— You ask, we (try to) answer.
A. To a degree, yes, I'm surprised, but not because of what they have done at the start of this season, but more because of how it ended last season.
Foremost, amid the first-round playoff series against the Heat, it almost seemed as if coach Doug Collins had achieved what he most desired, to prove he could resurrect a franchise, that he still had it and had never lost it. It almost came as a surprise when he said after his team's season-ending loss that, of course, he was coming back.
Then, during that same series-closing media session, Andre Iguodala would not commit to a future with the 76ers, sounding as if he wanted to be elsewhere amid the call for more playing time for 2010 No. 2 overall selection Evan Turner.
Beyond that, there was concern that someone might actually bomb the 76ers with an offer sheet for Thaddeus Young that the 76ers might not feel prudent to match, even with Young a restricted free agent.
And, of course, amid the lockout, there was a change of ownership, with Ed Stefanski leaving the front office.
Then, when the lockout ended, there was talk of the 76ers using the amnesty clause on power forward Elton Brand, amid concerns of diminishing returns.
Through it all Collins and Rod Thorn held it together, and perhaps that should not come as a surprise. The two are, and for years have been, among the best in the business at what they do.
An early season breakout by Spencer Hawes hasn't hurt, either. Remember, the Heat won that first-round series last season in part because of the defensive dominance of Joel Anthony in the middle.
Now it is not out of the question to consider Philadelphia a legitimate contender to win the Atlantic Division, if only because of the Celtics' lack of urgency regarding a high seed and the continued rotation confusion in New York.
Collins' commitment to Young and Lou Williams continues to give the 76ers the ability to constantly energize games at times when opponents simply are looking to buy time.
Yes, they're for real. And, yes, they could emerge as a top-four seed in the East, able to avoid the type of first-round trap they found last season.
A. In many ways it's viewed the same way as teams that attempt to play up-tempo on offense, that it is a gimmick that cannot endure through an entire season and the playoffs.
Yet I spoke to a head coach, who also has an aversion to his team utilizing a zone, and he admitted it can give his team fits, and almost always does when sprung.
I think the zone has its merits, just like trapping and other specialty defenses. But teams that settle into zone invariably allow opponents to settle into a rhythm, particularly teams with shooting specialists.
Among the reasons you are seeing more zone this season is teams, especially those with reshuffled rosters, did not have the required time during training camp to install all of their man-to-man concepts. And with such limited practice time, there has not been much time to play catch-up.
Just like the running game has not shown enduring success since the Lakers' Showtime era, so has a team yet to consistently win with a zone.
And remember, it's not as if a coach can simply adopt Jim Boeheim's Syracuse zone, in light of the NBA's defensive 3-second limit on a defender remaining in the lane without actively guarding another player.
If the NBA eliminated that prohibition — which it would never do, lest teams go out and essentially hire Manute Bol-like goaltenders — then zone as a primary defensive approach might have a chance in the NBA.
For now, it is nothing more than an increasingly popular flavor of the moment in the wake of the lockout.
A. No, and for the same reason that NBA players such as Jason Kapono or James Jones have had trouble getting steady minutes.
There is so much more to the NBA game than just shooting, with precious few pure shooters receiving rotation minutes these days. Until the NBA goes to full-time, no-limitation zones, I don't think one-dimensional shooters will be able to find minutes.
In the NBA, it's rebound and defend or perish.
A. If you're inquiring about his health, he should be fine after his recent heart procedure.
If you're asking about his long-term NBA future, he's an unrestricted free agent right now, with the Celtics monitoring his health, but with no financial commitment.
In the wake of last season's Kendrick Perkins trade, the goal clearly was to have him re-sign in Boston. Now I think the Celtics wait to see how this season plays out with this roster before making any type of sizeable financial commitment.
For Green, it's all about his health, at the moment.
A. And you know this how (regarding Mr. Bubbles)?
But, yes, they do get pampered on the road, but that still doesn't mean there aren't 4 a.m. arrivals in cities and games later that night.
Beyond the injuries, the lockout-compressed schedule has had a dramatic impact on the quality of play. If anything, the season should serve as a guide post of how many games are acceptable per week.
To a degree, it will make it interesting to see if the teams off to hot starts will be able to sustain, or whether the veteran teams pacing themselves ultimately will have the edge come the playoffs.
After the 1998 lockout, the Knicks went from the No. 8 seed in the East to the NBA finals. I could see that happening again.
A. No, it would be like regular waivers, where teams would have to claim a player at his full 2011-12 salary or he would become a free agent. There would be no partial-contract bidding process (which I actually think would be a good idea to prevent players from guaranteeing themselves going from buyouts to contenders).
The player to keep an eye on this season is Steve Nash. If the Suns are out of playoff contention by the March 15 trade deadline, it could get pretty interesting for teams needing boosts at point guard.