Two teams, born out of necessity in the same year and in service to the same league starting to feel the pressure of a burgeoning challenger not beholden to its own, increasingly antiquated norms, met for the first time in the NBA Finals in this, of all years. While one experienced immediate success, winning a coin toss over the other which led to literally Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and, subsequently, a championship in 1971, the other endured the weird fluctuations that come with acting like a small market team while not being a small market team.
For as influential a year as 1968 was supposed to have been in the minds of those who lived it, two products of that vintage specifically, each of whom have long disappointed their faithful, turned in playoff runs and an NBA Finals for the ages. While the Phoenix Suns’ third run to the championship round ended in something approaching triumphant uncertainty, the Milwaukee Bucks wheezed hot fumes in the face of adversity. Fifty years after their first, the Bucks are the NBA champions.
When the Phoenix Suns traded for Chris Paul, it seemed to be an opportunity, albeit a misguided one: the aged Point God would arrive and, just as he had in OKC before, impart some majestic secret knowledge on the youths, a Gnostic arriving to guide things just enough, to the point that they would be able to grow beyond his available measure upon his departure. He would never be at peace, but if this was his role at 35, Paul would be charitably useful. Only then would he again elevate everyone around him, and so far, he has exceeded that.
Did I think this year’s edition of the Phoenix Suns was that team? Not necessarily, but they had a lot more juice than many previous editions of Chris Paul Teams, with or without the State Farm sponsorship. Despite their youth and various fears, here they are: the orbs whose mascot and logo cause so much consternation, and yet a team whose continued excellence brings a familiar chill to anyone daring themselves to watch following his time with the other Hornets, Clippers, Rockets and Thunder. Finally, now, Chris Paul is in an NBA Finals.
It would be negligence to suggest that Paul’s presence alone turned a team that went undefeated in last year’s abridged bubble – and still missed the playoffs! – into the Western Conference representative this year. Paul is and remains the Point God, perhaps now more than ever, but we’ve already talked that over, so it seems fair and fitting to bestow some glory on the rest, the co. in CP3 and Co.
While the world’s wealthiest men continue to do their best to disprove other, better-known examples, some truths remain universally acknowledged: parquet looks great on television; nobody will ever understand how to domesticize bears; the American education system is broken. Regardless of our individual solutions to these problems, it seems reasonable to suggest that we agree on these.
Another truth nearly universally acknowledged – and only nearly because there remains a small but growing populace, somewhere, whose entire existence seems strictly to hinge on the acceptance of counterpoints and “asking questions” when there aren’t really any interested parties in the answers, including themselves – is that Chris Paul is the Point God. On Thursday night, helming the Phoenix Suns, and staking his case in the playoffs for the first time in direct opposition to his Banana Boat buddy LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, Paul did his work, as always, leading the Suns to a continued rise.
Shakespeare and His Friends, John Faed (1859)
It has been a tough start to the NBA season for most, no? Only ten days ago, hope burned within the hearts of fans and players across the league, even if not necessarily to win a title – because the Golden State was absolutely going to do that, no questions asked, and Kevin Durant’s fake Twitter accounts were here to set you straight if you thought otherwise – then, at the very least, to prove themselves worthy of attention beyond the Warriors and their would-be title challengers in Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston and Oklahoma City.
Flash-forward to now, and here is an incomplete injury report, only including players hurt since the start of the season: Gordon Hayward (leg-ankle); Chris Paul (knee); Jeremy Lin (knee); Markelle Fultz (shoulder); Milos Teodosic (foot); Dwyane Wade (knee); and Frank Ntilikina (ankle), along with a few more. Hayward’s and Lin’s injuries were each gruesome in their own ways. Fultz’s is disrupting The Process. People are going mad in the streets and online over their favorite team’s inability to keep rotations together.
“Once a Knick, always a Knick.”
These are the words emblazoned across a picture the New York Knicks chose to post in celebration of Amar’e Stoudemire signing a one-day contract on Tuesday so that he could retire with the franchise he helped revitalize in the summer of 2010. At 33, the man who once posted a picture of himself bathing in red wine decided he had had enough of basketball, or perhaps that basketball had had enough of him.
Few in the history of professional basketball embody the kind of paradox he does. To a certain generation of NBA fans, he represents one very distinct, dynamic kind of player; to another, ever-so-slightly generation, he represents a broken promise, an undoing not entirely or even at all his own, but a bulky set of talcum shoulders on which to rest blame nonetheless.
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.
The mammoth All-Star break is over, and it gave way to one of the more exciting trade deadline days in recent memory. Most notably, the Phoenix Suns moved Goran Dragic, and the Oklahoma City Thunder parted ways with Reggie Jackson. There were so other many moves, however, that your team probably did something, and it was probably confusing. Let’s talk about it. Elsewhere, Zach LaVine dismantles the Slam Dunk Competition, garnering Vinsanity comparisons along the way.
The final installment of the TwH NBA preview brings us way out west, to the Pacific Division. Standing in the shadow of Kobe’s territory, the Clippers look to win over the Staples Center fans with one of the most appealing one-two combos in recent memory. The Warriors will be looking to firebomb opponents with 3-pointers from every angle, but will that reliance doom them come playoff time? Also, what about Steph Curry’s ankles? Boogie Cousins is one of the most polarizing figures in a basketball town with a history of polarizing figures (and some pretty good basketball). Can he keep a cool enough head to flash the Kings back a decade? And finally, will anyone willingly watch a Suns game who does not live in the greater Phoenix market?