Happy New Year! The 2018-19 NBA season is nearing the halfway point. 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 to the Journey.
Song of the Week: Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions - "Keep On Pushin'"
One of the best things about the holiday season is that it allows most of us to rest from the rigors and monotony of our everyday lives. Some of us get time off from work, go on vacation or just use that time to be still. Remember, resting is an activity and should be treated as such. Resting is more than just "not doing anything." And if once treats rest in that manner, it can allow for people and work to occupy that rest time.
We rest to recharge. Our bodies are not built to work and be continuously active. We have a limit on our energy and stamina that we must be cognizant of in order to operate at our best capacity. If we ignore our desire to rest too much, it will cause a slip in performance. Though we may still perform, there will be times that the results won't be as good as they could have been if we were to rest.
Some video games include the impossibility of anyone being able continuously attack and move with needing to rest. The system of the game includes a stamina bar that depletes as characters perform actions, and recharges whenever there is inaction. Those actions and attacks cannot be performed until enough stamina has replenished. Games like Bloodborne and Mortal Kombat X implement stamina in this manner. There are also games like We Happy Few and Red Dead Redemption 2 that implore you to make sure your character is rested, but only give penalties such as hindering characters' physical performance instead of removing actions and attacks altogether. Here is where I'll focus, highlighting two situations where players' stamina might be running low.
Russell Westbrook is the one player who seems to have an unlimited supply of energy. Every game, he is in constant attack mode, channeling that supply into becoming an aggressive force of kinetic energy. This has led to him averaging a triple-double the past two seasons. However, Westbrook has seen his numbers decrease this year. This has little to do with him missing time with various nagging injuries and more about the fact that maybe — just maybe — Russell Westbrook is beginning to show signs of fatigue.
The most glaring evidence that supports this is the fact that Westbrook is shooting 62% from the free throw line and 24% from three. While Russ has never been an elite shooter from three, he is a career 81% shooter from the charity stripe. This is the second year that his free throw percentage has decreased, with Westbrook shooting 74% last year. It could be a simple case of mechanics or even thinking too much at the line. But fatigue does cause players to not perform their best. So despite yet again averaging a triple-double on the year, he is not playing as efficiently as we have known Westbrook to play.
Another situation where players may be in need of rest is in Golden State. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are both having abnormally down statistical years. Green, though not a prolific scorer, is averaging just 7 points a game while being hesitant to shoot as opponents no longer respect him on that end of the floor. And speaking of shooting, Thompson has gone from an elite shooter to just an average one this year, shooting just 34 percent from three—down from his career average of just under 42 percent.
Sure, players go through slumps and ebbs in their production. But I would like for readers to consider this notion: Klay and Dray are the Warriors' two most important defensive players. Maybe, in year five of carrying that tremendous responsibility, that has begun to take a toll on just how effective they can be offensively on a nightly basis. Also, factor in that those two have played in four straight NBA Finals plus the 2016 Summer Olympics. That kind of sustained immersion in highly competitive games is very rare, albeit impressive. Yes, Green's rebounding and assist numbers are still high. And Klay is still scoring at a remarkable rate — 21 points per game. But their downturns in production have made the Warriors' system look a little more fallible. Now, we still have not wavered on where our NBA Journey is destined to finish as NBA matchbooks still have the title headed to Oakland, but that fatigue is definitely something to remain aware of as we continue onward through this season and postseason.
New Year, New Blurbs!
- There were two game-winning threes last Thursday night. The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Golden State Warriors in Oakland behind a Damian Lillard three with seconds remaining, and the Sacramento Kings defeated the Los Angeles Lakers thanks to a three from forward Bogdan Bogdanovic. While I'm partial towards attempting to get in the lane for a last-second shot, I appreciate going for the three and the win if a player is confident in their ability to create a good shot.
- After Saturday's win against the Charlotte Hornets, the Washington Wizards announced that point guard John Wall will miss the remainder of the season as he has elected to have surgery to address bone spurs in his left heel. The recovery time after the procedure is at least six months, and this will place more responsibility on Bradley Beal to elevate his play if he wants to push the Wizards into three playoffs. I wrote about how difficult being a superstar player is. Beal gets the opportunity to experience that.
- This week's Hooper Appreciation Blurb goes to Phoenix Suns forward TJ Warren. With Devin Booker missing a few games due to surgery, and rookie big man Deandre Ayton having a wonderful season, Warren himself is having a career year. He's averaging 18 points per game, shooting 59 percent from the field and and 44 percent from three. Warren has always been a natural scorer, and it was that offensive ability that got him selected by Phoenix in the Draft after just one season at NC State. Warren is a little unknown because Phoenix isn't winning many games, but he is definitely a solid player in the Association.
That's eleven weeks in the books. 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.