When a game is played there seems to be only one thing that’s agreeable across the board, and that’s the final score. The winner and loser of a contest is fact, but everything else is left to point of view.
When the points of view pick and choose certain elements of a situation then narratives are created and perpetuated. Two of the most popular ones this past season dealt with LeBron James – and by extension the Heat – and Russell Westbrook. LeBron can only do it for three quarters, he’s a horrible person, he’ll never get a ring, he doesn’t want the last shot. In turn there was the constant chatter of the Heat cheating the system, taking the easy route, only have two stars instead of three and being crybabies. Westbrook narratives generally ran along the lines of hindering Kevin Durant and not helping him, being the weak link, being selfish and being condemned for what Derrick Rose is lauded for in Chicago.
These two narratives were the top ones from what I saw during the regular season and playoffs. Both were cut at the knees during the playoffs, but will remain alive in some ways because so many people love the narrative.
Going into the new season what will be some narratives that are hard to drown out?
Hit the jump for the rest of Demarcus’ piece…
The Lakers are Public Enemy #1: The Lakers’ front office have put all of its cards on the table for the upcoming season. Steve Nash and Dwight Howard were acquired and Andrew Bynum was shipped out. Their starting five looks exciting, intriguing and better. The organization saw the writing on the wall and wanted to do whatever it could to maximize what’s left in Kobe Bryant’s tank. What some people will gather is a second coming of the Heat. Dwight whined his way to L.A. and now there’s another juggernaut to deal with for other teams that “do it the right way”. The Lakers are just doing what the Lakers have been known to do. If they win the title next summer then it was already written and should have happened. If they manage to get beat in the finals or bounced earlier then it becomes 2010-11 Heat 2.0 in terms of backlash. If a ring is secured there will also be talk of Kobe riding the coattails of a string of talented big men. Shaq, Gasol (and Bynum to an extent) and now Howard. There are already those who say Kobe used Shaq to gain success.
Westbrook and Durant: I already stated the main points of this one and we could see it again. The Thunder made it to the finals before ultimately being ousted by the Heat. Those who thought Westbrook would prevent KD from going to the finals are now proven wrong, but they’ll just shift it to preventing KD from actually taking it all. With the deflated performance of James Harden this may extend to him and become a sort of KD’s pawn’s always let him down type thing. Everyone loves Durant and context is shaped to paint him as a sympathetic figure. His own shortcomings won’t make it to the pages of narratives.
The pressure is on Melo: When Carmelo Anthony came into the NBA he did so connected to LeBron Jame, and they’ve remained connected (at a great distance). For a while, as short as it was, the thought was these two would battle for greatness. One has reached greatness while the other has lost much of his luster. LeBron silenced the championship demons that others placed upon him and now it will be Melo’s turn. The only true problem with this is that Melo isn’t befitting of such ridicule. It was unfair to LeBron to constantly batter him with such chatter, but at least it was understandable in a way. Anthony on the other hand hasn’t done much to fuel the “when, if ever” debate. He’s a great scorer, but his game has lacked urgency in any other area. His offense typically comes by hurting others in the offense. Much of this has been his fault, and some of it has been the fault of the person coaching the team. He’s much more efficient at the four, but who knows if that could ever bring Melo to the level that is often bestowed upon him. I’m not saying he’ll never win a ring, but the suffocating pressure to win one won’t be place on him. Still, there will be talks of him falling further from the heights LeBron has reached. They’re still connected, but by an infinitely long rope. It really is a narrative that made itself the day both entered the NBA, and could be reignited when the white hot NY spotlight points that out. This narrative will be born out of the one that has grown silent.