Give And Go: The NBA’s best of 2013
2. What was the most memorable quote of the year?
Golliver: As I was pulling together my short list for this one I came to the startling realization that four of my favorites could all be classified in the “Aging scorer pridefully lashes out at doubters” genre. I don’t know what that says about me, or whether it’s a mere coincidence that I just turned 30 in November, but buckle up as we run down these doozies.
“Kevin Durant said James Harden should replace me in the top 10…. Note to self: Make him respect your place in history… again.” — Dwyane Wade. The Heat guard was responding to Durant’s assessment of SI.com’s Top 10 of 2014 list, which included Wade in the top 10 but not Harden (who was 11th). This quote, which appeared in a hand-written Instagram note, immediately set off a series of debates about the best players at the two guard position, and it set the tone for Miami’s three-peat quest. That Wade’s quote included a digging reference at the Heat’s 2012 Finals triumph over the Thunder raised the stakes.
“Amnesty THAT.” — Kobe Bryant. The Lakers guard was responding to the notion, raised by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, that new salary cap rules make it difficult to pay a single player as much as Bryant is making while still being able to assemble a championship-contending roster. Bryant delivered his trash talk on Twitter after scoring 38 points in a win over Dallas. Revenge is sweet.
“I think that’s comical.” — Michael Jordan. The 50-year-old Bobcats owner treated 35-year-old Grizzlies owner Robert Pera like Bryon Russell , brushing off the notion of a one-on-one game between the two men in October. Never change, MJ. It didn’t help Pera’s cause that two Memphis players immediately said Jordan would beat their boss, or that Bobcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist told reports in February that Jordan beat him in a game of one-on-one. PS: Jordan’s thoughts on social media – ”I’m not a Twitter, I’m not a twerker” — were also quote of the year material.
“Is pig p—y pork?” — Tracy McGrady. The two-time scoring champ called it a career in 2013, but not before he latched on with the Spurs on their ride to the Finals. Asked by a reporter whether he was ready if coach Gregg Popovich called his number, McGrady delivered this incredulous, risque rhetorical question to a small group of reporters. I almost passed out on site and still laugh every time I think of the mischievous smile on his face as he said it. San Antonio didn’t win the title, but this was a great way to go out. I’ll give McGrady the nod for “Quote of the Year.”
Mahoney: “It’s only like one person that’s more scarier than that and that’s God.” — George Hill on LeBron James after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Everything about this quote is perfect. Hill is a very good basketball player in his own right, and an integral part of an excellent Pacers team. But there’s almost a childlike reverence in his regard for James, made of equal parts wonder and fear. I can’t say I blame him; James has plenty of fire and brimstone in his game, all of which comes out in waves when challenged by high-level competition. Hill had just seen that wrath first-hand in Game 2, when James dropped 36 points on 20 shots while shadowed by one of the best defenders in the game. James was simply a plane beyond that night, operating at a level that was more or less untouchable. That the Pacers still managed to win the game, 97-93, was a testament to their collective execution and will, though in no way could it quell Hill’s awe-driven unease.
3. What was your favorite move, trade or draft pick of 2013?
Golliver: The trade deadline was pretty meh, this year’s draft class has so far been pretty underwhelming, and the July free agency period saw only a small number of big names changing zip codes (Dwight Howard, Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis, Tyreke Evans, etc.). For pure comedy’s sake, the best move by far was Toronto’s trade of Andrea Bargnani to New York. That one paid off again this week when one of his ill-advised threes horrified all of his teammates and two announcing crews. Good times.
The most tantalizing transaction, I think, is one that will be subjected to years of reevaluation: Philadelphia’s decision to trade All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for the rights to Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick. Rarely do you see two teams make such a bold play at the same time. The Sixers, under new GM Sam Hinkie, were clearly torching their roster in hopes of a bright tomorrow. The Pelicans, meanwhile, came to the conclusion that Anthony Davis was headed to franchise player status quickly, even though he was just 20 years old, and that it was time to surround him with legit talent.
We’re roughly six months post-trade now and Noel, regarded as a possible No. 1 pick before a knee injury saw him slide to No. 6, has yet to play or even receive a firm return date. Without him, Philadelphia is in the Atlantic Division basement, despite a hot start and a strong opening month from rookie guard Michael Carter-Williams. New Orleans is hovering within reach of playoff contention and they could reach the postseason for the first time since 2011 if Davis is able to remain healthy and they catch a few breaks. Holiday is having a fine season, even if his recognition as a young talent has predictably been swallowed up by the Western Conference’s deep base of point guard talent (Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, Ricky Rubio, etc.).
In other words, both teams — and the key players involved — are mostly tracking towards to expectations, but little has been decided and there’s still plenty left to shake out over the next half-decade. That type of intrigue is worthy of the “favorite move” title.
Mahoney: I’ll opt for something a bit more immediate: Golden State’s turncoat signing of Andre Iguodala. The former Nugget was ousted from the playoffs by these very Warriors, and yet a few months later it was his addition that made the team whole. Keep in mind that Golden State was never supposed to be in the market for a player of Iguodala’s caliber in the first place; with an assortment of highly compensated pieces on the books — some useful, some not — the Iguodalas of the world seemed well outside their price range. Yet the Warriors shockingly arranged to dump Richard Jefferson (who will make $11.1 million this season), Andris Biedrins (who will make $9 million), and Brandon Rush on the Jazz at the cost of two future first round picks, clearing room for a four-year, $48 million deal on their cap sheet.
The results have been rather spectacular, to the point that one wonders how Golden State ever got by without the versatile forward. Already Iguodala has established himself as a crucial contributor to the renovated Warriors; he handles the ball for an underwhelming second unit, holding things together when Stephen Curry goes to the bench; Iguodala’s defense helps ease the burden on bigs like David Lee and Marreese Speights, who are generally liabilities in coverage; he fits in with the starting lineup wonderfully, as a shooter and slasher, both; Iguodala’s willingness to take on every opponent’s top perimeter scorer allows the Warriors to more fully hide Curry on that end, while positioning Klay Thompson for success in more favorable matchups.
He also did this and this and made these and completed this and, by some power I do not understand, pulled off this. The Warriors have had their ups and downs this season, but holy hell has Iguodala’s Golden State turn been fun.