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Chasing the Dragon

#1 User is offline   RedNinetyFour 

  • Red94 blog content
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    Posted 22 August 2011 - 07:07 PM

    When I was younger, like most inarticulate, baby-faced sports aficionados, there seemed no limit to the number of downright awful basketball players that made up the majority of NBA rosters. Yeah, I knew about the Charles Barkleys and Gary Paytons and even Jeff Hornaceks, but for every one of those stars, 15 Chucky Browns proliferated the pro basketball landscape, hawking up ill-advised mid-range jumpers, being hopped over for rebounds and catching passes with their collective face. Eight-year-old me could not be convinced that the NBA did not have its fair share of miserable basketball players who just sucked, sure to be supplanted by this pudge-encased spectator and my size 6 pair of Jordan 13s. You know, when I grew up.

    Flash forward to the present day, where I am highly aware of exactly how hard it is to do the things NBA players do with disarming ease after practicing for years. While everyone goes through slumps, and though a relative hierarchy among the haves and have-nots still exists among the league's players, basically every NBA player has a skill set that brings something to his team that is of consequence (see: Thabeet, Hasheem- height). That's why the beginning of the 2010-11 season brought a bigger surprise for Rockets followers than most NBA viewers get to see, in the worst kind of way: Chase Budinger did not just look bad; he looked like he did not belong on an NBA team.

    The perenially fresh-faced Budinger had survived a tumultuous first season with more than a sliver of hope for improvement, showcasing an all-around game that looked brilliantly suited to Rick Adelman's offense. His jumpshot looked pure enough to strike fear in any defender's heart, enough so that he could use his seemingly boundless athleticism to find his way to the rim to make the easy play. While his initial 44% from the field might not have screamed sharpshooter, considering his constantly shifting role in an offense fraught with injuries and in-season roster tinkering, Budinger had actually showed more aplomb than most would have expected from the formerly lottery-bound Arizona star. Then that all came crashing down with the beginning of last season, as his usually steady stoke dissipated before viewers' eyes, resulting in a 37 FG% over the first couple of months. Over that same time period (October- December 2010), Bud threw up an abysmal 28% from the arc, which, coupled with his poor defensive instincts (in a couple of early-season match-ups with Denver, the then-Nugget Carmelo Anthony repeatedly called for the ball when covered by Budinger, consistently getting wherever he wanted. Similar occurrences took place when Bud was matched up against Kevin Durant and LeBron James. This is not to imply that anyone can truly shut these guys down, but it can't be good that guys' mouths water when matched up against the floppy-haired volleyballer), made him an all-around liability to the Rockets while on the court.


    Now, it's important to note that this was the case with a good deal of the Houston Rockets early in the 2010-11 season, as Kyle Lowry, Courtney Lee, Shane Battier and Jordan Hill all also had their own early-season tribulations; the difference was not necessarily in production, though Budinger's was especially low. Instead, Bud's seeming complete lack of confidence in just about anything resembling a basketball skill deterred any viewer from feeling reciprocal faith that the kid would ever emerge from the mire in which he had found himself. Therein lies the biggest issue for Budinger, as it is for so many skilled swingmen in this league: does the kid have the fortitude to last these slumps or will this be the narrative from here onward?

    Yeah, he got better by the end of the season, along with the rest of the team. That may be what determines the future for Bud, whether his team can survive long enough without him to gain his services again once things get a bit rosier. Can the Rockets, or any NBA team, wait around in the lean times for the fairweather talent that is Chase Budinger? I don't know, but I'm no longer deluded enough to respond to the question of why he took so long to get going last year with, "He sucks."


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