Welcome to another issue of A Farewell to Takes, our quick look around the NBA. The Boston Celtics are struggling on their west coast trip- coming off back to back losses to the Warriors and the Clippers. Jayson Tatum, the early season front-runner for MVP, had two of his worst games of the season against GS and LA, shooting just 13 of 41 from the field. Last week’s OM3 guest, Derrick White, talked at length about what makes Tatum and the Celtics so good. Are these two west coast games an aberration or should we put more stock in two regular season “measuring stick” games?
In this week’s A Farewell to Takes we are giving you:
- Our Stat of the Week
- The spark in DC (for however long he's there)
- The Best Thing Tommy Ate This Week
- Our Wine of the Week
As always, thanks for being a part of our community. We have got a great episode of OM3 dropping later this week! —JJ
The Stat of the Week is 158
The New Orleans Pelicans currently sit in first place in the Western Conference at 18-8. They are the only team in the NBA to rank in the top 5 in both defense (3rd) and offense (5th). A big part of their success has been Zion Williamson. During their current 7-game win streak Zion is averaging 30 ppg, 9 rpg, and 5 apg while shooting 67% from the field. What has been the key to his dominant play? The return of Point Zion. In the first 14 games Zion played this season he brought the ball up the court 105 times, but in the last 7 games (all wins) he has brought the ball up 158 times. Getting the ball in his hands to start the possession has resulted in a huge uptick in his drives per game. In the last 8 games Zion has averaged 19 drives a game after averaging just 11.1 drives per game in his first 13 games. We spent a lot of time breaking down Zion and the Pelicans on this week’s The Old Man and the Three Things, and the full Pelicans segment is available on our YouTube channel. —JJ
Featured Player of the Week: Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma has had an untraditional career trajectory since entering the league in 2017. Largely unheralded in college at Utah, he was an afterthought in the draft, a throw-in in the Brook Lopez for D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov trade. Kuzma's fluid game translated quickly to the NBA. Because it's the Lakers, after an up-and-down but promising rookie year, he immediately became one of the young faces of one of the most high profile franchises in sports. He had his ups and downs in LA over the next few years: a championship in the bubble with LeBron and AD, inconsistent offensive output including shooting percentages that hovered 33% from 3 and 52% EFG, not good enough for wing who was expected to be a 2nd/3rd scoring option. A trade became likely. Kuzma was seconds from being dealt to Sacramento last year before Russell Westbrook came into the picture, and he found himself in D.C., a fit nobody was really sure how it was going to go.
The Wizards overall this season have been a work in progress. Brad Beal's usage is way down, their recent first round pick history has been questionable to put it nicely, but Kuzma has been a nice bright spot for them. In 27 games so far, he's posted career highs in points per game, effective field goal percentage and points per 100 possessions. His usage rate is easily the highest it has been in his career so far at 27.6%. The Wizards are relying on him to be a third option behind Beal and Kristaps Porzingis (who has also been sneaky good so far), and this has proven to be an effective fit. Unfortunately, the rest of the depth has not held up, and the Wiz currently find themselves losers of 7 games in a row and firmly in the lottery picture again.
Why I write about Kuzma is not because this Washington team is going anywhere, but rather that he's likely going to be playing elsewhere this time next month, like Bojan Bogdanović, a potentially massive trade deadline spark for a contender who needs wing help. The Phoenix Suns have been the team most closely linked here, but he makes a lot of sense in Dallas, Miami and ironically, his former team in LA.
Kuzma's likely never going to be a traditional 3-and-D wing, so whoever trades for him is going to need to make sure he has the ball in his hands more often than not. Either way, the emergence of a consistent Kuz is a bright spot for a Washington team that can certainly use one and a good thing for fans of the league overall. —Tommy
Best Thing Tommy Ate This Week: Octapodi at Loukoumi Taverna
Astoria, Queens is one of the greatest places on earth for food lovers. From Monoglian to Nepalese, every type of food is represented here, usually in its best possible form. This will not be the last time Astoria is featured in this segment of the letter, but I had a grilled octopus appetizer at Loukoumi Taverna that was too special to not shout out.
Grilled octopus in general is a pretty standard, if not tasty, starter. When it's high quality fish, you slap it on the grill, throw a little lemon on there, and you're done. That's basically what happens at Loukoumi with a bit of seasoning and olive oil, but their seasoning makes all the difference. The fish is insanely fresh, and the combination of flavors makes you feel like you're on the water in Mykonos. In my estimation, there's no better Greek food in America than in Astoria, and there's no better Greek restaurant in Astoria than Loukoumi, so take with that what you will. —Tommy
Last week we were joined by Celtics guard Derrick White for great conversations about his unique backstory, Jayson Tatum's leap, the chemistry in Boston, what makes Gregg Popovich so great, guarding Steph Curry, and more.
Wine of the Week: Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2019
Joseph Faiveley is one of the most prolific producers in Burgundy. They make wines at all price points and levels (regional, village, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru). This is a regional Pinot Noir (any Pinot from Burgundy that is regional will say Bourgogne) that is a good entry point into French Pinot noir. Plus, it is a great value coming in at around 30 bucks. Faiveley makes a lot of wine and it’s not uncommon to find a bottle in your local wine shop. Despite their production level, the quality does not suffer. —JJ