Thursday, 31 January 2013
10 SURPRISES OF THE SEASON– PART 2
By QUETT WALKER
6. Avery Johnson’s firing
In the offseason, the Brooklyn Nets lost the Dwight Howard sweepstakes to the Lakers.However, the Nets were able to resign their prized point guard Deron Williams and solid role player Gerald Wallace and acquired All Star Joe Johnson.
The Nets started off the season at 11 – 4 and whispers begin as to whether the Nets would be able to challenge the Knicks for the title of the best team in the Big Apple. These talks have cooled as the Nets have since gone 16-15 and the Knicks have been able to maintain their high level of play.
Obviously the Nets front office have been disappointed with the recent drop in their performance and fired their head coach Avery Johnson in December 2012. This came as a surprise to many as Johnson was awarded the accolade of Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October and November. One of the deciding factors seemed to be the fact that Deron Williams criticised Johnson’s offensive strategy, prompting Johnson to scrap a significant portion of his offense. This move could indicate that Johnson was feeling the pressure and thus signalling that he may have been unsure of himself.
Since P.J. Carlesimo has taken over as the Nets head coach the team has gone 13 - 5, with them sitting in the 4th position in the Eastern Conference with an overall record of 27-19.
Let’s hope the change in coaches and offensive schemes will enable the Nets to replicate their early season success.
7. The Houston Rockets Backcourt
Many were surprised at the shock trade of James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets at the beginning of the season. Many are even more surprised at how well Houston is playing!
Houston wanted to make a splash in the offseason as it cleared cap space in order to sign free agents. James Harden was traded to Houston due to him wanting a more favourable contract and he was able to get his desires fulfilled with the Rockets.In addition to James, they signed Linsanity (Jeremy Lin) after the New York Knicks chose not the match the offer. This represented a new start to a franchise as they acquired a highly popular point guard since the days of Steve Francis.
Many wondered, however, whether both of these players were worth the money. Essential James has always played off the bench and thus has never been a starter in the league. In addition Jeremy Lin only played 26 games with the Knicks as a starting point guard last year and was never available for a whole season to be able to truly assess his talent. The biggest criticism of both players is that they both need the ball in their hands to perform at their best and this would cease movement of the ball to teammates and thus be detrimental to the team.
Nevertheless, the combination of Lin and James result in a dynamic duo that has lifted the Rockets to a 25 – 23 record which sees them sitting in the 8th position in the Western Conference. There is no doubt that they have brought back an element of excitement to the Houston organisation and its fans and have actually created a reality where the rockets have a possibility to end their 3 year playoff drought.
8. Resilience of the Atlanta Hawks
Since losing their All-Star in Joe Johnson to a trade with the Brooklyn Nets andas trade rumours swirl around their powerforward Josh Smith, many didn’t have high expectations of the Atlanta Hawks. Additionally, the loss of role players such as Kirk Hinrick,Tracey McGrady and Jerry Stackhouse would seem to compound the issue that Atlanta’s bench would be depleted. With additions of DeShawn Stevenson, Anthony Morrow from the Joe Johnson trade and Devin Harris from the trade with the Dallas Mavericks, however, the Hawks have surprised many with their tough play and decent performance.
Head Coach Larry Drew has this team playing remarkable well given the circumstances of having to a incorporate a lot of new players onto the team. The Hawks currently have a record of 26-19 which stands at 6th in the eastern conference.
Although it is most likely that Atlanta will not pass the first round of playoffs, credit must be given to this resilient team and the old saying that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ definitely comes into play in this situation.
9.The Rise of Damian Lillard
Every year a new draft class of rookies enter the NBA to embark on their journey to becoming a good NBA player. All the media experts, analysts, fans etc always cast their opinions on which first year player would take home the coveted title of Rookie of the Year. In the past, only a few players have had an exceptional start in their NBA career in terms of their development of a player and their immediate contributions to their teams. Current players such as Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Lebron James have managed to achieve this and thus have all won Rookie of the year after their first year in the NBA.
It seems as everyone’s decision for Rookie of the Year has already been agreed upon this early in the season. Many have been raving about Damian Lillardwith the phenomenal start he has had.
Entering the NBA out of Weber state, this 6 ft 3 in point guard has exhibited the maturity, skills and talent as would be possessed by a 5 year NBA vet. Lillard has already taken (and made!!) big game winning shots against the New Orlean Hornets and The New York Knicks and had amazing performances against teams like San Antonio Spurs and his hometown team, the Golden State Warriors. There are even talks of Damian Lillard being the first rookie since Michael Jordan to make an NBA all-star team.
Overall see can already see the potential of the great player that Lillard will be one day and all those practice sessions in the off season with Jason Kidd and Gary Payton seems to be paying dividends.
10. Silly Injury to Andrew Bynum
This was the year that the Philadelphia 76ers wassupposed to take a step closer to become a contender in theEastern conference. However injuries to their star player, Andrew Bynum, have hindered this from happening.
Fed up with his immaturity and lack of giving maximum effort in games, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to trade Andrew Bynum in hopes of acquiring another elite centre, Dwight Howard. It made front page news when Andrew Bynum was traded to the 76ers as this gave hope to this franchise that’s been on the cusp of being a contender in the Eastern conference but need that missing piece in a low post player to take them to the next level. Unfortunately after 45 games into their season, Andrew Bynum is yet to set foot on the court. Bynum was originally scheduled for a return in January due to an injury with his knee, unfortunately in the off season, it seems as if he’s done additional damage by picking up an unspecified injury during a bowling game. Yes, that’s correct, bowling!! Bynum has been known to be a bit injury prone playing in 392 games out of 603 for his career.
As ridiculous as the cause of Andrew’s Bynum latest injury sounds, he is scheduled to return around the All-star break and let’s hope he will be able to suit up in a 76ers uniform sooner rather than later. His team needs him to help them better their record from the current 19– 26 and move up from their current position of 9th place in the Eastern conference so as to guarantee a playoff berth.