We're only six days into the NBA season, but if you've consumed enough of the action, there are some truths that require no further evidence to prove. And the greatest of these self-evident truths six days in is that this is the season of Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Both, not either. The league's two best players have been, well, the league's two best players. Durant, who started last season slowly, has the Oklahoma City Thunder at 4-0 against a tough slate (three playoff opponents, one day of rest, some rough shooting by co-star Russell Westbrook). LeBron has the Heat at 3-0, sits at an early-season PER of 40.7 while shooting almost 60 percent from the floor to the tune of 32 points a game.
These numbers will all come down. LeBron isn't going to shoot 60 percent for a season, even a 66-game season. The Thunder are going to lose, and Durant is going to have some bad nights. The particular excellence will fade a bit, but the general excellence looks completely legitimate, and it's something we've been looking forward to for a long, long time.
LeBron doesn't want to be the villain any more, but he doesn't have much say in the matter. He could save the Obamas' dog Bo from a burning U-boat during a hurricane and he'd still get booed in every NBA arena outside of South Beach. He shouldn't have to embrace it -- it's not terribly fun to hear catcalls four nights a week, no matter how much money you make -- but he should accept it as a fact of life.
Kevin Durant's sainthood isn't permanent (ask Tiger, untouchable just a few years ago), but it should last the year. If these two continue playing at a remarkably high level, as they have so far, the hammy NBA Finals and MVP vote stories write themselves. The sinister dark lord of basketball excellence. The haloed, hallowed scorer. Two juggernauts on a cinematic arc that'd make Spielberg proud. It's destiny, right?
And now, a few more self-evident truths:
* Byron Scott and the Cleveland Cavaliers want a top-five pick in the 2012 NBA Draft more than they want to win. You know how I know that the Cavs don't care about winning right now? In the team's opener on Monday against the Toronto Raptors, Kyrie Irving shot 1-8 through three quarters, while his backup Ramon Sessions had 18 points on 6-12 shooting with six assists and one turnover as the Cavs trailed by seven with 5-1/2 minutes left. Scott pulled Sessions for Irving. The Cavs lost by eight as Irving went 1-4 with a turnover down the stretch. A coach that wants to win that game leaves Sessions in. I'm not faulting Scott or the Cavs -- this team needs 1-2 more high picks before it's ready to build -- but it has to be noted. Cleveland has little interest in being competitive this season.
* The Dallas Mavericks have a problem. John Hollinger wrote about the odds that a team who gets blown out in back-to-back games at home ends up as a true championship contender. Short version: not good. Like 1-in-20,000 not good. Predictably, Dallas fans, led by the usually insightful but terrifically blinded-by-homerism Mike Fisher, lashed back. If anyone in Dallas can watch those first three games of the season and tell me they honestly think that the Mavericks are championship material, they deserve a padding room and a consultation, because that s--t cray.
* It's going to be a surprisingly long season in Phoenix. Joey from Straight Bangin' tells the bleak story of the Suns' opener; while the Hornets now look pretty alright, that doesn't excuse Phoenix's first loss. Free Steve Nash, you guys.
* David Lee is back.
* There was no fan hangover due to the lockout. Ratings for the Christmas slate were through the roof, and even a stupid, needless extended lockout couldn't halt the upward rise of the league. This only emboldens the fellows at Olympic Tower. I know it seems like 2017 is a long time from now, but the seasons are but blinks and we'll be thinking more about BRI than TS% soon enough. David Stern is the dealer, we are the hopeless addicts and he knows he can turn the screws when the time is right. We have shown the league that we can't live without it, giving the men in charge a powerful weapon in their future quests to make more money. Congratulations, Commish, you have us hooked.
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