To begin today, I want to juxtapose two recent occurrences in the NBA. The first event is summarized by an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“The Philadelphia 76ers finally snapped the longest losing streak in American pro-sports history — 28 losses in a row.
“That popping sound you hear is the Washington Generals hitting the champagne at Don Shula’s house.”
The other NBA event is at the other end of the success spectrum; the Golden State Warriors finally lost a game this year and as of this morning, their record stands at 24-1.
Those two streaks were very important to the NBA for a simple reason. Each of those streaks gave people a reason to give a fig about a few NBA regular season games in November and December. For the majority of such games in just about every NBA season, no one really pays attention at all. Without meaning any offense to the 5 games the NBA will stage on Christmas Day, few if any people really care about them either save for TV execs who have programming for the day other than the 6437th rerun of It’s A Wonderful Life. With these two polar opposite streaks in the past, serious fan attention to NBA games will be minimal until late February/early March when playoff positioning becomes interesting.
The NBA is somewhat fortunate in another way this season. Kobe Bryant’s announcement that he will retire at the end of the season has fueled
The Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour Across America
That series of tributes – which in reality are not much more than a series of feelgood events – allows teams to promote the final visit of the Lakers and Kobe Bryant to their city/arena. It too brings attention to games that would normally be somewhere between “Meaningless” and “Blah” on the Spectrum of Interest. The Farewell Tour also masks something else:
The Lakers are an awful basketball team.
The Sixers are intentionally awful; the Lakers are awful even though they are trying not to be.
You make the call which is the worse situation…
The Lakers have two young players taken high in the draft. DeAngelo Russell went #2 last year and he has had his fanny on the bench for all of or the majority of the fourth quarters of most Lakers’ games this year. Julius Randle was taken at #7 in the 2014 draft and he sat out last season with an injury. He had been a starter for much of this year but was recently demoted to coming off the bench. If the Lakers swung and missed on both of those guys – hard to believe after seeing them play in college – the franchise may be a while until it returns to an upper echelon NBA team. I will say one thing about Russell, he has a whole lot to learn about playing defense against NBA quality opponents and there are times that he does not look all that interested in said learning…
Another young player for the Lakers is Jordan Clarkson; I have only seen the Lakers play about 5 quarters of games this year but I think Clarkson might become a good player. Note I said “good player”; he is not the second coming of Jerry West or Elgin Baylor but he might be a “good player”. Here is an interesting strategic situation the Lakers find themselves in:
The Lakers owe the Sixers their first round pick in the June 2016 draft – unless that pick is in the Top 3 of the draft. In that circumstance, they would then owe the Sixers their first round pick in 2017 draft no matter where it is.
Do the Lakers tank to protect that pick this year as best they can in a lottery situation or do they “play it straight”?
Keep an eye on the meaningful minutes played by Clarkson, Russell and Randle for your answer here.
To bring to mind another tidbit of news from last weekend, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:
“They announced Alabama running back Derrick Henry as the Heisman Trophy winner Saturday. I thought I saw Nick Saban almost smile but it may have just been indigestion.”
Derrick Henry is a really good player; he averaged 6.2 yards per carry over his three year career at Alabama; this season, he fell only 14 yards short of gaining 2000 yards. Now let me pose a rhetorical question:
Would Derrick Henry start at RB if he were at LSU?
I do not have a definitive answer for that one. As I said, Henry is really good and he had a fantastic season; as I have said before, Leonard Fournette is the best RB that I saw this year.
You make the call…
Finally, let me close out today with one more item from Greg Cote last weekend:
“The week-long Orange Bowl International Junior tennis tournament ends Sunday in Plantation. It’ll seem so quiet without all those boorish parents yelling.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………