The numbers were hardly inspiring. 5-14 from the field, 12 points. 2-11 from the field, 8 points. Those are Basketbawful candidates for sure. But they belonged to a couple guys who are a good reason to watch their respective teams.
Dwyane Wade struggled, there is no question. Well, okay, so there is a question. Take away his shooting and he was impressive. If you check out his entire line, he added six boards, six assists, and a whopping 5 steals.
Brandon Roy's 2-11 shooting did not really matter. Sure, you expect better shooting and more than 8 points from Roy, but he helps the team so many ways. Against Miami he contributed seven rebounds and six assists.
In other words, even on nights where they did not score well, both Roy and Wade contributed in other ways. But that is only part of the story when looking at why the NBA is doing well to market teams the way they do; I.E., "Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat visit Portland to take on Brandon Roy and the Portland Trail Blazers."
Now, any intelligent NBA fan knows there are a lot of other things going on that matter in these games. Portland fans keep their eyes on Greg Oden to see how he will play and, to a lesser extent, Rudy Fernandez who is already held in high regard, perhaps a step behind B-Roy.
The same holds true for Miami fans with Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. They analyze every move made by their talented rookie corp.
The truly obsessed fan of his local NBA team...and please, stop looking at me in that regard...will watch almost as intently to see what other guys are doing. How does Rookie Nicolas Batum impact the game? Will LaMarcus Aldridge pull out of his slump? Is Travis Outlaw getting his game back?
But the casual fan needs a reason to watch a game between mid-level teams* like the Heat and Blazers. Players like Wade and Roy provide that. They showed that in the Blazers' 106-68 floor-mopping of the Heat.
Wade shot poorly but still provided several jaw-dropping moments. He provided them in every facet of the game and it was a genuine pleasure to watch.
On offense, he had several drives that were pure genius. Getting past his hapless perimeter defender, he draws one, two, three defenders to him, finds the open guy and delivers a crisp, accurate pass. If the defenders rotate too slowly or in too few numbers, he simply puts the ball in the bucket.
On defense, he again got Outlaw. Travis Outlaw, for those who have not seen him play, has a shot that is pretty much indefensible for ordinary humans. He elevates as high as any player in the League, extends his exceptionally long arms, and releases his shot at the peak of his jump. It is a shot that Yao Ming would be hard-pressed to even contest, even if he had the quickness and agility to stay with Outlaw.
Twice this year Wade has blocked that shot. He got it in Miami and again in Portland. That is akin to blocking the old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar skyhook. It was a jaw-dropping moment that even on the road was worthy of at least a polite clap.
Even on the boards he is fun to watch.Checking in at 6'4", you would assume the majority of his rebounds come on long bounces off missed threes or in similar ways. But Wade is such a quick jumper, gets so high, and has such excellent positioning and timing that instead he gets a large number of them inside among the tall timber.
Wade is so fun to watch that he is able to have memorable rebounds, including one in which he got as high to grab the board as I have seen anyone get since Spencer Haywoode used to tap the top of the backboard from a standing start.
Brandon Roy was no less entertaining. He suffers a little bit in the eyes of the Portland fans because we have seen it so often. When Roy performs a Wade-like drive, Portland fans cheer...but not like they used to. We have seen him do the unbelievable, impossible so many times that we expect that.
Yet for the casual fan or the person who only gets to see Roy a couple times a year, he is well worth watching because in every game he will provide a couple moments that you expect to see another dozen times on ESPN.
That is what guys like Roy and Wade apart from even very talented teammates like LaMarcus Aldridge, Shawn Marion, and so forth. You can just watch them and be entertained even if their scoring is weak.
Then again, by watching them you have an above average chance of seeing a 40 point explosion.
That is why the NBA is doing the right thing to promote their stars. Sure, it takes a good team to win, but the stars are fun to watch.
* I am considered very over-optimistic about the Blazers season.
I believe the West is vulnerable this year and believe the Blazers will finish with about 53 wins and get a seed no lower than sixth and possibly as high as third, going on to win at least one series.
Most commentators I have seen still have them pegged in the mid-40s for wins, lower seed and first round exit.
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