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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Edmonds: Making early NBA observations

Only 10 games into the 82-game NBA season and things are starting to shake out as teams work through injuries and new additions. Although no significant conclusions can be made until at least the All-Star break, these are my much-too-soon observations.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Featuring the backcourt duo of Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose, the Wolves are essentially a rebranded 2011-2016 Chicago Bulls with a lot more drama. In his second season in Minneapolis, Butler made it clear to the entire fanbase that he has no loyalty to the city or team, demanding a trade that has been denied to this point in the season. Meanwhile, Rose has suffered a series of injuries that have ultimately hurt his image, often defying doctors’ recommendations that he was cleared to play. However, his 50-point performance at home Wednesday night over the Utah Jazz showed this might be the fresh start he needs. Of course, that game was followed by a three-point performance by Rose that was ended after only five minutes of play due to ankle soreness. Stay tuned to see whether this veteran duo can cook up a recipe for success with Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns as the drama both on and off the court plays out.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Just as quickly as the panic set in for Oklahoma City following an 0-4 start, the Thunder clawed back to .500 with six of their next seven matchups against some of the worst teams in the league. Those four consecutive wins have shown this team is no longer susceptible to those same 3rd quarter meltdowns they were plagued with all last season. A 39-10 run against the Clippers to open the second half earned the Thunder an 18-point win followed by a routing of the Wizards that included a staggering 79 points before halftime by Billy Donovan’s team. Even as Russell Westbrook approaches his 30th birthday, his leadership on the team will always dictate that this team plays fast, aggressive and sometimes downright dumb. As frustrating as that is, you can never count the Thunder out as they’re capable of a comeback at any point.

Houston Rockets/Los Angeles Lakers

After falling just short of making the NBA finals in game seven against the Warriors, expectations were high for Mike D’Antoni’s team. Eight games in, and with only three meager wins over teams, all of whom are outside the playoff picture, the Rockets' disappointing start proves this team has some serious issues to be addressed. The three-game hiatus by James Harden due to an injury to a strained left hamstring, in addition to Carmelo Anthony’s poor shot selection, has hampered Houston as it looks to work out its rotation. One of their three wins came to the Lakers, a team similarly struggling with all the star-power of a legit contender. They’ve managed to grind out a respectable 4-5 start, but it hasn’t been pretty, with all but one of those games being decided by less than 10 points.

Denver Nuggets/Milwaukee Bucks

Probably the two biggest overachievers to start the season both sit in second place in their respective conferences, with all eyes on them to see if this early success can be sustained. Until this past week, when the Bucks went 2-1 against three playoff-caliber teams, they hadn’t faced much competition. Meanwhile, Denver has picked up wins over the Warriors and Kings. In the middle of November, the Nuggets will embark on a long road stretch, playing nine of their 11 games away from the Pepsi Center, which could prove to be the indicator as to whether they’re legit or not.