Wiry tree-man and would-be Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers left the game on Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets with what appeared to be a scary lower leg injury.
You remember the switch, don’t you? Consider it flipped. Riding a fully-engaged LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers ripped the doors off the Toronto Raptors in Game 4 on Monday night, completing another sweep against a team which hasn’t beaten them in the playoffs since 2016. In a rather pedestrian performance, James chipped in a mere 29 points to go along with 11 assists and eight rebounds. It was certainly his worst game of the series, and the Cavs won by 35.
It took a surprising seven-game first round series against the Indiana Pacers to really light a fire under him, but since the candle’s been burning, he has been his typical forceful self. What finally clicked against the Raptors wasn’t just LeBron riding the high of his clutch Pacers series form. Instead, as LeBron was great, so, too, were his teammates. Better late than never.
The list of shared experiences by Americans in the year of our LORD 2018 reads more or less as follows: death; taxes; unseasonable weather no matter the season; thoughts on race, whether intentional or not; thoughts on gender equality, whether intentional or not; thoughts on the New York Times’ editorial strategy, definitely intentional; all prior thoughts brought on by pieces courtesy of social media and/or texts linking to it; and a vague understanding of nuclear proliferation.
Narrow the scope, and that list becomes broader, but then you’re dealing in sample sizes of varying confidence. The South is hot, but man, these taxes, amirite?; the Northeast is cold, and keep your business out of my business; the West is a beautiful landscape and has bad traffic, tech geniuses and an insatiable hunger to continue being a final frontier long since conquered; Texas is the South, but it isn’t, you know what I’m saying?
On the Midwest: I’m not from there, nor have I ever lived there, though my oldest, not older, brother has for over a decade, and Blog Surf James Vasiliou is well-equipped to speak on generally Midwestern things himself. Something exciting, however, is unquestionably brewing in two cities, Minneapolis and Indianapolis, involving characters both familiar to both and foreign, in nationality and suitability for the stereotypically reserved region.
Likely dating back to the first interaction between civilizations of Homo sapiens from different geographic origins, the trade system is both as simple and complex as one wants it to be. An entity has something; another entity has another thing; each one wants what the other has, giving up as little as possible in order to gain it. With the exception of a few law-making scandals here and some ethical creativity there, that is all trade has ever been, whether it be Mycenaeans utilizing the Danube River, or your possibly drug-addled stockbroker gambling your retirement on the latest cryptocurrency.
Though the exchange of humans themselves largely, mercifully went out of fashion over the past two centuries, it remains a compelling means of business in the public arena of professional sports. We watch the games for a variety of reasons, but in the age of social media, reaction has become nearly as important as action. A team wins, and another loses. The former has to maintain its formula, while the latter has to figure out an antidote.
For the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook’s MVP campaign was the coldest consolation prize for the first season since moving from Seattle spent without Kevin Durant. To paraphrase ESPN staff writer Royce Young, as eye-poppingly ostentatious as it was, for the Thunder to succeed with him, Westbrook’s 2016-’17 season can never happen again. The Monolith needed help, and on Tuesday, that help officially arrived.
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.
On November 7th, at the behest of Blog Serf James Vasiliou, I attended my first game in the Time Warner Cable Arena of this NBA season. Much has changed since last year, of course; the historically dismal Charlotte Bobcats had re-branded themselves as the Charlotte Hornets, returning to this city one of the most recognizable symbols of its growth during the 1990s and revitalizing a brand which had never really been the same since George Shinn moved the team to New Orleans in 2002. I fully intended to write about how the Charlotte Hornets, rather than the Bobcats, had returned to their place as a rallying point for a city, a way of telling the rest of America that Charlotte hosts more than simply heartless financial institutions and an airport you hate to stop through on your way to Boston, or Philadelphia, or Dublin. I intended to write about how the Bobcats’ postseason appearance last year, only its second in franchise history, became the perfect setup for this season and the re-emergence of the Hornets at just the right time. I wanted to write about how much better purple and teal look than grey, orange, navy and whatever other random colors the Bobcats haphazardly slapped on their uniforms each season to sell more gear to their beleaguered fanbase. I wanted to write about Al Jefferson’s jump hook (I’ll do that anyway, don’t worry).
Instead, I became positively enchanted with the Hornets’ shiniest new toy. No matter what happened on the court, I could not steal a glance away from him. This is how I learned to stop worrying and love Lance Stephenson.
It has now been almost two weeks since Paul George fell awkwardly on a (non-regulation, apparently) basket stanchion after fouling James Harden during a Team USA scrimmage, breaking his leg in spectacularly horrific fashion. Forget the Indiana Pacers’ championship hopes; they will be lucky to make the playoffs fielding a starting five which will probably consist of George Hill, Rodney Stuckey (!), C.J. Miles, a soon-to-be 34-years-old David West and Roy Hibbert, who at times seems as close to being out of the league as he is to being Defensive Player of the Year.
But what of George, once pegged as the perfect foil to LeBron James? And what of their formerly top-heavy Eastern Conference, in light of the Pacers’ fall? Are rival fans selfish to see this for what it is, a boon for their own teams?
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.
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.