Sunday , Nov , 11 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

The Rocky Dynasty

The season is starting slower in some cities and faster in others. Teams doing poorly inevitably say things like, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” or “we’ll have until June to work it all out.” It is true, but some should sprint.  

Sprinters are either (1) teams that are not confident in their ability to close the season or (2) teams that need to build confidence. They need to get out early to prove a pointLook at Boston and admit it: You questioned whether the Big 3 could do it together. They are blowing the doors off and I am loving it. You know you love it, too.

Boston will cool off some day before the All-Star break, and that will be expected. But they have done what they needed to do. Do you remember Joan Benoit? Probably not. In the 1984 Olympics, she competed in the women’s marathon. She took off early, not pacing herself and – gasp – not stopping at the first water table because it was a deviation from the most direct route. She won the race because she got so far out in front that nobody could catch her.

The Celtics have punched everybody in the nose and said “We’re for real!” That was needed. KG is playing out of his mind, averaging something like 16 boards a game. The Celtics are simply frightening other teams out there. The new Big Three are accounting for over 60 points a game, and fireplug Eddie “Howitzer” House is back to his old ways. Eastern Conference teams, watch out: During the 2005-2006 Suns season, he single-handedly won at least a half-dozen games (before turning into Eddie “the Mouse” House for the playoffs). He does not actually catch-and-shoot. He just kind of receives the pass and re-directs it into the hoop. With Rondo doing his best Trent Dilfer impersonation (just don’t lose, baby), I bought League Pass just to watch that team.

On the other hand, the Heat needed a strong start. All of the questions surrounding Shaq’s health and the other geriatrics on the squad needed to be answered – not necessarily with wins, but they could at least have had good showings. The Heat needed to come out the gate sprinting.

For the most part, though, the clichés about the long season are correct. I like to analogize teams to Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. I say this knowing full well that it is pretty easy to compare my Suns to Apollo.   I have been advocating for them to act more like Rocky for some time now.

As much as I hate to admit it, the Spurs really are the Rocky of the league. They don’t showboat and they keep coming at you. They don’t care about winning every round. They just care about sticking around long enough to knock you out in the last round.

The “I’m coming to get you” attitude is what creates winners. 

I like the Suns’ “slow” start to the season as they work themselves into their game. Coach D’Antoni has said that he’s working with the lineups and has until June to figure it all out. I kind of like that. That is how the Suns beat Miami last Friday; of course, they were not exactly fighting the “Apollo Creed” of the league. Well, Shaq is kind of like Apollo in Rocky IV – right before Drago killed him.

One guy from another sport understood the Rocky Dynasty. It’s a corollary that I like to call the “Scotty Bowman Theory.” My dad is from Detroit, so I get to front-run with the Red Wings. In the 1995-1996 seasons, they went 62-13-7 for 131 points and got bounced out of the first round of the playoffs. For those of you not familiar with hockey, that is the equivalent of a seventy-plus-win season in the NBA. The next year, Bowman decided that he would use the season to tinker with his line-ups and shifts to get ready for the Stanley cup. The Wings went 38-26-18, with 94 points, and then they went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Popovich carries himself on the sideline much like Bowman used to in the box. They both have the proud posture, the slow, methodical movements and the deep, contemplative expressions. Next time you are watching your teams play and watching your favorite players, ask yourself whether they are acting more like Apollo or more like Rocky. Then ask yourself whether they are acting like they expect to win it all.