NBA Journey Week Nine: Love Don't Live Here Anymore

The 2017-18 NBA season is well underway. There will be scores of articles about questioning good teams, declaring individual award races over, and the bickering over true shooting percentage and defensive rating. There is also a feeling surrounding this season that we're headed towards the inevitability of a Golden State Warriors championship. Thus, some of the fun is met with a bit of gloom. Cheer up, lover of hoops. Basketball is a sport in which the journey of the season is just as important as its destination in the Finals. Here at TSFJ, we're going to highlight some things and people the basketball realm can be excited for between now and June.

Song of the Week: Bobby "Blue" Bland - "Ain't No Love (In The Heart of The City)"

This era of free agency has allowed NBA players to have more power to decide their next destination, especially those who are the Association's best. Big-name superstars change addresses every off-season, and for those who have tenured history with their previous teams, the first game on the road in that former arena can be emotional.

There were several of these return games this past week. Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder visited the Indiana Pacers for the first time since George was traded over the summer. Through a constant chorus of boos, OKC pulled out a close win, with George shooting poorly but sealing the victory with a steal as the Pacers were trying to inbound.

While Paul George did get a win in his first game in Indiana, he struggled offensively. (Bleacher Report)

The highlighted return game that was most anticipated was Carmelo Anthony playing as a visitor in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks for the first time after nearly seven years in New York. While Melo is certainly past his prime, his name still illuminates in the NBA universe. Saturday's game began with a video tribute. Then, Melo started hotly, making his first two shots. That was short lived, as he didn't score in the second half and Knicks forward Michael Beasley led the team with 30 points in the win.

Win or lose, it appears to be get difficult for star player to play well in that first game against his former team. Maybe it's the increased emotion -- the desire to show the former lover what they're missing. Perhaps, the regular season scouting report against that player has a little more detail than normal. Maybe the law of averages kicked in and Melo was due for a bad game, especially playing but following night after a three-overtime battle with the Sixers last Friday. But I do believe that it is very difficult for even the NBA's best to perform up to their lofty standards.

Carmelo Anthony struggled against the Knicks, even though Kristaps Porzingis (suit) didn't play. It's hard to play well in return games. (USA Today)

Except for LeBron James. And Kevin Durant. But mostly LeBron James. He does not struggle in most games, regardless of storyline or scenario.

Blurb time!

  • Speaking of the Thunder again, there needs to be a meeting of the minds between the team's three best players. Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony need to figure out the pecking order between them, particularly after Russ as the number one option. Someone needs to be Number Three, which means no plays will be run for them. If they need guidance, Chris Bosh is available.
  • Basketball is a game of leverage, deception and balance. Sure, physical gifts aid in success, but one's mind matters more. Manu Ginobili is 40 years old, and he was able to get to the rim for a game-winning layup against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday. His hoops IQ is so high and that is a big part of why he's still effective as he ages.
  • I did not know Richard Jefferson signed with the Denver Nuggets, much less have logged in-game minutes. If a player loves the game, he should keep play as long as there is a team willing to employ him.

Nine weeks into the journey, and we press on. Happy NBA, folks.

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