To borrow a line from Inigo in The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
The word of the day is tough. As in who is tough in the NBA? Magic General Manager Otis Smith does not think the Boston Celtics qualify, as he told the Orlando Sentinel (via Celtics Blog).
Sentinel: Is the (Magic) tougher now?
Smith: Tough is relative. Tough to who? Is anybody tough?
Sentinel: One could argue the Celtics are tough.
Smith: They act tough. They’re not really tough. They act tough.
Smith goes on to say that he thinks playing in close games is part of what makes a team tough. It’s about execution in the clutch. In which case those Celtics got a little tougher in that close game with the Magic Monday night. Oh, and they showed they are better at closing out a game out, too.
Admittedly, there is a little school yard bully in the Celtics — Kevin Garnett has a long history of getting in the face of little guards but not physically challenging those who can push back just as hard.
But Boston has a ring, and you don’t get that without mental and physical toughness. They were tough enough to push the Lakers to the brink in the NBA finals last year, in a Game 7 without their starting center. You can argue the Lakers were tougher if you want (their center was dragging his leg around all series) but that doesn’t make the Celtics less tough. They have proven to possess a mental fortitude, an ability to stand up to pressure in recent years that only one other team can claim to match. And it’s not the Magic.
Toughness is who can execute in pressure situations against a good team. Last year in the playoffs and again on Monday, the Celtics were tougher than the Magic. That was not just an act.
Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.
This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?
He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.
The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.
“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”
As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.
“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”
Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.
I think Cousins can help provide that.
I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.
After a bumpy season where the he fought with Suns coaches, then a summer where he and his twin Marcus felt they were blindsided by a trade, Markieff Morris has been plenty vocal about his unhappiness in Phoenix. To the point it has cost him some serious cash.
So what should we expect from Markieff Morris’ upcoming season?
Relative calm, I tell Jenna Corrado of NBCSports in this latest edition of PBT Extra previewing the NBA season.
The reasons are twofold. First, he has to realize the Suns aren’t trading him anyway (especially not while he publicly demands a trade, lowering his trade value). Second, can you imagine how new locker room leader Tyson Chandler is going to react to that? Chandler was brought in to fill a leadership void in the locker room, and you can bet he will make his displeasure at such team-disrupting antics known.
Still not sure if that’s enough to get the Suns to the playoffs.