NBA's Slow Starters
Chicago Bulls starters
(All statistics through Dec. 4.)<br><br>Chicago's disappointing start has truly been a team effort. The main starting unit of Ben Wallace, Tyrus Thomas, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich has been dismal offensively, ranking last in the league in scoring and field goal percentage. Hinrich (35.2 percent) and Gordon (39.0) have been hoisting bricks, and Deng (46.0) has not been nearly as sharp as he was a year ago. Meanwhile, Big Ben has seldom chimed in with his usual defensive havoc.
The 7-2 center promised to carry his team in the absence of the injured Dwyane Wade early in the season, but he didn't deliver. Shaq has had some big games here and there, and he's still averaging a respectable 15.4 points and 7.5 rebounds, but he has not been the consistent force fans have come to expect over his 15 NBA seasons. At 35, he just isn't that kind of player any longer.
The Nets were hoping this 6-11 Serbian center had recovered enough from last year's ACL surgery to get them over the hump this season. Unfortunately for Jason Kidd & Co., it appears Krstic still has a long way to go. Over his first 12 games, he averaged just 4.9 points and 3.3 boards (down from 16.4 and 6.8 a year ago) while shooting 32.9 percent (compared to 52.6 last season). Whether it's because of the knee or a lack of conditioning, Krstic is now out of the rotation until he can get closer to form.
Maybe he was tired from playing for his native Turkey in international competition this past summer. Maybe it's his balky back, which recently forced him to miss a game. Whatever the case, Okur's numbers (12.6 points on 40.9 percent shooting, 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists) are well off last year's All-Star campaign.
The five-time All-Star has battled injuries much of the season, starting with a sore knee in training camp that limited his effectiveness early. He then suffered a shoulder injury in late November. As a result, O'Neal is averaging a modest 13.7 points (on 38.9 percent shooting) to go with 8.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, well below his usual numbers. The positive news is that he has looked much better of late, including a 30-point, 11-rebound effort in a recent loss to the Suns.
The Mavs made it a priority in the offseason to re-sign their Sixth Man Award candidate, who single-handedly outscored the opponents' bench 27 times over the past two seasons (including nine times in the playoffs). But so far Stack has not been able to stack up, especially from the three-point line. He has hit just 22.9 percent from downtown, well off last year's career-high 38.3 mark. Meanwhile, Jason Terry had supplanted him as the Mavs' main man off the pine.
Like Stackhouse, this key reserve from a top Texas team has been slow to find his shooting touch. Finley is averaging roughly the same number of points (7.8) as he did a year ago, but he he's shooting just 32.9 percent compared to 41.2 percent last season. The Spurs can only hope the 34-year-old Finley hasn't lost his legs after 12 seasons.
He's no longer requesting a trade from Memphis, but he might get one anyway if he doesn't pick it up. The 7-foot Spanish forward, an All-Star in 2006, is averaging career lows in scoring (16.6), rebounds (7.2) and blocks (1.4). Gasol is still getting adjusted to new coach Marc Iavaroni's system and will probably get back to form in due time. Last year he also started slowly after coming back from a foot injury and wound up with the best numbers of his career.
The veteran shooting guard isn't playing poorly. He's just not scoring at his usual high rate, failing to reach 20 points in 12 of his first games while averaging 16.5 points, the lowest since his rookie season in 1999-2000. Hamilton has been hampered by a series of minor ailments all season, so it's likely he will pick up his scoring.
The 6-9 forward was slowed in training camp as he returned from shoulder surgery, and he also sustained a concussion and a finger injury. But even since returning to full health, Odom (13.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists) has looked tentative. He has had some huge games -- such as a 19-point, 17-rebound effort in a loss to the Magic -- but also some duds. The Lakers need more consistent play from Kobe Bryant's top running mate if they're going to hang tough in the West.
It was supposed to be a bounce-back year for the 6-5 veteran swingman, who had a forgettable '06-07 campaign under then Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy. Instead, Wells has looked pretty much like the same player for new coach Rick Adelman. His stats (7.2 points, 1.4 assists in 21.6 minutes) are nearly identical, and he's shooting only 35.1 percent. Wells is in a contract year, so he'll need to pick it up if he wants to cash in this summer.
The 6-7 shooting guard, sent from Boston to Seattle in the Ray Allen trade, is off to a slow start mainly because he's not playing as much. The Sonics are in full rebuilding mode, so new coach P.J. Carlesimo has been using rookies Kevin Durant and the more athletic Damien Wilkins at the wing spots. As a result, Szczerbiak is averaging 10.6 points, a career-low mark for the nine-year veteran.<br><br>Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.