Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Theoharides On the NBA

I hope you're enjoying your Wednesday, my Puddlers.  Although, I hate referring to days of the week in that manner. In the way that people will say, "Happy Friday!" as though it were a holiday. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate each day, but you have to give the days of the week credit for their workman like quality to just keep churning out hours and weather day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. It's their workmanlike quality that makes them so stellar, we don't need to speak of them as if they were a holiday—their holiness lies in their ordinary nature.

Anyway, since I'll be on vacation next week and there are so many great sports items coming up, we're bringing you another sports post today. It's Wednesday, so Alex Theoharides will be bringing you his thoughts on some NBA storylines. Its nice to know I can hand over the reigns to another NBA fan—even if his opinions may be slightly skewed (i.e. his thoughts on Kevin Love).

But, I'll step aside and leave you with Mr. Theoharides:

Theoharides On the NBA

Alex Theoharides

Bill Simmons summed up Monday’s championship game between UConn and Butler best, when he tweeted, “April, 2011: the month that women’s college basketball caught up to men’s college basketball.” Amen. For most of the title game, both teams were playing like they were auditioning for roles in a movie made about the intramural basketball team I co-captained in college. Yes, the team that went 0 and 11 for the season. Three point shots were heaved in the general direction of the rim. Lay-ups were thrown up as if the goal of the game were not to score but to break the backboard. The inbounds plays seemed like they were designed by kindergartners. The ball handling was too ugly to be shown in a Ron Jeremy production, let alone a college basketball game. Ugh. I mean, Butler made only 12 field goals in the game. Out of 64 shots. Yes, 18.8 percent. And everyone’s celebrating UConn’s fine defensive performance, but Butler was getting open shots. They just couldn’t make them.

Now that the excruciating NCAA Championship is over, it’s time to turn back to the Association, aka, the only real basketball league left in this country. Before looking forward to the upcoming playoffs, I’d like to look back on a few of the top stories from the regular season, which as my good friend Jon recently reminded me, really doesn’t mean a thing (and really, he should know, he’s a masochist, err, excuse me, a Cleveland sports fan). That being said, I like to think of the regular season as a time of reflection, when good players are mistakenly made out to be superstars, smart veterans play at 75% of their capabilities, and hair-brained talking heads like Skip Bayliss earn bogus salaries pretending to be journalists. In short, the regular season is all about hype. With further ado, the top four over-hyped stories of the 2010-2011 NBA Regular Season. (And don’t forget to check back next week, for the under-hyped stories heading into the post-season. And perhaps a few fearless predictions!)


Look, ever since I moved to Minnesota, I’ve watched countless Timberwolves games. I want to like them, and I really want to like Kevin Love, especially after he recorded a 30-30 game (30 rebounds, 30 points) and went on a string of 53 straight double-doubles. Both accomplishments are impressive. But all they are is fluff, which covers up for the fact that K. Love is a terrible defender, a limited offensive player, and an average teammate. Supposedly, he’s the savior of the Wolves, and the talking heads have made a big deal about the fact that Love’s numbers are better than Kevin Garnett’s. Yes, except for one fairly important thing. With KG the Wolves were a perennial playoff team. With Love, they have the worst record in the Western Conference.  

Sure, a large part of that has to do with the fact that the Wolves have the youngest roster in the league and a terrible coach in Kurt Rambis, who still seems to believe that the Wolves should be running the triangle offense even though it has only worked for two teams - Jordan’s Bulls, Kobe’s Lakers. Yeah, I don’t think the Wolves have quite the same make-up as those two teams. Still, K. Love never should have been an All Star. Lamarcus Aldridge was far more deserving. Love’s a nice player, who rebounds and can make the three-ball. But that’s it. I can’t ever picture him starring for an NBA Championship team. For instance, would he have gotten much run on last year’s Lakers. Or the 2008 Celtics? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

3. Carmelo Anthony Forcing a Move to New York

I grew up during the modern heyday of the Knicks when Patrick Ewing roamed the paint swatting shots and missing clutch baskets and John Starks used to slap the floor on every key defensive possession. Knicks fans love defense. It’s what they chant. It’s what their favorite teams have played. Who were my favorite players as a kid? Starks and Charles Oakley. Both of whom were ferocious, aggressive defenders. The Knicks of my youth played such violent, rigorous defense that they effectively ruined offensive basketball in the NBA, forcing Commissioner David Stern to change the hand checking rules on defense.

Everyone knows what happened to the Knicks in the years following the Riley and Van Gundy era. But now they have Carmelo, a talented player, who I loved watching in college. He is a silky smooth scorer, and a true triple threat on offense. But he hasn’t proven to be a real MVP type player in the NBA yet, and ultimately, his decision to leave the Nuggets for New York will have had little effect on the season. The Nuggets wouldn’t have won the championship with him, and the Knicks won’t win the championship now that they’ve acquired him. For all the talk it garnered, both of the teams most directly involved in the so-called Carmelo sweep stake are essentially exactly right where they would have been if it had never happened.

Yes, Carmelo has a chance to bring the Knicks back to their glory days. But if that’s going to happen, they need to acquire a few more pieces that fit with his offense first, slow the ball down mentality. In short, they need some defenders. Carmelo and the Knicks will be a big story in a few years. He’s the sort of player that needs the criticism the New York media will bring. In Denver, he played with head cases (ie: JR Smith, the Birdman, Kenyon Martin) and he was treated as a star. In New York, he’ll be blamed for the losses, and the media will pick apart his every move. Hopefully, this criticism will motivate him to develop into the star everyone seems to think he is. If that happens, the Knicks could prove to be a thrilling rival for the Miami Cheats down the road - just not this season.

2. The Celtics Early Season Dominance

I should preface this by admitting that the Celtics are my favorite current NBA team. For God’s sake, as I write this column, I’m wearing a Celtic’s t-shirt. And I, along with every other fan of the team, was ready to anoint them world champions two months into the NBA calendar. However, what we all missed is how old and slow they can look. When they’re at their best, Rondo is flying up and down the court, whipping one-handed passes to open teammates. When they’re at their worst, Paul Pierce is sluggishly dribbling from side to side, trying to find a way to score. I hated the Kendrick Perkins trade, but I don’t think they could have won the championship with him and I’m fairly certain they won’t without him. They just look too old. (And yes, all of that, was my attempt at a reverse jinx.)

1. The Downfall of the Lakers

Standing alongside everyone who handed the trophy over to the Celtics two months into the season, was a large group of people who were excitedly promoting the fall of the Lakers. It was finally here! The team everyone loves to hate (me more than most) was finally crumbling. They were old! Kobe was injured! Phil Jackson had lost his touch! Now they look like the best team in the league. And I look really stupid eating crow.

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