What I’m Thankful For:
I am thankful for a loving, intelligent, and hilarious wife, a gregarious and sweet fur-creature, a caring and devoted mother, a kind and generous father and step-mother, a dedicated and supportive older brother, a teaching job, tutoring jobs, the humor, generosity, and sensitivity of great friends and extended family, the motivation to continue writing projects like this blog, the laughter to get us through the tough days, the music to get us through the ugly days, the fact that Obama was re-elected, the Boston Celtics and the NBA, the anticipation of what’s to come on the horizon. There are countless other lovely things, such as coffee and tennis and dessert and artists and the 30-second-skip-button which lets us fast-forward through commercials. There is also the fact that it’s sunny again today and that I didn’t have to work.
What the NBA’s Eastern Conference Teams Are Thankful For:
New York Knicks, 8-1
The Knickerbockers are thankful for Mike Woodson’s temperament, Jason Kidd’s unselfishness and mentorship, and Tyson Chandler’s leadership and tenacity. On the court, the chemistry has led to the torrid 3-point shooting of J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton (combined 3.7-7.4 for 50%). Ironically, New York is also thankful for Amare Stoudemire’s absence, which allows for ball movement and offensive flow. It will be intriguing to see how Woodson, Amare and the New York media react to Amare’s impending return.
Miami Heat, 8-3
The Heat are thankful the organization realized Lebron should be the power forward. Lebron has complete confidence in his shooters, Bosh is being aggressive and appears injury-free. Even with Wade’s questionable health, the team is in an offensive zone that is crushing most opponents without a need for defense. Ray Allen and Shane Battier are combining to shoot 49% from 3’s (4.1-8.3) because of the increased ball movement. Sensing a trend? Sharing the ball creates open 3’s from the corners.
Brooklyn Nets, 6-3
Where to begin? A fresh start, a new arena, the additions of Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, and if you’re watching The Association, you know Reggie Evans is a big reason for the fire in Brook Lopez’ belly. He still can’t block shots, but if he’s aggressive offensively, this team is dangerous. Above all, they should be thankful Avery Johnson is leading them. Both New York teams seem to be enjoying the rejuvenated hoops energy and rivalry between the boroughs.
Boston Celtics, 6-5
The Celtics are thankful that Rajon Rondo looks to be healthy after rolling an ankle last week. They are thankful that the offense has started to click among the many new additions. Wilcox, Barbosa and Sullinger have been supportive pieces. The defense is still ugly, the rotations are not crisp. While some observers have decided this team is mediocre (Peter May), it’s still way too early to judge this group. Call me an apologist, but the combination of the schedule (only 6 of the 15 East teams have played 11 games), the identity/chemistry issues, and the fact that they have no real backup big (Wilcox is playing himself into one), means that their record is not indicative of where they’ll end up. The C’s are thankful this season is 82 games long. They may not be a 55-win team, but they are certainly not a 42-win team. Let’s say 50-53, with the Knicks and Nets in a similar vicinity.
Milwaukee Bucks, 6-3
Bucks fans are thankful for Larry Sanders and his contagious enthusiastic attention to defense and blocked shots. Like Faried in Denver and Kidd-Gilchrist in Charlotte, an energy guy can be huge. Skiles has always rewarded defensive intensity. Larry Sanders is having a breakout year. Mike Dunleavy is quietly having a resurgent season, especially from 3, Udrih, Harris and Daniels are all giving them useful minutes. If Monta either starts hitting or shooting 3’s (22% on 4.1 attempts), the team defense and shot-blocking is enough to keep them in the top half of the East.
Philadelphia 76ers, 7-4
At 7-4, the Sixers are thankful that they’ve kept some momentum from last year despite revamping their roster and missing Andrew Bynum. On the flipside, two wins over the Lowry-less Raptors should keep things in perspective. Jrue Holliday has ramped his game up in the absence of Igoudala and Bynum, while the defense of Thaddeus Young, Dorrell Wright, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen keep this team in every game. Evan Turner’s shot selection should improve with Bynum’s post-presence. Until then, his offense will lose them some games. With such low shooting percentages (Richardson, Tuner, Young and Wright are all below 42%), it’s amazing Holliday is averaging 9 assists. The Sixers are thankful for the soft schedule so far.
Atlanta Hawks, 5-4
The Hawks are appreciative that the schedule got softer after a rough 5 game opening stretch (Houston, OKC, Indiana, Miami, Clippers). The Kings and Magic provided a nice cushion recently, while Washington and the surprising (it can’t last) Bobcats are on the horizon. Atlanta is thankful for Al Horford’s return, as well as the aggressive play of Louis Williams (4.9 FTA/game), and the marksmanship of newcomer Kyle Korver. They are not thankful that Josh Smith is looking nervous to start his contract year.
Chicago Bulls, 5-5
The Bulls are grateful that Derrick Rose will return this year. Like the 76ers and Bynum, they will hang around until he does. The defensive intensity is lacking lately, which means the Bulls are beating the bad teams and losing to the good teams. In addition to missing Rose, they miss Korver, Asik and Watson, who are all performing well in their new locales. The Bulls are thankful that Tom Thibodeau is around to keep the ship afloat with unselfish leaders Noah and Deng to help.
Indiana Pacers, 5-7
Perhaps we all got ahead of ourselves with the upstart Pacers and the roll they were on last spring. Easy to be excited about Paul George and Roy Hibbert. Danny Granger goes down, and the team’s balance and swagger are gone, too. George isn’t ready to carry an offense, which leaves David West. West was a consistent pick-and-pop scorer with Chris Paul. Maybe now we can see Chris Paul’s influence on how productive the big men around him are (hello, DeAndre Jordan!). The Pacers are struggling, and have yet to beat a solid team. Still, there is too much talent here. The Pacers are thankful this is an 82-game season.
Charlotte Bobcats, 5-4
I apologize for making disparaging comments about these Bobcats. Historically awful, and yet loaded with talent, I have a certain disdain for improperly managed teams. Five wins and one game over .500. They are surely thankful for their current status. Take into account that they beat Indiana on opening night, and fought out a road win at Minnesota (the sign that a team isn’t abysmal: a road win), and you have to give someone credit here. Glancing over their season stats, the credit goes to the Kemba Walker and the contagious defensive energy of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Shot-blockers abound with Kidd-Gilchrist, Tyrus Thomas, and Bismack Biyombo. With just enough heady play by Walker (2.4 A/T) and Ramon Sessions, this team is improving. Still, neither can hit from distance (20% combined from 3’s) which will cause defenses to adjust soon.
Orlando Magic, 3-7
The Magic are thankful that the Dwight Howard saga is over. They will be counting their ping-pong balls in March. Looking back, Magic fans can appreciate how lucky they were to have had the league’s two most dominant centers of the past fifteen years in their paint.
Cleveland Cavs, 2-8
The Cavs are thankful that Kyrie Irving is their future. They appreciate Anderson Varejao’s intensity. With zero shot-blocking (a league-worst 2.1/game) they make the Celtics look intimidating.
Toronto Raptors, 3-8
The Raptors are thankful that Kyle Lowry (27.8 PER, second only to LeBron) returned last night. Facing a stretch of 9 games in 14 nights, their depleted team has turned to the brilliant-passer/horrendous defender Jose Calderon. The Raptors are a decent team with Lowry. They are the Ratters without him.
Detroit Pistons, 2-9
The Pistons are appreciative of the fact that the season isn’t over yet. With a 2-9 record including a winless six-game road trip (four losses in five nights has to be demoralizing). One of the Pistons two wins was an asterisk victory over the Celtics (schedule loss!). Are the Pistons this miserable? No. They are probably less miserable than Orlando, Cleveland, and Washington. Still, if you are unable to beat the Magic, Suns, or Kings, you have to admit you are on the cusp of miserability. No rebounding or steals to be found, the Pistons have to outscore you to beat you, a sure sign of awfulness.
Washington Wizards, 0-9
Speaking of horrible teams, we come to the Washington Wizards. No Nene. No Wall. The NBA’s only winless team, limps into Atlanta tonight, hoping to avoid ten straight L’s to open the season. To make things uglier, 7 of the 9 losses have been relatively close games. Sigh. Randy Wittman seems like a decent guy, and his team is giving him defensive energy. After suffering through stints in Minnesota and Cleveland, one has to wonder: how does he manage to keep going? We are thankful for you, Randy Wittman. Amidst the sadness, Kevin Seraphin is trying his darndest to become a legitimate NBA-level role player. The gruesome statistics include a mind-boggling fact: All four Wizards guards are shooting under 40%.