If you’ve either A), been on another planet for the past three weeks, or B), refuse to accept reality, the fact of the matter is that big change has taken place in the NBA landscape since the start of the 2010-11 NBA playoffs.
That’s right NBA roundball fanatics, a changing of the guard is taking place right before our very eyes if you haven’t noticed.
The Los Angeles Lakers have gone from champs to chumps in the blink of an eye. The Boston Celtics and their widely-respected ”¹…”Big Three’ came up amazingly small in getting ousted by Miami to join L.A. on the proverbial ”¹…”golf course’.
Oh, did I forget to mention the veteran-laden San Antonio Spurs and their trio of superstars looked like they were mostly running in quicksand in getting man-handled by Memphis in the first round?
These changes, along with several other eye-opening events that have taken place over the course of the NBA playoffs, have prompted my latest ”¹…”10 NBA Thoughts’ column.
As always, I’m prepared to take you on a fun-filled, roller-coaster of a ride, of NBA thoughts centered on the madness that has taken place in both conferences since the playoffs began on April 16.
1. Passing the Torch
The Celtics, Lakers are finished as we’ve come to know them NBA fanatics. Having said that, I also think it’s quite possible that both ballclubs could very well find themselves back in the title hunt as early as next season ‘” if they make the right offseason moves, that is.
No matter what happens with these historic franchises, the torch has clearly been passed as the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat look like they’re going to be forces in the east for the next several seasons while Oklahoma City and Memphis likewise become elite ballclubs in the west.
2. Wadin’ in the Water
Call me crazy, but clearly, it is Dwyane Wade and not LeBron James, that is the unequivocal leader of the Miami Heat, even if James is mostly front and center when the cameras start whirring. While James torched the Boston Celtics late in Game 5 of their semifinal series to clinch it for the Heat, I genuinely believe Wade is the more polished finisher, so much so that he ranks among the all-time great finishers in league history. Lest anyone forget, it was Wade that carried the Heat to their 2006 NBA Championship by strapping his teammates on his back and dominating the dazed Dallas Mavericks for four consecutive games after falling into an 0-2 hole to open the NBA finals that year.
3. A Rose is a Rose
All I can say about Chicago Bulls’ MVP point guard Derrick Rose is — wow! In just one season, Rose went from being mentioned as one of the best young point guards in the league behind veterans like Chris Paul, Deron Williams and even Steve Nash to arguably the best player in the league. In addition to his jaw-dropping forays to the rack that he unleashes with alarming regularity these days, Rose is now armed with a consistent jump shot that stretches out to three-point distance, making him virtually impossible to guard. He may still need a bit more help in order to win a championship, but clearly, this Rose is a real rose no matter how you look at him!
4. Talking About Turn-Arounds! Getting’ to Know Z-Bo!
Did you know that Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph is the only player in the NBA to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game over the last three seasons?
Once mostly known for his boorish behavior both, on and off the court, Randolph’s talent has never been in question. Now in his 10th season, the more mature Randolph, is the go-to-guy and unequivocal leader of the Memphis Grizzlies and arguably the most difficult low-post offensive force in the league today! Just for the record, Randolph has also averaged 20 and 10 in four of the last five seasons and six times in 10 seasons in the league.
5. The Silent Assassin!
He doesn’t throw talcum powder before games, nor is he known for infamous quotes about ”¹…”taking his talents’ somewhere. He doesn’t scream, yell or have a ”¹…”me-first’ personality that many of today’s stars seem to carry with them like luggage.
Nevertheless, he is the game’s best ”¹…”silent assassin’ and undoubtedly one of the best locker room leaders in the NBA today.
Yeah … and to make matters even worse, that darned Kevin Durant also has unfathomable range on his silky-smooth jump shot and can play three positions despite being the height of a natural power forward. Is there any doubt that, at some point in his career, people will also be calling him a champion?
6. Gimme’ A Break!
I’ve ripped LeBron James and his cry-baby ways long enough NBA basketball fanatics. I always call it like I see and always try to ”¹…”keep it real’ even when I have to rip one of my own beloved ballclubs.
Having said that, I think James showed a lot of class in repeatedly handing out praise to the Boston Celtics, not to mention that I have always admired the fact that he’s been an absolute model citizen off the court.
Just think about it people, how many of us wouldn’t have completely lost our minds with $90 million in hand at 18-years-old? Hell, most of us would have probably ended up in a jail cell for doing something stupid ‘” and most likely, illegal!
7. Shell of His Old Self 1
Yeah, he’s the best locker room leader in the entire NBA, but it’s clear that Boston Celtics’ veteran power forward Kevin Garnett is aging faster than that 8-year-old child beauty pageant contestant that’s been all over the Internet for using botox.
Seriously though, KG, while still very good, is no longer able to do many of the things on the court that he used to routinely dominate opponents with. Hopefully, the C’s ”¹…”manage’ his minutes next season by playing the versatile Jeff Green a lot more.
8. Old Self Revisited!
KG may be a shell of his old self these days, but Pau Gasol certainly isn’t. As a matter of fact, he’s once again turned into the formerly, soft-as-Charmin ”¹…”power’ forward he used to be. Gasol’s play grew ”¹…”softer and softer’ with each passing postseason game until finally, the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki beat all of the stuffing out of the ”¹…”neck-bearded’ Spanish wonder. Most observers expect the Lakers to try and move the multi-talented big man, but I want to know — who’s gonna’ take this guy at a whopping $19 million per for the next three seasons?
9. Shell of His Old Self 2
Since I’m on this ”¹…”old self’ thing, I might as well throw in the fact that Boston’s other starting forward, Paul Pierce, is also looking significantly older after his battles against the Miami Heat and LeBron James. From his inexcusable late-game mishaps to his inconsistent offensive performances throughout the postseason, it’s also no damned lie that ”¹…”The Truth’ is showing some signs of slippage!
10. Shell of His Old Self 3
(Note to self, hide all signs of slippage before someone writes about it). I hate to keep mentioning the fact that some of the game’s greatest players over the last decade and a half are no longer the superstars they used to be, but hey, us ‘old guys’ everywhere can always take comfort in the fact that no man can outrun Father Time (unless you’re Herschel Walker that is).
With that thought in mind, let me just say that, like Garnett and Pierce, Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar shooting guard Kobe Bryant also showed everyone that he’s not getting any younger these days either. While he’s not in the same class of ”¹…”slippage’ as KG or Pierce, he’s also clearly not able to impose his will on opponents and just take over games down the stretch like he used to in his younger days.
Yeah, Bryant is still better than 99 percent of the shooting guards in the league, but again, he’s not the high-flying superstar that used to routinely torch opponents with his unstoppable array of offensive moves.
11. Eleventh Heaven
I ordered up this special section specifically for two Atlanta Hawks players.
First, let me just say that athletic forward Josh Smith has earned my vote for dumbest player in the entire NBA!
I know that may sound a bit harsh, but the fact of the matter is that Smith is arguably the biggest underachiever the league has seen since he made his NBA debut seven seasons ago.
The 6-9 product out of Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, stands 6-9 and can run like the wind and almost literally jump through the roof. Unfortunately, Smith is about as dumb as a box of rocks in the fact that he’s never come to the realization that he actually needs a jump shot in order to make himself a more complete player.
For a guy that has ”¹…”left-handed LeBron’ written all over him, Smith has come up amazingly small throughout his career while averaging ”¹…”just’ 14.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for his career.
It’s pretty sad that Smith has never averaged more than 17.2 points or 8.7 rebounds per game, but hey, when you don’t want to put in the effort that it takes to move from good to great, this is what happens. Instead of being the sure-fire 20-point per game scorer he just looks like he should be, Smith is the classic, enigma, wrapped inside a mystery.
Last but not least, I’ve got to rip Atlanta’s Joe Johnson. Dude signed a max contract deal with the Hawks this past offseason but likes to ”¹…”stay under the radar’ according to his very own words.
It’s a damn shame that the clearly gifted Johnson isn’t more aggressive offensively, because when he is, the Hawks are really hard to beat.
After averaging at least 20.2 points per game in five straight seasons, Johnson put up just 18.2 points per game this season. Johnson also shot the lowest percentage from three-point distance than he has in eight seasons while playing fewer minutes per game than he has in seven seasons.
While Joe Johnson is clearly a gifted basketball player that can shoot it from deep or drive to the rack, his propensity to stand around as an on-court observer far too often makes him more of a semi-annual all-star and certainly not worthy of the superstar money he’s currently receiving from the Hawks, money that would be better spent bringing in some more players that could actually help them win games.