Early NBA storylines out of hand
A closer look at the Lakers, James Harden and the ROY race
As the new season of the NBA jumped off with the Heat sending a 120-point message and Tony Parker dropping back-to-back big-time shots, a few other issues stood out as early topics of discussion and took on small lives of their own.
It happens all of the time, but this season -- so far -- sports media recklessness seems to be getting a little out of control. The rush to create a storyline. The rush to Reax.
What once was trendy has now become commonplace in our industry and this week has been a classic example of the direction we are allowing the conversation to go. Taking all things into consideration before we report/speak about something means nothing anymore. Giving comprehensive/full backstories to all stories has taken a back seat to abbreviating facts and often missing the bigger picture.
In our journalistic haste to generalize our search for "hot topics," we are becoming victims of our own storytelling. Which is not being true to NBA fans who depend on us to "edutain" nor is it true to the game.
1. The Story: The Lakers lost their first two games, and the way in which they lost them. (At home to Dallas, which played without Dirk Nowitzki, and on the road to Portland, where Los Angeles committed 24 turnovers.) Is it time to panic?
The Real But Overlooked Truth: The Lakers are so much more than 0-2, they have lost 12 games in a row! As in, they are 0-12 since they beat OKC in Game 3 of last year's conference semis. As in, they went the entire preseason without winning one game! Is it time to panic? Hell yeah! It's been time! So don't sugarcoat this 0-2 start like it's a problem/issue that just came as the season began.
The Lakers' hole is so much deeper than losing the first two games to open this season. As a friend of mine said to me, "Even the Washington Generals get a win against the Globetrotters every 10 games." And any time you hear any NBA team mentioned in the same sentence with the Generals, there's a problem. And that problem is not new.
2. The Story: James Harden scores 37 points and has 12 assists in his Houston debut, and OKC should have never traded him.
The Real But Selectively Forgotten Truth: Harden did an A-Rod in the 2012 NBA Finals, and it was the wrong time for him to go into contract negotiations for an extension looking for a max deal. Harden picked a bad time to play the worst basketball of his career. OKC had no other option but to do what they did. They offered him $55 million over four years, a fair offer without knowing if what happened in the Finals was an anomaly or if was he the type of player that would continually fold under the Finals lights.
When you are a team that is trying to win a championship and are in the mix to do so for the next few years, you can't take a financial gamble or make a five-year, $80 million investment on/in a guy that didn't come through when you needed him the most. And at the same time, it is stupid and incompetent business if you let him go without getting anything of substance in return. Clayton Bennett is not trying to be Dan Gilbert.
3. The Story: Portland's Damian Lillard after his 23-point, 11-assist game is already hailed as the Rookie of the Year.
The Non-Knee Jerk, Non-Rush-To-Make-A-Prediction Truth: Isiah Thomas scored eight more points in his NBA debut (31) and had the same amount of assists (11), and still Buck Williams won the ROY. So to all of these people and pundits building Lillard a bandwagon (not even jumping on it), doing crazy-early campaigning for an award that won't be handed out for another eight months: Please chill.
Anthony Davis had 21 points and 7 rebounds against Tim Duncan in his first game, Harrison Barnes has yet to find his groove in the Warriors offense (one game in), and the Bobcats haven't even played yet so we have no idea what Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can/will/might bring to the conversation. The ROY is a triathlon, not a sprint. We (media) need to stop being in such a rush to crown someone or something. Impatience is our worst virtue. No player (well, maybe LeBron and Jordan) won the ROY award on the first night. And I'm thinking Lillard after one NBA game is not the second coming of LBJ or MJ. Or for that matter, Zeke.
One other problem/issue worth adding here: Now that the world is back in love with LeBron (winning a ring does that), the League is soon going to be in desperate need of a villain.
The truth is, the reason the last two seasons have been record-breaking for the NBA has been in large part because LeBron became the most profitable villain in the David Stern Era (no disrespect to the Detroit Bad Boys or the Kobe/Shaq feud). With all of the talk now about how great it is that "Earned 1" finally earned one, no one seems to be looking at the loss the League is about to encounter unless someone takes over the role as the superstar we love to hate.
My bad. Now I'm forgetting to look at the big picture. With the Lakers in the state they are right now and Kobe telling us (the media, the critics, etc.) to "shut up," that last issue may have already taken care of itself.
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