Thursday, May 13, 2010

Premature Anointing?

Apologies for the hiatus. Computer monitor issues got in the way of the myriad of ideas for posts that I had in the past two months. Plus, life became really, really busy. Anyway, a lot of things have happened in the Basketball Realm; and the first round is nearly over, save for one game. I thought that a lot of my ideas would be too past-tense to be posted. But alas, the more things change... My next post is still relevant. I know it's been a long time; but yall know what to do. Meet me after the random picture...

About a year ago, I wrote about the mind state that the Elite players in the Association have. They never rattle in nerve-wrecking situations; and rarely make terrible decisions when other, lesser players are panicking. Those role players look to their leader as a calming influence in the most turbulent of game circumstances. Elites provide comfort, whether through words or actions, to his teammates; allowing them to stay in their respective lanes and thrive as complementary pieces. Some, like Kobe and Jordan, lead through fear and lofty expectations. Others, like Chris Paul and Kevin Durant, befriend their teammates and gain loyalty through friendship. Whichever method he chooses, an Elite must be able to respond to his team's distress signal and diffuse all crises, one basket at a time.

Within the branch of the All-Star players in the Basketball Realm, there exists some who have the mentality to be true #1's; and those that only have the game—but not the makeup—to be true Elite players. They're better as very good #2 players, able to be very productive without having to carry a squad. On Twitter, I've made my share of comments about Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter. I'll get to Vinsanity later. But I'm focusing on another two-guard with all the offensive tools. Begrudgingly, this brings me to Joe Johnson...

This is sort of personal, because I had ordained Joe Johnson as an upper-echelon shooting guard. Truth is, he is the third-best at that position. The sadder truth is that the gap between the other two (Kobe & Wade) and himself is wider than the margin of victory Orlando defeated Johnson's Hawks. I used to praise that he embraced anonymity; until he began to frequently fade into said anonymity whenever Atlanta had a tough game. I liked how he let Josh Smith be the marquee player through his highflying dunks and blocks. Until his recent quotations on the sparse fan support at Phillips Arena, I had never heard him speak. It may be a result of his personality; but at some point, while his team was getting manhandled, Johnson should have spoken up. He didn't have to do it publicly, but his play on the court would have been evident that he took the defeats personally. Good luck getting that max contract now.

Joe Johnson's was best suited as the fourth option on the SSOL Suns in the middle of the previous decade. As the only player other than Nash that could create, he had a niche that made those Phoenix teams formidable. Once he took the money and moved to ATL, that spotlight seems to have gotten too bright and he hasn't had the same success as the main threat. Vince Carter can relate. Carter was brought into the Magic Kingdom to be the devastating weapon that Hedo Turkoglu couldn't be last season. Orlando's a better team, but it's not because of him. Jameer Nelson's healthy and playing superbly, allowing Vince to blend in and continue to settle for jumpers. While the Magic were dismantling the Bobcats and Hawks, Carter's subpar shooting went unnoticed. In the eight games Orlando's played, he's 8-32 in three-point field goals—and he made four of those in the closeout game against Atlanta. He's Courtney Lee with a reputation of a sublime scorer, and lives off that rep alone.

Somehow, this brings me to Lebron. I believe that he is the best player on the planet. However, with his most recent game being his worst to date, it's fair to ask if he does have the mentality to carry a franchise. That's a big difference between he and Kobe. Kobe earned his Elite status through sheer determination and will to win. Lebron's godlike status was handed to him; and he has exponentially exceeded everything we had expected him to be. He's brought relevance to a city that wallows in its own futility, carried mediocre players to title contention, and has not once alienated his teammates or coach after series defeats. But, a question that was never thought of has now surfaced. Does Lebron have that Elite makeup? Yes, he's summoned his powers at his whim in the Motor City. But this is different. Now, he's expected to move mountains and reach the highest of heights, excuses and inflamed elbow tendons be damned. So what that Mo Williams isn't very good? Lebron is supposed to win anyway. This is your destiny, whether you chose it or not. Your legacy begins now, Chosen One. Good luck tonight.


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