HOOP LOGIC with GOD FORBID’S DOC COYLE: LEBRONSANITY & LOCKOUT LOSSES, BIG FOUR & BAD FINGERS
What’s up, Hoop Logic readers! Doc Coyle here, welcoming you to the All-Star break and the halfway point of this hectic, exciting 2012 season. There have been expected developments (like Miami’s domination) and unexpected ones (like New York’s early failures and salvation by Jeremy Lin). But the second half of the season is always more telling than the first. It’s really all about how you finish, not how you start, and our memories reserve little real estate for teams that “kicked ass” back in December.
There will always be surprises, so let’s see which teams fall off and which rise from the depths. Last year, for example, the Sixers were well below .500 before the All Star Break and the Celtics had the best record in the East. How quickly things can change! I can’t wait.
ITEM 1 What’s up with LeBron’s recent talk of someday returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers? Do Miami Heat fans want to hear that? Is it his way of winning back his former fans in Ohio?
Doc: I think it was just an overly nice response to a very loaded question: “Would you ever come back to play for the Cavs?” That’s a tough one to answer. He is remorseful for the way he left and probably feels like he owes those fans. He is from Akron, Ohio, and yearns for redemption on some level. So maybe he’s not being disingenuous, but it is still a gaffe. He should have just said that he was focused on the Miami Heat, kept it short, and avoided the subject altogether. It’s a little bit of a cock-tease, and it almost feels like an ex telling you she is still in love with you — while she is married to a new guy. It’s a mindfuck and pretty unfair.
I think LeBron just feels bad. The backlash from “The Decision” has turned him into one of the most hated sports figures in the world. There are a lot of reasons not to like him, and most of the animosity has been brought on by his own actions. Having had many discussions with my friends who adamantly hate LeBron, I know that it’s his arrogance that turns them off. I understand their point of view, but I am a lot more sympathetic to the guy.
They see a cocky, obscenely rich, new-school pro athlete that somehow doesn’t embody the purity of the sport. They view him as a Terrell Owens or Alex Rodriguez type rather than Cal Ripken or Joe Montana. But that is oversimplification. I see the most physically talented guy ever in any sport. I see a guy who grew up without a solid family support system around him, and who was the most hyped high school basketball player of all time. He should have two or three rings already, but there are mental blocks that he has not overcome yet. I see a guy who’s made mistakes and the story isn’t over. We’ll see what happens, but I love watching him and feel lucky that I’m seeing him in his prime.
ITEM 2 Last Monday was the third time in ten days that the Milwaukee Bucks entered a fourth quarter leading the Orlando Magic before booting away victory. Are these what’s called a “lockout loss,” in which this compressed season’s rigorous schedule saps players of stamina? Are you seeing a lot of that? Is it mental or physical?
This doesn’t have anything to do with the lockout. It’s really simple: good teams find ways to win games, and bad teams find ways to lose games. Talent is usually what separates the two, but one of the biggest differences between winning and losing is confidence. You need a culture of winning. You have to believe that you deserve to win and that you can compete with the best. Countless times when a bad team is in a close game with a good team, the game just slips through their fingers because it’s almost a moral victory that the game was ever close. In other words, the bad team is just happy with their respectable effort and they kinda give up. They’re lacking the extra will and focus it takes to close games strong. The perfect example of this was last year’s first round playoff series between Chicago (1) and Indiana (8): The Pacers were up by double digits in every game but found ways to lose all except one.
The bright side of lots of close games that you end up losing to good teams is the awareness that you have enough talent to compete. You are not getting blown out. You just need to work on execution, and winning close games is tough without a star caliber player who can create his own shot under pressure. There are only 10-15 guys like this in the whole league, so not every team will have one on their roster. Even loaded teams like Portland, Philly, and Denver have been struggling to close games over the last month because they don’t have that guy.
ITEM 3 Doc, the Celtics are in free fall. They are losers of five in a row and below .500 for the first time in over a month. Is it time to break up the big 4? Or do they have enough in the tank to make another run?
I have mixed emotions on this. I am still pissed at Celtics GM Danny Ainge for making one of the worst trades in history by sending Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green last year; I believe that this Celtics team never emotionally recovered from it. That core unit of Garnett, Pierce, Rondo, Allen, Perkins, and Big Baby had been one of the closest groups I’ve ever seen. They cared for and trusted one another. When players become expendable and business overshadows the team-family concept, that belief in a winning culture begins to wane. I think that trade disrupted everyone’s sense of security and chemistry, and judging from the way Miami just steamrolled them in last year’s playoffs, I’d say the run with this group seemed to be coming to an end.
The C’s re-signed Jeff Green before this season and reportedly were close to locking down premiere power forward David West. Than they lost West to Indiana, and Green’s heart condition means he’ll miss this season entirely. For the Celtics, losing Green really damages their scoring and depth in the worst way. And though they added some solid reserves — like Mickael Pietrus, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox — the squad is ravaged by injuries and I think that’s the main reason they’ve been struggling so badly (two losses in a week to awful Detroit?).
There’s an argument to be made for trading their Hall of Famers for young prospects and future draft picks and starting the rebuilding process while their stars’ value is high. Every contender out there would kill to have Ray Allen or KG as an extra weapon. But unless Boston totally falls out of the playoff hunt, the Big 4 deserve the respect of getting one more run at a championship together. They still don’t have any size up front, but never write off a team with a championship pedigree. They will get healthier, and the trade deadline is nearing, so a surprise deal could shake things up. I also think that because of the lockout schedule, older teams like the Celtics were doomed to have a difficult regular season anyway. But everyone said this team was done three years ago and then they were one quarter away from winning a second title in 2010. I think there will be at least one big upset in these upcoming playoffs; I always have to remind people of the 2000 Knicks who reached the Finals as an 8 seed without star Patrick Ewing. It’s a new season come playoff time.
Hey did you catch a reply of Mavericks G Delonte West’s gross finger dislocation last week? Do you as a guitarist get extra-freaked out by this type of injury?
Part of the reason I’m such a huge basketball fan is because I do play. Playing is probably my favorite hobby outside of music, but I’ve been out of action for the last year or so because of a back problem. Besides those issues, I don’t think I’ve ever had a hand-related injury that’s affected my guitar playing. Anyone who plays knows the most common finger issue is jamming your fingers when the ball comes straight at you as your fingers are extending out. That always hurts but never seems to do any long lasting damage, although I can imagine that breaking a finger would probably be something that could happen easily.
Any physical sport where you are banging with people and taking contact comes with injuries, so it’s normal. I don’t really think about it when I play ball. I did stop dancing in mosh pits because of a hand injury many years ago. So for me, Hooping > Moshing.
–Doc Coyle, God Forbid
Hoop Logic returns next week when Doc recounts his triumphant one-on-one win over Gary Payton and his subsequent bedding of the entire Knicks dance squad. Prod him about it on Twitter @Doc4bid. Then check out new God Forbid jamz and studio fun here then pre-order Equilibrium (out March 26).