The more the Knicks can win, the less stressful the questions will be for Woodson, but something tells me that this team will meet adversity head-on during a losing streak of some kind during the next four months. How they respond – as a team – will be telling as to how this team will play in the postseason when every aspect of the game is under a microscope.
Los Angeles Lakers – Keep Opposing Guards in Check: Steve Nash has helped and will continue to help the Lakers at the offensive end, but it’s going to be tough for him to make up for the Lakers lack of lateral quickness and athleticism as it relates to guarding opposing guards.
The Lakers have been torched by a variety of guards this season and have lost games as a direct result of their defensive breakdowns. Who remembers when George Hill hit a buzzer-beater against Los Angeles by simply driving by Ron Artest and beating Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard to the spot at the end of November? LA has given up 100.2 ppg (25th) so far this season, with 50+ ppg coming from the top three scoring guards or wings on the other team.
If they’re going to right the ship, the Lakers are going to have to figure out how they’re going to slow down these threats.
Brooklyn Nets – Come Together: The firing of coach Avery Johnson puts even more pressure on Brooklyn’s players- particularly star point guard Deron Williams – to improve as the season progresses. Collectively, the Nets must be loyal to one another as they continue to find an identity. Whether it’s under interim head coach PJ Carlesimo or a high roller like Phil Jackson, Brooklyn has to be in it together if they’re going to have any semblance of success this season. With games against the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder to begin 2013, their resolve will be tested immediately.
Boston Celtics – find an identity: The defensive prowess the C’s have been known for over the past five years has vanished, seemingly overnight. Their recent three game skid helps to put things into perspective. From our own Chris Bernucca in his around-the-NBA column from yesterday:
“How bad was Boston’s three-game trek through California? You have to go back to Dec. 22-26, 1977 – when Tommy Heinsohn was still the coach and six months before Larry Bird was drafted as a junior eligible – for the last time the Celtics lost three straight games by at least 18 points.”
So, yeah, the Celtics need to continue to adjust their style until they find something that works. It’s certainly not just a defensive problem for Boston, as they’re still trying to acclimate Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Jason Terry into their lineup as well.
We’re not sure what the exact answer is for the Celtics, but we know that if they want to turn things around and make the playoffs, they’ll have to find an identity to win games on a more consistent basis.
Indiana Pacers – Keep/Get Roy Hibbert involved, improve confidence: The only way to help a player of Hibbert’s stature to find a better rhythm is to keep him involved on a consistent basis and hope that he begins to turn things around, gaining much needed confidence in the process.
Through the first two months of the season, Big Roy has been the definition of erratic; he’s shooting just 40% on 10 shot attempts per game, and for a 7-footer, that’s pretty poor.
The upside to this situation is that despite Hibbert’s struggles, and without injured small forward Danny Granger, the Pacers are still 18-13 heading into 2013.
Whatever is going through Hibbert’s mind now could be history in May by the time the playoffs roll around. If you’re a Pacers fan, you’d better hope Hibbert can find his mojo during ’13.
Detroit Pistons – Find More Minutes for Andre Drummond: In 19.5 mpg, the rookie has managed to put up a 21.68 PER, the highest amongst all rookies in the early portion of the season. After being scrutinized in the months leading up to the 2012 NBA Draft for being immature and likewise questioned about how seriously he takes the game of basketball, Drummond has been a revelation for those who questioned him.
The (ridiculously) athletically fluid center is averaging 7 points (58% FG), 7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for a struggling 11-22 Pistons team.
Given that they’re struggling so much, their New Year’s resolution needs to be to groom this team for the future– and that begins with figuring out how to integrate an effective high-low option between playmaking forward Greg Monroe and the powerful Drummond. With time and hard work, this could be a duo that’s feared in a few years… But it all starts with inserting Drummond more often.