A Little Something For Everyone

The round one matchup between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers has featured almost everything.  Nevermind the fact that the series is now locked up at 3 games all and headed for a Saturday night, Game 7 showdown. That’s obviously the biggest deal, but far from the most interesting storyline to emerge from this series. In no particular order, here’s what we’ve had to deal with:

ANDREW BYNUM’S HEADSPACE

What a mess. You’d think that, after a while, the young man would get it. It’s one thing to hear Bynum talk himself into the ground and watch him gun up idiotic threes during the middle of the regular season. It’s an entirely different thing to witness the guy’s misguided, limp-dicked approach when things should matter the most. “Half-hearted” would be a gross overstatement. His on-court play has deteriorated further and further as the series has progressed. Uninspired play that has been the result of a puzzling combination of idiocy and apathy. With all due respect to the likes of Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions, the team’s production lives and dies with their interior players, and Bynum has taken himself and his teammates out of games in a way that makes it exceedingly difficult to claw back. His detrimental performance(s) have been so impactful that they’ve apparently forced Pau Gasol to follow the same path.

However, it’s his non-basketball actions that have really been a treat. Simply put, Bynum should never open his mouth. You can almost literally see the saliva dripping from the mouths of hungry journalists that surround him, yearning for the unavoidable stupidity to roll out of his throat and directly into their pocket recorders. Sadly, he doesn’t even have to speak to communicate the idea that this whole deal just really doesn’t matter to him as much as you’d think it should. Whether he’s getting tech’d up for some post-whistle nonsense, or just sitting on the bench during timeout huddles (wrapped up like a mummy and exuding a complimentary level of enthusiasm), he just can’t seem to do much good right now. That’s unfortunate, because they need him, and because that one guy can’t do it all…

Bynum, seen here on the bench.

THAT ONE GUY

Kobe Bryant is doing the best he can, as usual. We’ve seen the ups and downs. He has generally played very well under the circumstances, including a Game 5 explosion that was so ruthless that it reminded anyone who may have somehow forgotten that Kobe is still as lethal as they come (along with nearly bringing L.A. back in a game that they were very much struggling in). Despite his gradually-increasing physical limitations and the unfortunate reality that he is forced into taking ill-advised shots on a regular basis (for a number of reasons), he has still put the team on his back and been their only real hope.

On the flip-side, it has been rough. At a time when Kobe now needs more support than ever before, it hasn’t been there (refer back to the last topic). He essentially can’t count on anybody else right now. Additionally, he now has to deal with the misfortune of being ill. It’s bad enough that the fellow is out there playing with a set of limbs and digits that are more broken and battered than anyone even realizes (essentially because he’s beyond tough and so driven to own the game of basketball that he’s probably ensuring a very miserable, post-NBA life). Now, he has to deal with the fatigue and other effects of the system-wide tax of the flu, described to us by Craig Sager in completely unnecessary detail, by the way. All you had to do was say the guy was sick, Craig. Instead, we got tales of loose bowels and rumored, bus-trip mishaps. I’m no Kobe mega-fan, but really, there’s no need to quite literally put his shit on blast. We’re all childish enough – we don’t need further ammunition. Speaking of children…

I’M LIKE A BIRD – I WANT TO FLY AWAY

In the midst of everything else going on, yesterday’s report that Chris Andersen is being investigated for something to do with child pornography came out and kind of lingered as a dark, background cloud. As almost everyone has expressed, hopefully this is somehow a massive misunderstanding. Birdman had come a long way from his extremely troubled past and, although his role with the Nuggets had recently been reduced, it was still fun to see him in brief spurts or just sitting on the bench. I think most people were rooting for the guy. That certainly might change. On a brighter note…

JAVALE MCGEE

I really don’t need to say much. You’ve likely already heard about and/or seen the meteoric rise of the NBA’s hottest new superstar. Javale is like basketball’s answer to Ricky Williams, in the sense that he’s a guy with immense physical gifts and a mind that is, well, elsewhere a lot of the time (I’m not comparing intelligence levels at all, to be clear). Prior to this, McGee was known as the dude who could pull off amazing athletic feats, such as trick dunks that probably nobody else on the planet can execute. He was also the subject of mockery and several, “most buffoonish plays you’ve seen” compilations featured on YouTube. All of that is in the past now, though.

To be fair, despite his tendencies towards poor decisions and his limited understanding of several aspects of the game, McGee always had the potential to play an important role on a team. This is a testament to the vital importance of one’s surroundings and how they can either hinder or amplify success. Anyone playing for the Washington Wizards has had everything working against them for the past several years. Their recent history has been atrocious, the environment has been toxic, and the franchise has played host to an elite group of players who have somehow made it to the NBA without actually knowing anything about basketball. So, when you take a talented guy like McGee out of that situation and surround him with a completely different culture, it’s not the biggest shock to see him flourish. The absolute best thing to happen to him is George Karl, one of the all-time greats when it comes to coaching and, more specifically, player management. Add to that a bunch of players who work as a team and a city that is relatively devoid of major distractions, and things change.

The entire "inspiration continuum," all in one photo.

It’s amazing how a young, impressionable mind can be influenced in both good and bad ways. We’re getting the “good” right now, complete with McGee having the best games of his career and then proceeding to gun those game balls 40 rows deep into the almost-empty arena seats. Not the best decision, but one made out of enthusiasm and the excitement that comes out of a positive situation. With Nick Young also having a measurable impact with the Clippers (that unprecedented, Game 1 comeback against Memphis doesn’t happen without him), I found myself wondering: if Aundray Blatche were traded to somebody like the Bulls or the Spurs, would he become a first-team, All-NBA player?

The answer, of course, is no.

ANDRE MILLER LEARNING YOUNG BUCKS ABOUT BASKETBALL

At SOSB, we’ve always praised Miller for having one of the craftiest games in all of basketball. This is the guy that the Derrick Roses and Russell Westbrooks might want to consider studying. Miller isn’t completely without athleticism, but it certainly isn’t much of a factor when it comes to his execution. Instead, he just has a bag of veteran moves that makes kids look foolish. Ask Matt Barnes and/or Steve Blake.

Miller and McGee – might as well bring the two together:

THERE IS A STALKER ON THE LOOSE

It’s over (for now), but apparently there was always a decent chance that a crazed woman might run out onto the court during the middle of any game being played at the Pepsi Center. I just wish I would have known of that prior to this series starting. That factor alone makes for a certain element of human unpredictability that you just don’t see that often. TNT could have really pumped it up with pre-game reports concerning whether or not the stalker had been seen in the area, and maybe we could have gotten really serious, captivating soundbytes from Kenyon Martin and other players who may have been harassed by said woman in the past. This is the type of thing that female, non-basketball fans could even get into.

What I still can’t get over is how a person that has been banned from an arena can somehow find their way ONTO THE COURT with little to no trouble. They mentioned that the security supervisor was retiring on that very night. Boy, I sure hope so.

By the way, the stalker’s name is Savannah McMillan Christmas.  I was going to make up a fake name, but that works just fine.

***

So, we have one game left, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how it will play out. Will Denver pull off the amazing comeback, or will the Lakers survive in spite of themselves? I only know one thing:

METTA WORLD PEACE RETURNS

Enjoy Saturday night.

– Wes Lilliman

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