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Columns, Sports

Shaw ’13: Space Jam 2013: NBA to the rescue

Sports Columnist

A few weeks ago, I delivered an in-depth analysis of the timeless classic, “Space Jam.” The modern epic in which Michael Jordan and the Looney Tune bunch take on the bad guys in some classic five-on-five action made me wonder: Who in today’s NBA would represent us in a doomsday/basketball scenario? Seeing as I’m completely unqualified to write about baseball, let’s roll with it.

The framework for this team will be nine players — a solid playoff rotation — who can actually play together. Unlike an All-Star team, these won’t be five ball-dominant, no-defense chuckers. And just like in the ’92 Olympics, Isaiah Thomas will have nothing to do with this team.


The Starters

The obvious starting point is LeBron James. He’s the best basketball player on the planet right now and arguably the best athlete. Assuming the aliens take on mammoth proportions, this team is playing big, making James a lock as the starting small forward. He’s versatile enough to play in the post or on the perimeter, can guard every position and can provide instant production anywhere with the exception of Cleveland. For those who didn’t watch the Bulls-Heat game that ended Miami’s 27-game winning streak, James actually let Kirk Hinrich drive by, so James would be in better position to block the layup. Let me say that again. James is so good that he actually encourages shot attempts so he can make plays! Forget Der Struwwelpeter — German children hide under their sheets in fear that James will emerge from the closet to swat their shots. The only knock on James is that he will probably take his talents to the alien team if they have a better chance at a championship.

Spreading the floor for James’ post attack is Kevin Love, who, when healthy, is the league’s most ferocious rebounder and a dead-eye shooting big man. Love can crash the boards on both ends, earning crucial second-chance opportunities — unlike in “Space Jam” where every shot magically goes in. More importantly, his shooting prowess will force opposing bigs to move out of the paint, opening up space for James to bang down low and guards to penetrate and dish. Love doesn’t need to have the ball to be effective and would happily take a smaller role to play on a good team. Every locker room needs a great beard, and Love will be happy just to be in the building.

While this choice may be unorthodox, I’m starting Kevin Durant at the two-guard. At 6 feet 9 inches, he’d stand a head taller than most NBA shooting guards, but he’s too talented not to start, he plays like a wing, he’s got enough length and control to not be a complete defensive liability against blow-bys from smaller players (which is further negated by our rim protector, whom I’m about to get to), and we’re playing against  aliens, so who cares? There’s a reason Durant has led the league in scoring for the past three years — he can put the ball in the hole from anywhere on the court and does so efficiently. Like the ’09 Orlando Magic team that surrounded Dwight Howard with pure shooters, a team of Durant sharing the court with four plus-defenders would probably be A-okay.

Who to select as point guard actually turned out to be the toughest decision, but I’m going with Rajon Rondo. There’s no doubt that Chris Paul is the best point in the NBA right now (Tony Parker is maniacally shaking his head), but Rondo is the best fit for this particular team. Rondo is also prideful enough that he’d rather watch the world burn than come off the bench. Rondo quietly found a consistent jump shot before his season-ending ACL injury, and the reality is that on a team with so many pure scorers, a pure point with solid distribution skills is far more valuable — Steve Nash would own this spot, but there’s no time travelling in this scenario. Sorry, Canada. Celtics fans will note, though, that Rondo can be incredibly frustrating to watch. He is a Mozart-level genius in finding passing lanes and incredibly effective in the pick-and-roll game — sometimes. As Bill Simmons of Grantland perfectly describes it, there’s “Local Cable Rondo” and “National TV Rondo” — two identities as distinct and opposite as Jekyll and Hyde. If people aren’t watching, we’ll have the basketball equivalent of a pouty teenage girl bringing the ball down the court. Luckily, with the freedom of the world at stake, it’s safe to say we’re getting the version that records triple-doubles at a freakish rate before silently staring down the media as he sulks in the locker room.

Anchoring the starting five is Tyson Chandler. The man is a paint-clogging defensive juggernaut and would be a great pick-and-roll partner for Rondo. The same can describe Howard, except Tyson actually cares about, you know, winning basketball games. (Chandler also does not carry Stephen A. Smith in a baby Bjorn. Fact.) Chandler basically accounted for all of New York’s defense last year as his teammates did their best impressions of tackle dummies on that end of the floor. On offense, he sets hard screens and rolls to the rim with similar zest. Chandler is also fine being surrounded by ball-dominant players like Rondo, James and Durant. His 67.9 field goal percentage last year was the third best of all time, meaning that he will only take smart shots that he can reliably finish and pass the ball back out when he can’t.


A Tribe Called Bench

Guard: Tony Parker. A year ago, Chris Paul would hold this spot, but the Frenchman has put together such a strong body of work this year that he too vaults ahead of Paul. As the coordinator of the bench, Parker can flat-out score as his points-per-game has improved to 20.9 while Paul’s actually declined three points. There’s also the issue of durability. Paul currently has no cartilage in his knees while Parker only occasionally gets in fights with Drake and Chris Brown. To seal the deal, Parker is actually okay with coming off the bench, while Paul is too American to do the same.

Guard: Kobe Bean Bryant. Killer instinct. As long as he keeps getting mystery German supertreatments, Kobe’s going to play like he’s 10 years younger. More importantly, Kobe’s locker room presence and Jordan-like addiction to competition should elevate everyone else’s play. He will knock you out and curb stomp you when you’re down. Mamba.

Forward: Serge Ibaka. You want more interior defense? Have some more interior defense. Finger wag included.

Forward: Dirk Nowitzki. Pick-and-roll. Pick-and-pop. The patented Nowitzki drop-back-ballerina-foot-in-the-air jumper. Just imagine closing a game with Parker, Kobe, Durant, LeBron and Nowitzki. Who does a defense try to lock down? “I’m a cop, you idiot.”

Deep bench: Brian Scalabrine. This isn’t technically part of the rotation, but if this super team ends up blowing out the aliens, you’ll want a garbage-time guy to soak up the minutes and who does that better than Scal. From the signature step-back pony jumper to the awkward two-hand lay-in, Scal’s got the whole bag of tricks. I want him. You want him. The crowd wants him. Mamba.

Deeper bench: Bill Murray. If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.

Manager: That chicken dance kid from Florida Gulf Coast. Who doesn’t love a Cinderella story?

Starting five: Rondo-Durant-James-Love-Chandler.

Bench mob: Parker-Kobe-Ibaka-Nowitzki-Scal-Murray.


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