#IMHO: Rookies, loyalty, and League Pass faves

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

 

From: Lang Whitaker

Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at 10:23 AM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: IMHO

It’s time for basketball!! Legggoooooo…

Welcome to another season, Mike. We made it through an offseason and into a whole new world, a dazzling place we never knew. And we’re already starting off with some news that comes as a bit of a bummer: The New Orleans Pelicans announced that Zion Williamson will miss the first six to eight weeks of the season after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus. If we use the shorter end of that scale, that would mean he’d miss about a quarter of the season.

I think we can both agree that New Orleans is doing the smart thing here, taking zero chances with their franchise-changing player. But if Zion does miss 20-something games, does that change the Rookie of the Year race to you? And does this change the expectations around our guy Ja Morant?

 


From: Michael Wallace

Sent: Tuesday, October 22, 2019 11:24:21 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

I asked Ja about this very same topic the other day, and he responded by saying he’s placing no more pressure on himself than he already does anyway to be the best player he can be in this league. Ja is motivated and dedicated to being an explosive player in this league. But he knows the better the Grizzlies are as a team, the more attention he’ll get in the Rookie of the Year discussion. He’s hungry to prove he can be a star in this league regardless.

With Zion now expected to miss up to two months, it gives a number of other rookies a shot to take the inside lanes to Rookie of the Year. Knicks guard R.J. Barrett has a legit shot. And I also think Darius Garland will have an opportunity in Cleveland to make a strong case if he can stay healthy. But the ball in Memphis will be in Ja’s hand, and he’ll have the biggest potential role to make an impact. It’s going to be a fun ride.

Lang, opening night is behind us. One of the most intriguing storylines from those initial games was TNT broadcast debate among former players about the meaning of loyalty in the NBA. Recently retired guard Dwyane Wade said the word needs to be removed from the league’s lexicon, because true loyalty doesn’t exist from either the players or teams in the NBA, based on how recent free agency and trades have gone. Does he have a point?

 

Dwayne Wade final game

From: Lang Whitaker

Date: 10/23/19 4:33 PM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: Re: IMHO

Yeah, loyalty went out the window a while ago. You were there in Miami when LeBron left Cleveland, showed up for a four-year stint, then bounced back to Cleveland, which at the time all seemed like a wild ride. And now he’s on another team entirely! Even DWade, who you mentioned and is associated with Miami and the Heat, had those brief blips with the Bulls and the Cavs. Thanks to guys like Anthony Davis and Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, we’re even further removed from the days of a Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, superstars who played for one franchise their entire career. I mean, even Michael Jordan played for two franchises. I don’t think we’ll ever reach the point where the expectation is that a player plays for one franchise forever. It’s a lot to ask of a player, and of the franchise. I guess a few good seasons is the best we can hope for before one of the parties decides to swipe right.

(I think it’s swipe right? Does that mean it’s not a match on the dating apps? I took a guess with that reference, and I’m now adding this disclaimer here just in case I actually got it correct and my wife sees this. But I digress…)

On opening night we saw the Clips and Lakers square off in the first (this season, at least) battle for Los Angeles. And while Lakers legend Danny Green tried to keep them in the game with his long-range shooting, it wasn’t enough for the Clips, who looked pretty impressive, even without Paul George. I know it’s early, as early as it could possibly be, even, but are the Clippers the kings of LA? Or is this a case of LeBron and Lakers saving their best effort for when it counts?

 

Lebron James vs. Kawhi Leonard

From: Michael Wallace

Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2019 4:57 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

I don’t think what we saw on opening night was a fluke. What separates the Clippers from the Lakers when it comes down to it, is the Clippers can put the defensive clamps on an opponent from any position. They pride themselves on defense, and Doc finally has a team capable of reviving that old swagger defensively from his Boston teams.

To win that way without their second-best player available should send a chilling statement to the league. The Clippers role players actually love their roles and know exactly what’s expected of them.

Lang, we’ll get out of here on this: in honor of our former colleagues who do the annual League Pass rankings, what are your top 3 teams you’d track on League Pass this season. On nights when the Grizzlies don’t have games, of course?

 

Mike Conley Utah debut

Mine are the Kings, Jazz and, strangely, the Knicks.

From: Lang Whitaker

Date: 10/23/19 10:02 PM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: Re: IMHO

I appreciate you reminding me to sign up for League Pass! And as I’ve always said, I’ll know technology is really getting somewhere when those of us who’ve already subscribed to League Pass don’t have to see the unending SUBSCRIBE NOW! crawl across the bottom of the screen.

That said, I’ll agree with you on the Jazz, because they’re well coached and we can watch our guy Mike Conley. I also think I’ll be watching a lot of Clippers games, because they’ve got a lot of grit and starpower and they’re also really well coached. I think Philly is fun to watch, and of course I’ll try to consistently tune in to watch my eldest son Ricky Rubio, no matter which team he’s playing for.

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