Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The surprising but exciting NBA East

The surprising but exciting NBA East
by rick olivares

Nine to 10 matches in, the Eastern Conference of the NBA has been surprising. The Cleveland Cavaliers who people thought would steamroll over the entire league are sputtering. The Washington Wizards of who great things are expected now have also been somewhat off.

Let’s take a look at three teams – the Boston Celtics, the Detroit Pistons, and the Orlando Magic who all currently lead their respective divisions -- the Atlantic, Central, and Southeast.

I’d like to think this is the start of an Eastern Conference revival where more than two squads can compete with the West. It’s early but there’s plenty to smile about.

Boston (7-2)
The Boston Celtics pace the Atlantic Division with a 7-2 record are surprising given the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward. They lost their first two matches of the campaign then have bounced back with seven straight wins including some impressive road triumphs over Milwaukee, San Antonio, and Oklahoma.

If you ask me, those wins, and the streak, are a statement from this team that had all sorts of question marks before season’s tip-off. If this isn’t a bounce back, then I do not know what is.

What makes that win over Oklahoma impressive is they struggled in the first half and looked like their streak would end. But Al Horford and Kyrie Irving took over in the second half.

I don’t even think this team has hit its stride. They are winning because of their grind-it-out defensive and willingness to scrap. Thus far, they are tops in defense. I haven’t seen the stats but they sure hustle for their points.

Boston is 23rd right now on offense. Wait until they really get going then let’s see where they go. But then again, defense wins championships.

Aside from the surprising talent on its roster, it helps that the team has plenty of motivation. There’s Kyrie Irving who wants to show what he can do when not playing alongside the world’s best player, the leftovers after general manager Danny Ainge “tinkered” with his team, and the injury to Hayward.

It’s still too early to tell how and where the Celtics will end up as it is a long season but they have the right ingredients to make a deep play-off run.

Irving and Horford could be this team’s Stockton-to-Malone. What a two-man game they play when they are on.

And look at this flexible line-up. If Kiwi center Aron Baynes goes to the bench, head coach Brad Stevens slides Horford to the five-spot with Marcus Morris going to the four. That’s a lot of mobility right there. And wait until Morris gets into more game shape.

As for Baynes, you have to like his aggressiveness. He gets dunked on but it doesn’t faze him one bit. He goes right back at his opponent with a dunk of his own or even a big outside shot.

Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier will make a case for Sixth Man of the Year.

Detroit (7-3)
They have the second best record in the East behind Boston. And yet, players like Reggie Jackson and center Andre Drummond have been the subject of trade rumors this early.

The Detroit front office has squelched the whispers but when do they really admit to them? At this point, I am not sure if trading Jackson or even Drummond would be in this team’s best interest. They are off to a good start. Ugly wins but that’s Detroit ball if you will.

Their acquisition of Avery Bradley (from Boston for Marcus Morris) made this team better because they added an outside threat. Bradley gives this team some scoring sock as they struggled to put points on the board last season.

Some believe the start to be a fluke especially after they lost at home to the Philadelphia 76ers (er, that is a good team so I do not know why people are upset) and to the Los Angeles Lakers (that is still groping for form). Hey, the season is young. The pre-season is different from the actual season.

However, you have to look at the bright side – they defeated in succession Minnesota at home then the erstwhile undefeated LA Clippers and Golden State on the road! They have potential. You just have to be patient.

Orlando (6-3)
You couldn’t have pulled this out of a magician’s hat. The young Orlando Magic have been an exciting ball club to watch. While not exactly the Golden State Warriors in offensive proficiency, they have been blistering hot from the field while playing efficient ball.

They have shot well so far behind Aaron Gordon, DJ Augustin, and Nikola Vucevic. Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons, Marreese Speights, and Jonathan Isaac have also done well. How about Gordon and Vucevic bombing away from the frontcourt!

People are waiting for the Magic to crash because they have been too good to be true (so say the naysayers). But you cannot discount the wins over Cleveland, San Antonio, New Orleans, and Memphis.

Thus far, this Orlando team reminds me of Mike D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns (sans the stars).

It has been a crazy NBA season so far. But I like.

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