Sunday, January 15, 2012

Early Impressions of the NBA

My Dad gave me money and told me to get a job, my Mother gave me a hug and told me to get a girlfriend, but on Christmas Day, the NBA gave me the best gift, one that keeps on giving; professional basketball is back, and not a moment too soon. The last two weeks have been predictably packed with intrigue for NBA fans and now feels like a good time to reflect and take stock of the new season, so for those of you with jobs and girlfriends, let me catch you up on what's been going on.

Before I talk about anything else, there’s something I have to get off my chest right away. I’m not a New Yorker, or even particularly a Knicks fan, but what is going on in New York right now cannot be allowed to continue for even a moment. Watch the Knicks play defense, rebound the basketball…watch how they work without the ball. Then look at the reaction from the head coach…nothing. A man that can watch that and not react does not deserve to be allowed to continue as the head coach of basketball in the Mecca of Basketball. It’s an insult to all of us, straight up. Stephen A.? Can I get an amen?

But I don’t want this to be about hate…we’ve got great games every day and there’s too much to love to get caught up with criticisms. What do I really know about the inner workings of the Knicks anyway? Maybe D’Antoni’s preaching defense all day, every day, and the players just won’t respond. Anyway…on to the love.

KAAAAAAAHN!!! RUBIOOOOOO!!! LOOOOOOVE THE TIMBERWOLVES!!! There’s a theme developing in the NBA and it’s the redemption of franchises that have too long been in basketball purgatory. It took the Wolves all of about 10 seconds of Rubio time to cement themselves as the League Pass Champ of this season. Kevin Love is becoming a legitimate superstar, Rubio’s got that European soccer vision in an NBA body, Derek Williams still gives Duke fans the cold sweats from time to time and Rick Adelman is, without doubt, one of the best coaches in the league. If you haven’t already, get on this’s a lot of fun.

PS. Dear Minnesota PA Guy: The Big Bad Wolf by Duck Sauce…you’re welcome.

Rubio is probably the most hyped rookie in the league, but he’s far from the only causing a buzz in NBA stadiums with his early exploits. I have a theory about these guys, who seem to be doing a great job, across the board, of doing what they were drafted to do, but staying in their lane at the same time. Consider: the modern generation of player has grown up with round the clock coverage and analysis of everything to do with the NBA. On the court, off the court…everything is way more accessible than it used to be. It makes sense that the modern player is more aware than ever before of how to go about his business. Information that used to come with experience: how to prepare, how to carry yourself, even how to play the game is all there to be learned by anyone who pays attention. Thus, we have more rookies who are better prepared to start their career on the right track than ever before.

One guy who caught my eye immediately is Marshon Brooks in New Jersey (20-1 to win ROY last time I checked). To me, this guy looks like Kobe with a conscience. I’m not saying he’s going to be the next Kobe as in, 5 titles, one of the greatest ever, etc., but he’s got the same kind of game as Kobe, he's not afraid to take on the responsibility of scoring. And we’ve seen over the years, a guy who has good length at the guard spot and is a threat to shoot and get in the paint and finish at the rim is a very, very valuable commodity in the NBA.

Finally, how about a note on the Toronto Raptors? I’m Canadian and if we don’t talk about the Raptors, who will? Nobody, that’s who…unless it’s to make some smartass comment. Don’t worry though, Raptors fans, there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel in the shape of Dwane Casey. All due respect to Jay Triano, but you’re not going anywhere if you don’t have a real coach and the signs are there that Raptors might have found one. Casey is a respected figure in the league, coming off a title run as an assistant with the Mavericks, who has the Raptors, right in the conversation for least talented team in the league, playing hard on both ends of the floor and punching above their weight. Andrea Bargnani is being put in a position to succeed with what is an effective, but limited, skill set. Jose Calderon is more aggressive on offense, which he needs to be on this team and everyone is playing hard on both ends of the court. It’ll take some time, but this is a team heading in the right direction. There’s a man in New York City who should be taking notes.