Aug 1, 2012, 2:46 PM EDT
Just kidding. I’m not actually going to give you the top five possible superstar teamups from these Olympics. No slideshows or top ten lists, though I have written those before and they serve a purpose. But I did want to write about that dynamic, where it comes from, and what it means.
In Team USA’s second-half vehicular manslaughter of Tunisia on Tuesday, at one point Kevin Love spit one of those outlet passes that he is so incredible at. The two-hand cannonball to the sideline at half-court to Russell Westbrook who caught it in stride, sped past three defenders, took the foul, and scored. It was an amazing display of what Team USA’s younger stars bring to the table, and just a really spectacular basketball play.
And my first thought was to wonder if it was a sign of things to come.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh have all openly talked about Beijing in 2008 being a moment where they all realized the possibility of playing together. Deron Williams has mentioned the same about Dwight Howard at the same time. Those are two examples, but it’s clear that when these guys get together and experience what it’s like to play with a team full of guys with equal or superior talent, how much fun it is. And how big their starpower can get.
So when Love and Westbrook make a play like that, the kind that they used to make at UCLA, where they were roommates, you have to wonder if the same conversation is being held.
Before we go down this road, i want to make sure you know that a. I’m not insane and b. this isn’t rampant speculation that this is ever going to happen. Russell Westbrook just got done finishing in the NBA Finals where his team was within a few bad quarters of winning the NBA title. He’s locked into a five-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder who just gave him a huge extension. Kevin Love may have his problems with the Timberwolves, but he does have a three-year guaranteed deal and he’s a part of one of the up and coming teams in the league with a sensational point guard. My point here is not “COULD KEVIN LOVE AND RUSSELL WESTBROOK BE CONSPIRING TO PLAY TOGETHER IN 2016?” because that makes beyond zero sense.
But you have to look at down the line, at the career arc of a lot of players who we thought would always be one place and then landed in another. It happens all the time in this league. Steve Nash is a Laker, for crying out loud. Dwight Howard is about to be… something else. And there are plenty of reasons to think that the smart, sensible option for both Love and Wetbrook will be to stay put, and neither leave in free agency nor push for a trade. But we’ve seen logic lose too often in this league not to wonder. Westbrook is already part of a superstar trio that loves playing together, and they’re all in the Olympics together this year. The only way it happens is if things were to go seriously awry and Westbrook were to think about this experience and what it could mean for him elsewhere. Or if he were to bring Love to the Thunder which in no way seems possible with the CBA.
And that’s the danger inherent in the Olympics, for NBA teams, now. But it’s not just the Olympics. It’s All-Star Weekend and weddings and parties, and anytime that these players get together, there’s talk of a realignment of their careers to run parallel and under the same flag. This is the new NBA world we live in, molded by branding, exposure, markets, and “families” managed by large representation groups. “The Decision” is supposedly the start of this, but it dates back to Boston’s collection of the Big 3. This is not a wholly recent trend and the potential has been there for years. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh were just the first bold enough to go out and put it to its absolute limit. And seeing the success they’re undergoing? The NBA title, an improving image, a rehabilitated public persona, and a huge international influence? That’s only going to make it more attractive.
Some of these are just pipe dreams. Chris Paul toasted to Melo, Amar’e, and he in New York, and Paul’s running the floor for Lob City. Amar’e Stoudemire mentioned Tony Parker at a Broadway show the night before he signed with the Knicks, and Parker’s not going anywhere for San Antonio. And again, there’s very little reason to believe Westbrook and Love will be playing anywhere else in five to six years. But you have to wonder if the idea is there, considering Westbrook, Derrick Rose, and Love work out in the summers, and Westbrook and Love have been playing together for most of their lives. Hey, Love’s even said on record that they’ve talked about it. It doesn’t take much to say that Westbrook and Love are closer than LeBron James and Wade are, or were. Friendship doesn’t mean they’re going to. It means that there’s always that possibility.
Maybe the bigger point here is that this is what I first thought of when Love jetted that outlet pass to Westbrook. How well they fit. Could they play for the Lakers, when they inevitably restock? The idea of the Lakers just landing those two outright isn’t pleasant for the idea of competitive balance, but it fits with everything we know about the history of the league. That’s where my brain went, though. Not to how amazing this Team USA is with the kind of talent it’s able to put on the floor together at all times, but about how every interaction could spell enormous consequences (Note: meme’d) for the NBA. We’re living in some sort of weird world where players play for teams, but simultaneously always exist as free agents given the power of players to force their way out to the teams they want at this point.
It’s exciting, and scary, and dangerous, and even if Love and Westbrook never play a second together, this is still the world we’re living in, where if one player’s great and another player’s great and they can stand each other at all, you have to wonder not just what it would be like… but when and how? The impossible is possible now, and very few stars shine on their own.
Jun 19, 2013, 12:53 PM EDT
Now that the drama of Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett headed the Clippers trade talk has subsided, it’s time for everyone in Boston to act like adults and end this soap opera. To that end, Rivers and Celtics GM Danny Ainge are expected to sit down face-to-face Wednesday and talk, Ainge told the Boston Herald.…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:07 PM EDT
PBT’s own Brett Pollakoff tweeted this out when the Heat were down 5 with: 28 seconds left and the Heat had called a timeout. “Fans in Miami heading for the exits.” Thousands of them. Not anywhere near a majority, but enough to reinforce the stereotype. Plenty (again, far from all) fans in Miami fit the…
Jun 19, 2013, 11:21 AM EDT
Gregg Popovich is the best coach in basketball right now. One of the best of all time. He has four rings and built a culture in San Antonio that has them in NBA Finals 14 years apart and with consistent 50+ win seasons in between. But he is not perfect. He made a couple decisions…
Jun 19, 2013, 10:31 AM EDT
That was an epic Game 6. There was great play from both sides, huge shots by Ray Allen and Tony Parker and LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard and… I could go on and on. The players knew it was a great game, too. These are some highlights from the postgame press conferences where they talk…
Jun 19, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT
With the Heat season on the brink LeBron James needed to change things up… He ditched the headband. Not exactly ditched, but late in the game LeBron’s headband was knocked off — and then he went off. LeBron played a key stretch of the fourth quarter then all of overtime without it. Couper Moorehead of…
Jun 19, 2013, 7:59 AM EDT
That was as great a fourth quarter, as great an NBA Finals fame as you are likely to see. Miami started the quarter down 10 but LeBron James goes on a tear after getting his headband knocked off. The Heat come all the way back to take the lead, then Tony Parker drains a three…
Jun 19, 2013, 4:35 AM EDT
You’ll have to excuses ESPN for not mentioning LeBron James achieving a triple-double during the Heat’s 103-100 win over the Spurs until Game 6 ended. LeBron grabbed his 10th rebound – capping a 32-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound, three-steal game – on Chris Bosh’s block of Tony Parker’s jumper with 31 seconds left, setting off a whirlwind…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:33 AM EDT
At shootaround on Tuesday before Game 6, Chris Bosh said that hot shooting Spur Danny Green wasn’t going to get clean looks at threes. Then, with the Spurs having one last shot in overtime to tie the game, Bosh made sure his words were good by blocking a Green desperation three to tie the game.…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:29 AM EDT
MIAMI — After suffering a brutal Game 6 loss that the Spurs had every reason to believe would turn out in their favor, one of the team’s key veterans wasn’t exactly optimistic that they’ll find a way to bounce back emotionally in time for Thursday’s Game 7. Manu Ginobili was the Game 5 hero for…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:24 AM EDT
For three quarters of Game 6, as it has been for much of the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs execution was just too much for the Heat to handle — the Spurs shot 50 percent, they played smart defense, they moved the ball, Tim Duncan was playing like a man possessed with 30 points…
Ray Allen giving Heat exactly what they expected this season, including his clutch 3-pointer in Game 6
Jun 19, 2013, 2:06 AM EDT
Ray Allen faced a potentially awkward moment before he even played his first game with the Miami Heat. Not only were the Heat facing his old team, the Boston Celtics, his new teammates were receiving their 2012 championship rings. Miami had won a hard-fought seven-game series over Allen’s Celtics on its way to the title,…
Jun 19, 2013, 1:53 AM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs were on the brink of winning a championship. With 28 seconds remaining in the fourth, they held a five-point lead, were on a 10-2 run over the last four minutes, and fans were heading for the exits while arena staffers lined the court to rope off the crowd in preparation for…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:27 AM EDT
Chris Bosh, the Heat’s center, was the Miami player who took the necessary step of declaring Danny Green was done getting open looks. When push came to shove, Bosh – the Heat’s center (!) – backed up his words, which really should have come from one of the perimeter players who kept leaving Green open.…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:55 PM EDT
Ray Allen is amazingly, incredibly clutch. This is exactly why the Heat wanted him from Boston. What a huge shot. If the Heat win this series, that will go down as one of the greatest shots in Finals history. Allen and LeBron James will get credit for making 3-pointers to send Game 6 to overtime,…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:43 PM EDT
Tony Parker, who made the defining play of the series, his twisting, shot-clock beating clincher in Game 1, is at it again. He stepped back to create space for a game-tying 3-pointer, got a steal on the other end and then drove into the paint for a short jumper to put San Antonio up by…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:29 PM EDT
The Spurs entered the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Finals with a 10-point lead, but the Heat are fighting back. Two shoes or one, they’re not quitting. I don’t know why the Spurs called timeout after Mike Miller made that 3-pointer without his shoe. I’d want to attack him on the other…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:27 PM EDT
That was a great game. And Game 7 sets up to be something special. For three quarters San Antonio’s execution was too much for Miami and the Spurs entered the fourth up 10 (75-65) and just 12 minutes away from a title. Tim Duncan had been a force, with countermoves spinning Chris Bosh around and…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:26 PM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs lead the Heat 50-44 at halftime of Game 6 of the Finals, and if Miami is to prevent a championship celebration tonight on its home floor, they must find an answer from what is developing into an all-time great performance from Tim Duncan. Duncan has been unstoppable thus far, and has…
Jun 18, 2013, 9:51 PM EDT
Mike Miller remained in the starting lineup, but that merely made him the guy in the way of Kawhi Leonard. This ferocious dunk gave Leonard eight early points after he made a three-point play and a 3-pointer.
Jun 18, 2013, 8:39 PM EDT
MIAMI — Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra hinted that a lineup change might be possible in advance of Game 6, but wasn’t going to reveal it until absolutely necessary. “I’ll turn in my card at 45 minutes,” he said. There was no lineup change to be found when the time came, however, as three-point specialist…
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