By Josh Jaffe, Rahul Raina, and Dan Blumenthal
As the fifth week of NBA basketball comes to a close, one can’t help but notice a peculiar buzz in the air. It’s as if fans around the world know something is amiss in the basketball world. Emotions are being tossed, teams predicted to be top competitors are being casually thrown aside by some of the worst teams of last year’s seasons, and young stars are unexpectedly filling up stat lines. These first few weeks of the 2013-14 season in the NBA have left fans and Jamesville-DeWitt High School students alike flabbergasted.
One of the big topics to start the year were injured stars returning to their respective teams. Derrick Rose, the 2010-2011 MVP came back from over a year off. He torn his ACL during the end of the 2011-2012 season and he spent the entire 2012-2013 season rehabbing it. There was a lot of controversy because during the end of the 2013 year, Rose was cleared to play by his doctors but his coaches still sat him out, even during the playoffs. Some students thought it was a good idea to sit him out. “It was good that Rose took the whole year off. The Bulls didn’t have a chance at winning (the championship) anyways so it is good that they were cautious about him,” said senior Ryan Mulvihill. The Bulls lost in the first round, despite backup point guard Nate Robinson’s efforts. The irony of the situation is that, unfortunately for Rose and the Bulls, Rose once again injured his knee this past week, tearing his right meniscus, thus ending his season once again.
Another big story this year was Kobe Bryant. Last year, in the final game of the season, Bryant tore his left achilles and hasn’t played a game since. He has been recovering quickly and is expected to return within the next month as he has started practicing with the team according to ESPN.com. Even though Bryant has been the franchise player for the Lakers since he was drafted in 1996, the Lakers were still uncertain about his ability to lead the team by himself. After 17 hard-fought years in the league, he may be nearing the close of his legacy. Even though he is not in his prime, some students believe he will still be able to lead his team to the playoffs. “ All he does is score and he always seems to find a way to help his team,” said Senior, Chris McGee. The Lakers were just able to squeeze into the playoffs by winning the last game of the regular season last year. However, with the loss of Bryant, they were swept out of the first round by the Spurs. This year, they will look to bounce back after trading away Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets and look to, once again, make Bryant the sole focus of their team. Meanwhile, with the addition of Howard, the Rockets look to assemble the next super-team, with James Harden and Howard looking to knock the Heat off of their throne.
The two time defending champion Miami Heat look to become only the fourth team in the history of the NBA to win three championships in a row this year, chasing the 1960’s Boston Celtics, 1995 -1998 Chicago Bulls, and 1999-2002 Los Angeles Lakers. After two exhausting and lengthy seasons, the Heat came out of the gates a little slow, going 1-2 in the first week of the season, marking their first sub-.500 record since the Heat lost their first game in the “Big Three” era in the 2010-11 season. They lost another game off of a last second heave by Jeff Green of the Boston Celtics in a stunner the following week. However, since the rough first two weeks of basketball, the Heat haven’t looked back and have gotten back on track, as they are now holders of a seven-game win streak. Many question the ability of the Heat to three-peat, however, as there are a number of surprisingly powerful teams in the league this year.
Last year’s seven game Eastern Conference Finals thriller showed the world that the Indiana Pacers were not to be trifled as did their red hot 9-0 start to the 2013-14 season, their best start in franchise history. As it stands, the Pacers are thought to be the Heat’s main competitor in the East, especially with the dismal start to high-salary teams such as the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks and the injury to Rose. The Western Conference has also seen some surprising play, as the Portland Trail Blazers, which had a sub-par 33-49 record in the 2012-13 season, has started this season a scorching 13-2. On top of that, the Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs are having a rather typical start at 13-1, including 11 consecutive wins, tied for the longest streak in the league with the Trail Blazers. Also, the Oklahoma City Thunder are right on their tails, with Kevin Durant, the NBA's leading scorer, and Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was injured during last year’s postseason, and was expected to miss the first few weeks of the year. Luckily for his team, he returned after missing only two games, and is looking to lead the Thunder back to the championship series.
McGee predicted that the Golden State Warriors knocking off the Pacers in a fantastic seven game series. He chose the Warriors, a team with lots of potential, because of their “aggressive offense and solid defense.” McGee also chose the Warriors because they have one of the top backcourts in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry and Thompson have combined for nearly 100 three-pointers and 40 points per game already this season, according to nba.com, and have helped the Warriors to a 9-6 record.
New York City was expected to be a hot spot for great basketball, but the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks have underachieved, with 4-10 and 3-10 records, according to espn.com. The two teams are two of the worst squads in the Eastern Conference, despite these lofty predictions. Many predicted the Nets to challenge the Heat this season with the addition of veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, as well as new coach, Jason Kidd. After last season’s second place finish in the East, the Knicks were looking forward to another productive season. Some fans, including freshman Josh Kantrowitz, believed that the Knicks would be able to snatch the title away from the Heat. Unfortunately, these lofty hopes haven’t translated into on-court success. The Knicks have lost seven games in a row. Kantrowitz got one prediction right though. At the beginning of the year, he prophesied, “Carmelo Anthony will lead the league in scoring.” Anthony, who also led the NBA in scoring last year, has been one of their few bright spots. He is averaging 26.5 points per game (nba.com). He leads the East in scoring, ahead of superstars Lebron James and Paul George. The problem is that besides Anthony, the Knicks have one of the worst offenses in the NBA.
Another surprise is the success of the Philadelphia 76ers, who were thought to be one of the worst teams. The team lost their two best players Jrue Holiday and Andrew Bynum, and no one expected them to have such a great start. Michael Carter-Williams, one of Syracuse University’s top players a season ago, wasn’t expected to make such a big splash on the pro stage, but he has the second most steals, and averages more than 17 points per game (espn.com). He has helped the 76ers to one of the best records in the Atlantic Division.
So far through four weeks, the NBA has seen some strange occurrences. From the hometown hero Carter-Williams’ unexpectedly mature start, to the flop of the predicted Nets-Knicks rivalry in New York, fans are reminded that the NBA playoffs aren’t the only time worth paying attention to in professional basketball.