Column: Wacky start to NBA season is a mess of excitement


By Carron J. Phillips - New York Daily News



Lost in the mass hysteria that’s been the World Series, has been the way the NBA season has gotten off to a weird, yet compelling start.

The past few years have been less than entertaining, as the offseason drama of trades and free agency have been way more interesting than anything that’s happened during the season. Casual fans have been conditioned to not pay attention, as we’ve all been counting down the days until the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers face off in their annual summer meeting.

But while still early, something about this season feels different. Never before had so many big-named stars switched teams during the offseason as we witnessed this past summer. Names like Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Derrick Rose are all now with new teams in hopes of taking down the Warriors, as the majority of the offseason moves affected the Western Conference.

But no one expected the season to start like this.

Before Monday night’s games, the Detroit Pistons have the best record in the East, with the Orlando Magic tied for second with three other teams. While the Memphis Grizzlies sit atop the West.

Mind you, the Pistons and the Magic weren’t even considered to be playoff contenders this season.

The Boston Celtics are in second place in their conference and are starting to figure things out after losing Gordan Hayward less than six minutes into the season when he suffered a devastating leg injury and dislocated his ankle.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is carrying the Milwaukee Bucks on his back and is making a case to be the early favorite to win MVP by starting the season averaging 34.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists.

And if you’re wondering what’s going on with the Cleveland Cavaliers, then join the club. The Cavs are 3-4, and are coming off losses to the Nets, New Orleans Pelicans and the Knicks.

The reason?

Defense and chemistry.

Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue has tried at least three different starting lineups in the hopes that his team will find its groove on both sides of the floor, as Cleveland is giving up 110 points per game.

In the West, everyone is wondering what’s going on with the Warriors, as they’ve racked up three losses, before Monday night’s game against the Clippers. Golden State didn’t lose its third game until Dec. 1, last season, as it went on to finish the regular season with a 67-15 record, before going 15-1 in the postseason. The Warriors are used to having a target on their backs, but this season will be interesting for Golden State as it tries to make it to the Finals for the fourth consecutive year.

One of the teams that’s gunning for the Warriors are the Houston Rockets, as they knocked them off on opening night in a thriller that went down to the last possession. Although new addition Chris Paul is out with an injury right now, the Rockets are rolling early. However, it will be interesting to see how things change when Paul returns, as head coach Mike D’Antoni will have to figure out a way for Paul and James Harden to peacefully coexist in the same backcourt during crunch time.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are also in the midst of a “figuring out” process, as Russell Westbrook finally has some help on offense with the addition of Anthony and George. There may not be a team in the league that’s gifted enough on both sides of the ball as the Thunder that can hang with the Warriors. The two teams will face off in their first meeting on Nov. 22 in Oklahoma City.

The Los Angeles Clippers will also be an interesting team to keep an eye on in the West, as they were the final team to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten, while somehow doing this despite losing three of their starters during the offseason in Paul, J.J. Redick and Luc Mbah a Moute.

The Lakers have also been fun to watch, as everyone wants to see what Lonzo and LaVar Ball will do.

And back in the East, the Philadelphia 76ers are trying to fuse the talents of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons into a tandem that can be the foundation of their franchise, while also hoping that No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz can be what they saw at U. of Washington once he returns from rehabbing a shoulder injury.

Look, I know it’s very early and there is a lot of basketball left to be played. But, with most of the attention being focused on the World Series, college football and the NFL, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has to be happy that the wackiness of this season has made the regular season intriguing again.

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By Carron J. Phillips

New York Daily News