Gordon Ramsay has made a living out of cooking exquisite food and calling people dirty names. Much like a head coach, he is well reserved and polite off the court (out of the kitchen), but in the heat of battle, all bets are off. In Ramsay’s show, Kitchen Nightmares, he often revisits restaurants he tried to save a few months earlier to see if they were able to stay afloat or went back to their old ways. In hopes of saving their playoff chances, several teams also had some pretty extreme makeovers during the off season. Superstars returned home, young studs found new homes and others made adjustments to their game. With the summer gone and the first week of the season behind us, it’s time to see if these changes will pay off for teams, or if we’re in for more of the same shenanigans.
The Cavs look nothing like the team fans saw limp into the offseason. With LeBron at the helm and Kevin Love over from Minnesota to team up with Kyrie Irving, Cleveland is looking like the cream of the crop in the East, especially coming off an impressive overtime win on the road in Chicago. To add to the new star power is a solid cast of supporting characters and a brand new head coach in David Blatt after Mike Brown 2: Return of the Brown proved to be a major flop.
Following in the footsteps of LeBron, many of Miami’s veterans flocked to Cleveland for the chance to win a championship. With no players on its roster with a ring last year, Cleveland now has four different players with at least one championship ring, including Shawn Marion and Mike Miller. Even with a 1-2 record, Cleveland has shown flashes of brilliance and an abundance of fire power. Role players have stepped up too, as Tristan Thompson came up with 12 offensive rebounds in the Chicago game alone. Once the Cavaliers find consistent chemistry, the sky is their limit.
The Mavs were close last year, but much like my mom’s tilapia recipe, something was missing. Unlike my mom and our new “state of the art” oven, the Mavs went out and got the missing ingredient. With 49 wins and a near playoff upset, the Mavs weren’t far off pace, they just needed another weapon to compete with the elite in the brutal Western conference, so they snagged Chandler Parsons. Parsons is long, can stroke it from the outside and jumps like he’s got an endorsement with moon shoes. To go along with Parsons, the Mavs picked up two players from the 2012 championship team in feisty guard J.J. Barea and defensive enforcer and leader Tyson Chandler: two solid veteran players who have already played under Coach Rick Carlisle. Throw in a savvy player like Jameer Nelson who came over from Orlando, and this team is ready to compete and be one of the elite teams in the West. The changes have been evident early. Since losing opening night to San Antonio, the Mavs have won three in a row and scored 100 or more in every game this season. Four players are scoring in double digits and three of those (Parsons, Monta Ellis, Dirk Nowitzki) are going for more than 15 points a night. Nowitzki’s and Ellis’ new friends are going to have them making a lot of noise come playoff time.
Los Angeles Lakers:
Despite having their head chef in Kobe Bryant back in action, the Lakers look about as appetizing as a microwaved hot pocket. To its credit, Los Angeles (0-5) went out and tried retool and put pieces around Bryant after Pau Gasol left for Chicago. But it’s hard to see what direction the Lakers are trying to steer the team by picking up Carlos Boozer, a man who makes a habit out of coming up small, and Jeremy Lin, who although can get hot in a hurry, struggles on defense.
LA has given up over 100 points in every game this season, including 127 in regulation in a 23-point loss to Golden State. With first round pick Julius Randle already out for the season with a broken leg, Bryant’s return is the only enticing storyline to watch on this team. With Kobe at age 36 and no superstar waiting in the shadows for when he decides to call a quits (despite maybe Randle when he gets healthy), the Lakers are as lost as ever.
The Final Taste:
It’s still too early in the season to know anything for sure, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot fun figuring these teams out, and they’re hardly the only ones that have made significant changes. There’s still chemistry to be made and feeling out to be done, but the legwork is finished. Like a bad pizza joint bleeding money every day, it’s hard to make changes once the season has started. Time to see if these teams can get their act together and please their hungry fans.
Follow David on Twitter @Dshug24 and listen to him on “The Friday Morning Blitz” Fridays from 10-11am