First Impressions

October 29, 2009

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Scott Shepherd

First Impressions

The NBA season is officially underway (unless you live in Chicago or Milwaukee).


After several hours parked in front of the NBA League Pass for the past two days, it’s time for some first impressions.


The Good


Ty Lawson


How good was he last night? I predicted the Denver Nuggets to be the third best team in the West this season, and that was assuming that Ty Lawson would play like a rookie point guard.

But his 17 points, six assists, and four rebounds, plus very solid fourth quarter minutes in a close game against a decent Utah team, shows that he may be a real X factor for this team moving forward.


Brook Lopez


Lopez was a monster last night, finishing with 27 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks, and four assists. Of course, the Nets lost, mainly because they couldn’t hold off the mighty T’Wolves down the stretch, but it certainly wasn’t because of Lopez.


Los Angeles Lakers


I know they were playing the Clippers, but the champs didn’t miss a beat. This could have been the most lopsided seven-point game I’ve ever seen.


If it hadn’t been for the extended period in the second quarter where D.J. Mbenga tried to show his limitless range the Clippers would have lost by 20.


The Lakers starters (minus their second best player, Pau Gasol), were nothing short of dominant all game. They just toyed with the Clippers for most of the game, and clamped down where it mattered most.


Boston Celtics


It was impressive enough to beat the Cavs in Cleveland on opening night, but to answer that by beating the Bobcats by 33 on the second game of a back-to-back shows the C’s are far from ready to roll over and let the younger Magic and Cavs be the class of the East.


The Bad


D.J. Augustin and Tyson Chandler


In the aforementioned 33-point drubbing in Boston, these two managed to score just one point combined in the Bobcats embarrassing debut.


Most people predicted Augustin to have a breakout season, especially since the injury to Raja Bell opened up some minutes for him. He still can, but that’s a pretty awful start to a “breakout” season.


As for Chandler, I’m already on record as saying that the Chandler for Okafor trade made no sense, but fans in Charlotte really have to be scratching their heads now. After Okafor dropped for 18 and 10 against the Spurs Wednesday and Chandler laid an egg, the foundation could have been laid for a season chalk full of second guessing.


It’s only one game, but it’s time to stop being an expansion team and make some waves in Charlotte. Wednesday night was certainly a step in the wrong direction.


Elton Brand


The Sixers were a better team without Brand on the floor last season, plain and simple. Last night, after getting blown out by the Magic, they look like they can’t be any worse if they were to bench him again.


Brand half-heartedly played his way to 8 points and 6 rebounds on just 2-7 from the floor. Meanwhile, his backup, Marreese Speights was the Sixers only bright spot scoring 26 points on 10-11 from the field.


It’s still way too early into his contract for the Sixers to play Speights over Brand and write the contract off as a loss. But it’s been 83 games and zero production from Elton Brand. He needs to get it together, and soon.


Kevin Garnett


I know, the Celtics are 2-0, and K.G. is averaging 11.5 points and 8.5 rebounds, so he’s not exactly killing them. But this isn’t about stats.


K.G. is done.


After watching him play against the Cavs on Tuesday, it’s clear that K.G. will never be the “Big Ticket” again.


He has no lift, and he’s a step slow on every play.


There were several times when the Celtics tired to throw an alley-oop to Garnett and he was forced to catch it and come down. He was out-jumped going for several rebounds, and on one play the Cavs threw and alley-oop to Jamario Moon, Garnett read it the whole way, but couldn’t even come close to deflecting the pass, which led to him getting dunked on.


In years past, there is absolutely no way any of those things happened.


Garnett will still be able to produce for the Celtics. He can still score from 14-18 feet. He’s still a good team defender. He’s still going to be in great position and grab rebounds. But his lack of explosiveness will ensure that he will never again be the dominant force he once was.


The Ugly


Cleveland Cavaliers


It’s not exactly time to panic; it’s just an 0-2 start. But it’s the way that they went about doing it that makes Cleveland the ugliest team of the first two days of the NBA season.


First and foremost, they have to either find a way to use Shaq or send him home. Right now, saying that acclimating Shaq into the offense is a “work in progress” is the understatement of the century.


He clogs the lane and gets in LeBron’s way, he can’t score in the post, and he’s rarely attracting double-teams.


Against the Raptors, Shaq had a +/- of -25. I would be willing to bet that’s the worst +/- of his career.


Secondly, they need to get away from playing Shaq and Z together. They tried it in both games, and they were pick-and-rolled to death. Neither one of them has ever possessed the foot-speed to be able to defend the high pick-and-roll. Now they’re both in their late 30’s. You do the math.


Right now, LeBron needs to say “screw it” and completely take over games and let Mike Brown and the rest of the coaching staff fix these problems in practice. He’s good enough to win games by himself, and that’s exactly what he needs to do until Cleveland works out all the bugs.

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