By Matt Moore
In this week's edition of the Friday 5, Ken keeps sticking up for the Celtics, we talk about whether the Nets are a disaster, and early surprises. You can follow Ken Berger on Twitter @KBergCBS.
1. You threw the Celtics a life line on Tuesday, saying how their comeback effort against the Heat meant they're not dead yet. Then they turned around and flopped in New Orleans like a corpse. No, I'm sorry, that's too far. A corpse would at least give resistance by being dead weight. How bad is this going to get for the Celtics to be in some real trouble?
Ken Berger: You can't fully evaluate the Celtics until they get Paul Pierce back. Even then, it's going to be a bit of a horror show at times for Boston, with old bodies stressed by the schedule and not enough depth to cover it up. In a shortened season, three- and four-game losing streaks certainly are magnified. But as long as Boston's core remains healthy and gets them through the season, they'll be there at the end.
2. We're two weeks out of training camp and a week into the season. How much leftover anger from the lockout are you hearing from players and agents?
KB: Haven't heard much. I think everyone (including myself) needed to shift gears from lockout mode to basketball mode. I do think at some point there will be a power struggle for leadership of the NBPA, as the agents who wanted Billy Hunter out have not changed their minds.
3. The Nets are off to a pretty horrific start. Is there a point where this becomes a concern for Dwight Howard as he evaluates suitors, and does this only strengthen the likelihood of him ending up in L.A. as you forecasted?
KB: Well, yes and no. It's faulty logic to look at the Nets and shake your head in disbelief that Dwight would want to play for THAT team. That's not the team Dwight would be playing for; he'd be playing for a Nets team with HIM on it. Big difference. The most interesting aspect of the Dwight saga won't be where he does and doesn't want to play, but where the Magic are and aren't willing to trade him. If Otis Smith and Alex Martins decide they want Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the likelihood that Dwight's a Laker goes through the roof. If that can't or won't happen, can the Nets flip some of their assets for win-now players Orlando would want, i.e., Luis Scola and Kevin Martin from the Rockets, or something similar? Fascinating chess match that Orlando will be playing.
4. The Knicks do not look good right now after being dominated by an L.A. team playing Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy significant minutes. Rank their concerns in order: Injuries (Davis, Jeffries), Mike D'Antoni, overall roster.
KB: I'd say injuries and schedule are the Knicks' biggest problems, and I'd include Iman Shumpert among the injured players they miss the most. Not that Shumpert was necessarily ready, but losing him means Mike Bibby must fill a bigger role off the bench, and this is not good. Tyson Chandler needs to tone it down a notch; with three techs in three games, he's making Knicks fans yearn for Rasheed Wallace to come out of retirement and sign for the mini mid-level. Heading out West to start the season isn't ideal after a long lockout and short training camp, so I'll re-evaluate the Knicks after they play a couple of home games this week and get comfortable on the East Coast. I do like the offense running through Melo and would like to see more Melo-Amar'e pick-and-rolls. Like a lot of contending teams (Dallas, Lakers, Celtics), the Knicks are having to incorporate new players and tweak their schemes with little or no practice time. So it's too early to panic and point the finger at D'Antoni.
5. Two parter. What's the team that's impressed you the most and team that's disappointed you the most so far, early in this season?
KB: Even though I picked them to go to the Finals, I'd have to say the Thunder (4-0) are playing even better than I thought they would. It's a little early for disappointment, but I'd classify it as disappointing to see the Nets lose Brook Lopez and face a long, ugly road to the March 15 trade deadline without their key asset in a potential Dwight Howard trade.