Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NBA [Print without images]

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
A deceptive first week in the NBA

By Scoop Jackson
ESPN.com

Michael Carter-Williams
Michael Carter-Williams and the Sixers won't easily push past Derrick Rose at the end of the season.

It's hard to review the play in the first week of an NBA season and come away with something meaningful or something that will hold true in the end. But then again, there are some things that occurred during the NBA's first week that raise both awareness and eyebrows. Below are nine things that happened over that first week that will be nonexistent come season's end. Nine things that cannot stay true that long.

(All stats are from before Tuesday's games, since we're looking at the first seven days of play.)

1. Derrick Rose playing below MVP level.  It's not the low point total as much as it has been his rhythm and the turnovers. Yes, Rose opened the season having three bad shooting nights (29 percent), but he did hit a game winner against the Knicks that at least left his fans something to hang on to. But the turnovers -- eight in the game against the 76ers -- are killing Rose's return. Close to six per game. It won't be long before Pooh corrects that, gets his mind right and settles in. By season's end, the rough beginning will be as forgotten as a former cast member of "Basketball Wives."

2. Carmelo Anthony shooting less than 40 percent. The new King (read: Bernard) of New York must drop buckets for a living. This is what he does. It's what he has to do on a Kevin Durant-level in order for the Knicks to not just win but also compete. The 37 percent he's been shooting from the floor is an anomaly. The 26 percent from 3-point range is a severe anomaly. This will end much sooner than later. Melo's shot selection and decision-making on those shots will get better, and he'll soon stop forcing the game to come his way. Once that's done, all will be -- almost -- right in NYK World.

3. The Raptors leading the NBA in rebounding.  They say rebounding is a result of missed shots. If that was the full truth, then there'd be a strong chance of the Raptors ending the season as the team leading the league in rebounds. Rebounding, instead, is more of an art -- one predicated on will. When your small forward (Rudy Gay) and a bench player (Tyler Hansbrough) are averaging more rebounds than your starting center (Jonas Valanciunas), chances of your overall rebounding numbers topping those of every other team and of those numbers sustaining themselves over the course of 82 games is daunting, if not impossible. Crazier things have happened in the NBA, but it's doubtful that this will be one of them.

4. Michael Carter-Williams being the second-best player in the NBA and the Sixers sitting atop the Eastern Conference.  Sharing the Player of the Week award with Kevin Love is an honor rookie Carter-Williams should savor for at least the next three years of his career. Because it might be the last time Carter-Williams is mentioned in the same breath as Love as one of the league's best players. It's very similar to the way Damian Lillard came out of the blocks last season. Carter-Williams will discover that being the best rookie is easy; being considered one of the game's best players is a grind. That takes at least a few years in the league to hold down. And as far as his team is concerned? Once opponents stop taking the Sixers for granted, reality will set in with certainty. As will their place behind the Nets and Knicks in the division.

LeBron/Pierce
LeBron James should find his old rhythm soon and won't be easy to hold off.

5. LeBron James being (somewhat) out of sync. Since when did 23 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists per game become "out of sync"? When you are a player who is in the "Jordan conversation" and this is supposed to be the season you "hit your prime." When you are tied for eighth-leading scorer and are averaging a turnover more than your career average, "out of sync" is a reach for most players, but it applies to LeBron. Blame an offseason of marriage, kids, vacation, overdue relaxation and the hangover of a successful title defense. Just know the LeBron we see now will not be the one we'll be looking at once the playoffs begin.

6. The Clippers not knowing how to play defense.  So they dropped 137 on Houston. They gave up 118! And they haven't managed to keep a team to less than 100 so far this season. In the NBA, it's not what you produce as much as it is what you hold your opponent to that sifts playoff teams from those who will never play in June. Doc Rivers was brought to L.A. to do many things, teaching the Clippers the importance of -- then how to play -- defense being atop that list. History lesson: If Tony Dungy found a way to do it with the Colts years ago, then anything is possible. Different sport, same philosophy. By April, holding teams to fewer than 90 points a game should be the norm for the Clips.

7. Eric Bledsoe not being considered one of the best point guards in the League. Take a look at where Bledsoe is in scoring right now (22.0/14th in the NBA). Take a look at his minutes (35.7/28th). Take a look at his assists per game (8.7/fourth). Now take into consideration two things: His career averages in those categories (6.9 PPG, 19.8 minutes, 3.1 APG) and that the Suns failed to reach an agreement last week with him on a contract extension. He's about to be James Harden all over again. Only this time Bledsoe will be playing for a contract. And he knows every team in the league will be watching him.

8. The Lakers at .500. I ignorantly wrote that the Lakers' season was over the minute this season began. Then they went on to beat the Clippers and make me look like the Theo Epstein of sports columnists. But like incompetence, luck only goes so far. The band of misfits, castaways, over-the-hillers and underachievers that make up the Lakers' non-Kobe roster cannot continue this "shock L.A." tour they've been on to open the season. It has to stop, right? Kobe barely was able to lead them to a playoff berth last season, and that was with Dwight Howard. Now are we to think that Xavier Henry is about to do the same?

9. Dwight Howard's seriousness/leadership. So far, so beautiful in Houston. Other than the contrast of leading the league in rebounding (15) but not being in the top 20 in blocks (1.5 per game), things are looking bright for Dwight Howard. The D12 who has been spotted in the first few games -- talking to teammates, engaging and teaching, staying locked into games for 48 minutes, void of aloofness, verbally instructing and encouraging players when coach Kevin McHale and superstar James Harden weren't -- can't be this way for the rest of the season. Something's gotta give. Something's gonna give. We just don't know what or when. But the end is coming. Until then, this new D12 proving everyone wrong about his leadership abilities and desire to win it all is a good look. Even if by midseason, it's gone.