10. Paul Millsap’s 46-point game in Miami - Millsap had a career game in Miami, scoring 46 points while hitting all three of his three-point attempts, as Utah finished one of the greatest regular season comebacks in recent memory. It’s been downhill for Miami ever since.
9. The success of Heat castoffs – Michael Beasley (21.6 PTS, 6.2 REB, 47% FG, 46% 3FG) has been lighting it up in Minnesota. It’s not surprising because he is the focal point of their offense. He has always had the talent but he wasn’t fulfilling his potential in Miami with Dwyane Wade as the primary scorer. Dorell Wright (15.3 PTS, 5.0 REB, 42% 3FG, 80% FT) is thriving in Golden State’s up-tempo offense. It remains to be seen whether he would have been a more valuable fit than Mike Miller as he is about 60 percent of the cost.
8. Russell Westbrook’s development - Westbrook is putting up career-high numbers across the board, including points (23.8), rebounds (5.1), assists (8.6), and shooting percentages (45% FG, 29% 3FG, and 89% FT). He has command of the Thunder offense and eases the pressure off team superstar Kevin Durant. Make no mistake about it, Westbrook is by far the NBA’s most improved player and is becoming an elite point guard. He could be the Lakers’ killer come playoff time.
7. The Clippers are terrible – Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, and Chris Kaman. Yet they have the worst record in basketball at 3-15. Granted, Kaman and Davis have had injuries, but a point can be made that Eric Bledsoe gives them a better chance to win than Davis. With Gordon and Griffin they should still be winning more games than they have been. This franchise is a black hole and I feel bad for any player on the roster and more importantly for the fans. Move this team to Las Vegas or something.
6. Kevin Love’s 30-30 – Love made history when he recorded 31 points and 31 rebounds on the night of November 12th against the Knicks. It was the NBA’s first 30-30 game in 28 years. In fact, Love has amazingly already had four games this season in which he has recorded over 20 points and 20 rebounds. Free him from Minnesota! He belongs on a contender.
5. The Pacers are a playoff team – The Pacers have been on fire lately, winning four of the last five, including road wins against the Heat and Lakers. The reasons? Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison. The addition of Collison has taken some of the heat off Danny Granger (22.7 PTS) on offense. Hibbert has continued to improve enough to be mentioned among the NBA’s top centers. They also take very smart shots. Coach Jim O’Brien has them hustling all over the floor and playing high-quality basketball.
4. The Hornets’ hot start - Haven’t heard much Chris Paul trade talk, huh? Well winning (12-5) heals everything. Paul is back to his MVP-caliber play and has this team flying high. They still don’t have enough to win a ring, but are a good story.
3. The amount of criticism towards the Heat – Everyone knew this team would be under a microscope, but to this extent? LeBron is the biggest NBA villain since who, Charles Oakley? Every look, glance, bump and word is being devoured by the media. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a report questioning LeBron’s health after a reporter overhears him taking a piss and hears a start-stop dribble in the toilet. Special Report: LeBron needs Flomax.
2. The Spurs’ dominance - The Lakers and Celtics were expected to be great from the start. Even the Heat. But Gregg Popovich’s Spurs? They are the NBA’s best team at 15-2. It’s not a product of multiple superstar players. More so it’s chemistry. They are the anti-Heat at this point of the season. They are a perfect puzzle of complimentary players. Sure they have a bunch of very good players, but none that anyone would rank in the NBA’s top ten. The question is whether older guns like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli (injury-old not age-old) can remain healthy enough to play at a high level into the playoffs and beyond.
1. The Heat’s poor start – Record: 10-8 after 18 games. Nobody predicted that. Further, nobody predicted Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem would be out with severe injuries in combination with the lackluster play of superstars Wade and James. The Heat need to show life and show it fast or changes will be made. This isn’t a team in rebuilding mode. This is supposed to be cream of the crop. Time to make a move, Miami.