IN THIS BLOGTABLE: Most incredible thing so far? | Most annoying thing? | Thoughts on coach’s challenge?
* * *
Most incredible thing you’ve seen or heard this season?
* * *
Steve Aschburner: I’m agog — agog, I tell ya! — over Luka Doncic’s mastery of this sport and league at age 20. It’s remarkable to see him play at his own pace, sometimes snappy but often methodical and almost slo-mo smooth, and get the results he has gotten. I get it that he had a basketball in his hands from the time he could walk or whatever. If ever there was a perfect human lab for author Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” theory regarding 10,000 repetitions leading to “overnight success,” this young man would seem to be it. Note: I have to admit, I wonder if the league’s obsession with 3-point shots has fueled his 9.9 rpg, a nosebleed number for a 6-7 wing.
Shaun Powell: Eric Bledsoe taking the ball out of bounds by himself, and doing so very casually without even the slightest bit of “oops” is something no basketball fan has ever seen before on any level. It’s now known as “Pulling A Bledsoe” although there are serious doubts if anyone’s brain will actually lock like that again.
John Schuhmann: It’s Luka Doncic’s combination of youth, usage and efficiency. He’s 20 years old and less than 100 games into his NBA career. And not only does he rank third in the league in usage rate, he’s carrying that load for the league’s No. 1 offense. His true shooting percentage (which measures scoring efficiency) ranks fourth among the 39 players with a usage rate of 25% or higher, and his assist/turnover ratio (2.04) is higher than those of the three guys ahead of him. It’s absolutely legit to think of him as an MVP candidate, and that’s pretty incredible.
Sekou Smith: This is where I think Luka Doncic’s sensational sophomore season takes over the early narrative of this season. He’s on a pace for a historic season for a second-year player and he’s doing it with a blend of physical and mental dominance that belies his years. I don’t think we can put enough stock into how crucial his professional training overseas was in preparing him for what we’re seeing now. If he’s just getting started at 20, it’s frightening for the rest of league when you consider how good he could be in another season or two (when he’s better in every facet of the game).
Michael C. Wright: The season is still young, but I’ve enjoyed watching the whole buildup and return of Carmelo Anthony. This man belongs in the NBA, and it was nice to see him return after more than a year away and win Western Conference Player of the Week just two weeks into his comeback. Having now played six games for the Blazers, Anthony is averaging 17.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 30.7 minutes per game. But more importantly, he’s helping Portland — which struggled out of the gates — to win ballgames. In hip-hop, you always hear about your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Well, in a way, that’s what Anthony is to NBA players, and it’s heartwarming to see the reception he’s gotten around the league and from his teammates.
* * *
Most annoying thing you’ve seen or heard this season?
* * *
Steve Aschburner: The Knicks. ‘Nuff said.
Shaun Powell: I’m annoyed by the proposed in-season tournament. While recognizing the need to make the regular season more meaningful if only to appease the TV networks and therefore keep the money flowing, it seems very gimmicky. The best way to put pop in the regular season is to reduce the number of playoff teams, therefore reducing the number of load management games, and perhaps start the season on Christmas Day.
John Schuhmann: “Annoying” isn’t the right word, but it bothers me that Dejounte Murray and Derrick White have played only eight minutes together this season. I think that the explanation is that Murray’s minutes are limited and neither guy spaces the floor for the other. But not much has worked for the Spurs and it’s not like DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge complement each other. The Spurs have tinkered with the starting lineup, but three guys have started every game that they’ve played in and the team has been outscored by 7.3 points per 100 possessions in the 446 minutes those three guys – Bryn Forbes, DeRozan and Aldridge – have been on the floor together. When is it time to turn the keys over to (what we thought was) the backcourt of the future?
Sekou Smith: This relentless scrutiny of Kyrie Irving’s every move has subsided recently. But it was bordering on complete foolishness for a few days and threatened so many other stories that should have been in the spotlight. We’ll have plenty of time to litigate Kyrie’s game and reputation when the Nets are much closer to full strength. Dissecting Kyrie’s every word right now, though, is a trivial pursuit I’ll gladly avoid. I’m with Marcus Smart: enough talk about Kyrie with his former teammates and coaches. Everybody else got a chance to start fresh this season, so should Kyrie and the Nets.
Michael C. Wright: Load management, and all the hot takes and opinions associated with it. Let’s face it: load management isn’t going away. It’s a part of the modern NBA, and it’s here to stay. I get it, it’s not ideal for the fans paying their hard-earned money to watch their favorite players. But surely those same fans would take a few missed games here and there to see their teams flourish with healthier players. The NBA hasn’t gone soft. It’s just a different game with bigger, faster players and teams now embracing science to ensure their best players can perform optimally for as long as possible. Without load management, we don’t get to enjoy watching Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili perform at such a high level for as long as they did.
* * *
Your thoughts on the coach’s challenge: Continue after this season or pull the plug?
* * *
Steve Aschburner: In theory, I like it. But it needs refining. One thing I’ve heard from a number of coaches is, they do not like losing a timeout when they’ve made a successful challenge. Let them hang onto that when they get it right. I’d like to see fewer replay reviews overall, though, so maybe there are some established “triggers” that could be dropped – or just shifted onto the backs of the coach’s challenge option. I know I am tired of four or five players twirling their fingers in the air over almost any call at any time in a game, hoping for a momentum-sapping second-guess.
Shaun Powell: Pull. The. Plug. Can’t yank it quickly enough. But if you must, confine it to just the final four minutes of the game, when every possession counts just a bit more.
John Schuhmann: Pull the plug, or at least limit it to the last five minutes of the game. The coaches don’t appear to like it (even when it works for them) and there’s just too much review time in certain games. The clear path rule needs to go too. (Just give the offense two shots and the ball for any intentional foul in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock.)
Sekou Smith: I remain a huge proponent for the continued evolution of the game, in any way that seems reasonable. So I say continue it. The coaches are making their adjustments to the change and how to manage it. I realize most of the coaches seem ready to scrap the whole thing, but give it time, fellas. As the season progresses, we’ll have a better idea of how the challenge impacts the game and whether or not it’s working for the greater good.
Michael C. Wright: Let’s continue it because, to me, it adds another strategic layer to the game that coaches are still trying to get a handle on, and ultimately the goal of the challenge in a way is to ensure fairness in competition. That can only be viewed as a positive. The early returns from challenges haven’t yielded terribly high success rates so far, but coaches will find a better feel for it once there’s a larger sample size from which to draw data. The fact that you get only one challenge is what makes this intriguing.
* * *