SUBJECT: WHAT'S REAL AFTER WEEK 1?
J.A.: If anyone can tell what's real and what's fake, it's two guys who live in Los Angeles and Miami. So, let's break down the real and the fake of the first week of the NBA season.
Israel: That's quite the intro. Given the popularity of HGH clinics, the real and fake lines are blurring more each day. But I digress. Interestingly enough, what's going on in Clipper-land is quite real. That offense is looking like the real-est, in fact. Tops in scoring, top three in field goal percentage, adjusted field goal percentage and assists. It's certainly a Doc Rivers influence (no overreliance on Chris Paul), but the J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley additions are paying off quite well already. That defense will need time to keep up, but the offense can more than carry the load for a while.
J.A.: Here's something that's 100 percent legit: Chris Paul's MVP candidacy. The more advanced stats you check, the better he looks. His PER is an astronomical 37.48. He's dominating the newly available SportVU passing data, and his shooting efficiency is right there with Kevin Durant's. Usually, CP3 picks his spots to play like this. Now, it's as if he decided every spot is his spot.
Israel: I wouldn't put too much weight in Paul's PER this soon. Last I checked, Carlos Boozer's PER was almost 30 and Derrick Rose's was less than 2. We know those won't stay that way. That all points to the phoniness of the Bulls' performances so far. I think we all jumped the gun on Rose, assuming his preseason numbers would automatically translate to the regular season, but his year off is a lot more evident now. And when Rose appears rusty, Joakim Noah is not 100 percent and Luol Deng is also struggling, these Bulls look especially pedestrian. That's when the roster looks, let's just say, less than intimidating. But once Rose regains his form and Noah's energy is back, the Bulls will look more like the team with 60-win potential.
J.A.: Rose's current struggles won't last. but they should serve as a warning for what could happen come playoff time. You don't just go from a year off to winning a championship. Also, think of all the playoff "reps" he has missed. In 2009, Rose led Kevin Durant in career playoff games, 7-0. Now, Durant has a 54-29 advantage. Even with the rehab done, Rose still needs to work on recovering that ground he lost on his peers. Meanwhile, what's up with the Heat, Mr. Miami?
Israel: Here's a decent rule of thumb when it comes to the Heat: When it's the regular season and there are what are deemed to be "concerns," it's almost always fake. Dwyane Wade's knee concerns after he sat out a second half of a back-to-back set? It's merely a continuation of his knee treatment from the offseason. The OssaTron treatment he received is a several-month process, at least to reach full recovery. Wade looks quick now, but he'll be even better come January-February, a lot like he was last season before the unfortunate knee bruise. Hence the precautionary approach. The chemistry concerns? That's more like a reminder of how hard you have to defend in that system without a true rim protector. It's not a sign Wade and LeBron are drifting apart. Even Chris Bosh managed to have a child in the early portion of the season, rather than in the playoffs as he and his wife did with their first child in 2012, causing havoc for Mr. Bosh in Miami's first round. So it seems pretty status quo-ish for the champs.
J.A.: When it comes to the Heat, it's best to think like a political leader during a financial crisis: The fundamentals of the economy remain strong. They still have the floor spacing and passing on offense and good scheme on defense to run off a string of victories when they click. And, as their comeback from that 19-0 hole on Philadelphia showed, they still have the desire. But that game also demonstrated that things don't always go your way. Last year, during the 27-game winning streak, they'd have found a way to win that game. (They pretty much did, in Boston and Cleveland). This year, those one or two critical shots don't go in. That's why I don't think they'll win their third straight title.
Israel: Maybe the Heat are just saving their luck for the postseason. Did you ever think of that? No, of course not. Because that's ridiculous. Which is exactly what the entire country was saying when Philly started 3-0, including wins over the Heat and Bulls: "That's ridiculous." Well, there's no way this level of success will last. Michael Carter-Williams is probably better than many projected, but a player who shot sub-.400 in college eventually will be scouted properly and forced to shoot. Spencer Hawes is averaging 19 points and 12.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. In his best statistical season, he averaged 13.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36. In his seventh season, it's very likely Hawes also will revert back to his usual self. Philadelphia's early success is fun, but even the Bobcats started 7-5 last season before losing 18 straight.
J.A.: If we can't call the 76ers real contenders, can we at least call them fake tankers? Here's where the Sixers erred in their quest for the No. 1 pick: They didn't load up with cynical veterans who are just there for the paycheck. They have young guys who are hungry and are playing hard to establish themselves in the league, and some nights that will be enough to beat the likes of Chicago and Miami. Their top eight players are 25 or younger. Hawes is in a contract year. Carter-Williams realizes the rookie of the year race is wide open, so he might as well grab it.
J.A.: The Suns are in a similar boat. They're scrappy on defense and let it fly without care on offense. Eric Bledsoe wants to prove he's a full-time starter. That mix won't get a team to June, but it will win games in November and the dog days of February.
Israel: Tankers tend not to reveal themselves too soon, lest they incur the wrath of (fill in commissioner of choice here). It's a covert operation. A game within a game, preferably ending in a loss.
Israel: So far, Philly and Phoenix are covering themselves better than Carrie Mathison in "Homeland." The Timberwolves, though, aren't interested in losing. And I'd say they can be real. The Wolves, mostly healthy and with Rick Adelman devising a potent offense, are putting up lots of shots and getting to the free throw line -- only the Clippers and Rockets have put up more free throw attempts. With Ricky Rubio leading the show, the Minnesota offense should be a fast-paced one. And we already know what Kevin Love is capable of. I've got the Mavs and Lakers making the playoffs, but the postseason-starved Wolves could easily snatch one of those spots.
J.A.: The Lakers' start is the most accurate in the NBA. They'll be hovering around .500 until Kobe Bryant comes back. Even on their good shooting nights, they don't have the defense or the clock-grinding game to allow them to put teams away. I liken them to a football team without a running game. A hot November by the Wolves, Mavs or Trail Blazers could put pressure on the Lakers … and on Bryant's return timetable.
Israel: By the time Kobe comes around and the Lakers truly find themselves, you're right, they might be facing a crowded entrance into playoff contention. The Mavs in particular look like a team that has the right mix now that Monta Ellis is on board. People tend to dismiss Ellis as a volume shooter who can't play within a system. Well, in Rick Carlisle we trust, even with a player with the reputation of Ellis. And call it unconventional, sure, but with the "inside-outside" combo of Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs can be a nightmare matchup. So I'd say they're pretty real.
J.A.: Before we go, there's one more thing that might end up looking real: the Knicks' woes. New York is sporting a 1-3 record and a minus-2.0 point differential, and it has just received the news that Tyson Chandler will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken leg. The Knicks have lost their defensive anchor, and they don't have last year's efficient offense to make up for it. Remember how rarely they turned the ball over last season? Those days are gone like an errant pass. At least fans at the Garden can enjoy one of the NBA's best dance teams, the Knicks City Dancers.
Wait, maybe not.