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The Rundown w/T-Money

The Rundown v11.01.22 – Now That a Fortnight Hath Passeth …

Two weeks in, the lone undefeated team in the NBA is the Milwaukee Bucks.

And while that’s a statement in itself without Khris Middleton back in the fold, let’s not ignore the team that got blown up in every way possible – head coach, best offensive player, best defensive player – and started all over with a new ensemble led by a raw, young head coach in Will Hardy.

Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach Darvin Ham may have gotten the water bath (yes, I even saw a mop bucket in the locker room get dumped on him) after the Lakers finally notched their first win, but it’s coached like Mike Budenholzer, Chauncey Billups, and Hardy who are opening eyes in this first two weeks of play.

The once-mighty and eternally-feared Pacific Division is packed with sub-.500 teams and only the Phoenix Suns can have bragging rights after Golden State uncharacteristically dropped three of their last four this week.

On the other coast, the Brooklyn Nets’ firing of Steve Nash upset my prognostication that Stephen Silas would be the first to go, despite the Rockets having a worse record in 14 days time. 

(But, hey, it was a ‘Steve,’ so do I get half credit?)

The onus of responsibility should not have been on Nash’s shoulders, and is just one more incidence of players dictating the team, coaches, GM and owner(s), which we knew and was much discussed at Summer League and on the Hardwood Huddle back in early July.

Reports are that the Nets are hiring Ime Udoka, who’s standing in the corner as punishment this season for ‘dating’ a member of the Boston Celtics’ staff. The Nets are denying it, however, while they hammer out the terms and conditions of their own HR policies.

But if things go as they have in Brooklyn, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will likely dictate who Udoka can spend his off time with.

ATLANTIC AFTER WEEK TWO
Celtics 

(56-26)

Celtics 

(4-2)

Joe Mazzulla may get credit for the Celtics’ 4-2 start, but let’s be real … the Celtics were built to this level by Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka. Mazzulla is reaping the benefits in Beantown the same way Steve Kerr did in his early years with Golden State, taking over the team Mark Jackson laid the foundation with.
Nets 

(54-28)

Raptors
(4-3)
Raptors move up to second in the division, after going 2-1 in the last week with a huge win over the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Halloween and a split with the Philadelphia 76ers in Toronto.
76ers 

(54-28)

Sixers
(4-4)
From the bottom to the middle, the 76ers overcame their 1-3 start by going 3-1 this past week. James Harden may be 29th in the league in scoring, but he is dropping 10 dimes a game, just a Eurostep behind Chris Paul, the NBA’s assist leader.
Raptors 

(44-38)

Knicks 

(3-3)

Reality has set in, and the Knicks are back to being a .500 team after going 1-2 this week, beating only the Charlotte Hornets by three in overtime with no LaMelo Ball.
Knicks 

(42-40)

Nets
(2-5)
Firing Steve Nash isn’t the answer. And why Ime Udoka? You may have to offer draft picks and/or additional compensation. Why are we still overlooking people like Mark Jackson? The Nets get what they deserve – their dysfunction makes the Sacramento front office look elite.

SOUTHEAST AFTER WEEK TWO
Heat 

(56-26)

Hawks
(4-3)
Despite the fact that they’re on top in the Southeast Division, the Hawks only went 2-2 this week, taking out the Detroit Pistons twice (my friends Tyler and Chris and I could do that), while losing games to potential playoff opponents – the Milwaukee Bucks and an embarrassing loss to their prehistoric predecessors up north, by 30 damn points.
Hawks 

(51-31)

Wizards
(3-4)
Second place and sub-.500 isn’t much to brag about, especially after starting off 2-1 in Week One. Bradley Beal (20.7 points, 6.1 assists, and 3.9 rebounds) may rue his decision to stick it out with the Wizards.
Wizards 

(47-35)

Hornets
(3-4)
The Hornets have been without LaMelo Ball since opening tip two weeks ago due to the ankle sprain. The October 25th projected return has come and gone, so the Hornets may continue to have hit-and-miss results without him.
Hornets 

(46-36)

Heat 

(2-5)

The second-most disappointing team in the league was one half of the asterisked bubble Finals a couple years back. Jimmy Butler may be leading the team at 21.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and dread length, but how long will he be happy doing that with the team playing .286 basketball? Will it be Chicago, Minnesota, and Philadelphia all over again?
Magic 

(38-44)

Magic 

(1-6)

Paolo Banchero is coming along, though slipping from 22.8 to 22.7 points per game. I’m sure it’d be nice to get a little help, but does anyone want to come to the Happiest Place on Earth anymore? They did get to play and beat the Charlotte Hornets, though, allowing them to get their first win before the Los Angeles Lakers got theirs.

CENTRAL AFTER WEEK TWO
Cavaliers 

(55-27)

Bucks 

(6-0)

The Bucks have shown that pre-season – where they went winless – doesn’t mean dick when it comes to the regular season. Giannis Antetokuonmpo is second in the NBA in scoring at 33.8 ppg, second in rebounding at 12.8 a night, and has 203 total points, tying Trae Young for fifth in the league. Brook Lopez leads the league in blocks at 3.3 a night. His three-point percentage is 35.7 – stick to the paint, Brook.
Bucks 

(54-28)

Cavaliers
(5-1)
The Cavaliers have gone 3-0 this past week, knocking out the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, and New York Knicks convincingly. Donovan Mitchell leads the team with 32.2 points (fifth in the NBA) and 7.3 assists.
Pistons 

(43-39)

Bulls 

(3-4)

Chicago went 1-2 this week, their lone win coming against the Indiana Pacers last Wednesday night at home. DeMar DeRozan continues to be the team leader in points (25.9) and assists (4.6).
Bulls 

(42-40)

Pacers

(3-5)

Though a 1-2 run this week isn’t a whole lot of good news for the Pacers’ faithful, the emergence of Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin should show that the Pacers have a solid foundation for a brighter future. Haliburton is hitting for 21.9 a night and Mathurin right behind at 20.4 an outing. Haliburton also is averaging 9.4 dimes, mere steps behind Chris Paul, James Harden, and Trae Young
Pacers 

(30-52)

Pistons
(2-6)
Detroit has been a horrible 1-4 this second week, only defeating the Golden State Warriors by 14 in their lone bright spot of the week. That ended a five-game losing streak, and saw 20+ point efforts from Saddiq Bey (28), Isaiah Stewart (24), Cade Cunningham (23), and Bojan Bogdanovic (21). Cunningham is leading the team with 23.1 points and 6.8 assists.

NORTHWEST AFTER WEEK TWO
Timberwolves 

(56-26)

Trailblazers 

(5-1)

Portland’s first and lone loss was a 21-point heartbreaker to the visiting Miami Heat. They bounced back with a win over the Houston Rockets as they went 1-1 in Week Two. Damian Lillard went down with a right calf strain in the loss to Miami, and sat out the win over Houston. The near seven-day layoff since the injury is certainly a good break for Lillard to heal.
Nuggets 

(55-27)

Jazz
(6-2)
Can’t say enough about Will Hardy, and how he’s lead this unusual team to a .750 record in a city where faith and belief in the implausible comes to fruition. This has quietly become Lauri Markkanen’s (22.6 points) and Jordan Clarkson’s (16.5 points) team without Hardy having to be a hard-handed leader like ‘Whiplash’s J.K. Simmons – consequently, they’ve found their own rhythm. And it’s a good one.
Trailblazers 

(44-38)

Timberwolves
(4-3)
The Twin Towers Redux is coming together, as the T’Wolves went 2-1 this week, taking down the Los Angeles Lakers and splitting a home-and-away with the San Antonio Spurs. Lots more to learn in Minnesota, but it looks like it’s coming together.
Jazz 

(36-46)

Nuggets
(4-3)
Christmas came early as Jolly Ol’ St. Nik(ola Jokic) gifted the Los Angeles Lakers their first win. Denver went 2-1 after a .500 start in Week One, beating the Lakers and Utah Jazz before handing L.A. their early Christmas present.
Thunder 

(36-46)

Thunder
(3-3)
Look out, everyone, the Oklahoma City Thunder said ‘don’t count us out yet,’ winning all three games this past week. They thumped former Thunder player Paul George and his Los Angeles Clippers twice in three days in Oklahoma City, then went down I-35 and turned their sights on the Dallas Mavericks, winning in Big D by a half dozen. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leads the team with 31.0 points and 7.0 assists. Great wins, great week.

SOUTHWEST AFTER WEEK TWO
Grizzlies 

(60-22)

Spurs
(5-2)
Never, ever count out Gregg Popovich, one of the NBA’s greatest coaches in history. The guy who was a GM and saw the team floundering, and said “I’ll do it myself,” firing Bob Hill. 26 years later, the 73 year old seems as spry as he did the first day back in 1996 when the Spurs were saddled with a 3-15 start. Many expected such a start in 2022-23, but the Spurs are a surprising .714 and moving forward.
Mavericks 

(58-24)

Pelicans 

(4-2)

Another pleasant surprise has been Willie Green’s Pelicans, where Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson are nearly knotted at 22.0 points per game in leading the team. (Williamson is at 21.8 ppg).The Pelicans swooped on the Los Angeles Clippers for a win (who hasn’t?) while dropping a heartbreaker to Green’s former team, the red-hot Phoenix Suns.
Pelicans 

(48-34)

Grizzlies
(4-3)
After an auspicious 3-1 run out of the gates, the Grizzlies lumbered to 1-2 in Week Two, beating the Sacramento Kings, but losing a duo to the Utah Jazz on the road in Salt Lake City. Ja Morant led the league in scoring in Week One, but has cooled down to a 33.3 points per game pace – or Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokuonmpo have ramped it up.
Spurs 

(40-42)

Mavericks
(3-3)
Speaking of Luka Doncic, he is the league’s leading scorer two weeks in at 36.7 point an outing. But he’s running a .500 team, their only braggadocio coming with wins overly the lowly Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic, who – combined – have as many wins as the Mavericks.
Rockets 

(39-43)

Rockets
(1-7)
We knew this was going to be a shitshow, but at least they got their first win before the Los Angeles Lakers, a six point victory over the 6-2 Utah Jazz. 

PACIFIC AFTER WEEK TWO
Warriors 

(64-18)

Suns
(5-1)
The only team as hot as the Milwaukee Bucks are the appropriately-named Phoenix Suns. Many have believed Phoenix’s window to have closed when the Bucks ran the train on them in the 2021 NBA Finals after the Suns’ 2-0 start, but Father Time (not Jason Momoa) is being kinder to Chris Paul than he is to LeBron James. Paul leads the NBA in dimes, Devin Booker is averaging 29.3 points and was the bigger man in the throwback shit-talkingfest with Klay Thompson this week, and Jae Crowder … wait, where the hell is Jae Crowder? Wish the Suns still had him, but they may truly no longer need him. 
Suns 

(59-23)

Warriors
(3-4)
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Losses to the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, and Miami Heat – all on the road – have put a skidmark on the Warriors’ otherwise tighty-whitey briefs in 2022-23. Golden State’s 14 games in November feature six at home and eight on the road.
Clippers 

(56-26)

Clippers
(3-4)
The Clippers also took a nosedive this week, going 1-3 with losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder twice and the New Orleans Pelicans, completing a four game skid before barely squeaking by the Houston Rockets by a deuce on Halloween. Paul George leads the team with 21.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. Kawhi Leonard’s shoe sales are posting bigger numbers, though he should have a slipper for as much load management as he manages.
Lakers 

(55-27)

Kings
(2-4)
Sacramento was another team that got their first win before the Los Angeles Lakers, and has back-to-back wins (something L.A. does not yet) with victories over the Miami Heat at home and Charlotte Hornets on the road on Saturday and Monday, respectively.
Kings 

(41-41)

Lakers
(1-5)
The sky has definitely been falling in Los Angeles. Though Father Time may not be beating LeBron James’ ass, the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trailblazers, Denver Nuggets, and Minnesota Timberwolves certainly had no problem doing so. Next up is the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, who have a player in Brandon Ingram that the Lakers should have kept.

********************

Tracy Graven is the Senior NBA Analyst for BackSportsPage.com.
He has written the NBA, done NBA Radio, and appeared as a guest for the last 21+ years for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show, NBARadioShow.com, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 21 years in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (CBA, G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta.
He also enjoys covering G League and The Basketball League, and provides content for the Owensboro (Ky.) Thoroughbreds.

A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia  

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