With anywhere from 10-15 games in the books already, I think we have enough content to dive deeper into this shortened season and get our feet wet with some analysis. Hope you got your wetsuit ready. And your oxygen tank. And… whatever else divers use. Barometer? Is that one of the things? I’m out of my element. Anyway.
1) The Bulls are really good. Again.
Chicago is a defensive juggernaut, out-rebounding opponents 46.6-38.4, a +8.2 differential (all 3 of those stats are tops in the league). They’re also 1st in PPG against, 3rd in FG% against, 1st in 3PT% against and 2nd in FT% against (not that you can defend free throws, but whatever, it’s still a stat). The Bulls are only scoring about 94 PPG (about middle of the pack) but their total scoring differential is +10.3, good for 2nd in the league and a full 3 points better than 3rd. Oh and something about a dude named Derrick averaging close to a double-double.
They’ve beaten 2 current fellow divison leaders (LA Clippers and Atlanta) as well as 2 second place teams (LA Lakers and Orlando) throughout their 12 wins, which is pretty telling. They have yet to lose at home, where they will play 5 of their next 7, but the 9-game road stretch directly following will be the telling story. If they can get through that with a still-stellar record, then they will all but guarantee a cruise into the playoffs as a high seed, if not a #1.
Note: this was written prior to the Memphis Grizzles shellacking the Bulls on Monday afternoon. But that same dude named Derrick was sitting out with turf toe (wha?) so I think that’s okay as long as he heals. If not, that could spell disaster for the Bulls’ season. (See: Manning, Peyton)
2) The Thunder are also really good. Also again.
The infighting between point Russell Westbrook and SF Kevin Durant has been highly publicized this season, and more than likely taken out of context and blown out of proportion. Any time you have highly competitive folks coexisting, it’s possible to have a bit of contention. I think it’s healthy; same concept as folks in a relationship fighting every so often.
With that said, they have been stellar, averaging 44.7 PPG between them. There is no true powerhouse in the Northwest Division, which is helping their cause too – Utah is just a shell of what it was in the 90s, Denver is continuing to rebuild, and Minnesota and Portland are… well, they’re playing I guess, for what that’s worth. Serge Ibaka is a solid force down low, as is Kendrick Perkins, but this is clearly Durant’s and Westbrook’s team. If those two can keep it up, expect OKC to make another deep run in the playoffs.
3) Can there be like one really good sports team in the DC area? Just one??
The Redskins finished 5-11 (last in the NFC East). The Nationals finished 80-81 (3rd in the NL-East and 21.5 games out of 1st). The Washington Wizards are the worst of the bunch, sitting at 1-11 (obviously last in the Southeast), with only a win against 4-9 Toronto to their credit. The Washington Capitals are the only decent team, as they’re currently 24-17-2 – good for 1st in the Southeast – but still only 14th in points out of all 30 teams in the NHL. At least they have POTUS.
That was only like half basketball related, so I will give you like half an apology. I’m sor
4) The USA may have the sickest Olympic run EVER in 2012.
Here’s the short list: LaMarcus Aldridge, Melo, Billups, Bosh (whatever), Kobe, Tyson Chandler, Durant, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Blake, Howard, Iguodala, LBJ (you’ve been bumped off the acronym, Lyndon – deal with it), Kevin Love, Odom, CP3, D-Rose, D-Wade, Russell Westbrook, and Deron Williams. Let me reiterate: that’s the fucking SHORT LIST. Compare that to the original Dream Team: Laettner (never knew that… learn something new every day), The Admiral, Ewing, Bird, Pippen, MJ, Drexler, The Mailman, Stockton (not this one), Mullin, Sir Charles, and Magic. I gotta say the young guns could hold their own pretty damn well, especially with Mike Krzyzewski at the helm.
5) Kobe’s gotten into a serious thing.
The owner of the 7th-best PPG average in history with 35.4, and the 2nd-highest of anyone not named Wilt or Michael, is trying for another historic season. It’s a short season, so there would be the appropriate asterisking, but still would be a damn impressive feat. With 32 PPG – almost 3 points ahead of 2nd-place LBJ, who himself is almost 4 points ahead of 3rd-place Durant – another scoring title is well within grasp. That would make Bryant the 6th to ever get three scoring titles in a career, putting him in very elite company (Wilt, MJ, George Gervin, George Mikan and Neil Johnston).
He’s truly been finding his rhythm as of late he’s put up at least 39 in 5 of his last 6 games. He could easily surpass his previous best average of 35.4 PPG back in 05-06. But he should also beware, as all that glitters is not gold: his 2 previous scoring title seasons resulted in 1st-round exits from the playoffs.
6) Pushgate is over, Mike Brown. Let it go.
7) Metta World Peace.
8) Greg Ostertag is back playing basketball professionally… remember him?
The longtime Utah Jazz big-man (and a Sacramento King for a season), Ostertag retired at the end of the 2005-2006 season after a respectable 11 seasons in the league. However, he decided to sign to the D-League Texas Legends in December, presumably to give it one more go. Also, he donated a kidney to save his sister’s life, so remember that before you go making any snide remarks. Greg Ostertag is a good man, one that could be coming to an NBA court near you in the next few weeks.
9) Dwight Howard will wind-up in ______________ before the trade deadline.
Who knows? I don’t even think Dwight knows at this point, nor does Orlando. A player of his caliber already has a ton of suitors, not to mention unexpected teams coming out of the woodwork. The best bets right now? The Lakers, the Nets, and the Magic. Yes, the Magic – there’s still a possibility that he stays put, at least for the remainder of this season. Is he capable of making an immediate impact and single-handedly putting a team into title contention? Ummmm…
I usually don’t do a 10), because round numbers bother me. But you know what? For you guys, I’ll do a 10).
10) My most sincere apologies to Ricky Rubio.
I’ve trashed Rubio all over the place since hearing that he was gonna play, and then not, and then finally decided to suit-up this year. I think the words “garbage”, “overrated”, “look at his stupid hair” and “he has really dumb hair, seriously” were uttered at several points prior to the season kicking off, and now I realize that I was only half-true about him.
The Timberwolves are still terrible, don’t get me wrong, but Rubio is stellar. He’s averaging 11 PPG and 8.3 APG, but those stats don’t tell the whole story. The vision that he has and the passes that he makes are nothing short of remarkable. Like when Gob made his way out of the federal prison that one time, I expect Ricky to subtly say “ta-da” to himself every time he drops a dime. There are spoons all over the place from all the dishes that the rest of the Minnesota team is running away with. Those are all the assist jokes I got, but you get the point. He’s like the younger generation’s John Stockton. Because EVERY generation needs a John Stockton, to show them that you don’t have to score a bunch or be really huge to make an impact in the game. You go, Ricky. And seriously, get a damn haircut.