NBA Week One: Injuries & Drama

Zander Frost

We are now a week into the NBA sea-son, and already there have been major injuries, moves and firings.

Important, quality players on several teams have experienced serious injuries after only a few games. On Golden State, center Andrew Bogut once again has an ankle injury that will cause him to miss between seven and ten games and, with-out him and capable shooter Brandon Rush (lost to an ACL tear), the Warriors don’t stand much of a chance to claim an elusive playoff spot in the West.

Towards the Midwest, Danny Grang-er has patellar tendinosis in his left knee and will miss three weeks for the Indiana Pacers. While Granger is not the all-star that some had hoped, this injury puts a serious dent in Indiana’s playoff chanc-es. Paul George will be forced to step up and carry the load that Granger has left behind over the regular season if the Pacers have any hope of competing with the now-competitive East.

Derrick Rose, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio all remain out, but the Minnesota Timberwolves have played well to a 5-2 record and Chicago has also stayed competitive, playing above .500 basketball.

Finally, Andrew Bynum remains injured and the Philadelphia 76ers have been playing some of the ugliest basketball in the league.

Perhaps the most gripping NBA news of the past few days is the firing of Mike Brown and subsequent hiring of Mike D’Antoni by the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers, bolstered by trade acquisitions Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, fired Brown after a lackluster 1-4 start.

Famed former Laker head coach Phil Jackson was also rumored to be high-ly interested in the job, spawning “We Want Phil” chants at the past two Laker games, but the team’s ownership made the controversial choice of selecting D’Antoni instead. At this point, it is impossible to tell if the Lakers made the right decision, but it is definite that every move and change D’Antoni makes will be heavily scrutinized by the national media, and anything other than a championship will be considered a bust.

Moving on to the actual specifics of the move, I believe that D’Antoni was the right move for this team. Brown’s Trian-gle Offense probably would have worked moderately well, but the problem is that it does not utilize the abilities of the players to their full potential. It relegates Nash to shooting (something he does well, but not the only thing he can do) and forces the Lakers to rely on Howard to both pass and use post moves down low.

Though Dwight Howard is a great player, he does not have the post moves of Shaquille O’Neal or Andrew Bynum, and I don’t think the Lakers can rely on him consistently in that part of the triangle. D’Antoni, on the other hand, will likely employ a run-and-gun fastbreak offense in which Steve Nash will have the ball in his hands nearly the entire time. The ques-tion is really whether or not Pau Gasol or Kobe Bryant will be able to run and stay healthy in this offense, but I believe they both can. If Steve Nash is given the key to run this offense himself, then this team can be a championship team.

Like most D’Antoni teams, the defense will be ugly at times. But with the best defensive player in the world at center an-choring the paint and a premier on-ball defender in Metta World Peace patrol-ling the perimeter, they should be able to slow down other offenses enough that the Lakers’ high-powered offense will simply outgun the opposition.

As to whether or not firing Brown so early in the season was the right decision, I’ll just say that Brown is a very good coach who did not get enough credit for the job he did in Cleveland with Lebron James and his mediocre supporting cast. The auxiliary players in Cleveland are oft-criticized, but somehow Brown never gets the credit for getting these players to turn in solid defensive and offensive performances on a regular basis.

That said, I don’t believe he was the right coach for the Lakers. Los Angeles should have fired him in the offseason and went with Jackson or D’Antoni instead of giving him the very limited chance to prove himself this season. Five games is a sorry excuse for a sample size with an almost entirely new team.

Now the Lakers will have to install a new system and coaching staff midseason. When you’re looking for instant results, that’s a very tough thing to do.

Contact Zander Frost at [email protected]