On Tuesday night, Norris Cole, a little-known Miami Heat rookie out of Cleveland State, trended worldwide on Twitter.
I’m still not sure if that says more about Cole’s surprise 20-point effort against the Boston Celtics which included 14 fourth quarter points (and yes, basically every ‘LeBron James should take notes’ joke was tweeted out last night), or the sheer passion and volume of basketball fans across the globe.
However, it does speak to the unpredictability of the young NBA season as unsettled rotations and confusion over roles has set up an environment where the Norris Coles’ of the league can get themselves noticed.
At some point during this shortened 2011-12 campaign, chemistry and roster issues will be resolved and the most talented teams will ultimately emerge atop the standings, bringing some semblance of normalcy back to the league’s landscape. Until then, however, box scores may look pretty odd as lesser-knowns who push hard and seize opportunities can find themselves getting minutes and thriving.
Through three days of NBA action, Cole isn’t alone among the league’s ‘seize the day’ crowd. Fellow NBA freshman Jon Leuer, selected out of University of Wisconsin in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft (40th over-all) by the Milwaukee Bucks, was the unlikely star of Milwaukee’s home opener on Tuesday night, contributing 14 points on 5-7 shooting off the bench in a 98-95 win. One night prior, Leuer had received just 1:18 of playing time in a 96-95 loss to Charlotte.
This isn’t a rookie-exclusive phenomenon, either.
On Monday night, Ty Lawson took it upon himself to sort out the Denver’s lack of a clear No. 1 scorer by collecting 27 points on 10-15 shooting in the Nuggets’ season-opening 115-93 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Sacramento Kings’ guard Marcus Thornton posted the same point total against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Monday (although he couldn’t exactly find that same touch again on Tuesday, when he went just 5-15 from the field in a 101-79 loss to Portland). Meanwhile, Vladimir Radmanovic, part of Atlanta’s new trio of “I didn’t know he played there now” veteran reserves alongside Tracy McGrady and Willie Green, posted 17 points off the bench in place of a foul-plagued Josh Smith to help the Hawks to a season-opening 106-70 victory in New Jersey.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of the aforementioned players will continue to enjoy this same level of success. More realistically, other players will re-establish their grip on the scoring load for a given team and the status quo will come about as stars return to peak physical condition. It’s no coincidence that the league’s three 2-0 teams are pictures of stability; from an always-prepared head coach (Portland’s Nate McMillan) to a core foundation that has been able to grow together (Oklahoma City) to a team where, Cole aside, elite talent has still managed to reign supreme early (Miami).
Even if this is just a brief anomaly until the NBA universe resets, it’s a pretty fun time to be an NBA fan, as chaos reigns, unpredictability ensues and Norris Cole trends.