28 days later

November 12, 2018

IT’S hard to believe that we’re already a month into the 2018-19 NBA season.

Nothing is really shocking us yet, even though most of the teams have already played at least 10 games already

Sure, there have been a  few pleasant and not-so pleasant surprises.

Some teams, like the defending champion Golden State Warriors (11-2)  in the West  and Toronto Raptors (12-1)  in the East, have really  performed well right out of the starting gate.

Still other teams, like the Los Angeles Lakers (7-6) and Boston Celtics (7-6), have done enough to stay in the headlines.

Here  are five takeaways  after the   first  month of  the  NBA season.

1. NBA champion Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors remain good -- very good.

The Warriors are again almost unstoppable with their star-studded lineup that includes two-time MVP Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

In fact, Curry is on pace for another record-breaking scoring season with a league-best average of 29.5 points and 5.2 three-pointers through 12 games.

Completing the Warriors’ Deadly Trio’ are Durant and Thompson, who average 26.9 ppg and 21.0 ppg, respectively

Despite trading the franchise’s leading scorer DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard and firing Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, the Raptors have not lost a step in the race for the East’s best record at 9-1.

2. With the King around, the Lakers are slowly but surely getting back to championship form.

Through 13 games, the Lakers are 7-6 with two big victories against two of the West’s top teams, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers, and one really bad loss to the Toronto Raptors.

But LA’s early schedule is loaded with games against teams expected to make the playoffs, including two each against Portland and the San Antonio Spurs.

The Lakers have also lost by four points or fewer in three of their six losses, including one in overtime against the Spurs last Oct. 23.

James (26.4 ppg,7.8 rpg, 7.1 apg) remains a trile  double threat every time and he is working his way beautifully  with the Lakers’  young  but deadly core of Kyle Kuzma (18.5 ppg), Brandon Ingram (15.0 ppg),Josh Hart (11.8 ppg) and Lonzo Ball (8.5 ppg, 4.8 rph, 4.9 apg).

They may really be one All-Star away from challenging in the West, but there clearly have marked improvements in both offense and defense this season  with JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and  Tyson Chandler in the mix.

3. The return of Kyrie Irving (21.0 ppg, 6.5 apg) and Gordon Hayward  (9.9 ppg) makes the Boston Celtics an even more dangerous team now.

Last year, the Celtics clearly over-achieved and reached the East final against James and the Cavs even with their two superstars on the injury list.

The emergence of young superstars in Jayson Tatum (16.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg), Jaylen Brown (11.3 ppg)  and Terry Rozier (8.8 ppg), the veteran presence of Marcus Morris (14.8 ppg) and Al Horford (11.8 ppg)  and the proven winning system of Coach Brad Steven are credited for this rise of the Celtics.

But that’s only If they can stay healthy for the entire 82-game grind and the playoffs.

4.The Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers can now  challenge in the East with James going West.

This early, NBA fans have been treated with outstanding individual performances by Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia).and VIctor Oladipo (Indiana)

Antetokounmpo, the “Greek Freak”,  already had two triple doubles in the Bucks’ smashing 10-3 start.

Embiid is  undoubtedly now one of the league’s top performers with 27.7 ppg (3rd in the league) and 13.1 rpg (7th).

Oladipo, the 6-4 guard  leads the way for Indiana with 23.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg and 4.9 apg.

5. The West is still the wild, wild  West of old.

The Portland Trailablazers, Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs remain among the elite teams in the conference.

The Blazers continue to do well with Damian Lilard (26.0 ppg, 5.8 apg), CJ McCollum ( 20.4 ppg), and Jusuf Nurkic (15.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg).

Equaly impressive are the Nuggets and Jamal Murray (18.0 ppg), Nicola Jokic (17.8ppg) and Gary Harris (17.1 ppg).

Even with disgruntled Kawhi Leonard packing his bags, the Spurs are also doing pretty well with All-Star DeMar DeRozan with 25.2 points, 6.8 rpg and 6.5 assists in the Spurs’ 7-4 record.

It’s still too early to tell,  but Week 5 of the season is good enough to give us a sneak peek on how all 30 teams would perform in the months leading to June.

NOTES-- Belated happy birthday to my brothers Joseph (Nov. 6) and Albert (Nov. 8). Joseph, who is now based in Orange County, Ca., USA  is an avid  LBJ fan and obviously now rooting for the LA Lakers. Albert, on the other hand, is a long-time Boston Celtics fanatic ever since Larry Bird’s days.