Miami Lukewarm, the Not-So-Green Hornets, and Kung Pau: The NBA Mid-Month Report
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There are six months in an NBA season, so examining the first half of the first month is a little like asking "Are we there yet?" after backing out of the driveway. But how are we supposed to overreact to things if we wait for the season to develop?
Much of what's happened so far has met the expectations of most observers; but like every season, 2010-11 has given us some surprises. And surprises make news—so it's best to look at our early news-makers.
New Orleans Hornets (8-0) - When the gossip was that Chris Paul wanted out last summer, it was understandable to think New Orleans might scuffle near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Distracted, embattled teams seldom perform well.
GM Dell Demps and head coach Monty Williams deserve credit for stabilizing the organization, but the bulk of the credit for the Hornets revival belongs to Chris Paul's return to form, along with the play of former All-Star David West and Emeka Okafor.
San Antonio Spurs (8-1) - A mild surprise. No one picked the Spurs to overtake the Lakers, though a team with a talented, if aging, core can be expected to play well over a stretch of games. With the elevated play of Richard Jefferson, the Spurs are off to their fastest start in years.
Utah Jazz (7-3) - This can't last, can it? Four straight games overcoming double-digit deficits on the road? Obviously this Utah team has more to it than people expected.
Which player is the MVP so far?
Miami Heat (6-4) - Did anyone predict that Miami would be tied for fourth place in the East at this point? A 6-4 record sets a pace of 49 wins and 33 losses. With Dwyane Wade and LeBron James leading the way, it seems unlikely that Miami won't finish in the neighborhood of 55-60 wins.
The sub par play of Chris Bosh has been cited by many as the reason for their slow start.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers—Gasol seems to get a lot of publicity for having been underrated during his entire pre-Lakers career. But as it happens, he's playing the best basketball of his career at the age of 30, wearing a Lakers uniform.
His best averages before this season? 20.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, in separate seasons. This season he's averaging 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. And while he has shot better in the past, he still converts his attempts at a 52.9 percent clip, which is above his career percentage.
And he's hitting a career-best 81.8 percent of his free-throws so far. All of this while playing a huge 38.4 minutes per game, the second highest mark of his career. The Lakers have profited from this high level of play, starting the season with an excellent 8-2 record.
Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors—A mild surprise, as Ellis is coming off of 25.5 points per game last season, good for sixth best in the NBA. But after 10 games this season, Ellis is a full point better than last season with much-improved shooting (44.9 percent last season, 51.5 percent this season). Last year, Ellis only played in 64 games for a 26-56 team; this year he's appeared in all 10 games for an improved Warriors club which has started 6-4.
Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz—Millsap was the star of Utah's dramatic comeback win against Miami, with a career-high 46 point night. His unprecedented offensive production of 21.9 points per game on 61.2 percent shooting (previous career bests: 13.5 points on 53.8 percent) has powered the Jazz to a fine 7-3 start. For those who believe in advanced metrics, Paul Millsap leads the NBA in Win Shares thus far.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves—Okay, so Minnesota is terrible and promises to remain terrible for some time. That said, Kevin Love's board work has opened some eyes. His 14.6 rebounds per game, if it holds up, would be the best season average since Dennis Rodman's 15 per game in 1998.
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics—Kevin Love, with the awful T-Wolves, may reach the highest rebounding average in 12 years; Rondo, with the title-contending Celtics, has a chance to eclipse an all-time mark: in 1990, John Stockton averaged 14.5 assists per game. Through 10 games, Rondo is averaging 15.1 assists per game. With his 2.7 steals (No. 5 in the NBA) and 41.1 minutes (No. 2 in the NBA), Rondo leads the Celtics in Player Efficiency Rating.
Coaching In The NBA Is Easy—first-time coaches Larry Drew, Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams are out to a combined 19-7 start, which translates to a 60-22 season record.
100 Per Night—in 1958, the average NBA team scored 106.6 points per game, which was the first time the 100 point average was reached. And for the next 37 seasons, the league average remained over 100. But when the 1996 season saw the average team score 99.5, it began a 13-season run of league averages under 100, though the 2008 average was just short at 99.9. Since then, the league average has been 100.0 in 2009, 100.4 in 2010, and this season, 100.4.
Did You Know?—The oldest arena in the NBA today is in...Oakland, California. Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors, opened in 1966. If you were thinking of New York's Madison Square Garden, it opened in 1968. Of the 29 buildings hosting NBA teams, three opened in the 1980s, 16 opened in the 1990s, seven opened in the 2000s, and Amway Center in Orlando opened this season.
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