As we move steadily towards the start of the season, quite a few teams are looking at this season as a potentially franchise-determining endeavor. Miami is seeking a three-peat. Houston Chicago, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Memphis, Manhattan and Brooklyn and the L.A. Clippers are seeking to claim the prize for themselves. Each of these teams have put a fair amount of pressure upon themselves. But the NBA is a player’s league. Here are 10 players who have the spotlight on them from minute one, with an already bright glare that has the potential to turn withering.
*** *** ***
10. METTA WORLD PEACE
MWP signed with the Knicks and his first tweet was “Where Brooklyn At?” He’s on this list out of principle. You played at St. John’s, Ron, you had to know…wait, sorry, it’s MWP, what was I thinking utilizing logic. It’s more likely that Metta had no idea that there was a team in Brooklyn that was different than the team in Manhattan he just signed with. (I got jokes.) This is going to be so much fun for everyone who dabbles in social media and is not a Knicks fan. The chance of ridiculousness on a team with World Peace and J.R. Smith as it chases Miami, Chicago and Indiana is so high that Vegas wouldn’t let you bet on it for fear of you taking all their money.
9. BRANDON JENNINGS
Before heading to Detroit and getting his contract extension, Brandon Jennings out of office message in Milwaukee probably sounded something like this.
But now Jennings is a player whose gotten some money and is key to a Detroit team that is trying to get back in the business of winning this year, which means that there are expectations. Jennings is a player who was smart enough to get out of an Arizona commitment and go to Europe. He has shown that he’s a top player in the league. He now has to show that he can carry a team expecting more than to sneak into the playoffs. Jennings will have to raise his shooting percentage, keep his turnovers low, and help mesh with Josh Smith. That’s a jump from merely jacking it up on the Bucks, particularly when you’re getting paid.
8. KEVIN DURANT
When you’re the best player on the planet without a ring, the basketball world turns its eyes to you and says “Whatcha got?” Is that fair? Of course not. Are we all doing it? Of course we are. It doesn’t help that Russell Westbrook, the Robin to his Batman, is hurt and we don’t know when he’ll return. That doesn’t give Durant a pass for very long.
7. DWYANE WADE
Well, good sir, whether those chest-pounding tweets were inspired by a Gatorade advertising executive or whether you and Durant had actual beef, it’s set the stage for you to prove you’ve still got it. Due to perpetually being banged up, many have believed that Wade had, through sheer erosion, been dismissed from the top 10 best players in the league. D-Wade will have none of it. Good for him. Now it’s time to show us, not tweet us, which might complicate things when the Best Player On The Planet is your teammate and the dude with the ball.
6. ANDREW BYNUM
The assumption behind this argument is that Andrew Bynum actually feels pressure. That’s a big assumption. For most of his career he was an overachiever who quickly became a spoiled malcontent with the Los Angeles Lakers. He then was sent out of L.A., a brilliant trade by the Lakers, and spent a year collecting a salary for not playing in Philly. Now he’s in Cleveland… because of course he’s in Cleveland. Is he actually going to play 82 games? Is he going to be productive? Who is this guy? The honest answer is we don’t know. If he stays healthy and gets his act together, he has shown All-Star caliber talent. But is this guy ever healthy? “NO!” I hear you screaming, readers, I hear you.