Last night’s Heat/Cavs game exemplifies why I’m obsessed with sports. It was the ultimate reality show, an unscripted drama. Within every game and every matchup, there are compelling stories developing.
While the basketball world is still analyzing LeBron James‘ homecoming in Cleveland, I wanted to touch on why exactly he left in the first place. Cavaliers’ management just couldn’t bring LeBron a good sidekick. No one wins in the League by themselves, and yet LeBron almost did with Zydrunas Ilgauskas as his right-hand man during that 2007 NBA Finals run. No disrespect to Big Z, but he was not quite a championship-caliber second option. The Cavs then tried to sell Mo Williams in that role, but he had too many playoff no-shows. Same for Antawn Jamison. And even when the Cavs went out and got Shaq, they were just a little too late in Shaq’s career to make it work.
Now LeBron is down in Miami with a few superstars running with him. He’s not the only player in a situation where the “sidekick” is playing just as well as — and sometimes even better than — the stars in front of them. And because of that, the identified “franchise” guy will never be in a position like LeBron, looking around for more help that isn’t coming. Here are the Top 5 players who can keep a franchise player happy:
Russell Westbrook — I’ll be honest: I didn’t think Westbrook’s numbers would improve too much from the 16.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 8.0 assists he posted last season. With Kevin Durant expected to be the MVP coming into this season, I didn’t see much room for Westbrook to grow. Boy, did he prove me wrong. He lifted his numbers in all three categories, as he is posting 24.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 8.6 assists. Dude is a monster. He dropped 43 points against the Pacers last week, and earlier this week put up 38 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists in a triple-overtime thriller against the Nets. It’s no wonder why Durant signed his extension so quickly this summer.
Pau Gasol — Pau is a force. He’s putting up 20.4 points, 11.9 rebounds behind Kobe Bryant, and was an important piece of the Lakers’ recent back-to-back championships. So far this season he has recorded a triple-double, has grabbed double-digit rebounds in all but four games, and is eighth in the league in blocks, averaging two per game. Gasol is the glue that holds L.A.’s three-peat hopes together.
Paul Millsap — There was plenty of talk about how Deron Williams was worried about the future in Utah after losing three of his key teammates to the Bulls this summer. The Jazz front office brought in Al Jefferson to calm his concerns, but the answer was on his roster the whole time. Millsap has filled the No. 2 role quite well in Utah’s 15-5 start. He is a double-double treat every time he steps on the floor with his increased role this year. He dropped 46 points against the Heat last month and his numbers (18.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg) are very respectable.
Raymond Felton — It took a while, but Amar’e Stoudemire and Felton seem to have built some chemistry. They have won seven of their last eight games, and they have made the Knicks respectable for the first time in a long time. Their pick-and-roll game is getting better each night. Felton’s 18.2 points and 8.1 assists a game has made Stoudemire’s Big Apple move a lot smoother than expected.
LeBron James — The verdict is still out on who is the No. 1 guy in Miami. LeBron gets the most media coverage of anybody on the Heat roster, but when you look at the big picture, James was one of Miami’s additions to keep Dwyane Wade happy in South Beach. Although they are still working out the kinks, with LeBron leading the team in scoring and assists, the Heat were successful in making their franchise player happy.
What do you think?
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