I'm not sure if it was Kierkegaard, Dick Van Patten or Superchunk drummer/hilarity machine Jon Wurster, but one of them once said, "It's nice to be nice to the nice." It's a wonderful philosophy, simple in its power and powerful in its simplicity, and on Saturday night, it was clearly being put into practice by Houston Rockets teammates Chase Budinger(notes) and Courtney Lee(notes).
Just past the halfway point in the fourth quarter of the Rockets' preseason contest against the Indiana Pacers, new Rocket Lee (who came over from the New Jersey Nets in a four-team deal earlier this summer) leaked out on the fast break after a steal by Ishmael Smith(notes) and received a pass from the Wake Forest rookie. Lee then drove to the basket and tossed a lob to the streaking Budinger, who thought it best to place the soaring basketball into the net beneath the round metal receptacle, post-haste.
It was really nice of Lee to make that pass, and Budinger knew it. So about a minute later, he decided to put his philosophy into practice by tossing Lee a tasty lob of his own.
I'm going to put on my CrankyPants in a sec, but first, let's accentuate the positive: The back-to-back connections were beautiful.
On the first, Lee put the ball in the air early, giving Budinger enough lead time to spot the pass, take off and corral it, and it was super dope to see Chase show off the amazing ups that made him such a tantalizing prospect at Arizona (not to mention a world-class volleyball player in high school). On the second, Budinger showed good court vision to take advantage of a nice off-ball cut by Lee, then delivered a perfect pass to the right of the square, just above the bottom of the backboard, for Lee to grab on the way up for an easy stuff. Great job, dudes. Thumbs up, all the way.
That said: C'mon, Paul George(notes). I know that rookies make rookie mistakes — it's kind of what they do, and kind of why we've all decided on that particular name for those particular mistakes — but George got taken advantage of for two alley-oops in a minute of game time.
On Lee's dunk, he got caught watching the ball, lost track of his assignment and gave the ex-Nets and Orlando Magic guard a free run at the rim. By the time George realized what was going on, he'd already been screened off by Patrick Patterson(notes) and had no chance to get back into the play.
Worse than that, though — from a reputation standpoint, at least — was George's decision on the first alley-oop, when he jumped halfheartedly into a play he had no chance of making just in time for Budinger to drop the hammer on him.
Paul George realizes he's probably going to wind up on a Chase Budinger poster now, right? Or, in the extraordinarily likely event that we're not mass-producing Chase Budinger posters at the moment, at least on the business end of a hastily-thrown-together Photoshop of him flailing beneath Chase's dunk with a phrase like "U GOT BUDINGERED" or written over his torso in Comic Sans? That's right: Dan Gilbert status. And that, since he's a rookie out of Fresno State who's playing in his first preseason, he doesn't have a plethora of professional posters of his own just yet? This means that his first instance of poster-related participation in the NBA is him rushing to be Chase Budinger's victim. Yikes.
Hat-tip to ClutchFans.