Never Too Soon For Snap Judgments

VIDEO: Sixers begin season with strong start


So what if we’ll have to skip the clocks ahead again before we even finish the long grind of the regular season? Does it really matter that it will take more than seven months for somebody to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy? It’s never too soon to leap to conclusions about what we know — or think we know — one week into the 2013-14 regular season.

Heat — Nobody this side of Miley Cyrus gets more scrutiny, criticism and hyperventilating overreaction than the two-time defending champs. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade already have to talk over the alarm bells, trying to put out the fires of two losses in their first three games. They still have the best player in the game, still have a more than capable No. 2 man if he stays healthy and still will be the team to beat when the playoffs begin in April. That won’t stop the sky from falling on nearly a weekly basis. But you still want to pick them for next June.

Clippers — So much for the closing down of Lob City by the new mayor Doc Rivers. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are still running free and easy with the top-rated offense in the league (119.5), but we’re going to have to see more out of DeAndre Jordan and that unicorn defense before we consider the Clips to be true playoff contenders in the West.

Derrick Rose — The Bulls’ star will be right behind the Heat with the Chicken Little crowd that will fret and worry and complain with every missed shot and turnover. He’ll have the most scrutinized repaired leg in the league until Kobe Bryant returns. The good news is that Rose hasn’t shown any ill effects from the knee surgery and it’s only a matter of time until he regains the stroke and the confidence that make him an MVP candidate and Chicago a threat to push Miami and Indiana in the playoffs.

Advantage Howard — The 2-2 Lakers might be saying they’re having fun without the 6-foot-11 distraction, but Dwight Howard is healthy and living up to all expectations in Houston as both an inside force (15 rebounds per game) and solid veteran presence in the Rockets locker room. No longer suffering from back and shoulder problems, Howard is playing joyfully and stress-free for the first time in three seasons. He’s been accepting of instruction from coach Kevin McHale, willing to move out to guard power forwards as part of the twin towers tandem experiment with Omer Asik, and has the Rockets on track to their stated goal of getting home-court advantage in the West playoffs, at the very least.

Lakers — If they were in a swimming pool, the Lakers would be wearing an orange life jacket and just trying to bob their heads above the water line. It’s a two-part season that’s B.K. and A.K. — Before Kobe and After Kobe — and things just don’t look good for the long haul with Steve Nash struggling badly and a bench that provides as much real support as a, well, bench.

Sixers — Other than LeBron and Wade declaring that they were taking the season off to visit an ashram to find inner peace, could there have been a more shocking start to the season than a 3-0 start in always sunny Philadelphia? Michael Carter-Williams, Eastern Conference Player of the Week, is the real deal. But the Warriors proved Monday that the Sixers will eventually settle down to their real level in the Andrew Wiggins Derby, especially after GM Sam Hinkie possibly parlays the quick starts by Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and maybe Thaddeus Young into deals for more draft picks.

Thunder — OK, everybody kicks five bucks into the pot and the winner is the person who picks the exact time — day, hour, minute and seconds — when some knucklehead rips Russell Westbrook for being the kind of bad/selfish teammate that will never help Kevin Durant win a championship. The truth is, since GM Sam Presti’s benevolent giveaway of James Harden to Houston, Westbrook is Durant’s only chance of getting back to The Finals. No more Memphis getting past half a Thunder team. No more avoiding the toughest challenge in the West, Spurs. Yes, Durant is OKC’s best player. But Westbrook, healthy and with a chip on his shoulder, is the hard edge on the court.

Wizards — How many times can we wait on the revamped Wizards to have that bust-out season that propels them back into the playoff picture in the East? John Wall is fine, Trevor Ariza is averaging a double-double, they have a healthy center in Marcin Gortat and yet Washington is still 0-3 with a defense that is simply dreadful. Coach Randy Wittman still leads the race for first coach fired.

Warriors — They’re like the magician that has your eyes glued to his pretty assistant in the skimpy outfit that is their high octane, high scoring offense, while coach Mark Jackson’s team really wants to pull rabbits out of their hats with a defense that will get in your face and get after it. Andre Iguodala couldn’t have been a better fit if he’d been sewn into the lineup by a British tailor.

Love Is All You Need — Well, it would certainly help to have Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and the rest of the star-crossed Timberwolves remain ambulatory through the 82-game schedule. But if there were a Comeback Player of the Year Award for the first week of the season, it would have to go to Kevin Love, who’s been nothing short of a beast scoring and rebounding. This is why it was never rash to envision the Timberwolves Western Conference playoffs the past two seasons. If Love stays healthy, they make it even in a crowded race.

Nets — While losing two of their first three was seen as a sign of the apocalypse in Miami, that trendy, high-priced collection of talent in Brooklyn might be the real candidate for being oversold as championship contenders, a win over the Heat notwithstanding. It still remains to be seen if Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce can continue to produce like their old selves as they become older selves. In the end, it will all come down to whether Deron Williams can get himself back among the elite level of point guards. So far, the shot just isn’t falling.

Knicks — Like the buzz over Gangnam Style and Zero Dark Thirty, Carmelo Anthony and his friends are just so last year. In fact, since their blazing start out of the gate in 2012-13, the Knicks have been positively mediocre and there is no indication that things will change soon. They were laughably “all-in” for a championship run last season, came up way short and now the brightest news is Melo saying he’d like to retire as a Knick. Perfect. Looks like a lot of them already have.

Anthony Davis — The No. 1 pick from the 2012 draft has positively exploded with his growth in the league, almost doubling his scoring from 13.5 to 23.7 ppg, bumping rebounds up from 8.2 to 12.3 and blocks from 1.8 to 4.0. This the Davis who had everyone drooling over his potential at Kentucky and makes the Pelicans a fun stop when flipping channels on League Pass. Now, if only coach Monty Williams could find a way to put some zip into an offense that is only mediocre because they play at such a horridly slow pace in an up-tempo league.

Pacers — Let the Nets spend all the money, the Knicks suck up all the oxygen with talk of Melo’s free agent destination and the Bulls ride the frenzy around every peak and valley in Rose’s return. Meanwhile in the heartland, Paul George keeps getting better, Lance Stephenson keeps learning about consistency, coach Frank Vogel keeps cranking up the intensity on the league’s best defense and the Pacers happily keep playing in the shadows as the real top threat to Miami in the East.


VIDEO: The Beat crew talks about Westbrook’s swift return


  1. Trayton says:

    Can you guys for once not talk about the heat? The big story here is the TimberWolves looking like a ligitament contender oh and out of no where MCW is everyone new rookie of the year candiate! But realisticly im putting my prediction as….
    West: Rockets, Clippers, Spurs, Timberwolves, Thunder, Warriors, Mavericks, and the 8th is open for who ever turns things around (Kings, Pelicans, Lakers, Grizzlies, TrailBlazer)
    East: Heat, Pacers, Bulls, Knicks, Cavilairs, and the 6th 7th and 8th seed is going to be a battle between (Nets, Wizards, Raptors, Pistons, and maybe even a surpise push by the Bobcats, Sixers, or Hawks) Im pretty postive the Nets are going to make it but with age and Jason Kidd being a first time head coach you never know, could be another episode of what the Lakers went through last year. Thoughts?
    Just a side note to the people that think the Heat winnign was a conspearicey, i just have to remind you that Lebron is the real deal and any team he is on can go blow for blow with the best in the league. The only reason everyone hates the Heat is because Lebron sold out he’s hometown Cleveland (who drafted him and stuck with him through everything) and made a sort of “game” of where he was going to sign, which was unprofessional and made alot of people dislike him which results in Heat Haters.

  2. Pearlmg says:

    Don’t get too high on the Pacers. They haven’t played against a really good team yet.” No one is safe

  3. SFV818 says:

    Lakers don’t have a bench? Have you seen the scoring stats of the Lakers’ first few games? Fran is a moron.

  4. okc2014 says:

    WOW. Lots of good points were made. Knicks falling through the cracks, Lakers need a life jacket, Heat will win again (?), Pacers are the real threat to the Heat (I hope so, hate the Heat!), and Philadelphia will eventually settle into the 30th seed. LOL!

  5. Money man of N.O. says:

    The pelicans will never improve unless they get rid of Eric Gordon. He very overrated and horrible on defense. Monty needs to play Austin Rivers to speed up the offense if he wants to remain the head coach. It’s too much talent on this team to end up with a high draft pick.

  6. Kome the Black Dumba says:

    People talked about fixed games and who can forget about the Lakers. Fixed their champ years to the MAX. KIngs? Blazers? I feel bad for them. The worst thing was even the refs admit they were fixed.

  7. Anonymous says:

    fixed game?? look at game 6 people..heat almost lost that game if not for ray ray trey,,don’t hate..that shot was one of the most clutch shot i have ever seen…

  8. jeffconnects says:

    As a die hard Pacers fan, I’ve learned the hard way (Chicago before, now Miami) that it’s not good enough to be “close” and leave the outcome in the hands of MJ, LBJ, the refs, the league or anyone else. If you don’t take it, you won’t make it! Unless Miami improves a fair bit this year, they won’t win another title. GO PACERS!

    • theking0522 says:

      Whiner!!!! Your team got ALL the fouls calls in the series against Miami. Hilbert gets away with sooo many fouls. Stop whining. By the way, you Pacers fans talk to much. Beat Chicago first and then talk about beating Miami. Chicago hates your team as much as they hate Miami, and Chicago is might have something to say about you becoming East champions.

  9. Bob says:

    Trade DeMarcus Cousins for Blake Griffin? The Kings would be all over that one! Griffin is a star. A complete athlete and basically uncoached during his time in the league. And still, is a star.

  10. Dew says:

    Love how everyone has jumped on the Heat bandwagon. I am sure anyone who claims they are a true Heat fan remembers Tim Hardaway, Voshon Leonard, Alonzo Mourning, Rony Seikly? I doubt it. Not even a fan but know the team better than any jumper who likes them now. They need to rename them the Miami Flop and give their youtube sensation the Miami Flop an Oscar for best acting. They would get better recognition from the rest of the league if they weren’t so fake!

    • Kome the Black Dumba says:

      My personal favourite is Glen Rice and Tricky smith. I love the 90s team with Thunder Dan, AC, Utep 2 step and Zo. Their battles with Bullls and Knicks were great even Bulls ruled that era.
      Not much love for Miami these days.

  11. Frizzle says:

    The league paid off Leonard and Ginobli to miss free throws in the last minute of game 6?

  12. 007 says:

    Focusing on the clippers DJ isnot the issue he plays with energy every night so that will help fill his role. If Blake Griffin allows people like Chandler Parsons to push him off the block and struggle to score with in the post. The playoffs will be disappointing for the Clips. I will say it again Griffin for Cousins trade well help propel this team.

  13. down_to_the_wire says:

    It dont matter the heat will win the east but i cant wait for the playoffs cause new teams are gonna be among them. The Rockets now that team has made a huge jump. im a lakers fan and id like to apoligize to dwight. hes not a cry baby no more and is gettin bak to the dwight i loved when watching orlando. They have the west easily. but pelicans if they keep up the level of play will be in the playoffs as early as this year. My prediction is…
    West: Rockets Clippers Thunder T-Wolves Mavericks Pelicans Warriors and the eighth is a toss up
    East: Heat Pacers Nets Pistons Cavaliers Bulls Knicks Raptors

  14. NOCHIPSNYC says:

    Butt lol

  15. NOCHIPSNYC says:

    All of you sound like you are but hurt. Lol Heat 3peat!!!!!!

  16. brismar says:

    LOL to all the people who say the heat winning 2 titles was fixed. Cant appreciate a great player in LBJ. i bet if he played for yur fav team there would be no theories…smh

  17. Unkle Daddy says:

    The day Indiana beats Miami, I’ll know that basketball is sport again. The league made sure the Heat got a championship last year to make sure LBJ stayed the face of the NBA, they’ll do it again I’m sure.

    • Roy says:

      I love conspiracy theorists lol, mostly because their ideas are absurd and ALWAYS wrong.

      • His Airness says:

        Conspiracy theorists aren’t always wrong but these guys are. I would say the heat got pretty lucky last year but a conspiracy? The logistics of it are so unreasonable. The league has to make the refs make bad calls. If so, the refs could blackmail the league so bad. The refs could then fix games with impunity to make a fortune in sportsbetting.

        Accept the reality. Don’t be blinded by Heat hate. Just hate them logically.

    • Brad says:

      I agree. The Spurs got robbed in that fateful Game 6. I wouldn’t call that lucky for the Heat, fixed is the right word.

      • theking0522 says:

        Should I call your mom, Brad? The Spurs HAD game 6 and they CHOKED in the free-throw line. Is Manu Ginobili part of the fix? You guys are……..(I cannot write it here)

    • U a foo says:

      Your an idiot. The heats big 3 were in foul trouble in almost every game and the pacers shot more fts than the heat in every game you moron. How did the refs helped the heat blow out the pacers in game 7?