A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Some thoughts on the first week

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It’s only one week.  I’m trying hard not to rush to any judgments, because I know it can often take teams a good dozen games or so to really show their true colors, but that doesn’t mean what I see isn’t weighing on my mind.  So here’s some thoughts on a few different teams so far…

Miami Heat

Personally, when LeBron announced he was moving to Miami, my main reaction was excitement.  Not because of any fandom bias, but simply because we rarely get to see this kind of “What If?” experiment.  Will the team of dreams actually be a Dream Team?  Will it happen right away?  How will the team grow over time?

What we’re seeing so far is mediocre offense and absolute lock-down defense, which is about the least discussed result possible.

Take 3 offense-first stars put them on a team, the thing you’d most expect is that the offense would improve.Instead, we see an offense full of guys who don’t really know how to multiply their games together.  It’s either the LeBron show, the Wade show, or the Bosh show.  Funny how that works.  Certainly it speaks to the team aspect of the game, but let’s remember that offenses don’t always take time to work together.  Steve Nash went to Phoenix, and the offense went to GOAT levels overnight.  Does Miami’s struggles say something damning about the Thrices ability to really play team basketball?  Eh, let’s give them more time before saying that.

Meanwhile the defense has been extraordinary, something along the lines of the Garnett-infused Celtics of ’07-08.  Now, there’s things we can point to to fit this in with a larger pattern.  While Kevin Garnett is a fantastic defender, he wasn’t capable of creating a defense like that on his own – the bigger factors were probably the extremely hyped up motivation of the Celtic crew (of which Garnett was a big part) and the fantastic team-oriented defensive scheme that guru Tom Thibodeau drew up.    Well the Heat already had a strong defense last year (much better than their offense), and I think we can all agree now:  The members of the Heat, led by the 3 stars, are hyped to within an inch of their life.

Los Angeles Lakers

So far so good for the defending champs.  No team looks better, and it appears that Kobe Bryant is finally feeling more comfortable treating Pau Gasol like a co-superstar.  This could prove bad for Kobe’s MVP campaign, but it is the right thing to do (and actually makes him contribute more net value to the team ironically).  As it becomes increasingly clear that Gasol is not simply another B-list star, but a perfect fit for Phil Jackson’s Triangle, the only sane way to go is to gradually focus more and more on him as the older Kobe presumably begins to fade.

Boston Celtics

Beating the Heat was a statement game for the old veterans.   The loss to the Cavs was embarrassing but clearly not a reflection on the Celtics’ capabilities.   At this point the Celtics have served notice that they’re still here, and you’ll have to go through them to win the East.  The main concern will continue to be about their ability to stay healthy over the course of the season.  Still, while the Heat clearly can’t feel like they’ve proven themselves yet after the loss, the Celtics have to expect the Heat to get better.  The two teams play again on the 11th, it’ll be fun to see what happens then.

Orlando Magic

It’s just one game, but the way the Magic got completely thrown off their game by the Heat, after consistently dominating opponents through the pre-season and first regular season game seemed very reminiscent of what we saw with them in last season’s playoffs against the Celtics.  I’m certainly not going to say they’re doomed to be also-rans, but the central question from before still remains:  Dwight Howard seems to be able to dominate all but a really well put together defense, but those few really well put together defenses have tremendous success defending him.

Portland Trail Blazers

3 big clutch showings in the first week.  Statistical analysis tells us that winning close games has far more luck involved than any of us want to admit, but it’s still impressive.  It’s really quite stunning that the Blazers have developed into such a solid club even without the man who was supposed to be their superstar, Greg Oden.  Still hard to really imagine them as contenders as is, but if Oden comes back – and doesn’t get hurt again before July, that could change.

Utah Jazz

Two disappointing losses followed by a strong victory.  Seems to me your classic early season stumbles.  I have every confidence that Jerry Sloan will again have a strong team on his hands.  Also, I’m happy that Paul Millsap has taken center stage.  After waiting for years to get out from under Carlos Boozer’s shadow, Boozer leaves, and the Jazz acquire Al Jefferson.  Looked like more of the same for Millsap, and it may still be, but a great week for him this week at least.

Houston Rockets

0 for 3 in this first week.  One of the better 0-3 teams you’ll ever see.  I do expect them to recover to mediocrity, but it’s not a terribly good sign for those thinking this might be the year the Rockets finally graduate to contender status.  With that said, it’s certainly understandable for Yao Ming to have some rust, and the team seems like they emphasizing Luis Scola as a first option which seems clear to be major step up over Aaron Brooks.

Minnesota Timberwolves

One week in, and already so many discouraging signs.  No one expected this team to actually be good, but the team continually makes us ask “Why?” before bashing our heads to the wall.  Kevin Love gets bench during the first game, why?  It’s amazing that Kurt Rambis is part of Jackson’s coaching tree.  Jackson in game coaching is largely about having faith in the players he’s built the team around and letting them work out problems for themselves.  Rambis on the other hand is an extreme micro-manager who always seems to be outsmarting yourself.  Kurt, Love is the guy you’ve been using as the star of your team all pre-season, either stick with him for a while so he can really take on that role in its entirety, or definitively focus the team around someone else.

If that wasn’t enough for the first week, we have former Heat malcontent, and new Wolf Michael Beasley saying “We’re the worst team in the NBA”.  Lovely.

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Written by Matt Johnson

November 1, 2010 at 11:56 am

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