5 Early Season NBA Storylines Being Drastically Overblown
As today's media chooses to "embrace debate" and turn up the volume in an effort to stand out from the crowd, there is a growing urgency to make a definitive statement on every issue. There's nothing inherently wrong with that...unless it's far too early for any definitive statements to be made.
For a number of teams in the NBA, you can draw a reasonable conclusion as to how they'll turn out this year. We all know that barring injury, the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies are going to be contenders at the end of the season.
But with most other franchises, a wait-and-see approach is best. After all, there's four more months of basketball on tap before the playoffs begin, and even then, there's still a good 7-8 weeks before a champion is crowned.
So while some teams may currently be struggling (or soaring), that won't necessarily be the case a month (or even a week) from now.
1. Rajon Rondo's Stat Padding
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Rajon Rondo blatantly playing "hot potato" with the basketball in a thinly-veiled attempt to pad his assist totals isn't anything new: The Celtics' point guard has been doing this for years. But while some of his dimes are a bit contrived, there's no denying that he's one of the best playmakers in the game.
Should he be passing up wide-open layups in order to garner an extra assist? No. Should he be playing in garbage time just to rack up 10 dimes in a given game? No. But unlike a player who might relentlessly pursuing scoring stats, Rondo's stat-padding is ultimately increasing the point totals of his teammates.
So is it really all that bad?
Probably not, although his assist totals can be viewed with a fair amount of skepticism going forward. And as long as Rondo doesn't pull a Ricky Davis, then he should be able to go about his business without being taken to task.
2. The Lakers Struggles so Far
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At some point this season—when is anyone's guess—the Los Angeles Lakers will be just fine.
After a 1-4 start, the Lakers fired head coach Mike Brown in a classic case of overreaction. Yes, the Princeton offense was a bad fit for the team, but their primary issue was (and continues to be) their defense.
Once Mike D'Antoni (L.A.'s third coach this season) becomes familiar with his personnel, and once Steve Nash returns after fracturing his left fibula, the Lakers will find themselves right in the hunt in the Western Conference.
When the 2010-11 Miami Heat started out 9-8, quite a few media members did their best "Chicken Little" impressions. The Heat finished that season two games away from winning a title.
That isn't to say that an NBA Finals appearance is in the cards for the Lakers, but they won't finish the year under .500 either.
3. The Inconsistent Play of the Miami Heat
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The Miami Heat haven't dropped many games this season, but two of those losses were 20-point blowouts that came courtesy of the New York Knicks.
Even so, they aren't pushing the panic button down on South Beach quite yet.
Even when on the receiving end of their opponent's "A game" on every given night, the defending champion Heat are still the class of the Eastern Conference. And while their defense may not be up to par (and despite a random clunker like their Dec. 4 loss to the Washington Wizards), the road to the NBA championship still runs through AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat know they have work to do. They also know that the season is a marathon and not a sprint, meaning that there's plenty of time to iron out the issues before the second season begins in the spring.
4. Andrew Bynum's Daily Activities
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While there's some level of entertainment to be had chronicling the daily activities of Andrew Bynum, the narrative surrounding his (eventual) return hasn't changed over the past few weeks.
Philadelphia took a calculated risk when they gambled on the former Lakers' center, and the team's front office is already making contingency plans just in case the worst-case scenario comes to fruition.
After Bynum injured his previously healthy left knee while bowling, 76er fans have resigned themselves to the fact that their team's prized offseason acquisition may not ever step foot on the Wells Fargo Center court. Bynum isn't even close to being cleared to practice, and even when he is, it will be weeks before he's in basketball shape.
So if Bynum wants to experiment with new hairstyles, do a little shopping or even play Pop-A-Shot, then "Vaya con Dios." At least with Pop-A-Shot, he can get in some work on his shooting form before he returns to action.
5. The New York Knicks' Hot Start
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Texas isn't the only place where everything is bigger.
In New York City, there's a tendency to blow things out of proportion, especially when it comes to their local sports franchises.
The Knicks may be the only NBA team that hasn't dropped a game at home, but they still aren't the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, nor should they begin clearing space on the mantle for the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. Even after destroying the Miami Heat twice this season by a total of 40 points, New York still knows that the team in South Florida is their primary nemesis.
"We're trying to get to where Miami was last year," said Woodson during an interview with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith on Dec. 7. "That's it in a nutshell in terms of where we want to be."
While it's true that New York is playing remarkably well without two players who started for them last season (Amar'e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert), any decree saying that they're world-beaters is far too premature.
Lest we forget: The Knicks have won exactly one playoff game in the last 11-plus years.