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For the fans, By the fans! This blog is all about keeping Australian fans up to date with all things surrounding the NBA!

5 Things We Learned…

A new season, a new feature over at NBA Nation Australia!

Each week, we will share the 5 things we learned about the NBA from that week’s pool of games. A light hearted yet serious look at the good, the bad and the random that the NBA throws up at us each week.

Five random things that have us talking here at NBA Nation Australia HQ and Five things we think you guys will enjoy reading about…every week.

So here we go. The first list goes like this.

 1 – The Lakers look awful.

At the start of writing this piece, the Lakers had lost ALL their preseason games and the first 3 games of the season.  They were a shambles and even with a star studded starting 5 looked a long way from being the contender that everyone expected.  Lakers fans hit the panic button, the media started calling for blood only 3 games into the season and their star players were at a loss to explain what was happening to the 16 time NBA Champions. As a unit, this team should be playing better…much better, but they aren’t. It’s not like they don’t have the pieces. No less than 3 future hall of famer’s in their starting 5, All Stars and key role players filling the roster…this just shouldn’t be happening. But it is.  So what’s happening?

Some might say its Mike Brown and his Princeton Offence that’s the problem. Sure, you could find an argument here that Nash and Dwight both excel in a pick in roll style of offence and that Brown’s style of coaching doesn’t suit the team they have assembled.

Some might say it’s the bench. It’s just not deep enough and the talent to compete doesn’t extend past the starting 5. To really succeed in the NBA, you need the right pieces all the way down to the last spot on the bench and the Lakers spent too much time focusing on their starting 5 and not enough signing key role players for their bench.

Some might say it’s their willingness to play hard and tough on the defensive end for the whole game rather than parts. How can you expect to win games when you give up 116 points to the Blazers?

But it’s much more simpler than all of the above together. Sure, they are all very valid reasons as to why this new Lakers team is struggling to get their season off to a good start but you have your answer right there. This is the start of the season…. and this is a new team. The answer is chemistry and this comes with time. You have 3 players in the Lakers starting team that are used to being the #1 guy, so it’s going to take a little time to adjust to Mike Brown’s style and get use to the style of your new teammates.

So Lakers fans…. don’t hit the panic button yet. This is a team that will work it out soon and the start of the 2012/13 season will be a distant memory.

* At the time of writing this piece, the Lakers hadn’t won a game, but that has all changed after a dominating win against the Pistons. The Lakers looked good in this game, so maybe a big win is all this team needed to get going….only time will tell.

 2 – The Knicks look good.

We all know that the Knicks suffered from chemistry issues themselves over the last couple of seasons, but only 3 games into this new season, the Knicks are looking like contenders in the East.  Cue the lashings from those that disagree!

Three big wins, one of those against last years champs has fans in NYC dreaming again of a deep run come playoff time. They might have one of the oldest teams in the league, but it’s not making a difference at the moment. Carmelo is leading the team with aggression and a pace that is leaving the defenses wondering. Chandler is his usual defensive beast, grabbing boards and keeping the big men out of the key, Felton and Kidd are surprisingly starting together and it’s working, but most importantly, the bench, led by J.R Smith and Novak are firing on all cylinders. This is a team that looks like they finally know how to play with each other…. Woodson has got it working well.

BUT…there is always a but.

There is no Amare. He is injured and likely still to be out for another month or so and the old chemistry demon really hasn’t had a chance to be completely put to bed. Because we all know that for this to really work, for the Knicks to really be genuine contenders….Amare and Melo need to not only coexist, but to gel and find a rhythm between themselves. When Amare comes back, this is what needs to happen otherwise this great start will just fall apart and well, I don’t think it will end well for Amare.

Some people might say the Knicks are just riding on the emotion of Superstorm Sandy and its devastating affect on the great city of New York, but this is simply not the case. Sure, players can find motivation out of this, to put a smile on the faces of those hurt by this disaster, but this is a team that has so much expectation on them to succeed that I believe that everything is coming together for them on the court …and this might just be there time to shine.

Up next for the Knicks is a Dallas team that is also running well at the start of the season, and they just so happen to be up next.

 3 – Dallas look like contenders, even without Dirk.

Who would have thought the Mavs would have had the start they’ve had. Their ageing superstar Dirk Nowitzki has been injured, so many, including me had written them off. But how wrong were we.

It’s like he hasn’t even been missed. Big wins against the Blazers and Bobcats. A win against the Lakers and a loss to the Jazz see’s them sitting with a 3-1 record when most of them would have expected a lot less. The reason is simple. Dirk. He has been such an important player for them for so long that without him, it was hard to see how they were going to rebuild, but compete. Welcome to the spotlight Mr. OJ Mayo.

We all knew this kid had talent but he has come into this Dallas team and re-ignited his career with a booming first 4 games. I wonder what Memphis are thinking right now. This was obviously a good move for both OJ and for Dallas. The Mavs get a pure scorer in Mayo, who was underused and undervalued at Memphis who has been able to come into this team and lead…who would have thought?

Add in the great start that veteran Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Elton Brand and in the last game, Chris Kaman, this is a team that doesn’t appear to be missing their superstar.

It’s easy to come out and say that this Mavs team has hardly been tested yet. Wins against the Bobcats and the Blazers should have been expected. But it was the way this Mavs team went about it. They were clinical for the full games and never let the opposition get even a sniff. The win against the Lakers was also a display of grit and determination….even if this Lakers team wasn’t looking the goods.

When Dirk finally gets back, this might just be a team that proves allot of people wrong, hell…even me who at the start of the season predicted they might even miss the playoffs. Ouch. I am more than happy to be proven wrong.

The Mavs play the Knicks on Friday and it will be a great test for this team against the high flying Knicks. Both these teams have started the season off well. This will be a game to watch.

4 – The Bobcats are finally playing like an NBA team.

I know, I know…they have played 2 games. But keep reading. One of them was a big loss against the Mavs who are on a roll and seem to like to win big this year. But it’s the other game I want to talk about. Game 1 of the season for the Cats and it was a win…a win!!! Not just any win though. This was a  23 game losing streak breaking win against the Pacers.  A team that many believe will be there at the pointy end of the season and challenging the Celtics and Heat all the way to the Eastern Conference championships.

If the Cats can continue to play like they did against the Pacers and hell, even continue to play like they did in a losing game against the Mavs, then this is a team that will go along way to shocking the world….and winning a few more games than they did last year.

They still lack the core needed to exceed expectations, and I don’t believe that the Cats will climb that much higher up the ladder than they did last year, but I am confident in saying that this team finally looks like a basketball team that can win games.

Kemba Walker has started the season strongly. We all know that he is a talented ball player and this Cats are going to need him to continue to lead from the front. Ramon Sessions has joined this team too, and in his limited minutes has had a positive impact on this team. Then there is MKG. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who was the #2 selection last year in the draft. He had a quite game against the Pacers, but showed what he is capable of in the loss to the Mavs. The Cats have a couple of other dark horses this year in both Ben Gordon and Bismack Biyombo who can both have big impacts on the game at both ends.

Surprisingly, I am looking forward to watching this young Bobcats team and I truly believe they can impact this season in a big way. By now means am I saying that this is a team that will be there in the post season but I don’t believe the Pacers will be their only big scalp this year. I don’t think anyone will really want to play this cats team when the heat is on. (Pun Intended)

Watch this space.

 5 – James Harden to Houston = Win/Win for both teams

This has to be the biggest story to come out of the NBA in a long time.

Harden goes from Sixth Man of the Year with OKC to putting up MVP numbers with the Rockets in 2 games. People have been asking us constantly…what were the Thunder thinking?

There are two sides to every story. The simple answer both teams needed to do something. OKC couldn’t afford to keep Harden, and Houston has plenty of cap space to give him the money he deserves. So Houston got their man and he has had an instant impact on the fortunes of this team.

We have all seen the numbers James Harden has been putting up including a colossal 45 points and 7 boards against the Atlanta Hawks. This is not only All Star stuff…this has MVP written all over it. With Jeremy Lin, the Rockets have a backcourt ready to rock the league.

Harden is the face of this Rockets club and will be for many years to come after signing a super max contract worth $80M over 5 years. If this is the Rockets rebuilding, I shudder to think what is coming next. Exciting times for the men in red.

But what about the Oklahoma City Thunder? Where do they go from here? At face value, this would have to be very hard for both the organization and their fans to swallow. They were forced to break up the team they built from the ground up due to money. This was a team they just couldn’t afford to keep around and they had no choice but to let the glue that kept it all together…go. But not all is lost at OKC. This is one smart front office that know how to put a team together. Not only were they able to get the deal done with Houston, but I believe they were the ones to pull of the heist here.

Let me break it down quickly

The Rockets go their man, but let OKC managed to get quite a basket of goodies in return. Kevin Martin is no Harden, but he has the talent to make a big impact off the bench and is a quality 6th man for this Thunder team. Hell, he managed to score 28 points off the bench against the Hawks last week. Rookie swingman Jeremy Lamb has huge potential and could easily turn into a high caliber NBA player as he learns from one of the best in Durant and Westbrook. But it’s the draft picks that should have the OKC fans excited most. We have seen in times past that this is a front office that knows how to put together a team through the draft and with some immense talent coming through the college system in the next year or 2, this could work out in OKC’s favour. So OKC…don’t be too worried. BTW, you still have Kevin Durant and are currently demolishing the Raptors. You will be fine.

While it may be hard to understand now, especially when you see your beloved 6th Man tearing it up for another team (and winning Western Conf player of the week), in the long run, I think it’s all going to work out…for both.

-Nick R (@nickaruss)

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