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#IMHO: All-Star, Time Off and Zion vs. AD

by Lang Whitaker | Grizz Gaming GM

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 1:42 PM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO

Mike, we are officially old. Last weekend was the annual NBA All-Star Extravaganza and you and I both ended up sitting this one out. We’ve both been to plenty over the years – I’ve been to 15 of them I think? – but at this point in the season I think we both realized that load management was essential. So I took the weekend off and went to your old stomping grounds of Miami, but I did manage to tune in and watch the game on Sunday night.

I suppose it was a pretty good game, as All-Star Games go, but when you’re attending an All-Star Weekend, the actual game is about the least important part of it all. I didn’t find myself missing the game as much as I missed the stuff that happens around the games – the parties, the hanging out with colleagues, running into random NBA legends, etc.

So out of all the All-Star Weekends you’ve partaken in, what was the most memorable experience you’ve had, either on or off the floor?

Steph Curry

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2019 10:34 AM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

The two All-Star games that quickly come to mind as the most meaningful and/or impactful that I’ve covered were the ones in 2007 and 2010. The general ‘off-the-hookness’ of 2007 All-Star Weekend in Vegas will go down in history among the most raunchy, ridiculous, entertaining, epic, eventful ones ever. Vegas is made for an event like NBA All-Star Weekend, yet the city still seemed overwhelmed a bit by the enormous spectacle of it all. Oh, the memories...

But the 2010 game in Dallas was unique because I basically had behind-the-scenes reporting access, pretty much all weekend, to Dwyane Wade’s involvement. Seven years ago in Dallas, Wade was in the middle of a nasty divorce and custody dispute with his first wife. Wade was supposed to have custody of his young son Zaire to share in that All-Star Weekend, but the kid never arrived in Dallas to join his father. Wade was named MVP of that 2010 All-Star Game, but it was the most bittersweet moment of his career considering what was going on in his personal life at that time.

So to see Wade and now-17-year-old son Zaire soak up the entire experience together in Charlotte last weekend was symbolic and fitting as Wade participated in his final All-Star Game.

Lang, as NBA action cranks back up for the stretch run, which top-four conference race is more compelling – the West or East? Based on trades and transactions, I think the East has finally reached a point where the parity at the top is on par with the West. The Bucks, Raptors, Sixers and Celtics are as evenly matched on paper as it gets. And it looks like the Pacers aren’t just going to go away quietly after Victor Oladipo’s season-ending injury. For the first time in years, I’m more interested in the top of the East than the top of the West. What say you?

Dwayne Wade and son Zaire Wade

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2019 11:25 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

I still remember Vegas in ’07, and how wild Saturday night was. This was before Uber, so you had to wait for cabs, and the cab line around midnight outside the MGM was so long that people were making makeshift mimosas in ice buckets and passing out straws. I got into my hotel room at like 4 in the morning on Sunday, and had to be up hours later to attend a media breakfast meeting with David Stern. Which was just so surreal.

There was a lot of buzz the last few months, and particularly following the trade deadline, as so many Eastern Conference teams attempted to make moves and best each other in this arms race toward the top of the Conference. And it made me think a lot about how for the last few years, various people have suggested various schemes as a way to counter whatever imbalance existed, even going so far as to suggest eliminating Conference altogether.

Call me old school, or even just old, but I like Conferences. I like rivalries and I like tradition, and having some traditional inter-Conference rivalries is to me a lot of fun, and adds a level of interest on top of what’s already going to be a great playoff race. While I know the Western Conference has been firmly on top the last few years, I always suspected that at some point the pendulum would swing back and there would be a power shift to the East, and we would eventually find some balance. And I think that’s what’s happening right now. Over the last few months, the Eastern Conference has become a lot better than it used to be. But as long as the Warriors are still doing their thing, to me the crown remains out West. Although I suppose we’ll see what else free agency has to offer this summer.

In the meantime, we’re in this forced NBA offseason right now as teams take advantage of having a few days off. Which also means we get a few days off for the first time since September. So I want to ask you a question that has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE NBA: What have you been watching these last few days with no NBA on TV?

2010 Vegas NBA All-Star Sign

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2019 6:05 PM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: #IMHO

That’s a great question, Lang. I’ve been so accustomed to having an NBA game on every night that I’ve taken it for granted. I’ve actually missed the NBA these past few days. I’m glad the doldrums end with the return to game action on Thursday night.

But the break the past few days gave me a chance to dive into the latest book I’m reading, Memphis author Preston Turner’s Bluff City, which is the fascinating story about iconic Memphis photographer Earnest Withers, who took some of the most famous shots of Memphis and the region during the Civil Rights Era, but also worked as a confidential FBI informant. The other night, I flipped on Netflix and finally watched the Sam Cooke documentary, which also blew me away with how far ahead of his time he was as an entertainer, thinker and social justice activist before his tragic death in his mid-30s. I’m a history buff, so I easily filled my NBA-less nights.

On a closing note, I’ll pose to you an intriguing question someone asked me over the break. I’m still a bit stumped by it. As of today, meaning right this very moment, if you were running an NBA team, would you rather have Anthony Davis for the next 4 years, or the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft and presumably the right to select Zion Williamson? My initial reaction was A.D., but I’ve been hedging a bit over the past few days since then. What’s your call on it?

Anthony Davis NBA All-Star Portrait

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2019 9:48 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO

I really want to watch that Sam Cooke documentary. I started the Ted Bundy documentary and caught up on Top Chef, but the real joy for me lately has been watching this season of “True Detective.” Season one was so good, and then season two was so bad (shoutout mob boss Vince Vaughn), that it feels nice to have it back in my life as something to look forward to each week. And give Mahershala Ali all the Emmys—he’s flat out incredible on this show.

Last night I was so bereft of #content to consume that I found myself tuning into the UNC/Duke game, as much to finally watch Zion as anything. And then one minute into the game Zion went down with a knee sprain.

While we all hope he’s ok, and we know he’s gonna be great in the NBA, I want to bet on the sure thing. So I’ll take Anthony Davis. Zion might become one of the all-time greats, and failing that he should become even as good as Anthony Davis. But that’s all eventual. I’ll take the one who is great right now.

After all, as I’ve learned from “True Detective,” time is a flat circle.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. Their sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and they have no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.


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