The Sports Fan Journal family sends thoughts and well wishes to former Commissioner David Stern's family, both immediate and NBA extended. He is a major reason why the NBA has grown to be the global phenomenon it is today.
What good is a series without a trilogy? For the third time, The Sports Fan Journal heads on the NBA Journey. For the first two years, we had a level of surety as to where our destination would be. The first year, we were correct. The second, we were correct in location, but not in victor, as the Toronto Raptors won the title last year. Now, the NBA springs anew and for the first time in a while, we're not totally sure where our destination lies. This allows for a current kind of exploration. Let's continue with our next installment after a week of games.
Song of The Week: Remnant From The Ashes Soundtrack - "Hall of The Faithful"
We are very quick to expedite a superstar's decline. At the first sign of sizeable deterioration, rumors of that player needing to retire swirl long before it's time. There is a gap between peak ability and complete incapability of being a professional, especially for those who are truly elite. So when an older former superstar had a bounce-back season, it is treated as if that player is resurrected from the professional dead.
Remnant From The Ashes is a game with a premise that can be gleaned from the title. The character you play as is one of the last survivors of humanity. Players fend off hordes of demons and monsters in order to save the world. Just as it seems hope is lost on the end of the career of the fading superstar, that player resurfaces to show glimpses of all he used to be and to make it known that decline doesn't mean total ineptitude. As good as the truly elite are, and as smart as players have become in regards to preserving health and well-being, we'll be privileged to more slow descents than plummeting from the game's greats.
Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder knew what was being whispered at the start of the NBA season.
Conversations about tanking and rebuilding were at the forefront, but thanks to the future Hall of Famer, those thoughts never transpired.
The then-member of the Houston Rockets was expected to enter his third season with the team after getting confirmation from GM Daryl Morey that he will remain with the team despite a disappointing ending to the 2018-19 NBA season.
It was no secret that James Harden and Paul had trouble trying to consistently co-exist. But when on the same page, they were still one of the top duos in the NBA. Paul, who has a history of being ornery towards teammates, appeared to be more than just irritating and he was shipped to Oklahoma City in a trade that included Russell Westbrook. In a sense, Paul was betrayed by Morey as he was going to a location deemed "basketball hell" because it no longer included Kevin Durant or Westbrook.
As soon as Paul arrived in OKC, many expected him to be traded to a title contender. That has yet to happen and it’s not out of question. But as of January 3rd, 2020, Paul has made the most of it. Whispers of CP3 being washed surfaced a year ago and that’s far from the case.
Paul has dazzled the NBA for nearly fifteen years with his wizard-like point guard skills. Although he doesn’t have a championship, he will go down as one of the best point guards to ever lace them up. CP3 has a stable of awards and accolades, but this year is one of his best yet. What he is doing now does not pale in comparison to his 2007-08 season where he was second to Kobe Bryant in the MVP race. But what he is doing this year is a work of art.
If you consider his age, what Paul is doing is beyond impressive. Point guards tend to decline at age 34. Recently we’ve seen it with floor generals such as Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups and Steve Nash. From a statistical standpoint, Paul’s numbers are down compared to his career averages, but they are improved from a year ago. The most intriguing stat is field goal percentage. Paul shot 41 percent last year and now he is shooting 47 percent, which is right on par with his career average. While Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shares ball-handling duties with CP3, Paul is still able to control the game and pick his spots when he is in attack mode.
CP3's methodical approach of today is a lot different than in the past. He is a step slower, but he is wiser. He takes better shots and that alone has improved his play. Last season, he hoisted six three-pointers a game in Houston and now he is down to four with the Thunder. While that may not seem like much, the slight tweak in his game has done wonders for him.
Paul is back focusing on the in-between game instead of shooting threes to appease the analytical buffs. His 4.2 free throws per game, is also up from his tenure with the Rockets. That entails that Paul can still get to the paint. And he is shooting above 90 percent from the stripe. Numbers can be deceiving and today's era of basketball clamors over them, but the eye test favors CP3.
In addition to his play, Paul’s competitive nature is spreading throughout the team. Having a fiery leader like Paul is why the Thunder are in playoff contention.
Before the start of the season, many expected Paul to pout and possibly sit out games, but that has not been the case. Paul has been the consummate professional and he is making a case to make his 10th All-Star appearance.