1. Big Winners
And then there were two. New Orleans and Utah, both at 4-0, currently sit above the rest of the league as the only remaining undefeated teams. Unexpected, considering that neither team made the playoffs last year. Unfortunately, both teams are in a tough western conference so their reign at the top probably wont last long. New Orleans shares a division with San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Memphis, and it is unlikely that they will win the division or even come in second. However, Utah, on the other hand, is putting themselves in a position to finally return to the playoffs. The Jazz are in a much weaker division and these early wins could allow them to be in contention for the division crown later in the season. Win your division and you receive a golden ticket to the postseason; simple as that. While New Orleans early run to 4-0 might be more surprising, the path to the playoffs has far fewer obstacles for Utah.
2. Big Losers
Boston, Dallas and Denver remain as the three teams who have yet to pick up a victory. It is not surprising to find the Celtics in this position but Denvers rocky start was unexpected. However, Denver has only played in two games, losing by a total of four points. And you can expect the team to grab their first victory tonight when they host the Knicks. Without doubt, the biggest loser of this young season has to be the Mavericks who are 0-3, with two home losses and losses to both in-state rivals. Go back to last years collapse in the Finals against Miami and you have a team on a seven game losing streak that is becoming desperate for a win. With a tough three game road trip starting tonight against the Clippers, followed by the Suns tomorrow, it might be Sunday at Portland before Dallas grabs their first win. As if the schedule isnt tough enough, Josh Howard will be out for two weeks with an ankle injury.
3. Fight Club
Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood have become more than just teammates, theyve become sparring partners. Apparently, the two Washington centers had a verbal argument in the locker room on Thursday that led to Thomas throwing a punch. Haywood proceeded to throw Thomas to the ground and rip out two of his dreadlocks before teammates could separate them. And this isnt the first time these two have gone toe to toe. Haywood was suspended for a game last year after an unpleasant incident occurred with Thomas during practice. Haywood appears to be upset with his demotion behind Thomas. Couple that with the fact that these two have a history with one another and its likely that Haywood will be traded at some point during the season.
4. Ankle Breaker
Bruce Bowen is building up a reputation throughout the league, and its not for his work in the community. Bowen is becoming known as one of the dirtiest players in the game after he was, once again, the cause of an opponents sprained ankle. His latest victim, Knicks guards Steve Francis. While Francis never publicly accused Bowen of intentionally sticking his foot underneath him while in the act of shooting, other players have. Vince Carter had incidents over the same issue with Bowen in Toronto and again in New Jersey. Along with Carter, Ray Allen and Vladimir Radmanovic have both blatantly accused Bowen of being dirty. Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady have also felt the pain from Bowens aggressive style. Bowen is known for his smothering defense and it is tough to determine if the injuries are a byproduct of tight positioning or caused by malicious intent. But at this point, the controversy has been created and the label of dirty is going to stick to Bowen like he sticks to shooting guards.
Tuesdays Player of the Day: Kevin Garnett @ LA Lakers 39 min, 26 pts (FG:10-18, FT: 6-6), 9 reb, 5 ast, 4 stl
Wednesdays Game to Watch: Phoenix (1-3) @ San Antonio (3-1) A rematch from the 2005 western conference finals, San Antonio will be motivated to redeem their home loss to Cleveland and a sloppy finish versus New York. Phoenix is determined to pick up a victory and thus, Amare Stoudemire is expected to make his first start of the season. Despite getting the start, you can expect to see Kurt Thomas defend Duncan for a good portion of the game as the Suns wont try to rush their young stud.