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Ponderings Halfway through the NBA season
I'm baaaaaaaack. I know my 7 readers have been wondering where I have been. The truth is I was busy with my basketball season, and more importantly, I didn't have anything to write about. I try to write about things that are interesting and different from the stories of the day and week because you can find those from all the talking heads on your tv and the droning voices on your radio or podcast. So I just decided to add my thoughts on the season all at once. These ponderings won't be in any particular order but they will all be here, that I assure you.
All Star Weekend
I want to talk first about the All-Star game. I think the game is a mockery but I get it. Fans want dunks and 3's and crazy passes and the like, they want to be entertained and they want to see the best athletes and players do crazy things that you don't normally see them do. Think about it this way. There was something like 79 dunks right, well what if they played defense and there were 7. What if the score was 94-88 because the elite players and defenders in the league guarded each other. That would be boring. People would cry out for less defense so we could see a showcase of their skills and athleticism. So then you say, find a balance. How do you find that balance? One possession you play defense then the next you let them go? It doesn't make sense. I do wish there was incentive for them to try and win so that we could get that last 6-10 minutes of the greats playing against each other and trying to win. But also remember this is supposed to be fun and its supposed to entertain, but ALSO, its a time for rest and getting healthy. These guys aren't trying to get out there and play the kind of elite defense you need to play in order to stop other elite players. So instead we have this iteration of the All-Star game. I started this by talking about it being a mockery. And it was. I see Anthony Davis as this quiet, humble, hard working player who doesn't have the players around him to make deep playoff runs. I thought the other West All-Stars said, "hey, lets get Anthony Davis involved because the game is in his city and maybe he can win MVP." Little did I know that he was in the locker room trying to convince his team to get him the ball so he could win it. Not only is it selfish, but it ruins the purity of the game. Records were broken and legends fell basically because of cheating. I don't find too much difference from that and someone knowing a betting line and throwing a game to win it. It makes me sad that something like that can happen.
As for All-Star Saturday night and Friday night I no longer watch. The slam dunk contest is a joke, where everyone has to try and keep outdoing the next guy with more props and nicknames and crap. When they show the greatest dunks from the history of the dunk contest in 50 years, how many of them are going to involve props? My hope is none. We want to see crazy athleticism on display, not who can try and manufacture intrigue and then the worst part is when they show the guy who just did his dunked and he feigns surprise and bewilderment at his own dunk, as if he had not practiced it 100 times in the days leading up to the competition. Your post dunk celebration or pose seems to be as important as the dunk itself these days and I just can't take it.
Ok, enough complaining. Lets talk about the league.
The NOT Wild Wild West
Warriors- They are the class of the West of course. They are just better than everyone else, including the Spurs. I know the Spurs beat them on opening night but I don't see them or ANYONE being able to beat them 4 times. It is interesting how quickly the Warriors have become the villains. They went from cute and lovable to cocky, obnoxious, and complainers. And we know nobody likes a complainer. Adding Durant made them too good for the rest of the league and so now they are Goliath. And people love David. People love the underdog. And they have no underdog in them any more. But here is what crosses them into villain. Their constant complaining. Not only do they have all the best players in the league, they also want EVERY call. Draymond Green, don't get me started on him. He just likes to run his mouth. He wants to chime in on every topic even if it has nothing to do with him. (Like the Oakley situation). He is the middle child that isn't getting enough attention from mom and dad (ESPN), so he generates it himself. I can't wait until the day he takes a big contract from Milwaukee and his numbers plummet and then he is just running his mouth from the 10 seed and no one cares. Then you have Steve Kerr. The biggest joke of them all. The only coach in the NBA who laughs and smiles the whole game. Then when one call goes against him he seriously throws a 5 year old temper tantrum. It doesn't even look real. They will be up 20 and the refs miss one call and he is running around the court being held back by his assistants (who are laughing at him) and holding him back from refs who are twice his size. And at home you are wondering, "Why is he so mad? Its an irrelevant call in a 20 point game with a team that looks like a JV team compared to his." And then you see him and the Warriors as the spoiled rich kids they are and you decide to root for the biggest David in the history of time. Lebron.
Spurs- Pop is again a victim of his own clinicality (I made that word up, how can I get paid when someone uses it?). He has a team that just goes out and wins and sits just a few games behind the super team, AND, beat them when they played, and for the 20th straight year no one knows and no one cares. But at the end of the day, the question is can they take down the Warriors. And we all know the answer is no. The Warriors are better at every position, and younger at almost every one as well. And you think maybe they can pull it off, but deep down you know they just don't have enough. Maybe if they could pause after every pass the Warriors make on the perimeter, and Kawhi could run over to that guy and guard him and then run and guard the next guy, until his legs fell off, well then maybe. But we don't have that technology yet. The math makes you shudder. In order for the Spurs to win, they will have to win at least one game on the Warriors floor, where the Warriors don't lose, and assuming that the Warriors win one in San Antonio, then they will have to win two at Oracle. It just isn't going to happen.
Clippers- The Clippers and Doc Rivers are the biggest magic show in the NBA. You see all of these flashing lights and strobes and mirrors and smoke, but there is no substance. There is a good team but not a great team, and an aging team that keeps thinking they can make a run at Golden State. Well they can't. And the greatest trick of all is how Doc Rivers has tricked the world into thinking he is a good coach. He has done absolutely nothing, well except underachieve, as the Clipper coach. And every year he has one injury, and then convinces everyone that it isn't his fault its because of the injuries. Did Lebron get a pass when his whole team was hurt? Nope. Did Tony Dungy get a pass the year Payton Manning was hurt and they went 2-14. Nope he got fired. How about Tom Thibideau and Scott Brooks when their superstars were hurt? Nope, fired and fired. But yet somehow Doc gets a pass. Year after year. All the Clippers want is this epic showdown with the Warriors, and they can't even get far enough in the playoffs to play them. So what should the Clippers do? What should any team like the Clippers (Raptors, Grizzlies, Hawks, Mavs, Blazers, Bulls, etc) do? Do they keep finishing 3-7 in the playoffs just to lose to the Warriors and Cavs every year, or trade aging players and rebuild? Its really a tough question that I don't have the answer to. Knowing you just aren't good enough versus trading everything away for prospects that may not work out and ending up as a non-playoff team again just clawing to get back up where you were.
Lakers- I hate to say I told you so about Luke Walton, but so far its been exactly what I thought. A coach with little experience bringing that little experience to a team that needed lots of it. "Oh but they started out so great." Who cares they have been awful since.. "Oh they got Nick Young to play defense." Yes for 12 games. Now he is back and the Lakers are the worst defensive team in the league. "They are better than last year." Yes they signed better free agents and got a top draft pick and their young players got a year older. Thats what happens. Also, the West is weaker by a lot.
Pelicans- The only other relevant team to talk about in the West. I fear for the jobs of the coaches on the Pelicans. Expectations have just skyrocketed for a team that has never won, with a star who has never won because he just got paired with another star that has never won. People are going to expect them to be much better right away and I don't know if that will happen. And when expectations aren't realistic, heads sometimes roll and I really don't want to see that happen. No one has been able to get Boogie to be the franchise player he should be, so it will be interesting to see him where maybe he doesn't have to be that guy. I really hope they give it time and I really hope it works out.
The Wide Open East
Cleveland- Lets be honest, they are winning the East. Like we know, in the history of the NBA there have never been the same two teams 3 years in a row in the Finals, well thats about to change. Just because they lose a few games that don't mean anything in the middle of the season doesn't mean when the season is on the line they wont be the best team in the East. As today's trade deadline came and went, you saw that no one in the East did too much. Its because none of them wanted to mortgage their future on beating the Cavs right now because they don't actually think they are a piece away. So the Cavs will coast, lose one home game in the second round and conference finals, everyone will freak out, then they will win in 6. And then get BLASTED by the Warriors.
Everybody Else- No one has a chance. The Raptors think they do, but they don't. I could see it going 6 or 7 but in Game 7 they will lose by 30. What I find to be interesting is how everyone in the East is trying to be as good as they can be while waiting out Lebron's prime. Assets are stockpiled, young players and draft picks are put on shelves waiting for the first true crack in Lebron's armor. Then, and only then will we see the hyena's come to life. They will go all-in on getting the biggest stars and role players and take turns feeding on the decaying carcass of Lebron James' career. And there will be meme's of Lebron with his head down, or in his hands, or even laying on the floor in a broken mess, and that will be when everyone in the East plays those Aces they have been hiding in their sleeves for years.
And I really don't want to see that day.