It seems to me whenever I hear a New School guy talking about NBA “greatness” (and by a New School guy, I’m not talking about the 20-somethings who’ve been recently contributing to this blog; I’m talking more about the even younger New School guys. Okay, actually, I’m really talking about Robby . . .), what you’re going to get is who’s been “great” for maybe the last six minutes. If you’ve been around for more than a year or two, you can’t be any good. You’re stale. You have freezer burn, like last week’s Ben & Jerry’s. And I’m not talking about the Tim Duncan kind of been-around, or Shaquille O’Neal been-around, or Jason Kidd been-around. Even Kobe is over the hill, if you listen to Robby.
Last year right around this time, we were in L.A., and made it to a Lakers-Thunder playoff game at the Staples Center. Throughtout the game I kept hearing from Robby, “Kevin Durant is the best player on the court.” Without any question. Not even close. When I didn’t answer, he pushed it a step farther. “In fact, he’s the best player in the NBA.” I knew what he was doing. He was baiting me, as he always does. He wanted me to say, “Yeah, and what about Kobe?” But I wasn’t going to fall for it.
This is Robby’s game. This is how he likes to make a point. He’s big on hyperbole. Best player ever. Best point guard in the history of the NBA. Best clutch shooter on the planet — it’s not even close. He’s also a contrarian: Whatever the world thinks, you can count on him to think the opposite. His pronouncements are mostly for effect, for shock value, intended to provoke and instigate. (Come to think of it, he’d make a very good radio sports talk host.) And what he likes to do above all is jerk my chain.
These days for Robby it’s all about Derrick Rose. Nobody comes close to Derrick Rose. Since sometimes I like to humor him, I mentioned that Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Rose had the court vision of Jason Kidd, the shot-making of Chauncey Billups, the speed of Allen Iverson, and the athleticism of Michael Jordan. “Not bad,” I said agreeably, “mentioning Rose in the same breath as Jordan.” But Robby, as always, had to up the ante. “D. Rose is by far the best player in the NBA right now. Probably in NBA history.”
Okay, a lot of people have Rose down for league MVP this year, so at least Robby’s talking about a genuinely superb player. But how ’bout this: A few nights ago we were watching Nuggets-Thunder. “K.D. is only the second best player on OKC, you know,” Robby said, looking at me out of the corner of his eye. When I didn’t bite, he prompted me. “You know who’s the best, don’t you?” I was forced to say Russell Westbrook, because I knew that’s where Robby was going with this. So last year at this time K.D. was the best player in the NBA — and now he’s not even the best player on his team???!!! And as if this weren’t enough, Robby added, “Right now Russell Westbrook is playing point guard like nobody in NBA history.” (I wondered how he reconciled this with the fact that Derrick Rose is the best player in NBA history, but didn’t ask.)
I remember earlier this season, when Rajon Rondo was handing out about 100 assists a game, Robby claimed that not only should Rondo be included with Boston’s “Big Three,” he was actually far better than any of the Big Three. In fact, he was the star of the Celtics — and probably the best point guard in the NBA. But now that Robby’s fallen in love with Rose and Westbrook, it’s kind of Rajon Who?
Hey, it’s only a matter of time before Kyrie Irving/Brandon Knight/Kemba Walker (you pick) is way better than Rose and Westbrook. By far.