November 13, 2014

ZAKOUR | Don’t Count Out The Cavs Just Yet

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By JOHN ZAKOUR

How many early NBA storylines can we appraise not even ten games in? Join me and we’ll see.

The Cavaliers are going to be really good… eventually. So the Cavaliers are a pedestrian 3-3, and started 1-3. So they lost to the Knicks. So they don’t quite play defense yet. They still have Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and the best player in the NBA in Mr. James. The Cavaliers are going to be special offensively once they click. Love and Lebron can do things no other players in the NBA can. Together with a shot creator like Kyrie there’s almost no way they won’t turn into an offensive juggernaut. It’s only a matter of time before Love throws a 70-foot assist pass that Lebron slams home with authority. And it’s only a matter of time until the Cavaliers become a buzz saw.

There’s a new Lebron James. And I’m not just talking about the weight he’s lost. Now he’s a mentor and a clear leader. He’s the only key player on his Cavaliers team that’s won a title, and guiding and yelling at young guys like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, a role he could never fully accept with Dwyane Wade already entrenched in Miami. No one has a career arc quite like LeBron James. He’s gone from the messiah in Cleveland, to the pariah, and now he’s the prodigal son savior. Lebron might create a new archetype of a superstar leaving his native franchise for a short time to hunt rings before eventually returning. Cement your legacy as a winner while avoiding the hired gun persona that Shaq, Kareem and others are stuck with. Lebron can be a winner twice over, in a way that’s never really been done before.

Toronto could stay around for awhile. The Raptors were the three seed last year, winning the relatively sorry Atlantic division last year. But they were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion in game seven by the Nets, and their all-star point guard was set to become a free agent. So the Raptors locked up Kyle Lowry, and have a good young core with some intriguing prospects, including the now infamous “Brazilian Kevin Durant.” The Raptors also feature, by the way, the best record in the NBA at 7-1 (as of writing) and by far the best point differential in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors don’t, and probably will never have, the talent to dominate the East, but they’ll be an entertaining team that’s around for awhile. Toronto fans should be happy with rooting for the Raptors now and in the future.

The Sacramento Kings are good. Sorry for the lack of eloquence, but the Kings are good! It’s been awhile since the Kings were noteworthy, and they are probably best remembered for being the victims of the NBA’s refereeing scandal and being robbed of a finals berth and possible title in 2002. So forgive me If I’m overly excited at Sacramento’s 5-3 start. The Kings are composed of a lot of send-offs from other rosters, with players like Rudy Gay and Darren Collison logging big minutes. Their star, Demarcus Cousins, is emerging as the player many hoped he’d be out of Kentucky, averaging over 22 and 11 per game. If the Kings can continue their play, they could surprise a few teams in the brutal Western Conference.

Speaking of the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs reminded everyone why they’re the defending champs and favorites by stomping Steph Curry’s upstart Warriors by 13 on the road. Same old Spurs. Never mind that 2-3 start. The Spurs will be a top seed when all is said and done.

A team that doesn’t seem to be on track for a top seed in the West is the OKC Thunder. While absorbing the losses of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are only 2-6 on the season. And yes, both are coming back. But the West is so tough, even with a few good months of the duo back, the Thunder could be scraping to get decent playoff positioning. Which means some poor three seed in the West might have to deal with a loaded six or seven seeded Thunder. Grizzlies vs. Thunder again? I’ll take that.

Just enjoy the Philadelphia 76ers. Not so much the basketball they’re playing. Because it’s atrocious. But because they’re an NBA team in name only, with no quality healthy players on their roster now. It’s no given they’ll get to ten wins. All in the name of getting lottery picks. There’s no generational phenom in the draft, it’s just kind of general tanking. And it’s so unabashed; when the Sixers come to town it’s a bit like a basketball freak show — come see the team with no talent! Just enjoy the Sixers, basketball fans.

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