#IMHO: The Celtics, Rockets, The Brow and the MLK Celebration
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, January 15, 2019 10:01 AM To: Michael Wallace Subject: #IMHO
It’s a good thing the Patriots are still rolling right now, otherwise all of New England might be noticing that something weird is going on with the Boston Celtics. And by weird, I mean they just aren’t very good.
Yes, the C’s are 7 games above .500, but as I write this they’ve lost three games in a row and even though they ended last season on a high note and returned a healthy Gordon Hayward, things just haven’t felt steady all season. Now Kyrie seems unhappy, as evidenced by his LeBron impression after Hawyard looked him off on an inbounds play with a chance to end the game against Orlando. Guys have been beefing in huddles, and the other night in Brooklyn, after Brad Stevens called a timeout 29 seconds into the game and not long after the Nets put together a 44-point third quarter, the fans serenaded the Celtics with “Kyrie’s leaving!”
Which leads me to ask, is the ship sinking in Beantown? Or is this just another bump in the road?
From: Michael Wallace Sent: : Tuesday, January 15, 2019 5:42 PM To: Lang Whitaker Subject: RE: #IMHO
Boston is vulnerable. And it’s not like their complete team has actually endured and accomplished anything together. Last year’s run to the conference finals came with Hayward and Irving both hurt, and role players stepping up. Then everyone got healthy, and it’s been an erratic start to this season.
On the surface, Boston seems to have the perfect blend of great coach, proven/productive veterans, a fantastic young nucleus, future draft assets and a rich tradition. Yet chemistry and, maybe, egos keep getting in the way of real progress. All that said, remember when we thought the Warriors were imploding? And when the Spurs were washed up? I’m not ready to totally panic with the Celtics. They should be fine. And if not, they’ll fix a few things at the trade deadline.
Lang, I am a bit concerned about the Rockets, though. I just witnessed in person James Harden drop the smoothest 50-point game I think I’ve ever seen in this week’s win over the Grizzlies. He made scoring 57 points look like anyone else scoring, like, 17. If anyone can sustain this prolific pace, it’s Harden. But considering Chris Paul is still out, Eric Gordon is still out and Clint Capela is now sidelined for several weeks, it would be humanly impossible for Harden to maintain this burden, right?
From: Lang Whitaker Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2019 9:08 AM To: Michael Wallace Subject: #IMHO
Well, one might think maintaining this pace is impossible, the way Harden has been playing is basically impossible. According to basketball-reference.com, over Harden’s last 25 games he’s averaging 37.7 points per game, along with 9 assists, and 7 rebounds, with a 41.5% usage rate. He’s already posted more 50-point games than Allen Iverson, and he has shown no signs this season of slowing down. If he can keep this up until the spring, we’re gonna have to put a shaggy beard on the MVP trophy.
Actually, it reminds me a bit of Russell Westbrook’s triple-double MVP season, when he kept on putting up ridiculous numbers and everyone waited for him to slow down and it just never happened. I do agree that all these injuries the Rockets are going through makes it feel as though they’re teetering on the brink of unsustainability, but Harden seems focused on not letting that happen.
A team we haven’t spoken much of in this column but have seen in person a few times is the New Orleans Pelicans. As I write this they are 21-23, totally within striking distance of a playoff berth, but all anyone can seem to talk about this season is the long-term future of Anthony Davis. Will he stay or will he go now? For better or worse, that’s become the enduring talking point. Which in some ways I understand – I’m as curious as anyone else as to his future – but shouldn’t we be talking about the long-term future of this Pelicans team? They made some postseason noise last year, and this year they should be taking a step forward, shouldn’t they?
From: Michael Wallace Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2019 3:00 PM To: Lang Whitaker Subject: #IMHO
Yes, they should. But the same could be said – just in the West – about Minnesota and Utah, among one or two other teams that came in with either big-time prospects or heightened expectations. No question about it – Anthony Davis is the biggest star on an underperforming team. It’s fair to think that maybe things have run their course in New Orleans with Davis.
I can’t fault him if he wants to keep his options open at worst, or jump to a championship contender at best. New Orleans has had seven years to develop and build around Davis. He showed his commitment to the franchise during his previous free agency when he signed an extension, and announced it via, just after the stroke of midnight. It’s never good to see superstar talent depart a small market team. So they better turn this season around quickly.
We’ll close out on this one, Lang: The annual MLK Celebration Games are coming up Monday. I’ve been in Memphis now for three years, and you were raised in Atlanta. The NBA and the Grizzlies have done a tremendous job over the years in commemorating MLK’s legacy. The one thing I’d like to see, though, is for the league to allow the Grizzlies and Hawks to play one another as the annual marquee MLK rivalry, showcasing the NBA teams based in the cities which are most rich in his legacy.
What’s your favorite part of the NBA’s MLK Celebration events, and what might you tweak if given a chance?
From: Lang Whitaker Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2019 3:54 PM To: Michael Wallace Subject: #IMHO
Growing up in Atlanta, you are surrounded by Dr. King’s legacy and reminded of it in various ways every day. When I was a kid, our mayor was Andrew Young; John Lewis was our Congressional representative; Hosea Williams was constantly around town, hosting television and radio programs and guiding campaigns to feed the hungry; Ralph David Abernathy and Joseph Lowery were running the Southern Christian Leadership Campaign; Coretta Scott King and the King children were all in Atlanta and involved in local politics and issues.
There were streets and schools and highways and buildings named after all of these people, and in many ways, even though I didn’t fully realize it at the time, Dr. King’s legacy was ingrained in my daily life growing up in Atlanta.
When I moved here in 2017 and visited the National Civil Rights Museum for the first time, it both refreshed my childhood and served as a reminder that those horrific times really weren’t all that long ago. Dr. King was assassinated literally blocks from where I sit right now typing this, and the Civil Rights Museum does a terrific job of making that history palpable. I think back now to a year ago, when I saw a photo of my friend David Aldridge in tears on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
As DA wrote then, visiting that place and standing on that spot moved him in ways he didn’t anticipate. I’d like to see more teams and players have a chance to visit that sacred ground, not just around the MLK Celebration, so they can really delve into the history and reason for having the MLK holiday. And I’m with you on the Hawks and Grizzlies playing against each other -- maybe the NBA could make it a home-and-home series between the Hawks and Grizzlies, where the two cities alternate hosting the event. And, if we’re trying to make it really special, maybe that could be the only NBA game played each MLK Celebration Day.
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.