Proving the old adage that a leopard can never change its spots and a d-bag can never…uh, unbag his “D”, I guess…”Mature and Upstanding Leader LeBron James” has reverted back to “Self-Centered D-Bag Bron-Bron” with his recent passive aggressive, aggressively passive calling out of Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Kevin Love.
A true leader is someone who doesn’t shrink from taking the hard positions for the good of the team, and a great leader certainly doesn’t hide from his own words.
No wonder James Harden kicked him in the mini-basketballs.
The Butler Did It
On the other hand, acquitting himself like a consummate professional and model teammate was Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler. Butler, who is in the midst of the proverbial breakout season, was known in the first couple of years of his career as a strong defender who scored on occasion. Now in his fourth year, he’s become one of the more complete players around the League and is among the most accomplished scorers, averaging 20.2 points per game on 46% shooting. And, oh-by-the-way, he still takes pride in shutting his man down. So much so, in fact, that during the Bulls’ recent roller coaster ride through January and February, which saw the team lose 12 out of the past 26 games, he set the entire load of blame squarely on his own shoulders and told members of the media that the losses were his fault because he was too focused on offense and promised to rededicate himself to defense.
In case you’re reading MSF, LeBron (and, how could you not be?)…THIS is what leadership looks like.
All Stars, No Fun
Okay, to be fair, there were a couple of things about the All-Star festivities this year that I enjoyed. But, for me, the weekend has lost much of the luster it had back through the 1980’s. This has, not coincidentally, coincided with the increased emphasis on entertainment and a de-emphasis of any sort of real competition. An event that I used to stop everything to watch, the Slam Dunk Competition, has continued to struggle in spite of the mini-resurgence that it experienced during the reigns of Blake Griffin, Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard. There’s just nothing appetizing about watching players miss dunks over and over until the player who misses the least is anointed the winner (apologies to a better-than-most Zach Levine, who this year at least provided some electricity along with his repetitiveness). And, the All-Star Game itself is still not much more than a no-stakes scrimmage almost completely lacking in the things that make basketball, basketball like effort, defense, focus and, uhh..basketball.
So, what in all this sourpussing was there that I did like? First, the aforementioned Jimmy Butler made the roster for the main event as a first-timer of what I imagine will be several more ASG’s to come. I also enjoyed the new wrinkle in the Skills Challenge that pits playmakers against each other in head-to-head action, livening up what was previously a moderately entertaining event. And, finally…I know that I’m probably biased from my days of cheering for the greatest competitor this event has ever seen, but, the 3-point competition was, is, and will probably forever be my favorite event. There’s nothing about it that’s subjective or open to interpretation: you either make ‘em or you don’t. And, there’s almost always the inherent drama that plays out as the rest of the field stares in awe of that one guy who goes nova and starts lighting it up like the ghost of Larry Bird (okay, now I KNOW I’m biased making my 2nd reference to a guy who last played more than 20 years ago!). Here’s hoping that Adam Silver and the rest of the NBA crew keep tweaking the All-Star offerings until the product once again lives up to the hype.
Longer Season Should Be Short-Ordered
Speaking of All-Star Weekend, the break typically signals the end of the first half of the NBA season. Now, with roughly 22 games to go in a long 82-game slog of a season, the dreaded-but-now-expected onslaught of the injury bug has begun again, taking down marquee players like Derrick Rose (who I hear is trying to make history by breaking every conceivable part of his knees), Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, and others. For the past several years now, players, coaches and general managers – particularly those making regular trips to the post-season – have lamented what they believe is an overlong and potentially dangerous season. Add to that the grueling nature of back-to-back games, and many have called for relief out of need for rest and fear of injury. Even moneyed mouthy Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is on board with extending the season (though, to be fair, owners stand to rake in more cash in between the breaks of an extended season), calling it a “no-brainer.”
Me? I’m all for it. If you’re not going to reduce the actual number of games played (which I really think is the more sensible solution), then you have to do something to preserve the quality of the product.
R.I.P. To Agent Of Change Earl Lloyd
I, and the world, would be totally remiss if the passing of Earl Lloyd weren’t acknowledged. Lloyd was not only the player who broke the color barrier in professional basketball, but he was also the NBA’s first Black champion. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.
And speaking of notable deaths, the NBA community lost one of its true bad boys as former New York Knick Anthony Mason succumbed to congestive heart failure. R.I.P., Mase. Now you can carve your designs into the heavens.