January takes its name from Janus, the two-faced Roman god of arches and doorways. Janus, it was believed, looked backward into the past and forward into the future. So, in that spirit, let’s look ahead with 18 NBA New Year’s resolutions that you can use in 2018.
1. Dance like nobody’s watching, love like you’ve never been hurt, sing like no one is listening, and dress like you’re Tim Burton’s muse.
Shouts to the Oklahoma City Thunder. After a haphazard and humbling 8–12 start that featured too much Carmelo Anthony and not enough Russell Westbrook, OKC has steadied the ship. Melo’s usage rate dropped from an irrationally ambitious 28 percent in October to a reasonable 21 percent mark in December. Meanwhile, Russ’s usage increased from a deferential 29 percent to a catalytic 36 percent over the same period. Not coincidentally, the Thunder went 12–5 in December, including wins over the Timberwolves, Spurs, Jazz (thrice), Rockets, and Raptors, during which time Paul George emerged as a dynamic second scoring option who dresses like streetwear Beetlejuice. Ride into 2018 on a stallion made of PG’s sartorial confidence.
2. Believe in your dreams, but have an alibi.
In July, Lakers GM and Bible scholar Rob Pelinka announced the signing of free-agent shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $18 million deal by saying, in part:
I would venture to guess that there’s people in the room that are familiar with the stories in the book of Genesis, where there was a time when the Israelites were wandering in the desert and all of a sudden bread came down from heaven. That’s kind of what today feels like for us to have KCP join.
Fewer than six months later, KCP is in the midst of serving a 25-day jail sentence for parole violation (he’s allowed to play only because of a work-release program), his heavenly manna is dimmed by a court-mandated GPS ankle bracelet, and he is widely reviled by Lakers fans.
You can’t make this up...nobody likes KCP pic.twitter.com/ID1uHIj2lv— Mike (@IcyLikeKuz) December 24, 2017
Caldwell-Pope hasn’t let the darkness dim his ambitions. He’ll still throw wild self-alley-oop passes over the backboard, off the shot clock, and out of play. Incredible. My favorite part of this play? How he wipes his hands on his jersey afterward.
Go into 2018 with an excuse at the ready.
3. Know your limits.
Ron Baker is now dead. RIP 2017. Please send flowers to Madison Square Garden. pic.twitter.com/kA7k405TF9— Glenn Griffey Jr. (@griffpr) December 31, 2017
Happy New Year to my dude Ron Baker, who celebrated the end of 2017 — a harrowing year of nuclear-war threats, devastating natural disasters, and various attacks on the social contract and our democratic institutions — by nearly dying at the hands of Anthony Davis. Sail into 2018 by valuing your health and well-being.
4. Appreciate LeBron.
Waltz into the new year like a king.
5. Allow love into your life.
6. But don’t wear sweats on a date.
Good morning to no one,— Andrew Spena (@iamsosorry) December 27, 2017
except Laura Dern and Baron Davis pic.twitter.com/JumJbY9Dmr
On December 27, the world awoke to news that retired NBA point guard Baron Davis and acclaimed actress Laura Dern may be an item. I have had several days to digest this information, but the images of their love still turn my synapses into coils of liquid fire. Baron Davis suited up for the Hornets (Charlotte and New Orleans), Warriors, Clippers, Cavaliers, and Knicks over the course of his 13-year career. He is the author of one of the greatest dunks ever while wearing a Kylo Ren–style high-waisted girdle — a spirit-rending tomahawk over Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko in the 2006–07 playoffs.
Laura Dern recently was seen playing Vice Admiral Holdo in The Last Jedi and flipping out about her child’s birthday party in Big Little Lies.
Start the new year dedicated to not wearing joggers on a date.
7. Watch more Donovan Mitchell.
Take over 2018 like you’re the rookie of the year.
8. Remember that money isn’t everything.
Jordan Bell, a do-everything all-around forward best described as Draymond Green’s more athletic looper, was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the 38th pick in the 2017 draft. The Bulls then traded Bell’s rights to the Golden State Warriors for $3.5 million in cold, hard, impersonal cash. The Bulls, despite a recent stretch of bafflingly good play, are, in the immortal words of my colleague Kevin O’Connor, “ass.” And the Warriors are about seven points better per 100 possessions with Jordan Bell on the floor.
Bet on yourself this year.
9. Endorse a product.
Honestly, I have no idea what the hell is going on here. Apparently Zing is a company that produces a line of nutrient bars, and apparently my large adult son Kristaps Porzingis now endorses them.
10. Refuse to act your age.
Stride into 2018 like you’re a four-year veteran.
11. Never get punked.
Carmelo Anthony is 33 years old. He’s averaging career lows in points and field goal percentage. Melo probably never imagined being the third option on a 50-ish win team. Lately, he spends the end of games lurking around the 3-point line, hoping that someone throws him the rock. Next step: the bench. He’s got almost nothing left to lose. Not the guy to fuck with.
Walk chin-first into 2018 and dare it to do something.
12. Use all 11 percent.
Michael Beasley is ready to take his place amongst the league's leading scorers. Tonight he was using more than 10% of his brain. pic.twitter.com/2iKIYZflUM— Tay (@tayblass) December 22, 2017
Mike Beasley’s past 10 games: 17.3 points per game on 51 percent shooting, 6.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and almost a block per game.
Unlock your galactic brain for 2018.
13. Celebrate freedom.
Since leaving OKC, James Harden has become a perennial MVP candidate, and Kevin Durant has become an NBA champion. This past summer, the Thunder traded Victor Oladipo, the no. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, and second-year big man Domantas Sabonis to the Indiana Pacers for Paul George. Freed from the restrictive roles OKC’s team structure demanded of them — a corner-3 floor spacer for Sabonis and a stand-still perimeter shooter for Oladipo — both are having career seasons.
Head into 2018 with a spirit of liberation.
14. Visit Hezonja Island; it’s wonderful this time of year.
Once upon a time, in the spring of 2015, I, along with many in the basketball intelligentsia, considered Mario Hezonja a dark-horse no. 1 pick candidate. Athletic and explosive with an assassin’s shooting touch and a cocksure swagger, he relished dunking on opponents. He was the the Croatian Kobe — a surefire star in the making. The Orlando Magic selected Hezonja with the fifth pick. But since entering the league, he has looked nothing like the player in those European highlight reels. This past October, the Magic declined to pick up Mario’s fourth-year team option, a nearly unheard-of predicament for a top-five pick.
Don’t look now, but here are Mario Hezonja’s past 10 games: 12 points on 48 percent shooting and a good-enough 36 percent from deep, four rebounds, one assist, and one steal per game.
Go into 2018 believing it’s never too late.
15. Squash your beefs.
Look at Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic. Both having a good time. pic.twitter.com/TpCLZydam5— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) December 27, 2017
On October 17, two days before Chicago’s season opener against Toronto, a heated exchange during Bulls practice culminated in Bobby Portis annihilating his teammate Nikola Mirotic’s face. The litany of injuries was chilling: Mirotic sustained multiple facial fractures and a concussion and was ruled out indefinitely. Complicating matters, Bulls players reportedly sided with Portis. “This is Niko’s problem now,” an anonymous Bull was quoted as saying.
So, of course, the Bulls have gone 10–4 — including seven straight wins — after Mirotic returned to the lineup December 8.
16. Develop new skills.
On Monday night, DeMar DeRozan set the Raptors’ franchise record by scoring 52 points in an OT triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks. DeRozan’s outburst included converting five of his nine 3-point attempts. Toronto has been pushing DeRozan to develop his 3-pointer for the past several seasons. There have been flashes of a passable deep game before. But this season is different. In 2016–17, only 8 percent of DeMar’s shots were 3s. This season, through 35 games, that number is 17 percent.
Rise up on 2018 and shoot your freaking shot.
17. Enjoy the best Raptors team ever, but make peace with not seeing them in the conference finals.
Toronto is 25–10. It has a top-10 offense (110.1 offensive rating) and defense (102.7 defensive rating), which typically puts you in the title contender convo. They will lose to LeBron and the Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs.
18. Realize that the brain is part of the body.
Markelle Fultz, the no. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, has played four games this season due to a mysterious shoulder ailment that requires no surgery and that various scans and tests have failed to identify. The malady has been called a “muscle imbalance,” which, according to copious Googling, is not even a thing. Not for basketball players, anyway. It’s essentially an issue for bodybuilders who don’t work out all their muscle groups. Personally, on the basis of zero medical experience, I think Fultz is low-key shook; in other words, it’s all in his head. A theory to which my esteemed colleague and Sixers fan Chris Ryan has often responded, “The brain is part of the body.”
Namaste into 2018 to create a synergy between mind and body.