The season begins tomorrow. It’s like a double Christmas. Actual presents and then watching a day of hoops that starts with seeing the Celtics and the Knicks resume a rivalry that isn’t really a rivalry for either of them (the C’s and the Sixers had blood feuds, as did the Knicks with the Bullets and later the Bulls).
But as this season goes on, more like a sprint than the usual inexorable march, there are certain players whose entire aura, the way we think about them and perceive them, will forever change with this season.
First on that list is…. this man.
Look, I really don’t want to be the next guy to add more stuff on to what might be the most relentlessly analyzed star of this NBA era. But i have to. It feels like it needs to be said, and in the right kind of volume and pitch so that the message doesn’t get lost.
Everywhere he goes now, he’s got to hear it. Even his crew can’t protect him from the questions, the open snickering behind his back about the failures when his game needs to be at his sharpest. Questions like this.
But, if we know anything about the man who is the league’s most dominant regular-season player, it’s that we don’t know as much as we should. Heading into his 9th year in the league, the man we would call King is still an unfinished product. His post game, the one thing we agree would make him a postseason terror on par with his regular season work, still isn’t there. His jumper is shamefully inconsistent. But worse than the tangible things, the intangibles are troubling. I don’t mean to go all Skip Bayless on you here, but let me ask you this seriously: Have you ever watched LeBron in a close postseason game over the past 3 years & not seriously wondered what in the world was going on? What was he thinking? The league’s great players very rarely have this problem. This season, LeBron needs to remove all doubt.
Speaking of people that need to remove all doubt, we get to the atypically skilled point guard for one of the league’s saltiest teams. This is a team that used to represent an identity, used to have a way. But now, through a combination of roster moves, neglect, and general aging out, that way is slowly fading. It’s up to one person to bring that way back to prominence. But the question is this: Can he?
Look, before I go any further, let me make clear: these Celtics aren’t the Bird, McHale, Parish Celtics. They’re not even these guys.
What the C’s are, at this specific moment, is a team trapped between ownership. Are they the Ubuntu Celtics embodied by KG, Allen, and Pierce, or are they Rondo’s team? Frankly, as long as this trouble still exists, the C’s are going to be exactly where they were last season. A lower-half playoff team in the East.
Russell Westbrook. Simply put: If he can’t figure out a way to find a balance between his own game and that of Kevin Durant’s, with James Harden on the come, the “Is He A Point Guard” question begins to look like the answer is no. And if it’s no, with Eric Maynor there to take over, guess what Russell? Enjoy Toronto.
Landry Fields\Iman Shumpert\The Corpse of Mike Bibby. The front line for the NY Knicks is as good as it gets, so if the Knicks want to get where they want to go, one of the three people I just mentioned is going to have to step up and at least pull off an impersonation of Ron Harper.
Thank you for reading this.