The NBA Through Unpaid Eyes is a weekly blog by Men's Fitness intern
extraordinaire and wealth of basketball knowledge Collin Orcutt.*
two statements expressed about Collin's intern and basketball prowess
are not necessarily those of MF. Nor are the necessarily correct.
Except for the unpaid part.
Some argue the NBA has been ascending to heights of the Celtics/Lakers era of the 80's or the Bulls/Rockets era of the 90's the past few seasons. Although only 10 games young, the current season may be enough to definitively close the books on that debate. Witness this year's growing story lines: young teams flourishing, old mainstays slipping, young superstar "talent" affirming, all-time records shattering. Hold on to your hats, thrills to ensue:
The Lakers. 9 losses. I'm almost afraid to type it. I grew up on the East Coast after all--Larry Bird inspired my gravel driveway hoop dreams. But lets be real: it could happen.
I've touched on the Lakers depth and on their equalized minutes. But it justifies further discussion.
Check out their second five: C- Chris Mihm, PF- Lamar Odom, SF- Trevor Ariza, SG- Sasha Vujacic, PG- Jordan Farmar. That second five wouldn't finish with the worst record in the league if they played out a season. And keep in mind, that still leaves Luke Walton on the bench. Luke Walton is a 7th man, 8th at worst, on any other team in the league.
More proof: Sasha Vujacic (I'm officially exposing my nickname for him to the world: The Short Order Cook), who was an essential cog in last season's success, is playing under 14 minutes a game compared to 18 per last year. Kobe averaged 20.6 shot attempts in 39 minutes last year. 7 games in, he's down to 18 shots a game and only 34 minutes. What does it mean? That minutes are spread. This is now a team with enough talent to beat anyone, and enough depth to do it all season long.
Don't forget that Jackson coached the '95-96 Bulls when they went 72-10, so he knows how to keep teams motivated. At this point, barring injury, a lack of motivation looks to be the only thing that could slow this team down.
You read it here first. Lakers for history: 72+.
- Attack of the Rookies
It's not as though strong rookie play is anything new--each class has its standouts. But this year the frosh are rolling deep.
First, there's Mayo, a born pro whose talent was apparently too high for college (a la Jay Williams at Duke). He's connecting on 43% of his long balls and logging 39 minutes of court time a night.
Then there's Derrick Rose, who has exceeded the hype in my opinion. I knew he was quick and possessed deft finishing skills, but his rebounding (5+ rpg) and composure (only 9 threes taken all season) have been better than expected. Additionally, he has been handing out more assists lately, something I questioned at the year's start.
Next, Rudy Fernandez. He looks underfed, underslept, and undershaved. But he will put points on your face. Fernandez is a gamer with no conscience, and he appears to have a deepseeded dislike for letting his jump shots touch any part of the rim. Right now Rudy's averaging 15 points, 3 boards, and 2 assists in a measly 28 minutes a game. If his floor time goes up, beware of Fernandez as a Rookie of the Year dark horse.
In addition to these three, there's still Michael Beasley, Jason Thompson, Kevin Love, Marc Gasol, Darrel Arthur, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Mario Chalmers, all of whom are contributing on their respective teams. All I can say is that this year's Rookie/Sophomore game will be quite a spectacle.
- Up is Down
The league had been pretty constant as far as the good and bad teams are concerned the past couple years. Some of that consistency looks to have changed.
San Antonio (2-5) and Dallas (2-6) are bottom dwelling in the Southwest right now, the Wizards (1-5) are sleeping in the basement of the East, the Hawks are a Paul Pierce dagger away from 7-0 and the Knicks are remarkably above .500.
It probably won't stay this way, but it's still pretty weird to see both the Mavs and the Spurs out of the "if the season were to end today" playoff picture.
- Stephon: Free at last, free at last?
In the latest version of "As the Money Wastes," it appears Stephon Marbury may be close to freeing himself from his D'Antoni shackles.
If his contract is bought out by the Knicks as rumored, a few teams are said to be interested in acquiring a little Starbury dust, including the Heat, Clippers, and Celtics. But I think the front runner has to be the Spurs.
Since Marbury would have had his payday, it would be reasonable to think he would take a moderate contract for the opportunity to play in San Antone. Especially since they're in desperate need for a point guard right now--and since this would be his best (last?) shot to win a ring.
Then again, it's Steph. Reasonable need not apply.