Here come the newbies!
Hold on, do you mean to tell me that NBA rookies are good? A year after Joel Embiid played for 15 minutes and Dario Saric and Malcolm Brogdon engaged in the least heated Rookie of the Year battle in history, the association is suddenly flush with game-changing newcomers again. You’ve got Ben Simmons, looking every bit the Magic Johnson clone that his most ardent supporters thought he would be. I’ll eat crow on this one; I was sure Simmons was going to be a bust with his lazy attitude, lack of success and total inability to hit a jump shot, but here he is averaging close to a triple-double. There’s Jayson Tatum, thrust into a starting role after Gordon Hayward’s horrific injury and responding by averaging over 15 ppg on 50.9% shooting. Reports of his below-average athleticism were unfounded and his half-court offensive game is polished as hell. Lauri Markkanen is perhaps the first big man prospect I’ve seen who can be legitimately compared to Dirk Nowitzki. That is, he’s not just a 7 foot European power forward who can shoot from deep, he actually plays like the big German. Also his nickname is the Finnisher (you’ll never guess where he’s from. That’s right, Norway!) and that’s going directly to the Mt. Rushmore of nicknames. Two big names that are conspicuously struggling: Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz. I’m sure the latter will turn it around, he’s been playing through a shoulder injury and was the consensus top pick for a reason. But Lonzo baby? He’s shooting 30%, getting abused on the defensive end and running out of excuses for Lavar to hype him up. Regardless, we’ll be watching all these guys’ careers with great interest.
The Most Contentious Bryant
Sit down and shut the hell up Martavis. The uber-talented Pittsburgh Steelers receiver was benched this past Sunday after going on a Twitter rant blasting his fellow wideout, rookie Juju Smith-Schuster for taking some of his snaps and targets. I don’t know, maybe instead of whining about your lack of opportunity you can learn how to run something other than a post or slant route and actually produce when you’re facing single coverage from the opposing teams’ second best cornerbacks. As for Pittsburgh, I hope they at least consider trading Bryant (he’s publicly asked for one) instead of just being petty and keeping him on the pine. If only so I can know whether to drop him from my fantasy team or not.
I just realized there was a pretty major sporting event we didn’t discuss here: a few weeks ago, the United States men’s soccer team lost 2-1 to Trinidad & Tobago and failed to qualify for the 2020 World Cup. Here are two relevant figures for you: 323.1 million and 1.4 million. Do you know what those are? They are the respective populations of the US and Trinidad & Tobago. In other words, we lost to a country that has .4% of our population and that is a freaking disgrace. American soccer has been a punchline for years now but as someone who cares about our presence on an international stage, something has to be done. It can’t just be that our best athletes choose other sports, I’m assuming there is something going on at a systemic level. Maybe we prioritize athletic play and AAU clubs and don’t spend enough time developing skill at a young age? I don’t know, I might just be talking out of my ass here. Trump, appoint a sports czar (Bill Simmons could use the work) and let’s get to work on this.