In the 1998 NBA finals, Michael Jordan pushed off on Byron Russell to drill the game winner in what was the end of an era in the NBA.
These 2011 finals, wherever and with whomever they take place, will mark the start of a new era.
For the first time since Jordan’s final game as a Bull, the NBA finals will not feature at least one of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal or Tim Duncan. Sekou Smith pointed this out over at NBA.com. While it seemed that streak would almost certainly continue this year heading into the playoffs, the elimination of the Celtics Wednesday night killed the streak.
Think about that for a second … let it marinate … and then realize that those are the three players that define their generation. Their faces make up the Mount Rushmore of the league since 1998. No one starred brighter on the biggest stage as much as — or more often than — those three future Hall of Famers.
Eras never run exactly on decades, even though we tend to define them that way But Kobe, Shaq and Duncan defined the 2000s in the NBA. Duncan and his Spurs with their quiet efficiency winning four titles. The dynamic Lakers of the Shaq/Kobe era, with all its drama on and off the court. Shaq with Dwyane Wade. The latest iteration of the Lakers with Pau Gasol and a long front line.
Who knows how this next decade will be defined. By the Heat and a string of titles. By Derrick Rose leading the Bulls back to glory. As the decade that Oklahoma City became the center of the basketball universe.
But the Kobe, Shaq and Duncan era is coming to an end.
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.