The 2017-18 NBA season is more than halfway over. There will be scores of articles about questioning good teams, declaring individual award races over, and the bickering over true shooting percentage and defensive rating. There is also a feeling surrounding this season that we're headed towards the inevitability of a Golden State Warriors championship. Thus, some of the fun is met with a bit of gloom. Cheer up, lover of hoops. Basketball is a sport in which the journey of the season is just as important as its destination in the Finals. Here at TSFJ, we're going to highlight some things and people the basketball realm can be excited for between now and June.
Song of The Week: Miki Howard - "Love Under New Management"
The trade deadline is like the junction on the highway that has weighing and changing stations for big trailers and other vehicles that carry massive cargo. Drivers know it's coming, and must prepare to take measures in order to be able to proceed properly. Sometimes they can take on more weight. And of course, weight is removed, at times.
Have you ever felt the relief of a giant weight being lifted or dropped? Whether physically, mentally or emotionally, that sigh of a task completed accompanied by the feeling of your own body no longer harboring extra baggage puts an additional glide in your stride. It feels easier to walk, to function, to be. You become a living symbol of the adage, "Addition by subtraction."
That is the feeling LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are experiencing after trading six players away and receiving four last Thursday at the deadline. Gone are Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder, Channing Frye, Dwyane Wade and Iman Shumpert. Cleveland received Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, George Hill and Larry Nance, Jr. At a time where only minimal deals were being made--like the Knicks trading for Emmanuel Mudiay or Phoenix trading for Elfrid Payton and his hair--and during a tumultuous period for the Cavaliers franchise, GM LeBron Ja-, uh, Koby Altman managed to orchestrate a series of deals that simultaneously better the roster for now and the future, just in case LeBron James leaves in free agency.
Sure, it's very easy to point out how wrong the Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder experiment went, especially as Kyrie Irving and the Celtics have been better than Cleveland for the entire season. And it did. There was an inefficiency to the offense to go along with how awful the team had been defensively. Tons of jokes have been made about Thomas and his diminutive stature, particularly watching the celebration after LeBron hit a game winning jumper against Minnesota. It looked as if LeBron was only interested in celebrating with teammates he knew would be there, and that Thomas wouldn't be one of them.
This updated roster has played a grand total of one game together, as of February 12. They have that new car smell that sometimes compliments getting rid of tension in a locker room. There still has to be an adjustment period, even for a genius basketball mind like LeBron. In his words, he, "...knows everyone's game," and while he is the best at learning everyone's strengths and weakness, instant chemistry does not exist. It must be cultivated and put into practice. However, peace of mind is a glorious thing, and it seems The King has been reinvigorated. We will see if these additions are enough to detour our journey and land us at a different destination.
And we blurb!
- Cleveland's new energy is so infectious that it even reached TSFJ favorite JR Smith. He dunked on Boston's Aron Baynes, putting the big man's hair bun in a poster.
- Donovan Mitchell has yet to hit the proverbial rookie wall. His play has continued to be outstanding, and he's quickly going from one of the best young guards to one of the best guards in the conference.
- This week's Hooper Appreciation Blurb is for Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. Last week, I mentioned the Nuggets in a blurb, but this time I'm singling out Murray. The Kentucky guard has come into his own as the starting point, thus making it easier for Denver to decide to move the inconsistent Emmanuel Mudiay. With his trademark arrow celebration after a made three, Murray's confidence is growing, solidifying a Nuggets backcourt that's young and talented.
Seventeen weeks in, and the journey continues. Enjoy All-Star Weekend. 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.