Back To The Journey, Week One: New Game Plus

Welcome to the 2018-19 NBA season. The Association still believes that its destination will be another championship for the Golden State Warriors. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the season as a whole. Last year was wonderful, so let's return to the path. Let's go back to the Journey.

Song of The Week: LL Cool J - "Mama Said Knock You Out"

Video games are a part of my life. On my Twitter account, I have a few clips and pictures of me playing various games such as God of War, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike and Marvel's Spider-Man. I lean towards games with replay value, especially ones with stories that allow immersion. One of the best features in all of gaming is the ability to play a game again after beating it while keeping the gear, abilities and experience from the previous play-through. They call this "New Game Plus(+)," and it gives players a feeling of power and experience to conquer levels and challenges with better tools. The game developers tend to make subtle changes to the story or the difficulty of the levels to continue to keep content fresh. For example, in God of War, the collectible accessories are more powerful, but the enemies are stronger with different fight patterns. Those are subtle ways to both reward and challenge players for completing the game.

The NBA is like that. Each season, the team records are reset. Players, coaches and executives change, with the new content ranging from rookies with fledgling abilities to veterans who gain new skills while others deteriorate. Stats and odds according to US Bookies are revised and updated. There are even new rule changes, such as the shot clock resetting to 14 on offensive rebounds that slightly change the details of the game without changing the core game of NBA basketball. Each season is a new game, with all the experience and features from previous seasons, but the ending of one team raising the Larry O'Brien Trophy will never change, whether the same team is crowned champion or not. The NBA is a video game with the same plot with developed and new characters, with each level and battle different from the others. The ending is unique every year and we start the game over every fall with added content not available last year. As its tagline says, "I love this game!"

This slogan sums up my feelings about basketball perfectly. (Louisville Sports Buzz)

Speaking of bonus content:

We must discuss the fight between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. Tension began to boil as Lakers forward Brandon Ingram pushed James Harden after a stoppage in play. Both teams proceeded in familiar fashion, coming together and shouting without further physical contact. Then, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo got face to face. After perceiving Rondo spit on him, Paul put his finger in Rondo's face. Rondo responded by throwing and landing punches, then things escalated. Ingram also came into the fray, throwing a punch from what seemed like ten feet away because of his lanky arms. In the end, Rondo, Ingram and Paul were ejected, and the Rockets hung onto a 124-115 win over the Lakers.

Overreaction has been rampant in the days since. From accusations and denial from both teams, to questioning LeBron James' loyalty because he tried to calm down his children's godfather instead of his teammate, there are so many microwaved opinions that speak too much to the general desire to pick a side in the name of being right. Allow a more nuanced perspective. Instead of figuring out who is to blame or how this will galvanize or divide the Lakers, think about this: Rondo and Paul have had incidents going back nearly a decade. It is fascinating to consider that two truly ingenious floor generals have such disdain between them that remains after they've each changed teams multiple times. It doesn't matter if it's healthy or wrong to me. I'm acknowledging that the current head of the NBA Players' Association and a player who most consider an awesome teammate have a beef that has chapters to it.

This scuffle most certainly confirms that this season will be different than last.

Blurbs Are Back, Too!

  • The NBA's first triple-double belongs to Pelicans point guard Elfrid Payton (and his *New* hair). Yes, it met the bare minimum requirements with him having ten each of points, rebounds and assists, but it confirms that the Louisiana native is trying to have a fresh start in New Orleans, on now his third team.
  • On opening night, the Toronto Raptors debuted their new forward Kawhi Leonard. The more interesting factoid here is that Leonard is the 15th different small forward to start for the Raptors in the last 16 years. This tweet from Josh Lewenberg lists the names, including the likes of Jamario Moon, Jalen Rose and Hedo Turkoglu. The NBA really does change year by year.
  • We have already had multiple game-winning shots this season. Miami's Kelly Olynyk put back a Dwyane Wade miss as time expired, giving the Heat a 113-112 win over the Wizards last Thursday. Caris LaVert of the Nets scored a basket to beat the Knicks on Friday, and that same night, Golden State's Jonas Jerebko tipped in a rebound against his former team the Utah jazz, pushing the Warriors to 2-0 as of that day. Hopefully, we have more good and close games this year.
  • Shout out to the Washington Mystics' Kristi Tolliver joining the Washington Wizards' coaching staff. Tolliver is one of the WNBA's best players, and the Wizards are lucky to have her knowledge. This is a great step towards diversity and equality in sports.
  • This week's Hooper Appreciation Blurb goes to Denver's Nikola Jokic. This isn't because he's unknown or even underappreciated. On Saturday, Jokic notched a triple-double of historic proportions. The Nuggets' do-everything center had 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists while shooting 11-for-11 from the field, 10-for-11 from the free throw line, without committing a turnover. For someone of his size and responsibility to do that shows that Jokic, at 23 years old, is one of the game's brightest young stars as well as the NBA's best, with even more room to grow into his potential.

That's Week One in the books. The Journey continues. Happy NBA, folks.

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