By Chris Pennant (@kwandarykitten)
There’s a lot of noise in this time of 24-hour news and even the most insignificant sports tidbit gets at least five minutes of airtime before fading into memory.
Most of these news bits really aren’t deserving of such over-analysis and can be easily distilled into two categories: trash or not trash. It’s difficult for a regular person to find the time to distill, but have no fear, I’ve taken it upon myself to do it for you. Here’s the latest edition of “Trash or Not Trash.”
Rockets/Lakers Fight — (Surprisingly) Not Trash
LeBron’s first home game. Two of the major contenders in the West. A national TV audience.
Taken alone, those ingredients would’ve added up to an early-season ratings coup for the NBA, but they couldn’t have predicted the scrutiny of a fourth-quarter scrap between the Lakers and Rockets.
The astute Coach Nick of YouTube’s BBALLBREAKDOWN has a nice analysis of what he believes led to the fight (hint: it was the refs), and he compared the supposed spitting incident between Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul to the Zapruder film. Somewhere, Larry David is smiling and wondering when his royalty check is coming.
Joel Embiid and Mo Bamba — Not Trash
Joel Embiid is what we in the sports journalism community like to refer to as “that DUDE.” As in, that DUDE Sam Hinkie was right about. That DUDE with one of the best offensive/defensive repertoires in the NBA. And most enjoyably, that DUDE who loves to use Instagram as a forum for back of the school bus-level roasting.
Any basketball fan is well aware of Embiid’s candor, whether on Instagram or at the post-game dais, and he and Magic rookie Mo Bamba have a friendly rivalry brewing that is perfect for the social media ecosystem that is now an integral part of the league.
Bamba and Embiid threw their first jabs at each other in preseason, and Embiid continued the sparring last Saturday, as he had the Wells Fargo Center sound crew play the track “Mo Bamba” directly after he scored an easy dunk on Mo Bamba.
The Magic aren’t on the 76ers level yet, and Bamba is a rookie (albeit a very promising one), so he might not be able to get back at “The Process” save for in the box score. That alone should make the next contest between the two teams a must-watch game.
“Bullpenning” — Trash
I hate this trend, I hate it with a burning passion.
I’ll admit I’m biased since I once got to watch my team pitch four straight complete games in the American League Championship Series and if the 2005 White Sox did that in 2018 they’d be seen as a bunch of goons who are ruining all the arms of their staff instead of letting them be the heroes they signed up to be.
Honestly, what’s the point of bullpenning in the playoffs?
I can see the logic of just using four bullpen guys instead of a fifth starter during the regular season; most No. 5 starters are pretty weak anyway. But in the postseason, the rotation shrinks to four and those are your best pitchers. So why throw six or seven guys out to pitch one inning? According to top sabermetricians in this article from The Ringer, it gives you the best chance to win, especially in a win-or-go-home situation. (Unless you’re the A’s.)
Unfortunately for writers like me, it robs fans of seeing a starting pitcher bearing down for seven, eight or nine innings, facing down a desperate line of hitters in a close contest. Sure, the numbers might say “bullpenning” is better. But it’s certainly not as romantic.
Scoring-Happy NBA — Trash
The NBA has taken the adage “the best defense is a good offense” at its most literal meaning so far this season.
As I noted in my Bulls coverage this week, every team is averaging more than 100 points per game except the Boston Celtics, who are a paltry 99.8 PPG.
Only the Celtics and the Nuggets are holding their opponents under 100 a night as well. Not content to just score in bunches, teams are jacking it up from long-range more than they ever have in league history, at an average of 31.7 3-point attempts per game, nearly three more than last year and five more than the year prior. I’m sure there are people out calling it the best possible form of the game and a new era of basketball. Too bad they’re wrong on both counts.
Consider that in the ‘79-’80 season, the first year the 3-point line was adopted, teams averaged more points per game and used more possessions – and only shot about three treys per game.
Aside from Tom Thibodeau’s nightly prayers, I really do hope scoring dips and defenses start, you know, defending the ball better. If that means we don’t see as many teams bombing away from outside, so be it. Defense is still more fun for me to watch.
Chris Pennant covers professional and amateur basketball for WARR Media