Sometimes when you are on inside you don’t get the vision of how the outside world sees you.
That certainly was the case with the Miami Heat, where some of the players seemed taken aback by the vitriol that came their way after LeBron James announced where he was taking his talents. They became the cowboys in the black hats to most of America. (The Heat front office seemed to embrace that role.)
It was weird. I mean, I’d never been booed before! And I felt like we’d done something unselfish, so for fans to think we’d done something bad was indescribable.
From the inside, they can rightly say they did what fans always say they want — the stars took less money for the sake of the team as a whole. And superstar teams have been the cornerstone of basketball forever — what do you think the dominant 1960 Bill Russell Celtics were? Hall of Famers gather together. Always have, always will.
But from the outside it was different. The fact that the players controlled the process and teams had to come to them — that labor had and used the power, not management — seemed to really disturb some people.
But mostly it was the hubris — LeBron’s ill-conceived “Decision” show followed by the televised pep rally with its promise of “not one, not two, not three…” championships. All the way to seven. Combine all of it together and it was easy to hate the Heat.
The tide is turning a little there — the Heat aren’t the good guys outside of Miami, but the level of hatred toward them subsided, particularly after a title. We as a nation forgive winners (whether they deserve it or not).
But from the outside, it wasn’t hard to see what Wade couldn’t understand from the inside.
Report: Derrick Rose away from Cavaliers, evaluating his future in basketball
Rose has been out with what seemed like a relative minor, for him at least, ankle injury. The 29-year-old could stick in the league for a while thanks to his reputation and ability to attack the rim to create shots for himself. But the guard is a shell of peak form after years of more serious injuries. This isn’t the career anyone expected for him when he was named the youngest MVP ever in 2011.
The Suns made Mike James – a 27-year-old rookie on a two-way contract – their starting point guard.
Though he eventually ceded the role to Tyler Ulis, James – the only player on a two-way contract to start an NBA game – is still a rotation regular. He’s an aggressive defender and possesses plenty of offensive moves.
The problem: Unless demoted to Phoenix’s minor-league affiliate before then, he’ll max out the 45 allowable NBA days for a two-way player Dec. 6.
We’d still like to get him on the 15-man roster and we’re looking at different ways to do that.
The Suns can unilaterally convert James’ two-contract into a standard one-year minimum deal. Both sides could also negotiate a longer contract.
The bigger issue is clearing a roster spot.
Phoenix has the maximum 15 players with standard contracts with no obvious cuts. Derrick Jones Jr. doesn’t play much, but the 20-year-old’s athleticism creates intriguing upside. Second-rounder Davon Reed is hurt, though teams rarely cut bait so quickly.
The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.
However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.
“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”
This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.
Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.
Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.