So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. You’ll find takes on moments you might’ve missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
THIS SHOOTAROUND IS DEDICATED IN LOVING MEMORY TO DION WAITERS
Andrew Sharp: In the avalanche of takes that came out during the MVP race, it seemed like most basketball media members made a tacit agreement not to push for LeBron too hard. The official rationale was that he took the first few months of the season off, and it felt wrong to reward him for dominating only the second part of the campaign. Closer to the truth: It would be too boring to make an MVP case for the same player every year for a decade. Honestly, the latter point is more convincing than the former. But now it’s time to be real.
Or maybe we can just poll the Eastern Conference.
It doesn’t matter who actually wins MVP in any given year. LeBron is a living definition of the award. He has played more minutes than any player in history under 30, he is averaging nearly a triple-double (27.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 8.3 assists) in the playoffs, and he makes everyone better. It’s not a coincidence that Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith have seen their careers rejuvenated over the past four months. Matthew Dellavedova was fun off the bench last year. Now he’s draining 3s in the Eastern Conference finals. What changed?
I would elaborate here, but there are cold-tub videos to post.
Hope the party went all night. Hope it’s still going as we speak.
Sharp: The Hawks had four All-Stars this year.
But the Cavs had J.R. Smith.
Look at God
Chris Ryan: Matthew Dellavedova walked into Quicken Loans Arena with a MacBook Pro in his backpack, some thoughts on the ever-shifting face of online publishing banging around his head, and the new A$AP Rocky (he just listens for Clams Casino beats) on his iPod. You can’t see it, because it’s covered by his fall ’13 Gant button-up, but he’s got “BLOG LIFE” tattooed across his stomach like the Tupac of WordPress that he is. Believe me when I tell you that no pregame entrance has shaken the basketball Internet to the soles of its throwback Jordans like the sight of this 6-foot-4 point guard showing up to work like he was ready to write a hot take on what the vilification of Seymour Hersh and the depiction of Sansa Stark means in a post–Apple Watch world.
Paging Jonathan Abrams
Ryan: The oral history of this dude texting while Shump, LeBron, Kyrie, J.R., and Perk take a bath, rap, and drink champagne is due on Thursday.
I Always Believed in You
Ryan: I know this is about as organic as Kylie Jenner traipsing out of a Starbucks that just happens to be staked out by a dozen paparazzi while wearing some elaborate Marc Jacobs frock, but it’s still nice to see these two getting along.
There Is No “I” in Hawks
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Jason Concepcion: If there’s a theme of this season’s NBA playoffs, it’s this: Savor your successes when they happen, never hope, never dream. The Hawks won 60 games, ran off 19 wins in a row, and made it to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in their long history of semi-to-full mediocrity. I bet if you offered Hawks fans in September a season in which their team would put up a historic win streak, make the conference finals, have four players named to the All-Star team, have all five starters named player of the month, and have their coach named coach of the year, they would’ve grabbed that with both hands and ran gleefully into the golden sunset. By any measure, that’s a successful season.
For any of the other final four NBA teams, losing a player like Thabo Sefolosha for the playoffs would’ve been regrettable. For the Hawks, who were the only conference finalists who didn’t have a player put up a usage rate over 30 percent in the regular season or the playoffs, it was a minor disaster. It was the first fateful domino after which, somehow, things only got worse. Paul Millsap may need shoulder surgery. Kyle Korver definitely will have ankle surgery.1 DeMarre Carroll came as close as a person can come to blowing out his knee without actually blowing out his knee (plus he’s an unrestricted free agent hunting his first major contract).
The regular-season Hawks were a whirring, humming, finely tuned machine with the Spurs’ serial number filed off. They were like a cool gadget that basketball fans early-adopted only to see it end up dying after nine months. If there’s a weakness to a carefully crafted, non-superstar, quasi-socialist team structure, it’s that, counterintuitively, each bespoke piece becomes even harder to replace. For all the concern-trolling over whether starless teams can succeed in the postseason, and all the hating (guilty!) over whether a team without stars is compelling, the central irony of these Hawks is that, on a team of no stars, each player is a star.