NBA Journey Week Thirteen: We've Been Here Before

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: Hi-Tek featuring Jonell - "Round And Round"

Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is constantly adding new and more interesting rides and attractions. This year will include 23 developments for the amusement park, some centered around Star Wars, Ratatouille and Guardians of the Galaxy. It is customary to always look to revamp and improve upon a solid foundation with modernized additions to keep interest and curiosity at a high level.

Conversely, there will always be staple rides and attractions that, barring extreme circumstance, won't ever be removed. They are practically must-see spectacles that no tourist can leave Disney World without experiencing. Chief among these is Space Mountain. It has been around for years. Even people who frequent the Magic Kingdom still find their way to Space Mountain. They know how it rides. They know all the bells and whistles. They even know the lines will be hours long. But they still head over to it.

Teams led by LeBron James in the month of January are the Space Mountain of the NBA. There are more interesting events happening around the Association, yet every turn of the year this entire decade, we strap ourselves in for a ride and inquire about why any team led by The Best Ever can have a month of mediocre play.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are 2-5 in the month of January, including a current four-game skid with another loss to the Golden State Warriors. Their defense is as deplorable as it's been most of the season, and key role players like J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson are struggling to find their most effective places on the floor. Even in a season argued as one of LeBron's individual best, that isn't enough to provide a level of consistency we believe a team as good as the Cavaliers should have.

It is still not time to doubt if LeBron will make it back to the Finals...right? (Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

There is a duality to our expectations that surround Cleveland. While we expect the great teams like the Cavaliers to always be great and win every game, we also expect them — namely, LeBron — to falter during the season by virtue of attrition. It is extremely difficult to sustain championship-caliber excellence longer than a few years. That is the reason why only a small number of teams have even made the NBA Finals three straight years, and even fewer managed to win three titles in a row. LeBron James has played in the NBA Finals every year of this decade, so we both expect him to carry his teams there with little regular season struggle and we still have to question if, "this is the year" Cleveland is finally usurped by one of these inferior teams chomping at the bit to overthrow The King.

I understand the desire to jump on Cleveland's struggles. That ideal is shiny, low-hanging fruit, particularly for those who both don't appreciate greatness and/or have a simplistic view of it. How arduous and lengthy an 82-game season is not as important to grasp as the idea that the better team should always win. And though LeBron continues to traverse the annals of time and maintain his place as The Best Right Now longer than any other player has, history suggests that the mightiest of demigods eventually succumb to age. Beowulf eventually gets old, no matter how heroic he once was. However, if we are going to board this rollercoaster, at what point do we accept this ride for what it is until it shows us otherwise?

Because even with this minor slump, Cleveland has one more loss than San Antonio, and no one will confidently bet against LeBron James making the NBA Finals. So, just enjoy the ride.

Blurbs and Things

  • Zach LaVine returned for the Bulls from a gruesome knee injury while still with the Minnesota Timberwolves last year. While I'm happy he's back and hope he can continue to progress, I also am glad to have an excuse to show video of him dunking.
  • The Miami Heat are currently the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. A team that arguably only has one All-Star on the roster, center Hassan Whiteside, players like Goran Dragic and Josh Richardson have played well enough to win, despite the numbers suggesting the Heat are average. They give up more points than they score and are narrowly outrebounded by their opponents. But hey! They're one game back of Cleveland in the standings!
  • I have decided that the last blurb will be dedicated to players who just flat out hoop. This week's Hooper Appreciation Blurb goes to C.J. McCollum. I don't have any other interesting tidbit other than he is one of the more skilled one-on-one players in the world. It is amazing to watch him display his array of moves and shot knowledge. He's another free-flowing guard in the Association.

Thirteen weeks in, and we're lucky enough to keep going. The journey continues. Happy NBA, folks.

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