Periodically on selected Hornets off days throughout the regular season, I’ll be providing brief updates on the rest of the league, in this “NBA 20-second timeout” feature. Roughly two weeks into the schedule, here’s a look at some of the early developments:
Atlanta: The Hawks are one of two undefeated teams, with the other (Lakers) being no surprise to anyone. During their 5-0 start, they’ve shown signs that everyone spent way too much time this summer dwelling on the much-publicized Josh Childress defection and Atlanta’s 37-win regular season a year ago. As we learned during the Hornets’ first loss on Wednesday, the Hawks appear to be a rapidly maturing team and are stocked with young talent and athleticism. Their bench is not as bad as some would have you believe, either – Flip Murray and Mo Evans have already proven to be nice pickups.
New York: After the last few years, Knicks fans would’ve been happy just to see their team be semi-competitive. They’re getting that and much more under Mike D’Antoni. The former Phoenix coach has led New York to a 4-2 start and they’re playing an entertaining Suns-type brand of basketball, ranked No. 3 in points per game.
Chauncey Billups: Like the Hawks and Lakers, he’s still undefeated. Detroit and Denver are both 2-0 with him in uniform. From a short-term perspective, I thought this was an excellent trade for the Nuggets, giving them a much better shot at making the playoffs this season. Whether or not it was a good short-term trade for Detroit probably won’t be determined until the postseason.
San Antonio: Lost in the news that Tony Parker racked up a career-high 55 points last week was the fact that San Antonio needed 55 points from Parker and a 30-and-16 game from Tim Duncan to eke out an OT win over the Timberwolves. Now Parker has joined Manu Ginobili on the injured list. Other than Roger Mason, the rest of the veteran Spurs have struggled out of the gate – technically, the Spurs’ fourth- and fifth-leading scorers at the moment are Anthony Tolliver and George Hill.
Dallas: After starting 2-4, including becoming the victims of the Clippers’ first victory Sunday, they are 19-21 since making the Jason Kidd trade (including the Mavs’ 4-1 first-round defeat to the Hornets).
Washington: I wasn’t alone in being convinced that the Wizards could replicate last season, when they went 43-39, despite Gilbert Arenas missing 69 games. Instead, they're off to an 0-5 start and have already lost to three lightly-regarded East teams, New Jersey, Milwaukee and New York.
UNDER THE RADAR
(A look at players around the league who are performing well without garnering much attention)
Matt Barnes, Phoenix: His signing with the Suns was treated by most as a ho-hum transaction this summer, but he’s been an excellent fit. He started the first four games of the season before missing the last three to be there for the birth of his child. Prior to that, he had taken some minutes from Grant Hill at small forward while averaging 11.5 points and shooting 47 percent from the field. Not bad for a guy who considered leaving the NBA to try out as an NFL wideout (he was a high school All-America at the position) in the summer of 2006.
Wilson Chandler, New York: Like many (all?) recent Knicks first-round picks, his selection in 2007 was booed by the locals. The DePaul product is off to a nice start in his second season, though, averaging 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in only 28.8 minutes per game.