Tha Sports Junkies 101

A glance at the East after week two of the NBA season

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Week two of the NBA season is wrapping up and already there are a handful of surprises in the East. Each team has played roughly eight games to this point, so obviously, we will need to wait a couple more weeks before we really have a good idea of who the real contenders and pretenders are. Nevertheless, the season has so far been more interesting than I think anyone imagined it to be. Let’s get right to it.

The Good

Boston currently sits atop the East with a record of 6-2. Before the season started, most people would say this sounds about right. However, just 10 minutes into the season, Gordon Hayward broke his leg and many started to doubt how good they could be without him.

They ultimately lost their opener versus Cleveland and then their home opener versus Milwaukee to start 0-2. Since then, they have really come together as a unit and have rallied off 6 straight wins.

Young guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in a big way to help fill the void left by Hayward. Also, Kyrie Irving has been playing the best defense of his career in Boston. He currently leads the league in steals. Once Marcus Morris returns from his injury, there is no reason to think Boston can’t be a top two team in the East without Hayward.

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Boston is not alone at the top of the standings, as Orlando is tied with them at 6-2. Yes, you read that correctly. The Magic are in first place through 2 weeks. They’ve scored over 100 points in each game this season, and have already beaten Cleveland, San Antonio, New Orleans, and Memphis. All of this without starting point guard Elfrid Payton, who has been out since halfway through their 2nd game.

Evan Fournier has been red hot to start the season, averaging 22 points and three 3-pointers per game while shooting .54.7 percent from the field. Aaron Gordon has also put up great numbers thus far, averaging over 20 points with 2.5 3-pointers per game. While these numbers may or may not be sustainable, Orlando has looked sharp without Payton. If they continue to play nearly this well upon his return Orlando might be in for a surprisingly good season.

Indiana has also been a nice surprise. After they traded Paul George to Oklahoma City, I don’t think anybody could have predicted what we’ve seen from them. The Pacers have a record of 5-3 through the first two weeks. They’ve played faster and more efficiently than they have in recent memory.

In a post-game interview, Thaddeus Young recently said “we stopped playing 1 on 1 basketball”, perhaps taking a little shot at how different things are without George. The team chemistry appears to be very real, and you can tell the players trust their teammates.

Victor Oladipo is playing out of his mind to start the season and is proving to people that he can in fact shoulder the scoring load. Domantas Sabonis and Darren Collison have been outstanding to begin the season, TJ Leaf looks very promising, and their role players have done about as much as you could ask for.

As a team, they’re putting up over 110 points per game and rank 5th in the league in scoring. All in the absence of Myles Turner, who has been out with a concussion since the first game. They certainly look like a team that belongs in the playoffs. Indiana is in a three-way tie for third place, along with Detroit and Charlotte.

The Bad

Cleveland looked alright out of the gates to begin the season, but not great. They squeaked by in their season opener versus a shorthanded Boston team and edged them out by three points. They took care of business in their first road game against Milwaukee. Since then, they have played six more games, and the only other team they’ve beaten is the Chicago Bulls. And it was close. Cleveland is now riding a four game losing streak and are tied with the Nets for 12th place in the East. Cleveland has lost its past four games by an average of just over 15 points per contest.

LeBron is having a great season, as is tradition. He is leading Cleveland in points, assists, blocks, and steals, and trails only Kevin Love in rebounds. He has even managed to keep his free throw percentage close to 80, which he has publicly stated is a goal of his since he has never finished a season shooting 80% from the line.

Similarly, Love has done about as well as you could ask him to. Besides that, Cleveland is getting virtually no help from their role players. Derrick Rose has scored the ball well, but he is dropping less than two dimes per game. Not to mention, he has already missed half of the team’s games through the first two weeks. Kyle Korver, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, and JR Smith put up roughly 30 combined points per game.

The only guy on the floor who can create shots for his teammates is LeBron. That’s going to be a problem for them. As the season progresses, I’m sure Cleveland will be fine. Coach Lue and LeBron will find a way to win, and things will get smoother once Isaiah Thomas returns from a hip injury. But for the time being, they stink.

Things have been going downhill for Brooklyn as well. They currently are in the middle of a three-game losing streak and have allowed no less than 107 points yet this year. Losing Jeremy Lin for the season after only 1 game is rough. To me though, it seems as if their biggest issue, besides a general lack of talent, is that coach Kenny Atkinson doesn’t know who he wants to play.

Even D’Angelo Russell is averaging less than 27 minutes per game. DeMarre Carroll and Caris LeVert are getting more minutes than him, and nobody is seeing 30 a game. I expect Brooklyn to be in full-on tank mode come early December (if they aren’t already), especially knowing Lin is done.

The Ugly

After trading Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, and moving on from Dwyane Wade, Chicago is clearly in rebuild mode. Their 1-5 record to start the season can back me up on that. However, this should not come as a surprise to anybody. The real ugliness in Chicago seems to stem from the front office and the coaching staff.

The Bulls have been one of the most dysfunctional organizations in the NBA for several years now. Their front office doesn’t want to just hire a coach and let them coach the team. Rather, they want to hire a coach that will be obedient to their opinions.

Enter Head Coach Fred Hoiberg and Assistant Coach Jim Boylen, or as The Chicago Sun-Times calls them “good cop and bad cop”, respectively.

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Several former and current players, such as Joakim Noah, Rajon Rondo, and Bobby Portis, have problems with Hoiberg’s lack of communication. It causes distractions and distrust, which ultimately leads to conflicts within the organization.

The front office and coaching staff were very aware of the beef brewing between Portis and Nikola Mirotic. Yet they were complacent and did not feel the need to intervene. Then, over this past summer, Mirotic had been named starter over Portis, even though Hoiberg made it clear before the summer started that young players’ hard work over the summer would be rewarded, and they were all expected to practice with one another during the offseason.

Portis abided by the coaches’ expectations, while Mirotic lifted weights but never practiced with his team. Mirotic’s absence “rubbed teammates the wrong way, and one player said he came across as entitled”.

My guess is that one player is Portis, who ended up punching Mirotic in the face during an altercation at practice.

Portis hit Mirotic so hard that he broke two bones in his face and gave him a concussion. He was expected to be sidelined for roughly one month. Afterwards, Paxson was quoted as saying “that is inexcusable, it’s not who we are”. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, several Bulls players considered those words “hollow”.

The Bulls promptly suspended Portis for eight games, but now Mirotic doesn’t even want to rejoin the Bulls at all. He has been ignoring all contact with the Bulls’ organization. He is considering returning home to Europe instead.

The Bulls brought on Doug Collins this offseason to serve as a special advisor. Reasonably, he was upset with the way the front office mishandled this whole ordeal. He is “starting to question the entire chain of leadership…starting with Forman”.

To me, there seems to be a very simple solution to all this nonsense. Clean house. However, the ones seemingly allowing the organization to become so dysfunctional are the very ones who call all the shots. To me, this whole situation is fascinating.

At least they have some talented young prospects thanks to the Jimmy Butler trade. And thanks to Portis’ mean right hand, Lauri Markkanen is able to shine. No way Portis takes the starting spot from him once he returns from his suspension.

The Rest of the East?

For the most part, every other team in the East is performing roughly to expectation. With exception to Detroit, perhaps. Detroit is in a three-way tie for third place with Indiana and CharlotteAtlanta has the worst record in the East at 1-7, but they very well might have the worst roster in the East, so that sounds about right.


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Washington, Toronto, and Milwaukee are all currently 4-4. Expect to see all three of those teams in the playoffs this year. Philadelphia is trusting the process, and they’ve looked like they could maybe snag a playoff spot this year as well. Ben Simmons is playing like a stud, and just two weeks into the season he has made a strong case for Rookie of the Year.

Do you agree, or maybe think I have no idea what I’m talking about? Comment and let us know what you think.

For more NBA news and info, be sure to follow @TSJ_NBA on Twitter. You can also follow me @jollett1.