Blogtable: Disappointing Contender

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

What to do with Kobe? | Can the Knicks be fixed? | Disappointing should-be contender?

VIDEO: GameTime’s Brent Barry and Steve Smith discuss the NBA’s best teams

Which supposed title-contender is leaving you coldest right now?

Steve Aschburner, Let’s see, I already laid waste to the Knicks in another of today’s questions. I’m cutting Brooklyn and the L.A. Clippers some slack because it’s early for veteran-laden teams hoping to still be playing in June. I think Chicago and Oklahoma City are flawed but acknowledge certain undeniable strengths. Miami, Indiana and San Antonio are locked and loaded. That leaves me with Golden State and Memphis (sorry, Houston), and I’ve expressed doubts about the Warriors’ durability and two-way-ness before. But the Grizzlies seem neither to have improved much offensively (oy, that perimeter shooting) nor maintained what had been their disruptive defense. A lot of folks didn’t even rate them as contenders coming in, but that’s not how this edition of Memphis basketball was supposed to go. Mike Miller looking more spry than Tayshaun Prince is just one of Grizzlies’ many issues.

Fran Blinebury, The team that used to play tough defense, shut opponents down and be the once-rugged, snarling Grizzlies. To quote Bob Dylan, I’m stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again.

Jeff Caplan, Hello, Brooklyn. But while I wait for Deron Williams to revert to his Utah days, allow me to suggest that Dwight’s Rockets already give me a headache. I know Dwight’s put up some monster rebounding games, but he’s only averaging 17.7 ppg and is shooting 55.6 percent from the floor, which just two weeks in would go down as his worst since his second season. I watch him in the low block and marvel at the bricks he puts up from 5-feet and in. There’s nothing close to a Dream Shake going on there. Worse, Dwight’s passive performance in the home loss to the Kobe-less Lakers was extraordinarily embarrassing as he literally ran away from L.A.’s Hack-a-Howard tactic. Where’s the killer mentality? Where’s the heart? I only see gazes of confusion. I predicted Dwight, set free from weighty decisions, would have a big year. Statistically, I suppose he’s on his way, but unless he ratchets up the intensity and the leadership, I don’t see the Rockets being a big, bad title contender.

Scott Howard-Cooper, an emphasis on “at this point of the season” and understanding that they may have a week or two for a turnaround: the Clippers. The defense needs to get a lot better. Getting Matt Barnes healthy will help. Getting more time with Doc Rivers’ system will help. Underwhelming start, but the cold is not permanent.

John Schuhmann, The Clippers. They’ll get better defensively as the season goes on, but they can’t even see the top 10 in defensive efficiency from where they are now (28th). And as good as they are offensively, that’s where they need to contend. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are OK, but not great on defense, and they’re depending on those two a lot more than they were last season, when they had two strong defensive bigs off the bench. I was curious to see if Doc Rivers could get them defending at a league average rate (at least), but the early returns have not been good.

Sekou Smith, You must have identified a team as a “title contender” before now to figure out which one leaves you coldest right now. The Memphis Grizzlies (formerly the Hang Time Grizzlies … before they ran off Lionel Hollins) have me freezing right now. They played in the Western Conference finals last season and were supposed to be a team ready to take that next step this season with their core coming back and a new voice (Dave Joerger, who was hand-picked by the front office) leading them. After watching the Indiana Pacers, a team that made its own trip to the conference finals last season, take them apart Monday night, my expectations for the Grizzlies continue to free fall. You have to be careful in this league when you go tinkering with success. What Hollins brought to the table for the Grizzlies was truly something special. He had a way of pushing just the right buttons on a roster with so many unique personalities that I think folks inside (and outside) the team failed to realize it before he was ousted. Hollins wasn’t just the best fit for the Grizzlies, he was the perfect fit.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: I’m not sure if anyone picked Houston to be a title contender, but of all the teams that people talked so much about over the summer and felt were in that upper echelon, to me the Rockets have several issues to address. Dwight Howard is either still bothered by the injuries that slowed him the last two seasons, or he’s just not the player he used to be. Houston’s poor perimeter defense wouldn’t bother me so much if Dwight was back there erasing shots, but he hasn’t been (he’s averaging his lowest blocks per game since 2006). Meanwhile Dwight’s shooting a career low at the free throw line, 47.1 percent, so Hack-A-Dwight is an obvious and effective strategy for teams to go to.

Philipp Dornhegge, Germany: The easy choices might be Brooklyn and Chicago, but I’m not really worried about either team. The Nets will need a while to really develop some chemistry, and they’re not particularly interested in the regular season. The Bulls’ offense heavily depends on Derrick Rose, and he hasn’t been able to find his rhythm yet. The Grizzlies have been kind of underwhelming, but if we count Houston among contenders, the Rockets are my choice. Dwight Howard and Ömer Asik don’t fit together yet, they don’t have an NBA starting power forward and their defense has been awful. Lots of question marks in the loaded West.

Adriano Albuquerque, Brasil:I expected Houston and Brooklyn to have some chemistry fine-tuning difficulties early on, and D-Rose just couldn’t come back at a 100% so early, but I definitely expected more from Doc Rivers’ Clippers. They are a powerhouse offense, but we were told Doc’s focus was making this team into an elite defensive unit, and that couldn’t be further from what it actually is on the court. On D, they look like a pick-up team right now.


  1. jdub455 says:

    definitely the grizzlies. but hey, miami is also kinda disappointing esp their defense but come playoffs, these two teams will do big time damage… letting go of rudy gay was just a big downside

  2. Karlo Garcia says:

    New York Knicks is leaving me coldest right now. Defensively they need to improve.

  3. Baller101 says:

    The Rockets may or may not improve, i had my doubts going in, I knew the grizzlies would under perform, Clips were always a play off team i can’t figure out what but they lack something that can take them further, The two teams i can say i am utterly disappointed by so far i stress on “so far” this season are the Nets, Knicks and Warriors. The Nets have incredible depth but just don’t show up at times, Knicks well Tyson is a huge miss but i’d still expect them to start stronger, Warriors um… no comment! they just started the season backwards…

  4. bertil78 says:

    I agree the Houston Astros…..sorry, Houston Texans…….no no, Houston Rockets are no contenders this year!

  5. A says:

    Most of these guys are hilarious cuz they’re so stupid. THE CLIPPERS??? They just beat the F#$%ing fully loaded Thunder. The only acceptable answers at this point are Memphis and Brooklyn, no one else is straight tanking off the deep end and we haven’t even gotten to 10 games yet, so F#$% off if you truly think it’s panic time for teams like Houston, Chicago, L.A….

  6. J says:

    Nets are stinking up the place So are a few other teams

  7. freal says:

    The most disappointing contender right now has the be the Heat. I know Lebron is facing some back issues, but their team has broken down too many times this early in the season: Losing in Philli after having the lead for much of the fourth quarter; playing abysmally against the Nets; and worst of all WADE’S ABSURD free-throw saga at the end of the Boston game!! Like how can a veteran all-star with 3 rings display such an amateurish ability to ice the game. Philli, Boston, Brooklyn, these are teams which have been, either, completely dismantled or heavily reshaped, how could the close bond, chemistry and experience of the two-time champs be shaken by teams who are only just learning how to play together? it raises and should raise major concerns….

  8. mattchew says:

    okc most likely not to come through… that 6 man coming off the bench is going to hurt.. spurs are rolling.. and defense is coming back..something they lack…watch out

  9. Alekos says:

    It is too early to say that one team is a contender or not.. Coaches like Mc Hale and Rivers, know more than the sofa-coaches who think that know everything… I believe that all these team that are mentioned, exept probably the Knicks, after 10 games will be very different…

  10. kenny says:

    I don’t pay attention to the records until 50 plus games have been played because at that time you have a idea of whose going to be in the playoffs and 1-6 7-9 are easer to see the matchup possibilities

  11. booty says:

    I thought for sure someone would say Cleveland

  12. perea416 says:

    Aw! what happened to article saying that Dwight and the Rockets moved on to bigger and better things! lol who am I kidding, they were never contenders. *yawn*

  13. Gillsy says:

    The Rockets are not really a problem Harden is playing injured, and Howard is working into the system. But if he could get 60% from the charity stripe would be good. The biggest thing for me is Memphis they look terrible except for the game vs. the Warriors, they have the same problem as the Nuggets in loosing very smart coaches. The Knicks are a worry cause they have just been told by their best player that he wants to test the free agency. While the Nets, Warriors and Clippers are all dealing with new people in the system and could take time, but the Nets do look shaky.

  14. nathan says:

    K. McHale needs to make a change, there’re many good players on the bench.
    Or, just change him

  15. jake s. says:

    Heat or OKC. Pacers will be knocked out by experience and poise, Spurs will lose due to injury and old age. If anyone thinks any other team has a chance besides maybe chicago… think again.

    • RG says:

      so you can see the future, huh? sorry, but you can’t guarantee any of that. Pacers do have quite the experience, especially when they added a couple of guys with experience in Scola and Watson, and I guess you’re missing the part where the Spurs have young talent like Leonard and Green, for example, and even though injuries are a part of the game, you can’t guarantee that they will have an injury when the playoffs arrive. if you don’t think the Pacers or Spurs have a chance to win it all, I suggest you think again.

    • Josh McKlaren says:

      well you’re clearly a bandwagoner

    • jake s. says:

      First of all, If i didn’t think they had a chance, I wouldn’t have mentioned their names. Second of all, bandwagoning who? History and statistics speak for themselves…

  16. Ballin for life says:

    grammar check?

  17. Ned says:

    Unless Miami manages to land a center — amazing how great they play without one — this is Indiana’s year. I can’t imagine what they’ll be like when Granger returns at full speed.

    And poor Dwight Howard. Given the structure he came to — another center and no power forward — I’m not surprised he is having trouble. Plus, he was never really that good, even in the early days in Orlando: If you can’t make foul shots, teams play you differently, and only a few who could never make free throws (Wilt, Shaq) did well because of overwhelming capabilities in other areas, which Howard does not have. Things might have been different with a different team (even the Lakers in the short-term), but the Rockets were a mistake, only one other team (Atlanta) had the money for him, and frankly, the right fit would have been for him to play for another team at the salary he is genuinely worth.

  18. Dwight will destroy any team he played…. 😦

    • Dan says:

      I think Dwight will never grow up. He will never improve on his free throws. He contributes in other areas, which got him paid. He does not have a “heart of a champion”. I just don’t see him putting in the time.

  19. Vinnie says:

    Give Houston some time before we judge too early in the season, yes Dwiight do need to improve on his free throw. I’am a Laker fan and glad Dwight has move on.

  20. Brent says:

    I think it’s a little bit too early to really have this conversation.

    But I will say this, I never drank the Bulls Kool-aid. I pegged them as a 6 seed in the East this year and I’m sticking with that prediction.

    I’m not sold on the Nets either. I predicted them to be a 4 seed in the East just off talent alone, but I don’t see them getting very far.

    The Eastern Conference is extremely top-loaded. Recall last year how the eight playoff teams in the East clinched well in advance of the conclusion of the season despite the fact that Milwaukee had only won something like 35 games. I can see something similar happening this year.

  21. BH says:

    Picking Houston this early in the season is just ridiculous. They added a key piece to their team, they are 5-3 and the only suprising loss was at home to the lakers. Teams like the knicks, chicago and grizzlies are way more suprising, sitting bellow .500. It’s too early to choose Houston or the Nets at this stage, because they have new players who need to fit and understand the system in which they are playing

  22. NIck says:

    It boils down to this: The “experts are usually wrong!” Last season, the Lakers were supposed to kick tail, Before they even got out of the gate they lost all of their preseason games, and struggled to stay at .500 until after the All Star break. The experts and most in the media turned on the Lakers at that point, never even giving them credit for making the playoffs. Then, just because Houston got Dwight everybody was talking about them being the hot team. Dwight is not a champion. If he was, he would seek the advice of proven champions, yet he blew the opportunity to learn from Kareem, or Kobe, or – when it comes to foul shooting: Steve Nash. When you already know you know it all, you never improve.

    • sempersmom says:

      Dwight is with the right team for him. Who needs Kareem or Kobe when you have Hakeem Olajuwon in your corner. Not everyone wants to play for the Lakers and it seems like some of you just can’t accept that. Deal with it.

      • Jess Navarro says:

        Who are we to say if Dwight is in the right team or wrong team or that everyone or no one wants to play with the Lakers? What do we know about what goes on inside Dwight’s mind? He plays basketball, we pay to watch him. But I only have one comment, for the millions you get for playing, why the heck can’t you make free throws?

  23. Akeem Asante says:

    Never thought the Clippers or the Rockets would be much. Dwight is way over rated. CP3 may be as well.

    Where is D-Will??? Rondo would LOOOVE to have these guys to set the table for.

    It’s all still early, however.

    On Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 11:38 AM, Hang Time Blog with Sekou Smith |

  24. DipperDan says:

    Orlando and Minnesota, best teams…They must have been drinking some Remey Martin before this aired lol. #terrible

  25. E U G E N I O B Z A M O R A says:

    no rockets because dwight is a good center but he just makes every team bad…

    • jimi says:

      how does dwight make every team bad. Any coach would love to have dwight as the center of there defense. Do you realize he went to the finals with the Orlando Magic. He averaged 17.4 pts and 12.4 rebounds a game playing 65% healthy last year for the lakers. He is a horrible free throw shooter but oh well take the good with the bad.

      • dwight is overated says:

        He makes every team bad becuz he is a diva. Sure, every coach would love to have him and his talent, but unfortunately they get his bipolar attitude with it. he will never make a team better as long as he keeps “overthinking” stuff

      • Houston you’ve got a problem…..!

    • Jason says:

      maybe he should train more free throw and count the hack dwight method. dwight shot average 16 free throw per game

      xD that is already 16 points.

    • blackfire030 says:

      Just two weeks into the season I got respect for former NBA players but they all know full well wait unitl a month and then give power rankings remember when people had the 76ers in the top 5 now look at them Rockets no need to worry just keep meshing and things will get better mark my words Brent Barry will be eating that top 5

  26. Anonymous says:

    Wow, no one said Bulls at all?

  27. Cristian says:

    Memphis easily are no contender anymore. Firing Hollins was a horrible mistake just as firing George Karl was for Denver. Sometimes I feel like GMs are idiots. Also, Dwight Howard is a coward with no heart, saying he can’t make free throws because he is “thinking to much”. I can make free throws and I’m 5’8 and don’t get paid 10million a year. However, there is time for Dwight to improve…as for Memphis, I truly doubt they will be going anywhere.

    • Kome the Black Dumba says:

      So according to your theory is Shaq a coward as well? He ditched Magic, leave LA and couldn’t save himself from the free throw line as well.

      What I’ll agree on is D12 needs to improve but he’s not bad to begin with.

      • Idiot says:

        Are you an idiot? Shaq wanted a huge extension which the Lakers could not offer because they wanted to build around Kobe.

    • New Yorker says:

      Agreed that not signing Hollins was a big mistake! I really liked that team in the past 3 seasons 😦