Honorable Mention: ‘I’m Back’
On March 18, 1995, Michael Jordan announced he was returning to basketball after spending the previous year and a half swinging a baseball bat. The return was big — billion dollars on an elevator big; two mixtapes in six months big — and announced with just two words on a fax: “I’m back.” Jordan went on to drop 19 points, six rebounds and six assists the next day against the Indiana Pacers.
In similar fashion, today, March 26, 2018 — over 23 years after the return of His Airness — marks the return of my sports columns after spending the last year and three months swinging multicolor pens around the offices of The Dartmouth. Nineteen-points-six-rebounds-six-assists worth of uninspiring commentary and below average analysis inbound. Hold onto your hats.
The National Basketball Association playoffs kick off on April 14, and the playoff races have been tight all year in both conferences. With three weeks left, teams are rounding the corner, either fighting for a spot come April or jockeying for better seeding.
Before the games this past Saturday, the Western Conference three seed Portland Trail Blazers and eight seed Utah Jazz were separated by just 3.5 games. After the top-tier Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, it’s anyone’s race. The upstart Jazz are clinging onto a one-game lead over the Denver Nuggets thanks to the heroics of rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell. For those that aren’t familiar, that’s Donovan “From the logo” Mitchell. Also known as Donovan “Here’s two tickets, ask out that girl from class” Mitchell. Perhaps most famously known as Donovan “Yam farmer” Mitchell. Fun fact: the Nuggets actually drafted Mitchell 13th overall in last year’s draft before trading him to the Jazz for the 24th pick and Trey Lyles. The Nuggets could’ve used more yams.
San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard has only played nine games this season due to a lingering quad injury. Though the Spurs are still tied for the fifth seed in the West and won their last six games, my fantasy team “Ain’t No Kawhi-ing in the Club” has not seen nearly the same success. Knowing the Spurs and Gregg Popovich, it would come as a surprise to no one if Leonard returned a week before the playoffs and made the Spurs extra scary again. Given all the apparent tension between Leonard and the organization though, maybe the San Antonio empire is truly on its last legs. Either way, nobody wants to be the team to find out, least of all current projected playoff opponent the Oklahoma City Thunder. Could you imagine Russell Westbrook’s reaction to drawing the Kawhi-infused Spurs in the first round over the New Orleans Pelicans, the Minnesota Timberwolves or the Jazz? Picture anything from the angry little red character in “Inside Out” to Mark Ruffalo in “Spotlight” or Mark Ruffalo in “The Avengers” or Mark Ruffalo in any Mark Ruffalo movie besides maybe “13 Going On 30.”
In the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors hold the one seed by 4.5 games over the Boston Celtics. The eight seed Milwaukee Bucks hold a comfortable six game lead over the sub-.500 Detroit Pistons. The real story is how much havoc Lebron James and the Cleveland “Lebrons” will wreak in April. This man has not missed a game this season. He’s averaging over 27 points a game, along with over nine assists and over eight rebounds. In a win against the Raptors last Wednesday, James scored 35 points and dished out 17 assists to zero turnovers. A 17 to zero assist to turnover ratio is ridiculous. It’s perfection. It’s like writing an essay in pen and never having to use whiteout or eating a KAF chocolate croissant without getting covered in crumbs. The Cavaliers have won four straight games and five of their last six but are 10.5 games back of first place after a few tumultuous weeks this year. None of that matters — remember kids, the tortoise always wins the race, and Lebron James is one big, bad tortoise.
Just a game and a half behind the Cavaliers are Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers, winners of six straight games. Simmons is having himself a year, making a strong case for Rookie of the Year next to Mitchell, while Embiid has been entertaining both on and off the court. The team is hard to hate, especially given how long “The Process” has taken and the sacrificial ousting of former general manager Sam Hinkie. All of the 76ers’ successes have overshadowed the fact that last year’s first overall pick Markelle Fultz has not played since October. Winning really does seem to cure everything. Maybe he’s hanging out with Kawhi Leonard somewhere.
On March 19, 1995, the Bulls lost to the Pacers in overtime. Jordan, who changed his number from 23 to 45 for the season, shot 25 percent from the field, making seven of his 28 shots. This column will be similarly high volume, low accuracy and, in honor of 45, have a new name: “Honorable Mention.”