Extra MustardSI On CampusFantasyPhoto GalleriesSwimsuitVideoFanNationSI KidsTNT

Reading the tea leaves (cont.)

Posted: Friday November 4, 2005 11:54AM; Updated: Friday November 4, 2005 5:24PM
Free E-mail AlertsE-mail ThisPrint ThisSave ThisMost PopularRSS Aggregators

Be careful what you wish for

On ESPN during the pregame to Wednesday's Pistons-Sixers matchup, much was made about Detroit's new offensive philosophy under Flip Saunders. They even quoted Chauncey Billups as saying something along the lines of "that's what we've needed here the last couple years." What? Hello? The Pistons went to two straight Finals, winning it all in '04, with Larry Brown's defensive philosophy. How could they have done much better?

The ESPN sideline commentator followed Billups' rather odd statement with a stat showing that the Pistons ranked 24th in offense a year ago. Again, who cares? They played at a slower pace. It's not like they weren't a good offensive team. Sheeeeeez.

Getting drunk on Old Milwaukee


The Bucks' bandwagon is filling up fast. It only took two games. Amazing. But while Milwaukee might come back to earth at some point, don't underestimate its bench. Mo Williams, Dan Gadzuric and Toni Kukoc bring scoring, rebounding and heady play, respectively. If Charlie Bell keeps shooting like he did against the Sixers, the Bucks' reserve corps could be in the top half of the East. Meanwhile those back-to-back road victories at Philly and New Jersey give them a nice step up in the Eastern playoff race.

The big key for the Bucks will be if T.J. Ford can stay healthy. He looks to be fully recovered from the back injury that kept him out all last season, but he could be one hard fall away from a re-injury. Ford's defense against Allen Iverson in the opener, by the way, was the untold story of the game. With Ford draped all over him, Iverson missed a few shots down the stretch that could have changed the outcome. Bucks officials kept saying last year that they missed Ford on defense as much as offense. That's what they were talking about.

The Sixers have a lot of work to do

As for the Sixers, it's too early to write their obit as well. They didn't have Samuel Dalembert for either of their losses and Andre Iguodala had a couple of sub-par games. The fact that Chris Webber looked pretty fluid in Game 1 against the Bucks, working well with Iverson in the high post and abusing Jamaal Magloire several times down low, also bodes well.

But there's something about the Sixers that makes me think it's going to be a long season in Philly. C-Webb is still a liability on defense, and he missed some big open jumpers in crunch time. He's just not a clutch player. The Sixers also didn't play smart down the stretch against the Bucks. For example, they should have fouled Ford instead of allowing him to dribble around in the final seconds and find Michael Redd open behind the arc for his game-tying three-pointer.

Here's a quicker rundown on some other thoughts from the opening week:

• What was Carmelo Anthony thinking when he decided to take that 15-foot shot with 12 seconds left in regulation and the score tied 89-all against the Lakers on Wednesday night? Denver had the ball and a chance to take the last shot. Was 'Melo trying to get back at Lakers forward Devean George, with whom he had scuffled earlier?

• Nice win by the Hornets on Opening night, blowing out the Kings by 26 points before an announced crowd of 19,163 at their temporary home of Oklahoma City. But the NFL Saints had a similarly emotional victory in Week 1 and look where they're at now.

• The Kings followed their dismal showing at Oklahoma City by falling to the Rockets in Houston. Rick Adelman must be feeling like he's on Mercury right now.

• Bulls guard Chris Duhon had a triple-double in his team's huge comeback (down 25 points in the third quarter) win against the Bobcats. He also went head-to-head at times with Bobcats rookie Raymond Felton. In the final minute they collided and banged knees, causing serious pain to both of them. Ironically, Duhon and Felton are good friends, and both sets of parents were in the United Center stands.

• Raptors rookie Charlie Villanueva was on the floor up until the final few minutes during Toronto's narrow loss to the Wizards on Wednesday. It looks as if coach Sam Mitchell isn't afraid to play him alongside Chris Bosh.

• Memo to the Cavs' TV affiliate: that was Hornets guard J.R. Smith you were showing during pre-game warm-ups under the name "Chris Paul."

Like I said, it's early in the season ...