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The Sports Edge - Early NBA thoughts

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My favorite time to watch the NBA is the beginning of the season, say before the thirty or thirty-five game mark. It's the most intriguing to me because no one really knows anything yet. People just think they know things.

Pundits? They've watched enough tape and seen all of this before. Fans? It can be as easy as an I-told-you-so or as difficult to work through as a here-we-go-again. But the teams themselves? The players? Even the league as a whole doesn't really know what they are going to be yet.

And the chaos is fascinating.

The 76ers evolution is something that I am watching with great interest. With fans chanting 'Trust the Process' every time Joel Embiid steps to the free throw line, it's obvious that there is a certain level of pressure from the cultural microscope being pointed at them for their steadfast tanking strategy; right now, they're sitting on the edge of the nest making the fateful decision about whether they're old enough to fly. Embiid is a highlight and has a lot of intriguing tools.

I also think that having Ben Simmons out of action is both a blessing and curse for them in that Embiid has gotten a taste, even with his minutes restricted, of what it is like to have the weight of a team's expectations on you. The eventual return of Simmons lessens that, but the ultra-focus on everything he does after getting regular minutes will be huge, as most every other rookie has gotten past the initial round of the 'Can he play in the league or not?' game show that they've all been contestants on. But how this group (Okafor, Noel, Embiid, Simmons) develops bears watching.

Other teams in hopeless situations (here's looking at you, Dallas) may attempt their own Cuban-sizedversion if it looks like it might pay off for a team that was once in similar dire straits themselves. Still other teams might steer clear if the Sixers continue to be the Sixers and show that perhaps, even with the right plan in place,development is everything. Or, you know, maybeyou should have had a better plan than drafting three centers out of fourlottery picks.

Another thing that is unique to the early part of the season are the unsustainable stat paces that some players go on. Russell Westbrook is nearly averaging a triple double. That's just plain insane and is only lower on the headline level than it should be because it's still so early in the season.

The rookies are also particularly fun during this stretch because they haven't yet hit the point where they're going to get gassed playing the death march-length regular season, but they have reached that place where opponents have a better idea of taking away what they like to do. Remember Kristaps Porzingas last season? His game went bye-bye once other teams realized being physical with him over long stretches shut him off. He bounced back and showed he could match that intensity, but it was the first run of adversity he had.

So either your team is in the tank and you're already thinking lottery or you're doing so well, you're already worried about the Cavs or Warriors in the playoffs; regardless, there's a good chance you are flat-out wrong about everything and the worries will be all for naught.

Unless you're a Nets fan. That's a fairly strong constant. You should probably keep worrying.

Last modified on Sunday, 04 December 2016 13:41


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