Barely two weeks old, the NBA season is already off to a surprising start, both good and bad.
Michael Jordan is struggling in his comeback with Washington and this past Sunday had arguably the worst shooting game of his career, missing his first 14 attempts and finishing a woeful 5-for-26.
Launching 26 shots, a third of the team’s total, suggests a major lack of confidence in his teammates in a game in which he clearly did not have his touch.
Both Boston and New Jersey have gotten off to strong early starts in the Atlantic Division while perennial Playoff participants New York and Miami have struggled.
Philadelphia has also struggled but that’s because Allen Iverson missed the first five games of the season, all losses.
The Sixers celebrated his return with a solid road win at Dallas and we can expect Philly to play very well over the next few weeks and soon challenge for the Division lead.
Not surprisingly Milwaukee is setting the pace in the Central Division with several other teams also playing well, the most surprising of which might be Detroit.
Other than Jerry Stackhouse the Pistons are not blessed with great talent but they are playing well together as a team.
Minnesota has gotten off to a 5-0 start and leads the Midwest Division. The Timberwolves once again have Joe Smith on board and this is a team that could be a serious contender with Kevin Garnett, a solid backcourt and a continually improving Wally Szczerbiak.
Dallas and San Antonio are also off to solid starts but Houston is also surprising observers. If Steve Francis can mature and involve his teammates the Rockets could be solid pointspread investment as underdogs.
The Lakers are surprising nobody with their perfect 6-0 start and position atop the Pacific Division. They are clearly the team to beat once again and are capable of a strong effort every time they take the court.
The early season surprise in the Division has been Golden State, winners of four of their first seven games.
Friday, Nov. 16
Knicks at Nets: The Knicks are off to a terrible start this season, losing five of their first seven games and playing very poorly in the process. The absence of C Marcus Camby is part of the cause but even his presence likely would not have made much of a difference. Key scorers Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston have yet to find their form. New Jersey’s surprising 5-1 start has featured the on court leadership of Jason Kidd and improved coaching by Byron Scott. Take NEW JERSEY.
Saturday, Nov. 17
Celtics at Hawks: Boston is another early surprise this season, winning four of their first six games and getting solid efforts from starts Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce. Rookie Joe Johnson has also had an impact and coach Jim O’Brien seems to have been the right choice to get the full time job. Atlanta is expected to be an improved team as well but they have been hit hard by injuries. Take BOSTON.
Sunday, Nov. 18
Kings at Lakers: The Lakers swept the Kings in last season’s playoffs but Sacramento made a major upgrade, acquiring Mike Bibby. Chris Webber began the season on the sidelines and his presence clearly would improve the Kings’ chances of winning. The Lakers still rely on Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal for the bulk of their offense. Take OVER.