Hoop Logic with God Forbid’s Doc Coyle: Fear The Beard, The Bird, The Blame, And The Bynum
Hey MetalSucks awesomes! Welcome to Hoop Logic with Doc Coyle! Say, do you ever feel that bottomless depression that comes with the completion of great things? Like, as you’re turning the final pages of an awesome novel, does your heart cry slightly for the end of an experience? Do the last bites of a delicious pizza fill you with a sense of profound mourning? Does it freak your mind to consider that the NBA regular season has made way for the NBA post-season, which means amazing fun and the looming finish line? Yes? Right? Us too!
But hey let’s not freak out yet, for we have two solid months of top-level but tapering-in-amount NBA playoff madness! And on Friday we got together with God Forbid guitarist/VIP NBA analyst Doc Coyle to bid adieu to all that stuff that went down in the NBA between November and um Wednesday. Here’s what we talked about! Happy Playoffs to all!
Doc, as the regular season comes to a close, what do u consider the most unhappy NBA story this year?
Doc Coyle, God Forbid: The Andrew Bynum story has to be the most frustrating and depressing individual story of the year. I’m a Knicks fan and the Sixers are bitter division rivals, but I don’t wish that type of luck on any franchise. It’s difficult to imagine losing a trade any worse than Philly did. They gave up their best player and leader in Andre Iguodala, young center Nikola Vucevic — who looks like an absolute beast — and promising forward Moe Harkless. Bynum didn’t play a single game for Philly in 2012-13, and handled the adversity with as much class as a Mississippi pimp.
The only other acquisition in the deal was veteran swingman Jason Richardson, but he played only a third of the season due to injury. The winds of change are blowing through Philly as Doug Collins recently stepped down as head coach. Jrue Holiday has been a revelation this year, and I think Thaddeus Young will be a solid player for years to come. Let’s hope they get a great draft pick, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Evan Turner moved in the off-season, as his development seemed to stall this season.
The Andrew Bynum story is one piece of an overall narrative this season in that devastating injuries have ravaged many of the top talents in the league. People talk about how weak the Eastern Conference has been this year, which is true — but only because of the massive injuries to star players. If Derrick Rose were healthy, I guarantee you Chicago would be the second seed (over the NY Knicks). And the Sixers and Celtics would be knocking on that door if Bynum and Celtics PG Rajon Rondo were healthy for the whole year; and we all saw how well the Wizards played when John Wall finally showed up. With Wall, the Wiz would have assuredly taken the 8th spot from Milwaukee.
Out West, we witnessed the Minnesota Timberwolves enduring another lost season with Kevin Love out the majority of the year, as well as half their roster being mangled. A healthy Wolves team healthy has soooooo much potential. Same for the Mavs: Dirk Nowitzki‘s two month-absence crippled the Mavs playoff hopes and they still almost made it by an inch. And the Lakers’ season would have been much different had Steve Nash and Pau Gasol been healthy for most of the year. Then Kobe Bryant, the indestructible Mamba himself, went down with serious injury, leaving all to wonder “what if” of their playoff hopes. The same could be said for Danilo Gallinari‘s torn ACL, and its effect on Denver’s success in the playoffs. We all know there will be injuries, but let’s try and keep our best and brightest healthy. Fuck a torn ACL!
DOC: The spotlight really has to be on the Miami Heat. We have to marvel at their utter dominance in turning in one of the best regular seasons in NBA history. The problem with consistent excellence is that we, as spectators, come to expect it and become bored by it. This is unfortunate, because if the Heat roll through the playoffs like they did the regular season, than they will be regarded as one of the best teams of all time. Their 27-game winning streak itself was stunning, and will be remembered whether or not they win the title. It’s so difficult to muster to energy to compete at that high level every night with grueling schedule of the NBA season. We must be awed.
The most interesting thing about this team is that they will be remembered as the prototype of a new NBA era. For most NBA history, a team needed a dominant big man to compete for a title. Even the Michael Jordan Bulls teams of the ’90s still had legit seven-foot centers Bill Cartright and Luc Longley to battle with the Patrick Ewings and Shaqs. But the Heat play small without a true center and have created a new paradigm. They should be recognized also for their efficiency with James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all shooting over 50%. This is due to how LeBron runs the offense. They play the right way: ball movement, motion, crushing in transition to get the best shot. If that fails, they have three of the game’s best shot-creators and the best group of role players since the early ’00s Lakers.
There may be nothing left to be said about LeBron James, but I have to offer my two cents. I get in LeBron debates with my two best friends, and they hate him regardless of his talent and achievement. My point to them is that if you don’t appreciate LeBron playing basketball, then you aren’t really a fan of the game. You don’t have to like him personally to understand that he is the best, and that is one of the reasons we watch sports. Because it is a meritocracy, and the cream rises to top (barring injury of course). LeBron is a once-in-a-generation athlete in his prime. Larry Bird said last year that we should appreciate this guy while we have him, and Mr. Bird knows a thing or two about the game. That haters can hate, but I’m gonna sit back and enjoy.
Let’s take a moment to consider Kobe Bryant’s season: His Lakers were wracked by infighting, bad coaching, key injury, coaching change, style overhaul, bad chemistry, death of beloved owner Jerry Buss, more injury, inconsistency, and even more injury. Then, with two games left in the Lakers’ scramble to secure the lowliest playoff spot, Bryant, 35, sustained a six-month injury to his achilles. Do you hail Bryant’s Terminator-esque drive, or jeer him for pushing his body to collapse by playing more minutes than the freakin ball itself?
DOC: Speaking of appreciating the greats, can we all praise Kobe Bryant‘s incredible Hot Tub Time Machine season? To be honest, I’ve always waffled about Kobe’s greatness. He always came off as arrogant and selfish, and you can never compare him to Michael Jordan because three of Kobe’s titles were won when he was the second best player on his team — while the last titles resulted from less Kobe and more scoring balance. And with his brutal public criticism and how he ran Shaq out of town, I’m not sure he is even a good teammate. Hero ball has never seemed to work, but his uncanny scoring wizardry, unhealthy killer instinct, and “clutch gene” has made him a man of myth.
Anyway, the blame for his season-ending injury can go to Kobe himself for not wanting to come out of games. He has more power than any coach in L.A. whose name is not Phil Jackson. Coach Mike D’Antoni shares that blame for his over-reliance on his star and his failure to consider the effect of all that wear and tear, but the injury situation has put the entire team in a difficult predicament. Kobe is never going to let hard work get in the way of success. He felt like he could will the Lakers to the playoffs — and it turns out that he was right. His performances over the last six weeks have been legendary. I’m am pretty sure Kobe was controlling the season’s final three Lakers wins from the hospital via telekinesis.
Unlike most pundits, I think the Kobe-less Lakers actually have a chance to upset the Spurs in the first round. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol look healthy, very sharp, and poised to play like we’ve expected all season. Steve Nash has returned as well. The Spurs, on the other hand, have a semi-healthy Tony Parker, a dinged-up Manu Ginobli, Boris Diaw out for the count, and a waived Stephen Jackson. And Spurs athleticism can’t beat the Lakers like the Thunder’s would have. If this is a half court series, I expect close games.
Doc, a couple popular predictions for Most Improved Player award are Jrue Holiday (Philadelphia 76ers), Paul George (Indiana Pacers), and Larry Sanders (Milwaukee Bucks). Who’s your pick for this meaningful honor?
DOC: Out of all of the awards, the most difficult to choose are MIP and Coach Of The Year. One mistake you don’t want to make is to pick a guy in his second or third year who is getting “better” because that’s what he’s supposed to do in his formative years. Jrue Holiday, Paul George, Larry Sanders, and even Greivis Vasquez did indeed improve, but they also received more playing time and responsibility on their respective teams, which tend to lead to an uptick in production and some of the spotlight.
My pick for the Most Improved Player of the Year is unconventional: James Harden. We already knew this guy was a star, but we didn’t know he was a superstar, MVP candidate,and a franchise player who can lead a playoff team in the extremely competitive Western Conference. He is only playing seven more minutes per game than last year on the Thunder, and his scoring average is up almost 10 PPG, assists up two per game, and about one more steal per game. He was even buried on the bench for Team USA on the depth chart behind Russell Westbrook and Andre Iguodala. Now he’s the number one guy on the opposition’s scouting report to stop and he’s still killing people. I really hope he gets this award, although it usually goes to unknown players who make a name for themselves. If he gets a top flight star to play next to, Houston will be in the mix for real. Fear the beard.