LeBron James and Kevin Durant are by any definition.
If you go strictly by on-court factors, Chris Paul and Kevin Love are on the edge. I’d rate Paul a superstar, and Love is on the outside looking in. Anthony Davis could join the superstar ranks soon, but I want to see more of him first. Dwight Howard could get back to that level.
If you go by fame and national prominence, Paul and Howard are in. So are Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade. That’s an easier bar to clear.
That’s my assessment, at least. Determining superstars is so difficult because the term is so difficult to define.
But it’s much easier to take issue with.
Chris Broussard of ESPN:
Melo told me he's "the most underrated superstar" in the league…
First of all, Melo is an underrated superstar to the people that matter. They gave him more than $124 million.
To everyone else? Eh, maybe.
If Melo is underrated, it’s only because he’s reached “he’s so underrated, he’s overrated” status.
Melo has really played his butt off the last two seasons. He’s become more efficient, working harder to get good shots. The Knicks didn’t do enough around him last season, but he sure played hard enough to drag New York into the postseason. His teammates and coach just didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
He’s still weak defensively, and that makes it difficult to build a team around him – especially at his salary. But it’s gotten easier to find offensive complements as he’s taken fewer bad shots.
Melo is better than ever, and I don’t think that’s widely acknowledged, making him underrated now.
But an underrated superstar? That last word is a harder sell.
If he plays again this series, the Dragic that returns would be a shell of the Dragic that used his quickness to tear apart the Boston defense in the Eastern Conference Finals. Dragic’s ability to blow by his man in isolation and get into the paint helped make Miami’s offense a threat, and without this penetration they floundered against the Lakers’ length. Rookie Tyler Herro got the start in the second half for Miami Wednesday, and for the game he was -35 (tying the All-time NBA record for worst +/- with Kobe Bryant from Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals).
Another of the Miami injuries was to starting center Adebayo, who tweaked the shoulder that had bothered him in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami.
There was no update from the team (as of this writing), but Tim Reynold of the Associated Press wrote Adebayo himself expects to play.
Source says Bam Adebayo intends to play Friday in Game 2. There will be a lot of treatment in his future Thursday.
Adebayo is crucial for the Heat — he is their best defensive rebounder and the guy they will turn to in the crunch to cover Anthony Davis. He struggled against the length and physicality in
Having Dragic and/or Adebayo out will reduce the already-slim margin for error for Miami in this series to almost zero.
“We’re still expecting to win. We still know that we can,” Jimmy Butler said of the Heat mindset after the game. “Like I said earlier, we want [Dragic] out there with us. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, but until we can have him back, we got to go out there and we got to fight even harder. We got to try to cover up what he gives us and make up for it. We’re capable of it. We have to be capable of it. Moving forward with or without Goran we better hurry up and tie it up 1-1.”
The Lakers outscored the Heat by 18 points in those six minutes!
Davis dominated. He scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, blocked dunk-contest champion Derrick Jones Jr. at the rim and passed to a wide-open Alex Caruso for a 3-pointer during that first-half stretch.
Davis wasn’t too shabby the rest of the game, either. He finished with 34 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks and was a team-high +23.
Davis’ 34 points rank among the among the highest-scoring NBA Finals debuts since the NBA-ABA merger:
Especially deep in the playoffs, teams have mastered using small lineups to flummox lumbering centers. But that’s not Davis. He’s mobile and skilled like a wing. And he still has size advantages at 6-foot-10.
Some shorter players can at least bother Davis, who prefers to avoid banging inside against stronger opponents. See de facto Rockets center P.J. Tucker. But a frontcourt featuring three of Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, Jimmy Butler, Solomon Hill and Jones lacks the brute force to compensate for its height shortcomings against Davis.
Adebayo’s lingering shoulder injury hangs over Miami’s ability to match up. Though he has size, Olynyk is far from an ideal defender. Leonard, who got a DNP-CD tonight, might have to play in Game 2 Friday.
Lakers go on 75-30 run, blow out Heat in Game 1 of NBA Finals
All-season long, one of the first things opposing coaches would say after facing the Lakers was, “it was so hard to adjust to their length and physicality.”
The Miami Heat learned that lesson the hard way Wednesday.
The Heat raced out to a 13-point lead early in Game 1 of the NBA Finals as they forced the Lakers to become jump shooters. Then those shots started falling, Miami started missing, the Lakers started running, and everything came apart for the Heat. The Lakers closed the first quarter on a 19-3 run.
That run became 75-30.
“It’s been that way all year long, whenever we start to miss a couple shots, we don’t do what we’re supposed to do on the other end,” Jimmy Butler said.
That was the ballgame.
The Lakers were physically dominant, shot 15-of-38 from three (39.5%), and blew the Heat out of the building in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, 116-98. LeBron James finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists. Anthony Davis added 34 points and added three blocked shots — Miami had no answer for him inside.
The Lakers led by as many as 32 before some good garbage time play from Miami — 18 points from Kendrick Nunn — made the final score look more respectable than the game itself was.
“You know, from that moment when it was 23-10, we started to play to our capabilities,” LeBron said. “We started flying around. We started getting defensive stops. We started sharing the ball a lot better offensively and just got into a really good groove.”
“The Lakers set the tenor, the tone, the force, the physicality for the majority of the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward.
More disturbing for the Heat are the potential injuries to critical players.
With Dragic out Tyler Herro got the second-half start, and in Game 1 he tied an NBA Finals record being -35 for the game (Kobe Bryant, Game 6 of 2008 Finals against Boston).
In addition, Bam Adebayo went back to the locker room in the third quarter, appearing to have aggravated the shoulder issue he had against Boston. The team said X-rays were negative, but he did not return to the game.
This game turned on Adebayo. On media day Tuesday he said, “You got to be smart about ticky-tacky fouls.” He knew he couldn’t get in foul trouble, and yet he did, picking up a second foul in the first quarter, sending him to the bench. Up to that point the Heat were up three, but when he went to the bench the Laker run started.
“Our guys are just hustling their tails off, flying around on the defensive end, and then playing effort offense, as well,” Laker coach Frank Vogel said of the Lakers’ run through the second and third quarters. “Really pushing the tempo on the break, attacking the paint, and crashing the boards. Just the pace of the game really picked up in those two quarters, and obviously, they were the difference makers.”
Miami’s defensive game plan was to double LeBron when he drove, make him pass out, and dare the other Lakers shooters to beat them. The Lakers role players did and that was a key difference.
Miami got 23 points on 13 shots from Jimmy Butler, but he also tweaked his ankle during the game. Herro had 14 points but on 6-of-18 shooting, and as a team the usually sharp-shooting Heat shot 31.4% from three.
Because of the rapid pace of games in the bubble, the Heat have just two days to regroup and try to make this look more like a series — Game 1 looked like the varsity vs. the JV.
“We talk about how damn near perfect that we have to play, and that was nowhere near it,” Butler said. “There’s nothing to be said. We can watch all the film in the world, we understand, we know what we did not do, what we talked about we were going to do, we didn’t do. We didn’t rebound, we didn’t make them miss any shots, we didn’t get back, all of those things led to the deficit that we put ourselves in.”
Miami guard Goran Dragic doubtful to return to game with foot injury
Goran Dragic, like seemingly every member of the Miami Heat, couldn’t find his rhythm in the first half — 3-of-8 shooting, three assists, but some missed defensive assignments as the Heat started to fall behind.
Part of that may have been a foot injury — Dragic did not come out for the second half and his return is doubtful with a left foot injury, the Heat announced.
#MIAvsLAL INJURY UPDATE: Goran Dragic (left foot) is doubtful to return to tonight's #NBAFinals game vs the Lakers.