Happy Memorial Day! Great to see you! So, now that you’re here, it’s time to attack: Do you ever think about instigators, or why a lot of people die unnecessarily? Did you see the BARRY finale? What do you fear the most, and why is it the mirror? Anyway, haha, *high five*, let’s honor some of what we thought were the dead, but they’re still living.
Jimmy Butler has fulfilled his mission and obligation as The Man for the Miami Heat. Via the way the game is played today, et cetera, he found himself at the foul line with three seconds to go, the exact three seconds and three shots he needed to close out the Boston Celtics and end any speculation that the best-positioned team in NBA history to recover from down 3-0 would do so. He nailed all three, Michelobs surely on the brain.
This past Christmas, I was in Oklahoma with my oldest, not older, brother, taking in several of the NBA games that were on TV. They were there at my request, but several of our fellow patrons got into it; suffice to say, we identified a Kobe Guy. Two days later we would be at Paycom watching a Thunder-Spurs game that you’ve already forgotten; I doubt we ever will.
For what ended up being my family’s ad hoc Christmas celebration three months later, we descended upon South Carolina, my parents once again hosting a St. Patrick’s Day party featuring a lot of people I don’t know that well. One of them, a New Jersey transplant and lapsed Knicks fan, unfortunately found herself in a conversation with me, all but yelling at her about Jalen Brunson.
A tied game becomes a different thing when you know the other team can hit their shots, and then they start hitting them. Against a Finals-proven (and Kevin Durant-aided) team like the Phoenix Suns, it is only so much more demoralizing to watch a ball clink-clank-clunk through the rim than it is to watch a swish, but the shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers experienced both on Tuesday evening.
In one of the more entertaining series of a wildly entertaining first round, the Clippers, already without Paul George, took it to the Suns in the two games featuring Kawhi Leonard, in which he scored over 34 points a game. It began to fall apart when Leonard’s knee reminded him of some pain. That pain, which we all felt with him, meant that the Clippers were in the hands of one man, at least to start.
At some time between revolutionizing his position and casually accumulating scoring nights the likes of which would be almost any other player’s career highlight, Steph Curry re-inverted the basketball court. As singular as he is a shooter, playmaker and scorer, his exploits have influenced the way teams play, even beyond his own Golden State Warriors.
A hallmark of the Warriors dynasty – and, accordingly, a window into NBA team assembly prior to and during Golden State’s run – has been a lack of a dominant center in the traditional sense. Because the Warriors typically shoot more threes than any other type of shot and tend to eschew the midrange and rim, and because they have a nontraditional big man, Draymond Green, act as center in their most important lineups, the notion of a center in the Shaq or Hakeem mold never made sense for the Warriors; many other teams tried to follow the blueprint, to mixed results at best.
If Curry was the endpoint of the NBA’s first three-point revolution, he was also indirectly the catalyst for revitalizing the center position. Even as we are inundated with reminders that the NBA’s position classifications are antiquated and, in cases where contract bonuses are tied to honors and awards, harmful, they nevertheless remain useful as a contextual foundation for what a player could be on offense, a foundation, even if that doesn’t pan out: Luka and Giannis are point guards in the bodies of forwards; Russell Westbrook is essentially a tiny center; Karl-Anthony Towns is a massive, volume-scoring shooting guard.
Through this lens, no single player in today’s NBA represents the return of the center specifically better than two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokic, whose pursuit of a threepeat this season has already taken shape. As his Denver Nuggets press for top playoff seeding in the Western Conference, Jokic, nominally a center, is among the league leaders in assists, something only Wilt Chamberlain has previously done as a center.
Not so fast – To focus on the “sudden” rush to the bottom for Victor Wembanyama and, especially after their recent matchup on national TV, Scoot Henderson is to overlook what lies directly before us this NBA season. In what was bound to be a year of questions surrounding contenders, we’ve returned to another slate full of them.
In any case, we return, steeled to run directly into the fire. Who knows what awaits this caravan? New stats, new players, a continuous flow of publicly-available scandals: it isn’t all here, but we’ll make do. Forget STOCKS, or AST:TO ratio. The new way to identify player efficacy is assists+steals+blocks divided by/turnovers. Get used to it, identify your new Point Gawd, and get ready for tip-off.
He wasn’t the inspiration for the logo – he couldn’t have been, not at that time, nor under those circumstances. That was inevitably going to be the territory of less outspoken, likely fairer-skinned players, the kind who bowed knee to the ownership class and played into media narratives about themselves at a time when the league needed characters.
Even after eleven championships as a player, including two as the first Black head coach of a team in the four major North American men’s sports, Bill Russell was never destined to be what the league wanted the logo to be. By the time of its introduction in 1969, Russ, who passed away Sunday at the age of 88, was already so much more.
Some of this is chatter; some of it is Mike Breen’s idiosyncratic delivery (courtesy of his alma mater, obviously). The Golden State Warriors enter Game 6 of the NBA Finals with a chance to win their fourth title in eight years largely because of the former number one overall pick, a tweener-ish guy left to falter but by the grace of God, Kevin Durant, and Bob Myers.
Over a week later, the question everyone was asking before the playoffs is now one that continues to lurk: what becomes of these Brooklyn Nets? Steve Nash’s team has lit itself aflame once again, but who threw the match? They, of the highly touted scoring tandem, once briefly of a threatening trifecta that no team could think about stopping, could shudder? They could seek fate?
A 116-112 Boston Celtics win on Monday night sent the Nets packing. While they were busy making love with their egos, Ime Udoka was leading his continually resurgent squad to a sweep over a team many once considered to be NBA Finals favorites. It’s worth asking of this iteration of the team: do they seek fate, or does fate become them?
Where did it all go wrong? Now you ask yourself: what restaurant, effects pedal, celebrity-ish person, institution, soda, social platform update, person that you and I somehow both know, beer edition, automation technique, ideology, golf tournament, city that you never knew, or relative am I talking about?
Some people may already know that time as most of us understand it is the result of the work of an Islamic scholar; the rest of you will blame aging on him, despite Aristotle. No matter, in any case: this is about the 2021-’22 Los Angeles Lakers, eliminated from postseason play Tuesday night against (fittingly) the Phoenix Suns, and the amount of pushing a rock can possibly do against a solid-state presence before retracting against every will in its lifeless form.