Five Takeaways from the NBA Bubble

Photo via CBS Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have just won the NBA Finals. They defeated the Miami Heat in a six-game series to win their 17th championship in franchise history. The two teams were in the bubble for a little over two months, an honorable feat in pursuit of completing this historic season. The Lakers were undeniably the best team, with their superstar duo of Lebron James and Anthony Davis, proving too much for the rest.

Now, as the season has just wrapped up, I thought I would look at some of the things the bubble taught us. Here are the five biggest takeaways I have gotten from watching the last two months of bubble basketball.

1. The Lakers are the best team in basketball, and they have zagged in a potentially league-altering way.

By winning the championship, the Lakers have established themselves as the model for NBA success. But how did they do it? By going against everything the last five years have taught us. They played a supersized lineup that struggled with three-point shooting, the staple of the recent champions in the NBA. While every other team was busy trying to copy the Golden State Warriors model of shooting and small ball, the Lakers went the other way. They started 6’10 Anthony Davis alongside a seven-foot center, with 6’8 LeBron running the point. They ranked 12th among the 16 playoff teams in three-point percentage. With this result, the rest of the team will be faced with a tough question. Are the Lakers the new model for success, or was this a fluky year during which the Warriors were simply out of contention? This will be a hard question to answer, but given the Lakers success, and the success of a team like the Denver Nuggets, whose best player is a center. I think we will see a bigger variance in strategy among NBA teams. Some will undoubtedly continue their pursuit of the Warriors model, but some will divert their efforts and model themselves after the supersized Lakers. This should lead to an interesting clash of strategical ideologies.

2. The bubble was an extreme circumstance that exacerbated both hard-working culture and chemistry flaws in certain teams.

This is a note about the bubble, so it won’t be something useful to take into the future, but it did reveal which teams have good culture and chemistry. In a normal year, the Los Angeles Clippers would probably have beaten the Denver Nuggets, but the bubble exposed their chemistry issues. The Milwaukee Bucks were similarly exposed. The teams known for continuity and culture, namely the Portland Trail Blazers, the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets, all outperformed expectations. This became a season where chemistry and culture were more important than ever, and this revealed the flaws in some teams, while revealing the strengths in others.

3. Young teams defied NBA history during successful bubble.

Throughout the history of the league, teams built with veterans almost always outperform young teams. This year’s playoffs flipped that narrative on its head. The Denver Nuggets made the conference finals led by two players in their mid to early 20’s. The Boston Celtics achieved the same, led by a 21-year-old Jayson Tatum. The Miami Heat made the Finals with Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, and Duncan Robinson playing key roles. The Lakers won it all with a veteran team, but they were the exception in this year’s postseason. What was the reason for this? Probably the fact that all these players had to focus on in the bubble was basketball, instead of temptations young players normally face. This whole bubble was also exhausting to the players, favoring those with younger legs. This is a trend that I don’t expect to carry into the future, but for this unique season, the historical dominance of veteran teams was completely reversed.

4. The team with the best player in the series rarely loses.

When I was making my series predictions, a common trope I fell back on was picking the team with the best player. Unfortunately, sometimes predicting which teams has the best player is just as difficult to project. In the Bucks/Heat series, it would seem reasonable to assume the league MVP would be the best player. However, due to matchups and play style, Jimmy Butler was the best player in that series, and his team ultimately won. There is definitely wisdom in picking the team with the best player, but the best player can change from series to series based on matchups, among other reasons. The Nuggets beat the Utah Jazz in the first round because Jamal Murray prevailed over Donovan Mitchell as the best player in the series. In the following round, the Nuggets beat the Clippers because Nikola Jokic was the best player. Moving forward, while leaning on the best player in the series argument almost always works, more thought will need to be given to projecting which player will be the best in that given series.

5. The West could be the best it has ever been next season.

This is a takeaway that became apparent during the seeding games, where the lowly Phoenix Suns went 8-0 and showed that they will be a threat in the West next season. But which team won’t be a threat? I would contend that all 15 teams will enter next season with playoff aspirations. The Sacramento Kings almost made the playoffs last year, had a good second half of this season and will hopefully be getting a full season of Marvin Bagley. The Minnesota Timberwolves have the number one pick in the draft, and will find out how the Karl-Anthony Towns/D’Angelo Russell pairing plays. The New Orleans Pelicans are a team on the rise, with a promising young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. The San Antonio Spurs always find a way to playoff contention. All of the perennially bad teams in the West have reason for optimism next season, and it will be fun to see whether the playoff mainstays remain at the top, or if we will be seeing a few new teams in the playoffs next season. Either way, the regular season will have much fewer games where the outcome seems settled from before the tip, and this should lead to a very competitive regular season, as well as postseason.

NFL Week 5 Takeaways

Photo via CBS Sports

Week 5 of the NFL season has concluded, albeit a day later than usual. Due to positive COVID-19 tests from the Tennessee Titans, they had to play their game against the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday night. After a wild and chaotic week in the NFL, here are my takeaways from Week 5 as we transition into Week 6.

  1. Jerry Jones needs to pay Dak Prescott

Everyone in the NFL community came together in support of Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott as he suffered a gruesome season-ending ankle injury Sunday against the New York Giants. It was devastating to see in part because Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones has refused to give Dak a long-term contract.

This offseason, he was given the franchise tag and now, suffered a season-ending injury without a long-term contract or guaranteed money after this season. Jones got heaps of criticism after the injury and for good reason. Dak has proven himself to be the franchise QB and he doesn’t have a future set in stone with the team as the possibility of him leaving the Cowboys is possible.

There are two options for Dak going forward: accept a one-year contract to increase his value after his injury or Jones should do the right thing and give Dak a long-term contract. Dak has given everything for the franchise and it’s time for Jones to take care of Dak when he needs it now.

2. Stop sleeping on the Tennessee Titans

It is mind boggling to me how a team who finished last season 7-3 after switching QBs and made the AFC Championship game was overlooked as an AFC contender and by some, even a playoff team. Ryan Tannehill has thrown 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions with 3,971 yards since taking over as the Titans’ starting QB Week 7 of last season. The Titans have gone 13-4 with him as the QB, yet the Titans are an afterthought in the big picture of the championship chase.

This came to afront Tuesday night as despite not practicing the past two weeks, they throttled the previously undefeated Buffalo Bills 42-16 as Tannehill threw three more touchdowns without wide receivers Adam Humphries and Corey Davis and ran for another. While Derrick Henry has been a huge reason for the Titans’ success, Tannehill has been just as vital. The Titans should not be counted out in the Super Bowl discussion as they are for real. It would not surprise me if the Titans face the Kansas City Chiefs again in the AFC Championship game.

3. The Las Vegas Raiders are dangerous

The Chiefs were easily the best team the first four weeks of the season and after demolishing the Baltimore Ravens 34-20 on Monday Night Football, 16-0 seemed like a possibility. However, the Raiders came into Arrowhead Stadium at Kansas City and ended those possibilities along with their 13-game winning streak.

The Raiders were explosive on offense, gaining 490 total yards as Derek Carr hit Henry Ruggs III and Nelson Agholor on deep touchdown passes. They only turned the ball over once and were aggressive on defense, slowing down the Chiefs’ offense in the second half. They played a great game and head into their bye week looking to heal up as wide receiver Bryan Edwards has been out and left tackle Trent Brown and Ruggs have dealt with injuries. Once they return to action, expect them to be a tough out going forward.

4. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need discipline

Last season, the Cleveland Browns were a major disappointment in large part due to their vast amount of penalties. They were undisciplined and often hurt themselves with untimely penalties. This season, the team whose been sabotaging their chances with penalties the most has been the Buccaneers.

They lead the NFL in penalties with 42 and are second behind the New Orleans Saints in penalty yards with 410. In their 20-19 loss Thursday Night to the Chicago Bears, 12 penalties were accepted for 114 yards, some of which killed promising drives and extended Bears drives. Tom Brady must wish he was coached by Belichick this season as the New England Patriots did not pick up a single offensive penalty until the fourth quarter of their 26-10 Week 4 loss at Kansas City. If the Bucs are going to be taken seriously, they must cut down on the penalties.

‘Strange Adventures #6’ review

I don’t know about you all, but I have been heavily anticipating this issue since the end of Strange Adventures #4, which teased a one-on-one confrontation between Mister Terrific and Alanna Strange. The smartest man on Earth versus Rann’s future leader. Strange Adventures has consistently been my favorite comic on the shelves since it debuted back in March and that stays the case with this issue. Spoilers for the first five issues of Strange Adventures ahead.

Adam Strange has united the peoples of Rann against the Pykkt. Despite being vastly outnumbered without aid from the Justice League, Alanna Strange is convinced that Rann will succeed. Adam may not be as hopeful as his wife, but if she can stand strong in the face of such powerful opposition, he can as well. The Pykkt may be strong, but no planet’s people are as resilient as those of Rann.

Mister Terrific and Alanna Strange discussing the terrible weather in Strange Adventures #6 (art by Mitch Gerads)

To contrast, in the modern day, Alanna Strange is less than hopeful of not just Earth’s chances against the Pykkt, but the clearance of her husband’s name as well. She confronts Mister Terrific in an effort to convince him to drop his case against Adam. Terrific refuses to truly listen to her unless she tells him the complete truth. Although hesitant at first, Alanna reveals the reason behind her and Adam’s nihilism after Rann defeated the Pykkt.

Tom King perfectly intertwines the intimidating, action-packed battle against the Pykkt perfectly with the slow subdued conversation between Terrific and Alanna. Upon seeing the hefty tolls of the battle combined with the story Alanna tells in the modern day, King allows readers to further sympathize with her. The “humanization” of Alanna Strange comes as no surprise considering how well King wrote Big Barda in his run of Mister Miracle. While coming from completely different backgrounds, it’s hard not to compare the relationship the two characters share with the leading man of the two comics. King is consistently able to make these larger-than-life characters feel like real people despite the “strange adventures” surrounding them. The characterization of both Terrific and Alanna through their conversation with each other is captivating and was worth the wait. While the dialogue is brilliant, the tone is most potent when the conversation is minimal, allowing us to bask at the amazing art.

Adam and Alanna Strange looking over what will soon become a battlefield in Strange Adventures #6 (art by Doc Shaner)

It is artists Mitch Gerads and Doc Shaner that make this issue the masterpiece of storytelling that it is. The bright teals and deep blues of Gerads’ panels perfectly showcase the deeper character drama at work between Terrific and Alanna. Doc Shaner, on the other hand, continues that more pulpy science-fiction feel teased in his cover’s tagline “Amazing Science Fiction!” The beautiful action presented in each of his panels left my mouth agape. The two pages at the beginning and end of the issue displaying the battlefield before and after with Adam and Alanna looking over admiring the view are fantastic and show just how much the war is affecting Rann. Gerads and Shaner continue to impress with their use of color and panel layout, giving Strange Adventures its unique style.

It seems that every issue of Strange Adventures is better than the last, and this issue is no exception. I genuinely love this comic and it is absolutely a must read for anyone who loves comics.

Rating: 9.5/10

Buy the comic: https://www.comixology.com/Strange-Adventures-2020-6/digital-comic/894468?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC9pdGVtU2xpZGVy