The 2012/13 NBA season is just about two weeks old but the excitement is already reaching fever pitch amongst league fans all across the world! At NBA.com/India, we want to hear from you: the diligent reader, the hard-core fan, the NBA addict, the thinking-man’s hoops scientist and the critic. We open the mailbag to all types of NBA fans from across the country, all of you from Uttarakhand to Orissa, from Kerala to Gujarat, each one who wakes up early in the morning to watch NBA games, follows results and stats regularly, and is fully invested to their favourite teams and players.
I bring to you NBA-India’s inaugural fan mailbag. In this column, I will be answering some of the best questions asked by you fans on the NBA-India’s Facebook page. This week, the fans concerns were all about ‘the missing’ – missing favourite old players, missing injured stars, and missing traded teammates.
Rohit Coelho: With Harden out of OKC and making highlights in Houston, the dismal Lakers performances, and Tim Duncan turning back the clocks, who can we predict will be the top 4 in the west before All Star break?
It has been quite an unpredictable start to the season, hasn’t it? Especially out West… Harden’s departure makes the Thunder slightly weaker, but they still have two of the ten best players in the NBA in Durant and Westbrook and a winning supporting cast, and this team should continue dominating their conference. The Spurs are the Spurs are the Spurs, like clockwork, always winning, always a threat. This year’s revelations so far have been the Grizzlies, Clippers, and the Timberwolves, who have all crept into the West’s top five. And even though they’ve started slowly, I expect the Lakers to figure things out under their new coach and start dominating again. I predict the Spurs, Thunder, and Grizzlies will remain in the West top four by the All-Star break, and the Lakers will improve to join them.
Rohit Gahlot: Will Allen Iverson return to the NBA?
Everyone’s favourite diminutive baller, and one of my childhood favourites, Allen Iverson seems to be out of the NBA picture. He last played NBA-ball nearly two years ago, and since then, his game has only regressed. Iverson was last seen auditioning for Chinese basketball teams (I was fortunate to watch him play in Beijing last month) and it seems that the 37 year old has lost much of the quickness and natural ability that made him one of the greatest players of the past generation. At this point, it seems that no NBA team is willing to take a risk on a player who will demand more than he could give back.
Meghna Pierce Gautam: Why did Ray Allen leave the Celtics?
For five years, Ray Allen justifiably became a fan favourite in Boston. But the greatest shooter of all time did not have a happy ending to his tenure in Boston. Allen endured trade rumours swirling around him all last season. Couple that with the alleged friction between him and backcourt mate Rajon Rondo, and it led Allen to reject an extension with the Celtics and instead sign a contract with their now-bitter rivals in Miami. Boston’s loss will be Miami’s gain.
Karthik Krishnan: Is the Lakers’ starting five good enough to compensate for their relatively weak bench through the course of the season?
With Howard, Kobe, Gasol, Nash, and World Peace, the Lakers’ starting five is, of course, incredible. But I don’t think that their bench is as weak as some have come to believe. Between Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, and Darius Morris, the Lakers feature a solid-but-not-spectacular backup unit. A better bench would of course be desirable, but remember that Miami won a championship with an unspectacular bench last season. A few minor upgrades in the Laker bench should be enough I feel to make them championship ready -- the starting unit will take care of the rest.
Gulpreet Singh Gulati: Are the New York Knicks a better unit in the absence of Amar’e Stoudemire?
Absolutely! The Knicks have had an unreal start to the season, going 5-0 as the NBA’s only undefeated team thus far, and they have done it in the absence of one of their highest paid players in Stoudemire. His absence has allowed Carmelo Anthony to move to the power forward position where Melo is thriving. The Knicks have also been able to field a more defensive line-up without Amar’e and in turn have surprisingly become the NBA’s best defensive team. Knicks fans will be waiting anxiously to see how Amar’e’s return will affect team chemistry, and if he truly has lost his starting spot forever.
Ashish Lingamneni: Will the Heat’s lack of rebounding and post-defense cost them their two-peat?
Miami is indeed a small team, and they have been employing a lineup so far this season playing without a center in the middle for major stretches. This has indeed made them one of the worst rebounding teams so far and their lack of a post presence was exploited recently by the Grizzlies. The Heat’s team defense has also been off the mark compared to previous years. That said, the champions are still one of the best teams in the league. They won a championship last season with a magical playoff run without a single decent center in their lineup. I believe that once the playoffs roll around, Miami’s defense and hustle will emerge as sharp as ever, and their early-season experiments will be discarded in favour of playing with a defensive big like Joel Anthony again. No NBA team is perfect, and thus, no team is a sure-shot for a championship; but Miami has the best player in the NBA and a winning system. This makes them favourites to do it again.
Marc Clement: Will the MVP D-Rose show off his best this season?
After suffering a harrowing injury in last year’s playoffs, Rose has gone through surgery in the off-season, and it is predicted that it will be several more months before he plays an NBA game again. And once he returns, there will be questions marks over whether he can match the same explosiveness that made him MVP in 2010-11. It is difficult to return from a long layoff and perform at 100 percent so soon, but where Rose’s physical abilities might fail him, his mental toughness and intelligence should help him to show brief flashes of elite play towards the end of this season and hopefully in the playoffs.