Monday, November 1, 2010

Straight From The Rook #2

Mat MacDonald AKA The Rook

The Rook is currently enrolled in Human Kinetics at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. A frequent contributor to all NBA and Raptors debates along with other sports. Witty, quick and never afraid of a challenge, Mat's here to talk hoops with you and dish out his two cents whenever!

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The Monday Morning Hangover

Alright, before you make any assumptions – yes, I am a university student but no, I’m not hung-over. I’ve decided that every Monday would be a perfect time to reflect on the happenings of the previous week, just as many students try to remember what happened the night before after waking up with the feeling that Dexter Pittman had just sat on their head.

The first week of the NBA season was everything you could have dreamed about and more. Yes, for all you haters out there the Heat did lose – and then destroy the Nets and Magic. LeBron James did dish out more turnovers than your local bakery, and Dwyane Wade looked like he wished he could take another week off. As for Alfred the butler…sorry, I mean Chris Bosh…he had an average week, but what more did you expect? Oh, he did dish out another YouTube video. At least he did something productive.

Trust me, I do not hate on the Heat, in fact I’m one of the only people I think that wants them to win more than 70 games this season. But their first game as a ‘trio’ was less impressive than Chris Anderson’s Halloween paint on his neck. Wait, that wasn’t a costume?

Checking out the results from the first week there were a few things we all expected – maybe:

- The Lakers are back and for real – again. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol could easily be the hardest duo to guard in the NBA. Add to that an ageless point-guard in Derrick Fisher and the aggressor Ron Artest and you have a very, very tough team to beat. Who would’ve thought Steve Blake would hit the first game-winner of the year for the Lakers?

- The Boston Celtics core can still take care of business. After halting the debut of the Three Stooges of Miami, the Celtics took a tough loss to the Cavs – take that LeBron – and then followed up with a big win against the Knicks. Rondo? Oh don’t worry; we have him covered in here.

- Monta Ellis is going to shoot…a lot. Posting 46 in his first game of the season as if to say, ‘screw KD, I’m the NBA’s scoring leader this year.’ Add to that the Warriors have started 2-1 and already fans in the Bay area are rejoicing.

- Chris Paul. I shouldn’t have to say anything more than that, but after Paul’s return to the Hornets’ roster and a Hornets 3-0 start to the season you can only imagine how good this team could have been last year had Paul been healthy. If CP3 can stay healthy, and in New Orleans for the whole season, these Hornets could make a big run towards a top spot in a Western Conference that seems to have spots 3-8 wide open for the taking.

- Kevin Durant lead the Thunder to a 2-1 start after falling to the Jazz last night. KD’s scoring is where it’s always been up in the high 29’s to 30’s every game, but his all-around game has improved tremendously. Without a doubt the Thunder will be the second place – if not first – team in the Western Conference.

- Blake Griffin is the real deal even after a year stuck to the pine. You’re telling me that he wasn’t going to be? Heck no. This isn’t LeBron James, but it may be the next best power-forward in the game. Posting two double-doubles in his first two games and making John Wall look like the laundry man in the rookie rankings, Griffin put himself up on the top of the charts quick. I think the rims from the Staples Center are still shaking from his opening night slam.

- Rajon Rondo. I won’t say anymore. 24 was too nice.

Now, the things that we really weren’t expecting:

- Alright, so you went 12-70 last season and just stunk the joint up more than your local neighborhood skunk…so this year you start off with two dramatic victories? Way to go, Nets! After a flipped roster that saw no big names except for Jordan Farmar added the Nets have become the heart-warming story in the NBA. Yes, the addition of Anthony Morrow and a healthy Devin Harris/Brook Lopez equals success, but honestly the Nets didn’t do a lot to improve on last year’s roster. Avery Johnson, you’ve done it again!

- The Cleveland Cavaliers struggled last year against the Boston Celtics. Wait, how? Didn’t they have LeBron James? Yes. But this year lead by J.J. Hickson and Anthony Parker the Cavs knocked off the same Boston Celtics team that held the Miami Heat to 80 points the night before. Talk about a HUGE way to start off your post-LeBron era and I’m sure owner Dan Gilbert thought about writing another excited letter to Cavs fans in Comic-Sans font. Not to worry, everything was restored to normal the following game as the Raptors plastered the Cavs. Write about that, Dan.

- Allen Iverson’s still in the NBA. Yes, I said it. He’s in the form of John Wall – for now. Before I receive millions of hate messages and questions like, “What the hell is this fool talking about?” let me explain. John Wall’s first NBA game saw him finish with a +/- rating of -31. Add to that he took an amazing 19 shots as a point guard, scoring on only six of them and you have the makings of a typical Allen Iverson night in the NBA. Yes, Wall did have nine assists, but that terrible shooting really hurt his stats and the Wizards as the Magic handed them a tough loss in their pre-jail era. Gilbert, are you still hurt?

- We said that Blake Griffin was back, and huge for the Clippers. That’s why it was important to leave this one until the end. The Clippers are terrible. With all the pieces that they have they can’t seem to put a win together, and as ESPN’s Bill Simmons put it best, “I think we’ve read this story before; oh, Clippers.” New coach, new rookie, same old problem. At least L.A. has one winner.

- Are the Hawks really leading the standings in the East right now? Is Joe Johnson really backing up his max-level contract? Sure we’re only three games into the regular season and this all may be very pre-mature, but for now JJ and the Hawks look like they’re soaring. Hopefully they don’t get Clipped. No, that wasn’t a shot at you again Clippers fans…ok, it was.

Now for all the Canadian fans reading this and wondering what about the Raptors? Well, let’s see:

- So far the Raptors are 1-1 posting more wins than most people may have expected already this season. With no big name players on the roster, the Raptors rely more on the hustle and heart aspect of basketball to try and grind out games.

- Reggie Evans has out-rebounded everyone in both games Toronto has played so far, posting 16 in his first game against the Knicks and then 14 the next game against the Cavs.

- Linas Kleiza has been big for the Raptors proving that he’s been worth the money that he’s being paid. Scoring 19 against the Cavs was a huge boost for the Raptors’ offence which is going to need as much help as it can get.

- DeMar DeRozan’s aggressive play so far this season has been another bright spot for the Raptors. In two games DD has tallied 9 and 14 points and made a point to get to the line.

- Bargnani woke up from his Italian dreams and has proven to be the main scorer for the Raptors. While he’s putting up a lot of shots, 22 and 20 points in his first two games shows more consistency than he had at many stretches last season.

The Raptors take on the Kings tonight in Sac-Town where they’ll look to try and grab a very important road win before hitting a rough stretch with Utah and the Lakers. Toronto’s been terrible in the past on the road – especially in the West – and with their record still at 1-1 this would be the perfect time to get off on the right foot before things get too out of hand to recover from.

Stay classy, enjoy your week and do your teeth a favor by flossing and brushing! Ask Reggie Evans, he still brushes after his Oh Henry bar.


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