By BEN SHATZMAN
1.Anticlimactic Homecoming for LeBron James. After a ridiculous amount of summer hype regarding that basketball team LeBron James plays for, the Cleveland Cavaliers are currently 2-3 — ninth in the East. If the season ended today, the Bucks would make the playoffs and the Cavs wouldn’t. The Cavs’ players are obviously just getting acclimated with one another and it’s far from panic mode in Cleveland. But LeBron gave a totally self-centered pre-game speech before his first game, in which he said, “This is one of the biggest sporting spectacles in the history of sports. And we’re part of it. And it had a lot to do with me. I understand that.” Come on, LeBron. If you’re going to say that, at least drop 50 or something.
2.Derek Fisher has yet to Prove Himself More Capable Than Mike Woodson. The Knicks hired Phil Jackson. Then Jackson hired Derek Fisher and Carmelo Anthony decided, for whatever reason, to stay with the Knicks for another season. But the Knicks are 2-5 and Carmelo is off to a terrible start to the year. Derek Fisher’s triangle offense has led to a lot of Jason Smith jumpers, but not many wins, and Knicks’ fans could be in for a long season. The team just doesn’t have much to offer.
3.Will the 76ers Win a Game? Before last season, I predicted that my beloved 76ers would finish with the worst single-season record of all time. I couldn’t imagine them winning a game. They made me look foolish, however, by winning their first three games, Michael Carter-Williams looking like Magic Johnson in his prime. The success was short-lived and they ended up tying the record for most consecutive losses in a season, losing 26. This could be the year, though. With MCW recovering from an injury (set to return Tuesday), the Sixers have begun the season with seven straight losses. Their roster is laughably bad and young. With Joel Embiid likely out for the season and Nerlens Noel looking as raw as a bad McDonalds experience, tank city is in full effect in Philly.
4.It’s Difficult Not to Feel Bad for Kobe Bryant. After grinding through last season only to tear his achilles in devastating fashion right before the playoffs, Kobe Bryant is about to endure the longest season of his career. People thought last season was bad. But this Lakers’ team is like, kind of, almost on Sixers level, but not actually. They’re among the worst teams in the West though, and although their first unit can compete with other teams, their bench just doesn’t have what it takes to keep L.A. in games. Kobe needed a superstar to play with him this year, but instead, he got some washed out vets who play less than 30 minutes a game and Jeremy Lin. Poor Kobe.
5.The Pelicans and Kings Both Look LIke Playoff Teams. And in the Western Conference, that is saying a lot. Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins have proven themselves to be MVP candidates, especially Davis, and both are in their early 20s. Both teams were young last year and have come into this season looking like they have figured out their 2013-14 issues. The Kings’ Cousins-Gay combo is lethal and the Pelicans’ trio of Davis-Evans-Holiday could be the NBA’s new “Big Three.” The West is tough, but so are these two teams. We’ll see if they can keep it up.
6.The Grizzlies Could Be the New Spurs. Memphis has been among the most underrated teams in the NBA over the past few seasons. They easily could have knocked off the Thunder in the 2014 playoffs, had the NBA not suspended Zach Randolph in game seven — a move that seemed to display the league’s want for high-profile teams like the Thunder to make deep playoff runs. Their ball movement is Spurs-esque and the addition of Vince Carter is the bench-offense that they needed last season. They are great on both sides of the ball. The Grizzlies are a favorite to win the West this season.
7.The Thunder Need to Get Healthy, Fast. With Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant both out for several weeks with injuries, the Thunder have been relying on former benchwarmers for offense on a nightly basis. Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson are above average players, but a squad led by them could not be a winning team in the West. They need to salvage some wins before K.D. and Westbrook return or OKC could be fighting for its playoff lives by mid-season. Surviving in the West is not an easy task.