Slow Starting NBA Squads Can’t Be Counted Out… Yet
After the strike and being without a hint of basketball action since last June, it’s easy to overreact to what we see out of the chute. We were all so starved for so long it’s only natural to read too much into what transpired during the NBA’s first week of the season.
But in a strike shortened year where teams didn’t have the benefit of a training camp, the start to the 2011-12 season may be more deceptive than most.
Especially for teams loaded with veteran players that have been major contributors in recent years- specifically, the Celtics, Lakers and Mavericks. No training camp means older teams get off to a slower start, while the young bucks of the NBA start off fast.
A week ago, the Celtics were dead. And not just dead, but decomposing in front of us if you bought into the popular opinion. KG had lost a step and they supposedly had no depth. Paul Pierce was going to be out for an extended period of time. Rajon Rando was suddenly the second scoring options. But now, after getting Pierce back, getting production from their bench (i.e. Brandon Bass) and winning three straight they’re tied for first place in the Atlantic Division. It seems like every year for at least the past two seasons people want to write off the Celtics because the “Big Three” is a year older. And every year they prove they aren’t done yet.
The Lakers were in the same situation even before the season started, thanks to Kobe’s wrist injury. Everyone was counting them out because of the Odom trade and a perceived lack of depth. Back to back losses to start the season only added to the “Laker Hate” but, after getting Andrew Bynum in the lineup, they’ve suddenly won four of five and find themselves in first place in the Pacific Division. The biggest reason other than Bynum and establishing a bench rotation is Pau Gasol finally showing up during the last five games. Gasol’s two lowest scoring games of the year were games one and two- and the Lakers went 0-2.
Did any team have a worse start to the season than the Dallas Mavericks? After getting completely dominated in the first two games, Dallas lost by two in game three to OKC and started the year 0-3 looking especially old and out of sync. But after that, the Mavs have won two of their last three, including a 13 point victory over OKC on Monday. The Mavs have finally started to play with some chemistry after adding so many new players. The once potent Mavs offense was especially pathetic during the first three games averaging just over 90 ppg. Outside of Dirk and Jason Terry, no one was scoring. Shawn Marion and Vince Carter have picked up the scoring since, each averaging double figures in the last three games. Once the Mavs get their rotation settled, you could see more performances like the unexpected victory over OKC.
So even though you may be tired of them the Celtics, Lakers and Mavericks will still have a huge impact on the way the season plays out.