Monday notes

1) my quick take on Jordan Spieth, Master’s champion and one-and-done collegiate athlete:

2) I am still waiting on more information about Thabo Sefolosha. He suffered a season-ending injury in an encounter with police in New York last week(at the same club where, earlier that night, Chris Copeland and two women were stabbed). The police, naturally, say that Sefolosha precipitated the altercation. His teammate, Pero Antic, who was with Sefolosha, says otherwise.

Numerous commentators have said that, whether Sefolosha was responsible for the encounter or not, it’s probably not a great idea that he was clubbing in the middle of the night.

Does this mean that, as a black man, you really are responsible for police brutality any time you show your face in public, regardless of the actual circumstances? As I said, we don’t know what happened. But if, without knowing the facts, you think as a general rule Sefolosha and his brethren should just stay home, what are you saying?

3) A nice piece about Kawhi Leonard from Vice Sports’ Miles Wray. Leonard is still only 23 years old and yet, as Wray points out, has already played in more career playoff games than either Tim Hardaway, Sr., Tracy McGrady or Dominique Wilkins. What impresses Wray is how economical Leonard’s game is:

In place of the usual signifiers, Kawhi Leonard gives us only an endless string of correct decisions—calculated with the actuarial efficiency of a fundamentals-preaching coach, executed with all the muscularity, imagination, and focused passion of the true greats. Even after a five-minute highlight tape of nothing but Kawhi dunks, the only aftertaste is Puritan self-discipline. Even when coiling back for a dunk—one of the very coolest activities a human can possibly partake in—there is still the sense of an abacus at work in Kawhi’s head, shifting beads back and forth until the very last moment in solving the equation of whether or not a banked lay-up would in fact be more appropriate on this particular possession.

The great decision-making is most relevant not in how Kawhi decides to finish a particular shot, however. It’s evident in every aspect of his game, from his efficiency as a shooter, to his low turnover totals, to his excellent rebounding to his propensity to rack up steals. Leonard is not a 20-point-a-game scorer – the usual benchmark for star players in standard commentary. He’s just really good at everything.  It’s kind of fascinating to compare him to Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is, of course, a rookie, with lots of time and room to grow. Wiggins has already been the recipient of lavish praise from much of the basketball cognoscenti. He often looks spectacular and he authors enough 30-point games to put himself on the list of “great” young players. Leonard, somewhat amazingly, has never scored more than 26 points in a game.

But there’s nothing that Wiggins does on a basketball court better than Leonard. Kawhi is a vastly better rebounder. He turns the ball over less and rings up more assists. He leads the NBA in steals per game. Wiggins is no better than average for his position in that department. The man with the massive hands (that’s Kawhi) is a much more efficient shooter. Kawhi is a great player. At least for the time being, Wiggins is scarcely an average one, when you consider all the things that actually help teams win basketball games.

At some point, the former Aztec will start averaging more than 20 points per contest. *Then* he’ll really start getting the recognition he already deserves.




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