A Little Offense Never Hurt
Ok, finally getting involved with Metta Chronicles with my first post. It was going to be about the Niners making the playoffs but that one is turning out to be painstakingly long because I have so much to say, so look out for that later, in the next week or so.
In the meantime, back to the NBA, and let’s talk some Jamal Crawford, who lit up the Lakers last night at the Rose Garden. Let’s also talk some Jason Terry, J.R. Smith (yeah, I know he’s still in China with the rest of the Nuggets; think he had like a 40 pt, 20 reb game or something like that recently?), James Harden, and Ben Gordon. I’m talking about a category of players who haven’t, and probably never will (although I certainly think Harden has the potential to), break into the upper echelon of the NBA stardom hierarchy. Not the type of players that we so fondly refer to as super-stars, the guys who sign the $250 million Adidas shoe contracts shortly after signing an almost $100 million actual basketball contract (that one balling matador guy in the cool commercial).
No, the guys I’m talking about are not household names like Kobe, LeBron, and D-Rose. They’re not always the most reliable players on the court either, often hoisting up shots with 12 seconds left on the shot clock that make you cringe and wonder “what the hell is he thinking?”. Eh, and perhaps they’re not cut from the same cloth as the great defenders of the NBA either (exhibit A: Jason Terry forgetting that he was actually even supposed to be playing defense on an out-of-bounds play in last year’s Finals, allowing Mario Chalmers to covertly make his way to the corner of the court for a game-tying three while the Jet stood rigid at the foul-line, staring listlessly off into space, apparently unaware that play had restarted).
I’ve said everything they aren’t, so the question is, what are they then? And I’ll tell you quite simply: they’re wing players who know how to score the basketball. They’re guys who will kill you with a step-back jumper, a nasty crossover, a hop step into the lane followed by a gentle teardrop, or a pump fake that leaves you floating helplessly in the air as they sail right by you. These players almost look like they’re playing street ball during NBA games at times. They keep the ball on an invisible string like a puppeteer, holding the defender at their mercy – one slight feint hip movement and the defender is moving fruitlessly in one direction way while they glide in the other. They can create their own shot off the dribble at will, and often hit shots that seem utterly impossible to make.
In last night’s game, J-Crossover was in the zone and was baffling defenders with flurries of between-the-legs, behind-the-back crossovers before either pulling up for a jumper or blazing by (no pun intended) them to the hole. Sure, he didn’t make every shot, but the ones that he did were spectacular, and I can tell you that having that type of skill level on the offensive end of the floor, that innate ability to put the ball in the bucket, is not something that is easy to find at the NBA level, with team defenses and individual defenders being as strong and disciplined as they are. And it really is beautiful to watch when a guy like that gets in the zone and becomes an artist of the highest order, controlling the ball with an almost nonchalant deftness as he paints his masterpiece on the canvas that is the basketball court. Watching players like this in action is one of the most pleasing facets of being an NBA fan for me.
The reason I want to give the aforementioned players such a specific nod is because, as I said, they are not superstars. Yes, Kobe, D-Wade, and Melo all have the same, if not greater, abilities (this is obvious), but they also rake in unfathomable amounts of dough and celebrity, and are constantly coddled by the media and public. Most of the guys I mentioned aren’t even starters on their respective teams, although they probably should be just based on pure skill level. Coaches usually prefer to bring these types of players off the bench to provide an offensive spark to the second unit. What makes these players so fun to watch, besides the aesthetically pleasing and at times downright magnificent array of offensive weaponry they possess, is the fact that they tend to have no conscience on the court. In other words, they’re going one-on-one whenever they get the chance (screw ball movement!), and they’ll either be extremely successful or woefully bad. This is just the nature of these types of players, and because they’re often out on the court with other reserves, they usually have the go-ahead from the coach to implement their deadly arsenals at will. And believe me, if JR Smith misses 5 jumpers in a row, George Karl is yanking him pronto. But if JR Smith makes those same 5 shots, it provides one of the most exciting components of the game for a spectator, and will bring any good NBA crowd roaring to its feet.
So, although these guys may not be superstars by our definition, they’re still some of the most fun players to watch in the NBA today. Yeah yeah, I know that defense wins championships, but high-powered offense is what keeps people glued to their TV screens and filling up arenas, and these players provide just that.
“Not Allen Iverson, forget crossing-over shake men
Similar to Troy, I bring the pain destined to ache men
Break men off, take men out, make men wanna slander
Prime Time, my rhyme defense beyond Deion Sanders
I walk the earth with my Rod in this strict land
Promise, people thought I was Thomas Hearns the way I hit man”
Pharaohe Monch – ‘Official’
Metta Chronicles would like to welcome Rohan Bhatia to the team. Please follow him on Twitter @r_bhatia