#IMHO: The return of Steph Curry! Plus favorites players, and a new postseason format?

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Kelcey Wright Johnson weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Monday, January 4, 2021 2:36 PM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: IMHO

Hey Kelcey!

So, we are officially one week into the season, and I think the biggest story thus far was last night’s Warriors game, where the team that had gotten off to a slow start (they were 2-3) came out and grabbed a big win over the Trail Blazers, 137-122. But it wasn’t just the win that got people talking, it was the 62-point performance from Steph Curry. Curry had gotten off to a quiet start this season, but last night he gave us the MJ meme personified – “…and I took that personally.”

It was fun to see Steph clap back at everyone and turn in one of those Steph from 2016ish nights. But those games don’t happen as often as they used to, and without Klay Thompson this season, this Warriors team is probably still going to struggle.

But back to Steph. I know he’s a two-time MVP and one of the best shooters to ever play the game. But right now, in today’s NBA, where do you rank Steph Curry among the top players in the game?

From: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Sent: Monday, January 4, 2021 10:41 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

Sheesh! I was sitting on my couch after our game last night watching Steph just light… it… up. He was taking shots that had no business going in and sinking them with ease.

And then his final shot? Like, how did that even make it to the hoop, nonetheless swish for a long two?

As a former shooting guard, I am always in awe of his hot streaks. And I think that’s going to be a lot of what he faces this year, with the scoring load that is being put on him without Klay: Streaks.

Yes, he’s averaging 32 points per game because he can find other ways to score (I think his ability to create space for himself is uncanny), but some nights he doesn’t have it. He went 2-for-10 from beyond the arc in back-to-back games this season already.

An impressive stat, even though some people will tell me that it’s not, is that he has already taken 49 foul shots this year. This man is getting to the hoop, not just pulling up from the logo! OH – and he’s made 48 of them. Are you kidding me, Steph?

Anyway, I think he’s the best shooter in the game and a top ten player in the NBA right now. But, who knows, maybe I’m blinded for shooters.

Weird to think about though: When you think of your all-time favorite players, do you have a position you gravitate toward? Is anyone’s favorite player of all-time a center? No, right?

Steph Curry celebrating in front of Championship banners

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Tuesday, January 5, 2021 11:03 AM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: IMHO

That’s an interesting question, and I think the answer may be in large part geographical.

When I was a kid growing up in Atlanta, my favorite player was Dominique Wilkins, not because he was a small forward, but because he was the best player on the team that I watched the most. Later, when I was in high school, my favorite player became Kevin Johnson from the Phoenix Suns, just because I really like the way he played and carried himself. (Also, I thought it was cool that he wore number 7, which not a lot of people rocked back then. When I managed to get a reversible number 7 practice jersey from my high school coach, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.)

Perhaps if you grew up somewhere with a dominant big man—New York during the Ewing era, Houston during Olajuwon’s time, LA or Orlando when Shaq was there—then I can see how maybe your favorite player would be a center. But geography aside, I think the reason everyone prefers guards is because they’re so relatable. Steph Curry looks like a kid out there running around on the court among all those giants. Kids see that and think, “That could be me!” There’s a reason giant wrestlers are never as popular as guys like CM Punk or Daniel Bryan. Nobody roots for the big guy, it’s sad to say, says this big guy.

Kelcey, speaking of the Knicks, as I type this the New York Knicks are sitting at 4-3, good for fifth place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Immanuel Quickley seems like the steal of the draft, and your Canadian countryman RJ Barrett is playing like the real deal. Plus, it’s early, so Tom Thibodeau hasn’t been able to wear all these young guys out quite yet.

What do you think: Are the Knicks going to make the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade?

Dominique Wilkins dunking during All-Star Game

From: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Sent: Wednesday, January 6, 2021 7:04 AM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

It’s been a rough few years for the Knicks (and Knicks fans) and I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel for them. But hear me out…

Despite a hot start to the season, I don’t see them finishing in the top eight in the Eastern Conference. BUT (and this is a big but), the NBA is doing everything they can to put them in playoff contention this year.

Last year the Knicks were 11th in the East and only 2.5 games behind Charlotte—everything would indicate that they’re an even better team this season and the way this shortened season’s post-season is set up, they’ve got a better shot than ever before.

I could be wrong on this, but isn’t it set up a little like last year with a play-in tournament? But even more teams are involved this year: In both conferences, the seventh and eighth seeds meet for a game, with the winner clinching the seventh seed. Then the winner of a game between the nine and ten seeds would face the loser of the 7/8 game for that final playoff spot.

It’s a great format if you end the regular season in the 9 or 10th seed (it kinda sucks if you finish in the 7th or 8th). So, this is the year you’ve got an extra shot at the postseason.

Am I crazy for loving that format? Or do I just love it because I think it helps the Grizzlies this season and I’m turning into a crazy homer?

RJ Barrett layup

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Wednesday, January 6, 2021 8:51 AM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: IMHO

I’m pretty sure that you’re right about the playoff format—I, too, am a little fuzzy on the details, but I know the NBA approved a one-year change to the old playoff format, where the teams at the bottom of the postseason standings have a shot to sneak in.

Why the change? Well, last season I sorta understood it, because the season ended abruptly, and we didn’t get the entire 82 games in before the postseason. Did it seem like the NBA was trying to help some of the teams that weren’t in the top eight get a little boost? Sure. At the same time, the Blazers were red hot in the bubble, and they were rewarded for the way they were playing. At the same time, it felt like it penalized a team like the Grizzlies, who put together a body of work over the course of the (truncated) season that showed they were one of the best teams in the NBA, then got tripped up by injuries in the Bubble.

So why are we doing it again this year? I don’t really know. Call me old school, Kelcey, but I don’t understand why teams are playing 72 games, and then having their postseason chances come down to a two-game series. Isn’t there a reason we are playing the other 72 games? It just feels unnecessary to me.

And yeah, I know, I should probably follow this statement up by shaking my fist at the sky and yelling, “You kids get off my lawn!” Will it add interest to the playoff race? Probably. But does it seemingly undermine the need for a full regular season? To me, it does, which seems like an odd choice when so many people already feel the NBA season is too long.

But that’s just me. Let me eat my Metamucil and grumble about technology.

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