Making a definitive statement based on a small sample size is always dangerous, but there are a few NBA players who have clearly taken a step back this season. In some cases, it's simply a matter of a player struggling to fit in with his new team. For others, the cause for the regression isn't as obvious.
At this point, these players are going through what can now be termed a "slump," though that definition will change if their performance doesn't improve over the next few weeks. With every team off for the Thanksgiving holiday, perhaps those who are having some early-season difficulties will use the break to iron out the flaws in their respective games.
(Note: Stats as of Nov. 22)
Dallas Mavericks power forward Elton Brand had over 31,000 minutes to his credit before this season, so it really shouldn't be a surprise that the 13-year vet doesn't have the same spring in his step.
But a player who was more than serviceable for the Philadelphia 76ers is now struggling to find his rhythm with the Mavs. It seemed logical that Brand would be able to benefit from Dirk Nowitzki's early-season absence, but the former No. 1 overall pick is only averaging 6.0 points and 6.0 rebounds through Dallas' first 12 games.
Brand has made a living in the post, but he's only converting 52.6 percent of his attempts at the rim—the lowest mark of his career. Troy Murphy started at power forward for the Mavericks Tuesday, so we may have seen the last of Brand's days with the Dallas' first-string unit.
Once the Miami Heat drew up the blueprint last season to snuff out the sensation that was "Linsanity," Jeremy Lin's life in the NBA became markedly more difficult.
With opposing defenses keying in on him in Houston (despite the arrival of backcourt mate James Harden), Lin has struggled mightily in 2011-12, shooting 33.3 percent from the field. And while he's cut down on this turnovers quite a bit, Lin's points per-36 minute average is almost half of what it was when he was the pride of the Big Apple (10.7 vs 19.6 last season).
Free from the unavoidable scrutiny that was present during his days with the Knicks, Lin is now able to mature as a player at a more reasonable pace.
"There's room to grow, room to improve, growing pains, things like that—the stuff that has to happen with each player," said Lin in an interview with Howard Beck of the New York Times. "I'm going to have to go through a lot to get better."
Joe Johnson is in the midst of his worst campaign since becoming a full-time starter nine seasons ago, and his six-year, $123.6 million contract doesn't help him engender much sympathy from Nets fans.
The transition to Brooklyn hasn't been smooth for Johnson so far; he's been the most disappointing member of the "Core Four" this season, averaging just under 15 points per game. Johnson is a six-time All-Star, so it's only a matter of time before he gets it going.
"Every time he shoots it I think it's going to in," said Brooklyn head coach Avery Johnson in an interview with Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. "He needs to touch the ball, and when he touches it, something good is going to happen."
After a 20-point, 12-rebound effort that was followed by a triple-double on Nov. 21 (10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 blocks against the New Orleans Hornets), Roy Hibbert may have finally turned the corner after a slow start.
"I been playing like some crap," Hibbert told Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. "It was time for a change."
Even with the two promising games, Hibbert is only shooting 39.3 percent from the field this season. The Pacers' 7'2" center is rebounding the ball just as well as he did last season, but his scoring has fallen off quite a bit with Danny Granger out of the Indiana lineup (9.5 PPG).
As long as these last two games weren't an aberration, Hibbert and the Pacers still have the inside track on the Central Division crown.
Ersan Ilyasova had a stellar 2011-12 campaign, and many skeptics wondered if his success would continue after he signed a five-year, $40 million deal this past July.
So far, those skeptics have been proven right—the 6'8" forward is playing nothing like he did a season ago. Ilyasova is shooting just over 31 percent from the floor, 25 percent from beyond the arc and only 42.9 percent from the charity stripe. Also troubling is his work (or lack thereof) on the glass, as Ilyasova is only grabbing 4.7 boards per game this year after pulling down 8.8 rebounds per contest a season ago.
The pressure of the big-money deal he inked this offseason may be the cause of Ilyasova's woes on the court this year.
In 2011-12, Rodney Stuckey's numbers took a dip across the board in most major categories, but this season, his decline has been far more severe. The 6'5" shooting guard is averaging a mere 10.0 points per game, and is shooting an abysmal 32.4 percent from the field.
Stuckey has been so disappointing this year, he recently lost his starting spot to rookie swingman Kyle Singler. In a strange move, Stuckey reportedly asked for the demotion, saying that it was in the best interests of the team.
But regardless of whether Stuckey starts another game this season, the Pistons will need him to pick his play up soon if the team has any sort of postseason aspirations.