The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
Aaron Mah is rapidly becoming one of my favorite pro-am sportswriters, and the reasons why are all on clear display on this piece on Nik Stauskas. Mah’s careful examination of the sophomore shooting guard extends back to Stauskas’s college days, highlighting the skills that made him a lottery pick in the first place, as well as the struggles that have plagued his early NBA career. The whole thing is highlighted by a wide array of high-quality gifs, embedded video and the kind of hooplehead in-jokes you rarely find outside of Steve McPherson tweeting about episodes of NBA After Dark. And it’s all wrapped in this deeply purple prose that tosses around adverbs like a sudden summer storm seizes the magazines and papers from an unhappy newsman’s stand and sets them to dancing, somehow beautifully, in the street.
While there was nothing but sympathy for Paul George’s gruesome injury, it seems safe to say people had gotten a little sick of the Indiana Pacers going in to last season. Whether it was their style of play, the team’s personalities or just a bad reaction to this picture from GQ, few people outside of Indiana were bummed they missed the playoffs. That may be why there isn’t more buzz around how fun this team could be this year, a topic that Andreason tackles with the optimism of a fan and the thoroughness of a haz-mat team cleaning up a crime scene. It seems unfair to Andreason to give away his comparison in a summary, so we’ll just say this: The Pacers are led by one of the best young coaches in the league, will start a guy many were calling the third-best player in the NBA two years ago and are ruled over by a dynamic, creative and experienced front office. Don’t sleep on them too hard.
How many folks who aren’t hardcore Euro scouts or die-hard Wolves fans had any idea who Nemanja Bjelica was a month ago? Before the folks watching EuroBasket – also I know we’re all desperate for a quick fix this deep into the offseason, but seriously, EuroBasket? – started tweeting about him so effusively, did you even know what position he played? But now he’s beginning to take shape, like the Smoke Monster coalescing into the Man In Black, and what a shape it is. It seems almost cosmically fortuitous that there was a dead-eye playmaking 4 just waiting in the wings for Minnesota, but here we are. With Kevin Garnett’s role shifting towards veteran leader/team spirit animal, things could get exciting in the Twin Cities very soon.
Everyone’s attention has been focused on the Warriors, Clippers and Spurs, but the Houston Rockets might be very, very good this year. They re-signed all the key contributors from last year’s run to the Western Conference Finals, added even more shooting in Marcus Thornton and rookie Sam Dekker and got Ty Lawson for a song. Not even a particularly good song, either, like one of the better Pitbull songs or something by Jason Derulo. Blancarte – in a piece admittedly from two days ago but I can’t really link to Moke Hamilton every Monday now can I – breaks down the strengths (being really fast, dope handles, court vision) and weaknesses (super short, potential positional overlap, “character issues”) Lawson will bring with him to Houston. Considering that only about a hundred of the article’s 2600 words are about those shortcomings, it’s safe to call Blancarte a Lawson optimist.
The Basketball Internet, ever hungry for new content it can devour, digest and regurgitate into the mouths of its readers, has been casting a wider net recently. As NBA-centric sites start to more deeply cover women’s basketball, foreign leagues and the D-League, some fascinating stories are being brought to our attention. Here, Ross shines some light on someone attempting to do just that – NBA fringe player turned documentary filmmaker Bobby Jones. Jones’s film, the trailer of which is embedded in the article, focuses on the lives of overseas players, the unique challenges they face and the passion that makes someone travel the world so they can keep playing ball. There’s a cynical take on that last part probably; something about how college stars are left unprepared by the NCAA system to enter the real world, and therefore have to travel to far-flung destinations to use the only skill they have. But there’s also the love of the game, and it’s great that we get to see how that’s expressed, all around the world.