The “Mailbag” is an ingenious sportswriting gimmick, popularized by Bill Simmons during his Page 2 days, to make readers feel involved. It also gives writers easy material to work with, which is why I’m busting it out now, because to be honest, Weeks 3 to 7 is sort of a dead man’s land in the NBA.
We’re done with the overreactions in the first two weeks, which means that the succeeding 4 weeks is that weird phase where continued overreactions would make sportswriters look like fools. But we don’t really have a big enough sample size to definitively figure out each team yet, so what are we supposed to write about? (Why Week 7? Because Marc Stein waited until Week 6 before using the p-word on the Lakers in the 2012-13 Power Rankings; since today’s NBA has a more forgiving schedule, doing away with 3 games in 4 nights, I added a week.)
Since we’re now in the social media era, I’ve decided to evolutionize the whole mailbag schtick by mixing in reader comments on social media platforms with actual emails and DMs—a mailbag/message board hybrid! It’s not as catchy, though, so I’ll stick with “mailbag.” Here we go…
(Note: Some questions have been edited for clarity.)
It would have been stranger if Jokic didn’t retaliate [on Morris]. You’d have to be very reserved to just stay put after getting hit like that.
— Justin Paul Y.
I was crowdsourcing for a politically correct take on the recent Jokic-Morris incident, but nobody wanted to play the devil’s (or angel’s?) advocate. Almost everybody sided with the MVP, which is a pleasant surprise because it proves that NBA fans aren’t snowflakes.
For the record, I love what Jokic did. That guy ain’t a pussy. Any other post-2010 MVP would’ve rolled over the floor selling the contact. The Joker ain’t built that way.
EJ tried to play the PC police on Inside and I love how Chuck, Shaq, and Kenny (after his usual long-winded intro) were all on the same page:
Seemed like a lot of fake bravado in the “Heat Culture.”
— Michael Cotter
Did anyone else catch Tyler Herro making a business, nay career, decision?
This Heat photo makes for a nice gangster-style profile pic but we all know that the Jokic bros (who actually look like Russian mobsters from John Wick) would’ve given them an ass-whooping if the Heat unwisely chose violence.
Your commentary on Lakers’ 0 wins almost had me believe you’re a LeBron diehard fan. But of course you are! A stacked team from first-5 down to the bench and not winning on a Curry-less and Green-less G-league team is hilarious.
— Axle T.
My man Axle is referring to this Keepin’ It Real column where I said “It’s just the preseason! Starters didn’t play normal minutes! Let’s not jinx it!” in reference to the Lakers’ winless preseason.
To which I say, is sarcasm dead? Or was he being sarcastic? I don’t know anymore.
Can you give Lebron and the Lakers some sage advice? Seems the Westbrook thing is not working out? Barring any trades, can they make some starting lineup tweaks in order to not totally implode?
— Andrew M.
Now why would I want to do that? Since Tim Duncan retired and once it became clear that Andrew Wiggins was never going to be a star, I no longer have that one team to fervently support. But watching the Lakers struggle almost gives me as much satisfaction as watching Duncan win those championships and MVPs.
Seriously (or more seriously because I was being serious in the previous paragraph), the Westbrook thing is going as every objective basketball fan predicted. The Lakers have serious spacing and defense issues, that’s why they suck right now. The injuries are a convenient excuse but they just don’t look good even at full strength. I think LeBron overestimated the team’s ability to integrate Russ, perhaps his first miscue as a GM.
It’s unfair to Frank Vogel at this point. I think he’s a good coach but he can only do so much with the current personnel. I guess he can try to start Melo and let Russ wreak havoc on the second unit. But Russ has never been a heat check guy (much less this year with his .411/.256/.642 splits), so I’m not sure if he can provide short-burst scoring typically required from a sixth man. So unless Vogel invents a time-machine or discovers the elixir of life, I don’t know what else he can do.
My unsolicited advice: don’t worry about the Lakers, Drew. Get some popcorn and enjoy the show. Murphy’s Law, my friend.
So because of the new foul rules James Harden will soon be James Soften? Lol.
— Witty Bon
For someone who goes by the name of Witty Bon on social media, I must say you are one witty guy. I tip my hat to you good sir.
Pippen thinks he is also Batman. When Batman (MJ) left the second time, he was nowhere near being a Batman when he played in Houston and Portland. He only averaged 12-14 points, how is that Batman? Pippen was 31-32 years old after the 2nd 3-peat, he was still in his prime, MJ was 36-37 years but was scoring 30+ points, 6+ rebounds, 6+ assists. Heck, when MJ returned but a Wizard, we was averaging 20+ points as a 39-40 year-old guy. Also, If Pippen was drafted by another team, he will just be known as a good player not a top 50 player.
— Rommel R.
To be fair, Pippen was never a big scorer so it’s misleading to single out his points per game averages. But his failures in Houston and particularly in Portland reinforces the notion that he didn’t have what it takes to be the best player on a championship team. He can lead you to the second round or even the conference finals, like Joe Johnson or Paul George, but anything beyond that is a stretch. Since JJ and PG aren’t in the top 75, you may be onto something with your hypothetical scenario.
Pippen’s ex-wife messed his head up smh ran through the whole crew all while taking his money smh embarrassing.
— Sam Hassan
Every time Pippen’s ex, Larsa, is brought up, I can’t help but reference one of my favorite comedy scenes of all time, from 2006’s The Break-Up:
Y’all idolize and be in Jordans nuts so much y’all can’t even see past the BS. Jordan is one of the greatest but he also one of the many self-centered a-holes in the sports world.
— Judah Prince
I think it was clear from the documentary what an a-hole MJ was. The whole Scott Burrell thing was cringeworthy. Jordan himself was concerned about how his harsh leadership style will be perceived by the viewers. “You’re going to think I’m a horrible guy,” he told the director Jason Hehir.
He was a horrible guy but I’m not sure what you mean by “can’t even see past the BS.” What BS are we talking about here? It was all there in the documentary. If you mean him being the GOAT, then being an a-hole is non sequitur in terms of GOATness (unless it ends up running your team to the ground with a trifecta of 55+-loss seasons).
Pippen was a better teammate and the Last Dance made it clear that Pip was the good cop. That’s not even up for debate. But being a beloved teammate should not be confused with leadership and most definitely not with what it takes to win championships.
The way I like to put is this: I’d rather have LeBron James as my dad because being Michael Jordan’s son is probably going to be a shitty experience. But Jordan is the GOAT and I’d like you to quote Bronny on that.
Ben Simmons for Wilmer Ong + Dudut Jaworski and Jumbo Bolado
— Jiro Abe
Nice 90’s Ginebra reference, back when I still watched the PBA religiously with my dad. Good times, good times.
Nice article, well-researched! But one obvious name was missing. I haven’t seen Dwight Howard on this part yet, so he may be on your Tier 3. But because you put AD in Tier 2, Dwight, having a better resumè than AD at this point, should be in Tier 2 as well.
He’s had more accolades than AD as of 2021:
a) 8x All-NBA Team (5x First Team)—better than AD;
b) 3x DPOY — AD, zero;
c) 5x All-Defense (4x First Team) – better than AD;
d) 2x blocks champ — AD is better;
e) 5x rebounds champ — AD, zero;
f) Best Player on a Runner-Up team (2009);
g) 8x All-Star — Tied with AD.
— Lester U.
I did include Dwight in Tier 3 but he ended up being one of the blemishes on my next 25 predictions. I think the voters weren’t immune to recency bias and his first go-around with the Lakers and the Rockets damaged his reputation.
But is he better than AD? I had AD on Tier 2 and voters selected him to the 75th anniversary team, so easy answer would be ‘no.’ The NBA 75 was never going to be a matter of counting awards. While it’s easy to point to Dwight having more individual accolades than AD, I never felt that peak Dwight, the one that led the Magic to the Finals, was better than AD.
Dwight’s All-NBA selections are nice, but remember that he got bulk of those post-peak Shaq, when the center position was at its weakest. The All-NBA ballot requires voters to name a center—as opposed to three front court players as in the All-Star Game—so Dwight got those by default. By contrast, AD made All-NBA First Teams both as a forward (in the era of LeBron and KD) and center (competing with Jokic, Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert, and Karl Anthony-Towns).
The DPOYs are also impressive but the second-half of the 2000s was that bizarre time when highlight blocks seemed to matter more than anchoring the team’s defense. Marcus Camby beat Tim Duncan for the 2007 award FFS! I’m not saying that Dwight didn’t deserve his 3 DPOYs, but Dwight is a “defensive presence.” Duncan and Rudy Gobert are “defensive savants.” Those are different things and AD leans more towards Duncan/Gobert in that regard.
If I were to choose one reason why anybody should feel strongly about the Dwight snub, it’s probably Orlando’s improbable run to the Finals in 2009. But even that isn’t bulletproof, particularly if you’re comparing him to AD. People loved to compare Dwight to Shaq, but 2009 Dwight didn’t have the low-post moves that Shaq had. Orlando rode the hot three-point shooting of Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis on offense in the playoffs. AD was the Lakers’ best player on both sides in the bubble tournament (except in the Finals), so I’d give him the edge.
To me Kawhi is not yet a no-brainer for the next 25. First championship was because of the Spurs system. Second was because of KD and Klay injuries. He also started the load management trend and players freezing out teams when they don’t want to play. If he wins a ‘chip with the Clippers and win a season MVP, maybe he can make a case. I put Iverson before him. For his overall impact to the game. Without AI, all point guards of today might still be pure passers. AI made the PG position a scoring threat. Today’s NBA, is now not just a big man’s game because of AI. The Stephs, the Kyries, the Westbrooks and most point guards of today had an AI in their games.
— Augusto R.E.
Two Finals MVPs isn’t enough? Come on, man, don’t hate the player.
AI was great, I had him at tier 2, but scoring point guards aren’t new. Nate Archibald led the league in both scoring and assists in 1973 and still holds the record for highest scoring average by a point guard. Dave Bing won the scoring title in 1968 and had 6 straight seasons averaging over 22 points per game. Earl Monroe averaged 24.5 points in his first three seasons from 1967-1970. Calvin Murphy averaged 25.6 points for Houston in 1978. Kevin Johnson finished in the top 20 of scoring average thrice. Stephon Marbury was in the same 1996 draft class as AI and was a similar shoot-first point guard. So while AI might have been the best scoring PG, he certainly wasn’t the first.
Thoughts 2/3 of the Ball bros balling? Was Lavar a prophet? Is LiAngelo adopted?
— Michael A.M.
Lonzo has cooled down after that early-season triple-double, but LaMelo has been a revelation. I admit I wasn’t high on him but he legitimately looks like a future All-Star. LiAngelo actually had a good G-League debut the other day with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting and 4-of-7 from deep in just 24 minutes, so he could join his brothers in the NBA if he keeps it up. Overall, Lavar went one-for-three (in terms of his kids balling like all-stars), which is less than the required batting average to gain prophet status.
Is LiAngelo adopted? You’ll have to check with Mrs. Ball on that one, but maybe he’s just suffering from the middle child syndrome. Although I reckon that, in a vacuum, if you had Michael Jordan pick which Ball sibling he would choose to be Charlotte’s cornerstone, he’d likely pick LiAngelo because he’s the one most built like a 90s two-guard.
Nice pop culture references. I’m a huge fan.
— Mrs. T
Well, thank you.