3 In The Key
1. Mr. Big Shot and other incorrect assumptions
Chauncey Billups is a guard who shoots three pointers too early in the shot clock too often. But somehow, his reputation as a clutch point guard and NBA Finals MVP with the Detroit Pistons continues to carry him to this day.
Every one of those shots that he takes is a reminder of his reputation, instead of a consideration of the possibility that these are simply bad shots, and that it may be time to move past what we once thought of the player.
And really, it is consistent with the behavior we have about people in every walk of life. The people that we know, that we work with, that we hear about. Reputations are a hard thing to shed, for better or worse.
Take Russell Westbrook: now known to die-hard and casual fans of basketball as a shoot-first point guard whose selfish ways are getting in the team of this perfect machine that they’re building on Oklahoma City. But if you read Zach Lowe’s breakdown of Westbrook’s game, you see a 23 year point guard who has very fixable flaws with a huge ceiling of growth left. Plus he’s already running the most efficient offense in the league.
Once a general perception spreads, there’s no stopping it. But what will make the game more enjoyable for us as these players grow into and out of their reputations is to recognize that the development and decline of these players are fluid. What they are now won’t be what they are in a few years. And what they once was probably isn’t what they are now.
Recognizing and understanding that players continue to evolve will help all of us in assessing how a team continues to grow, instead of taking a stagnant view that is generally behind the curve.
2. The championship hangover
In 2007, the Miami Heat were coming off their first NBA championship in franchise history, with Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade, the team look destined to challenge for several more titles.
On opening night that year, they raised the banner and lost 108-66 to the Chicago Bulls. It was a sign of things to come. The Heat labored through the season, finishing 44-38 and were swept in the first round by the same Bulls. The next season it all came apart, Shaq was traded and the team didn’t return to contention until last year.
This season, the Mavericks seem to be following the same script. Coming off their first championship, Dallas was dominated in their opening day game against Miami. They followed that with another flat outing at home against Denver, than a buzzer beating loss in Oklahoma City.
The defending champions have righted the ship, and stand at 10-7. And now comes news that Dirk Nowitzki will be taking a week off to "resolve some physical issues and conditioning issues".
It also doesn’t help that to position themselves for cap room in the long-term, Mark Cuban has assembled a completely different team than last season. Players like Vince Carter, Lamar Odom and Delonte West have been brought it to supplant the depth of the roster. Gone are younger talent like Rudy Fernandez, J.J. Barea, Tyson Chandler and Corey Brewer.
There’s no doubt this team will be there come playoff time, but given that they seem to be following the blueprint of the 2007 Miami Heat and pace themselves for the post-season, the Mavericks might find that their year-long hangover will come back to haunt them in the first round.
3. Dwight Howard’s wish list
Dwight Howard is so dominant in two aspects of the game that’s the least glamorous — defense and rebounding — that it’s made him an underrated player on the court even as he carries flaws on the offensive end with him.
But you can’t say he commands the same respect with his off the court comments and decisions regarding his pending free agency.
Last week, Howard added the Clippers to his wish-list of teams he’d be willing to go to, in addition to the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks.
What exactly is Dwight Howard’s true intentions when it comes to assembling his wish list?
Is it not safe to assume that winning is the most important thing to him?
The Mavericks will be a year older next year, so Howard would be teaming up with Nowitzki and an aging core in the West that’s filled with up and coming teams. If the Lakers were to acquire Howard, it would strip the depth of an already thin team. Same for the Nets, who have arguably the worst roster in the entire league.
Why hasn’t Howard considered other teams like Philadelphia, Chicago, or Minnesota. Each of these teams would be willing trade partners with the necessary trade pieces to provide Orlando with that they need, at the same time these teams could add Howard without decimating the core roster.
Since superstars demanding trades to a team of their choice is becoming an annual occurrence, Howard should at least get it right. Look at how Carmelo Anthony has struggled in New York. Sometimes it’s not about what city you go to, but looking at what makes the most sense from a basketball standpoint.
Players would be wise to try to take control of that too. If you’re going to be selfish, at least do it right.