1. During the pre-game of the Knicks/Heat game, Jeff Van Gundy said LeBron is already a top-10 all-time dude. Agree?
SANDY DOVER: Without question, LeBron is top-10 all-time. He’s the best small forward ever; he would be the second or third best point and shooting guard ever had he spent more than his first two years at those spots; and he’s the most imposing perimeter player we’ve ever seen, with his talent and size taken into account. The real question is, will he be top-five?
J.R. GAMBLE: First the sheepish media called him a choker. Then, he won a measly ring and the media machine starts comparing him to Jordan. LeBron is a unique talent and a top-10 “revolutionary guy” like Kareem, Magic, The Big “O”—cats who kind of created another position with their rare combination of skill and physical superiority. I’m just not going to act like basketball started in Ohio during the late ’90s. He’s not a top-10 all-time “player” until he becomes a top-10 “champion.” He’s not there yet.
BRANDEN PETERS: I disagree with Jeff Van Gundy. I believe that the LeBron hate was so tough when he was losing that we feel the need to heap praise on him to the fullest extent now that he is finally playing to his highest capabilities. That and being a prisoner of the moment is why Van Gundy made the statement. The reality is LeBron is great and he is physically something the NBA has never seen before. That being said, at this point in his career he hasn’t done enough, in my eyes, to oust Oscar Robertson, Tim Duncan, Kareem or Larry Bird off of the list.
MAURICE BOBB: Are we really validating something Jeff Van Hyperbole said? ’Bron’Bron is great, but are we really hoisting him into the Top 10 with only one ring? We just saw grainy footage of a young Bill Russell grabbing a rebound and taking it all the way to the other end for the deuce, after jumping OVER the Jumpman, way before Yeezy knew what that meant. It’s crazy how we just forget players who were the illest in their day like B. Russ, Oscar Robertson, Dr. J, etc. and crown cats like LeBron like we’ve never seen cats freak it on the hardwood before. Let’s see what LBJ can do over the next couple of years before we jump the gun.
DJ DUNSON: Wilt, Russell, Kobe, Bird, Magic, Jordan, The Big O, Kareem and Duncan are leasing out their spots in the top 10, but LeBron is on pace to throw Shaq or Duncan out of my top-10. However, he’s not there yet. I’ll take LeBron ahead of Jerry West and Dr. J, but Shaq’s longevity and four titles give him the nod over 28-year-old LBJ.
2. ’Bron is MVP, Lillard is ROY, Chandler is DPOY (or should be anyway). Is there any award intrigue left?
SANDY: The Most Improved Player award is interesting, largely because it excludes veterans who still take their games to the next level. Barely tenured players are the target audience, but what about a star who KEEPS getting better? LeBron and Kevin Durant make that list.
GAMBLE: Now we gonna give LeBron Most Improved Player too? Let’s get rid of all the other NBA teams and just watch Miami play in-house scrimmages. I think JR Smith is most improved, and he’ll keep getting better as he gets older. He’s not only become the Knicks second option, but Mike Woodson trusts him to take huge shots for a first-place team playing in a chip-starved, big apple pressure cooker.
PETERS: The 6th Man of the Year award is still a two-man race between Jamal Crawford and Jarrett Jack. Both guys are integral parts of their teams’ 2nd units and have had career years. This is a great race because the 6th man award is usually slept on, but with the Clippers being a big story, hoops fans actually care about the award this season.
MAURICE: I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m always intrigued by who wins the MIP hardware. I dig it when players come into their own and show up and show out in the L. Before he went down for the season, I had my skrilla on Anderson Varejao who basically turned into the Brazilian Dennis Rodman. So with Andy V. out, I’m ridin’ with Jrue Holiday for MIP. Jrue doubled his dimes, 4.5 to 9, and increased his scoring by a full five ppg. Jrue also got the All-Star nod this year, so it’s his trophy to lose at this point.
DJ: I’ll take a wide-open Western Conference race over nightly jockeying for trivial awards. Au contraire, Branden, the 6th man award is always given to a bench performer on a championship contending unit. The winner will be forgotten, but if anyone were Crawford’s competition for 6th man, I’m riding shotgun with Moke on the JR Smith bandwagon. Unfortunately, he lodged a banana into his candidacy’s tailpipe by literally throwing Sunday’s matchup against the Heat away.
3. Isn’t blaming Andrew Bynum for the Sixers’ situation beside the point? Isn’t it the Sixers brass that people should be pissed at, since they got hustled?
SANDY: The Sixers shouldn’t be upset about Andrew Bynum as much as they should be salty about getting rid of Elton Brand and letting Lou Williams go. Those two are the reason why Philly had any kind of shot. Bynum is what he is.
GAMBLE: Fans can’t get mad at Bynum. The NBA is a business. Bynum is no different than a sore-armed pitcher fronting like he is gravy just to get a mega deal. Or teams signing cats that previously used PEDs, and hoping they can still hit 50 dingers clean. As a player, you get your cheddar and worry about performance later. Bynum wanted out of LA and he found a sucker in Philly. If the Trailblazers aren’t pissed at Sam Bowie and Greg Oden, then Philly has to eat that and make better decisions next time.
PETERS: The Sixers should be hotter than fish grease at Bynum spending more time getting his hair done than he does at rehabbing his injuries. In all seriousness, the Sixers played themselves in this situation. They let go of Lou Williams and traded Iggy, two of the players that got them to the playoffs last year. Bynum’s history shows that he is as frail as a 100-year-old man walking down a flight of stairs, so the Sixers didn’t so much get hustled as they just made a decision that turned around and bit them in the butt.
MAURICE: Bynum trolled us all with his effed-up ’do, so are we really surprised by the news that his knees are peanut brittle? The Lake Show got over like an MF-er by getting the Sixers to take Drew off their hands and no, I’m not the least bit pissed that Philly got hustled. This whole game is a hustle. Stern made sure of that. He’s the ultimate hustler. If this deal doesn’t 86 the 76ers, I say it’s one helluva lesson for the next go ’round.
DJ: The 76ers got straight catfished by L.A. and Bynum. Philly brass should be banging their own heads against the wall Gus Frerotte-style for confusing the ski mask Bynum wore for a kneepad. If it’s degenerative, before piling on Bynum, let’s not forget that he’s losing out here as well. His shot at a lengthy, max deal is flimsier than Oscar Pistorius’ defense and by not signing a three-year extension last summer, he lost on millions in future earnings. I can’t get mad at a man who was betrayed by genetics and biology.
4. Steph Curry got a lot of love last week for being one of the best shooters in the league. Name the top five in the game right now.
SANDY: Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Steve Novak, Ray Allen, Kyrie Irving
GAMBLE: Steph Curry, Steve Novak, Kyle Korver, Ray Allen and Kevin Durant. Dribble, dribble, swish!
PETERS: The guys with the wettest jumpers in the NBA are Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Steve Novak and Kyle Korver. All of these guys consistently hit from inside and outside the arc and they have hit big shots. Can’t go wrong with any of them.
MAURICE: If we’re using Steph Curry as the standard, I’m going with players who have the sweetest J in the L, as in the prettiest looking shot. For me, that’s Steph, Joe Johnson, ’Melo, Durantula and yeah, Jesus Shuttlesworth’s jump shot is still as picturesque as Banksy, b-tches, Basquiat.
5. Is there any reason for Derrick Rose to come back this year? The Bulls aren’t going to contend regardless, so what’s the point? Why risk further damage?
SANDY: I think the issue is not really any pressure by the Bulls, but rather Bulls and national media beating a dead horse about his recovery. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf has clearly made his case about caution and not wanting Rose to go too soon. That should be the end of the story.
GAMBLE: I never knew of a champion not getting back on the court as soon as he was able to help his team win. I don’t think Rose deserves any special treatment. He’s getting paid to ball, so ball, man! Ball! The Bulls are loaded and if Rose plays like an MVP—or even like Isiah Thomas—then the Eastern Conference Finals is a def possibility. If Rose played for the Wizards, I’d say just chill, but this may be the best team he ever plays with. Get your $100 million dollar ass on the court, B.
PETERS: Saying the Bulls aren’t going to contend is a bold statement. They are nine games above .500 with the best defense in the NBA. Add Rose to that mix and they can make some noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They probably won’t unseat Miami, but they are by no means a slouch team. Rose should definitely come back if he is healthy. He should get some burn on this injury before heading into the summer. What does he have to lose?
MAURICE: Admittedly, this is a tough one for me, simply because I really like D. Rose as a player/person and I don’t want to see him rush back like he’s done in the past. He’s one of the most important[QS3] faces of the league and I’d hate to see him wreck that by being pressured to come back before he’s ready. That being said, I don’t see how we can say the Bulls aren’t going to contend. I totally disagree with that. Chi-Town always has a chance with the way they play defense. If Pooh is 110 % ready to ball by the playoffs, then I say come back and play. It would be legendary if he came back to lead his team past ’Bron & Co, all the way to the Finals and beyond.
DJ: The prognosis for Rose’s recovery was eight to 12 months. If he returns in late March, it would be almost 11 months into his post-surgery timeline. That could give him three weeks to get his feet back under himself while playing a reduced role until he’s ready.
On second thought, that’s too many wouldas, couldas and shouldas for a player they’ll need to be at full strength for a title run. Rose ain’t Ray Lewis. He’s still in his early 20s and will have plenty of legit shots at a ring.