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The Starting 5: The NBA vs. the NRA

Oct. 12, 2015 - New York, NY, U.S. - Philadelphia 76ers forward ROBERT COVINGTON (33) defends against New York Knicks forward CARMELO ANTHONY (7) in the 1st half of a preseason NBA game at Madison Square Garden, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015 (Photo by Bryan Smith/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)
Photo by Bryan Smith/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

1. The NBA Vs. The NRA: League Commish, Stars Like Carmelo Anthony And Stephen Curry, Make Brave Push Against Gun Violence – Nathaniel Friedman, Salon.Com

Salon.com is not exactly a sports writing powerhouse, but that could change if their relationship with Nathaniel “Free Darko” Friedman continues to develop. Here uses the NBA’s bold anti-gun PSAs as a jumping off point to examine how the NBA is changing under Commissioner Adam Silver. Whereas Stern was always a paternalistic disciplinarian, Silver has embraced his stars voices and personalities. The result is a more approachable and outspoken NBA, where the biggest stars feel like real people, and the fans aren’t afraid of hearing what they have to say. It’s an open question whether the decision not to try and “out-‘Good Ol’ Boys’-club the NFL” will work; that tactic will do little to diminish the appeal of fantasy football, for example. But this is still an exciting moment for the NBA, and could portend increasing politicization in the league.

2. Watching Shaun Livingston, The Definition Of Redefinition – Robert O’Connell, Vice Sports

Shaun Livingston is still the best story in the NBA, and most likely will be until he retires. He plays for the Golden State Warriors, who are the biggest story in the Association, and likely will be until the finals. Given this confluence of narratives, it is a little surprising it has taken this long to get a really great piece on Livingston’s role in Golden State. Fortunately, he had himself a game against the Cavs on Christmas Day, and O’Connell stepped in with high praise, elaborate metaphor, and insightful commentary. The piece distinguishes itself from a lot of writing about Livingston by not dwelling too much on his injury, letting the player he’s become take the forefront without dwelling too much on how he got there.

3. Trust Me, Being An NBA Legacy Son Is A Lot Harder Than It Looks – Larry Nance Jr., The Cauldron

While I am still not quite sure when the Cauldron turned into The Player’s Tribune Lite, it doesn’t make those pieces any less enjoyable. The story of Nance Jr.’s struggles with Crohn’s Disease has been floating around since he was drafted, but hearing the exact progression, treatment, and triumph in the man’s own words gives it new depth. The piece hits every note you could really want from this sort of essay, with personal details – his growth spurt sounds insane – insight into how it feels to live with this sort of illness, and an explanation for his desire to give back. The headline is pretty off base, though, which does the piece a disservice. It’s very much about living and playing and succeeding with Crohn’s Disease, and titling it as such could help it reach more people who would be inspired by the story.

4. The 2 Reasons The Clippers Always Play Well When Chris Paul Or Blake Griffin Is Injured – Jason Patt, SB Nation

CP3 going down back in 2013 was supposed to end the season for the Clippers. Instead, Blake Griffin took his game to a new level, becoming the playmaking 4 we’ve seen ever since. In light of Griffin’s torn quad, Patt takes a look at how the Clippers have performed without either of their marquee stars over the last few years and comes away with good reasons for their success. It isn’t rocket science – the other star plays harder, and DeAndre Jordan has a clear lane to the rim – but it is still good analysis that could be significant for the Clippers future. As Patt notes, the Clippers are clearly better when both CP3 and Blake Griffin are playing. However, if the drop off is this slight when one of them sits, it could open up some interesting trade/teambuilding options in LA as Paul ages.

5. Assessing Offseason Contracts – Josh Eberley, BBALLBREAKDOWN

It’s funny how quickly things change in the NBA. The Rajon Rondo deal for example, which Eberley praises here, was widely panned as a lose-lose for Sacramento when it was signed. It’s still not guaranteed to work out for the Kings, as the mercurial guard is only inked through this season, but you can’t deny the production and energy he has given the team. There are not many surprises on Eberley’s list of best and worst contracts, but he breaks them down cleanly, and, for the most part, his conclusions are sound. The only quibble would be with using usage rate and shot attempts to quantify DeAndre Jordan’s value. With zero range, sub-par passing, and no ball-handling skills, Jordan was never going to be a high-usage monster.

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