Welcome back from the other side.
First of all, I appreciate all the concern about my well being and the status of, “The Countdown.” Specifically from my friend and former intern, Vince, who wrote me to ask why I had stopped writing Star Wars, and then left this link.
Well played, “Vince The Intern”, as you’re still labeled in my phone.
The truth is, the list-makers did NOT put out a list involving my demise[i]. I suspect they couldn’t find enough cute kittens.
Then of course, I died.
Or at least it felt like death because I was knocked out for almost 3 days. Fever. Sore throat so bad I couldn’t swallow without crying[iii] and at one point was pretty sure I was hallucinating in between watching “The Wire” and falling asleep on my couch[iv].
But it’s Monday (and thanks to my generous editors) and “The Countdown” and I are back!!
As you should know, the NBA is now only ONE (business) day away! Tomorrow the 2013-2014 season will begin and all will feel right in the world[v]. As for how we here at Next Impulse Sports are going to handle the missed days? Well, that’s an easy fix.
Catch up with storylines #10 – 5 on this footnote here[vi]. As for storylines #4 and #3 those are about Kobe “Unbreakable” Bryant[vii] and The Little Clippers That Could—All Grown Up[viii]. Those footnotes will have a summary of what those storylines and columns would’ve been. Would I have liked to write 2,500 words on each? Yes. Could I even send out thank you texts, tweets and Facebook replies to people wishing me a happy birthday until Friday? Yes again. It’s a long season and LA is home. I’ll have plenty of time to give both the local teams their due this season[ix].
That leaves us here. After one of the longest preambles in column history, we’re at #2 on our countdown. Let’s go.
#2 Brooooookkkkkkklyyyyynnn: All In.
For the second time in his career, Paul Pierce had to convince Kevin Garnett to join him.
The first time had worked out almost like a Hollywood movie. The winning streaks, the perfect balance between a post player, a pure shooter and a slashing guard, and of course the championship. When Pierce called Garnett and asked him to waive his trade clause in Minnesota and join him in Boston, neither one could’ve guessed it would’ve worked so perfectly. The Big 3 of Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen all would’ve most likely made the Hall of Fame on their own. But it was what they did together in Boston that will have them retire as legends.
It was viewed then, as their one shot, at greatness. Three stars, coming together, putting their egos aside, to chase a championship. They were supposed to ride off into the sunset together.
But life ain’t a fairytale.
The crumbling of the Boston Celtics took 5 years. First they traded away Kendrick Perkins. Jeff Green, who the Celtics acquired in the Perkins trade, needed a life saving heart surgery. Then Garnett pushed LeBron too hard (He alone is credited for pushing James too hard in that series in 2012. And in that famous Game 6, LeBron James showed the world what he was capable of. He wasn’t going to be bullied anymore. And he hasn’t lost a playoff series since). Then Rondo and Ray Allen couldn’t get along. Bridges had been burned and Allen took his talents to South Beach (Sure he took less money. But he also took home another championship). When Rondo went down with an injury last season, the Celtics officially planned for the future. Doc Rivers didn’t want to rebuild and GM Danny Ainge couldn’t wait to remove his two aging stars.
So once again, Paul Pierce had to call Kevin Garnett and convince him to come along for the ride. It would be just like last time he said. Except the only similarity between Boston and Brooklyn is the letter they start with, B.
The way this 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets roster is put together almost seems unfair. They have an All-Star or former All-Star at every position in the starting line up. Their first two players off the bench are a former 6th Man of the Year and another former All-Star. Even their coach, is a former All-Star, NBA Champion and one of the best point guards to ever play the game.
There are only a few small problems. Pierce and Garnett and 36 and 37 respectively which makes them ancient in a league full of young stars. Their Head Coach is making his debut having never coached at any level, in any capacity, before this season. And of course, their All-Star center, shooting guard and point guard can be described as soft, overpaid and a head case, respectively. That doesn’t even mention the fact that the rest of the NBA cried foul when Andrei Kirilenko signed with the team for what was considered rubles on the dollar in what was considered a sweetheart deal between Kirilenko and the team owned by his fellow Russian countryman, Mikhail Prokhorov.
Outside of those issues, this Brooklyn team, is a team of destiny.
The frontcourt tandem of Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett should be a defensive nightmare for teams looking to attack the paint. Garnett, for all his cordial shortcomings, is an unrelenting competitor and will help turn Lopez into the center he should be. On offense, Garnett’s ability to make midrange jump shots will keep opposing teams honest on Lopez on the block. Add to that, Garnett’s ability as a passer and things get pretty tough to defend once he gets the ball on the high post.
In the backcourt, a rotation of Pierce, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams is somewhat of a modern day Murder’s Row. Williams can penetrate and create his own shot and has the ability to knock down open 3’s. Johnson meanwhile is about as pure a one-on-one scorer as the league has and can also shoot from distance. And finally, there is the Truth. Pierce has made a career out of being a herky-jerky scorer who, and it hurts me deep inside to say this, is the one guy over the past 5 seasons I would trust most to make a game-winning shot.
Coming off the bench with Jason “JET” Terry and Kirilenko, the Nets have both instant offense and suffocating defense. Add to that Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans for size and muscle[x] and Shaun Livingston for a feel-good story. This is a team that seemingly has everything.
Even their rookie coach, who will struggle with rotations, time outs and even some last minute substitutions, will be guided by the man who once took him and a much more ragtag group of players to two straight NBA Finals; Assistant Coach Lawrence Frank.
The Nets have already begun sending messages. First it was the hard hits from Garnett and Pierce on LeBron in the preseason. Then came word from Pierce, Kidd and even GM Billy King that Deron Williams was to take his time recovering from an injury, because all that mattered was April and being ready for the playoffs. Make no mistake on the mission for these Nets. It’s championship or bust in this season.
In so many ways, Pierce had made this phone call before. He knew that chasing a championship would lure Garnett to finally cut ties with Minnesota. He also knew that without him, there would be no chase. So when the word was given that Garnett would have to consent to a pending trade that would send him and Pierce to Brooklyn, Pierce knew he had to make the call.
Pierce’s pitch was almost the same as it was in 2007. “Let’s go win a championship,” he said to his friend. Only this time he added something, “it’ll be just like last time. Except completely different.”
For a team that has so much in the way of talent, personality, storylines and everything else, there is only one that stands out and only one thing that matters. It’s the reason Kevin Garnett once again trusted and followed Paul Pierce. This needs to be a championship season. No longer will it be acceptable for Brooklyn to steal the song and mantra of their former celebrity (part) owner. It isn’t about going hard anymore.
Now, Brooooklyyynn, is all in.
::::Check back tomorrow for #1::::
Want to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or favorite Buzzfeed lists, hit Scott at ScottC247@gmail.com
Scott Christopher is a comedian and writer based in Los Angeles. Follow him @ScottC47
[i] This Battle Rages On!: I’ve found out I now know two people in the Buzzfeed world. One, I could understand, as it was from a deep place in my past and possibly involves and ex-gf. But that’s a situation in NYC. This recent development is someone I considered a friend, and is right here in LA. They can be seen in this video.
Get it together man.
[ii] I can’t tell you how many times I made that reference to people the past 5 days. Telling a girl I’m talking to, in a text message to “(google it)” because I knew that Google would provide all the context she would need. Google didn’t disappoint.
[iii] Remember, I’m a comedian. Save yourself the trouble for the jokes. I got it.
[iv] Side note: Wood Harris is incredibly underrated as an actor. Between ‘Above the Rim’ and ‘Remember the Titans’ he’s been a crucial part to two of the best sports movies of all time. Then, throw in ‘The Wire’. That’s a career.
[v] Seriously, how much more bizarre baseball can you take? Obstruction? Pick offs? This is how the game is decided? Yeah, no thank you. I’ll take Ray Allen hitting one of the most clutch shots in basketball history, thank you very much.
[vii] #4 Kobe “Unbreakable” Bryant: This season in so many ways will be the biggest challenge of Kobe’s career. He is still one of the game’s most prolific scorers and provided his body doesn’t break down there is no reason he won’t be playing long into his early 40’s just based on his skills alone. The question with Kobe has always been, “can he live in a world where he isn’t the most important person in that world?” It was the reason the 2004 Lakers lost to Detroit, the reason the Lakers had to trade Shaq and the reason that he will most likely never win another championship, which he has stated over and over again is what he desires most. This season the Lakers are going to be awful. They have a coach who has now proved himself to really be nothing more than a footnote, a starting rotation that includes Nick Young (he didn’t start for the 76ers last season. Think about that.) and an owner who looks more like Jim Dolan every day. When the Clippers started covering the Lakers’ banners during the preseason this year was the ultimate test of the Lakers strength. One can only assume the Lakers are avoiding any major banner/signage after the #D12Stay campaign went so poorly.
So this season will be a long and strange one for Kobe. How will he deal with a terrible team and not being the physical specimen he was in those 2005 – 2007 years? Can he accept that in order to chase championships, he may have to leave LA? Will he ever decide to be second fiddle in LA to another free agent that will be available this coming offseason? If you don’t think those superstars saw what happened with Dwight Howard last year, you’re crazy. Almost as crazy as Clippers fans who think Kobe won’t personally come back at some point this season and score 60 on them. But know this, this season may be the beginning of the end for one of basketball’s most confused and confusing talents. Even in a place like Hollywood, it’s a show that cannot be missed.
[viii] #3 The Little Clippers That Could: Don’t let Doc fool you. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was never going to steer a ship through rough waters again. No sir, he had his eyes set on the warmth and sun of Los Angeles. He wanted a point guard that wouldn’t drive him crazy. And he wanted to be able to replace his concerns of managing minutes for managing fair playing time. He got his wish and his money and just like so many other Clippers, this season will be his definition.
It’s easy to win a championship when you have the best defensive coach in the world as your top assistant, and you have a perfectly put together line up that includes 3 Hall-of-Famers. And let’s not forget your point guard who couldn’t be happier to just play defense and get assists (helps when he can’t shoot to save his life). Sure, Doc Rivers will get credit for bringing them all together. And like in so many cases, winning answers all questions, so Rivers will always be a championship coach. But don’t forget, that Celtics team almost didn’t make it out of the first round. Ben Gordon, a rookie Derrick Rose and Brad Miller (remember him?! And remember when Rondo hit him in the face on what would’ve been a game winning lay up? I’m still mad that Rondo wasn’t called for a flagrant and that Miller didn’t go up to dunk it!) gave those championship Celtics all they could handle. Where was the genius of Doc then? Those will be the same types of scenarios and questions Rivers will face this season as he takes over for the Clippers. Sure, he’ll have Chris Paul (who is uniquely talented for sure, but also so overrated its embarrassing. He hasn’t been in great shape since his first 3 years in New Orleans, and despite his media image, he’s always had a nasty and dirty streak going back to his time at Wake Forest, just ask Julius Hodge. Not to mention he’s never been past the 2nd round of the playoffs. If it weren’t for his StateFarm commercials and his adorable son, maybe the media wouldn’t be so forgiving for his shortcomings) and Blake Griffin (almost exact opposite of CP3. Griffin is crucified for playing hard and being a developing player. He only spent one year in college and realistically didn’t need to do more than dunk on everyone. He’s improved every year he’s been in the league and he, and he alone, is responsible for bring the Clippers back to decency. And let’s not forget, the Clippers first answer for him was Vinny Del Negro, followed by bringing in Baron Davis. Cut Griffin some slack. More on this during the season.), but outside of that, his talent pool isn’t very deep. Yet everyone is quick to say that this is the year they’re going to break through. With Jared Dudley and JJ Redick? With Ryan Hollins? What about Matt Barnes? Is that where points are going to come from?
The point is, this season will be the true test of just how good the Clippers components say they are. Doc Rivers thinks he’s a great coach. CP3 thinks he’s a great point guard. Blake Griffin thinks he’s a great player. Everyone else on the Clippers are just basically well defined role players. If Doc, Griffin and CP3 are who they think the are, this could be that break out season that’s being predicted. If not, then maybe they should all work a little harder on reality than their own media created fantasies. They can start by keeping their heads and hands out of the rafters.
[ix] Probably not for the Lakers because outside of when Kobe does come back and how many points he scores each night…it’s going to be a long season for the Lakers. Cue up “Long December”. Except, this year won’t be better than the lassst.
[x] This team could also be a comedy All-Star team as well. Between Kirilenko’s crazy hair, Blatche’s just plain being crazy, Pierce’s “let’s go” celebrations, Jason Kidd’s destructive live choices and Garnett being a Pyscho the Nets have everything to keep you entertained.