Monday, February 27, 2012

Take 6: NBA Quick Hits for the 2nd Half

With the second half of this NBA season starting this week, I figure I'd tackle some issues on my mind. Let's start with Jeremy Lin.

1) 3 weeks in, Jeremy Lin no longer shocks me. The guy can ball and the novelty has worn off as I just watch him to see how he runs the Knicks offense. He's a great story but like all great stories, the shock wears off and you just watch to see how the subject continues to thrive. It's clear Lin is a great point guard who can run the pick and roll, get to the basket and has a decent (not yet automatic) jump shot while turning the ball over like any young player does.

But my issue is how Lin reminds me that Asian people still get a short stick on how people joke about them or promote them. Take one look at some of the signs about him at Madison Square Garden and if some of them don't make you slightly uncomfortable, do a double take. Consider how a former editor thought it clever to use "chink in the armor" - an old phrase referring to dent in the metal - and not realize it's danger. Or how Ben & Jerry's thought it clever to have Linsanity ice cream with fortune cookies among the flavors in it.***

***FYI, fortune cookies are an American popular item that is not served in China. While Lin is Taiwanese-American and it is popular with Chinese food, ask yourself what would happen if B&J offered  up watermelon flavored ice cream in conjunction with Black History Month. Instead of people trying to dismiss it as offensive, how about we start asking IF this is offensive first?***

Oh look, another clever pun on Jeremy Lin's name and hype. *cue the snickers and chuckles while I roll my eyes*
As somebody pointed out on Twitter, 2 weeks into his stardom, 2 companies have had to apologize to the Asian-American community. That's an unnerving ratio in 2012 to some but to me, it's not surprising because when you don't deal with things daily, you become ignorant when you see it in your face.

Maybe I'm unique because I've grown up around Korean and Filipino friends since 5th grade and hooped with them.  I'm a bit sensitive to Asian jokes because looking back on it, my HS peers said some jokes that'd be questionable and I've learned to respect them. And I consider my friends today who probably cringe when they see stuff like Yellow Mamba or fans with signs of fortune cookies.

Yes it's weird seeing an Asian-American on the professional hoops circuit. Now let's get over that. Unlike another phenomenon last year where a guy played every Sunday, Lin has played in double digit games already. Enjoy what we're seeing. Enough with the Linsanity puns and promotions that are done in ignorance and quite frankly, annoyance.

Basically let the boy play. He'll have highs and then he'll have games like when Miami shut him down. Speaking of which....

2) LeBron James is having one of the best all around seasons in recent memory. To think that a perimeter player could be shooting close to 55% is beyond looney and that's a tribute to how James has improved his midrange game and post game.

But as the All-Star game proved, even his peers are mystified by how he still lacks the consistent ability to kill until the final buzzer. Even Kobe had to tell LeBron shoot the bleeping ball. It's a reminder what separates LeBron from so many others. The last two years, LeBron led a charge in the 4th quarter only to pass it in the final moments. It's easy to say LeBron isn't clutch but to me it's 2 things - he's afraid or hates to fail and (what nobody is saying) he still has a point guard mentality.

I said this in 2010 when Boston knocked him out of the playoffs. LeBron is a natural PG in a big man's body. He may be able to physically impose his will but mentally he's thinking pass and set somebody up. He acts/walks/talks like a superstar but at his core he cares about how you like him. That's a point guard mentality and if you don't believe me, ask Rajon Rondo how he felt until 2009-2010 being around the Celtics.

That may not be a great enough excuse as pure point guards like Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Isiah Thomas and Magic could kill. Maybe it's because LBJ has been insulated from pressure since he was 16 and he's finally facing adversity to challenge him. I don't fully know but we'll see what happens come playoff time. At some point, he's going to have to mentally block everything and attack the way D-Wade does (who has a bit of chokery in him too, I notice).

The ref's face says it all, he can't even believe the Spurs and Tony Parker are still playing a high level

3) The Lakers and the Spurs dominated the Western Conference in the 2000's. But one look at them now shows why one team prepared for transition and the other looks lost.

My squad has front office turmoil beyond belief, led by Daddy's Boy Jim Buss and his arrogance to exert his will. The Spurs have stability with Gregg Popovich, one of the best coaches/front office minds in NBA history.

My squad has old guys mainly in their rotation - minus Andrew Goudelock - who barely can rest. The Spurs have a healthy mix of old veterans (Duncan/Parker/Ginobli) and young blood in Dejuan Blair, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

My squad is floundering with no proven point guard and the possibility of signing Rasheed Wallace from the YMCA. The Spurs are No. 2 in the West, having only lost 1 game since January 30.

Yes I know the Spurs could lose early in the playoffs again but they're also the perfect mix of young and old balance to thrive and transition. Meanwhile, the Lakers are starting at possibly a 4 or 5 seed (which I predicted) and tense attitudes until the trade deadline shakes out. Yep, exactly the way we want to spend a year where Kobe is having one of the greatest late career scoring runs in NBA history.

Oh and the Clippers could finish with a higher playoff seed. Welcome to a better 2006 all over again - the year where Kobe went wild scoring and had a 1st round playoff exit - unless something happens.

Random Hits

- Kyrie Irving could be the first Duke player under Coach K to win the Rookie of the Year outright. Grant Hill shared the ROY in 94-95 and Irving right now is playing at a level I haven't seen a Duke rookie play at since Jay Williams 10 years ago.

As for this rookie class. Besides Ricky Rubio and Brandon Knight, not a lot of guys are standing out. I feel bad for Kemba Walker in Charlotte. MarShon Brooks averaging 14.6 points is a side story to New Jersey's free agent drama. It's still early but the obvious potential is lacking in this class.

- Who's going to be a worse trainwreck? The Washington Wizards or the Charlotte Bobcats? Right now, it's looking like a neck-and-neck race each week. Call it the fumes of the Michael Jordan curse - Wizards are cursed for letting him go like a dog and the Bobcats are cursed for him siding with the hardline owners in the lockout.

- Oklahoma City remains the scariest Western Conference team. Forget the Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook drama the media wants you to buy into. Two alpha dogs can exist and it's clear they do as long as they are winning and Scott Brooks keeps being creative with the offense instead of trying to punish Westbrook being assertive.

(A key point of this "issue" is how Durant's nice guy persona hurts him on the court. His game is great to watch and admirable but not assertive enough. He'll have to learn that taking it to the basket and calling for the ball will allow him to kill with his jumper. It took Dirk almost a decade to figure that out so let's hope Durant does it sooner.)

But the key for them this year will be the play of my 6th Man of the Year fave James Harden and Serge Ibaka, who's a frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year. If they play well, look out.

No comments:

Post a Comment