Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Glance Across the Atlantic: A look at the NBA season so far

There is certainly plenty happening in the world of sport right now. I was spoiled for choice today when choosing what to write about in this post. I thought that an attempt to reflect on Barcelona's breath-taking 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid last night would almost certainly do no justice to the quality of their performance. More posts about the Ashes are almost guaranteed so I decided to refrain from writing about that for know. And a piece on the latest attempts to expose FIFA's corruption will be written after we know the fate of England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup, the announcement being made in two days time.

Instead, I have opted for writing a more general post about my thoughts on the new NBA season so far. It always proves very difficult to dip into a sport that I write about so infrequently as there is so much scope for things that I could talk about. For now though, I will look at the struggling form of the Miami Heat and the developing two-horse race for Rookie of the Year.

The Miami Heat had been labelled the team to watch long before the season began. When it was announced back in July that Lebron James was joining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the east-coast, shock-waves were sent through the basketball world. With James, the league's best player, joining the tremendous talents of Wade and Bosh in Miami, it was assumed that a period of unrivalled dominance would follow. The reality has been quite different.

After 'The Decision' (when James revealed he was going to join the heat) there were drastic changes in the Heat squad. Some were forced out to balance the books, some because they were surplus to requirement and others because they were unwilling to settle for a season sat on the bench. Many left and many came in. The Heat's performances thus far this season have been little more than what could be expected of a team in their position.

Miami still have a winning record at 10-8. In many people's eyes, however, this is an abject failure from a team containing a triumvirate of all-stars. The team are struggling with teething problems. From the several matches of theirs that I have watched, they seem unclear of how they are meant to play, both as individuals and as a team.

Wade and James are having to adapt to sharing the role of primary play-maker and point-scorer, roles they had previously held uncontested. Bosh too has had to make this adaptation. He no longer receives the amount of attention as an attacking option as he had been used to in Toronto. The fringe players seems unsure of their roles coming off the bench, all of which has contributed to the confused and clumsy performances that have characterised the Heat's season. These weaknesses have been exposed by the Boston Celtics on two occasions already this season. The Celtics illustrate perfectly how meaningless it is to have numerous big names on the court if they are unable to play effectively together. It is a lesson they ought to have taken note of.

They will not be panicking though. Each of their big three are warming to challenge of altering their games for the good of the team and their individual stats have been steadily increasing. The defensive intensity still seems to be somewhat lacking but this will probably come with the increased understanding that more time playing together will bring.

No one would argue that they have failed to meet the expectations that most had for them. This is probably more a result of unrealistically high expectations than of their own failings. People, myself included, expected too much too soon. They are still managing to win matches despite being disjointed and frustratingly inefficient at both ends of the court. Needless to say, they will only improve as the season progresses and by the time the playoffs come around, which they will be part of, they will probably be hitting top form. When this happens they may well prove to be as dominant as some hoped and many feared.

Aside from the faltering Miami side, I have been very interested in the progress of the league's two finest rookies this season. Blake Griffin was the number one overall draft pick back in 2009 by the LA Clippers. However, Griffin then missed all of last season with a knee injury he picked the day before the season was due to start, thus making this his début season. Now, after a year on the injured list, Griffin seems determined to make up for lost time.

His rival in what is seemingly a two-horse race for the Rookie of the Year title is John Wall. Like Griffin, Wall was the first overall pick in the 2010 draft when the Washington Wizards snapped up the young point guard. He has suffered some minor injury set backs himself this season but when he has been available for selection he has not failed to excite.

Both Griffin (left) and Wall (right) are making names for themselves as stars in failing teams. Despite the Clippers' dismal record of 3-15 (the worst in the league), Griffin is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds a games so far this season. He has been producing spectacular, high-flying dunks on a regular basis and, despite a year without being able to play, is beginning to show why he entered the NBA with such hype.

Wall's Wizards are on an ever-so-slightly better record of 5-11. Yet he too has been one of the league's stand-out performers in the opening two months. The 20 year-old has averaged 18 points and 9 assists per game. His electrifying pace and ability to find a way to the hoop has boosted the solid reputation he brought with him to the NBA. The point guard position is often recognised as being the most difficult to play in the sport and yet his scoring and passing has shown a level of both talent and maturity beyond his years. It will be very interesting to see how this race for Rookie of the Year develops and to see if the two emerging stars can reverse the fortunes of their failing teams.

There are various other things that I would like to go on to write about and I am sure I will revisit some of them in due course, in particular the prevailing older squads in Boston and San Antonio (if it continues), the emergence of Derrick Rose as the 'real deal' in Chicago and the success of the league's new 'Respect the Game' initiative.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...


  1. John Wall is a great player with a great team and him and Mcgee are going to be something special.
    Blakes team needs a lot more development, him and Eric Gordon could be dominating in a year or 2.
    Miami need to change their team roles before they start winning games such as Chris Bosh on the boards, Wade feeding, controlling and Lebron with his finishes.

    Amazing season though, love Thunder and I'm so glad that Beasley is coming out so well he is so damn talented.
    I hope Kings get somewhere too, Tyreke is a new type of point guard and the NBA needs him to shine.

  2. Doug, I think you are right that Bosh needs to be far more dominant on the boards. He was a leading rebounder at Toronto but has not been nearly as effective at Miami. I would say, however, that Wade and Lebron need to learn to share the role of feeder and finisher. To give each of them just one of these roles would take away from their overall game. Lebron is one of the best passers in the NBA and Wade is one of the best at getting to the basket. They have to find a way to let them both alternate running the offence with their respective skills and strengths. These are things that, as I say, will almost certainly come with time though.

    Thunder have looked very impressive. Westbrook and Durant are getting better and better but I still think that they will struggle in the playoffs. Their style of play does not always match up well against the best teams but that time is still a long way away. You are right, Michael Beasley's form since leaving the Heat to go to Minnesota has been immense. Good to see him finally realising his potential. Sacramento, on other hand, have been very disappointing so far which isn't allowing Evans to shine. Haven't seen much of them but I gather that serious changes are needed.

  3. It's better to watch it in an European level...



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