Dancing With Noah

Just messing around, getting triple doubles

Various Degrees of Luminescence

It’s so late in the game for this. The All-Star game has come and gone, the midway point of the season occurred weeks ago. But I suppose and realize that stars and all-stars aren’t limited to deadlines and dates and given the potential for a late February/early March NBA malaise, I’m submitting my second annual Dancing with Noah all-star team. There aren’t any rules or criteria to this team. It’s almost certain to always be made up of NBA players, but on the off-chance that Terrence Williams ends up re-dominating overseas or Omar Cook averages 20+ assists/game, or a college kid morphs into a basketball-version of Cookie Monster and gobbles up the rest of the kids like they’re human versions of cookies with limbs for crumbs and organs in place of chocolate chips … well, you, we get the picture: It’s unlikely. Jibber jabber and distractions and excuses aside, let’s get down to business:

LeBron James (2nd appearance): The reasons for including LeBron are so numerous and obvious that I’m not going to bother reviewing them here. Instead I want to acknowledge what LeBron tells us about ourselves as a basketball-loving community. In 2011 after the Mavs Freddy Krueger’d the Heat’s title dreams and Bron was shook by Jet Terry and DeShawn Stevenson of all people, there was a deluge of criticism, but not just the temporary justifiable and deserved criticism. We blasted his psyche and condemned him for all time. Choker, LeBronze, jokes about his fourth quarter disappearing act and a bunch of other corny ass nicknames and jokes that questioned his mental toughness. A year-and-a-half later and the narrative has shifted to honest discussions about whether or not he’s better (or going to be better) than Michael Jordan. Our overreactions are of the knee jerk variety. We allow ESPN to dictate the terms of the discussion to the point that it’s entered the realm of absurdity. In our haste to anoint, we cum too soon and reveal ourselves to continually be prematurely excited. This is our problem, not LeBron’s and not MJ’s.

Kyrie Irving (1st appearance): First, let’s talk about what Kyrie is not:

  • ·         He’s not the pure point guard Chris Paul is
  • ·         He’s not the disruptive athlete Russell Westbrook is
  • ·         He’s not the exploding playmaker Derrick Rose is/was
  • ·         He’s not the shooter Steph Curry is
  • ·         He’s not the visionary passer Rajon Rondo is

Kyrie Irving is a point guard version of the healthy Brandon Roy—but better and still improving. Like Roy, his movements are deceptively languid at times. He’s the alpha and omega of this Cavs team, a player with innate feel for how to get any shot at any time. That he doesn’t compare stylistically to the best PGs in the game is a testament to his uniqueness because he is easily one of the best PGs on the planet today and before his career is over, he’ll likely hold that imaginary title for a time.

Kevin Durant (2nd appearance): If there’s a God in heaven and he likes basketball, we’ll be treated to Durant’s Dhalsim-like rubbery-limbed versatility attempting to act as a foil to the M. Bison ruthlessness of LeBron and this will carry on for years and years. Durant’s jumper is akin to Dhalsim’s fire breathing, but there’s so much more to fall in love with. He continues to expand his game and is more comfortable stepping out of the PC box in which corporate sponsors, teams and agents try to imprison players. Durant’s feisty and fiery and willing to challenge not just the public notion of who he is, but possibly his own internal notions. This is the beginning of the path towards true self-discovery. (True, I may be taking some convenient liberties here. Also, if you’re not familiar with the image below, do yourself a favor and snag Street Fighter II – thank me later.)

Dhalsim vs. Bison (KD vs. LBJ)

Chandler Parson (1st appearance): The youth screams boy band heart throb, but the beard (however patchy) reveals a serious young man all about ambition and improvement. In just his second season as a pro, Parsons has shown a remarkable development. The creative boy we saw grabbing rebounds and pushing breaks in Gainesville has quickly asserted himself as not just a starter in this league, but a productive everyman of sorts. Watching him blend in seamlessly among the heavy usages of Harden and Lin, one gets the idea that Parsons can be whoever you need him to be. While he’s not likely to ever be remotely elite at scoring the basketball, he’s more than capable shooting and driving and is steadily improving across the board after a strong rookie campaign. If you’re a Rockets fan or Darryl Morey, one of your favorite things about Parsons is that cap-friendly contract: He’s on the books through the 2015 season and scheduled to make under $3 million over that three-year span.

Kyle Korver (1st appearance): Korver and I have more in common than you’d think: We’re both from Iowa, both graduates of the illustrious high school class of 1999 and both have white skin. The comparisons start to go astray after that which is cool because I’m own man anyway. Korver’s rightfully known as a three-point specialist and that’s what he is. He does other things serviceably well, but those beautiful threes soaring up and dropping through the rim with a splash of the net are his calling card. I don’t watch a ton of Hawks games, but when I do, it seems like I always see the same thing: Kyle Korver raining threes on opponents. In games I watch, he shoots around 60-70% from three. I know that’s not his actual shooting percentage, but mentally that’s what it feels like. Korver can change an NBA game plan the way speedy kick or punt returners in the NFL can completely alter defensive strategies. And he’s so damn regular with it.

Andre Drummond (1st appearance): Right alongside Damian Lillard, he’s been everyone’s favorite rookie this year for his pure domination and regulation of the painted area. Put Drummond in the game and he sucks up space like a black hole; a hulking 19-year-old (doesn’t turn 20 until August) who grabs nearly 14 rebounds/36 minutes and blocks over three shots in the same time span. Due to injuries, he hasn’t spent enough time on the court to qualify for rate leaders, but grabbing 21.5% of possible rebounds when he’s on the court would put him at second in the league while his 16.9% on the offensive glass would be the best in the league. When he finally gets over this injury, it’s time for all of us to reach out Joe Dumars, Dave Bing, Kwame Kilpatrick, anyone with pull in Detroit and see if we can help coach Lawrence Frank see the light … which, the more I think about it, may be blotted out by Drummond’s enormous frame.  

Earl Clark (1st appearance): Now on his third team in four years, the once-scrawny Clark has finally filled out physically and is seizing opportunity where there was none just four or five months ago. Back in November, the Lakers going to battle with Dwight, Pau, Antawn Jamison and Jordan Hill all getting more love and affection from the Lakers two Coach Mikes than Clark who was nothing more than a long body with warm blood coursing through its veins at the end of the bench with his view regularly obscured by Robert Sacre’s exuberant celebrations. Then things went to hell in a hand basket and big Laker bodies dropped like malnourished humans overrun with plague. And instead of succumbing to the pressures and temptations of Los Angeles, Clark stepped in with his finely trimmed facial hair, his manly new physique, a long-range jumper envied by Gasol and proved to the NBA world that he could ball.

Jrue Holiday (1st appearance): As long as my blog’s been in existence (just under a two years), I’ve been acknowledging the blossoming weaponry of Holiday. He’s a 6’4” PG with big round eyes that always appear to be wide open and contrast greatly with his dark skin. He doesn’t have the cultural clout that his fellow young points do and honestly, he probably hasn’t earned it yet. That’s OK though since he was born back in 1990 when me and Korver were kicking it in Iowa. I don’t have a clue what his ceiling is and I prefer it that way—as long as we’re not there already.

Steph Curry/David Lee (1st appearances): Even though the Warriors have been slumping, these are still two of my favorite players this season. Everyone’s always ragging on Lee’s defense instead of admitting that he’s possibly the most exquisite paint scorer in the league. Maybe that’s a knock on the current state of pro post play or maybe Lee’s just a very good basketball player who happens to be great on offense. Then there’s Curry who’s finally treating us to a mostly clean bill of health. Whether it’s imagined or real, we love the idea of Pure anything in basketball—pure point guards, pure passers, pure beasts and especially the Pure Shooter. Curry was essentially born into the NBA and inherited his dad’s jump shooting DNA. For all we know, he never even had to practice that jumper; just woke up, went to the gym and starting bombing threes. Even if that preposterous assumption is true, Curry’s spent a lifetime fine tuning his game and erasing any question marks his bombs away approach at Davidson had elicited.

Jamal Crawford (1st appearance): I struggled with the decision of whether or not to include Crawford on this list and at the end of the day his handle, heat checks, Seattle pedigree and the fact that bloggers and number crunchers are taking the time to discount his effectiveness were enough reason to add him. For me, this is a bit of a career award though. Crawford’s one of the good guys in the game and even though he’s one of just seven players in league history who’s scored over 13,000 points with a field goal percent of 41.5 or lower, he can still fill it up and give the Clips another competent ball handler.

Friends of Jamal Crawford - 02-26-13

Paul George (1st appearance): People love some Paul George. They love his length, his versatility, his name, the fact that he’s (relatively speaking) coming from nowhere except he’s not. He’s coming from Palmdale, California and I can’t think of Palmdale without thinking of this song:

Rudy Gay (1st appearance): Let’s keep it going with another inefficient scorer. Gay and his big ol’ salary (owed over $50 million between now and 2015) were dumped by Memphis a few weeks back. In the 11 games he’s played with Toronto, he’s kept up his ill-shooting ways with a true shooting percent at 45.9 which is considerably worse than his career mark of 52.4. But at the same time, he’s nearly doubled his career average of steals per game, averaging 2.6. Most importantly for Raps fans is that the team is 7-4 since Gay’s arrival with wins over the Clips, Pacers (on a Gay game-winner), Nuggets (another game-winner by Gay) and two over the Knicks. Toronto’s 4.5 games out of the playoffs, but whether or not they make it, from my vantage point out here in Seattle, Gay’s been able to breathe life into this team in a way no player has since Chris Bosh.

Isaiah Thomas (1st appearance): Along with Nate Robinson, he’s the shortest player in the league, but he’s better than Nate. He relies less on athleticism, but is still an above average athlete even at the pro level. He’s compact, muscular and prone to Crawford-esque hot streaks like the game against OKC earlier this season when he scored 27 points in less than 16 minutes. The worst thing going for Thomas isn’t his diminutive stature, but rather his coach and general manager. Keith Smart and Geoff Petrie have continued to make the 2012-13 season a mysterious and most disagreeable one in Sacramento. Everyone, Isaiah included, deserves better.

Tom Thibodeau (1st appearance): With a mishmash of starters that frequently includes a soon-to-be-mummified Richard Hamilton, Carlos Boozer, Kirk Hinrich and occasionally Nate Robinson, the Bulls have still won 32 games compared to 24 losses. They’re sixth overall in the Eastern Conference and according to John Hollinger’s Playoff odds are a 99.6% lock to make the playoffs. And they’ve done it all without Derrick Rose. I watch this Bulls team and think Thibs and GM Gar Forman constructed this team at an NBA thrift shop. The roster is made up of the dead and forgotten, unwanted and discarded. But every night, they show up with Thibodeau’s discipline and Joakim Noah’s passion and Nate Rob’s exuberance. And every night without fail they compete and for that, Tom Thibodeau gets the nod as coach for the Second Annual DWN All-Star Team.

That’s year two in the books. With any luck, I’ll see you next year around the same time with a new batch of talented basketballing goofballs, slick shooting heroes, rejuvenated rejects and NBA midgets.

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