Thursday, March 14, 2013

Let's Make a Date

NBA commentators love talking about the best duos in the league. Lebron and Wade, Westbrook and Durant, Chris Paul and his dunking kangaroo - they all deserve plenty of praise.  This got me thinking - what players in the league would actually make great duos? Are there "families" in the league? Love triangles? Below is a closer look at the kinds of love stories that Nicholas Sparks aspires to write about.

Best Bromance - Javale McGee and Danillo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets

If I ever write a column where I have to label a "best" and "worst" teammate, Javale McGee may win both awards. His gaffes on the court are hilarious and routinely make his teammates (and coaches, and league execs, and anyone who watches him play and realizes how athletically confusing he is) shake their heads.

And yet, Javale McGee is the most positive bench supporter I have ever seen. This is on display most whenever Gallo shoots a three. Not only does Javale always assume the ball is going in, but once it does (Gallinari shot 47% on 3s in January, and 43% in February and March thus far), he is all love. I always shoot best when I play on teams with guys who are supportive of my shooting, encourage me to keep putting it up, and love all over me when it goes in (Bryce Robinson and Mike Ross get shout outs here). I'm sure Gallo feels the same way. I hate the love this blog has thrown the Nug-nuts way so far.  But could you really say no to this?

Worst Bromance - Nate Robinson and Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls

Probably the hardest part of this article was figuring out what I meant by "worst bromance" (or worst anything else). Do I mean the bromance I think is the least functional? Or do I mean the two players that would never work in a bromance? I've decided to go with the former.

Nate Robinson is not the kind of player Tom wants to use in his system. And yet, Nate has served as an offensive spark plug for a team that sorely needs scoring without Derrick Rose. So they're a bromance, but only because Tom has no option but to continue dating Nate for long periods of time until they get their franchise player decides he is ready.  Think of this as that girl you dated because, well, something is better than nothing, while you wait on the perfect girl to come back from her semester abroad.

Nate has done well, but generally thrives in a "spark plug off the bench that the crowd loves" sort of role (January: 22minutes/game, 48-43-85% shooting splits; February: 31minutes/game, 38-39-80% shooting splits).  As Chicago prepares its defense to take on the likes of New York and Miami, Robinson is absolutely a concern. It is a relationship that Tom would rather not be in, probably resents, and will almost certainly dump the second he has a better option.

Best Narcissistic Love Story - “Facilitator” Kobe and “Kobe” Kobe, Los Angeles Kobes Lakers

Look I'm not super into this whole Lakers saga. Jokes! I love it. Mostly because they are close to pulling it together. We've known all along how desperately Kobe and Steve Nash want to make it work.  Injuries have been a major problem. But now they're squarely in the playoff hunt, and Dwight Howard has at least begun pretending he remembers that he used to be one of the best in the league.

(Edit...Kobe, as of when I was editing this, has been diagnosed with what is being called a "severe ankle sprain".  Which he will probably play through. But seriously, that's pretty bad news for this team. Though it would be the ultimate Ewing Theory candidate if the Lakers pulled it all together. Ok I'm done.)

Here's why this is my favorite self-love story: We've gotten to learn about how dedicated, passionate, and especially intelligent Kobe is as a basketball player. I love the stories about him and Nash sitting up late watching film and strategizing. Kobe is still trying to figure out how to make each piece work, but he's learning every day. I've never been a huge Kobe fan (as a person), but as a basketball player and student, the example he is setting is impressive.

Perhaps most impressive? He's found a way to merge these two identities (even though I am sure he still stands in front of the mirror in the locker room and talks to himself before games).  Over his last 10 games he's shot 53%, averaged nearly 32 points, and still manage to give out over 7 assists and grab 6 boards.

Worst Narcissistic Love Story - “I made an immediate difference with some big shots in Toronto” Rudy Gay and “I'm secretly not so secretly a mediocre to poor shooter” Rudy Gay, Toronto Raptors

This is pretty self-explanatory. The Raptors made a trade before the deadline for a player who believes he is a top level player in this league.  Paul Britton directed me to this video - apparently Raptors fans used to be deadly afraid of Gay.  Seriously though check out the second video on that link. Anyway, Gay showed up in Toronto, hit a couple of big shots, won a couple of games, and this fear dissipated.

Well I'm here to tell you, ye fans of the short-armed mascot, that you should hold onto that fear at all costs (by which I mean as low a cost as possible).  This season Gay is shooting 4.5% worse from the field than his career average (which is by no means good), and 5% worse from three (which was awful to begin with and is now in the 20s). The kicker is, he's doing this while averaging more shots than ever.  Uh oh. Hide yo dino eggs, hide yo wives. You should be as scared as this guy on the toilet.

(I know that's not a raptor. But raptors were the size of geese or something like that. Leave me alone.)

Best NBA Threesome - Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony, and Amare Stoudemire, New York Basketball Knicks

That doesn't really have the same ring as "New York Football Giants".  Anyway, this is where it gets fun. These guys win this category for two reasons.

A) They've played together for a long time. They all played on the same McDonald's All-American team in 2002? Yeah, sure.
B) The Knicks, as I write this, are getting pounded by Melo's former team, the Nuggets, 115-89. Meaning there will be some intense make-up activities afterwards.

Worst NBA Threesome - John Wall, Nene, Trevor Ariza

Obviously it is easy to pick on one of the worst records in the league.  But look at the Wizard's season this way:

Take out their first 31 games (in which they went 3-28). I'll pause to let that record sink in.  This is roughly (within a game or two) when John Wall started playing again.  It is roughly when Nene was more like 85% healthy instead of "I can walk so I guess I can go stand near someone in the paint" healthy.  Trevor Ariza had rejoined the team in better health only part of the way through that stretch.

Since then? They're 18-14.  Even if you give them a push and grant them going .500 in those other games with a healthy team, they would be 33-30 ------ good enough for 8th in the East!  You heard it here - 2014 will see the nation's Capitol host at least two (ok, probably only two) playoff games.

I don't think this is necessary to say at this point, but obviously these three are the worst threesome for all being injured at the same time and ruining the Wizards' season before it even started. Hopes were so high in the city that StubHub's ticket prices were approaching double digits.

Best Family: Lebron (Mom), Wade (Dad), and Mario Chalmers (6 year old), Miami Heat

This has been one of my favorite subplots to the Heat's rise and dominance: Lebron, Wade, and occasionally Bosh, use Chalmers as an outlet.  It hasn't happened as much this season, in part because Lebron, after becoming a Transformer in the playoffs, has carried on to a new level, and Wade has encouraged him to do so.  But seriously, everything that went wrong it seemed like Wade and Lebron were yelling at their little kid in a rec-league game.

Honestly I found it hilarious.  I'm kind of glad they seem to have gotten over it (mostly), and it probably made Chalmers into the productive piece he is now.  But parents, you can't just laugh it off and pretend it's all good!

Anyway, Wade is the Dad and Lebron plays Mom because...well for starters Lebron yelled more and Wade mostly just glared. Also, check out that meme of Lebron yelling...and the blonde woman in the crowd. She is clearly in full support of Lebron's parenting style.  But he's also the mom here because the Heat, after Wade's 2006 Finals performance, will always be Wade's team, regardless of how well Lebron plays. (Major reason I see Lebron considering other options after next year...including *gulp* Cleveland: What if he silenced all the "don't join other super stars, build your own team" jabber by moving with the Kings to Seattle in 2014??)

Worst Family: Desagana Diop (adoptive uncle), Brendon Haywood (another uncle), Byron Mullens (some weird neighbor who is always around), Bismack Biyombo (15 year old)

There was hope for Biyombo. I'm not completely sure why - he is, after all, on Charlotte's roster (sorry Brian).  It was thought, at least momentarily by someone Michael Jordan has probably shipped to Uzbekistan, that Biyombo would develop, taking his time to learn from those players in front of him on the team's bench.  Turns out, for that theory to work, you have to actually have other players on your bench.  Throwing together a hodge-podge of other big men was not the solution Charlotte needed (in fact, I shouldn't even call that a solution), and it's clear there is no parental guidance here.  As a result, Biyombo seriously lacks positive examples to emulate.

Amazingly, he leads his team in rebounds/game (which isn't saying a lot, and he only pulls down 7 a game anyway), as well as blocks.  His offense, however, is almost completely limited to within two feet of the rim...specifically directly above the rim.  We heard all about how MJ stepped onto the court and roughed up MKG - maybe Jordan should put some stilts on. Or develop an actual strategy for the franchise. Either way.

Best heart-throb story: Journey-man Chris "the Birdman" Andersen, Miami Hizzeat

How great is this? Wait wait, let me start over. I hate the Heat. But how great is this? The Heat are dead last in rebounding in the league, so they go out and sign the Birdman to a 10-day contract to do just that.  His effort earns him an extension, and then in February the Heat brought him on for the remainder of the year.  Now, if Anderson can avoid being swallowed up by his tattoos before the June, he'll have a chance to contribute 10 minutes a night to a title-worthy team.  If that isn't one of the best stories of the season, I don't know what is.

Best potentially real love story: Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, Seattle High-Jumpers

I thought my prediction of Lebron moving to Seattle was the best prediction in this piece. Until I got to this part. How awesome would this be? Next year, two of the leagues most loved players, hardest workers, smartest teammates come out, announcing that they have been in a relationship for over a decade and that they will both retire together at the end of the 2014 season. They become not just the first open "big names" in professional sports, but they become the first open couple as well. For these two guys, likely retiring as two of the top 5 international players ever and top 30 all-time, to come out and make a statement like this would be truly a revolutionary moment.

BUT - they don't stop there.  They invest in the Sacramento Kings as they move to Seattle, a place where their love of basketball and each other will be worshipped, they convince Lebron to join them, they name the team the "High"-Jumpers, and they immediately win 3 championships led by a only-slightly-past-his-prime-but-still-one-of-the-three-best-players-in-the-league Lebron, Demarcus "once I didn't have to hide my addiction and could live in a state where it was legal life became a lot easier, oh and I'm decent at basketball"  "Boogie" Cousins, a second year Ben McLemore or Marcus Smart, and someone random that turns out to be ok when paired with Jeff Green.

I'll wait for you to finish laughing.

Don't say I didn't tell you this was going to happen.  Nicholas Sparks, you're welcome.

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