Thursday, June 16, 2011

4 comments 5 Reasons Why I loved the 2010-2011 NBA Season

The link to Dime for the article is here. Can't plagiarize myself, you know?

I’ve never been one for wearing gear on the court. I’m not a good enough basketball player. The NBA is a different story. If you’re a rotation player, you’ve secured an inalienable right to wear whatever you want. But unless it’s a brace, there’s really no point other than style. Take headbands, for instance. LeBron James wears one. So does Jason Terry – and his is slightly off center (someone should really tell him). Neither of them have enough hair to warrant their apparel, but they definitely have enough swag (at least LeBron used to). There’s no doubt that donning the gear is an understandable sentiment – I consider myself a Nike ID guru. Unfortunately I can only break out my kicks in summer leagues or the fabled New York City street courts. But I hope, I dream. I envision myself hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in my New York Knicks uniform. Wearing number 11, of course. And an orange sweatband below my left elbow. The moment would be just right, with all the miniscule pieces of my fantasy aligned just so.
But I digress. Even though my NBA career never materialized in the way that I imagined (fine, it never got started), I still hold on. It’s why I take enormous pride in the 3-1 record I compiled playing pick-up last week with fellow Dimers. I have to displace my passion, my anger and my limited stamina in other areas and take the victories where I can get them; like pick-up basketball, or when the train arrives directly after I walk into the subway station. Or my continuing odyssey to become the No. 1 FIFA 2011 player on Xbox Live in the United States - I’m currently at No. 277. (I’m Pyrrhus1289 if you dare to challenge me.) Or when the sandwich artist (that has to be a top 10 job title, right?) at Subway places just the right amount of buffalo sauce on my sub.

That’s why I loved this past NBA season. The big storylines were intriguing, frustrating, vindicating and palpable. Every time questions found an answer, four more questions would emerge. It was like I had been sucked into “Lost” all over again. But every NBA season has its headline drama that propels the season forward. 2010-2011 had something more. And it wasn’t the Miami Heat or Derrick Rose, but tiny splices of moments – small victories. It had just the right amount of buffalo sauce. So when I looked back on the season on the train this morning, I combed through my mental library that archived these snapshots. Here are a few of them that stuck out the most.

Frank Vogel - The world is better now that Vogel will most likely take the Pacers gig on a non-interim basis. Under his regime, Jeff Foster and Josh McRoberts patrolled the paint Kevin McHale-style, i.e. with no regard for human life whatsoever. No mercy, no easy buckets. There weren’t any intricate coaching schemes, mixing and matching of lineups, or brilliant maneuvers. It was play basketball, be physical. We often hear coaches preach that players need to play every possession, but the Pacers were the only team that actually lived up to the mantra.

The Kim Kardashian Effect – If you’re a professional athlete and you’re looking to improve your game, date Kim Kardashian. Just don’t break up with her, because she’ll break your heart and cause your career to go south. Just take a look at the history:

1. Reggie Bush – The New Orleans Saints’ running back dated the reality TV star from 2007-2010, during which time he somewhat ripped off the “bust” label stapled to his forehead. Not to mention the Super Bowl Ring he picked up in February of 2010. But then they split, and Bush cemented his heartbreak with a broken leg in Week 3 of the following season, followed by having to return his Heisman Trophy and USC disowning him.
2. Miles Austin – The Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver hopped aboard the Kardashian train during the summer of 2010 and the first two weeks of the following season. Those first two weeks got him off to a hot start, as he racked up an impressive 20 catches for 188 yards and a TD. But then they broke up, and Austin tumbled, recording seven two-catch games in the following 15 weeks.

3. Kris Humphries – He’s really got it going on. Dating Kim Kardashian, averaging a double-double for the season, and looking at a healthy next contract. If he and Kardashian split, expect Dwight Howard to sign with the Nets, Humphries’ minutes to get slashed in half and Lamar Odom to unintentionally tear his ACL in an alarming yet sadistically satisfying twist of irony.

Reaffirmation of the Atlanta Zone – By definition, this refers to teams perennially chained to a No. 3, 4, 5 or 6 seed. More importantly, they’re handcuffed to the second tier of NBA teams without the possibility of parole. Atlanta’s first contract with Joe Johnson welcomed them to this much-maligned zone, but their most recent deal with him put the nail in the coffin. No team will ever win with Joe Johnson as its main star. I don’t care who you put around him.
The Memphis Grizzlies followed suit by committing to Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay for the long term. You’d think that teams would have learned after the Rashard Lewis fiasco, but no. The NBA has proven that you win with a bunch of B+/A- stars, or one A+ star and a bunch of solid B role players.

And now the Knicks are dangerously close to joining the ranks. Carmelo and Amar’e are pretty on paper, but that’s about it. Any time you flirt with the C and D range as your main rotation guys, you’ll be in a world of hurt. Anthony Carter should never be leading the comeback charge in the regular season, let alone an elimination playoff game.

The Weakening of the Western Conference - We can praise Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks’ team chemistry all we want, but their NBA title was nothing less than shocking. I mean, the Mavericks? The same team everyone and their mother picked against in the 1st round? The same team whose average age is 67? Don’t get me wrong – they deserved the title. But a repeat? Doubtful. Then again, I have no idea who the favorite is for next year. Every team has got a major issue. The Lakers lost Phil Jackson. Dallas is old. San Antonio is older. The Thunder will be immobilized until Scottie Brooks hands off the point guard duties to James Harden. The Denver Nuggets have too many rotations players and tattoos to avoid internal turmoil. The Portland Trailblazers have too many injuries and too much front office instability. Memphis, well they’re a frustrating anomaly. Like the guy on the street court who looks awful, yet inexplicably puts the ball in the basket more often than not.
The point is that the Western Conference playoffs were unbelievable this year, and there’s no dynasty in sight. Which means that we’re looking at multiple years of entertaining unpredictability.

The Dismantling of the Utah Jazz – Jerry Sloan, Deron Williams and a winning record all disappeared from Utah quicker than a Mark Jackson outro. (Fine. It was slower.) But it was the best thing to happen to the Jazz since the end of the Malone era? Why? They were in the Atlanta zone. Deron Williams and Al Jefferson/Carlos Boozer were not the solution. Maybe if they added one more piece, but what free agent is signing with Utah? (Cut to Jazz fans crying and nodding at the same time). It’s really a shame, because Salt Lake City is one of the most underrated fan bases. They’re intense bordering on rabid, which is always intimidating and influencing the outcome of games at EnergySolutions Arena. But pity won’t draw free agents out west. Their best move was to cut ties with anything related to the old regime and start over. We always seem to forget it, but the goal is an NBA championship, not the playoffs.


J.S. said...

I don't really think the NBA has "proved" you win a championship any way really. I used to, but now think it's rubbish. Sure, if you have Michael Jordan or Shaq or Tim Duncan, you'll probably win, that's what the NBA has taught us. If the model held up, Cleveland would have won multiple championships.

Dirk wasn't considered an "A+" star this time last year, he wasn't considered a top five NBA player at the time, he wasn't. I love Memphis going forward, they are far and away my pick out of the West (and I agree the East is now, maybe for the first time since Jordan, unequivocally better). They are fucking huge up front, and every single problem they had in the playoffs is solved by Rudy Gay.

They are the fastest defensive team out there, the exception might be the Heat but they can't compete with their size. Give me the Grizz comfortably over the Thunder next year out West, and I do believe they can win a championship.

Bengoodfella said...

J.S., you are right there isn't a way to win a championship. If you have MJ, Shaq or Duncan you may win one, but you also have to have a David Robinson/Tony Parker, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant/Dwyane Wade on the roster as well. Cleveland never had that type of player, which is why LBJ is ring-less so far.

Any time Rudy Gay is the solution to your problems, you may have a whole new set of problems to worry about. He's so above average and he's getting paid like he's great. I do think Memphis may have a good year, but the Thunder will win the West.

I'm holding you to this Grizz thing. That's going out on a limb, especially since the Thunder still have room to grow and I don't know if I feel the same way about the Grizz.

J.S. said...

I know exactly what you mean about Rudy, but he WAS playing WAY WAY better this year before the injury. Seriously. Better than Joe Johnson for the money. I still don't see how the Thunder score beyond 3 guys, 1 of whom half of America thinks they should trade

Bengoodfella said...

Rudy Gay isn't a bad player, not by any means. He is definitely better than Joe Johnson for the money they pay him.

I think Perkins will be able to pick up some of the slack and I also have confidence they will find a fourth scorer. Maybe the Thunder will have someone fall to them in the draft.

I hope America is over the "Trade Westbrook" movement.