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DTOUR: An Appreciation of Improvement

It's been a while since we've had a DTOUR thread. I realized it this morning, as I was munching on a muffin-sized quiche with puff pastry crust (very tasty), but thought no one would want to read about how ecstatic I am that the lobelia, salvia and snapdragons in my flower box seemed to have survived last week's very late cold snap/freeze. Since I couldn't think of anything in particular to write about, I just set it aside and continued with my day.

This afternoon, as I was watching the Celtics-Magic game (the first significant amount of basketball I've watched in over a week), I was struck by three observations:

  1. J.J. Redick has improved his game over the last year.
  2. Dwight Howard has not improved his offensive game over his career.
  3. I just might have underestimated how good Ray Allen is. (This observation has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but I need to give Jesus Shuttlesworth some kudos. He carried the Celtics today, and not just with the 3-ball.)

Improvement - the state of being improved; especially : enhanced value or excellence

It's the 2nd portion of that definition that intrigues me - enhanced value or excellence. I'm a college basketball fan - that's no secret. Since I did not attend Duke University, it is imperative that I dislike all Dookies. That's just how it works - the Blue Devils are the college basketball equivalent of the Yankees. It doesn't matter if said Dookie is a "good" guy - you're supposed to hate him. So when Orlando drafted Redick with the 11th pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, I thought he would just be the latest Duke player to bust in the NBA. I was wrong. In last year's playoffs, Redick was just a gunner off the bench - he brought nothing else to the table. In the year since I've last paid attention to his game, his handle has improved, he can now drive the lane, and he's not a total loss on the defensive end. To make sure my observations weren't complete and utter crap based upon one game, I looked up his season stats. His ppg, mpg, and shooting % were up, but most significantly, he played in EVERY SINGLE GAME THIS YEAR. Is J.J. a star? No, but obviously, the Magic agree with my quick assessment, since you don't play in every game if you suck. You just don't.

This brings me to Dwight Howard. I would say his defense has improved over the years. He still blocks shots, but doesn't always send them into the seats. He's better with man defense and doesn't seem to wander as much. And he rebounds like a mother. But, and this is a big but, his scoring is down. That's a problem. At this point in his career, he should be scoring around 25 ppg, not 18 ppg. Howard was absolutely shut down by shorter men today. No man with Dwight's physical gifts should be rendered impotent on the offensive end, and he wouldn't have been if in the SIX years he's been in The League, he had improved on the offensive end. Except for dunks and putbacks, Howard has no go-to move outside of 5 feet. No jump hook, no jumper, no bank shot, nothing. Is Dwight a star? Yes, but at this rate, he won't be an all-time great. Howard should be beating down Hakeem's door this summer, asking for help.

Which brings me back to the Spurs. I think we can all agree that the team needs to improve. But we can take solace in the fact that most every year this organization shows improvement, from individuals to the entire team. Although Hill had a rough series against the Suns, he improved leaps and bounds from his first year. Tony has a much better jumper from when he joined the team, and even our favorite whipping boy, Bonner, has become a better player. And in the end, that's all we as fans can ask for, that each member of our team strive to improve and become better than he was before. I have great hopes for you, DeJuan.

Author's note: This is not what I was originally going for at all, but I went where the muse took me. So discuss to your heart's content, and please feel free to throw something utterly random into the fray.