Last night was one of the most entertaining games of the still-young NBA season. Two top teams, one from the east, one from the west. The reigning champion Miami Heat with their big three superstars, LBJ, Wade and Bosh, plus legendary shooter Ray Allen, versus the always-dangerous San Antonio Spurs, starring…. a bunch of bench guys. At the tail end of a grueling road trip, that wily curmudgeon Coach Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home. David Stern promised substantial sanctions and the remaining Spurs went out and put on a gutsy show, nearly holding off the late-charging Heat who won it in the final minute.
That’s basketball. The idea that on any given night, a team that’s not expected to be in the picture, can very much be in the picture. Fans of the sport were pulling for the underdogs and it makes me wonder about a common Los Angeles Lakers narrative of late – that we have to be patient and bide our time because Steve Nash isn’t back yet and all we can really hope for is to hold our ground. Except the ground we’re holding is barely above water. I’m not sure that I quite buy this philosophy. I’m not sure that a starting lineup of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Darius Morris should have lower expectations than Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw and Nando De Colo. Or in cold hard cash, $75 million versus $15 million. Unless of course you assume that Nando De Colo is so overwhelmingly better than Darius Morris that the whole thing’s a wash. It’s certainly possible – De Colo can play.
Here’s what I think. I think we should beat Denver tonight. I think that it is not unreasonable to expect that we should beat a team that is exactly half-a-game above us on the leader board, at Staples. On national TV. Segue the links:
Kevin Arnovitz at ESPN’s TrueHoop offers the book on Mike D’Antoni.
Dave McMenamin from ESPN Los Angeles brings a reflective Kobe Bryant interview, about his lasting impact on the game.
Ben Bolch at the LA Times reports that Mike D’Antoni is preaching patience given his floor general’s absence.
Patience is one thing, but as Janis Carr at the OC Register points out, D’Antoni is also calling his team’s offense anemic.
The staff at Mavericks Moneyball takes a look at the signing of Derek Fisher.
Drew Garrison at Silver Screen and Roll brings Matt Barnes’ reasoning for his Lakers exit, “Mike Brown.”
Arielle Moyal at Lakers Nation offers reflections, rumors and Lakers news.
Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie looks at the ravings of David Stern, a man who once did big things.
When it comes down to it, there are truths that cannot be ignored. That on any given night, the worst players in the league can run with the best. And to be honest, the Spurs role players are far from the worst in the league. That a coach of the caliber of Gregg Popovich can motivate his guys to go hard, from one end of the bench to the other. And that superstars have been known to phone it in now and then. Kobe Bryant doesn’t fall into that category – he nearly beat the Pacers the other night all on his own, while battling the flu. But there’s something about supremely talented teams of whom much is expected. They don’t always live up to expectations. Mike D’Antoni is new to this team and he’s new to this town. And he needs some time to get everybody on the same page, from one end of the bench to the other. That includes a somewhat elusive figure who’s been hanging around in the warm California sun for a lot of years now, stretching and yawning and coming forward to say hello to the new boss. It’s our old friend the switch. Remember the switch? It’s another one of our truths.