The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
In light of the Warriors’ record-breaking victory last night, it seems fitting to lead off with a piece that highlights how their success is transforming the NBA. Plus, none of you told me Zach Lowe was back, so it feels like a fair time to break my normal rule against including ESPN articles everyone probably already saw. Lowe analyzes the vast and varied impacts small ball is having on the Association in the way only he can, supporting his own thoughts with quotes from a murderers row of present and former NBA coaches. As always, the points are illustrated with video clips that help his reader get a little closer to seeing basketball as clearly as he does. There’s still something weirdly sad to me about big men being pushed to the margins of the Association; being 7-feet tall should matter on a basketball court, and it seems cruel to take that away from these giant humans. But the rise of the stretch center that Lowe touches on soothes that worry to some degree. It’s not that big men will disappear; they’ll just need to develop the same skills as everyone else on the floor.
If we’re going to celebrate Golden State’s historic win, we should also cast an eye on the team they destroyed to get it. At a time when the only people who enjoy watching Kobe Bryant are those whose hearts he broke over the years, Madu waxes poetic on how number 24 should be remembered. What he spells out is how horrifyingly familiar this all feels, how much today’s Kobe looks like the one who gutted opposing fans with dagger threes and satisfied scowls. The shots just don’t go in anymore. He’s wrong though, about the elision of Bryant’s last three years from our memories, and the tendon in his left ankle that ended his effectiveness is proof. We remember Achilles, not for the strength of his arm or his triumph over Hector before the walls of Troy, but the weakness that finally brought him low.
BBALLBREAKDOWN is killing it right now, with a host of new writers consistently doing excellent work. There were two other pieces yesterday that could have been featured here, on Andre Drummond’s emergence and the Heat rosters’ logical affinity towards small ball, both of which I urge you to check out. Ginsberg’s piece on the Pelicans gets the nod though, for its levelheaded deep dive into New Orleans’ struggles so far. He insightfully sorts the Pellies’ issues into four major categories, but the most fascinating part of the piece is the way those problems are exacerbating each other. The role of injuries and the challenging schedule in the Pelicans’ rough start is obvious; the impact of increased fatigue a thin team in back-to-back sets markedly less so. He also reminds us that, last year, the Pelicans trailed the eighth-seeded Thunder by 3.5 games with only 11 games to play, and managed to force their way into the playoffs. Now, with 68 games to go, they’re behind the eighth-seeded Jazz by that same margin. It almost goes without saying that Ginsberg, like me, thinks it’s a bit early to count the Pellies out.
Basketball Twitter is a proper noun, so it’s not really a surprise that the NBA is the best league around when it comes to social media. That doesn’t make this article from Kiernan any less enjoyable to read, however, as it lays out the various ways the Association has embraced social media, and how wide reaching the effects have been. Kiernan traces the emergence of small-market teams on the national stage to the constant whirring of the social machine, a thesis he supports by noting how thoroughly teams like Cleveland and Golden State dominate the news cycle. It’s also been noted, although not in this piece, that NBA fans skew younger than any other major sport, giving the league an army of savvy content creators and an audience with the know-how to find and devour their output. But if the league is really embracing social as thoroughly as they say they are, can they please stop shutting down Dawkins’s YouTube channels?
There’s nothing like the breathless adulation bestowed on a presumptive number 1 overall pick at the start of the college basketball season. Just as fans realize how terrible their teams will be, how futile their hope that the Lakers, Sixers or Nets would exceed expectations truly was, a tantalizing distraction appears that could make it all worthwhile. Bontemps reporting from the LSU-Marquette game should do the trick to get fans salivating, if they weren’t already over the moon about potentially landing Ben Simmons in the draft. Let’s all sit back and enjoy the effusive praise while it lasts, before too much time in the spotlight reveals some minor flaw in Simmons’s game that has everyone questioning his ranking, before some previously unknown player starts climbing Chad Ford’s draft board. Lets just dream about how good he would look in Kelly green or purple and gold while we can.