Pause the negativity, there's plenty that's right in the NBA
With the league in such a negative light, J.A. Adande lists a few things that are right in the NBA.
All we ever hear about these days is what's wrong with the NBA. If you've been too distracted by the performance-enhancing drugs in baseball or the criminals and cheaters in the NFL to notice the Association's issues, Bill Simmons has a quick recap, or you can check out the long-term, fundamental problems as described by Chuck Klosterman.
Even my brief ESPN.com archive weighs heavily on the negative, with tales of the referee scandal, the death of a young player, the injury concerns of the Portland Trail Blazers, the SuperSonics' potential move from Seattle, and star players Kobe Bryant, Shawn Marion and Andrei Kirilenko wanting out.
People said the arrival of the games would make everything better, but even that brought the sad realization that injuries and suspensions would keep a long list of players out of the openers, including Dwyane Wade, Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, Mike Bibby, Ron Artest, Greg Oden, Ben Wallace, Shaun Livingston, Randy Foye, Sean May, Adam Morrison, Marcus Williams, Etan Thomas, Joakim Noah, Eric Snow, J.R. Smith and Stephen Jackson.
That's why the following 700 words are declared a negativity-free zone for NBA fans (at this point, Simmons says it might be down to a dialogue between the two of us). Now that we all know what's wrong with the NBA, why don't we spend some time looking at what's right:
When he was in Minnesota, Garnett already rated a Col. Jessup on the Jack Nicholson Intensity Scale. Now that he's been rescued from basketball purgatory by the trade to Boston, Garnett's kicking it up a level, to Jack Torrance in "The Shining."
How focused is he on this season? When Southern California was in flames last week, some friends of Garnett told me they contacted him to see how his home in Malibu fared. Garnett had no idea and almost didn't seem to care. Now, if your house was in jeopardy, wouldn't that preoccupy your thoughts? You'd be eating up the minutes on your cell phone plan, scouring the Internet, downloading satellite photos to get the latest information. Not Garnett. He's completely consumed by basketball, getting so worked up that one friend said, "He's going to pop a vein in his head."
The friend was exaggerating. I think.
Phil Jackson's quotes
How many other coaches are willing to zing their superstar players, can offer city reviews that are much more concise and biting than anything you'll find in the Sunday travel section and will take on management, officials and the league office? In a recent pregame session, he managed to hit on topics as varied as U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and team trainer Gary Vitti's bald head. Think you'd ever get this kind of material from Bill Belichick?
LeBron vs. Dwyane vs. Carmelo
Hopefully, these members of the draft class of 2003 have a bit of the Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning competition in them. For years, the argument was that Peyton had the numbers but Brady had the championships. Then Manning and the Indianapolis Colts finally beat the New England Patriots in a playoff game, Indianapolis won the Super Bowl, and Manning had records and a ring. Game over, right? Not quite. All that did was inspire the Patriots to re-arm, and Brady came out to obliterate every statistical mark in the book. Next it'll be Peyton's turn.
We've seen a little of this one-upmanship with the 2003 kids. Wade was the first to get a ring, then LeBron James single-handedly pulled his Cavaliers into the NBA Finals, Step 1 on his march to global domination heading into the Olympics next year. Now Carmelo Anthony is in position to have his best year yet. Wade, coming back from a shoulder injury, must feel like he has to prove himself all over again.
Marv, Hubie, Ernie, Kenny and Charles
Name another sport with so many first-name-status broadcasters. One request to the bosses: Can we get Gus in the national mix?
Sure, they score a lot of points. That's real pretty and all. But look closely, and you'll see a team that epitomizes the core principles of the game: move the ball, find the open man, always search for the best possible shot. It's so refreshing, like getting an e-mail that actually contains properly spelled words. Yes, our standards have sunk. But at least the Suns are doing their best to stave off the decline.
Allen Iverson getting off the floor
Before D-Wade commercialized it, Iverson personified it. Let's take a moment and appreciate that, after all those times he got knocked to the deck on those fearless drives to the hoop, he's still standing, going on Season 12. Admit it, there were times you weren't even sure he would live to see his 30th birthday.
Madison Square Garden
The building, not the company. Just because the lawsuit-losing honchos who run Madison Square Garden, L.P. (a subsidiary of Cablevision) have created a bad odor in the place, that doesn't mean you can't appreciate the basketball version of Wrigley Field. It's still the site of some great moments in NBA history, including Willis Reed's limp, Reggie Miller's 25-point explosion, John Starks' dunk and two of the defining moments in Michael Jordan's career: the double-nickel and the baseline dunk on Patrick Ewing.
When the games really matter -- and it's been eight years since that was the case for the Knicks -- there's no better atmosphere. Fans there appreciate and understand the sport, and they still make noise. There's just something about the place that makes things seem more important simply because they're there. It's probably the same reason HBO taped its Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and Rolling Stones concert broadcasts in the Garden.
The best blogs
Cyberbasketballspace has a blog for every occasion. There's TrueHoop's relevance, Dime Magazine's smack, 82games.com's statistical breakdowns and Free Darko's philosophical rants. All that, plus direct insight into the mind of Gilbert Arenas.
Dikembe Mutombo's voice
It's what Jabba the Hutt would sound like if he spoke English. Mutombo needs to be heard, not just for that gravelly baritone, but because he speaks out on behalf of others, specifically on the need for better medical care in his home country of Zaire. But I'd like to hear it as much as possible. (TV request No. 2: Can we have players introduce starting lineups for nationally televised games the way they do in football? And can we load up the Rockets on the schedule?) Check out this clip and tell me you wouldn't watch a Dikembe Mutombo reality show. "I'm a good cowboy, because I have a hat on!"
J.A. Adande joined ESPN.com as an NBA columnist in August 2007 after 10 years with the Los Angeles Times. Click here to e-mail J.A.
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