It’s not like Anthony Davis expected this, either. Coming into the season, expectations for the New Orleans Pelicans were sky-high, having run off an 11-14 record to close last season following the trade for DeMarcus Cousins that nevertheless inspired hope in a fan base accustomed to insipid displays by 11 of a dressed 12 on any given night.
In this era of normalizing the relatively small – that is, getting used to seeing otherwise jarringly large humans between 6’7” and 6’10” thrown into lineups and deemed “small for their position, traditionally, but with the ability to space the floor!,” the Twin Towers look had been out of fashion with few exceptions. Then, literally during last season’s All-Star Weekend, the Pelicans traded for the Swiss Army knife that is Boogie to pair alongside erstwhile Best in the World-in-waiting Anthony Davis.
The tandem worked kinks out toward the end of last season, the team re-signed Jrue Holiday and brought Rajon Rondo in for maximum weirdness, and everybody prepared for the Pelicans to be THE League Pass fodder to watch. Until…they meshed, better than expected, and went 27-21 through their first 48 games.
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.
It’s almost the middle of September, which means it’s almost October, which means it’s almost time for basketball season. With the NFL stumbling over itself at every turn – which, come to think of it, is how most of its current players will spend their autumn years, in their mid-40s – and baseball casually winding toward the postseason (we see you, Mets), basketball still stakes a claim in some part of the sports conversation, even if you aren’t watching EuroBasket games in the middle of your afternoon (On Wednesday, Italy mounted a comeback to force overtime and beat Germany, 89-82). Tuesday’s announcement that NBA division winners are no longer guaranteed playoff spots kick-started much of the hibernating excitement which will roll us into the upcoming season.
With basketball season breathing down our necks, it’s time to start considering how some of the pieces of Adam Silver’s puzzle will fit, how they will interact with one another and how they can realize their potential. One of the most interesting teams for this basketball season has long been a laughingstock, even with a generational talent who may very well be the best pure center in the NBA. Now, that team has two potential game-changing centers, as well as a hodgepodge of players who either grew out of previous roles or never quite fit into them in the first place. The Sacramento Kings aren’t good, yet, but they could be, and they’re seemingly better; they aren’t stable, yet, but they were for a brief time last year; and they aren’t a favorite, which may end up making them one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
Jennifer Stewart – USA Today Sports
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.
In a strange twist of events, the All-Star Game was the actual best part of this year’s All-Star Weekend. Kyrie Irving lit up the Crescent City, scoring 31 points and adding 14 assists in a record-breaking game during which both teams cleared 150 points. Saturday night’s festivities, long the most exciting of the break, failed to deliver. Elsewhere, the trade deadline passes, coming in like a motorcycle and going out like a tricycle. Also, the KD-LeBron dichotomy is heating (thundering?) up, though both just seem to want to play their own brands of basketball.
LeBron James made Mount Rushmore a trending topic earlier this week for reasons entirely unrelated to the giant presidential faces carved into the side of a granite slab in South Dakota. From coast to coast, people got all up in arms about who the four best basketball players of all-time are, if that is the criteria necessary to earn a spot there. Elsewhere, Carmelo Anthony wants to win a championship (don’t we all?), and Pierre the Pelican finally gets a makeover, just in time for All-Star Weekend in his hometown.
Now that we’ve undoubtedly relinquished our New Year’s resolutions to the pain of reality, we can return to the one constant in this twisted life: J.R. Smith is a raging lunatic. The NBA’s most notorious night owl has been benched, and the Knicks have subsequently begun winning with much more frequency than we saw in the 2013 portion of this season. Elsewhere, the maniacal genius Rajon Rondo has hinted at a possible return to the court on Friday night, and the Eastern Conference has a fourth viable team that is playing over .500 basketball – an excellent defensive squad in the Atlantic Division, of all places, which is where we turn our attention this week.