Basketball, Columnists, Sports

The 2-3 Zone, including the return of Carmelo Anthony

“The 3”

Three to the dome! Carmelo Anthony is back! Emotions were high Tuesday night in New Orleans as the power forward returned to the hardwood for the first time in over a year. Despite a lackluster performance from Anthony that included him finishing the game at an abysmal -20 plus/minus in 24 minutes, those emotions were enough to carry forward a wave of support for the ten-time All-Star.

Unfortunately for the Portland Trail Blazers, the love that many around the National Basketball Association hold for Anthony is not going to help them win any games. 

The Trail Blazers’ ugly loss at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday brought their record to 5-10 for the season. While power forward Zach Collins’ injury and center Hassan Whiteside’s lack of effort are certainly significant factors, the Trail Blazers have undoubtedly been underperforming. 

Anthony, who hasn’t played professional basketball in over a year and frankly doesn’t contribute many positive things on either side of the ball, is not going to be able to adequately help the Blazers with their struggles this season as the lowest-ranked team in the Western Conference.

On the flip side of the conference are the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks have pleasantly surprised NBA fans this season after firmly inserting themselves in the playoff race during the first few weeks of the year.

The key to the Mavericks’ success has been MVP candidate Luka Doncic. Entering this season, a claim like that may have seemed somewhat outlandish, but Doncic has proven himself to be one of the best players in the league this year.

Doncic, the Mavericks’ star guard is averaging an absurd 29.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 9.4 assists per game, according to Basketball Reference. These stats go alongside a style of James Harden-esque basketball that many fans seem to actually be enjoying.

Even with Doncic and many others around the league playing exciting basketball, the NBA’s TV ratings are down, according to a report from Sports Media Watch.

The league is going to have a serious problem if it cannot stop its ratings from sliding further. The NBA has more competition and parity than it’s had in years. There’s talent all over the league. When teams like the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves are stepping up and competing in the playoff race, the NBA is in a better place.

The increased talent and competition level in the league is not enough to entice fans to tune in to the regular season, though. The way the last few NBA seasons have played out, most casual fans of the league only take professional basketball seriously when the playoffs roll around. If the NBA cannot find a way to give more value to the regular season, their national TV ratings will only continue to struggle.

The “2”

The San Antonio Spurs are bad — really bad — and not nearly enough people are paying attention. After a solid 4-1 start that featured wins against a myriad of mediocre opponents, the Spurs lost nine of their next ten games. 

And while the Spurs are an understandably boring team — they unsurprisingly rank dead last in the league in three pointers made per game — many preseason rankings projected this team to make the playoffs.

If they continue to play the way they have, those playoff aspirations are far from promising. Sure, former NBA All-Defense team point guard Dejounte Murray is still a frightening swarm of limbs on defense and forward LaMarcus Aldridge combined with shooting guard DeMar DeRozan can definitely dominate the mid-range game, but this is a team that just doesn’t fit well in the modern NBA.

If Gregg Popovich can’t figure things out in San Antonio, the Spurs are going to be in trouble in a loaded Western Conference.

Right near the top of that loaded West stands a team that isn’t getting enough credit for their early season success — the Houston Rockets. Following a pair of difficult losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat, the Rockets went on an eight game winning streak. 

During that winning streak, point guard James Harden averaged over 42 points per game and the Rockets had one of the top defensive ratings in the league, according to NBA Advanced Stats.

It can be hard to believe in Harden given his past playoff failures, but he is a real threat to average 40 points per game this season. With numbers like that, coupled with a ton of regular season dominance by the Rockets, Harden may very well find himself right around the top of the MVP race again this season.

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