5 Biggest Red Flags in 2012-13 NBA Season So Far
After an offseason that saw a plethora of player movement, the NBA regular season is under way, and each game that is played teaches lessons about the landscape of the league.
Some developments, like the strong play of Jrue Holiday in Philadelphia, have excited teams' fanbases. Less-impressive performances, like the Denver Nuggets' poor road trip to open the season, have worried those expecting more from their hometown squads.
Injuries are always a concern, as even the best players in the league cannot help if they are held out of action due to an ailment.
While it is too early to panic for most franchises, some of the red flags that have risen are hard to ignore.
Danny Granger's Injury
During the lockout-shortened 2012 season, the Indiana Pacers were one of the NBA's healthiest teams, as none of their starters missed extended time due to injury.
But the probability of sports tends to force equality eventually, and the Pacers have been hit with a devastating injury to arguably their best player.
According to Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports, Danny Granger will be forced to miss the next three months of the season due to a left knee injury. The injury is defined as "jumper's knee," and Granger received an injection into his knee to treat the injury.
Even before Granger went down, the Pacers' biggest concern was that they didn't have a go-to guy late in games. They entrusted Granger with this responsibility, for better or worse.
Without Granger, it will be up to Paul George and center Roy Hibbert to make up his production.
We are about to find out what the Pacers are made of, as they will have to keep things afloat as Granger slowly recovers.
Dwight Howard's Free-Throw Percentage
The biggest criticism surrounding Dwight Howard's game has been his inability to convert from the free-throw line, as he is a 58.7 percent free-throw shooter for his career.
So far this season, Howard is leading the NBA in free-throw attempts per game, at 12.8. He has converted on only half of his attempts, which means that Howard has left a lot of points at the line.
Howard's poor free-throw shooting encourages opponents to foul him rather than to let him get in good position inside the paint.
Until he improves from the line (ideally by 15 to 20 percent), opponents will happily send Howard to the charity stripe in situations that are deemed appropriate.
Howard's lackluster performance from the free-throw line could endanger the Los Angeles Lakers' leads late in games, as opponents will look to foul him to stop the clock and he will fail to punish opponents for doing so.
Howard does everything else so well that he is still without a doubt the best center in the NBA. That being said, he won't become a No. 1 option late in games until he shoots his free throws more efficiently.
Eric Gordon's Injury
The New Orleans Hornets matched the four-year, $58 million dollar maximum contract offer that the Phoenix Suns offered to Eric Gordon during the offseason.
They practically had to, as Gordon was undoubtedly their greatest return on the Chris Paul trade prior to last season, and he is thought to be one of the NBA's best young shooting guards when healthy.
Since signing the extension, Gordon has been unable to get on the court for the Hornets due to a right knee injury—the same injury that kept Gordon out of all but nine games during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
A happy ending that involves Gordon getting onto the court appears far off, as he said the following about his injury, according to ESPN.com:
I know things haven't been going as well as hoped. It's tough as a player to go through these things. You're looking for the best from yourself, and you look forward to doing what is best for the team. As a player, I definitely look forward to helping this franchise and always look out for the best for this team. It has been very frustrating not to be able to play.
While that comment certainly seems genuine, Hornets fans haven't forgotten that Gordon asked the franchise not to match the Suns' offer during the offseason.
According to Matt Moore of CBSSports.com, the new prognosis is that Gordon will not undergo surgery but will be out for four to six weeks.
Once Gordon returns, the basketball world will finally be able to see what the Hornets' core of Gordon, Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers is capable of in its first season together.
Brooklyn Nets' Defense
The Brooklyn Nets have a good team on paper, which is good, because they are locked into this team for the foreseeable future.
With offensive difference-makers in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, the Nets will be able to score enough points to stay in the majority of games that they play.
The problem will be on the other end of the court, as the Nets have struggled defending the paint and will continue to do so moving forward.
In their first season in the new Barclays Center, the Nets have entrusted Lopez and Kris Humphries to defend in the interior. Neither of those players has ever been praised for their defensive prowess, and that isn't going to magically change with a move to Brooklyn.
This season, the Nets have surrendered an average of 103.3 points per contest, which is ranked 27th in the league.
In the Nets' season opener, the Toronto Raptors scored 100 points, as Kyle Lowry tore the Brooklyn defense apart with 28 points.
Making matters look worse, the Nets surrendered a 22-point home lead against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.
The Nets will not be a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference until they are capable of playing defense that is above the league average. Considering that they are currently among the league's worst teams on that end of the floor, it could be a very long journey to the top for Avery Johnson's team.
Steve Nash's Injury
The expectations for the Los Angeles Lakers this season are championship or bust, so a quick start would have helped to dissuade the tension that is currently surrounding the team.
After the Lakers fell in their season opener to a Dallas Mavericks team that was without Dirk Nowitzki, the panic meter filled up in L.A.
The only thing that could have made the Lakers situation more tense were injuries or more losses, both of which followed their season-opening loss.
In their second game of the season, the Lakers dropped their road opener to the Portland Trail Blazers. Making matters worse, Steve Nash was injured, and it was soon deemed more serious than originally anticipated.
According to Shahan Ahmed of NBCLosAngeles.com, Nash could be out for a month due to a nondisplaced fracture in his left leg.
Without Nash in the lineup, the Lakers will have to find a way to make their new Princeton offense work without their starting point guard. When he does return, it will take further adjustments for the team to integrate him efficiently into the offense.
The Lakers' trade for Nash was viewed as a coup, but if the 38-year-old, two-time MVP is unable to avoid injuries, then they will have to rely on Steve Blake at the point. And as long as Blake is their starting point guard, the Lakers will have an awfully tough time overcoming the rest of the league's elite teams.
All things considered, Nash managed to stay healthy over the span of his eight-year career with the Suns, so the Lakers have reason to remain optimistic while he recovers. And if he returns to effectively aid them in their quest for a championship, then the slow start to the season and the injury will be easily forgotten.