TSL 5-On-5: Houston Is Taking Off

Kobe found his stroke from long-range against Dallas. He was 4-5 from 3PT. Prior to that he was like 0 for a gazillion. Were you ever worried?

SANDY DOVER: Kobe is a classic gunner, but when he goes out of the mode, he has to get that memory back. Kobe having to be a facilitator, a defense-stopper, and Dwight Howard's counselor took him out of his rhythm. Gunnin’ takes that muscle memory. The Bean has got it back.

KEVIN COTTRELL: One thing I’ve never been worried about is Kobe scoring. Whether it’s inside, outside, from the free-throw line or El Segundo! You can #CountOnKobe to get buckets. Many may scoff at his confidence from behind the arc, but he’s scored 40+ in a game 117 times. You don’t get that from layups. Besides, Kobe has given us 81 reasons why we should never worry about his ability to score.

MAURICE BOBB: I never doubted the Kobe System. It’s futile. Dude can’t be stopped. Bean has supreme confidence in his scoring ability at all times and, frankly, so do I. Everyone hits a slump. It just happens, but the truly great ones never let you see them sweat. They keep shooting, they keep gunnin’. Number 24’s three-point clinic against Dallas was just another day at the office and if you don’t believe that, you don’t watch basketball and have no say. Besides, it’s not wise to doubt the Black Mamba on anything related to bball because God forgives, Mamba don’t.

NUBYJAS WILBORN: Kobe is a Hall of Fame player still playing at a high level in his 17th year. He’s an old guy who’s had too much weight to bear this season. It seems like the other guys are doing their part, and now his shot is back. He’s locked and loaded. The Lakers will make the playoffs now.

DJ DUNSON: No. Kobe is a titan in his industry and like any other powerhouse, he went through a drought. The great ones rise up and overcome. Ask Tiger. Let’s not forget that two years ago, Bryant’s knee was deteriorating quicker than Katt Williams’ grip on reality. Bryant has faced greater adversity than a midseason shooting slump.

Does anyone else like what’s going on in Houston?

SANDY: I LOVE what’s going on in Houston! One, James Harden: the man is going to be the next premier face of the league. The personality, the game, the look, the confidence, he’s got it all. Jeremy Lin is getting comfortable with falling back as a co-star, and Chandler Parsons has been one of the most dependable young players throughout the league. Also, Dork Elvis committing highway robbery on the idiotic Sacramento Kings is giving the Rockets a new rep as a true up-and-comer.

KEVIN: Outside of James Harden, who’s known for scoring on the Rockets? It's hard to do, yet at over 106 points per game, Houston is the second best scoring team in the NBA. You’ve got to like what Kevin McHale has going on in H-Town. Omer Asik was a backup in Chicago; now, he’s a walking double-double. Lin is solid at PG and this core is surrounded by youthful talent. The Rockets will have cap flexibility this summer, which makes them even more dangerous in the future.

MAURICE: I live in Houston and I can tell you that it’s about damn time. Houstonians have long wondered what the eff Daryl Morey was doing, but now it’s all starting to make sense. Harden was the first superstar domino to fall and now, it’s a ripple effect. Let’s not kid ourselves, though: This is a rebuilding team, but they are way ahead of schedule. I've been told Harden is already recruiting other major players to come to Houston and with the way he’s playing, the way he creates, the way he dishes dimes with ease, it won’t be a hard sell. And if the Rox get that second superstar, the league better knuckle up because every team outside of Houston will have a problem.

NUBYJAS: I won’t call it “Clutch City” time right now. However, I like what they’re doing. We already knew Harden had game, but we weren’t sure about these other guys. Who knew Chandler Parsons was going to be this good? Carlos Delfino, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin have all proven they’re built to last, as are the Rockets.

DJ DUNSON: The Rockets are my favorite team on the rise right now. They’ve got Harden pushing Kobe for the title as the best two-guard in the league and Jeremy Lin is hitting his groove. Not to mention, Morey has done all this with the NBA’s lowest payroll. He even found the wiggle room to dump $1.6 million in salary while acquiring the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft. They’re a little too reliant on the trey and aren’t physical enough in the post, but a pair of upcoming free agent seven-footers would remedy those concerns.

Carmelo Anthony got his jersey retired at Syracuse over the weekend. Will that national championship in 2003 be his career highlight? And, if so, how sad is that?

SANDY: The 2002-2003 national championship season of the Syracuse Orange(men) is absolutely going to be Melo’s career highlight, and I’m not sad at all. Even though Melo isn’t the savior that many thought would rival LeBron James in the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson fashion, that season was the foundation on which he’s made his name and his game. Most NBA players aren’t that lucky or blessed to have even that, so if a college championship is the best that he can do when it comes to career relevance, with all that money he’s made and the Jordan connection, I’m not sad at all. He could have it MUCH worse.

KEVIN: Carmelo may be known for being that freshman to lead Syracuse to a national title, but I think his career highlight should read TBD. Melo has never missed the NBA Playoffs, he's a six-time All-Star and captured two gold medals. At this point, there’s only one thing left to accomplish: An NBA title. If not, we’ll be reminded every four years of his 3-point barrage in the 2012 Olympics, setting a record 10-for-12 from behind the arc.

MAURICE: I’m not so ready to write off Melo. I know that his title at ‘Cuse is the highlight of his career so far, but he has won Olympic Gold medals and he’s still a bonafide killer in the L. He’s still wreckin’ shop and was an early candidate for MVP for what he’s doing in the orange and blue. Madison Square Garden is the center of the basketball universe, so if he brings a chip to the Big Apple, his legend would be forever cemented. Call me crazy, but I still think Melo is built for this.

NUBYJAS: Taking that team to a championship may be the greatest one and done season by an individual player ever. That isn’t his career highlight, though. I can’t rank that over the Olympics. Melo is likely going to the Hall of Fame. He may not win a ring, but he will have done everything else.

DJ DUNSON: Dishing final verdicts on Melo’s career before he has an opportunity to guide his best supporting cast into the playoffs, is akin to judging Ben Affleck’s right after Gigli,  or KG during his final T’Wolves days. It may not happen in New York. It’s worth noting, while we’re consistently speculating on LeBron’s possible return to Cleveland,  that Melo’s contract also has an opt-out clause for the summer of 2014.

Our own Khalid Salaam wrote an exceptional piece last week, “Kyrie Irving and the Death of the Ghetto Superstar.” It delved into identity politics. Thoughts?

SANDY: It was exceptional. As I told Khalid, it was poignant; for me, being a young, African American, middle-class kid, I didn’t grow up in any rough parts, contrary to our stereotypical cultural narrative. I had both of my parents, and we didn’t have to struggle as hard as others I knew — I wasn’t upper-middle-class and I have never seen the East Orange money that Kyrie has seen, but though my upbringing wasn’t perfect, I was fortunate not to live in a project building and be in true poverty. I always felt like I was being judged from others when I had opportunities to go to Reebok and Nike camps, with people not knowing that my parents forfeited opportunities to go on vacation for that, so knowing that the narrative is changing with African American ballplayers is helpful to the young generation, and it’s helpful for everybody, not just African Americans. Oppression of any people is oppression for all people, in some way.

KEVIN: Kyrie may be the leader of the new school, but it still remains to be seen if this fad will continue. I agree with Khalid that Kyrie’s emergence as the clean-cut black athlete with a million-dollar smile may be what we need to change perception in our community. But only time will tell if Irving’s arrival has the same impact as Iverson in the mid-90s. We had Kobe and his trademark smile and fro, but one night in Denver changed it all. We’re all rooting for Kyrie to succeed, both on and off the court, as a positive affect on the next generation.

MAURICE: Kha really peeled back the lid on what they do–that is, what people do–for so-called “street cred.” You knew that the tired-ass “ghetto superstar” narrative had to change at some point because African-Americans are a lot more successful these days. We are running corporations, practicing law, practicing medicine, and making strides in other major industries. We still have a long way to go with keeping our families intact, but not all of us are living in projects or even grew up in projects (I did, but hated it). And let’s face it, as soon as economically possible, we are leaving the projects with the quickness, ya heard? And if you aren’t, something is terribly wrong with your identity politics.

NUBYJAS: Society hasn’t changed much from when Chris Webber wanted to hide the fact that his upbringing was more like Grant Hill’s than Jalen Rose’s. I don’t believe white or black America is truly ready to embrace too many Kyrie Irving’s. Irving, as the outlier, doesn’t make you face your stereotypes and/or self-hatred. If he becomes the norm, it’ll make too many people uncomfortable.

DJ DUNSON: Nubyjas, is right. That still hasn’t changed. Back when I played high school and AAU ball as recent as ‘06, I had plenty of teammates who would front like they were ballin’ to get out the 'hood, only to find out they were taking up residence in upscale complexes with cul-de-sacs and yard fountains. Most of them put on the act for some sort of false street cred. Kyrie is the most glaring counter to the theory that a middle class baller can garner street cred without having to mold himself into a ghetto superstar stereotype.

Are folks really making serious cases for Tony Parker’s MVP candidacy?

SANDY: TP deserves the praise, and has deserved it for a long time. Cats have been sleeping because the San Antonio Spurs always get the sleep treatment. Let’s be real, too: Tony’s not gonna win the MVP, but he merits the recognition for an outstanding season. He probably merits an easy third-place finish behind The King and KD.

KEVIN: If people aren’t making a serious case for Parker as a MVP candidate, they need to begin doing so. Tony is one of two point guards to average more than 20 points and 7 assists. Just last Thursday, Parker went toe-to-toe with Chris Paul and politely gave him 31 points and 7 dimes without a single turnover. Parker’s counterpart was held to 4 points and 3 turnovers. Many may be quick to argue CP3 as MVP, but we can’t continue to ignore Parker who’s lead the Spurs to a four-game lead over both the Thunder and Heat.

MAURICE: With the way the Spurs are dominating—best record in the league, people—everyone should be making a serious case for the Frenchman’s MVP chances. MVP doesn’t mean the best player in the whole NBA, it means the most valuable player for a particular team. For those not initiated, please see Derrick Rose. And while LeBron is killin’ it in the MIA-yo, if you only have eyes for the King, you need glasses, B. TP is the leader of the Spurs and he’s steering that ship to the chip. If they keep this up, OKC won’t stand a chance coming out the West, and then what’s gonna be your excuse for not acknowledging Parker? That they’re boring? GTFOH. Give up the props; it’s only right.

NUBYJAS: LeBron is the MVP, bottom line. I am fine with Tony Parker getting some love, though. Parker’s stats warrant him to have a seat at the table. Parker deserves to be a finalist, but LeBron has to win.

DJ DUNSON: Tony Parker is much improved from the young apprentice that came into the league as Duncan, Ginobili and Robinson’s facilitator, but his upstart candidacy is based on a faulty prisoner-of-the-moment mentality. Parker’s a red herring. The real race should be between Paul and LeBron James. Sure, Parker barbequed Chris Paul on both ends of the floor, but he had some making up to do after averaging 7.5 points and six assists in two previous losses to Paul’s Clippers this season. Parker is the Spurs’ new showrunner, but Paul is a more deserving candidate. Remember the Clippers’ pre All-Star dive while Paul was hobbled? He’s the force that keeps the Clip Show’s entire show afloat.

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