A running theme lately ’round these parts has been the trend of diva shooting guards who fans and media put on a pedestal but upon closer inspection those with working eyeballs can clearly see their teams are better without them. Kobe Bryant, the darling of the unintelligentsia, falls into this category, as does Monta Ellis, Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas and the prototype, Allen Iverson. Find me a comfortable corner office in the Staples Center, allow me the salary currently paid to Kobe to use on role players, and see if I don’t lead Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum to the NBA Finals.
This leads us to Kevin Martin. A few years ago, Martin was one of the true success stories in the NBA, a no-name from Western Carolina who became Sacramento’s top offensive player while no one was looking. The Kings even cleared their roster of all Mike Bibbys and Ron Artests to turn the reins over to Martin. He was hardly a diva. But a funny thing happened: the Kings drafted Tyreke Evans, who looks and plays like the love child of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and is going to be the Rookie of the Year. Martin, injury-prone the last few seasons, could never develop chemistry with Evans and the Kings were actually a dangerous team, having fun, with Martin sidelined. I predicted their demise upon Martin’s return to the lineup in January and sure enough the Kings lost 12 of their next 13 games. The trade deadline came and Houston swooped in to steal Martin but had to include Carl Landry in the deal. Upon that being announced, I tweeted that I thought I’d rather have Landry than Martin anyways, yet Houston was also dangling Tracy McGrady‘s expiring contract in the proceedings.
So where are we now? The Kings are starting to jell again, with Evans and Landry forming a brutal inside-out power combo to go with serviceable wing players such as Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Andres Nocioni and Donte Greene. Sacramento beat Utah and the Clippers at home last week, then stretched a superb Oklahoma City team to the limit last night, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook needing 69 points between them to pull out a 113-107 win.
I’m not saying Martin can’t succeed in Houston. I’m just saying: beware of shoot-first guards who need the ball, have trouble co-existing with teammates, and/or treat defense as if they would catch a cold by playing it.
Landry, meanwhile, contributed his typical 17 and 7 on 7-of-12 shooting last night, while Evans was outstanding with a 27-6-5. It took superhuman efforts from Durant (39-10), who luckily is superhuman regularly, and Westbrook, who is having a second-half that patient fantasy owners have to be beside themselves about. Did you know Westbrook averaged an 18.8-6.5-10.0 in February? After his 30-5-13 last night, I’m thinking he just might win a lot of championships for some fantasy geeks.
Speaking of fantasy geeks, we wet ourselves over a few other performances in last night’s four-game slate. Let’s take a look:
I’d say Mr. Wade’s calf is feeling better thanks to the Don Nelson Defenseless Miracle Cure. Wade was 15 for 23 from the field en route to a 35-6-12-4 steal masterpiece in a 110-106 squeaker over the Warriors. Ellis did not play for the Warriors, who incidentally played the entire game with Cheshire grins. Anthony Morrow (24 PTS), C.J. Watson (20 PTS, 6 STL) and Stephen Curry (18 PTS, 8 AST) predictably led the way, but the real story here is Ronny Turiaf. With Andris Biedrins not even on the current road trip, Turiaf is a great short-term pickup. He is averaging 12.7 points, 7.0 boards and 2.0 blocks in his last three.
The Celtics outlasted Detroit at the Palace last night, 105-100, and after Boston fell to the Nets at home Saturday I watched the whole thing with both hands covering my eyes. Paul Pierce returned to the lineup (flu/thumb) and had nine points in 29 minutes. Kendrick Perkins missed the game with the flu and was replaced by Rasheed Wallace, who had a nice fantasy line of 10 points, six boards, two threes, two steals and two blocks. Nate Robinson had 14 points in 15 minutes, but there won’t be too many nights when he gets more playing time than that.
The Lakers rolled over Indiana, 122-99, with Ron Artest shutting down Danny Granger (9-0-5) and Jordan Farmer sneaking in 19 points off the bench. The Pacers are the joke of the league right now, and need to be blown up. Kobe may suggest swapping Andrew Bynum for Josh McRoberts this offseason.