The 2012-2013 National Basketball Association (NBA) season is off to a rousing start.
Coming off a lockout-shortened season highlighted by the coronation of LeBron James and a frenzied off-season of big-name free agent signings and trades (a disruption of the Oklahoma City Thunder core; Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers), many were quick to pencil in a Miami Heat-LA Lakers Finals showdown. But the real script is still being written, with plenty of twists already happening in just the first month. Here’s a lowdown of the many surprises, both pleasant and unwanted, that has occurred since the NBA festivities began.
1. Fear the Beard
Everybody knows James Harden, the former super-sub of the OKC Thunder, can ball. And many fans and pundits alike believe he can produce big numbers given more minutes. But nobody expected him to storm out the gates like he did. Three days before the season opened, he was dealt to the Houston Rockets and signed a five-year $80M max contract with his new team. In short, the Rockets let him know that he was the man now. The result: 37 points and a career high 12 assists in his first game, then he drops a career-best 45 points the next game. He’s the fifth best scorer in the league as of this writing, just above former running mate Russell Westbrook. And they meet for the first time tomorrow. Talk about drama.
2. Disarray in L.A.
The Princeton Offense. Oh the Princeton Offense. The strongest starting five on paper (Nash, Kobe, Pau, Dwight, and World Peace) got off to a historic start all right—losing their first three games, something that hasn’t happened in 34 years. After five games, a Steve Nash injury, and a 1-4 showing, head coach Mike Brown got sacked, the Princeton Offense was flushed down the toilet, and Phil Jackson, err, Mike D’Antoni took over. The Lakers ended November winning six of their last 10 games. Not bad, but not good enough for Lakers’ standards. As they say, the real season begins when “Gatsby” returns.
3. The Knicks-spendables are taking names and kicking asses
Gone are the days of Lin-sanity for this season’s New York Knicks. In are not-necessarily-new faces: Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, and Rasheed Wallace. This was the oldest team in the league but coach Mike Woodson boldly declared their desire to be the NBA’s best defensive team. Admirable, sure. Realistic, maybe not. But for the first six games, they sure were dominant on both offense and defense. After a shellacking of the Heat in the NBA opener and a comeback win in San Antonio, early reports crowned the Knicks as legit contenders. In natural Knicks fashion, they lose four out of their next seven games. Hold off on the contender tag just yet.
4. The curious case of Andrew Bynum
Winning ugly has been the calling card of the 76ers for years, and this season’s no exception. They eke out wins with hard-nosed defense and paltry offense. But the ugly part is also taking over the bench, specifically with their newly acquired but injured star center Andrew Bynum. Have you seen his hair lately? It’s turned from mini- to full-blown afro to…whatever you call that mop on his head. To his defense, he’s only 25. And at least his hair’s still growing. Right, LeBron?
5. The Charlotte Bobcats are no longer toothless
When you hit rock bottom there’s no way to go but up. And the Bobcats are showing just that. After being the face of futility by setting the worst win-loss record in NBA history last season, the team has reversed its course. With a new general manager setting the team’s direction, a new coach, and a revamped roster, they have already matched the total wins (7) they had last year—in just 13 games. The old Bobcats will show up from time to time, like in that beating they got against the Thunder. But playing them isn’t an automatic win for opponents anymore. The Michael Jordan redemption project has begun.
NEXT: Still no magic for these Wizards