#IMHO: New rules, Warriors blues, early awards candidates

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 29, 2019 at 9:20 AM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: IMHO

Mike,

With each new NBA season, we see the games called a little bit differently. Either rules that have always been in the books or rules that are newly added to the books are enforced with more frequency each fall, giving the start of each season a little bit of a different look. I think of it in terms of NBA 2K, how each year’s game has small adjustments that make the experience just a little bit refreshed each season.

This season, the point of emphasis seems to be on walking. Rather, when a player catches a pass and is at a standstill, then puts the ball on the floor to make a move, it’s being called a walk. There are a few refs who have been calling it so often that I wonder if they’re just excited to be able to use their whistles? Poor Marko Guduric seems like he can’t do anything without being called for a walk – he must think the NBA is a completely different game than the one he played in Europe. He’s gone from balling in Turkey to walking in Memphis.

What is the most obvious change you’ve noticed this season in the way the games are being called?

 


From: Michael Wallace

Sent: Tuesday, October 29, 2019 2:14 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

I don’t want to get too simplistic here, but I’ve seen a bunch of whistles blown already this season for guys stepping out of bounds or having their back foot on the line when they’re spotting up on three-pointers. That seems to be a downside to everyone in the NBA shooting a trillion threes a game these days. Guys are forgetting where they are on the floor, or miscalculating how much space they have when catching the ball on the move to let it fly.

It reminds me how remarkable and coordinated Ray Allen was when he instinctively back-peddled to the corner three-point line to sink the dagger in the 2013 NBA Finals for the Heat to force overtime in Game 6 – and eventually led to a Game 7 win against the Spurs. Ray didn’t have an inch to spare.

Lang, we were already hearing about how the Warriors are struggling and having to adjust to younger players and a rebuild on the fly in the aftermath of Kevin Durant’s departure and Klay Thompson’s injury absence. And now, another devastating blow lands with catalyst Steph Curry breaking his hand and likely missing significant time. Steve Kerr talked about how his team has to learn how to win again, and that folks should expect and brace for an extended rough patch. Golden State may have been sympathetic figures to some degree as they physically fell apart in the NBA Finals to Toronto last June.

I do feel bad about the latest setback with Curry, but I’m not completely buying the “boo hoo” act from them right now. They don’t get the luxury of excuses at this point with all of that championship hardware weighing them down from recent years. It’s part of the NBA cycle – even for the league’s dynasty teams.

I don’t think many in the NBA will feel sorry for the Warriors as they stumble from the gate a bit. But do you?

 

Steph Curry disappointed

From: Lang Whitaker

Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at 7:30 AM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: Re: IMHO

(One other call I’ve seen a lot of this season: Offensive fouls called on shooters for kicking their legs out to create contact. It’s funny because these are all things we’ve seen for years, it’s just like now, all of a sudden, the referees can see them, also.)

The Warriors can cry me a river right now, and I’m guessing they will do it from their brand new billion-dollar arena in San Francisco. I brought this up a few weeks ago right here in this column: Other than a few top guys, the Warriors’ roster is just not very good. And after beating up on the rest of the league for years, and finding their own roster stocked with an embarrassment of riches, now the chickens are coming home to roost a bit. The Warriors built it the right way and managed to win some rings, which is really all you can ever hope for as a fan. But that just isn’t sustainable in the long-term, which we’re seeing now as the Warriors struggle to be competitive despite having the third-highest salary collection in the NBA. They had a great run, but even when Klay Thompson returns, keeping it going is clearly going to take more than just signing a few veterans for the minimum.

Speaking of the Warriors, we know they’ve lost Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, who both went off in search of greener pastures. And they were just a few among the many NBA superstars who jumped ship in the offseason and found new teams where they could ply their trade. We saw Kyrie Irving here in Memphis last weekend with his new Brooklyn Nets, who look as though they’ve lost some of the magic they had a year ago. And Anthony Davis, of course, made a living at the free throw line last night against the Grizz in his new gold Lakers uniform.

Given the caveat that things are still early on, in your eyes, which offseason acquisition has had the most significant impact thus far this season?

 

Anthony Davis dunking

From: Michael Wallace

Sent: Wednesday, October 30, 2019 10:11 AM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

Of the guys you just mentioned, it’s easily Anthony Davis. He’s already one of the most gifted bigs we’ve seen in this league, but now it seems like his confidence and mental toughness are finally on par with his immense skillset. Being in Los Angeles and with the Lakers will do that for you. And he’s got everything he needs around him to reach a championship level.

Setting LeBron’s leadership aside for a second, A.D. also has championship role players around him in Avery Bradley and Danny Green. He unleashed all of his powers on the young Grizzlies, but he’s going to be an absolute nightmare for the entire league – provided he stays healthy, which is always a potential issue, considering Davis also probably leads the league in “going back to the locker room” during games.

The Lakers have a history of this type of big-time timely arrival coming to sustain an aging superstar already on the roster. It happened in the 1970s when Wilt came to join Jerry. It happened again when Magic showed up in the draft to help sustain Kareem. It didn’t quite work the same when Dwight arrived to help boost Kobe, but Davis is now in tow to push LeBron’s Lakers back into the center of the championship race.

Lang, we’ll wrap up on this. Before we go any further, we never did offer our preseason awards for the NBA season. I’ve got Anthony Davis as league MVP, Erik Spoelstra as Coach of the Year, Ja Morant as rookie of the year. Who ya got for at least those three honors heading into the season?

 

RJ Barrett on defense

From: Lang Whitaker

Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at 11:33 AM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: Re: IMHO

For ROY, I wish we could include Zion, because he could have that much of an impact. But right now he ain’t playing, so I’ll split my vote between Ja and RJ Barrett in NYC. Ja is still feeling his way as the focal point of the offense night after night, which is a tough equation to solve. Barrett doesn’t have to do as much for the Knicks, but he’s shown early that he’s clearly able to score and rebound, and playing in one of the NBA’s media capitals certainly won’t hurt his chances.

As MVP and Coach of the Year, I’m gonna keep my vote in LA, although across town from the Lake Show. Kawhi Leonard has clearly been the best player in the NBA, to me, early this season, picking up where he left off a year ago. I don’t know how much load management he’s going to need or how Paul George will fit alongside when he returns, but man, these Clippers look like a problem, and it seems as though they made the right call moving heaven and earth to put this roster together.

And the reason it all works is because of Doc Rivers. He’s such a quality coach and he’s got this group focused and playing together. It’s early, sure, but this sure seems like a perfect fit.

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