As the 2013-2014 NBA rounds out its fist month, it has been feast or famine (but mostly famine) for teams in the Eastern Conference. As of last Saturday, the Pacers lead the entire Association with a sterling 15-1 record. The Heat have coasted to a 13-3 record; the two time reigning champions are still the team to beat in the East until Indiana proves otherwise. After Indiana and Miami, though, there is a steep decrease in quality in the Eastern Conference. The Atlanta Hawks at 9-8 are the last of the three winning teams in the East. Yes, you read that right. There are only three winning teams in the entire conference, and Atlanta is one loss away from making that two teams. For almost all these teams, anything that could go wrong has gone wrong.
The Chicago Bulls might have had the worst beginning of any team in the East. Yes, they have a 7-7 record, which is great compared to the teams currently residing in the bottom of the conference. However, Derrick Rose’s season-ending injury represents a loss of hope, which is much worse than any single game loss. The return of Rose was hyped for so long, ever since his questionable decision to sit in the playoffs even though he was medically cleared to play. He was supposed to push them over the hump, helping the Bulls compete against powerhouses like Indiana and Miami. Instead, the Bulls are back to what they were last year: a decent team with heart. However, you also need a superstar or two to succeed in the NBA.
The other major disappointments in the East have been the New York teams: the Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets. They have a combined record of 7-24. At least the Bulls have a legitimate excuse if they start to perform poorly. Sure, the Nets (Deron Williams and Brook Lopez) and the Knicks (Tyson Chandler) have had injuries, but neither team has lost a game-changing superstar like Rose. The injuries should definitely affect their success, but not to the point where both teams will improve from atrocious to mediocre.
It is tough to tell which of these two teams has done worse. There are not many positives to take away from the beginning of these team’s seasons. Brookyn head coach Jason Kidd’s infamous “cupgate” has stolen some attention away from the Nets’ poor performance. The only other “positive” is that both teams have been splitting the back pages, so neither team has had to face the full wrath of the New York media. If both teams get healthy and perform to expectation, I think they will have higher ceilings than Chicago. However, in a season where almost nothing in the East has gone according to expectations, I wouldn’t exactly bet on it.
Mark your calendars for December 5. Tomorrow night, the Nets and Knicks meet up for the first time this season. One of these inept teams has to win then. Right? Well, don’t be surprised if we see the first tie in NBA history.