August 31, 2020, 12:17 am
It’s the final Sunday in August and I’m writing a Daily Dish about PLAYOFF NBA BASKETBALL. I suppose stranger things have happened but I’d have to be waiting for a teleportation device, alien invaders, or a marsupial with wings for something to top a professional basketball league resuming its season inside the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the middle of a global pandemic that has infected over 25 million people around the world.
I refuse to call this the “new normal” since that expression makes no goddamn sense but I suppose I should just trudge forward in these strange times and lean into some bizarro basketball and recap a few things along the way. You might even pick up a hoops tidbit and a hearty chuckle along the way.
Come inside, it’s fun inside.
Brent Rambo Player of the Night
Here’s a player you may or may not have drafted for this sweet Bubblicious flavor of b-ball who played well enough on Sunday to warrant an emphatic opening credits thumbs up.
Robert Williams III, C, Boston Celtics – 19 minutes, 10 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal, two blocks, 5-of-5 FG.
We fantasy folks would watch playoff ball regardless of there being any fake-league implications but it is nice when you get a chance to watch and scout a bit for next season. You never know who may come out of nowhere with a performance that will make you think that this guy could be something when we have the opportunity to once again have a normal basketball regular season.
Enter the Time Lord into our timelines.
Robert Williams felt like he could have been a deep sleeper this year since the Celtics frontcourt was a disaster upon starting the year. But Williams dealt with a significant hip injury that kept him out of action for three months and Daniel Theis went ahead and fulfilled the role of one of the year’s best pickups in his absence. He would only play sparingly during the resumption period and usually during blowouts. But In Game 1, Brad Stevens moved him up the depth chart knowing that Enes Kanter isn’t going to play any defense against guys like Gasol and Ibaka who can hang out on the perimeter. Time Lord rewarded this move with a line that makes us per-minute geeks salivate.
Now all of a sudden Time Lord has given us something to think about for when we are ready to fast forward to next season. Both Theis and Kanter have some business questions as to whether or not they will be in Kelly Green next season. Theis has a partially guaranteed contract and Kanter has a player option. Either one departing means more time for the Lord of it. And if Game 1 was any indication, Williams could be one of those players you target late in drafts to be at worst a rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage streamer. At best he gets enough minutes to start creeping his way up into the top-150 or even top-100 with his big man skill set and massive shot blocking wingspan.
LeBron Yelling at J.R. Player of the Night
Sometimes it’s good to get your frustrations out.
As someone who has constantly talked up Siakam and picks him in nearly any mock that’s been done lately, I’m starting to question if that was such a great idea. I probably shouldn’t worry too much though. The talk leading up to the Bubble was that Siakam barely touched a basketball during the hiatus period and it has indeed been showing. So it stands to reason that under normal circumstances and with the right amount of offseason and practice time, his shot should return to form.
That’s about all I have to go on though, because Siakam has only had one game during the resumption period and playoffs where he’s made more than 50% of his shots. To make matters worse he’s been dreadful at the free throw line too. At 71% on nearly five attempts per game, that’s getting close to punt territory. I’d imagine that today’s lame fouls contributed to taking Siakam out of a possible rhythm too. But even if we just chalk this game up to the Celtics catching fire and the refs having it out for Pascal, something is still clearly off with his shooting and at this point all he can do is try to shoot himself out of it. Kyle Lowry has never been a great high-volume percentage shooter and Fred VanVleet was due for a clunker. When that happens, the Raptors are going to need Siakam to click if they expect to keep up with a Celtics team that is feeling themselves after winning their first five games in these playoffs.
The Draymond on Steven Adams Report
Any injury that happens during the playoffs is going to be a kick in the nards for those of us who have horses still in this race. For those of you reading and wondering if any of your team’s players are on here, I hope you’re wearing a cup.
We begin with Kyle Lowry being given the green light to give it a full go in Game 1 of the Raptors series against the Celtics. It was nice to see Lowry play a full game with no restrictions after injuring his ankle in the series clincher against the Nets even though his presence wasn’t enough to carry the rest of his Raptor teammates in this one.
Pat Beverley remained out due to his nagging calf injury but despite his absence, the Clips were able to get past the Mavs on Kawhi’s broad shoulders.
It sounds like Jimmy Butler will be fine for the series opener against the Bucks after injuring his shoulder during the Heat’s elimination of the Pacers.
Eric Bledsoe is being listed as questionable for Game 1 against the Heat due to a hamstring strain. Not great news to start the semis with.
Lastly, Gary Harris finally made it back to Denver’s lineup which did absolutely nothing to slow down Donovan Mitchell. Still, it helped that Denver got an extra body back and that Jamal Murray has been FIYAH in order to force a Game 7 against the Jazz.
Basketball, For A Change
“Sports are like the reward of a functioning society.” – Sean Doolittle
If the NBA stopped playing in the wake of the near-murder of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, I would have been more than fine with that. I am more than fine with the players returning to play as well. It was their call entirely. Still, it’s a burden that these players shouldn’t have to bear to begin with.
It shouldn’t have to fall on the players of the NBA to have to constantly raise awareness and provide public pressure on systemic racism and police brutality but here we are. Our leaders have failed us so other leaders need to come in and attempt to fill a very vast void of empathy, urgency, and truths about our history. Our society is not functioning, so sports have been forced to become our society’s possible salvation.
If the Bucks didn’t boycott Game 5, what would have happened? The games would have likely continued on and the real and violent issues that are facing Black America would have continued unabated. The other leagues would not have followed suit in their own protests. We likely would not have seen nearly all NBA teams turn their arenas into voting locations for Election Day. Black Lives Matter would have remained painted on the court but not painted on everyone’s minds.
I’m glad the players forced the league and this country to act. But even if they didn’t, I would support them regardless. They are husbands, fathers, sons, uncles, nephews and cousins. They are businessmen, philanthropists, artists, and thought-leaders. They are human beings with emotions, hopes, and fears. They are away from their homes playing in makeshift isolation and have been without their families for weeks and months at a time. And finally, in this country, they are citizens with the same God-given rights to speak freely..
They are not just there for our entertainment. They are not robots. And they are not commodities. And on that last part, I will no longer use the terms “owned” or “ownership” in any fantasy writing of mine. I don’t “own” young black men, regardless if it’s just for statistical inputs.
These players just happen to play a sport that we all love so very much. But as people, I choose them. I choose to stand with them. I choose to continue to hold myself accountable and be responsible for my words and actions. I choose to follow the lead of men who demand better of our country and its leaders. I choose to not be silent.
You can just wish that your sports can be your escape, free of any news or politics, but that too is a choice. It’s a choice to want to remain in the dark about what is truly scaring NBA players as human beings. Whether you like that or not, it’s still a choice. And now is the time to think if that is still the way you want to think of sports, the NBA and its players. It’s a side of blissful ignorance and acceptance of the broken pieces of our society in order for brief escapism.
I’ve chosen a side. I hope that you all do the same.