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Happy New Year!
The first third of the 2013-14 NBA regular season has been engaging. Strong play by the San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trailblazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers has been the highlight of the season so far. Injuries, inconsistent Eastern Conference play and good basketball play by rising young teams have been story lines for an early NBA season.
After a brief return from an ACL injury he suffered two seasons ago, the Bulls’ Derrick Rose is out yet again; this time with a torn meniscus he suffered this season. He’ll be sidelined for the remainder of this season.The Atlanta Hawks will miss Al Horford’s 18.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game this season. He had surgery today to repair a complete tear of a right pectoral injury he suffered last week. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook was averaging 21.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 3-pointers in 14 games in December prior to undergoing surgery to reduce swelling in his right knee.
The NBA’s Eastern Conference has played lackluster basketball. In the absence of star point guard Rajon Rondo and with new head coach, Brad Stevens, the Boston Celtics have managed to cling to an 8th seed at 13-18. The Milwaukee Bucks are the worst team in the NBA with a 7-24 record. The 10-21 Cleveland Cavaliers have quietly been awful as well despite flashes of good potential from their star Kyrie Irving who is day to day with a right knee contusion he suffered. He’s listed as day-to-day. The Cavs are rumored to be in trade talks with the Los Angeles Lakers. The proposed trade would send center Andrew Bynum to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Pau Gasol. The Cavs are looking to pull the trigger before January 7, the day Bynum’s contract he signed in the offseason would be fully guaranteed. New York City’s two basketball teams have been horrid. The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks have 9-21 and 10-21 records respectively. The shining light in the conference has been the NBA’s reigning champion Miami Heat at 24-7 and riding a two game winning streak. They have solid competition with the Indiana Pacers who have been red hot this season going 15-1 at home.
In the Western Conference, the 25-7 Portland Trailblazers have played well this season. Led by a solid core of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers have been successful with solid shooting. They’ve won against elite teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder who they beat New Years Eve at Chesapeake Energy Arena 98-94 on New Years Eve. Speaking of the Thunder, despite their loss on Tuesday and the loss to point guard Russell Westbrook through February, they’ve still played well. They share the NBA’s top record at 25-6 with the Indiana Pacers and have been successful with Reggie Jackson filling in at point guard.
The 20-13 Golden State Warriors have made a splash in the NBA in the first third of the season. The 20-13 squad are on a six game winning streak and are led by good shooting by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
The Phoenix Suns are an entertaining team to watch. Led by rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek, the Phoenix Suns’ core of Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Goran Dragic and Markieff Morris have quietly played good basketball. They’ve been a breath of fresh air in 5th place in the NBA’s competitive Western Conference with a 19-11 record.
With January here and the All-Star game about a month away, expect to see consistent play by the Heat, Pacers, Spurs, Warriors and Thunder. Look out for exciting play from the league’s young bucks like the Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings. If the proposed Cavs/Lakers deal happens, expect for the Cleveland Cavaliers to make a playoff push as well.
-Brandon Robinson ( @ScoopB )