5 Early-Season NBA Storylines Being Drastically Overblown
The Los Angeles Lakers are going to miss the playoffs! Kobe Bryant’s foot is dangling by a thread! The New York Knicks are title favorites!
If you’re tired of the media turning nothing into something, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, the 24-hour news cycle requires perpetual content creation to function, which has some pretty annoying (not to mention inaccurate) consequences.
If there’s enough volume (both in loudness and quantity), any small story can gain momentum, eventually snowballing into a big one—which makes the original, smaller story seem much larger and more important than it actually is.
It’s still very early in the 2012-13 season, so it’s awfully hard to draw any conclusions at this point. That’s an easy thing to say, but it’s true.
Whether the media is elevating one team to championship heights or digging the grave for another, it’s far too easy for things to be blown out of proportion.
Let’s check out five narratives that are being drastically overblown in the early stages of the 2012-13 season.
The Demise of the Los Angeles Lakers
If the Los Angeles Lakers continue to win one out of every five games they play, there might be a story here. But until a few weeks have gone by, it’s still too early to pronounce the Lakers season a disaster.
Any time a marquee team stumbles out of the gate, the knee-jerk reaction is to hit the panic button. Expectations have been through the roof since the Lakers added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to the roster, and the accompanying pressure is no surprise.
Everyone’s moaning about the failure of Mike Brown’s Princeton offense, which has spawned plenty of Brown-is-on-the-hot-seat articles. But the offense is just fine—it was No. 4 in the league in efficiency before a complete throwaway loss on Nov. 7 in Utah.
The defense and bench are an issue. But as Dwight Howard rounds into form and some of the younger Lakers mature enough to take minutes from Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison, both of those weaknesses won’t seem so glaring.
Steve Nash’s health and durability are a real concern, but even if he’s in and out of the lineup for the rest of the year, the Lakers still have two All-Star seven-footers and the second-best shooting guard of all time.
They’re going to be fine.
The Flopping Overhaul
When the NBA revealed that it had initiated a new anti-flopping policy in October, nobody knew how serious the league would be in its enforcement. Nonetheless, the media ran with the story, claiming it would shape the 2012-13 season.
In practice, the new rule has been something less than transformative. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ J.J. Barea (notorious flopper) and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Donald Sloan (anonymous dude), earned the first official warnings from the league for their overzealous acting.
If the NBA expects us to believe that these were the only two egregious offenses under the new rule in the season’s first week, the league either doesn’t respect its fans’ intelligence or it’s not serious about enforcing the policy.
Blake Griffin had at least three flops that were just as bad against the Golden State Warriors, and David Lee felt the need to police the situation himself. But Griffin hasn’t been warned, and neither have dozens of other obvious floppers.
In short, very little has changed in the NBA with respect to flopping—despite the media’s overblown expectations.
Kobe Bryant's Foot Injury
Sometimes, especially in the Los Angeles media, there’s a weird binary tendency to either lionize or vilify Kobe Bryant, with very little middle ground. In the same way, L.A. reporters are constantly in the process of either crowning or toe-tagging the Lakers.
On the one hand, Bryant’s nagging foot and ankle injuries have given the press the opportunity to celebrate the toughness of their bulletproof hero. On the other, it has allowed for a whole bunch of hand-wringing about the Lakers’ chances without their star. In other words, it’s a perfect story for a Kobe-hungry, alarmist media.
In reality, though, this thing has gotten way out of control.
When’s the last time Bryant didn’t start a season with a troublesome injury to an extremity? First, he eschewed surgery on a fractured finger. Then he played through a painful wrist injury. Now, his foot’s about to fall off.
It’d be a bigger story if Kobe was perfectly healthy, wouldn’t it?
Bryant’s off to a sparkling start, despite his (medically improbable) foot-falling-off diagnosis. It’s time to amputate this story; there’s no other way to save the L.A. media’s credibility.
Blake Griffin's Burst Bursa Sac
Media outlets across the country have grabbed hold of the news that the Clippers star is suffering from a painful burst bursa sac in his right elbow and promptly blown the story way out of proportion.
Griffin will play through the pain, but there’s way too much concern that the injury will affect his performance.
Oh, no! It’s going to wreck his picturesque jump hook. He’ll struggle to retain his silky outside touch and perfect free-throw form! His game’s going to be ruined!
Wait—actually, Griffin has absolutely no touch or finesse whatsoever. So a cranky elbow on his shooting arm probably means less than nothing. Sure enough, he’s hitting a career-high 68 percent of his free throws. Maybe the Clippers should make sure the elbow stays painful.
He’s got his legs, so he can still run and jump. He’s got his hands, so he can still cram dunks down opponents’ throats. What else does he even do?
Griffin’s elbow is a nonissue. If his knees act up or the NBA gets serious about enforcing its flopping fines, he’ll have a problem. Until then, let’s cool it on all the doomsday talk about his elbow.
New York Knicks: Defensive Juggernaut
A lot’s been made in the early going of the New York Knicks’ defensive improvement this season.
Along with some thermonuclear three-point shooting, the Knicks’ newfound ability to slow down opponents on the other end has pundits making comparisons to the ‘90s Knick teams that were defined by brutal, lockdown D.
But before we start comparing Carmelo Anthony to Charles Oakley, maybe we should pause to consider context.
Sure, New York ranks third in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but the Knicks were fifth last year, so it’s not like they’ve made a monstrous leap. Also consider that they played the Miami Heat in a game that Dwyane Wade didn’t even think should have taken place because of Hurricane Sandy. New York held the Heat to just 84 points in that Nov. 3 contest, but the Heat may not have had their hearts in it.
The Knicks’ next two games were both against the offensively inept Philadelphia 76ers, who ranked 17th in the NBA in offensive efficiency last year and played all but five minutes of those two contests without Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson.
Jrue Holiday can only do so much.
So, yes, the Knicks have held their opponents to scores in the 80s in all three of their games, but let’s not get carried away.
And besides, isn’t the fact the Rasheed Wallace is now Brian Scalabrine the bigger story?
Get it together, media. Focus on the important stuff.