If you have watched the NBA Playoffs at all, you have probably been inundated by advertisements for Marvel’s The Avengers. Since Disney is the parent company for both Marvel and ESPN, the weekend games had a blatant and obvious tie-in to the movie. Marvel and Disney have beaten audiences over the head with this movie and we will all gladly pay $12 to see it — $15 in 3D.
And, most likely, we will really enjoy it as a nice distraction for those two hours because, who doesn’t like a comic book movie? I will be in line Friday to get my “nerd on” and see the film. Yes, it is finally summer and the entertainment options (outside basketball) are increasing with the free time.
The ensemble cast and the demand for action is probably going to make this film short on characters. But, at its essence The Avengers are a whole lot like a basketball team. It actually is not a bad move to promote with the NBA Playoffs.
What you have is a group of guys who could be, and are, extremely successful on their own having to put away their individual interests and glory to support the team… and save the Earth (just a minor thing). Seeing how Joss Whedon, the head coach of this trip into nerd-gasm, handles all these players on his floor.
Just like in the movie, pressure exposes character. And all the foibles and weaknesses that come with it.
What makes many of the Marvel movies great, and began to separate them from other comic book movies, was how the scripts revealed the human side and struggles of these great men with power (and I guess great responsibility) while keeping a somewhat light and accessible tone to the films. These felt like comic books with real people in them, but not like dark and gritty graphic novels (which the current Batman series is based on).
These themes are playing out in the Playoffs now. We are seeing many weaknesses of some of the great players and teams in the NBA on full display in the postseason. And the teams that find a way to work together to overcome these weaknesses are the ones that eventually succeed and win the championship.
Even in the first round, we are figuring out what teams and individuals are made of.
You have Tony Parker and the Spurs showing their flexibility and dominance of a champion for the first time in a few years. Parker is legitimizing the talk of placing him in the top five of MVP voting and maybe a first team All-NBA spot. Parker is averaging 23.0 points per game and 8.5 assists per game in the Spurs dominating 2-0 series lead over the Jazz. But it is not so much the numbers from Parker. It is the way he is doing it.
Utah made it a focus to try and keep Parker out of the lane, and like a true MVP, Parker found a way to slither into the lane and make an impact even with the increased attention.
We are seeing that elsewhere too.
Look at the work Russell Westbrook did. If there is any player that had a lot of criticism to put to rest this postseason, it might be Westbrook. Remember it was last year during the Playoffs when Westbrook drew criticism for his “pouting” after he was taken out of a game late. It led to speculation that Westbrook and Kevin Durant could not get along long term.
But in a surprising 3-0 run through the Mavericks so far, there are no doubts that Westbrook and Durant can finish the job. In the series, Durant is shooting just 44.1 percent and 34.1 percent before last night’s 11-for-15 performance in the Game Three blowout.
While Durant took the finisher role in Game One, it has been Westbrook setting a pace for the Thunder and picking up the slack for the Thunder as they try to sweep the defending champions. Westbrook is averaging 25.7 points per game on 49.2 percent shooting. He has displayed a deadly mid-range jumper and is attacking and creating for the Thunder, even if he does not get the assist.
Right now, Westbrook is giving his team exactly what they need. And that is all you can ask for.
You have super bigs like Andrew Bynum and David West putting in big performances for their teams. Bynum and West (along with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert) have taken advantage of matchups and really dominated. It is one thing to have a matchup advantage in a postseason, it is another to take advantage of it.
Bynum and Hibbert have taken advantage of Denver and Orlando’s thin front lines. The two have been blocking shots at a crazy rate. And David West has been a monster on the inside too, although less startlingly so and with the patience that a veteran can give to a young team.
And then there are the Heat, who seem to be clicking on all cylinders.
These are not the toughest challenges these heroes will face. A lot more work is left to do for these heroes to achieve the ultimate goal. The test for these Avengers is just beginning.
Already we can see how players have to stick to their roles to help their teams find success. Where would the Thunder be if they did not continue to go toward Kevin Durant despite his struggles? Where would the Celtics be without the stalwart defense and consistent leadership from Kevin Garnett? How about the Lakers without the superhuman play of Bynum?
It may just be the first round, but postseason heroes are already emerging to pick up their teammates for the trials ahead.