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.
Which team’s current fortunes will change most drastically in the weeks ahead, Portland’s or Brooklyn’s?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I understand that the schedule will toughen up for the Trail Blazers, but I think the urgency — wait, make that downright panic — that will take hold of everything Nets if their struggles continue means significant change will be inevitable, one way or the other. Even though the Eastern Conference standings would seem to tolerate a fairly casual approach, with .500 or so good enough for the playoff spot (and reset button) that really matters to Brooklyn, the spotlight on this team is too hot for that. Something will have to give very soon with these guys.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: With the Blazers running a very efficient offense to become one of the pleasant surprises of the early season, I’m not expecting a sudden collapse. But they’ve won seven in a row and neither do I think they’ll continue playing at an .800 pace. Portland will come back to earth and that doesn’t mean the Blazers are the negative side to this answer. I’ve never thought the Brooklyn Boys of Bummer were going to work and the talk about contending for a championship was laughable. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are old, Deron Williams is lost, Jason Kidd is clueless and Nets are just a lot of wasted rubles by Mikhail Prokorov.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: If by drastic change you mean lose a game here or there, I guess Portland. They can’t keep winning all their games can they? I like this Blazers team. They’re pretty complete. LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star bordering on superstar and Damian Lillard may soon be both. Wesley Matthews is shooting the lights out, Nic Batum is the all-everything and Mo Williams has greatly aided the bench. And let me mention the handy addition of Robin Lopez. As for the Nets, I’m not sure how much more drastic things can get. Oh, hold on, just checked the schedule and five of their next seven are on the road and that includes at Minnesota, at Houston and at Memphis. Good luck, coach Kidd.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Portland’s, but only because it’s not realistic to keep up this pace, while it’s possible Brooklyn really is bad enough to collapse. The Blazers were positioned from opening night to take the next step and make the playoffs, and this is why. They should improve again once C.J. McCollum joins the lineup.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Brooklyn. The Blazers aren’t the second best team in the Western Conference, but their offense can sustain their position as a playoff team, maybe in the 6-7 range. That team can really shoot. The Nets aren’t necessarily a title contender, but they are a top-five team in the East once they get healthy and get it together offensively. Even if Kevin Garnett’s age is catching up to him, a team with that much talent isn’t going to rank in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency for very long.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Eyeballing the upcoming schedules for these two teams does literally nothing to provide insight as to how either Portland or Brooklyn will play in the coming weeks. Both have rough Decembers looming and absolutely no rest for the weary. The law of averages tells me that things will change most dramatically for the Trail Blazers, mostly because they’ll come back to earth from this current run they are on. It’s inevitable. But that won’t be a bad thing. They’ll remain on a playoff trajectory, provided all of their major players stay healthy (or as close to it as possible). I honestly think the coming weeks look tougher for the Nets, whose identity is still in question. I’m asking the same question now I did when this collection of stars was put together … Whose team is this anyway? … which is apparently the same question Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and perhaps most importantly Brook Lopez are trying to answer themselves. They have time to sort out the mess, but when are they going to flip a switch and instantly become the contender they assumed they’d be this season? I don’t see it happening before the end of the calendar year. Fact is, Jason Kidd ain’t walking through that door people … well, at least not in uniform.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I was at the Portland/Brooklyn game on Monday night in Brooklyn, and there was quite a contrast between these teams. The Blazers seemed assured and confident, a team with one direction, while the Nets were confused and tired. Which team has more profound tea leaves? I think Brooklyn has a pretty clear path to improvement — the most immediate help Brooklyn can find is getting Brook Lopez, Andrei Kirilenko and Deron Williams healthy. Any team basically adding two All-Stars will be improved. So if I had to pick a team to have a dramatic change, I’ll go with Brooklyn. And really, considering they’re 3-7 right now, can things get much worse for the Nets? Wait, pretend I didn’t ask that …
Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: I think Portland is for real, so I will say Brooklyn is bound to get things corrected and become at least a decent team, instead of the mess that we’re witnessing right now. If that doesn’t happen, we might start hearing clamoring for a new coach …
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: When Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both say that they are “angry”, you should fasten your seatbelt. Or, ya know, hold to your armchair if sitting by the computer. The two veterans are ready to take things over in Brooklyn, so from that point of view something good (or just something better) is going to come out of it. Also, for the sake of the argument, the only way the Nets can go is up.