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What's more surprising at this point of the season: The Lakers at 30-34, or the Celtics at 39-26?
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Steve Aschburner: The Celtics. We suspected the Lakers might be a hot mess, what with LeBron James’ dominant personality landing in a brand new culture and the dubious roster heavy with veteran, one-year place holders. Mix in the trauma/drama of the Anthony Davis trade speculation and this is not such a surprising result. But the Celtics were supposed to be onward and upward from last spring’s playoff push, essentially adding both Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to that freshly seasoned crew. Instead, we’ve seen a failure to launch in the more navigable East. Maybe there has been an “other shoe,” Davis-trade effect on this squad, too, with young Boston players wondering about their fates this summer.And so far, this has spoken volumes about Irving's ability to lead and overall impact on chemistry.
Shaun Powell: The Lakers. Even with the injuries and playing in the Western Conference, posting a losing record and being on the verge of missing the playoffs seems unusual, especially some of the games they've lost (Hawks, Cavs, Suns, etc.). But it's a close call. Both are bewildering.
John Schuhmann: The Celtics. At the start of the season, with the strength of the Western Conference and the lack of shooting around LeBron James, it wasn't clear that the Lakers were a playoff team. So my preseason self wouldn't be too surprised to see them in 11th place. The Celtics actually have a much better point differential than they did last season and, as we saw in Oakland on Tuesday, can play like the best team in the league on any given night. But they've run hot and cold, and too often, the whole has been less than the sum of the parts. The four teams ahead of them in the East standings are all very good, but given their talent, the Celtics should not be at the bottom of that group and, potentially, starting the playoffs on the road.
Sekou Smith: I can honestly say that both the Lakers and Celtics have surprised me this season, and not in a good way. The Celtics, however, entered this season with far greater expectations than the Lakers. I figured the Lakers for a playoff team with LeBron James as their anchor. They'd need for things to go well on the injury front (they have not) and they'd need their youngsters to make a huge leap from last season (they have not). The Lakers' season is officially a tire fire now. But the Celtics are dealing with chemistry issues that I never saw coming. Their current predicament is stunning when you consider the quality and depth on their roster, not to mention the chops of their head coach. I was never on the Brad Stevens genius bandwagon, but he did a fine job making things work when Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward were not available for the postseason last year. You find out some critically important things about people when they are dealing with adversity, with external pressures and with added expectations. The shocking part for me watching the Celtics is how poorly they are dealing with all of the above. The Celtics are nowhere near the best team in the East, as they were cast in the offseason.