The Pulse of the NBA - Week 6

By Andy Roth
Contributing Editor

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    I guess we can end the debate on whether or not the Heat will break the Chicago Bulls' single-season NBA record of 72 wins. But I also think it's safe to say that this team isn't a serious title contender. You don't win championships with two bad starters (Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Carlos Arroyo) in your lineup and without having an inside presence on the defensive and offensive end. I also think the sum isn't as good as the individual parts when it comes to the pairing of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Both players are used to dominating the ball and at their best when it's in their hands. Neither one is comfortable playing off the ball, and when one of them has it, the other one basically turns into a jump shooter. Tracy McGrady, whose game was much like James and Wade when he was in his prime, echoed those same sentiments recently. "When they're on the court together they're terrible. They're rhythm players like me. I'm like that. I can't stand out there and catch and shoot. I've never been a guy that sits out there waiting for the ball to come to me."


    Rookie Landry Fields, who was selected 39th overall, looks like he was clearly the steal of the 2010 draft. And I'll go one step further. He may turn out to be the best player in this draft not named John Wall. He plays with amazing composure for a rookie and obviously has an extremely high basketball IQ. There are no weaknesses to his game and he just seems to have a great feel for it. He certainly has a knack for the ball as he leads all NBA guards in rebounding with 7.3 per game, which includes a 17-rebound performance among his six, double-digit rebounding games

    . Fields' contributions have helped the Knicks get off to a 12-9 start, which currently includes a seven-game road winning streak and four games overall. But giddy Knicks fans should temper their enthusiasm because I believe a big reality check is right around the corner. So far, they've mainly feasted off weak teams, but for a one month period beginning December 12th against the Nuggets, the majority of the 14-game stretch is against high quality clubs. Only two of their wins this season have come against teams who are currently above .500 (Bulls, Hornets), and New Orleans played without their leading scorer David West.


    After opening the season with an 11-1 record, the Hornets are starting to show major cracks in their armor, having dropped six of their last eight. A good deal of their early success can be attributed to their play on the defensive end. The Hornets rank fifth in the NBA in points allowed, giving up just 92.7 ppg. But their deficiencies on offense (94.9 ppg, 23rd in the NBA), along with a very weak bench, are starting to be a big problem and it's getting worse as the season progresses. In their last nine games the Hornets scoring average has dropped to 89.8. Because New Orleans is having so much trouble putting the ball in the basket, I think Chris Paul (16.2 ppg) has to look for his shot a lot more than he has. He just can't be a playmaker on this team. He's got to have the mindset of a Derrick Rose (25.7 ppg) or Deron Williams (21.6ppg), who are much more aggressive in looking to score the ball.


    The Bulls welcomed Carlos Boozer back to the lineup after he missed the first 15 games of the season with a broken bone in his right hand. But the results weren't too pretty as they were fortunate to win one of three games. The first two games were big tests against two of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference and they failed both miserably, losing by an embarrassing 29 points at home to the Magic and then being clearly outplayed in a 12-point loss in Boston. The only win came at home in overtime against an undermanned Rockets team, and the Bulls needed a 3-pointer at the buzzer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.


    Rookie Evan Turner's poor play forced head coach Doug Collins to remove him from the starting lineup in favor of second-year player Jodie Meeks. Turner has showed some flashes of why the Sixers selected him second overall, but for the most part he's really struggled as a pro going back to his poor summer league play. He was used to having the ball in his hands most of the time at Ohio State, and is really struggling playing off the ball in the NBA. He seems to be a tweener, who doesn't have the skills to be a high level point guard or shooting guard. Meeks, by the way, put up 26 points in his second game in the starting lineup, hitting on 7-of-10 from 3-point range.


    Brook Lopez is supposed to be the centerpiece of this young club that is rebuilding, but I'm beginning to wonder if he'll reach the levels expected of him. His standout games are usually against teams that are very weak in the middle, and his rebounding has been atrocious (6.2 rpg). He's had just two double-digit rebound games this season and needed triple overtime in one of them to reach that mark. There's no excuse for a seven-footer who weighs 265 pounds to be this bad off the boards.

    Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.

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