The 2018-19 NBA season is now past its All-Star break. The Association still believes that its destination will be another championship for the Golden State Warriors. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the season as a whole. Last year was wonderful, so let's return to the path. Let's go back on the Journey.
Song of the Week: Yesterday's New Quintet - "The One Who Knows"
Some weeks back, we stopped on the Journey at the junction where there's a difficulty spike in the game. Once the game adjusts to the player's initial skill level, it amplifies the challenges. This applies to those second-year and fairly young players who tend to struggle because they've yet to fully adapt to those challenges. This week, we will stop at another junction where difficulty can vary based on the individual's adaptability.
When there are multiple installments of video games — in particular, fighting games — there are new gameplay mechanics. But there is also a core element to each of the games. For example, the Mortal Kombat series has had many additions to its play. From the "run" system in Mortal Kombat 3 to the variation system in Mortal Kombat X, each iteration brings something new. However, every game has had the same button layout for attacking and blocking. There are always two punch buttons and two kick buttons to go along with the button for blocking. The same goes for the Street Fighter series, which has added things like super meters, focus attacks and parrying, but has kept the three-punch/three-kick layout since its inception in 1987. This is done so players who've been around for multiple installments don't have to learn an entirely new system along with characters and strategies. At the very least, the buttons are the same.
Even casual followers of the NBA are aware that Dallas Mavericks rookie sensation Luka Doncic is having a spectacular start to his career. He is on pace to be the first rookie since Oscar Robertson to average at least 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game. The best part about this season for him is that he possesses a surety in his moves that most players take a few years to develop. Even while they're effective, there are only a handful of rookies who appear to be so advanced based on the way they approach the game.
For perspective, Atlanta Hawks rookie Trae Young and Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton are averaging more assists and rebounds than Doncic, respectively. Of course, the Mavericks having a better team season than the Hawks and Suns (though none of these teams are playoff contenders) helps the narrative of Luka being so good. However, there is something to note about Luka's basketball career before the NBA that may have helped him.
Prior to being drafted 3rd overall, Doncic was the Euroleague MVP — the youngest ever winner of the award. That season, he averaged 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. While those are not eye-popping numbers compared to his year in the NBA, the fact he was able to be successful in another professional league as a teenager could have provided the foundation for him to successfully start his NBA career. He has to learn new defenses and a different tempo and flow to the game. He has to even deal with a different literal feel of a NBA basketball versus its Euroleague counterpart. But because he already has knowledge of what it means to be a professional basketball player, that allows for the transition to be easier for him. He's even commented on this, saying that it's, "easier to score in the NBA." Whether or not that's actually true does not matter when it is understood that Doncic is using a simple idea to help him be productive: he operates from what he knows.
Instead of concentrating on what he does not know or have, Doncic uses what he does possess — high basketball smarts and impeccable footwork and ball control — to be effective. He looks in control because he isn't trying to do too many things that he cannot do. Despite the Mavericks not being an elite team at the moment, Doncic gives the franchise hope that as he gets better at this game, the team's win total will improve. As his career unfolds, Luka Doncic's previous years as a teenage professional will serve him well as he adapts to a new and different installment of pro basketball.
Post All-Star Blurbs!
- For the final time, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took the floor as teammates in Sunday night's All-Star Game. Wade scored seven points in his final appearance, but it was an alley-oop to his longtime friend and former teammate LeBron James that served as a memorable highlight for the duo. This tweet from @treyzingis juxtaposes Sunday's connection with the amazing photo of LeBron finishing a Wade pass while they were Miami Heat teammates. Cheers to Dwyane Wade on an incredible career and at least one more outstanding basketball memory.
- Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown has been promoted to Vice President of the National Basketball Players Association. While players are still fairly young in age, relatively, the 22-year-old Brown receiving such a high position allows for a better transition to the next generation of players and helps keep the United States' most progressive males pro sports league headed in a positive direction. Congratulations to Jaylen Brown and I hope he does an excellent job.
- This week's Hooper Appreciation Blurb goes to the entire city of Charlotte for hosting an incredible All-Star Weekend. From the events on the court, to the parties and charity events, last Sunday's game, the North Carolina city did a fantastic job of being an NBA summit for a few days. Let's hope everyone is recharged and we get some amazing basketball for these final 25 games or so.
Eighteen weeks in, and the journey continues. Happy NBA, folks.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse's good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.