Remember, remember the third of December, in the year of our LORD 2014. This was the day He gave the Philadelphia 76ers their first victory of an already lost and troubled season, albeit one calculated to be that way; let us rejoice, and be glad in it. The Sixers managed to avoid setting a record for the worst start in NBA history, so, you know, there’s that. Meanwhile, Anthony Davis is quickly becoming who we thought he was, and the Hornets are creating the wrong kind of buzz.
The Los Angeles Lakers were in trouble. Through the first ten games of this season, one of the league’s two most decorated teams in history was 1-10 and had become a punchline via the play of its fearless, sociopathic leader, Kobe Bryant. People were pointing fingers. Coach Byron Scott refused to acknowledge the league’s most efficient shot, the corner three, in any capacity, allowing Kobe and others to settle for long twos late in the shot clock. Kobe became festively jovial about his team’s historic incompetence. The Clippers officially became the team of Los Angeles. Carlos Boozer became an important cog in a professional basketball team, and it wasn’t the Philadelphia 76ers. The skies over Manhattan Beach, once a clear purple and gold, filled with dark clouds.
But then, a hero emerged. The perfect antidote to the Lakers’ struggles, it turns out, was swag, and only one man had the power to rescue Kobe Bryant from himself. That man is Nick Young, and this week’s 3-Pointer is dedicated (almost) entirely to him.
Derrick Rose found himself in a boiling pot of chicken broth earlier this week when he said that he does not want to sit in “meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past,” and then promptly went out and re-injured a different part of his sore-all-around body. The 2011 NBA MVP continues to seem light years removed from relevance, but he has now stepped a few bounds outside of reality, at least in the eyes of some angry fans. Elsewhere, the Grizzlies are starting to Grizz in a monumental, significant way, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has called for legalized and regulated gambling, surely to the delight of at least one TwH contributor.
Potential realized is one of the most satisfying aspects of watching sports. It’s the reason we have embraced Peyton Manning as a national treasure and also why Derrick Rose could end up being the inspiration for a Greek tragedy. What we have seen from DeMarcus Cousins this season already far surpasses the monumental steps he has taken each year since his days at Kentucky, and the Sacramento Kings are a delightful surprise as one of the best teams in the West coming out of the gate. Elsewhere, history repeats itself for LeBron James, and watching Rajon Rondo is always fun – always.
After months of agonizing anticipation, during which we filled time with other allegedly important sporting events and Mad Men binges on Netflix, the 2014-’15 NBA regular season begins tonight. A three-game slate eases us back into basketball this evening, and there are many important questions surrounding each team, the answers to which will dictate the course of the season. How will the new-look Cavaliers fit together? For how much longer will Rajon Rondo remain a Boston Celtic? When will Kevin Durant return from injury, and what will he look like? [Insert literally anything] Derrick Rose? What about Kawhi Leonard’s contract situation and “the Spurs way”? Is the triangle a total crock of grade-A bull fertilizer, spread below the floor of Madison Square Garden ahead of the stadium’s demolition and the subsequent establishment of an actual garden in its place?
All that, we will know in due time. What we won’t know is what we don’t think about. Let’s take a moment to consider the impossible, that which could never conceivably happen in today’s National Basketball Association. Then let’s never think about any of these things again.
As far as measures of retribution are concerned, this NBA Finals went off without a hitch. The Heat lost to the heat before losing to the Spurs. Which one was more impactful will be Twitter fodder for months to come, though the answer is truly (painfully?) obvious. Tim Duncan re-asserted his claim as the best player of his generation, as well as his astute normcore brilliance. Kawhi Leonard has become the Duncan to Duncan’s David Robinson, hopefully. LeBron James has some serious pondering ahead of him. Basketball is fun.
We’ve finally made it. After all the hubbub surrounding the playoffs, the near-upsets of the first round and the predictable Conference Finals matchups, we are finally at the NBA Finals. Vince Carter sent us back a decade in his playoff performances, but he + Dirk ≠ the second round. The Wiz kids did what they could to throw the East into oblivion, but the Pacers stood up when they needed to do so. Try as he might, Kevin Durant is still second-best (in his own conference!). The San Antonio Spurs machine continues to crank out tiki-taka victories. The Miami Heat have the world’s best player and a bunch of pretty decent complements. Lo and behold, it’s a rematch of the 2013 Finals, when we saw the scariest basketball player on the planet for a brief spell.
How do you solve a problem like Lance Stephenson? The third-year man has averaged a career-high 13.9 points per game for Indiana this year, though he has struggled mightily in the last two games. The bigger story which has emerged, however, is what pundits call his “antics” and what the Internet simply dubs “trolling.” In Game 5, Stephenson used a questionable defensive tactic by blowing into the ear of LeBron James, who was in the midst of a foul-troubled, seven-point game which was the worst of his playoff career. Elsewhere, Russell Westbrook is the crux of the Thunder discussion, as he has pretty much been since the James Harden trade, and Gregg Popovich doesn’t want to hear any more of your stupid, stock interview questions.
Paul George, the do-everything swingman whose up-and-down season has mirrored the fortunes of his Indiana Pacers team, suffered a concussion in Game 2 against the Miami Heat. Early pessimists pinned him as missing the rest of the series, but now it appears as though he will be ready to play Game 3 on Saturday night in Miami. Elsewhere, Serge Ibaka is facing a similar situation, and his return couldn’t come soon enough for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who face an 0-2 deficit to the all-conquering San Antonio machine. Also, Cleveland wins the draft lottery for the third time in the last four years, prompting questions of faith and critical reason in the city by the lake.
The San Antonio Spurs may be the best-run organization in the NBA by many standards, but one area in which it may have a clear-cut, unparalleled advantage made itself apparent prior to the Spurs’ 114-97 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals. Elsewhere, Kevin Durant deservingly wins the MVP award over LeBron, and Mark Jackson sees his way out of Golden State, for better or (more likely) for worse.