By: Abacus Reveals
Suspense and unpredictability, it seems, have been reserved for the regular season. Will the scorned Russell Westbrook post triple double averages for the first time in over half a century? Can such a casual defender as James Harden truly be considered an MVP candidate? Has Commissioner Adam Silver’s honeymoon with the whole wide hoops world come to an end as he tries to appease media partners dissatisfied with the “bang” they’re getting for their “buck”?
And then there’s the league’s Southeast Division, which can make up its collective mind about only one thing – the Magic are genuinely lousy. Every other squad has posted the division’s best record for a significant chunk of the season. During the first six weeks, Charlotte (12-9) ruled the roost; for Quarter II it was Atlanta (14-5); and Weeks 13-18 were topped by Miami (17-3). Washington is likely the division’s most playoff-tested team – and they posted the Southeast’s best record (21-6) during Weeks 9-16 (i.e. the middle “third” of the season).
During the NBA’s 1,230-game regular-season march to Cavs-Dubs III, league-wide scoring has been showing a steady and significant increase. Let’s compare some data from the season’s first eight-week segment (Oct. 25 – Dec. 19) and its second (Dec. 20 – Feb. 13). All but six teams increased their per-game scoring in Session II; 22 surrendered more points. The average team performance saw a boost in: FG% (.451 - .462), 3FG% (.354 - .364), FT% (.765 - .780), Points-per-shot (1.219 – 1.253), Points-per-possession (1.073 – 1.101) and Points-per-game (104.2 – 107.0).
Even more eye-popping has been the league’s use of the Three-Ball. It has been nearly 20 years since there has been so great an alteration to the NBA’s usage of the three-point field goal attempt – a full three percent. Through 21 weeks and 70 games, the San Antonio Spurs have taken 1,632 “threes” among their 5,843 total FG attempts – a 3-Point-Attempt rate, or 3Par, of .279 (No. 25 in the league), slightly below the league average (.285) just last season.
Back in ’96-97, the NBA posted a league-wide 3Par of .212, only the second time NBA players had attempted one in five shots from Three Point Land. The following season, that rate would back off to .159 as the league abandoned its three-year experiment with a 22’ arc. It would be eight more years before the 3Par returned to the 20 percent level.
And here we go this season surpassing 30 percent and sure to post the second highest boost ever – the rate rose to .188 from .117 when the distance was shortened in 1994. (Average usage had hit 10 percent -- .104, to be precise – for the very first time during 1992-93 season.)
In terms of the accuracy of this steadily-increasing distance shooting, we’ve seen two decades of pretty phenomenal shooting. Predictably, marksmanship improved from 33 percent to 36 percent using the closer line. But it dropped only half as much (to .346) post-experiment … and the league as a whole has shot treys in the .350’s and .360’s in every season since Y2K. At the 21-week mark of this season, there are two teams whose 3Par is at the 40 percent level. The Houston Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Conductor Harden, is performing the Morey-D’Antoni Overture to the tune of .464 – 2,864 three-point tries in 6,176 FG attempts. The Rockets stand No. 15 in accuracy at .362 and own the NBA’s third best record.
The other member of the “Forty Club”?
The injury-plagued defending champions, with 2,370 treys in their 5,932 shots (.400) and the league’s second best rate of accuracy (.388).
Speaking of wellness, the apoplexy that has befallen the teams of the Southeast would seem to have spread to North Texas. During Weeks 16-18, Coach Rick Carlisle’s Dallas Mavericks outscored the opposition by over two points per game, yet lost five of nine. The following three weeks, the Mavs were outscored by four a game, yet won six of ten.
And I wonder why I keep getting error messages on my Abacus??
By: Kwame Fisher-Jones
With the NBA season nearing an end, Russell Westbrook should now be the clear favorite to win this year’s M.V.P award. Since August the Oklahoma City Thunder guard has embraced the role vacated by his former running mate. In the process, Westbrook has managed to make the magnificent look mundane.
First the anointment of Westbrook is not an indictment on the skill set of Houston Rocket guard James Harden, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard or the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James. Rather this proclamation is a testament to just how amazing the guard has been this season. In the case of the Cavaliers’ forward, it is extremely difficult to overlook what the champion has done this season. Especially when one considers the travesty of the future Hall-of-Famer being passed over for the trophy by Derrick Rose in 2010 – 2011 and Kevin Durant in 2013 – 2014.
But when a player averages a triple-double, which is one of the most sacred bench marks in professional sports, things change. What the former UCLA Bruin has accomplished in his first year of being “the man” is worthy of applauses, but what the All-Star guard has overcome in the process has been nothing short of spectacular. To date the former Bruin has posted career numbers in almost every offensive category.
The defending champion Cavaliers are not the only club ravaged by injuries, OKC has experienced its share of injuries to key players. To date starting guard Victor Oladipo has missed 15 games and key reserve Enes Kanter has missed 10 games. However, overcoming injuries and posting career numbers only tell part of his most valuable player journey. In an offensive system that is completely reliant on Russell’s play making ability, it is the offensive explosion of his teammates that speaks to the guard’s new found unselfishness. Andre Roberson (4.8 ppg vs. 6.7 ppg), Steven Adams (8.0 ppg vs. 11.8 ppg), Oladipo (16.0 ppg vs. 16.3 ppg), and Kanter (12.7 ppg vs. 14.3 ppg) all have reaped the benefits of a sharing Westbrook. This new “sharing is caring” version of the 6’3 guard is a stark contrast to the all he does is shoot mantra that has been uttered about his game throughout the guard’s career.
This abrupt transformation has allowed OKC to contend for a top four playoff seed, while building/rebuilding their roster. The former Bruin has exceeded most team expectations and surpassed all of the individual expectations many had before the start of the season. Such feats are what has put him in the M.V.P conversation, but the offensive dominance Russell has displayed is what propelled him to the front of the conversation.
Consider this, prior to the season there were two individual records many thought would never fall. One was the unofficial 100 point scoring mark held by Wilt Chamberlain and the second was averaging a triple-double for an entire season. The nonchalant attitude by some regarding the eventual accomplishment of averaging a triple-double is intriguing. If this were say Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo or Anthony Davis the basketball world would fall off its axis to worship them. Yet, because the player approaching that record is not a media darling there has been some belittling of the inevitable achievement. There is a certain amount of “yeah, but” when discussing the history being made before our eyes, which is beyond baffling.
Mark Cuban even went as far as to inadvertently take a shot at his own M.V.P, in an effort to omit Westbrook from consideration. The Dallas Mavericks owner was quoted as saying “You got to win 50 games and a playoff series” as the requisite criteria to win the award. If this were the case Dirk Nowitzki would never have won his lone Maurice Podoloff trophy. Nowitzki won the award in the 2006 – 2007 season, this was the very same year the Mavericks lost to the 8th seeded Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Cuban’s contempt for the OKC guard was obviously clouding his judgment.
Cuban is not the only front office member to alter their narrative in hopes of arriving to a different conclusion. In a survey conducted by USA Today Sports, 12 of the 32 league executives polled selected James Harden over “the Brodie”. The Thunder guard was second with eight votes, while Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (who plays for the team with the best record of the three) was third with seven votes.
Harden is certainly a viable candidate, his penchant for scoring and Houston’s freewheeling offense is much more fun to watch then Oklahoma City’s offense. Also, the Rockets’ guard currently ranks third in points per (29.1) and first in assist per (11.2) which is commendable and should be celebrated. Yet, when you compare Harden’s post All-Star assists per (10.3) to Westbrook’s post All-Star assists per (10.2) they are virtually identical. This is difficult to fathom considering the stark contrast in each team’s style of play, and even tougher to explain for those choosing to vote for the Rockets lead guard solely off his ball distribution.
Harden’s record against the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs is 2 – 4, with the guard averaging 26.4 points, 9.8 boards and 11.9 dimes. Conversely, Russell’s record sits at 1 – 4, with 28.1 points, 10.1 boards and 11.9 dimes. Oddly enough the Rockets have not fared much better against the two top teams in the west, and once again those assists are a lot closer than many would have believed. The measurable difference is Houston’s one more win against the top clubs and their winning of the season series against the Thunder.
The Rockets have an NBA champion (Trevor Arizia) and a playoff tested roster, the Spurs have arguably the greatest coach ever in Gregg Popovich along with a former NBA Finals M.V.P in Tony Parker. Finally, LeBron has a top five scorer in Kyrie Irving and statistically one of the best power forwards in the game in Kevin Love. Meanwhile the Thunder have, with all due respect, Victor Oladipo. Now the former Magic guard has gotten better, so those are not shots fired, but no one can sincerely say this Thunder squad has not overachieved this season. This success is solely attributed to Westbrook and his historical play.
Polly on this for one moment in the upcoming draft there may be, for the first team in league history, a player selected first overall whose team failed to win 10 collegiate games. The argument being “his team was not any good”. The responsibility of the most talented player on any team is not contingent upon how talented their current roster is. In sports the best player is expected to elevate those around him. That elevation does not always reach the level of a championship, but it does habitually reach the level of unforeseen heights.
Instead of condemning the OKC guard for not reaching similar heights of rosters whose cores have been together for years, we should be in awe. Oklahoma City did not just lose you know who, they also lost Serge Ibaka and Dion Waiters. People have forgotten that those three were the team leaders in total minutes played from the previous season. To go from grizzled veterans to the naivety of youth and find a way to not only compete, but in some instances thrive is remarkable.
There is little doubt that Russell’s contemporaries have all put together admirable seasons, yet none of their performances have been historical. The unlikeliness of how the season began and the uniqueness of how it has taken shape is why most valuable awards are given. OKC is only a few games away from last season’s win total, and Westbrook has been the most invaluable reason why.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
When the 2016 – 2017 NBA season commenced it appeared to be a mere formality to yet another Cavaliers v. Warriors NBA Finals contest, their third straight. The most recent flurry of trade and buyout movement confirms that opposing General Managers not only agree, but appear to have willingly accepted such declarations.
Does anyone believe that by simply inquiring about the availability of an All-Star or by trading for non-All-Stars, the goal of stifling Golden State or Cleveland was successful? In a word, NO!!!! Whether opposing GMs were incapable or are incompetent, the lack of significant movement was startling.
In the Eastern Conference the Cleveland Cavaliers rest atop the playoff standings and a possible first round series against the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat or Detroit Pistons should not strike fear in the hearts of Cleveland fans. Indiana has Paul George and Myles Turner, Jr, Miami has Hassan Whiteside and Detroit brings Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson to battle, but those individuals are not good enough to defeat the best team in the East. Their decision to stand pat, makes sense because those three are not yet ready to compete for a title.
The Boston Celtics are the second seed, and elected not to make a final push to add Paul George or the Chicago Bulls’ Jimmy Butler. The Celtics current roster is in desperate need of a second scorer, and General Manager Danny Ainge’s decision to stand pat rather than be “given” yet another All-Star should upset Celtic fans. Ainge was armed with draft picks and players, but without Kevin McHale on the other end the former shooter became gun shy and refused to pull the trigger. That hesitation may end up being the main reason Boston never even makes it to face the Cavs.
However, the Washington Wizards adding forward Bojan Bogdanovic will undoubtedly help bolster their group to the Eastern Conference Finals. But that acquisition did not springboard Washington over Cleveland. The major shakeup came courtesy of the Toronto Raptors bringing in Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. To some these were significant moves, but Ibaka is more name these days then game. In his one game against the Cavs, Ibaka dropped 19, but failed to register a block and his defense is why he was brought to Toronto. The forward will be asked to provide shot-blocking and overall defensive punch to a Raptors club looking to knock off the defending champs. With the injury to starting point guard Kyle Lowry, the addition of Tucker should keep “the North” afloat. P.J. is solid all around but is of little consequence against the likes of Kyrie Irving and that will be an issue.
The Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls were rumored to be buyers at the trade deadline, but in the end nothing came to fruition. The Bulls tried to add Patrick Beverley and Marcus Smart, while the Hawks also tried to pry Paul George loose. In the end, the addition of Ersan Ilyasova in Atlanta and another point guard (Cameron Payne) in Chicago will not provide the necessary jolt to shake-up the Cavaliers.
The Western Conference saw much bigger names get moved, none bigger than former Sacramento King and current New Orleans Pelican DeMarcus Cousins. New Orleans gave up rookie Buddy Hield and former King turned current King Tyreke Evans all for the services of Cousins. Oddly enough, if Cousins lands on any team in the Eastern Conference he would have been a game-changer, but in the Western Conference the acquisition barely moves the needle.
The Pelicans are making a playoff push and adding Cousins should help……………….next year. This year New Orleans is currently three games out of the eighth and final spot. So the Pelicans would have to jump over four teams to grab the eighth seed. That is difficult enough without implementing one of the league’s premier talents and ball-hoggers. It is more likely the Denver Nuggets, or even the Sacramento Kings (who are just one game behind the eighth seeded Nuggets) make the playoffs in that final spot. The Nuggets adding center Roy Hibbert notwithstanding, the Golden State Warriors should make short order of any of these three regardless who “wins” the final playoff spot.
Golden State received the gift of complacency from the Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and Memphis Grizzlies. These teams decided their combined record of 3 – 7 against the Warriors was sufficient enough heading to the playoffs. The Clippers (0 – 4) and Jazz (0 – 2) have not beaten Golden State all season, so their lack of aggression is very peculiar.
The same thing cannot be said for the Houston Rockets or the Oklahoma City Thunder. Houston refused to part with the aforementioned Beverley, but did come away with another bona fide scorer in Lou Williams. In three games against the Warriors the guard is averaging 16.3 points, which is two full points below his season average of 18.7. The Rockets addition of Williams to a second unit that already features Eric Gordon will be fun to watch. The question is will it be enough to unseat the Dubs, and the answer is a resounding “nah”. Golden State will muster up enough defense to stop a blistering Houston offense.
Meanwhile, the Thunder looked poised for an eventual first round exit before the trade deadline. Now with forwards Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson in house anything short of the second round would be an epic failure. Nevertheless, with the goal being to overtake the Warriors can anyone suggest that Williams or the combination of McDermott/Gibson is enough to accomplish that goal.
In fact, this month’s trade activity did nothing more than illustrate just how far behind the teams in each conference were from superseding the Cavs and Warriors. Yes, the moves provided entertainment but as for creating a viable option to Golden State v. Cleveland part three no squad believed in themselves or their components enough to pursue such a feat.
Before anyone can blame another player or agent for constructing yet again a “super team” they must first blame the assortment of league GMs who have somehow habitually mistake activity for achievement. In the end, we will be watching the third installment of a match-up against two teams who were talented enough to make it to the Finals, but more importantly fearless enough to pursue it.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
Russell Westbrook has used anger as the driving force to becoming one of the NBA’s elite, and now that force is driving his championship dreams away. Basketball’s history is rich with players who have dazzled one year only to fizzle the next. Therefore when a player who is already considered elite takes their game to even higher heights it is that much more electrifying.
What Westbrook has accomplished this season is nothing short of amazing. However, the guard’s talent should not be limited to statistical supremacy. The Thunder leader has allowed emotion to be the center piece in a prolific career thus far, but more is required if a championship is the goal.
Can the Thunder franchise player make the calculated and rational acknowledgement that he, and anger, are not potent enough to win a chip? Is Russell capable of pushing the furious pride that fuels him on a nightly basis aside and articulate that he needs more in order to win? For most players this is not a difficult task. However, most players are not powered by slights and a desire to prove they belong.
In requesting help the guard would be breaking from a norm that has been a staple throughout his basketball career. The former UCLA Bruin choose to remain with Oklahoma City after the organization was spurned by former running mate Kevin Durant. That decision, while admirable, may have been rooted in emotion and not logic. Either way it could very well cost Westbrook a chance to play for another NBA title.
It is hard to imagine a player balling any better than Russell has this season, yet the Thunder sit seventh in the western conference playoff standings. Barring some unforeseen miracle OKC will not make it out of the second round of the playoffs.
Nevertheless, his play and the team’s subsequent playoff run could be viewed as a success. Some might even suggest the organization rebounded well after losing Durant. Those same voices might echo that the Southern California native is a hero for being loyal to the team that drafted him. This thought process for a player driven by emotions might be viewed as vindicating. This is where intelligent and fearless Russell must breakaway from angry and passionate Russell.
While it is commendable to be loyal to a fault, it is wiser to be loyal to a point. Therefore this perceived vindication cannot be sufficient for the guard. The Thunder player must not allow that competitive fire on the court to be a scapegoat for the lack of an NBA title or the absence of even competing for one.
Cleveland Cavalier forward LeBron James used logic and reason for his pursuit. James felt the Cavaliers were not good enough or committed enough to win a championship. So the forward bolted for Miami. Former Los Angeles Laker icon Kobe Bryant went a different route, choosing to publicly call out management after multiple playoff early exits. The Lakers’ guard felt enough time had elapsed and it was necessary for the front office to be held accountable for its lack of success in amassing championship quality talent.
Two different approaches but both landed the same championship results. The proverbial ball is now in Westbrook’s court. We as basketball fans have witnessed something transcendent. One of the league’s best has gotten remarkably better in virtually every statistical category.
Which is wonderful…………………………. for the moment. But will this be good enough for Westbrook? Has playing every game “as if it’s his last” manifested itself into playing every game “as if I have something to prove”? There is something to be said for playing to prove a point rather than playing for a purpose.
If proving he is among one of the league’s elite was the point the fury displayed thus far has been more than adequate. However, if the purpose is to win a title than that fury, or chip on the shoulder, must subside itself for diligent logic.
For better or worse, heavy lies the head that wears the crown.
Emotion has carried the Thunder guard this far, now calculation is required for the rest of this journey. The former Bruin has too put Oklahoma’s front office on notice that what is currently in place is simply not good enough.
And adding Carmelo Anthony is not the answer either, for that matter.
When Durant walked away from Oklahoma City this off-season many believed Westbrook would follow, but he did not.Why? Was establishing his own legacy and proving to the world he was better than the current Golden State Warrior forward more important than the immortality that comes with a title?
Time will provide the answer to that question, just as time has proven the guard was not a hindrance to Durant’s title hopes. "I always play with a chip on my shoulder. There is always something to prove.” Westbrook once stated in an interview with Graham Beslinger. The beauty of competitive fire is that it is controllable, unlike competitive rage.
Competitive fire will allow him to go public if management does not make the proper moves. Conversely, competitive rage will allow the Oklahoma City franchise player to believe 24 triple-doubles and seven games of 40 or more points is all that is required.
When NBA fans elected two-time MVP Stephen Curry to start in the All-Star game, over the OKC guard, a message was sent. The message was Westbrook still had another level to reach. It is difficult to recall when a jump shooter overtook a rim rocking finisher in fan appreciation. Then when one watches the ease and comfort Curry plays with it and it becomes understandable.
Such ease and comfort is foreign to “The Brodie”.
However, no one would suggest the Warriors’ guard is any less competitive then Westbrook, it just feels as if Curry has chosen joy over anger.
Can Westbrook duplicate such a transition? Is the guard capable of transitioning from angry player to motivated champion? Will he push the necessary buttons to get the only results that matter in team sports?
It is easy to play angry and put up numbers. That is within the OKC guard’s control, the difficult part is holding those around him to his high standards. Finding, or better yet forcing individuals to do what he believes is required to win it all. Even if those moves or decisions do not yield the desired results.
But will he? It feels like the Thunder guard is content with the stubbornness that has gotten him this far.
In nine years the league has witnessed a tremendous talent develop into an unstoppable force, motivated by anger. However, the Thunder guard needs to realize that anger has taken him as far as it can. Now it is time for the games most emotional player to make some unemotional decisions.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento is a wildcard for a fringe playoff team, but in Cleveland the center could be the trump card to another championship run. As the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to have front row seats in watching their championship dreams disappear, adding a numbers harlot such as Cousins could be a necessary jolt to the stagnate squad.
Or it could be death to the close knit group. Regardless, the reward far outweighs the risk. The Cavaliers are in a problematic position, but tremendous aspiration always comes with tremendous strife. In this regard, aspirations for a second straight NBA title and third straight NBA Finals appearance have brought about the need for change. Cavs forward LeBron James has gone on record demanding Cleveland add depth to what he termed as a “top heavy” roster. As pundits debate how the King made his request, it does not eliminate or address the merits of the request.
Only social icon and NBA legend Bill Russell can speak to the obstacles of going to six straight NBA Finals and what is required to reach seven. Even the media anointed pillar of mental toughness Michael Jordan retired twice after three straight trips. Such company should award the man some clemency from the novices who have criticized him.
James has never shied away from making the unpopular move (see South Beach) or the audacious move (see exit from South Beach) in pursuit of a title. The forward’s recent cry for more weaponry, quite frankly, is par for the course for a player hell bent on winning.
Above all else, when has Lebron been wrong? If his-story is correct Cavs ownership should be responding to James’ request with “how high”. Management’s response may be more rooted in the frustration of having little to offer, outside of Kevin Love and perhaps an Iman Shupert. Which has solicited the “pardon my back” response from some teams. But the Cavs need to set their sights to the “Land of Kings”, to appease their King.
In six seasons Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has resembled the Minnesota Timberwolves version of Kevin Love. Meaning the center has put up eye-opening numbers too little or no team success, the difference being Cousins has been a lightning rod for attention.
Before Sac-town invests another five years and upwards of $207 million into the center, Cleveland needs to bring to the organization’s attention a few glaring things. Beginning with their record with the mercurial big man (147 – 293), mixing in the teams abysmal attendance (finished 19th or worse every season since “Boogies” arrival) and culminating with the advantage of stability in Love and Shumpert’s contract (both players are signed through the 2018 – 19 season).
Lastly, the addition of Love allows Kings’ management to not just save money, but it will also put an abrupt end to one of the more tumultuous media player relationships in league history. A chance to rid themselves of a player who has irritated, if not alienated, the local media.
In Love Sacramento would receive an All-Star who requires little maintenance and rarely makes waves. Shumpert, recent drug arrest aside, brings defense and toughness without requiring/demanding shots on offense.
A Kings’ roster featuring veterans such as Love, Shumpert and guard Darren Collison would allow first round picks Malachi Richardson and Willie Cauley-Stein more time and opportunities to develop. As much as ownership loves Cousins, a chance at team success along with a community presence should be enticing.
The risk is much greater on Cleveland’s side. In Cousins the Cavs are acquiring one of the game’s biggest talents and one of the game’s biggest enigmas. On the court the center is a beast in isolation plays and is capable of offensive explosions as he currently has 18 games of 30 or more points.
The King would add a different dimension to an already potent Cavaliers club. Cousins’ ability to put the ball on the floor, as well as, score through the flow of an offense would be a match-up nightmare for opposing teams. The big man, unlike Love, can finish over and through the competition. The mercurial center is the current league leader in “and-ones” (48) and three point plays (37). The former Kentucky Wildcat would thrive in the space created by a penetrating Kyrie Irving or a tilted defense preoccupied with James.
Off the court is where the issues begin. However, it is plausible to think the attention of playing with James and consistently having the national spotlight could change the tiger’s stripes.
Lawson would remove those second tier point guard and play-making issues. The guard has been bounced around recently, but was once an established scorer in the NBA (14.2 points per during his team with the Denver Nuggets). Nevertheless, a deal centered on Cousins and the addition of guard Ty Lawson would eliminate most, if not all, of Cleveland’s issues. While possibly creating new ones. Only time and results will tell.
There is a benefit of staying the course and truly getting a gauge of if this team can win a second title as constructed. After all the Cavs have made back-to-back NBA Finals. However, there must be credence placed on James’ demands of adding a play-maker on offense. Previous champions have made drastic roster changes, albeit in the offseason, but none have ventured into the waters the King is currently swimming in.
A deal for Cousins would be difficult to complete, due largely in part to the owner’s infatuation with keeping the player. Then there is the possible chance a move of this magnitude could be catastrophic. Or a move could provide the back-to-back title the King is envisioning and quite possibly allow Cleveland to widen their championship window.
The NBA is ripe with teams who have made disastrous moves to acquire cantankerous players. The Cavs were once one of those teams, filled with those players (Ricky Davis, Delonte West and Darius Miles should come to mind). Now Cleveland is a perennial championship contender in the mist of defending their title.
Management, the fans and the media can debate and analyze the methods James has used to bring about that championship madness. What they cannot and should not debate is its effectiveness. Cleveland’s King has requested more knights there should be no question as to why.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
The Los Angeles Clippers are stuck in a matrix of denial and misconception, and the only way to change direction is to move on from point guard Chris Paul.
When the Clippers acquired/stole Paul from the New Orleans Hornets, dreams of lobs and highlight plays danced in everyone’s head. Five years later, a reality of disappointment has dampened that dream.
There is a point in every player’s career when his true identity becomes firmly established. The 2015 NBA playoffs was that moment of clarity for the point guard. What has been apparent from the start is that “CP3” is a good point guard who often teeters on the verge of greatness. Alas, a player who can only get a squad but so far.
For an organization that has never played in the conference finals, yet alone the NBA Finals, such thoughts are likely to be dismissed. After all L.A. amassed a franchise record 57 wins in the 2013 – 2014 season and have made five consecutive playoff appearances, also a franchise record.
Life has been good for Clipper fans. That losing feeling that has engulfed them is now gone, and replaced by a confident arrogance.
The question now is how can/will this once doormat franchise surpass this point (pun intended)?
It felt as if the 2014 – 2015 playoffs were going to be that moment of jubilation for the Clipper Nation. Coming off three consecutive years of 50 or more wins and four straight playoff appearances, the Paul led bunch looked poised for, at the very least, a Western Conference Finals appearance. Their record of 56 – 26 (tied with the Houston Rockets) was good enough for second in the conference.
The Clips fought off an aging San Antonio Spurs squad, and avoided elimination in games six and seven. The comeback series win did little to stifle the lofty season expectations.
A second round match-up against the Houston Rockets appeared to be a mere stepping stone as Los Angeles would take a 3 to 1 series lead.
Then the things went the way of every other Chris Paul led group. But before we go forward, let us first go back a bit.
As a senior at West Forsyth High School in North Carolina, Paul led the Titans to a 27 – 3 record. Only to come up empty by losing to Zebulon Vance High School, from Charlotte. That was West Forsyth’s only loss to a North Carolina school during that 2002 – 2003 season. The defeat meant Chris would end his high school career without a championship. While minute at the time, it would be a recurring theme throughout his career.
Next was the 2005 NCAA tournament loss. The guard’s second seeded Wake Forest Demon Deacons were eliminated by the seventh seeded West Virginia Mountaineers 111 – 105. The Demon Deacons had maintained a top five ranking for most of the college season, and were heavily favored in the second round contest.
A trend was developing.
Finally, very few recall or recant the 2007 – 2008 season. The North Carolina native’s Hornets had finally removed themselves of the Oklahoma City/New Orleans tag and were officially New Orleans’ property.
With a record of 56 – 26 (sounding familiar) the Hornets were the second seed in the Western Conference and a quick dismantling of the Dallas Mavericks (4 – 1) meant the defending champion San Antonio Spurs were next.
New Orleans would take a 2 – 0 series lead winning game one by 19 points and game two by 18 points. The Spurs would respond, as champions do, and tie the series up 2 – 2. However, a 22 point game five win despite Paul shooting a paltry 6 for 18 served as a spring board into the Western Conference Finals.
The Hornets had three blowout wins under their belt, a game six win was a mere formality. Or so we thought. The Spurs would win the next two games, and the series 4 – 3. With the world watching and waiting expectantly, “CP3” again came up short. The aforementioned pattern had progressed from “developing” to “cemented. “ But there was still hope. This was only the guard’s third NBA season, after all.
Now back to the future, or better yet back to the 2015 playoffs. The Clippers had just taken a resounding 3 – 1 series lead with a 33 point win against the Houston Rockets. The Western Conference Finals and possibly a trip to the NBA Finals seemed imminent, or maybe not.
Despite a 22 point, 10 assist effort, Los Angeles would lose game five……..by 21 points. Game six at home would be another loss, this time by 12 points 119 – 107. The box score would read 31 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the point guard. Game seven was another reminder that the former Demon Deacon is nothing if he is not consistent, Rockets 113 Clippers 100.
Another series and another unprecedented early exit.
You see for all the things Paul is, champion is not one of them. The future Hall-of-Famer has been tremendous at times, but unfortunately not at the right time. Now his defenders will attempt to excuse the results with an abundance of reasons, before ultimately uttering “it is a team sport”. Yet this mindset is often absent when success is reached.
Injuries ended the 2015 – 2016 campaign earlier than expected, and we can all pretend there is a possibility that the results that have been so prevalent going back to that lone loss to Vance High School in the state finals will not materialize.
We can even provide reasons to excuse the lack of championship appearances. Or we can embrace the facts, even if they are accompanied with unintentional cruelness. Paul, for all his individual accolades and momentary supremacy, is not capable of pointing a team in a championship direction. His play and the, shall we say, plethora of reasons to excuse the lack of hardware confirm it.
The Clippers must make the difficult decision to trade the guard for a younger more dynamic player who Head Coach Doc Rivers can develop into a champion. Time has shown us at what point the season will end with Paul. Will a changing of the guard be what it takes to navigate this Clipper ship into some unchartered waters?
By: Kwame Fisher-Jones
“What is history but a fable agreed upon?” - Napoleon
As NBA legend Kobe Bryant walked off the court for the final time, he took with him the last of isolation championship basketball..........for now.
Long before Kobe graced an NBA hardwood the game and specifically the way teams scored was completely different. There was a time when ball movement ruled the professional courts, and individually gifted scorers were prohibited from standing out. Scoring, while essential, was not a celebrated part of the game. Coaches preached ball movement and rebounding as the core staples to winning games and eventually championships. Then the ABA happened, more specifically showmanship and scoring became fashionably exciting. High flying scorers like George McGinnis, David Thompson, Rick Barry, Charles Scott, Spencer Haywood, and the incomparable Julius Erving became household names. Basketball fans began recalling player exploits in NBA team starved cities, instead championing team success.
Thus a seed was planted that would later be cultivated in the NBA by the likes of Tiny Archibald, Pete Maravich and a litany of other ball dominating players. Such play, while extremely entertaining to watch, rarely yielded team accomplishments. The belief remained that “team ball was the only way to win an NBA title”. There needed to be a player who could balance prolific scoring, ball domination and still find a way to have habitual NBA team success. That player would arrive in the form of Detroit Pistons’ guard Isiah Thomas. The mercurial guard managed to surpass his contemporaries, and predecessors for that matter, by rebuking the NBA premise that a “formidable” center and ball movement were the only way to win an NBA title. The little big man won two Big Ten Championships and an NCAA title in just two years at Indiana University and two titles in 13 years playing for the Pistons.
Now it is unclear if the guard was incapable of playing with a traditional lane clogging back to the basket big man. However, what is certain is the Piston excelled in an offense dedicated to allowing him to freelance and at times use all 24 seconds of the shot clock “finding his shot”. This would lead to Thomas being the team’s leading scorer and the main offensive initiator. With no big to be concerned about, the former Hoosier was free to control a game and put his teammates in position to score. Routinely Detroit would score off high pick and rolls, where the center or power forward (which in most cases was either Bill Laimbeer and/or James Edwards) would pop out for a jumpshot instead of rolling to the basket. This would allow Thomas to have the option of penetrating or settling for passing to his teammates for 12 to 15 footers. To put things in layman terms John Salley and Dennis Rodman were considered “finishers” and not shooters on offense for a reason. Their offense as a whole, while efficient, would never be confused for a juggernaut. However, the Little General was showing the league that he was every bit the juggernaut his squad may not have been.
In the three straight years Detroit went to the NBA Finals, their offensive rating went from sixth to seventh to 11th. Thomas was the leading scorer on both championship teams and only once in that run did someone even average 20 points per. Oddly enough that was the one year, of the three that Detroit did not win it all. The 1972 – 73 New York Knicks led by Walt Frazier, the 1974 – 75 Golden State Warriors led by Jamaal Wilkes and Rick Barry and arguably the 1978 – 79 Seattle SuperSonics led by Gus Williams, Dennis Johnson and Jack Sikma were the only guard orientated teams to win NBA titles. Exactly ten seasons from Seattle winning a title, the Piston leader not only duplicated that feat, he expanded upon it. The man known as “Zeke” would become the forefather of a new NBA by illustrating to the world that ball dominating little men could deliver rings as well. The Chicago native birthed a new style, but it was a certain Chicago Bull that would raise that child (style).
Michael Jordan will forever be the king of isolation championship basketball. As dominating a scorer Jordan was, he equally dominated the field goal attempts his teammates took throughout games. M.J.'s highest single season assist total sits at 650, which rest squarely behind the likes of Greivis Vasquez and the immortal Rickey Green. In six championship seasons the most assists “His Airness” registered was 453, good for 5.5 per game. Let there be no doubt that No. 23 put the “shooting” in shooting guard. For those in need of further reconfirmation, the Boston Celtics’ John Havlicek and Larry bird (both forwards) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all have more total career assists then Jordan. The shooting guard currently sits 93rd all-time in assists per game with 5.2. M.J.’s game was scoring and scoring a lot, and to be clear he was damn good at it. Obviously, the moment His Airness stepped on the court his talents were not going to be wasted relying on others. As Thomas and Frazier would work to get others shots, on the way to scoring their on points Jordan simply worked to get his shot. And in the process he solidified a brand of basketball that was unsuccessfully emulated, until Los Angeles Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant reinvented it.
In the last 30 years only two players have taken 2,000 or more field goal attempts………………. Those two are Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Since 1990 only two players have managed to lead the league in field goal attempts and win an NBA title……………………….those two players; Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. There have been a plethora of great scoring guards to enter the league, but none have been as ferocious AND as accomplished as Thomas, Bryant and M.J. The three made their respective clubs rely heavily on their scoring prowess and competitive fire. Their offensive competency became the main reason their teams won multiple titles. The end of Jordan’s championship run, which coincided with the beginning of Kobe’s championship run, witnessed several scorers. These players were hungry to prove they too could yield the very same results. From Tracy McGrady scoring 13 points in 33 seconds to Allen Iverson dropping 40 points in five straight games to Vince Carter dunking on every man, woman and child it was apparent isolation basketball was now the norm.
A style predicated on four members fighting for offensive table scraps while one player ate big was now supreme, and the viewing public adored it. Often times the ball would stick to one player deemed capable of carrying a team offensively. The results were consistent, as players failed (in the case of Carter and McGrady mightily) to capture the crown Kobe and Jordan flaunted so brashly. What separated Isiah, Michael and Kobe is incapable of being categorized or charted. More importantly, that remarkable skill set is unlikely to ever be duplicated. Their greatness was isolated much like the possessions they so frequently mastered. The NBA can be hard on jump shooters and unforgiving to penetrators; subsequently martyrs are made of scorers. Bryant was both champion and scorer.
The success of the Golden State Warriors and the habitual success of the San Antonio Spurs have ushered in the return of ball movement. With birth, death is inevitable. Therefore it was inevitable the style we were witnessing was bound to dissolve. Nevertheless, the era comes to an end more because few if any are equipped to sustain it. The likelihood of ever seeing a player win titles, while playing the game in too completely different fashions is about as likely as witnessing a player score 81 points. In the end, the rarity in which Bryant operated will forever be complimented by the isolated talents of the few his legacy now rests aside.
By: Kwame Fisher-Jones
Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose was once the center of the basketball universe, and now the guard is no more than a globular cluster of deemed stars. A cluster amounting to what was once perceived as blinding brightness.
Rose’s fall from overrated to unrated has been fascinating, especially considering it has happened on the watch of the very same media that elevated him. As the relevance of the Bulls’ guard dwindles, the difficulty lies in surmising if it was hype or agenda that accompanied Rose to a level he has still yet to attain. Now the reluctant “star” has gone from top five to not mentioned at all, and it at least appears the former All-Star seems content in his demise. Therein lies the truth of not just Rose, but those so intent on premature elevation. There is a war in today’s basketball world, between perception disguised as analytics and reality defined as on court production. Numbers and intention have overtaken time and production. Too many times today’s writers will point to a statistic or numerical achievement to quantify a player who on the court has failed to deliver on blatant talent. This is the peculiar case of Rose. The 2010/2011 MVP award was given to the Bulls guard, but the Miami Heat would go on to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals that season. Led by newly acquired forward LeBron James, the very same James who some felt should have won the regular season award initially.
Since “winning” the M.V.P award, to date the Bulls’ legend has played in 163 of a possible 375 games. Chicago has won 96, or 58 percent, of those contests. The regular season, while important, is just a microcosm of what separates players. It is the playoffs where the former Memphis Tiger has managed to escape culpability. In his singular trip to the Eastern Conference Finals the guard shot 35 percent and the Bulls lost 4 games to 1. Since that trip the 2008 first overall selection has played in 13 playoff games and shot a paltry 39 percent. It is difficult to decipher which result is more appalling, the 39 percent shooting or the 13 playoff games in four seasons or is it the seven wins. These were not the results that seemed imminent based on the way many viewed and discussed the Bull. If not a championship, at least a championship appearance should have been sustained by this juncture. Unless, the hype was more hope than production.
Perhaps reality happened. Perhaps what makes a player truly great cannot be concocted in a laboratory or contrived with fancy Texas Instrument calculators. Time has long been the affirmation in the greatest of sports debates, and time has affirmed just who Rose is. His supporters will point to injuries, a lack of supporting cast, LeBron James, poor coaching philosophies, and even bad tacos in an attempt to justify his habitual shortcomings. To be clear there are always reasons for failure, but that should never excuse them. Nor should those who elevated him be excused. The superstar bar was lowered to include the guard. Much like it has been lowered to include other players who have failed to deliver on their unyielding talent (Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard immediately come to mind).
We were told Rose was the future, and we as fans were witnessing something special. Sadly what we truly witnessed was a premature coronation that has finally given way to sullen dreams. Years have passed since those miscalculations and the benefactor has relished in obscurity. Today the occasional 20 point game is appreciated, but no longer expected. Will he ever deliver on the hype that so many were all too quick to thrust his way? The issue with the former Memphis Tiger has always been the immeasurable. The spectacular play has never been an issue. It is the missed free throw in the 2008 NCAA championship, with an opportunity to put the Tigers up by four. Or it is making just two field goals in the final five minutes and overtime of that championship game.
It is obvious now Rose is who he proclaimed to be on that night in April. The aforementioned poor shooting performance in his one and only trip to the conference finals, in conjunction with Chicago’s four first round exits in seven trips to the post season have confirmed as much. So the question remains why did so many ignore what had been done in hopes of what the guard was unlikely to do. The aggressive rush to anoint a player has overtaken the sports world and has placed players in company they have no business keeping. The truly tragic part is those who are responsible will never be silenced. Derrick Rose’s supposed fall from grace was nothing more than time proving yet again that numbers do lie.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
When current Los Angeles Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant announced to the world his current group of Olympic teammates would defeat basketball’s immortal Dream Team, many scoffed. However, Bryant’s bold assertion was not only correct, but again exposed the media’s childlike adulation for anything Michael Jordan related.
The 1992 Dream Team was the first group of NBA All-Stars to play in the Olympics, and yes, they did annihilate all that stood in their path on their way to securing the Gold Medal. Yet, this feat, albeit spectacular, does not equate to unquestioned supremacy.
The 1992 Dream Team was flawed and contrary to popular belief consisted of men, not gods.
When a TRUE position-by-position analysis of each roster is done, it is hard to fathom but undeniably true, that the 2012 version of the Dream Team’s 1-12 would defeat the 1992 Omegas. The games would be close and the competition would be fierce, however, after gauging where each player was and is in their perspective careers one would be hard pressed to just anoint the 1992 squad victorious.
The 2012 collection of point guards fall well-short in name recognition, but those shortcomings cannot mask their advantage in talent. On any given day, and twice on Sundays, Magic Johnson would be No. 1 on any list discussing point guards. Johnson was the game’s best and in his prime was unconquerable at the position. Problem was, Magic was no longer in his prime, in fact, the Lakers’ icon had not played competitive basketball in over a year. The ‘92 squad’s other point guard, the Utah Jazz’s John Stockton, was coming off of an undisplaced fracture of his right fibula.
Johnson’s age and health combined with Stockton’s injury alter the entire dynamic in the point guard competition.
How would these two warriors counter the speed, penetration, and athleticism of a Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul? Even in Johnson’s day he was never a defensive juggernaut, so no longer in his prime and one year removed from competitive play it is safe to assume Magic would struggle with this assignment. Stockton coming off a significant leg injury would also be a liability for the ‘92 team.
Conversely, the Williams and Paul combination would have their way with the aged combatants. The two point guards would get into the paint at-will, and would face little resistance in getting the ball to teammates on the move. Yes Magic would be able to back the smaller guards down, but age and fatigue would eventually catch up to the veteran. Johnson’s lack of game shape would be evident by the second half, and Stockton on one good leg would be helpless against Westbrook’s explosion in the open court.
Obviously Michael Jordan would castrate Kobe Bryant and James Harden at the two spot. Jordan was coming off back-to-back championship seasons and OWNED the league. Bryant’s competitive fire would be extinguished by Jordan’s skill and desire. Harden is not really worth mentioning, but for full disclosure must be mentioned. Clyde Drexler would have no problem exposing Harden’s propensity to flop every time the wind blows. This match-up would clearly favor the ‘92 crew.
With the match-ups drawing even thus far, it is the small forward and power forward positions where the 2012 players announce their presence with authority. Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, and Karl Malone garner most of the attention and highlight this group. Barkley and Malone were both outstanding rebounders, while Pippen was an efficient offensive player.
Defensively Pip was one of the game’s greatest and Malone was a perennial All-NBA First Team Defensive member, however that is where the defensive slides cease. Charles Barkley was one of the worst defenders in the league and loved to gamble. Larry Bird was decrepit by that point in his career and Chris Mullin was an “effort” defender.
This is where Team USA 2012 seizes the reigns. The current players offer a versatility that the 92 players do not regarding the forward position. The scoring of Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant would give both Mullin and Pippen fits. Melo’s strength on the block and Durant’s length would frustrate Pippen. The Bulls small forward struggled against skilled strong players so there is no way he would be defending LeBron, thus leaving him to cover Anthony or Durant.
Melo’s strength in the post, explosion, and movement without the ball would be too much for Pippen to contain. Durant would struggle with Pip’s length, but it is difficult to imagine the 6’10 Durant not taking advantage of his seven foot wingspan. This would leave Barkley or Malone to defend Lebron.
Let us say that again slowly, this would leave Charles Barkley and Karl Malone to defend LeBron James.
Yes Malone and Barkley would have their way with James in the paint. However, James would have his way on the offensive end as well. James would also be able to cover space with his speed and force both forwards to cover the length of the floor, which we all know Barkley would not.
The 2012 troop would have no problem extending their defense the full length of the court and reverting to a zone to eliminate the inside presence that the ‘92 troops would have. Paul and crew would also run, run, and run after every made or missed shot to enforce an up-tempo game. With two of the game’s best scorers in Durant and Bryant on the wings and James and Paul running the break, Team 2012 would be potent on offense and stingy on defense.
Jordan gives the 92 crew one ace in the hole and the other ace, or aces, would be Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. The 2012 team would have no answer for a halfcourt game that featured the two bona fide centers. Their answer in Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, and Anthony Davis are laughable. Until you consider in the eight games Team ‘92 played, Robinson and Ewing never led the team in scoring. In fact, the closest the two came was Robinson finishing second once and Ewing finishing third.
Also consider this, the two gargantuan centers led the team in rebounding only three times, so the notion these two were featured cogs in the Team ‘92’s offense is unsubstantiated. The two centers were used as intimidators, and this would not work against American players.
Robinson would fit perfectly in an up-tempo game. His gazelle physique and extremely high basketball IQ would create mismatches for both Chandler and Love. The question remains would Michael concede to Robinson. The guard has always been the “man” and has never had to concede the spotlight to another superstar, especially in such a heated contest.
The Jordan lovers forget, it was no accident No.23 never played with another skilled offensive player. It was no oversight on General Manager Jerry Krause’s part or a mistake on Head Coach Phil Jackson’s part that he never asked for another dog in the yard. Jordan was the alpha and it is unlikely he would concede to such a docile personality in David Robinson.
Jordan was a killer who slowed down for no one, Robinson was a gentle spirit.
Let no man, women, or child ever commit the travesty of speaking against the god known as Michael Jordan.
However, ask yourself this, do you think it was a coincidence Jordan led the team in scoring only three times and those just happened to be the three biggest games in the Olympics. The first was against the second best team in the Olympics, and the only team deemed a threat in Croatia. The second and third were in the medal rounds.
Even in the house of fiction reality has a room. The reality is the Bulls’ guard would never allow such a thing to happen. Robinson would present another road to success but no one would make this the required path for No.23. Thus ensuring that Jordan would travel the road he knew best.
Those intangibles that people salute whenever Jordan’s name is invoked is what would leave the 92 Team tasting the disdain of defeat in a contest such as this.
Kobe Bryant has won championships sharing the spotlight. LeBron James won an NBA title and three league M.V.P. trophies playing a “make the best basketball play” style for better or for worse.
Lastly, Kevin Durant’s assassin eye seems unbefitting of such a mundane man. The skill of compromise can sometimes be mistaken for cowardice. This is the art of competition that was lost on Jordan and his 92 crew, excluding Magic and Bird.
There was a reason Jordan’s contemporaries failed mightily at winning titles in his absence and habitually bowed to him at critical moments during their NBA playing days. They were so fixated on beating Jordan at his own game, similar to a gunslinger putting down his pistol and trying to match sword play with a swordsman.
Instead of playing in the confines of the team Barkley, Malone, Ewing, and Drexler wanted to be the warrior who slayed the mighty dragon instead of being part of the group of warriors who slayed the mighty dragon.
The 2012 Team would not make that vital and fatal mistake. They would compete in a fashion that has been successful for them. LeBron would facilitate, Kobe would defer to the hot hand, while Anthony and Durant would score at an unprecedented clip.
Unlike the nineties, today’s game is now played by a different set of masters. A group more concerned with sharing the spotlight and less concerned about basking in it. A crew who wants to make sure everyone eats so they all can get fat instead of one individual obese off of singular adulation.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
Andrew Bynum will enter the 2011-2012 postseason as the unquestioned leader for the Lakers for the first time in his enigmatic career. God help us all.
The quest for athletic supremacy has long been a battle where only the strongest of gladiator survives. That is the test standing before Bynum, can he or better yet will he provide a championship level of play for the Lakers. The championship arena is where Gasol learned he needed to come harder, it is where LeBron learned how heavy the crown truly is, and it is where Magic, Michael, and Russell became legendary.
The playoffs are simply where truth overtakes hope.
Yes, the center has played in two NBA Finals previously, but this will be the first time he enters with the bullseye on his back and expectations upon his shoulders.
In the 2009-2010 postseason the seven-footer’s playoff minutes and scoring rose from the previous year and Bynum played well in spurts. However, he finished with only two double figure scoring games in the NBA Finals and one double figure rebound game. While anticipation was building it was abruptly clear it was not the young center’s turn.
The 2010-2011 postseason was swift and filled with controversy. Despite the strife before him the Jersey native showed he possessed the heart of fighter. In just one season Bynum went from a paltry 8.6 points per to strong 14.4 points per. It was this postseason that the boyish grin Bynum displayed so often in his career was replaced be a grown man scowl. It was in this postseason he displayed a true grit that up to that point had yet to be seen.
Just as it appeared the Lakers’ center was set to take the next step a lockout occurred. Yet, this did not stifle the young center. The coaching change and suspension seemed to energize the Laker big man. Bynum’s call to arms was expected this season but the question was could he deliver consistently. Would the team respect his demands for the ball or bypass him for proven deliverance?
His emergence began with the belief and constant reinforcement to be aggressive from Head Coach Mike Brown. Coach Brown has a history of working well with big man going back to his San Antonio days and working with Malik Rose, who would played a vital role in the Spurs championship season.
By far Bynum is Brown’s biggest achievement and remains his biggest question mark. The player who begged for the table scraps from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol is now the sitting at the head of the table. To date the center should be the hands down winner of the Most Improved Player of the Year award and some could argue he should be First Team All-NBA and Brown deserves a gargantuan amount of the credit.
The LA big has earned the respect of his teammates who have deferred to Bynum and have grown to trust him late in games. Now it is time for the center to take the big stage. The same tenacity that has gotten the big fella 33 double-doubles in 50 starts and 47 games of 10 or more points now must be displayed where legends are formed.
If healthy there is no center in the western conference that can stop or even deter “the Grown Man”. If focused Bynum can lead this team to the Finals regardless of who is at point guard or small forward, but ifs don’t win titles certainty does.
Many of players have wilted under dimmer lights and less spectators, the question remains where will Bynum fall. The talent is there and slowly the achievement is meeting the acclaim, but all will be for not if he stumbles early.
Any success the Lakers are to have this postseason rest squarely on the shoulders of the Jersey native. If they playoffs were to start today LA would face a familiar foe in the Dallas Mavericks and so far this season the Lakers are 3-0 against the Mavericks. In those three contests Bynum has averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds, one block and that is not good enough. Those numbers are not indicative of Bynum’s skill set and could lead L.A. back to an early offseason.
The center has to be dominant from the outset. The young gun has to announce his playoff presence with the same authority used when he opened the 2011-2012 season. The Mavericks, Spurs, and Thunder do not have a player capable of slowing Bynum down on the road to the NBA Finals.
The center just has to walk that path.
Gone are the excuses and tempered enthusiasm. Here are the expectations of dominance from a dominant force.
Bynum can no longer enter the arena and return blows he must initiate them. No other player on this roster will be counted on as this young man this post season.
The Lakers have groomed their gladiator for battle, and although he has never stood on the frontlines the center bears the scars of strife and war. Now he must lead his group into the arena as first in command. What is expected has been documented, however what will occur is uncertain.