The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
While their merchandise still sells due to the dope 90s cartoon logo and throwback color scheme, the Vancouver Grizzlies are somewhat of a forgotten franchise, especially for those who weren’t following basketball during their time in the league. This long read helps restore the team to their place in history, speaking to many key figures from the franchise’s past about their time in Vancouver. There are quite a few enjoyable stories from the team’s players about living in Canada, likes seeing their games superseded on TV by curling of all things. The most illuminating parts of the story, however, are the details of the league’s restrictions on the franchise, and how much they impacted the team’s success. It’s a shame, really. Now that the NBA is truly a global sport, it is easy to imagine a second team thriving north of the 49th parallel, embraced by the city as totally as Toronto has embraced the Raptors.
Flashes of potential, engaging personnel and off-court intrigue have kept the Pistons interesting over the last few years, but they’ve still found themselves back in the lottery at the end of each season. As the Stan Van Gundy era enters its second season, things are finally looking up in Detroit. It’s only been three games, but the future seems bright. Part of that bright future is Stanley Johnson, selected eighth overall by the Pistons last year, who plugs the last, most glaring hole in the young core Van Gundy is building around Andre Drummond. An athletic forward who Pandian projects as a 3-and-D wing player, his shooting and general offensive versatility make him a natural in Van Gundy’s spread pick-and-roll offense. And with one of the best nicknames in the NBA, Cat Daddy Stan fits right in with the playful, dynamic personality of this young Pistons team.
The players Van Gundy has added in his time as the Pistons’ president of basketball operations are the key that has unlocked the team’s potential, but the burgeoning talent of Andre Drummond is what will open the door to the playoffs. The 22-year-old center entered the league a question mark, with fans and executives unsure whether his talent could match his athleticism. Hamilton’s profile dwells on those questions briefly, recounting a conversation with Drummond three years back that he left with serious questions about the big man’s ability to impact games at a high level. That conversation, which centered on Hamilton and Drummond’s shared heritage as descendants of Jamaican immigrants, gives the piece an emotional core not found in most of the effusive articles on the Pistons’ center that are popping up in the wake of the team’s strong first week.
What is a successful season for this Orlando Magic team? Do they need to make the playoffs, or is it enough for them to show improvement, both as a team and as individuals, while they develop an identity? If you’re one of the prognosticators who picked Orlando to chase the eighth seed, then watching them drop three close games to start the season is surely disappointing. Ramil, writing before the team’s loss to Chicago last night, expresses concern that these hard-fought losses could damage the Magic’s developing identity. Having a coach like Scott Skiles, “a notoriously driven leader [with a] bulldog nature” lends validity to those fears; if the team believes his hard-nosed approach doesn’t lead to wins, they could rebel against his methods. Then again, in a way this is exactly what the team should be doing. A young team losing a close game to a more experienced squad often points more to a lack of experience in those high-pressure moments than anything else. If Skiles can ensure his players learn the right lessons, these losses will give the Magic something far more tangible than a moral victory.
Flannery’s Sunday Shootaround is consistently excellent, joining David Aldridge’s Morning Tip and Zach Lowe’s sadly deceased Tuesday column in the holy trinity of NBA journalism. This week, he focused his skill as an interviewer and writer on the Toronto Raptors, examining DeMarre Carroll’s potential impact on the team. Through a series of insightful quotes and unobtrusive analysis, he finds hope for a team that has disappointed in the playoffs the last two seasons. Like Aldridge and Lowe, Flannery always gives you a bit more than the lead story, with bonus features like a list of consumable thoughts and the week’s best Vine.