NBA Journey Week Two: Screaming Hot Takes

The start of the 2017-18 NBA season is underway. There will be scores of articles about questioning good teams, declaring individual award races over, and whatever the Knicks are doing (three wins in a row!). 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: The Roots – “Don’t Say Nuthin'”

So the Lakers beat the Wizards last Wednesday. John Wall said there would be “no mercy” shown to rookie point guard Lonzo Ball. While Ball didn’t shoot well, his +/- was +13 compared to Wall’s -12. Arguably, Wall may have had the better statistical game. But those mediocre numbers were a detriment to the Wizards.

Wall’s lackluster performance drew the loquacious ire of one Stephen A. Smith. The First Take panelist lambasted Wall in a way only he can — with a loud and lengthy diatribe, including him imploring Wall to “shut the hell up.”

It has been a challenging first couple of weeks for Lonzo Ball. (ClutchPoints)

While I have already stated my feelings on the idea of players picking on Lonzo Ball because his father is obnoxious, I thoroughly believe trash talk is a healthy and vital part of competition. There is a feeling of a rite of passage that highly-touted rookies must go through to earn the respect of veterans. John Wall is a cutthroat competitor. He and Lonzo play the same position, therefore a natural matchup exists when their respective teams play. However, not every boisterous claim is backed up with stellar play.

Just because John Wall didn’t play well in one game in the first week of the NBA season does not derail any idea that he is a great player. Stephen A’s heart rate rises as quickly as Wall with a clear path to the basket. Him getting so worked up over something that is ultimately trivial speaks to the superficial discussions these debate shows tend to have. I’m pretty sure there will be a segment on just how good John Wall is, like there was the day before Stephen A. blasted him.

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DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins played in his first game back in Sacramento since being traded to the Pelicans last February. He torched the Kings for 41 points and 23 rebounds as New Orleans won 114-106. Cousins received a warm ovation from the Golden 1 Center crowd. After a tumultuous six-plus years with Sacramento, Boogie hopes to find some stability in ‘The Big Easy.’

Cousins is now an NBA Vet. Hopefully, he also is in a stable situation. (Sporting News)

TNT broadcasted his return, so the Inside The NBA crew of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley certainly had something to say about Cousins’ return. Barkley and Cousins have had their share of disagreements in recent years. However, Chuck made an interesting point regarding Boogie’s much-maligned temperament.

This is Cousins’s seventh season in the NBA. At this point, he is an NBA veteran. Hoping that a franchise brings in a positive veteran influence should not be a priority because Cousins should have matured on his own. While this is true, it is also true that Sacramento did little to provide a solid foundation truly focused on winning.

For Barkley to bloviate about Cousins’ temper and veteran status in a way to dismiss how dysfunctional of a franchise the Kings were with him and still are without him is lazy and shortsighted. Both Cousins’ need to mature and Sacramento’s toxic counter to that growth can coexist as truths. Barkley, both as player and analyst, should have the wherewithal to know that.

The notable analysts whose gimmicks are tied to how loudly and unapologetically aggressive they are, tend to overlook and ignore the most important component of their job: perspective. Those perspectives are consistent in their inconsistency because conviction can be formless. The solidity of opinion changes in both composition and subject matter. Analysts are like the fulcrum of a seesaw, and their stances change depending on which side has enough weight to tip the balance. The desire to be first and unique has become more important than being informed. That is a bigger problem than trash talking rookies or being a veteran with a temper.

This week’s blurbs:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo nearly killed Aron Baynes on national television. Even though the dunk wasn’t completed, there may have still been a murder. The best part of this almost finish is that Giannis lands on his feet while sending the bigger Baynes to the floor with a crashing thud. Two points should have been awarded anyway.
  • Blake Griffin hit a game-winning three, on the road in Portland, off the dribble. Even with his injury history, Griffin has expanded his game to now include perimeter shooting and dribbling. With Chris Paul now in Houston, Griffin is the focus of the Clippers’ offense. While his long-range shot still has rigidity to it, it does look practiced and improved.
Fun times still exist in Lob City. (NBC Sports)
  • Markelle Fultz is injured. Troublesome right shoulder pain will sideline this year’s first overall pick for at least three weeks. The injury affects Fultz’s shooting form, and the numbers suggest something is wrong. Even his form at the free throw line highlights the latest setback in The Process. Hey, at least Ben Simmons is healthy.
  • Kristaps Porzingis is known as The Unicorn. Right now, he is a unicorn frolicking in a sewer, putting together a string of good games for the New York Knicks. Porzingis scored 32 points against the Cavaliers and a career-high 38 Monday against the Denver Nuggets. If there is anything the Knicks and its fan base need, it is hope. Porzingis provides that, at least until he decides to walk once his contract has expired.

Week Two is officially in the books. Let’s continue our NBA journey. Happy hoops, folks.

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