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By Mitch Chortkoff
Sports Editor 

New NBA Season Brings Early Surprises

LeBron Struggles With New Team In Cleveland


November 10, 2014

The NBA season began only two weeks ago but already there have been numerous surprises.

The biggest one is the Cleveland Cavaliers' 1-3 start and apparent friction between LeBron James and the Cavaliers' talented point guard Kyrie Irving.

When James left the Miami Heat and signed with his hometown Cleveland team and the Cavaliers then acquired Kevin Love, Shawn Marion and others the team became the favorite to reach the NBA Finals. Instead the Cavaliers lost their home opener, then lost at Portland and Utah on their first trip.

James, regarded as the NBA's best player, reminded us the Cavaliers failed to make the playoffs last season, adding that bad habits would take time to correct.

"It's going to be a long process," he said.

Irving proceeded to score 29 points but recorded only one assist in the next game. James scored just 11 points and didn't get the ball very often.

To compound matters, the Cavaliers have a new coach, David Blatt, who has had considerable success in Europe but has no NBA experience.

"The NBA is a different game," says former head coach Avery Johnson, "even if someone has coached a thousand games in other leagues."

Blatt has to solve the problems and already there's been media speculation that he may not last the season.

Among other surprises are the fast starts of Houston (6-0) and Dallas and Memphis, teams who figured to make the Western Conference playoffs from fifth through eighth. These teams now look like possibilities to be in the first four.

Who would they replace? Oklahoma City, without injured stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, looks vulnerable, as do the Clippers, who are off to a slow start.

On the positive side we have Golden State, which looks great and crushed the Clippers last Wednesday. But we'll see if new coach Steve Kerr's plan to win every exhibition game by 25 points and start fast in the regular season will prove wise. How will the Warriors be after 80 games?

"The league doesn't give out awards for having the best exhibition record," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who took the long-standing route of experimenting in exhibition games and working his team gradually into the season.

Among the surprise teams, Dallas looks like the most serious one to succeed.

Forward Dirk Nowitzki is one of the NBA's best players and last season he was helped by the arrival of former Golden State guard Monta Ellis.

This season Dallas has added Tyson Chandler, who was their center on the Mavericks' 2010 championship team. He then left to play for the New York Knicks but has come back and apparently is very happy. In addition, the Mavericks now have forward Chandler Parsons, who was with Houston.

Also returning is small but talented reserve guard J.J. Berea, who had left for Minnesota.

A team to watch in the Eastern Conference is Washington, led by speedy guard John Wall. In addition, the Wizards have signed veteran guard Paul Pierce for veteran leadership.

With an improved frontline the Wizards appear to be a playoff team.

Then there's Toronto, which leads its division with a 6-1 start.


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