The NBA Playoffs start in eight days (!!!!!!!!) so each day until then we’ll be taking a look at some of the most important storylines leading up to the best two months of the year.
Last night while watching the doubleheader on TNT I focused of course on Monta Ellis and Jordan Crawford – two of my favorite players in the league.
While Monta is the better player, the two certainly have their similarities. Both are often accused of being me-first gunners and are generally good-to-great scorers that don’t bring a ton else to the table. Of course, these reputations certainly aren’t unfounded. Hell, Monta shot 28 percent from three last year and still fired up an average of four per game. Similarly, Steez has never been shy about letting it go (LETTT IT GOOOOOO, LET IT GOOOOOOO), getting up about eleven shots per night on average for his career, despite playing under 25 minutes a night.
So yes, neither player is even in danger of not getting his, but there’s more to each of them than just running and gunning. Surely in part because he isn’t stuck in Milwaukee, and also because he gets to play with Dirk now, Monta has greatly elevated his game from last season, helping lead the Mavericks to the brink of the playoffs. Steez, meanwhile, proved earlier this year in Boston that when he’s given the chance to be a starting point guard, he isn’t half bad. (Should he be a starting point guard in the league? Well, no. But he distributed the ball much better than anyone thought he would.)
Are they each flawed? Definitely. But are they each also genuinely exciting to watch? Definitely. And sometimes the basketball community—myself included—gets caught up in the emerging world of stats and analytics and forget about the joy and beauty and excitement of just watching basketball because it’s fun. We’re all drawn to basketball—at least initially—because of the way it makes us feel when we play and watch the game.
Watching Monta and Steez play brings that out for me more than most players in the league, which is why I love watching them. Two plays from last night in particular stuck out, each crazy layups that are microcosms of each player’s whole career. First there was Monta, darting through the lane and flying towards the rim with reckless abandon. And then there was Steez, initially getting himself into a precarious position, but scheming his way out of it with a shot only he could convert.
Here are those two plays—set to High School Musical’s “Breaking Free” because I’m weird and that’s what came to mind when I saw these two shots.
Monta and Steez: soaring, flying, and (hopefully someday) breaking free of their reputations.