The Rockets have taken off
The previous NBA month witnessed the fall of the mighty Boston Celtics (19-4) and Lonzo Ball shooting more bricks (40-136). But recent basketball developments in the past few weeks have forced the league to return to the natural order of things.
Save for LeBron James and Anthony Davis getting ejected for the first time in their respective careers, November was full of expected power shifts and important player unraveling:
10. The Beard cookin'
Like in previous seasons, James Harden is the early front-runner for Most Valuable Player—31.5 ppg 5.2 rpg 9.8 apg 1.7 spg. This might be the year he takes home the trophy, though, while leading the No. 1 team in the Western Conference (17-4).
9. CP3 dishin'
Harden isn't the sole reason the Houston Rockets are currently the best in the West. The reigning Coach of the Year has the luxury of a Point God on the floor for the whole game; Chris Paul is plus-35.1 without his superstar teammate. On the other hand...
8. Clippers suck
So much for that encouraging start. Rivers and co. were just building off a winning streak after a losing run when Blake Griffin (knee) went down. With Milos Teodosic, Danilo Gallinari, and Patrick Beverley also out, things are looking bleak.
7. All-Star subtractions
Other than the Clippers being hit by the injury bug, November saw a number of stars falling: Derrick Rose (ankle), D'Angelo Russell (knee), Rudy Gobert (knee), Mike Conley (achilles), Paul Millsap (wrist), and John Wall (knee).
6. Fizdale firing
Clearly, the Memphis Grizzlies can't grind this one out: nine straight defeats, Conley ailing, Marc Gasol struggling, and a head coach who is thrown under the bus. Does this series of blows signal an inevitable rebuild for the conference powerhouse?
5. Thunder not booming
It was only a matter of time before the OK3 superteam reared its ugly head, particularly the lack of touches for Russ, PG, and Melo. After a statement victory over the defending champions, the Thunder couldn't keep rolling against lesser squads.
4. Hack-a-Shaq is back
Another LSU alum is the newest target of the infamous strategy. Ben Simmons, who is a 55% free-throw shooter, made only half of his record 24 attempts at the line in the fourth quarter against the Washington Wizards. Philly barely won, 118-113.
3. No Magic and burnt Nets
It was fun while it lasted. Orlando (9-13) and Brooklyn (8-13) may have won recently, but are also getting exposed as the season progresses, especially with the true contenders and a couple of overachievers taking their rightful spots.
2. Here come the Cavs
Don't look now, but the Cleveland Cavaliers (15-7) are now the third-best team in the East. Love and Korver (38 pts vs MIA, 21 pts vs NYK) have had their moments, while Wade seems to have finally gotten in the groove (double figures in last five).
1. LeBron doing LeBron things
The Atlanta Hawks sophomore didn't get the memo: the King is always higher than a (Taurean) Prince.
In celebration of Stan Smith Day
Nick Oyzon is in the house!
Paging the local government