The NBA’s Game Of Thrones

Nothing could ever top Entourage. That’s it. HBO peaked. Any time you can make a show that revolves around a group of friends, boys since back in the day, whose sole ambitions in life are to either be movies stars, be the men who control the movie stars, meet ridiculously hot women, bang those ridiculously hot women, and make piles of money, then you’ve got five stars. It’s as simple as that.

Then, Game of Thrones hit, the season finale last night. It’s the ultimate fantasy world, the ultimate story. Everyone is everyone, jumbled together in this world – so massive but yet small. Storylines and characters criss-cross, plots thicken, break out and then start all over again. It’s the perfect tale of family, slashed open by greed, lust, morality, and of course, the ignorance of a world both ancient and futuristic.

The characters all have stories, and back stories on top of that, layered so deeply that it’s impossible to figure them out. Ned Stark, the lumbering ray of reason. Dany Targaryen, at once a princess and a dragon. Jon Snow, an appetite for more, an oath for less. Cersei Lannister. It’s all there, the Association of the Sword.

These stories, these intertwining themes are what make sports entertainment. We want to see LeBron fail, so his failure can reaffirm: greed, ambition and the easy way out will never work. We want it all packaged into 48 minutes.

As the clock ticks, and time passes from the spring of playoff season into the abyss of the summer, times are changing. The Las Vegas Summer League was extinguished and now we’re left in the very real shadow of doubt. The lockout will almost undoubtedly happen, and whenever the game does come back, it’ll be up to the players to generate the interest once again with the most interesting storylines in their chase for the throne.

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“If we do it your way kingslayer, you’d win. We’re not doing it your way.”

There was never one moment that began the change. It was going on all year long, but it took the playoffs to actually bring it to the surface. Russell Westbrook is no child anymore, not a rookie or a stubborn supporter. He’s an All-Star, and an All-Star rimmed with confidence, game and a desire for more.

In the coming years, no relationship will be more fascinating than the one between Westbrook and the Thunder. His teammates support him. What else can they do? His coaches defend him. What else can they do? It’ll come down to what he wants. And how he wants to get it.

Through the last two or three years, the Thunder have been like college kids, staying up late, partying, living out the last bit of real irresponsibility before the best times end and life starts getting hot.

But now graduation is here. Their first real test. How will they respond, by coming together or apart? Westbrook holds the keys as the unknown. His potential is enormous, but the team doesn’t need that. He’s the Hand of the King (Durant) and their country can’t afford a revolt. If that happens, all these years, all of this growth will be for nothing. The move from exciting unknowns (very good) to calculated killers (best in the league) is the hardest one to make.

“Untie me. If I die, what’s the point?”

Free Gilbert Arenas! At least, that’s what Dwight wants.

“You think my life is such a precious thing to me, that I would trade my honor for a few more years…of what?”

I have this truck, the same one my dad bought in ’99. It’s a ’98 Ford Ranger, red and dependable. For the most part, it runs fine. The AC doesn’t work, the inside light stays on if it rains (very weird, and a HUGE annoyance when you’re driving at night), one of the tires has a slow leak and someone decided it was cool to steal the black, plastic liner in the bed last summer. Without that added aesthetic bonus, it looks MUCH worse. But it still runs.

It rarely leaves the parking lot unless it absolutely has to. Better to save the miles for something important. I’m gonna run it out until it can’t go anymore. It’s only fitting. If the car had a brain, it would want me to. Like a vet colonel on the front lines, it’s only right. Kobe‘s gonna ride this out until his wheels falls off. He’s not gonna be pushing 90 or impressing girls, but he’ll be dependable and the job will get done. One way or another.

“Tell Lord Tywin winter is coming for him. Twenty thousand northerners marching south to find out if he really does sh*t gold.”

Will these Finals make or break the Heat? Can LeBron continue to come up short? Was this finally his breaking point?

“What do we say to the God of death?” … “Not today”

Dirk and the Mavs really only proved one thing during this playoff run. Vets win. They’ve won before. They’re winning now. And they will always win. A friend of mine argued all season that Chicago was the best team in the league. But championships never come without battle scars. Ask Dallas. Ask the Lakers. Ask the Spurs, the team that lived through the ’90s being called everything from choir boys to saints, pretty much the last things anyone in sports want to be called.

Are the NBA’s best players truly the young ones? Maybe. Or are they the older players, the ones smart enough to know their battles, which ones to fight and which ones to forget? The ones winning? The ones who are staving off extinction even as the miles and minutes pile up?

They say it’s a young man’s game. But in this game, it’s the young cats dying, the smart ones learning and prospering and the old ones surviving. And that’s probably the hardest job of all.

“He won’t be a boy forever. And, winter is coming…”

He’s only averaging more assists than Chris Paul did as a rookie (8.6 to 7.8). He’s only averaging more steals than Rose did as a rookie (1.6 to 0.8). He’s only averaging more minutes than Westbrook did as a rookie (38.2 to 32.5). He’s only averaging more of everything than Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams did as rookies (a lot to a little).

What happens when a top pick has to come of age when his biggest rookie competition is blazing a trail of destruction on the entire league and the man he’s compared to becomes an MVP at 22? They are forgotten. Overlooked. Then next season, or perhaps the year after that, when he does blow up, it’ll become a question of how? How did he get so good in so short a time? We said the same things about Derrick Rose this year. But in truth, John Wall‘s path to super-duper stardom hasn’t wavered or lost it’s course at all. He’s right on time, and soon everyone will see that.

The real catch? None of that will matter if the Wizards don’t rise from the cellar. Andray Blatche. JaVale McGee. Nick Young. The Looney Tunes. While they may never don a Washington uniform again – who knows? – for now, the motley crew holds the key to unlocking Wall’s promise because a genius stuck in a class of Billy Madisons becomes a genius no more.

“First lesson: stick ’em with the pointy end.”

Whichever unlucky soul – probably Kyrie Irving – gets dropped into the mess in Cleveland, it’ll be years of lessons. The Duke point guard couldn’t have picked a worse time to be a number one pick. As the first light since the King went “traitor,” there will be pressure, and hardly any resources.

If anything, Irving will take his lumps, will hear the questions, will watch as the hope of his arrival dwindles. When they say you will carry us, they really mean it. Irving will have to bear the brunt of Cleveland’s scars, picking up the pieces of the forgotten city until more help finally does arrive.

“You’re just a soldier, aren’t you? You take your orders and you carry on. I suppose it makes sense. Your older brother was trained to lead, and you were trained to follow.” … “I was also trained to kill my enemies, your Grace.” … “As was I.”

Will Tyreke, DeMarcus Cousins & the Kings ever be able to co-exist?

“Very handsome armor. Not a scratch on it.” … “People have been swinging at me for years, they always seem to miss.” … “You’ve chosen your opponents wisely.” … “I have a knack for it.”

If Tim Duncan had an ego, he would be at the throats of the Spurs’ front office: R.C. Buford, Pop and the rest.

Even though they won 61 games last year, it never seemed real. No one believed in them and during the playoffs, a young and hungry and athletic mismatch exploited them. Still good enough to be solid. But no longer great. And to think it took Zach Randolph to finally swing down the sword and prove it’s a new day. When will they realize it?

Duncan needs someone to take over for him. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker aren’t quite good enough to be the leading men on a championship team. San Antonio needs to hit a home run in the draft (not likely, especially this year) or make some moves. They built loyalty and success through years of doing the it all the right way, being smart, savvy and efficient. Now, do the right thing and give Duncan another shot at another ring. Get some help.

What do you think?

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