In the NBA, super teams have morphed into super pairings. Taking the lead from the world of entertainment – those folks knew that Simon & Garfunkel & Cher or Laurel and Hardy and Abbott would never work – trios have downsized to duos.
So this season, eight superstars – all certain hall of famers – have formed four superstar twosomes.
Couch Slouch, who knows a thing or two – and only a thing or two – about successful coupling – is here to assess the prospects for these iconic basketball marriages.
(Please note that no successful coupling will ever involve I-got-my-shots-so-I-don't-care-what-happens-elsewhere-on-the-court Carmelo Anthony, who returned last week from his forced NBA sabbatical by recording a minus-20 in 24 minutes of play with the Portland Trail Blazers.)
The duos are ranked here from most likely to win an NBA championship to most likely to end up broken, bickering and Bernie Madoff-like:
1. Kawhi Leonard-Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers: They are in their prime, they are surrounded by wonderful complementary parts and they have a fine coach, Doc Rivers. What could go wrong?
Both are still somewhat youthful – Leonard is 28, George 29 – but both might have trouble staying on the court. In eight NBA seasons, Leonard has played 66 or fewer games six times; George, meanwhile, fractured his right leg to miss almost all of 2014-15, and he missed the first 11 games this season after shoulder surgery.
Heck, load management issues alone might keep Leonard out of Games 1, 3 and 6 in a seven-game NBA Finals.
2. LeBron James-Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers: These are inarguably two of the best all-around players in the NBA, unless you want to argue the point.
James seems indestructible, except he'll turn 35 next month, he's in his 17th NBA season and he takes more hits than Tom Brady. The Lakers could not survive a prolonged period in which James is sidelined.
Davis, who never has played more than 75 games in a season, just spent seven years in New Orleans in witness protection; he can't wait for the postseason, since he only got there twice with the Pelicans.
3. James Harden-Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets: This feels like a sporting Manhattan Project, except instead of secrecy, this race to make the first atomic bomb is played out in large arenas three nights a week. Harden (uranium) and Westbrook (plutonium), are durable ball hogs and wondrous to watch. But if you told either former MVP to play 48 minutes and take 50 shots, either might reply, "Why not 60 shots?"
4. Kyrie Irving-Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets: Too big to fail? No. Too fanciful to succeed. This is a more guaranteed bust than the next Charlie Sheen sitcom. Irving and Durant keep seeking new homes to show the true measure of their talent. But they are as temperamental as talented, and Durant – out this entire season with a torn ACL – might be a step-too-slow diva when he returns.
Anyhow, ballyhooed pairings are not guaranteed to thrive. For example:
Richard Nixon-Spiro Agnew: This simply did not end well for all parties concerned.
Sears-Kmart: The only thing that would've made this retail merger worse is if Radio Shack were involved.
Julius Caesar and Cleopatra: Frankly, I think they were using each other.
Gilligan and the Skipper: Despite better WiFi and more precise GPS than ever, these bozos are still deserted on that island.
Bonnie and Clyde: I understand getting out of the house on occasion to break the same old same old, but these lovebirds were just a bit too edgy for their own good.
America Online-Time Warner: I have earned a paycheck from both companies, and I am here to tell you – this was a nightmare alliance made in purgatory and destined for hell.
Romeo and Juliet: If they had eloped – and I recommend eloping, particularly on your second or third go-around – I believe a life or two would've been spared.
Thelma & Louise: And they say women are smarter.
On the other hand, kudos to Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner for always understanding their roles.
Ask the Slouch
Q.If even the professionals in Joe Gibbs' pit crew mixed up the left and right front tires in the NASCAR Cup Series championship, then isn't it reasonable to expect my fiancé to forgive me for swiping left on her instead of right on Tinder? (Doug Thompson; Springfield, Ill.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Will the NFL stop playing games at foreign neutral sites now that Daniel Snyder has created a domestic neutral site just outside of Washington, D.C.? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. With the accusations against the Houston Astros using video to steal signs in MLB, is that just now called a "belichick"? (Michael Kolb; Spokane, Wash.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Will recent unrest at Hong Kong Poly U. impact thinking of the College Football Playoff committee on its ranking? (Ken Unzicker; Fairfax, Va.)
A. Pay the man Shirley.
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As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.
Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).
Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.
But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.
Cristian Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. He acknowledged that some of his struggles last year could be attributed to some extra weight he was carrying around in addition to the already-documented mechanical flaws he had.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2024
In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.
Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.
The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.