Expectation can be a funny thing. In the abstract, we – in some cases, admittedly, the royal we – all expect things, whether it be the acceptance letter to a prestigious college, the big-time promotion that will finally make you feel a certain kind of comfortable or, in a more macro sense, the giant orb of light rising each morning despite all of the darkness, everywhere, all the time.
A funny thing about expectation, though – often, it doesn’t belong solely to the person on whom it is placed. That is to say, nurture makes itself apparent against nature, and whether you like it or not, you’re going to military school so that you can be a doctor. The other side of it, though, is that expectation, when set against the vast unknown, can be as powerful and as stupefying as fear. Like expectation itself, it isn’t always up to one person to decide whether to shoulder it on their own.
Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated
I am a Detroit Pistons fan. It should be said that I am an incredibly casual Detroit Pistons fan, and while I followed the team closely during its glory years in the ’00s, these days I rarely go more in-depth than watching their (exceedingly rare) national broadcasts, checking scores and reading Andre Drummond features that occasionally cross my Twitter feed.
This is only to say that I am explicitly not someone to offer any sort of depth or nuance in my opinion of the modern NBA. I watch the later playoff rounds, and generally know which players are exceedingly good or outright trash, but any sort of in-depth knowledge I have on the league predates Steph Curry’s time in the league. When it comes to watching pro basketball, I am all feeling and no head these days.
Fable of the Bear and the Bees, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
The last time we took a close look at Andre Drummond – collectively, you and I, because we’re in this incomparable, unprecedented mess together, as we’re reminded the instant we awake every single day – he was dominating in the archaic sense for the Detroit Pistons as a 22-year-old center, posting grotesque point and rebound totals, particularly on the offensive glass, while not paying much mind to the trends that had already begun shaping the NBA as it is today.
After his historically-hot start, Drummond cooled off, finishing that season averaging 13.8 points and 13.5 rebounds while shooting 38.9% from the free throw line. The Pistons stumbled to a 32-50 record, but at least Drummond was consistent. While big men such as Kevin Love, Chris Bosh and Anthony Davis inched farther from the paint on offense, and Draymond Green was busy redefining the very idea of what a center could be with Golden State, Drummond remained the platonic ideal of centers in bygone eras, towering boulders built to destroy purely by force.
David Foster/Charlotte Observer
Respect in sports is personal, as subjective a concept as can be. People respect seeming effortlessness, as in the case of Steph Curry’s cocksure 35-foot bombs under duress. Those same people may value in the same measure the distinct work ethic required to reach Curry’s dominance in the first place. Earning respect takes a variety of forms – achieving an objective preeminence helps, but so does fighting on behalf of a teammate and playing through the end of a long-dead season with as much tenacity as at the start.
Two separate, but thus far equal, entities continue to struggle with earning the respect of fans and casual observers. For the Charlotte Hornets, an identity crisis has stifled interest in a relatively small – but growing – basketball market, whose most notable notoriety this month comes on the heels of legislation rather than the home team’s magnificently disciplined run to and through the playoffs. For the Cleveland Cavaliers, another issue of identity has chased the team for two seasons. In both cases, fairness never bothers to pick up the phone.
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We ought to take a moment to discuss a particular player who is lighting the NBA on fire right now, doing things that few in league history have ever done. He is a 22-year-old big man who played one season for the legendary coach of a prominent college basketball program before declaring for the 2012 NBA Draft. His name is not Anthony Davis.
Right now, as of this moment, Andre Drummond is averaging 20.3 points and 19.5 rebounds per game while leading a surprisingly potent, 3-1 Detroit Pistons team. Head coach Stan Van Gundy has his players coalescing not so much like a wall as like a charging stallion, and Drummond, as much as anyone, is to thank for that.
Wake up, dust off your finest Jordans, throw on a pair of sunglasses and tell the world to deal with it, because the NBA is finally back on your television tonight. Three games featuring five playoff teams from a year ago, including the defending champion Golden State Warriors, return us to the hardwood. So much has transpired this offseason, it can be easy to get caught up in it. Such is life in the 24/7/365 NBA, if you allow it to be.
We can only say and think so much about basketball, however, without there being any games. Before the first tip-off of the season (Cavs/Bulls or, if you prefer, Hawks/Pistons, tonight at 8 pm), let’s spare a thought – not necessarily a prediction, though there will be more than a fair share of those – to each franchise, in alphabetical order. Some of them may be painfully obvious or extremely misguided, because I guess I don’t think about the Minnesota Timberwolves nearly enough. Anyway, best of luck to the following teams, especially the Knicks. Those dudes are gonna need it.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and yours. Josh Smith received a most pleasant Christmas gift in being cut by Detroit only to end up in Houston next to former AAU teammate Dwight Howard and the rest of the gunning Rockets. Skeptics attribute Smith’s exit to playing out of his comfort zone and generally treating the rim with disdain, to which he says, “Whatever.” Elsewhere, the NBA Christmas Day slate proved to be underwhelming, and some guy on Twitter drove 50 minutes to defend Russell Westbrook, or what’s left of Kobe’s honor, or something.