Since Sunday seems to be the day NBA columnists check in with their own unique takes on what’s happening in the Association, I figured I should jump into the fray with my own version of a Sunday column. I present you loyal few with Sunday Slams, my new weekly view of what’s happening around the league.
SWEET TUNES IN SALT LAKE CITY
The season is less than two weeks old. Keep reminding yourselves of this fact when you look at the standings and see the Utah Jazz with the league’s best record at 6-1.
The Jazz was the expert’s darling coming into the season, and so far, they’ve made everyone look smart. Well, except for me. Carlos Boozer has been a monster early, averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Jazz.
However, you can hear Salt Lake holding it’s breath waiting for the injuries to come, and, sure enough, Andrei Kirilenko sprained his ankle midway through the first half last night in Milwaukee. Apparently, he sensed it was coming.
From the Deseret News: "Milwaukee," Kirilenko said as he lay on a training table, his propped-up right foot in a walking boot. "Second injury in Milwaukee. Start thinking about bad-lucky. How you say that, like Friday 13th — something like bad things you're thinking about."
Kirilenko is the quiet leader for Utah. He does a bit of everything, and does it all well, so Jerry Sloan will keep his fingers crossed. The good news has been the early play of Deron Williams, who looks like he’s going to live up to the hype after an inconsistent rookie year.
This will be a big week for the Jazz, as they’ll square off with the Clippers, Sonics and Suns. If they can survive that without Kirilenko and stay hot, I’ll continue to eat crow.
PHOENIX AND DALLAS ARE A COMBINED 3-9
The Suns and Mavs have struggled mightily at the start of the season, but there’s absolutely no reason to panic.
Both teams are trying to find their collective chemistry, with Phoenix working Amare Stoudemire back into the rotation and Dallas trying to find the right mix of players with Greg Buckner, Austin Croshere, Devean George, Anthony Johnson and Maurice Ager needing minutes.
The bottom line for both teams is that they’ve forgotten how to play defense. Phoenix is giving up a whopping 108 points per game, while Dallas isn’t much better, allowing 105 per contest.
The Suns took a step in the right direction last night against Memphis, allowing a mere 87 points. With Avery Johnson running the show in Big D, I have to assume the Mavericks will get back to the basics and stop opponents from shooting 50% from the floor.
Both teams are still stacked with talent, and their slow starts are not indicative of where they’ll end up. Chemistry takes time in the NBA. Ask the NBA Champion Miami Heat whether early starts truly matter.
WHERE DID LAMAR ODOM GO?
Lamar Odom started the season looking like a lock for the All-Star game in Las Vegas.
But then Kobe Bryant returned, and Odom lost his aggressiveness. There are many who feel the two can’t play on the same floor together, but I’m still not sold on this argument.
Odom is one of the most unselfish players in the league, almost to a fault in some cases, and he goes through patterns where he doesn’t take the ball to the basket, instead either deferring to teammates to shoot or settling for long-range shots. For example, he took only six shots against Seattle in a loss, and then followed that performance by attempting seven 3s in a win over Minnesota.
Odom’s successful when he drives to the bucket, and his aggressiveness can be measured by how often he gets to the foul line.
In the first three games of the season when Odom looked like the MVP, he attempted 26 free throws. In the four games since, he’s taken 12.
Until Bryant gets back to form, the Lakers can ill afford to have Luke Walton and Smush Parker carry the offense. It’s time for Odom to be the team’s second option for good and maintain a me-first attitude on the offensive end.
-Ben Gordon started the week with a 37-point performance against Milwaukee, but he followed it with two atrocious shooting displays. In Cleveland on Thursday, Gordon shot 1 of 10 from the floor, and last night against Indiana, he shot 1 of 9 and was benched. The Bulls need Gordon’s scoring, but he’s a liability on the floor defensively. I would not want to be Scott Skiles trying to put together a lineup right now.
-Zach Randolph is out of his mind so far. The Blazers are 4-2, and Randolph is the reason why. He averaged 34 points and 12 rebounds this week, and he’s registered a double-double in five of six games. Those are some scary numbers. I don’t think anyone was expecting this.
-The Joe Johnson for Boris Diaw swap actually looked like a steal for Phoenix last season. However, things are evening out. Johnson has the Atlanta Hawks off to a surprising start, while Diaw looks out of shape and is way off his pace from last year.
-Kevin Garnett’s numbers are as strong as ever, but was anyone else concerned watching Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard put up big numbers against the Timberwolves this week? Granted, that can’t all be pinned on K.G. (hello, Mark Blount), but it makes you wonder if Garnett is losing some of his edge on the defensive end.