Lowered Expectations: Early NBA Disappointments
The NBA season has not even reached the quarter point in the schedule yet many teams find themselves reevaluating their expectations for the season as well as the future. The NBA as a whole has become a league of parity with both the Eastern and Western Conferences being strong and deep.
After watching the Celtics acquire superstar players like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen you can expect to see more blockbuster deals in upcoming years done by teams trying to duplicate the Celtics. Teams like the 76ers and Clippers wasted no time in acquiring all-star caliber players like Elton Brand for the 76ers and Baron Davis for the Clippers.
Those major off season deals gave team fans high expectations for this upcoming season, but after the first dozen or so games those expectations may have to be thrown out the window thanks to the play of those teams.
There are also other disappointing teams that have had their fair share of time in the limelight and the door is about to shut on them. The NBA is a now or never league so for aging teams facing adversity like the Mavericks it is either contend now for a championship or go shopping for the lottery day pick or trade.
The Wizards disastrous play led to the second coaching casualty when Head Coach Eddie Jordan was fired today after four straight playoff appearances. Let’s take a look at some teams that may have to temper the expectations they had in the beginning of the season, and realize that their team may not be close to what they thought was on paper.
Many Maverick fans and sports enthusiasts questioned the choice of Rick Carlisle being hired as coach after the ousting of Coach Avery Johnson. The way the season has gone thus far, those questions may soon be validated.
If the Mavericks season continues at their current below .500 pace you can expect the team to fall apart faster than a Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor security system.
It seems as though the season was somewhat doomed from the start after all the negative publicity given to forward Josh Howard after his National Anthem fiasco and drag racing incident. Remember, it was not too long ago that Howard got in some hot water after admitting that he smoked marijuana. Cuban and company reportedly were open to trade offers for Howard after the anthem incident, but did not receive the offers that they had hoped for.
Nowitzki continues to prove that while he possesses the all world talent he lacks the leadership, strength, and killer instinct mentality that showed up big for the first time a few years back when the team choked in the finals against the Heat.
The Mavs have sacrificed their potent offensive attack to become a middle of the road defensive squad. For the first time in two years the Mavericks are not, and aren’t likely
to ever be a 100 plus point per game squad this season.
There are a few reasons why Maverick fans shouldn’t quite push the panic button yet.
Jason Kidd has had a resurgent season thus far looking like the Kidd of old leading the team in assists, field goal percentage, three point percentage, as well as steals. Kidd even treated the Mavs to another one of his triple doubles against the Lakers on the 21st of November.
Considering that the Mavericks are in the struggling Southwest Division, they find themselves only one game out of first place even though they currently find themselves one game under .500. If the Mavs are going to turn it around this Nowitzki is going to have to eventually be more assertive as a leader on the team.
Los Angeles Clippers
Can you hear all that praying at night in L.A.? That’s Baron Davis praying for a chance to go back in time before he signed with the historically bad Clippers.
You’ve got to think that Davis constantly regrets his decision to leave the Golden State Warriors over the summer. After acquiring Davis the Clippers acquired forward/center Marcus Camby following the embarrassing loss of Brand.
All the Clippers have to show for their off-season shopping spree is a painfully awful 2-11 record. Fans and so-called experts saw the Clippers as being a definite playoff squad and possible Western Conference contenders after the acquisitions. But after this pathetic start to the season talk may soon turn from being how far they can get in the playoffs to how many balls they can get in the lottery.
The biggest problem for the Clips is that Davis and Coach/general manager Mike Dunleavy clearly have had a difference in opinion on how the offense should be run.
Davis wants to run the fast pace ball he ran in Oakland, while Dunleavy wants to stick to the half court offense that he has always employed. It’s never a good sign for a team when the best player and coach are having a war of words through the press about what’s best for the team.
The Clippers do have a couple of bright spots in the play of second year forward Al Thornton and the recent acquisition of Zach Randolph.
Thornton is the team’s second leading scorer with a point per game average of 16.4.
Randolph was having one of the best seasons in his career before the trade went down sending him to the Clippers. The Clippers are banking that he can continue his spectacular play and give the team a scoring presence in the post that they have been lacking since Elton Brand left during the offseason.
The trade will improve the front court depth, bringing either Camby or Kaman off the bench.
And with Cuttino Mobley’s departure to the Knicks, it allows the Clippers to give their top draft pick, guard Eric Gordon more playing time. The more playing time Gordon gets the faster he will develop into a player that makes a big difference on the team.
The 76ers really went for it when they made the blockbuster move in the summer to sign free agent power forward Elton Brand. Philly fans immediately rejoiced and dared to mention the word championship knowing the cities not so glorious history of championships.
Even though the team is currently one game above the .500 mark, the team is clearly not playing to the standards set by the players, fans, and basketball talking heads. To those people, the playoffs were a given for this team and a run in the playoffs was likely.
It looks like Sir Charles was right when he said that the squad would be lucky to grab the sixth seed in the playoffs before the season started.
The main reason why the 76ers aren’t playing up to expectations is that because the stars of the team aren’t playing like stars.
Elton Brand wasn’t given that huge contract to just help the team on the boards and contribute scoring on an inconsistent basis. Brand was brought in to be the man on the block and lead the team both on and off the court.
While Brand does lead the team in rebounds and blocked shots his scoring efficiency has been miserable so far. For a player known for his scoring ability on the post, Brand is only averaging about 15 points a game, while shooting a un-Brand like 42.8 percent from the field. Maybe the injury he suffered hasn't allowed him to get back to the player he was in the 06-07 season and it has effected his game.
In that season Brand averaged more than 20 points per game while shooting close to 55 percent from the field.
Forward Andre Iguodala has been struggling out of the gate as well. Iguodala has been playing the same great defense, but his offense has taken a hit with the arrival of Brand. He no longer gets the opportunity to look for his shot frequently like he did many times last year as the 76ers leading scorer.
Along with his scoring dip this season he has been shooting a miserable 38.4 percent from the field. There is hope for AI2 because his history suggests he is a slow starter and should get it going soon as he adapts to his new role.
The Sixers also failed to improve their bench players which might be amongst the worst group in the league. Guards Louis Williams, Willie Green, and Kareem Rush have failed to contribute anything worth talking about on a consistent basis.
One surprising and positive development for the team is the excellent play of their ’07 top draft pick, second year forward Thaddeus Young. Young is leading the team on the offensive end of the court with a scoring average of 16.3 points per game plus a superb 52.9 field goal percentage.
As the year moves forward 76er fans will have to hope the team develops some better chemistry and that Brand starts to play more like the Brand we all know and love.
Look, nobody expected the Wizards to set the world on fire and contend for a championship but for them to have a 1-10 record is just ridiculous. The Wizards run of four straight years making it into the playoffs is in serious danger already.
The Wizards won’t have the soft bottom of past Eastern Conferences to depend on with teams like the Heat, Hawks, Nets, 76ers, and even the Knicks competing hard for the final few spots in the playoffs this year.
Forwards Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler are both getting the job done and doing their part on the court. Antawn Jamison lead the squad in scoring, rebounds, and field percentage while Butler leads the team in assists, steals, and three point percentage.
There are two major problems with the Wizards. One problem is Gilbert “Bad Contract” Arenas and the other is that the Wizards seem to have the worst group of role/bench players in the entire league.
I still am trying to figure out why the Wizards signed Arenas to that huge six-year, $111 million dollar contract last summer. It just seemed too crazy to sign a player such a big and long contract when that player has big injury concerns and the team itself is not close to contending for a championship.
Wizard fans must be hoping that when Arenas comes back in early ’09 he resembles the Gilbert “Hibachi” Arenas that could light it up for 40 points any given night. If Arenas doesn’t and just ends up being a little above average injury prone point, people will call him the Barry Zito of basketball.
It didn’t help things either when Arenas mentioned in late November that it wouldn’t be so bad if the Wizards finished in last place so they could get a good draft pick as a result.
Now that the Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan has been fired the prospects for the rest of the season look pretty bleak so look for the team to play a uninspired brand of ball the remainder of the season.
Jordan’s firing seems really premature given that he did lead the Wizards to four straight playoff appearances before this season. Ed Tapscott, the Wizards' director of player development, will replace Jordan on an interim basis. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team decided to trade Caron Butler if they receive good offers for him from a team looking to make a run in the playoffs.
On the bright side former Wizard first round pick, forward Nick Young has had a great start to season and is the third leading scorer on the team through 11 games.
Even though I have said these teams are all disappointing, it still is early in the season. It is possible for teams like the Mavericks and 76ers to turn it on with hard work and improved chemistry.
But for the teams like the Wizards and Clippers, if things don’t turn around as soon as the next couple of weeks, they can kiss the playoffs and register their chair for the draft day lottery drawing.
The NBA has become a league of parity, full with teams that have a lot of talent. It is not enough to just acquire good talent to get into the playoffs. Like the Celtics did last year, your team also has to utilize the players talent and make sure the chemistry is their otherwise the season may be longer than expected.
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