It’s been a relatively quiet week in the sports world; sure the Leafs are on a bit of a roll, Spring Training is now well underway, but there hasn’t been any good crazy story for the first time in a while. Which is only a little bit of a bummer because I’ve barely had to think about what to write for this column, as David Ayres and the Astros have easily done that for me the last couple weeks.
So John Mulaney hosted SNL this past weekend. He was good. I like John. I saw him perform in Toronto with Pete Davidson in the fall and a lot of the bits they did back then were the same stuff that Mulaney used for his monologue and Pete used in his new Netflix special. It was neat to see how they edited and improved their act upon hearing it a second time. David Byrne was also really good! Like one of my favourite-musical-performances-in-a-while good! Maybe it’s because this season’s musical guests have not been at all what I enjoy, but he still killed it. “Once In a Lifetime” sums up the unique funkiness of The Talking Heads really well and was a great call to perform. If only he chose to do “Psycho Killer” as the second song. That would’ve been awesome. Alas.
The Lakers and Pelicans played again Sunday night and man is Zion Williamson a joy to watch. I pray every day that they squeeze into the 8-seed so we can see a Zion/LeBron first-round playoff matchup. I cannot tell you how many Pelicans games I’ve tuned in to this year.
Here’s something that will never fail to blow my mind: Zion and I were born four days apart. Four days! And he’s 6’6/285 with a 45 inch vertical and will one day become the most highly-endorsed basketball player in the league. Meanwhile I have not been able to touch the rim since spraining my ankle 18 months ago. I like to tell myself it was between July 6, 2000 (his birthdate) and July 10, 2000 (my birthdate) when the mad scientists did all their experiments on him. Yes, yes, that must be it. I mean, how else could our physical attributes and abilities be so drastically different? Oh, because my parents are 5’3 and 5’7 and also Jewish? Right, that’s it of course. I guess I did still make it to 6’0 despite literally every historical and genetic sign pointing against it, so maybe I should just stop my kvetching.
I really do like the Pelicans’ roster though (oh yeah, this is a sports column and not my personal venting journal). I feel like I’m the only person who’s been a Lonzo Ball believer since he was drafted. Were his first two years particularly good? No, not really. But he’s been good this season — and more importantly he’s stayed healthy for the first time in his pro career — especially now that Zion has come back. I get that he’s not a very good scorer, but his three point shooting has improved to respectable, which is probably all that he needs playing alongside Zion and Brandon Ingram. Besides scoring, he is so freaking good at everything else on a basketball floor. His vision is already top-five in the league; he throws lobs and outlet passes with pinpoint precision, not to mention he’s an elite defender who is averaging seven assists and six boards a game.
Could Zion actually win Rookie of the Year despite missing the first 44 games of the season? Maybe. Probably not, though, as Ja Morant has been incredible for the Grizzlies, who have exceeded everybody’s expectations and now hold the final playoff spot in the West. If Zion plays in every game the rest of the year, his grand total would sit at 37 games, which is far too little to justify winning the award, especially when the other guy (Morant) is also extremely deserving. Patrick Ewing won the award in 1986 having played in just 50 games, which is the least amount of games played by any Rookie of the Year.
Joel Embiid played 31 games his rookie year, and while he was easily the best rookie — although his ‘rookie season’ was actually his third year after being drafted, he just sat out his first two seasons due to recurring foot problems — the 31 games total was too low to win. I’d be pretty upset if I lost out to a guy who played 30-something games when I played over 70.
No matter the outcome of the award, I think Zion’s first 15 games have made it very clear that he is the best rookie in the league. Like he’s 19 years old and bodying grown men who are 7’0 tall. Not to mention his second jump is lightning quick and he turns offensive rebounds into highlights. If he can fix his jumper — which as of now looks like someone loading a far-too-heavy boulder into a catapult — then it’s over for everyone else. I’m scared Kyle Lowry is going to take a charge from him and collapse a lung or something. I mean the guy took three charges in the damn All-Star game (including one from LeBron that wasn’t called) so I wouldn’t bet against it, but I still worry.