A Plethora of Point Guards

A starting point guard is the established leader of a good basketball team. He directs traffic, barks orders, and decides what play to run and how said play should develop. On most teams, he possesses the basketball more than anyone else, making him the literal quarterback of an offense and also the tiny nose tackle on the defensive end, doing his best to blow up an opponent’s play before it has chance to begin. Some point guards lead through their actions, some through their demonstrative voice. They’re usually the smartest, most well-respected players on the team, capable scorers, and quick decision makers. This isn’t an all encompassing statement but more an accurate generalization: More people on a basketball team depend on the point guard than any other position. It’s the brain, the coach’s on-court extension. Even if he isn’t the team’s best player, a good point guard knows who is; when the blood begins to flow, he decides who will emerge with a band-aid.

The Houston Rockets don’t have one or two capable point guards—something every team in the league craves to take them through the slippery hills of an 82 game season—they have three. An incredibly rare luxury that straddles the border of unnecessary, like having a solid gold toilet. Read More »

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Seeing Hakeem Through Ketchup and Mustard-Tinted Glasses

Clutching tightly to memories of younger, better times, Houston Rockets fans do not take to kindly to the denigration of the legacy of one Hakeem Olajuwon. His remains a nebulous one, though, fraught with hypotheticals (“If he had actually got a chance to face Jordan in the Finals…”) and gross exaggerations (as all good mythical types accrue), to the point that it’s quite hard to place the towering figure of Houston sports. While certainly one of the greatest centers of all-time, where he ranks on that ridiculously stacked hall of champions continues to be the subject of debate among many angry forum heads around the world (shoutout to all my brothers in the struggle against getting sunlight). While this sort of semantic, sports-radio-in-hell argument seems to be strictly for the birds, for a fanbase so desperate to protect its relevancy, exactly how great Hakeem Olajuwon was takes on an importance usually not given by franchises who’ve had a little more going on in the last 15 years.

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Chase Budinger Is An Exceptional Bargain

The 2006 McDonald’s High School All-American Game might boast the best combined roster in the history of high school basketball. Of the 24 selected to participate, 17 are in the NBA (16 coming by way of a first round draft selection with10 being lottery picks) and 13 played in a Final Four. The rosters were loaded with top tier talent like Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Ty Lawson, Thaddeus Young, the Lopez twins, so on and so forth. The game was so loaded with awesomeness, not one, but two players were named MVP. The first, naturally, was Kevin Durant—a scorer so transcendent, at times his superior skill level feels like it belongs inside even more accomplished competition than the NBA can offer. With heavyweight endorsement deals already locked up with the likes of Nike and Gatorade, Durant is the future face of professional basketball. He stands to make approximately $88 million from his direct employer, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the next five years, and 50 years from now he could be remembered as one of the 10 best players who ever lived. That’s a decent resume for someone born in 1988.

On the other side of the tracks, sharing this award with one of the most prodigious players in recent memory, is Chase Budinger, the one out of 17 from 2006 who wasn’t a first round selection. Budinger isn’t Kevin Durant, nor is his name and stature in the same class with almost every player who competed in that classic game. No, Budinger is something else: The best bargain in basketball. Read More »

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Utilizing Doubt As A Weapon

Last week I wrote a piece about identity. More specifically, Houston’s search for one that will allow them to consistently win basketball games in the long term and impose themselves on the rest of the league. Several factors were touched on—common denominators within the current roster’s makeup—to try and figure out if Houston’s foundation is good enough to grow from within, and improve upon.

But one of the more interesting similarities almost every player on the team shares came to me hours after that article was posted. The similarity I speak of is powerful enough to form a bond between all those who share it; strong enough to either shatter a man’s psyche or motivate him further than even he knew was previously possible. What I speak of is doubt. Doubt that’s relentless and constant. Doubt that attempts to cut a player at his knees before he’s able to stand. Read More »

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On the NBA: An Allen Iverson Story, on his Inevitable Fall

The fate of an icon is an unenviable one. After years of adoring fans and complete validation for a lifestyle of brazen individuality and disregard for convention, he or she must realize that the same traits that allowed demi-god status inevitably serves as perfect bookends for cautionary tales about veering too far off the beaten path. The musicians and artists whose intransigent positions ended brilliant lives too early, the politicians and public figures with the gall to actually stand for something that found themselves standing ostracized (or not standing at all)… the lot of them find themselves in the same places their differences originally carved out for them at younger, more vulnerable ages, broken by the very idiosyncrasies that initially gave them such ubiquity.

Allen Iverson cannot be understood as anything less than a fallen icon, a hero stripped of his honor thanks to a history of bad decision-making and a poisoned image. Stories like his rarely end well, but his didn’t really start all that well. And after the appropriately swagtastic climax of his career, a made jumpshot in an NBA Finals game that ultimately proved insignificant, an era of NBA basketball finds itself washed out as its greatest, and perhaps smallest, warrior fades into the obscurity associated with aimless wealth and reckless indulgence. Read More »

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