roy has an achy knee. The concern has made the Wesley Matthews signing really worth the flak it got at the time. They have been sputtering as of late, so they will shuffle things a bit.
10. Golden State Warriors – David Lee just got cleared. Monta Ellis is a constant injury concern. Ditto with Stephen Curry. However, the new ownership has seemed to given new life to the W’s. Dorell Wright has been a major steal. Oh, and the new unis are sweet. The spirit of Nellieball remains bright as they are still prone scenarios like Pau.
11. Memphis Grizzlies – Unlike the Kings below, these guys are closer to figuring things out. NBA fans probably think this was worth all the moolah that went Rudy Gay’s way. Just recently, Mike Conley got paid, then showed them something. Hey, they beat both the Lakers and the Heat, something they and the Pacers both share. Now, if only their second unit can keep things up.
12. Houston Rockets – Doesn’t help matters when Aaron Brooks is still sidelined. When healthy enough, Yao Ming still remains under the minutes cap. They would be in a worse state if not for the emergence of Luis Scola, who was the subject of an Artest prank.
13. Sacramento Kings – They have a logjam at the bigs and currently Jason Thompson in on the losing end as of the moment, although he did steal a start. They have a lot of parts on the table, Paul Westphal needs to figure out which parts fit. Oh, and what you see is what you get with DeMarcus Cousins.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves – To David Kahn‘s credit, nabbing Michael Beasley for two second-rounders is great. Darko‘s feeling at home as the starting center. But they still got a long long way to go. They still have THE statline of the year so far. It would be nice to monitor Jonny Flynn as of the moment. Meanwhile, How’s Ricky?
15. Los Angeles Clippers – It’s neat that the Clippers have beaten both New Orleans and San Antonio when they were atop of the league. Baron Davis just came back. Chris Kaman is still sidelined, although he’s closing in. Still, the schedule-makers have been unkind to them and it shows, especially when you consider they’re virtually an under-23 lineup (Griffin, EJ, DJ, Gordon, Bledsoe). However, Blake Griffin has been manna from heaven. The Clipperwolves (Foye, Rhino, Gomes) have been adequate as well. There is really nothing much, but I would like to see VDN continue to feed this bunch further to the wolves and let them fend it.