Aminu Finally Starting To Step Up

The New Orleans Hornets are starting to reap the benefits of Al-Farouq Aminu, and that’s one reason why they’re performing at a higher level than many people thought they would. 

Aminu started off his career with the Los Angeles Clippers, getting selected eighth overall in the 2010 NBA draft. In his rookie year with the Clippers, he averaged 17.9 minutes per game, averaging 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in those limited minutes. Despite not playing a lot, you could tell there was a lot of potential that came with Aminu.

Then, the famous Chris Paul trade happened, and Aminu was shipped off to the Hornets, where he’s assumed a much bigger role. The forward still had to work for his minutes in his first season in New Orleans, as he averaged 22.4 minutes, 6.0 points and 4.6 rebounds.

This year, though, it seems everything has changed and that Aminu has become a legitimate part of this rotation. He’s averaging 32.3 minutes per game and is definitely making the most of his court time. On the season he’s averaging 11.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals a contest, while shooting 50.0 percent overall from the field.

Aminu should continue to get plenty of playing time, even when Anthony Davis returns to the lineup. The only other true small forward on the roster is Darius Miller, while Davis and Ryan Anderson are going to be sharing most of the minutes at the four.

That means Aminu will get continued chances at showcasing what he can do in the association. So far so good, as he’s contributing not only offensively but also defensively and on the boards.

The Hornets may be one team you want to consider going forward. They’re only going to get better and better as they mature and blend, so watch out.

Paul Continues To Elevate His Game

Chris Paul’s early-season play has the Los Angeles Clippers at 8-3 through their first 11 games of the season.

We knew his presence on the Clippers would automatically make them take a big leap in terms of competitiveness, and we were proven right last year when Los Angeles reached the playoffs. However, expectations are even higher now, especially since the Clippers brought in even more veteran talent to beef up their rotation. 

Additions like Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom have made Los Angeles one of the most experienced teams in the NBA. The Clippers also have youth in Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe, creating a nice mix of talent.

But this Clippers team is all about Paul.

Paul, so far this season, is averaging 15.6 points, 9.9 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. Against the Los Angeles Lakers he dropped 18 points, 15 assists, six boards and three steals, and the next night, against the Golden State Warriors, he had a season-high 27 points and 10 dimes. Those are just two examples of how tremendous the point guard has been.

Now, Paul struggled to find his shooting rhythm in a recent loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he still made enough plays down the stretch to keep the Clippers in the game. That’s what he’s all about. Paul loves getting others involved and feeling confident in their ability, as that will eventually open up even more space for him offensively.

We’re not quite sold that the Clippers are a lock to make a deep run in the playoffs, but anything’s possible with Paul leading the way. He knows what it will take to win at the highest level and his confidence has rubbed off on his teammates.

That will make Los Angeles a tough out for whoever they face.

Crawford, Griffin Powering Clippers

Currently in first place in the Pacific Division, the Clippers are playing as well as just about every other team in the NBA right now. They can thank Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford, among other contributors, for the hot start.

We’ll start with Crawford. A veteran who’s been in the league for 12 years, Crawford is leading the team in scoring despite not even starting. He’s been instant offense off the bench, averaging 19.7 points per game, while shooting 49.6 percent from the floor and 43.4 percent from three. 

Crawford doesn’t offer much else other than scoring – he’s averaging just 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists a contest – but that doesn’t matter. He scores at such a good clip that he’s helping the Clippers stay competitive even when they have their second units on the floor.

When you’ve got a guy that can spread the floor like Crawford, it opens up the rest of the offense for everybody else.

As for Blake Griffin, we knew he’d be a big component of this team and that thought has held true so far. He’s averaging 17.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, and is also chipping in with 3.3 assists per game. Perhaps the biggest improvement for the forward though has come at the charity stripe – he’s improved his free throw shooting to 62.0 percent so far this season.

Griffin is also improving as a defender, teaming with center DeAndre Jordan to create one of the most athletically gifted frontcourts in the league.

With Griffin and Crawford playing sound basketball, the Clippers have won eight of their first ten games and have been incredibly profitable in terms of NBA picks throughout the season.

Assuming both stay healthy and productive, this could be a highly successful campaign for Vinny Del Negro’s team.

Royce White Update

What a mess.

Royce White is having a difficult time transitioning to life at the pro level, and the Houston Rockets may be already regretting selecting the versatile forward in the first round.

It’s still early, but White has already been sent to the D-League, though his failure to show up at practice as left Rockets fans wondering if this guy will ever be able to truly compete in the NBA.

White’s anxiety problems are well-documented, but Houston flat out said they would do everything in their power as an organization to make the rookie feel comfortable. Obviously that hasn’t happened, and the Rockets are suddenly feeling like they may have wasted a precious draft pick.

In college, White was an absolute beast. He was the standout player for Iowa State, averaging 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his final season for the school. White has great size, yet is still a terrific passer and a great playmaker.

Houston was hoping White could shake off his personal problems to fit in with the team, but it just hasn’t worked out that well. Yet to play one minute for the Rockets in the regular season, we’re wondering if we’ll ever see the rookie make it onto the court.

It’s been said that White will soon meet with Rockets GM Daryl Morey to discuss what’s happened, but the under-fire rookie has also already stated that he has no qualms about quitting should he continue to get “discriminated” against for his anxiety disorder.

However you spin it, this is one headache that the Rockets were hoping to avoid. It’s too late now though. Some kind of resolution has to be made, or this thing’s only going to get uglier.

Despite this ongoing saga, the Rockets are hoping to move on with James Harden and Jeremy Lin as the future of the team. You should stay away with your NBA picks for now, but keep tracking Houston, even if White doesn’t make it back into the league.

Randolph Puts Memphis On His Broad Shoulders

With Zach Randolph fully healthy, the Memphis Grizzlies are reaping the benefits in a major way. They’ve jumped out to an 8-1 record to start the season and have already posted some impressive victories.

After opening the season with a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Grizzlies have reeled off eight straight wins. That includes victories over the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks, so you know they’re definitely doing something right.

Randolph has been a huge part of the success. Not only is he scoring at a good clip (17.2 points per game), but he’s averaging a league-best 13.9 rebounds per game. He’s been an absolute beast on the glass, pulling down at least 11 boards in every contest he’s played in so far.

Side by side with Marc Gasol, you can see why Memphis is tearing it up. Gasol is one of the best passing big men in the league and is no slouch on the boards either, so the Grizzlies have been one of the toughest teams to contend with in the post.

That’s a primary reason why Memphis is winning so many games so far this year. They’re blowing everyone’s expectations out of the water, including oddsmakers from the top sportsbooks.

It’s hard to see Randolph slow down too, barring injury of course. Randolph seems as motivated as ever and he knows that these Grizzlies have an excellent shot at making a deep run in the playoffs. He’s going to be bringing it each and every night.

This is exactly what Memphis management wanted when they brought Randolph on board from the New York Knicks. They knew he was a double-double machine when healthy, and they’ve been proven right. Let’s hope he continues to stay injury-free.

Gerald Green’s Career Hits A High Note

The high-flying Gerald Green has had quite the ride in the NBA so far in his career. He’s seemingly found a good home in Indiana, but will it last?

Green’s career has been a rollercoaster so far, as he’s failed to impress enough to stay on with one team for more than two consecutive seasons. His stint with the Pacers is already the sixth different team he’s played for.

After getting drafted in the first round by the Boston Celtics in 2005, Green averaged as a legitimate scoring option in his second year as a pro. He averaged 22.0 minutes per game and put up 10.4 points a contest, while shooting 367.8 percent from three and 80.5 percent from the line.

However, he failed to generate enough confidence from the coaching staff, and over the following four years bounced around with the Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks.

Green’s one-dimensional game and lack of consistency bugged coaches and fans alike, but it appears he’s matured a great deal. So far in the 2012/13 season, he’s been doing better defensively and has been a greater force on the boards as well.

With Danny Granger out due to injury, Green is getting more minutes than he normally would. He’s started three games already and is averaging 27.6 minutes per game. His averages: 9.6 points and 5.2 rebounds.

Green will continue to get extended minutes, as long as he doesn’t do anything too crazy. Granger is apparently going to be out for at least another couple of months and Green has proven that he can still score at the highest level, which is something the Pacers need without their top guy on the court.

Despite Green’s emergence though, the Pacers have been killing people’s NBA picks, as they’re just 3-6 on the season. They’re really going to have to figure it out soon or they risk missing out on the playoffs.

Davis, Rivers Off To Strong Starts

 

The Hornets’ first two draft picks over the summer are back healthy now and have the team playing some pretty good basketball right now.

Anthony Davis, selected number one overall, has already emerged as one of the premier big men in the league. He’s blocked at least two shots in all three of the games he’s played in and is averaging 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.3 blocks and 1.7 steals per contest so far.

Davis had missed two games because of a concussion but appears to be just fine now, and the Hornets have be ecstatic about that. His presence in the frontcourt is going to help New Orleans going forward, as they aim to play better than .500 basketball for the rest of the season.

As for Austin Rivers, who played one season at Duke before turning pro, he hasn’t made as much of an impact as Davis, but the potential is certainly there. Rivers has the right mentality for the NBA, a confident swagger that should serve him well.

However, Rivers is shooting just 29.0 percent from the floor and is averaging 2.3 turnovers per game so far. A rolled ankle hasn’t helped matters, but the shooting guard returned to the lineup against the Charlotte Bobcats this past Friday and then played 36 minutes in the loss to the Houston Rockets.

On the season, Rivers is averaging 6.3 points, 3.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds. Not the greatest numbers, but the playmaker has shown flashes and that’s got to make New Orleans at least a little excited.

Now, that doesn’t mean you need to go out right now and take the Hornets with all of your NBA picks, but this is definitely a team worth tracking this season. They have plenty of talent in place already and should only improve from here.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Hitting His Stride

 The season is young, but the Charlotte Bobcats have to be patting themselves on the back with regards to the selection of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He’s certainly impressing early on. 

Kidd-Gilchrist, a 6’7” forward who was a key piece of Kentucky’s national championship team last year, was the number two selection in the draft, and so far so good for MKG and the Bobcats, who are trying desperately to forget about last year’s historically bad results.

The rookie had already put up double figures in two games, losses to the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Hornets, before exploding on to the scene in Charlotte’s recent win over the Dallas Mavericks.

In the Bobcats’ first ever win over the Mavericks, MKG went off, hitting 8-of-12 shots for 25 points and adding 12 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He connected on nine of ten from the charity stripe, as if his night could get any better.

It was the type of performance that should give the young slasher heaps of confidence in his first season in the world’s most competitive league. Dropping 25 points on the Mavericks, a well-coached team with plenty of experienced players, is no small task, and we shouldn’t be surprised if MKG only gets better from here on out.

Knowing you can compete with the best is a critical step in development as an NBA player and it appears Kidd-Gilchrist has figured that out. He’ll continue to log heavy minutes for the Bobcats going forward, but how he affects Charlotte’s ability to win games is yet to be determined.

Already the Bobcats look improved, winning two of their first five games against strong competition (Dallas and Indiana), so the future is looking bright. And, Kidd-Gilchrist is at the heart of it all.

Knicks Continue Strong Start To Season

A lot of people are surprised to see the New York Knicks still undefeated at 4-0. How long will this streak last, and are the Knicks for real?

New York was hit with the news that Amare Stoudemire would miss at least the first six weeks of the season, but it doesn’t seem to have made a difference.

His injury has allowed Carmelo Anthony to shift over to power forward, and Anthony has taken advantage and played some of the best basketball of his career. New York is reaping the benefits majorly.

The leading scorer in all of the Knicks’ wins, Anthony has scored at least 21 points in each victory and is blending in nicely with new teammates like Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd.

Not only is New York unbeaten, but all of the wins have been by double digits. The Knicks beat the Miami Heat by 20 points to open their season, with Anthony posting 30 points and Felton dishing out nine assists.

Two days later the Knicks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 100-84 and Anthony again took over, recording a game-high 27 points.

In the second part of back-to-back home and home series, New York beat Philadelphia again, getting the 110-88 win. The Knicks shot 46.4 percent from the field and had 13 threes and the Knicks also got 43 points from their bench.

Their latest win was a 104-94 success over the Dallas Mavericks at home this past Friday. Anthony was 10-of-22 from the field and finished with 31 points, while Ronnie Brewer, Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith finished in double figures too.

The big question: how long will this undefeated run last, and will the Knicks continue to dominate their opponents? Well, New York should be able to top the Orlando Magic in their next game, but then they play both the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies on the road. Their spotless record is therefore in big-time jeopardy later this week.

Hornets Continued To Be Patient With Davis

The New Orleans Hornets are still waiting patiently for the return of Anthony Davis after he suffered a concussion in the second game of the season.

Davis had gotten off to a rocking start in his rookie year, posting 21 points and seven boards, while nailing all nine of his free throw attempts, in 29 minutes during a four-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Putting up such a line against the likes of Tim Duncan is nothing to sneeze at.

A couple days later, Davis was well on his way to another dominant stat-line. He had eight points, six rebounds and two blocks in only 14 minutes of play, before getting his concussion. The Hornets were still able to hang on for the 88-86 win over the Utah Jazz.

Still, they want their big man back as soon as possible.

This is a player that was taken with the first overall pick in the draft after just one year in college. He averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks for Kentucky during their championship run and was the clear-cut selection with the first pick.

Davis then went to the London Olympics with the USA team, which surely gave him some invaluable experience leading into his first full season in the NBA. He learned from the greatest players in the game like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, so he must have absorbed quite a bit.

After getting selected, Davis knew he would immediately become a starter in the frontcourt for the Hornets. Once back and healthy, he should only continue to get a more well-rounded game, and if he improves his strength he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

If Davis can become a truly dominant player, the Hornets will transform into a consistent winner. Only time will tell.

Knicks Poised For A Strong Season

The New York Knicks knew what they were getting when they signed Jason Kidd in free agency. Has he lived up to the billing?

You can see why Mark Cuban was so upset with Kidd’s decision to leave Dallas. The veteran of 18 years still has plenty of good basketball left in him, and he’s shown that through the early part of the season for the Knicks.

In limited minutes, Kidd has averaged 9.0 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.7 RPG and 2.0 SPG, while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from three. He hasn’t played more than 25 minutes in any of his three appearances so far this season, but that’s mainly because he hasn’t had to.

Why? Well, the Knicks are killing teams left and right and have jumped out to a 3-0 start. They’ve been the most impressive team so far this season and Kidd’s experienced has certainly helped the cause.

With career averages of 13.0 points, 9.0 assists and 6.4 rebounds, we know what kind of career Kidd has had. He’s a lock for the Hall of Fame and will go down as one of the best point guards to ever play the game.

New York is still hoping he has much more to give though as they take a crack at a legitimate title contention this season. Kidd has started in the backcourt alongside another new face in Raymond Felton, and the partnership seems to be working well.

There aren’t many people who read the game better than Kidd out on the perimeter, and his passing ability is still second to none. He’s got a prolific scorer in Carmelo Anthony to find whenever possible, which definitely takes a lot of the pressure off offensively.

With the addition of Kidd and the monster play of Anthony, the Knicks will be a viable team to becom the Beasts of the East this season.

Lillard Quick To Silence His Critics

What kind of player was Damian Lillard going to be in the NBA? Was he worth a high first round pick? These are the questions the Portland Trail Blazers had to contend with when they were making their picks, and it looks like they made the right choice.

 It’s only been four games, but Lillard is already averaging 19.3 PPG, 8.0 APG and 3.8 RPG.

 To open the season, the rookie poured in 23 points on 7-of-17 shooting, then chipped in with 11 assists and three rebounds in a 116-106 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Two days later he went for 21 points, seven dimes and three boards in a loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 He had his most complete game this past weekend, dropping 20 points, nine assists and six rebounds in 42 minutes during a 95-85 triumph on the road against the Houston Rockets.

Lillard has his worst game as a pro this past Monday though, as he only shot 2-of-13 from the floor and finished with only 13 points in 33 minutes. His Trail Blazers lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the process.

Nonetheless, the point guard out of Weber State has proved to be a wise choice with that first round pick. He’s got practically no competition for minutes at the point, meaning Lillard will get to learn on the job. He should only get better and better from here on out as the game begins to slow down for him.

Under his guidance, the Trail Blazers have gone 2-2, with wins over strong teams. They should continue to make people watch Portland this season as the public isn’t in love with Portland by any stretch of the imagination.

Keep your eye out on Lillard. He’s certainly going to be challenging Anthony Davis for Rookie of the Year honors.

Anthony Davis Update

Anthony Davis is dealing with concussion-like symptoms and has not played since last Friday. Below is an update on his status.

Davis, the number one overall draft pick this summer, got off to a terrific start to his rookie season. He had 21 points and seven rebounds, while connecting on all nine of his free throws, against the San Antonio Spurs in the season opener.

Two days later, he suffered a concussion against Utah, lasting only 14 minutes. He had eight points, six boards, two blocks and a steal in 14 minutes before having to leave.

Davis sat out Saturday’s game against the Chicago Bulls and is unlikely to play Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers too. He’s continuing to be evaluated and first must pass the newly implemented concussion tests if he wants to return to the court.

The Hornets would love to see their big man back, but surely they’re not going to rush Davis. A valuable asset who should be the cornerstone of this franchise for years to come, the organization is going to make sure he’s fully healthy before allowing him to play again.

New Orleans has actually been doing well without their number one pick, having beaten the Utah Jazz 88-86 and then overcoming the Chicago Bulls 89-82 in the Windy City. Two impressive wins right there, especially with Davis not out there helping his teammates.

Ryan Anderson has been great as a fill-in, while Robin Lopez has become a bigger part of the offense too while Davis remains sidelined. Once the 19-year old returns, things should only get better for Monty Williams and the Hornets.

If you’ve been cheering for New Orleans  in the early part of the season, chances are you’ve been happy with your choice. The Hornets have pulled off two impressive wins in a row and that was without their most talented player on the floor.

The sky’s the limit here.

Nasty News For Nash

When Steve Nash first went down with injury, it was thought that he would only be out for a weke or so. It turns out that the problem may be a lot worse than initially feared, which could mean a much longer time on the sidelines for the guard.

Nash hurt himself in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers and has been out since. It’s looking like he could miss at least four weeks, obviously a horrible blow for the Lakers in the early part of the season.

Though Los Angeles will be happy not to have do deal with this problem in a more important part of the season, they were still hoping they could build up some chemistry between Nash, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. The three have barely played with one another and it’s crucial that they continue to get time together in order to build that trust.

This injury puts a wrench into all of those plans. The Lakers will now turn to Steve Blake to run the point guard duties while Nash it out, while Darius Moore could also get some playing time.

The Lakers looked just fine without Nash in their first win of the season on Sunday, as they demolished the Detroit Pistons at home. Howard and Bryant dominated proceedings and it was good to see that they could cope just fine without their floor general on the court.

Still, L.A. wants Nash back as soon as possible as they try to make a run for the title this season. The early buzz seemed to have the Lakers as serious championship contenders, and injuries simply can’t happen if that’s to become a realistic outcome.

Once Nash gets back, we’ll finally get to see what this team is capable of when everyone is healthy and forming an understanding with one another.

Knicks vs. Nets Preview

Despite Hurricane Sandy’s best efforts, the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets will still be playing each other on Wednesday.

The Knicks will take the very short trip to Brooklyn to begin their regular season, and there are most definitely a number of pressing questions about the roster.

News just broke that Amare Stoudemire will miss at least six weeks and could be out for as long as two months, meaning it’s likely we’ll see Carmelo Anthony play a heck of a lot of power forward to begin the season. It may not be his natural position, but Anthony is such a good scorer that he can be effective at any spot on the floor.

Still, Stoudemire’s injury is a blow, as that means more minutes for veterans like Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, both of whom are well past their primes and offer little other than experience and defensive presence.

To fill the void offensively, the Knicks will need to get even more out of Anthony, while J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton will need to score at a decent clip as well.

It will be interesting to see how New York fares in their opener, considering the Nets have made some big changes to their roster as well. It’s going to be tough for the Knicks to contain both Deron Williams and Joe Johnson out on the perimeter.

Nonetheless, we’ve come to learn that whenever you count out New York, they come out and really surprise people. The Knicks could easily get the win tonight, but it will come down to Felton’s execution of the offense, as well as Anthony and Tyson Chandler’s presence in the post. New York could dominate the inside since Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez are far from good defenders.

Only hours remain until we see if the Knicks can start off the season in the right fashion.