The Dissapointing Team This Season: Chicago Bulls
They're shooting 38.8 percent, worst in the NBA and the lowest in team history. The 1998-99 team had the poorest season mark at 40.1 percent. This was supposed to be the best team since the Michael Jordan era, and though there's the proverbial long way to go, this 2-7 record has been earned. Ben Gordon, there best shooter, is hoisting them up at a 28.6 percent rate from three-point range and under 40 percent elsewhere. And also, heere's Kirk Hinrich, Mr. 17.9 Percent on Three-Pointers, saying: "My shot feels good. I feel like I'm taking good shots." Its diffucult to say that they will be that good throughout so early, especially with Luol Deng expected to miss Tuesday's game with a sore back. If there's something that seems to stand out thus far, in addition to the horrendous shooting, it's the relative lack of fight and hustle after the ball from a team known for battling hard. Though beaten badly at times the last few seasons, the Bulls would invariably shoot their way back into games they'd still lose. And here they come again: Is Kobe going to be a Bull? I'm sick and tired. They said NO! THAT IS A NO! They'll just be going home to more 'Ko-be, Ko-be' chants when it finally ends.With few inside threats, defenses have jumped on the perimeter players, and suddenly a deep team looks flawed, with few options on offense. And if you thought Noah would fix all these problems, you must not know basketball. Also, Tyrus Thomas and Ben Wallace are both not playing to their full potential. That puts all the pressure to Kirk and Ben Gordon, who I said before are struggling. But remember, this is basically the same team that was fourth in the East in scoring last year at almost 100 points per game. But the easy points have been hard to come by with few fast-break opportunities. Opponents have won the fast-break battle in six of the nine games. Previously relentless on defense, the Bulls have appeared more behind the play, fatal for a team that prides itself on aggressive play.It would seem Joe Smith should get more time, but he's averaging just 15 minutes per game on this trip. Suddenly, offensive options seem scarce. This is a team that relies more on relentless defensive play and opportunistic offense. But it has yet to sustain that.
Honorable Mentions: Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors
Most Surprising Team This Season: New Orleans Hornets
Six of the Hornets' nine victories have come on the road. They also roared to a 5-0 week with four of the wins coming on the road at Philadelphia, New Jersey, Memphis and Minnesota and a home win against the 76ers in the middle. They are off to the best start in franchise history at 9-2 and have the best winning percentage in the Western Conference (.818). Four players have led the team in scoring in each of the last four games. Their point guard, Chris Paul, leads the league in assists per game, with 10.8. Just to show you how dominate they are, the Hornets' average margin of victory during their three-game winning streak has been 14 points. Our schedule has been surprisingly difficult, people have to notice it. They are allowing 88.3 points - the second lowest in the NBA. The Hornets are first in the league in 3-point shooting percentage at 45.8. I bet you can't beleive this, but when the Hornets went 18-64 during the 2004-05 season, their last full-season in New Orleans, they did not earn their seventh victory until Jan. 22. They have already reached that mark and more. Did you ever see them starting 9-3 and tied for 1st in the Southwest Division?
Honorable Mentions: Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats
MVP So Far: Kobe Bryant
The NBA announced this week Bryant's jersey, burned in effigy a few years ago, is again the No. 1 seller, on one measure making him the league's most popular player. He's also the best. Have you taken a look at that team with Lamar Odom out? It's a bunch of backups and decent starters. Bryant has been masterful in keeping up his scoring average to about 28 per game while moving the ball, again looking the closest to Michael Jordan in the way he approaches games now. (Man, shouldn't have mentioned that!) The Lakers are 6-3, playing all about .500 teams, other than the Bulls of course. I mean, what can I say? Turiaf is averaging double digits in points.I hope this team remains healthy and keeps developing well this season. If they keep this up the Lakers might be a darkhorse out West.
(Remember: The above was written a week ago.)
MY Top 10 Power Rankings:
3. Celtics (11-1)
4. Magic (12-3)
5. Mavs (9-4)
6. Hornets (10-5)
7. Jazz (10-4)
8. Bucks (7-4)
9. Nuggets (9-5)
10. Cavs (8-6)