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Early Surprises

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 11/8/2010 11:04:40 AM

Action in the Big Easy last year was on the low down with Chris Paul injured but with him back directing the action, the New Orleans Hornets are one of the early surprises of the NBA season.

Not only have the Hornets opened the year 6-0 but also they covered 4 games with 2 pushes and they have been holding their opponents with solid defense. Five of 6 of their wins have also gone under the number.

The newest ‘Orleans defense stopper is Trevor Ariza, who is athletic enough to fill the wings as Paul rolls down court and he is also comfortable matching up against the other team’s best player.

Marco Bellini has been a pleasant force too. He’s a big guard at 6-5 and is also active on the defensive end averaging 2 steals a game early on.

As the season rolls out, the Hornets will continue to be all the buzz and have an excellent chance of making the post season.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Houston Rockets have only covered 2 of their 5 contests and are struggling to adjust to the limited minutes of Yao Ming. When teammates don’t know what they can count on or expect from a player every night, it becomes a drain both mentally and physically.

With Yao playing about 20 minutes a game, they have been super vulnerable down low and have given up and average of 114 points a game. They have been living and dying with the outside forces of Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks and they are a potent tandem but when the shot is not going, it puts a ton of pressure on their best player, Luis Scola, to do everything right.

Don’t be shocked if Yao hangs up the size 25 sneakers after this season, if he can make it through the entire grind.

In the Northwest, the Rose Garden continues to rock. Portland has always been a tough place to visit and the Blazers are proving the achieving they did last year, was no fluke.

Starting the season without their first 2 centers, they are off to a 5-2 start and have only failed to cover 2 games. Marcus Camby is cagey as a fox and he has been more than serviceable in the middle while the heart of the team, Brandon Roy, is not only leading the team with 21 points a game, but has been a theft machine averaging more than 2 a contest.

Andre Miller had some issues with Coach McMillan last year but he seems to be more comfortable with his role and if they can ever get Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla close to 100%, they will have to be reckoned with in June.

Finally, the New Jersey Nets have to be given their props. They won their first 2 games to open the year but then ran into Miami twice and Orlando. They will build around center Brook Lopez and he is a good cornerstone player that will only improve.

Rookie Derrick Favors is leading the squad on the boards and in field goal percentage and Devin Harris has been making some good decisions with the rock.

With continued improvement, Avery Johnson’s team has every chance to complete the exacta in the Atlantic Division behind the Boston Celts.

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