The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
If you’re tired of watching LeBron play in the NBA Finals, you’re hoping this year’s Heat team is the T-Rex at the end of Jurassic Park, a ferocious threat, already responsible for great loss, turned against an even more terrible villain. A big part of that ferocity is going to come down to Hassan Whiteside, a historically inconsistent player who turned into Bill Russell down the stretch last season. You want to believe he can keep it going, both because it’s a lot more fun to see an inconsistent player finally make good than flame out after flashing their promise, and because he’s a pretty damn exciting dude to watch play basketball. He’s also key to the Heat’s ability to match up with the Cavs, since they don’t really have anyone else to throw at Timofey Mozgov.
Speaking of exciting players who flamed out after flashing promise, here we have an examination of how Lance Stephenson can revive his career with the Clippers. The numbers stuff is about what you’d expect, comparing Stephenson’s more than respectable Pacers averages with the Nikki and Paulo level success he had with the Hornets last season. And yes, playing with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul is almost assuredly going to create more opportunities for Lance than he saw with Kemba Walker and Marvin Williams. But what’s really interesting is all the quotes about responsibility. Stuff like, “I’m very confident. Especially with a great coach behind me, great leaders behind me, and great veterans that can lead me through the right paths” inspires hope, as does the strong locker-room culture the Clippers have. You want to believe that Paul, Doc Rivers and the looming shadow of irrelevance can get Lance on track.
Charlotte signed Jeremy Lin for $4.4 million over the next two years, which if you are keeping track at home is $2 million less than Austin Rivers will make over the same period. If you want to argue that Rivers has had as many great games as Lin, and far more recently, you totally can. But then go re-read Pablo S. Torre’s excellent profile of Lin, and think about the situations the Harvard product has found himself in the last couple years. Think about whether a ball-dominant point guard was ever going to succeed with Harden’s Rockets or Kobe’s Lakers. And think about how nice it must be for a dude who has been burned by the spotlight the last few years to be playing for a (hopefully) decent team on a reasonable contract. He’ll most likely be coming off the bench, replacing Kemba Walker in Steve Clifford’s pick-and-roll heavy offense, and while some two point-guard lineups with the two of them could be fun, this could be the first real chance Lin has had to showcase his game in three years. The smart money says he makes good use of it.
Moore starts this piece, a reflection on the past glories of Josh Smith and Rajon Rondo, with a quote from Einstein about how memory is always poisoned by the present. His point, one assumes, is that our current perceptions of these players as toxic and useless, on the verge of complete irrelevance, wipes out a great portion of what they were. He has the numbers to remind you, if you just started watching basketball, have a short memory, or never watched the Hawks when Smith was playing there because seriously who watches the Hawks, just how good these dudes were. And he rightly points out, with a totally unnecessary dig at Kobe thrown in, that both Rondo and Smoove are still on the right side of 30; if you wanted to bet on an unlikely redemption story for the season, you could do a lot worse than these two. But then again, we must guard against ignoring the warts their games have always had as we hope for their future careers. As Kierkegaard said, “A life in recollection is the most perfect imaginable.”
As much as this article may make it seem otherwise, not every player in the NBA is clinging to the fringes of the NBA by their fingernails as they dangle over the yawning chasm of irrelevance. You’ve also got young players like Bradley “Real Deal” Beal who, along with teammate John Wall, was very much in the conversation for best young backcourt in the league at the start of last season. While the volcanic productivity of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson has burned away almost all traces of that discussion, some relics remain – scattered tweets about the honesty of buckets, for example. Or slightly overwritten – watch for the egregious alliteration – but ultimately sound articles like Mah’s that detail just how much room Beal still has to grow. And while this will be the second season in a row where we wait to see if Beal’s playoff growth translates to the regular season, there’s a long history of players making a leap in the last year of their rookie contract. If coach Randy Wittman decides to let the team shoot threes this year, all Beal has to do is figure out a way to stay on the court.