5 NBA Teams Guaranteed to Bounce Back from Slow Start
Christmas is just around the corner, and by this point in the NBA season, we're usually able to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
That isn't necessarily the case this year, however: Quite a few teams hovering around .500 are poised to turn things around once the calendar turns to 2013. Injuries have limited a number of these squads so far in the early going, but for others, a road-heavy schedule has made life incredibly difficult.
With more than 50 games left before the playoffs, there's plenty of time for every team in the league to make a run. The new year will bring new fortunes for many, and those who appear destined for the second season should pay close attention to those in their rearview mirrors.
Even their head coach knows that the Boston Celtics have been disappointing this season.
"Right now we're not a good team," said Doc Rivers while speaking with CBS Boston. "We're going to find it."
There's no reason to believe that the Celtics aren't going to figure it out; the team started out slowly last season, but eventually found themselves in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The future will get a little brighter when Avery Bradley comes back, and as long as Boston figures out a way to acquire a legit big before the trade deadline, then they should have another deep playoff run in their future.
The Dallas Mavericks have done a good job treading water for the first third of the season, but they should emerge as one of the Western Conference's better teams once Dirk Nowitzki returns from offseason knee surgery.
The 34-year-old German isn't a one-man cure-all, however. Mavericks' head coach Rick Carlisle has no choice but to fix his team's woes on the defensive end, and everyone on the roster has to be more careful with the basketball if Dallas wants to make the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season.
On the bright side, shooting guard O.J. Mayo has proven that he has the chops to be the team's No. 1 option on offense. That said, he may be even more dangerous serving as a complement to Nowitzki, who will be the focus of opposing defenses as soon as he steps onto the court.
After playing 17 of their first 23 games on the road, it's a wonder that the Denver Nuggets' record isn't any worse than it is.
And it doesn't get much easier for Denver: Tilts against the Clippers, Lakers, Mavericks and Grizzlies are all on deck before the New Year.
"If you see us at 17-15 on January 1, we'll have a celebration," said Nuggets' coach George Karl in an interview with Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post. "That's how tough our schedule is."
With plenty of dates at the Pepsi Center over the next four months, Denver is almost certain to turn it around before the end of the season. Very few teams can keep up with them athletically, and with a fair amount of home cooking on deck, look for the Nuggets to fulfill some of their lofty preseason expectations.
Defense has been the calling card for the Indiana Pacers so far, but when Danny Granger finally recovers from this sore left knee, the Hoosier State may be home to one of the league's most explosive offensive attacks.
22-year-old swingman Paul George is continuing his maturation into the league's next big thing, but veteran forward David West has been Indiana's most consistent player this season.
And even with Roy Hibbert slogging through a subpar campaign, the Pacers are still talented enough to beat any team in the league on any given night.
Pay little mind to Indiana's performance to date: The Pacers will be a tough out in the Eastern Conference playoffs next spring.
Los Angeles Lakers
Have the Los Angeles Lakers finally figured it out? No. Will a healthy Steve Nash instantly make them the team to beat? No. But at the end of the season, it won't be the least bit surprising to see the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
Simply put, L.A. has too much talent to be mediocre. Kobe Bryant is having something of a career resurgence, Dwight Howard is still the best center in the league (charity stripe struggles notwithstanding) and Metta World Peace hasn't played this well since his name was Ron Artest.
It took time for the "3 Kings" in Miami to gel, so the growing pains for the Lakers shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. What would be shocking is if the Lake Show actually missed the postseason this year.