Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 11/5/12
At the start of every season, there's always the "this year is going to be better than any other" rhetoric. It's a natural part of the buildup, but it seemed particularly loud before the NBA tipped off Tuesday. LeBron James has finally tapped his full potential, there's something of a dream team assembled in Los Angeles, the Thunder are in their prime, the Nets just moved to Brooklyn, where Jay-Z is rescuing them from irrelevance -- granted, the story lines seemed great. But there was one element to the excitement I didn't quite understand: It hinged upon the assumption that one of three teams, the Lakers, Thunder or Heat, would win a championship. And that has to take away from all of this, when the ultimate results seem like a virtual lock. But then the season began, and the joke was on us. We may only be a week in, but I'm ready to say that if the surprises of the past five days are any indication, this season is going to be even more fun than imagined. The Lakers are 1-3, as are the Nuggets. With a snap of Thunder GM Sam Presti's fingers, James Harden went from star sixth man to the face of a supposedly struggling franchise that has started the year 2-1. His former team: 1-2. The Knicks, deemed talented but nearing AARP membership, beat -- nay, trounced -- the unbeatable Heat, 104-84. Charlotte snapped its 23-game losing streak against a solid Pacers team, and the Bucks beat the venerable Celtics in Boston. There was one moment on Friday night as I watched the Kings nearly mount a successful double-digit comeback in Minnesota that I glanced down at my computer screen and thought to myself that 80 percent of the scores I was seeing made no sense. I loved it. That's what makes a season fun, when there's some element of uncertainty and room to believe that the best can be toppled and the underdogs have a chance. I'm all for good basketball, but I'm also for a bit of equity, and that's what we've gotten so far. Whether it's because of a perverse desire to see LeBron lose or the piteous hope that the Bobcats might string two wins together, a hint of uncertainty might in this case be more fun. Eric Gordon, I just don't get it Eric Gordon's comments about his injured right knee this week were downright flummoxing. He waffled about its severity and seemed downright disinterested in giving any true indication of his status, though the official word for now is that the Hornets guard won't undergo microfracture surgery and will rehab for four to six weeks. But beyond that, Gordon is still chafing about the fact that he's even in New Orleans after hoping to escape to Phoenix during free agency. That didn't work out, and really, at this point, you'd think he'd be rejoicing. With Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and a revamped lineup, why wouldn't Gordon want to play there? Especially when the alternative is a Phoenix team whose biggest names are Jermaine O'Neal and Michael Beasley. Give Mike Brown some time So now that Mike Brown's Lakers beat the Pistons, is he allowed to keep his job? It took one Lakers loss for the trolling to begin, and the "fire Mike Brown" chatter has yet to die down. With a lineup like his, he's expected to deliver immediately, and when he doesn't, his flaws loom so large. He's a bit passive, a bit young. His stars can overshadow him in terms of perceived authority. None of that works in his favor, but watching the Lakers start 0-3, it was easy to see plenty of culprits for the losing besides Brown. For that matter, the preseason was full of red flags that this team would not begin the season firing on all cylinders. A new offense, an injured point guard, stars learning to play together -- blame all that. Let's not blame Brown, at least not yet. Give him a few more games to sort through his riches. Trending up Grim prognostications surrounded the Bulls, who will be without point guard Derrick Rose until who knows when. But despite the doom and gloom, Chicago opened the season 2-1, losing only to a New Orleans team that's also exceeded expectations early. The Bulls' 115-86 drubbing of Cleveland on Friday was solid proof that they can score without Rose, even if it was against Cleveland. The only possible explanation: Coach Tom Thibodeau is a wizard. Trending down Before the season, the Nuggets got some press as fringe title contenders, but after this week, it's apparent that George Karl's squad needs to time to jell. It's 0-3, and the offense has hardly been firing. In their first two games against Philadelphia and Orlando, the Nuggets scored just 75 and then 89 points, averaging only 37.8 percent shooting. Best of the week Team: The Spurs, who sit atop the Western Conference with the league's only 3-0 record. Gregg Popovich and company opened the season at New Orleans, where they eked out a 99-95 win, but they've been cruising since, beating Oklahoma City by two and Utah by 10. They're winning in typical Spurs form, with Popovich already parsing minutes, and it's working. Even a Thunder fan would have to admit Tony Parker's perfectly timed buzzer-beater on Thursday was fun to watch. Player: Harden, who finished with 37 points and 12 assists in his first game as a Rocket. Two nights later, in Atlanta, Harden scored 45 points and went 14-for-19 from the field, setting such a high bar that when he scored "only" 24 points Saturday it became news. And get this: His combined 82 points on Wednesday and Friday are the most for a player in a team's first two games since Michael Jordan scored 91 in 1986. Debut: Davis, who scored 21 points in his first game as a Hornet. He also had seven rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot, but perhaps most important, his team came within just four points of beating the Spurs. Two nights later, though, the Brow suffered a mild concussion, and now he'll be out for the near future. Worst of the week Team: The Lakers, who opened the season with losses to the Mavericks, Trail Blazers and Clippers despite their lauded lineup of Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. The Princeton offense isn't clicking, Nash is injured, and the bench has been a relative nonfactor. A rout of Detroit Sunday was the team's first sign of life, but there's a long way to go. Player: DeMarcus Cousins, who can't be a nonfactor on a team with as little talent as the Kings. With Cousins, you want to believe this will be the year he grows up, the year he gets it, but in three games so far, he hasn't. Sacramento already has 89 personal fouls as a team, most in the league. Thirteen belong to Cousins. In the opener in Chicago, he turned the ball over seven times while scoring just 14 points. It's not that Cousins has played worse than every other player in the league; it's just that he's so far from his potential and on a team that needs him to come closer to it. Tirade: Hornets coach Monty Williams' rant about the league's concussion protocol a day after Davis was sidelined with one. Williams said that "they (the NBA) treat everybody like they have white gloves and pink drawers" and that basketball is a "man's game." Excuse me, Monty, but this is serious. Basketball isn't football or even hockey, but head injuries are a real concern across all sports, and this kind of rhetoric isn't doing any good at all. Stats of the week 10,000 points: The Thunder's Kevin Durant scored his 10,000th career point on Thursday night in the team's season-opening 86-84 loss to the Spurs. In doing so, he became the second-youngest player (LeBron James was the youngest) to hit the mark, at just 24 years, 34 days old. It was Durant's 381st career game; only 14 players in league history hit the mark in fewer games. 23 games: The Bobcats had lost 23 in a row, dating back to last season, when they beat the Pacers, 90-89, on Friday night. They were tied for the third-longest losing streak in league history. 25.3 assists: The Bulls are fourth in the league in assists per game without Rose. The other team missing its high-profile point guard, the Timberwolves, had just 17.5 assists in its first two games. Edge, Bulls. What we heard "The most important thing was to kill the elephant, and that elephant was that losing streak. We had to get that off of everybody's back. It's just one of those marks you want to clean off the board." New Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap after his team won its season opener. Charlotte lost to Dallas the next night, 126-99. "Yeah because I've won, so I can. Mike (Brown), it would be a little tougher for him to say that. So I'll say it for him: Everybody shut up. Let us work." Kobe Bryant about criticism after the Lakers lost their first two games. "Just knowing a lot of people here and knowing what they've been going through with no power, no water, no food . . . to me, it just seems like there's bigger things to be concerned about than a basketball game." Dwayne Wade on his belief that Friday's Knicks-Heat game at Madison Square Garden should have been postponed. Wade donated his pay from the game (approximately 210,000 before taxes) to charity. What's ahead Brooklyn at Miami, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday: This will be the first test of how the Nets shake out against an elite team; before Wednesday, they'll have faced the Raptors and Timberwolves, thanks to Hurricane Sandy thwarting a Knicks matchup. In the Heat, they'll get a team that's gone 35-5 in its last 40 games at home, perhaps the biggest challenge possible in the league this season. Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
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