Most fans will tell you although the NBA Season starts in October, the season doesn’t “officially” kick off until Christmas. Now about three months removed from the NBA Playoffs, Fox Sports One analyst Rob Parker joined me to discuss the biggest headlines from the 2017-18 NBA season.
Parker is a regular on FS1’s hit show Skip and Shannon: Undisputed. During an appearance on the show last November he suggested that Lonzo Ball may already be a bust.
You said up to this point Lonzo Ball has been a bust. When you look at the way he has played so far what specifically makes you say that?
“I just think that this isn’t the player that people saw at UCLA. That ugly shot was going in at UCLA. When that ugly shot isn’t going in, it makes it look worse. Nobody expected for him to score 40 points a night. Still I don’t think anybody thought that he would be shooting historically low percentages for a rookie in the NBA. He has had a couple of triple doubles and people are excited about that. But so far I just don’t think that he is as advertised.”
“Magic Johnson said he was going to be the face of the franchise but there’s fourth quarters he’s not playing in. Defensively he’s got a lot to work on. I just expected a little bit of a better player than we’ve gotten so far,that’s why you can say he’s a bust. Ben Simmons is who most people think is the rookie of the year so far and everybody is raving about him. There are also those who are saying well you can’t rave about Ben Simmons after only a certain amount of games. Then you can look at Lonzo and say he hasn’t played well to this point for the most part. Wouldn’t that make him a bust? I think that’s fair because you can’t have it both ways.”
Ball is currently averaging 10 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in his rookie campaign for the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite his numbers the Lakers have a 19-30 record. Ball has had it rough from the start as he had to go up against defensive irritant Patrick Beverly of the city rival LA Clippers in his first career game. Parker feels that Beverly was just one of many obstacles that Ball will face as a pro because the NBA is a whole different ball game.
“I don’t know if Patrick Beverly took his heart in the sense that he can’t get it back. College is totally different from the pros and people forget that. Most of the guys playing college basketball except for a handful are mostly just there for the star players to develop and do their thing. A lot of them just aren’t that good.”
“Patrick Beverley gave Lonzo a rude awakening. I don’t know if he was warned or told what to expect but I don’t think he was ready for that. He’s not as aggressive as people thought he would be,he’s just been a little bit too laid back and passive. In the NBA everybody in the league is good. It’s not like college where you play a lot of guys who just aren’t as good as you. The NBA is filled with talented players and you better be ready every night.”
Another major story line coming into this season was the Thunder’s “OK3”. The NBA’s newest big three of Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook looks great on paper, but Parker is not convinced that they have enough to make a deep playoff run.
Do you think that the Thunder have enough pieces to make a deep playoff run?
“They just have too many of the same guys there. Russell Westbrook who had an outstanding season last year doesn’t know where he fits in. What he’s doing is trying to make everybody else happy. I think that’s the problem. There’s three guys there and one basketball and that seems to be the biggest problem. Sometimes too many cooks spoil the broth and that’s what’s going on in OKC right now. When they had just Paul George and Russell Westbrook, people were already excited about that but when they added Melo it became too overboard. I think that’s why they’ve struggled. It might take them a whole year to get themselves situated and feel comfortable. I’m still not convinced that it’s all going to work there, and I don’t see them having what it takes to make a deep playoff run.”
The OKC Thunder aren’t the only playoff team from last year that made key additions this off-season. The Boston Celtics acquired all-star point guard Kyrie Irving in a blockbuster deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite the Celtics acquisition of “Uncle Drew”,Parker still doesn’t think that Boston has enough to dethrone the reigning Eastern Conference champs.
Do you think the addition of Kyrie Irving makes Boston a serious threat to the Cavaliers in the East?
“No, I don’t think so not when we are talking about way at the end of the season when it all comes down to it. It’s not to take anything away from Boston, I was the one who hailed Kyrie for making that decision. I thought that Boston won that trade even though a lot of people disagreed with me and thought Cleveland was fine. ”
“I think people were way wrong on Kyrie about his ability to go to a team and be a leader. He’s been playing phenomenal and even though the Celtics are winning I don’t put that much stock into all of that because the league is bad especially the East. ”
“I still think that Cleveland is going to be there in the Finals with Golden State. Now does that mean that’s going to happen next year with Kyrie and Gordon Hayward when he’s back? By then all bets are off. For this year I still expect Cleveland to get it together and get I.T. involved and go back to the NBA finals.
Parker spent a lot of time in Detroit covering the Pistons in the early 2000’s. Almost two decades later the Pistons are starting to usher in a new era with Andre Drummond as the focal point. However if you ask Parker, living up to the success of of that 2004 Detroit team is a tough act for anybody to follow.
Detroit has Drummond who is a good Center, Stanley Johnson who is a good defender, Reggie Jackson who’s is a solid player. When you look at this team do you think they can have any similarities to the 2004 Detroit Pistons soon?
I don’t know, that was a special group. I covered that team and watched every single game at The Palace. That team was unbelievable defensively and how they played together as a unit. I’m not ready to put them in that category yet. If they have the passion and fire to play defense that the 2004 Pistons did then they will be. That team beat the Lakers with Shaq, Kobe and Karl Malone and Gary Payton. It was unbelievable it was the first five game sweep in the history of the NBA Finals because the Lakers won one game. They really shouldn’t have won that game but it’s a nice comparison. I don’t think that it’s there yet, could it get there? Maybe but that 2004 team their slogan used to be going to work and putting on their hard hat and working hard. That’s something this team will have to do to get to the level of that 2004 Pistons team.