Over a week later, the question everyone was asking before the playoffs is now one that continues to lurk: what becomes of these Brooklyn Nets? Steve Nash’s team has lit itself aflame once again, but who threw the match? They, of the highly touted scoring tandem, once briefly of a threatening trifecta that no team could think about stopping, could shudder? They could seek fate?
A 116-112 Boston Celtics win on Monday night sent the Nets packing. While they were busy making love with their egos, Ime Udoka was leading his continually resurgent squad to a sweep over a team many once considered to be NBA Finals favorites. It’s worth asking of this iteration of the team: do they seek fate, or does fate become them?
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.
Suffering from a deafness which plagued him over the final three decades of his life, Ludwig van Beethoven explored new and innovative areas of musical theory which sometimes left him in controversial straits with critics. Having already composed countless quartets and sonatas as well as several symphonies, Beethoven continued to push the bounds of sound through his late period, often incorporating the influences of Bach, Handel and his immediate predecessor as foremost composer in the world, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Until his death in 1827, Beethoven strove to perfect the sounds and styles of the time which produced him.
On Sunday, two NBA title contenders, each by an MVP candidate, met in Houston for the second and final time in the regular season. The team that prevailed, the Houston Rockets, did so in much the same fashion as they have done all year: by adhering to their particular brand of the NBA’s prevailing style, launching as many threes as possible and, when that wasn’t available, getting to the rim for high percentage shots and foul opportunities. At the eye of the Rockets’ storm is James Harden, high-volume wing-turned-obscenely efficient point guard, a scoring machine in either case.
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.
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.
You may ask yourself, “Why, Blog Lord, is there a picture of Rik Smits and Patrick Ewing at the top of this week’s 3-Pointer?” There are a number of reasons, some better than others: firstly, I am going to the Netherlands for my final undergraduate spring break, and the Netherlands has produced exactly one (1) decent NBA player, Smits. This is a celebration of that. Second, ’90s NBA is best NBA, although we might be catching up with this era. Finally, it sort of looks like Ewing might block that Smits shot, which was probably the last great thing any Knick or Knick-related entity did on defense. Elsewhere, Phil Jackson and the Knicks are a teenage pseudo-romance, and the Heat and Pacers, sans Rik Smits, are struggling, but they’ve earned that. Also, we may finally have seen the last of one of the most brilliant point guards in NBA history.