#THATWASANASSWHUPPING

“When you talk about a teammate, that’s everything you want in a teammate. I gained so much more respect for Serge for sacrificing himself for the team. Regardless of what happened tonight, that’s something you want beside you.”

Straight from KD’s mouth right there.

Man. I’m not gonna make no HGH accusations and say that bro was on that Gazelle antler spray tip. Professional athletes have mutant healing powers, and the best medical staffs available to man.

Serge Ibaka just went from “OUT TO THE PLAYOFFS” to “day to day.”

They called it a miracle.They said his calf just managed to stop swelling. Did one of the reverends that do the pre-game prayer lay hands on Serge Ibaka? Did Dennis Haybert come into the locker room and sacrifice a bucket of chicken?

For all the talk about how Russell Westbrook’s absence affected the Thunder play, they are a totally different team without Serge Ibaka–regressing back to 2011 OKC. Ibaka affected how the Spurs attacked the rim and he put in 15 points on the offensive end. The spacing he was able to provide allowed Russ more room to attack the rim. His presence alone gave the team and the crowd an emotional lift was akin to a college basketball event. It was loud and the crowd was juiced. San Antonio wasn’t ready for that kind of intensity. Ginoboli said the Thunder “showed them reality.”

Besides Ginoboli, no one on the Spurs played well. There were flashed of Spurs sprinkled throughout the first 3 quarters, but let’s face it, they were outrebounded, and outhustled. They had to work twice as hard on defense because they couldn’t get rebounds. They also picked up a lot of stupid touch fouls while in the bonus (I didn’t think the refs had a good game last night).

I think this game 4 is going to determine who wins this series. A Thunder win will dredge up bad memories for this San Antonio team, and could give the Thunder yet another psychological boost. A Spurs win can ease a lot of minds in the San Antonio camp. Either way, the next 3 games are going to be dogfights. The energy from last night’s game was contagious, and if Serge is healthy enough to play again, expect some drama. Scott Brooks is right when he says the Spurs are not “that much better” than the Thunder.

They definitely are longer, bigger, and more athletic than the Spurs. If they continue to play smarter than the Spurs this will be 2012 all over again; including another ass whupping from the Heat in the finals. Which is why I’m rooting for the Spurs to take OKC down (Spurs are a much better match up against Miami–I think they can beat them this time). Fuck Lebron’s three-peat.

Looking Forward [Originally posted on sportsblog.com 12/30/13]

These are the things I’m looking forward to in 2014:

Golden State Warriors

I’m so happy that they are relevant again. The NBA is always more exciting when the Bay Area is involved. I loved watching the Warriors in the early 90’s (especially when my boy C-Webb played for them). I lived in Oakland during the 2007 run that culminated with this infamous Baron Davis dunk. I took the opportunity to catch a playoff game against the Spurs in game 6 of the Western Conference Semi-finals. It did not disappoint. The crowd was just as animated as advertised and even though the Warriors lost, it was one of the most electrifying experiences I’d had at a sporting event.

This year, I have been following them pretty closely and at least six of their home games could easily be argued as some of the best of the season. I’m looking forward to watching them against any of the other 7 teams come playoff time. Any random game can produce an assortment of highlight plays that will end up on SportsCenter. I think they are a back up point guard and front court player away from seriously challenging the Spurs to come out of the west.

Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson

Dude is so raw and getting better every game. I love his new found demeanor and focus. “Born Ready” is an underrated passer and he is just as powerful as he is quick. And dude is so gritty too. He is like a more talented Deshawn Stevenson. The Pacers need his production as much as David West, Roy Hibbert, and Paul George. Now that Danny Granger is back, it seems like the Pacers are only a legit backup point guard away from wresting the Eastern Conference title away from the Heat. Which brings me to:

Miami vs. Indiana

Something that I liked in 2013 and am looking forward to seeing more of next year. These games bring to mind the old Heat-Knicks, Knicks-Pacers, Bulls-Knicks, Bulls-Pacers rivalry games. This is the premier rivalry right now; probably the best since the Kings-Lakers back in early 2000’s (Spurs-Mavs were fun, but I’m not sure if anyone cared about those games outside of Texas). Heat-Pacers games are played at such a high level,–even their two regular season clashes exhibited the same kind of playoff intensity you saw last year. They genuinely don’t like each other, but there is also an enormous amount of respect as well. It’s also a great match up of styles. Indiana has the traditional front court with the throwback center in Roy Hibbert. Miami has this new flash and dash, spread em out, small ball blitzkrieg they unleash onto opponents. It’s great theater.

NBA TV

I caught a program I had never seen before on this channel, called Open Court. It was the panel like discussion on various controversial locker room issues such as race (the N word), homophobia, and steroids. Inside a nice furnished studio was Dominique Wilkins, Tracy McGrady, Steve Kerr (a man with brilliant and insightful opinions), Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Rick Fox and Ernie Johnson. It was awesome to watch this type of forum take place and hear the varying opinions of guys from different backgrounds (Rick Fox, a Canadian, having an interesting perspective to offer). In a politically correct time where so many analysts, and former players have to give canned responses with regard to their financial opportunities. It was refreshing to hear such candid discussions

364 more days without NBA Xmas Jerseys.

Some people thought they looked like wrestling uniforms, one comedian said the NBA players looked like they were about to play volleyball . I kinda dug the Knicks-Thunder uni’s but only because they had this Star Trek vibe about them. All the other ones looked kinda wack. But hey what do I know? I majored in English in college, not Fashion Design and Merchandising.

The Clippers getting exposed as overrated
.

I will give the Clippers credit. Doc Rivers is an upgrade over Vinny Del Negro (former San Antonio great), and Chris Paul is gonna do his thang. DeAndre Jordan has gotten seems more focused and Blake Griffin has definitely opened up his game as well but………No one besides CP-3 and Jamal Crawford can create their own shot. I kinda feel like they are still posturing. They have a couple of tough guys (Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson (I love me some Captain Jack no lie, and its great seeing he and Barnes reunited from their ’07 Warriors days) but their defense is terrible and their half court game is weak. I’m still not sold on them.

Russ Westbrook’s full recovery from yet another knee operation

Many people blame Patrick Beverly for Westbrook’s knee injury (I’m still not sure where I stand–bro was ust trying to make a name for himself and got a little too aggressive), but if you want someone to blame, perhaps the fingers need to be pointed at the Oklahoma City Thunder front office. Dig it, they don’t trade James Harden to Houston, the Rockets don’t make the playoffs, and Beverly doesn’t get the chance to knock Russell’s knee. This totally changes the landscape for the West altogether, perhaps robbing us of this NBA Finals moment. The playoffs won’t be nearly as exciting without Russell Westbrook blurring his way to the rim. So for selfish reasons alone, get well Russ and take your time getting back. It would be a basketball tragedy if Westbrook’s career was derailed in the same manner as Brandon Roy and Gilbert Arenas.

UCLA players in the NBA

Watching the UCLA game the other night made me appreciate the run that Ben Howland had while he was coaching there. How in the hell did they manage to spit out so many NBA players? Not just fringe/role players, but legitimate contributors. Let’s start with Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, and Luc Mbah a Moute who were on those teams that got smashed by Florida (beating a much more talented KU team one of those years). The next crop brought us Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love. After they left there was Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison. That is quite a list. I never expected any of these guys to be as good as they are in the NBA, maybe that’s why Howland got fired–maybe he wasn’t getting the most out of his talented recruits.

More Louisville and Kentucky games

I fell asleep during the second half of their matchup on Saturday and missed the end of the game.

I wanted to see more of this Montrezl Harrell kid. He certainly looked athletic, I wasn’t that impressed with the rest of the squad–but boy did that Russ Smith dunk get me out of my seat. I still haven’t figured out whether I think Louisville is overrated or not. I personally think they got extremely lucky in last year’s tournament run, due to a weak field and charitable officiating.

I’m diggin on Cauley-Stein’s game more and more. I think he can be a serviceable player in the NBA If he focuses on being a rebounder and defender. And if he attacks the glass like a dope fiend he’ll always have a job. I could see him being a poor man’s Kenyon Martin but with almost better value, because no team would be dumb enough to take him as a number one pick.

NFL Playoffs

I’m not crazy about NFL football during the regular season, and since I avoided fantasy football this year, I had little reason to even watch. I think there will be some good games this January though. The games will be intense and you know there will be some hits, some scrums and some sideline crying. It would be nice to see the 49ers win it all. But not because I’m a fan but just because I don’t like Seattle, Peyton Manning, or Tom Brady. Go Niners!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR,

Click Picka

A Gauntlet of Aztecs Approaching [Originally posted on sportsblog.com 1/7//14]

Bill Self described the upcoming five games against Oklahoma, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Baylor as “having to face five San Diego States”.

I knew the Hawks were in some trouble after they gave up 83 points to Toledo, a team without any NBA prospects on it. In fact the Jayhawks hadn’t played a complete game since their November win against Towson.

I hadn’t watched a single Aztec game this year, but I know what Steve Fisher is capable of as a coach, and he certainly had them ready to play. He and the Aztecs went into Lawrence with a great game plan and executed it near flawlessly.

They limited KU’s fast break points, out-rebounded the Jayhawks 51-39, and killed them in the paint–only attempting eight 3 pointers the entire game. The Aztecs did a great job of doubling the KU bigs on the catch and the Jayhawks’ front line only mustered 18 points; 12 of them coming from the always impressive Joel Embiid (the already lion quick Center tweeted this weekend that he’d be taking ballet classes this upcoming semester to help him with his footwork–I know this worked for former Longhorn and future NBA guard Royal Ivey).

Notables from Sunday’s game:

1) The Jayhawks are not a very good passing team. They can get out in transition, but when it comes to creating shots for other players, they come up short. This is in part to having guards who can’t create consistently. Doug Gottlieb touched on this during Sunday’s telecast and one of the few things he got right (Naismith Blvd,Massachusetts Ave, and Wiggins’ summer activities were three things he got wrong), was that the lack of a play maker at point guard is hurting the team’s offensive development. Gottlieb then went on to say that this has held up the progress of stars Wiggins, and Embiid (let’s throw Perry Ellis in there too who hasn’t played well since his neck injury against Georgetown).

Which begs the question of does Bill Self develop point guards? It could be argued that the last consistent play maker at point guard was Aaron Miles– a Roy Williams recruit. Sherron Collins was a good guard, but I feel like he was more a shoot first guard than passer. I’m sure one could argue Josh Selby or Tyshawn Taylor, but I’d just laugh at them.

The offensive woes they have had to begin games has been irritating to watch. Sunday they came out 3/19 on field goals, and 6/29 in the first half, and only shot 4 for 16 from 3 point range for the whole game. It may seem crazy to say this because of how talented this team is, but because they are such a young team, this would arguably be Bill Self’s best coaching job if he somehow manages to will this team to another Big 12 title.

Naadir Tharpe has not played as well as I hoped he would, and at the beginning of the season I wrote that the team would only go as far as he could take them. Depending on shoot first freshman Frank Mason to lead the team is expecting too much this early in his career. The Jayhawks need better guard play if they expect to win another Big 12 title.

2) I was happy to see a team (capable of beating the Jayhawks) come into Lawrence and compete. The Aztecs brought it on Sunday. Their interior passing and rebounding was beautiful to watch. I can’t recall seeing so many put back dunks in a college game. It was good to see at least one team brought some intensity (although the last five minutes of the first half was an eyesore).

3) Wiggins is so smooth;as graceful as a gazelle. He made me squeal a couple of times when he found a lane, lifted off, and took it to the cup When he develops that outside shot he will be unstoppable–people forget that Lebron and Kobe didn’t always have good outside shots early in their careers–people used to dare Lebron to shoot the jumper.

4) I’m not digging the Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor front line combo. It seems like they basically the same skill sets. Neither have impressed me with their handles, or how well they move without the ball. Even though they got killed on the boards, I like how the small ball lineup of Embiid, Wiggins, Selden, Mason, and Tharpe opened up the floor. The lack of 3 point shooting is something that I didn’t see coming. I figured Andrew White III, Brannen Greene and Conner Frankamp would play bigger roles on the perimeter. All three players struggle to see consistent playing time.

5) San Diego State is going to cause some teams headaches come tournament time. They have a big, physical front line and they play good defense. But they’ll get beat once they encounter foul trouble and a team with a better bench. Of the 61 points they scored Sunday, only 6 came from the bench players.

It’s going to be a nasty stretch coming up for Kansas. It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments that Self and the coaching staff make when conference play starts on Wednesday. I’m also excited to see if Kansas plays with the intensity and resolve they reserve for the last five minutes of every game. Self himself admitted that this team is not as good as he thought they would be at this point. He even shared some of the blame for being part of why they weren’t that good. It seems silly to say this early into season, but the next 5 games will reveal what kind of team the Jayhawks have. Maybe its time for a players only meeting. This might sound crazy, but anything less than a 4-1 start will have Jayhawks fans ready to hit the panic button.

This week will be a great stretch of games in both the NCAA and NBA:

For college we have KU vs. OU, KU vs. K-State, Michigan State vs. Ohio State tonight, Baylor vs. the Iowa State Hoibergs, Memphis and Louisville, and UCLA vs. Arizona.

I plan to sneak a peek at the (now) #8 ranked Wichita State Shockers with Ron Baker, Fred Van Fleet, and Nick Wiggins (yeah Andrew’s older brother). I’m certainly going to have to get out to Wichita and see them in person this spring. For now, I’ll have to settle for watching them on my laptop computer. It’s unfortunate that Self isn’t interested in scheduling them down the road, saying it doesn’t benefit the program to face them (perhaps he thinks this new found Shocker success is fleeting?) during the season. I personally think it would be great for the state of Kansas to see them face off every year and keep some of that money in state. It would be a fun deal for everyone, and I like that Wichita State is making some noise. Maybe if the Shockers keep it up, Bill will be more interested in putting them on the schedule. Hopefully I can make that trip out to Wichita and see for myself if they are legit.

The NBA games I plan to catch this week are Portland Orlando, Dallas- San Antonio, and Golden State- Milwaukee (Greek Freak!!!!).

I’m feeling a bit more honed in, after missing four key barn-burners over the holidays. I’m still kicking myself over missing the Warriors-Suns game from a week and a half ago (where Steph Curry almost got a triple double in one half), Portland-Miami (without Lebron) was a nail-biter. I fell asleep during the second half of the Kentucky- Louisville match 2 Saturdays ago and was stuck on a plane when Steph Curry (whose production has certainly gone up since the return of Iguodala) went NBA Jam all over the Heat last Thursday night (How was that game not on TNT?).

For the rest of this year I’m dedicating myself to sitting in front of the computer and watching basketball. No more nights off, no putting off hoops for romance, and no more going out. I’m putting all my energy into studying hoops. Nothing is worse than coming home, opening up the ESPN page and seeing replays of a game you vaguely felt was potentially intriguing and missing something amazing. Basketball never stops but……………..

Colin Kaepernick though ………

My little brother clowned on me when I told him that was my favorite qb in the league right now. I know he didn’t look great against Seattle in their first game, but I like his swagger. He’s only a 3rd year pro, first year starter, and he already seems like the heir apparent to Randall Cunningham. I love the fact that he didn’t wear sleeves during the Green Bay game. That 4th quarter was the kind of intensity that I love to see during the NFL playoffs. For some reason, SF-GB seem to more often than not have classic games. Some clutch play in brutal conditions provide for great theater.

I guess you could include KC-Indy in the great theater discussion, but that was more depressing than watching “The Pianist.” I knew the collapse was coming and still I kept watching and still the events that unfolded manage to surprise me. I’m not even a Chiefs fan and I was horrified.

I’m excited for this weekend’s games. I have watched more football in the last 48 hours then I have all season long.

Carolina-San Francisco might turn out to be the best game. I’m looking forward to seeing those defense square off. I think the Saints will play better this time against Seattle, but I still see them getting beat by 2 touchdowns. Denver-San Diego might be fun, and I’d like to see what kind of magic the Stanford boy produces against the Patriots.

While we are at it, how does anyone bet on that line from last night’s BCS game. Vegas probably made a killing. Florida State as 13 point favorites? Insane. Auburn will rue the fact that they didn’t try to score at the end of the first half, and the missed field goal early on in the game. They had FSU shook and couldn’t close the deal. It’s still hard to take college football seriously–more about politics than actual football–a bunch of rich old men investing in and betting on their alma maters. Although the NFL hypocrisy is pretty sickening. I don’t see how they can say they care about the players with Thursday night games, a push for an 18 game schedule and the legalization of Astroturf (you can tell how serious they are about alleviating concussions by the turf issue alone–they may as well been playing on concrete when the turf froze over in those stadiums).

Oh well, bring on the professionals. It’s going to be a fun week, and a really fun 2014.

Real fast before I go I wanna publicly admit that I did not think Trey Burke would be so good, nor did I think Michael Carter Williams would so spectacular. Also shout out to Kendall Marshall, who I’m very happy to see get another chance with the Los Angeles Lakers. Dude got 15 assists in his first game with them (and only 4th start of the season), and its not like he has that many people to throw the ball to. That Lakers team has been decimated with injuries. Keep fighting Lake Show. I hope they are able to get Westbrook and Kevin Love in the summer of 2015.

Enjoy one of the best months of the year. The doldrums of July will be here before you know it.

Fakin it til They Makin’ it [Originally Posted 1/10/14 on sportsblog.com]

Big win for the Jayhawks the other night. The start of conference play and their latest mini-swoon lend to a visible increase of intensity for Oklahoma. They played like they were tired of losing, with Selden leading the way with 15 early points in the first half.

I liked the aggression, the Jayhawks were still making mistakes, but they were not lackadaisical. This was important to see because Oklahoma (and every team they will face the rest of the season) is capable of beating them. It almost happened too. Cameron Clark put on a show the other night, putting up 32 points. I was very impressed with his game, and he was so hot at one point, that I was surprised whenever anyone but him shot the ball. Nevertheless, OU is a jump shooting team, and KU put the ball inside when they needed to, with Perry Ellis putting up a very quiet 22 points and 11 rebounds. OU is probably NIT bound, but they are still a lot to handle. They didn’t quit and played to the final whistle. Respect.

It may take until the end of the season before this team gels into the collection of players everyone (including me) envisioned. There may be some clunkers, and ugly wins, but if they have some grit, then another conference title can be won. Jayhawks fans will have to endure the growing pains. I’m still not altogether sure if this season is only the build up for next year. Inexperience could be their fatal flaw in this year’s tournament.

Some random thoughts before I go:

I wonder how well a lineup of Connor Frankemp, Brandon Greene,Wiggins, Selden, and Embiid would play together. That’s a line-up that could really spread the floor against the right team. I wonder if Self will unveil that combination any during these next few games.

It seems like any combination Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas, and Tarik Black at power forward and center will result in an extravaganza of outside shots and 3 second violations. The Jayhawks get slower and more predicable on offense when this clunky lineup is on the floor. It can get ugly sometimes.
I love watching Jayhawks games at the bar for the atmosphere as much for the game. Streaming it on the laptop and projecting it on the wall can be just as nice–especially when I’m trying to save money. One of my favorite things about streaming is the random channels that you end up on. For some reason commercials don’t seem quite as mundane and annoying when they are in Russian.

I have a hunch that Wiggins will unleash the beast for a game or two during this upcoming stretch. I could see it being in Ames; in a hostile environment. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was next Saturday against Oklahoma State. It might be a few years until Wiggins finally gets a hold of what Deion Sanders referred to as “his dog”. It took Kevin Durant losing the Western Conference Finals to fully embrace that nasty streak. I’ve noticed it come out when someone pisses Wiggins off, but he hasn’t quite harnessed that viciousness yet.

If Jamari Traylor decides to focus on passing, rebounding, setting screens, and defense, he will find himself with plenty of playing time. Traylor’s offensive game is not the most polished, but if he makes up his mind that he would focus on the above things and get garbage points when they arrived, Self would have trouble keeping him off the floor.

There seems to be a lack of a discernible defensive leader on this team;someone who sets the tone for the team, and makes sure everyone has their assignments. Part of this may be from a lack of cohesion; having not played together enough. This concerns me because the team is putting up points but still giving them up as well. It’s nice to know when you are on the road, in a hostile environment, that you can get a stop on defense whenever you need one.

I’m liking what is going on out in Wichita. I watched a game the other night on TV and decided I’m going to have to make a trip there. I like the team’s makeup and I like their coach Gregg Marshall. This team reminds me of those Butler squads that went back to back Final Fours. I think this team is good enough to make it to the championship game. If they were to play Kansas tomorrow, I would favor them to beat KU. KU has a more talented roster, but right now Wichita State is the better team (in fact, if the tournament started next week, I would not feel confident this KU squad had what it took to get past the sweet sixteen).

I like Wichita’s Ron Baker (in my opinion almost a good of a passer as Luke Walton). I like their point guard Fred VanFleet, I like Cleanthony Early, and I like Nick Wiggins (who is more of a grinder than his brother). It feels like there is something special going on right now in Wichita. It may not last longer than this season, but it is worth keeping an eye on.

I saw the “U” play UNC the other night. They really miss Shane Larkin, but I could easily see them making some noise by next year (this year, NIT bound). I have liked Jim Larranaga since his George Mason days, and Miami is lucky to have such a good player’s coach.

I need to see more Victor Oladipo. The backcourt of Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, and Oladipo is almost worth watching Orlando Magic games. I’m not crazy about the point guard experiment with Oladipo, but I think he will be a great 2 guard. He is athletic and a great defender He definitely has that “dog” harnessed. I may go on to regret saying this, but he seems to have that nasty streak that Jordan had in him. What if Orlando lucked into a lottery pick and got Embiid, Parker, or Julius Randle? Any of those 3 players with Oladipo and Afflalo would put the Eastern conference on notice; something else to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Louisville’s Russ Smith and Chris Jones may be the best backcourt east of Cameron Indoors. They are explosive.

UCLA games at Pauley Pavillion look like the pick to click. You know UCLA hoops is back when you see NBA stars going to the games on their night off. Doc Rivers, Steve Nash, Phil Jackson, and Baron Davis were all in attendance for the UCLA-Arizona game.

Last night’s game was very fun to watch. I would be surprised if there were less than 6 future NBA players from this game. UCLA has a tendency to put guys in the NBA who went on to have better pro careers than college. I think Kyle Anderson is going to be the rawest of anybody who played in this game. With his height and his handles, and his ability to finish, he could be the next Penny Hardaway. He could leave now and get drafted pretty high, but it may serve him well to stay another year in college. Unfortunately UCLA is a first half team. They played two entertaining first halves against Duke and Arizona. The second half of both games they would lose focus for long stretches of time with bad shots and careless turnovers. That being said, they will make for a very watchable NIT run.

Arizona looks like a very balanced team. I like the backcourt of Nick Johnson and A.J. McConnell. Aaron Gordon made me to squeal a couple times last night after throwing it down.
If there is a school with better looking basketball cheerleaders than UCLA, I’d love to attend a game there. Wow! I thought KU had some great looking cheerleaders. I’d take UCLA’s stable over half the squads in the NBA. Much respect.

UCLA has some sweet uniforms. Classic.

I forgot how much I miss Bill Walton’s musings and rambling. What a great ambassador for the game of basketball. Reading his autobiography “Nothing But Net” was a real influence on my love for the game. His affection and enthusiasm for the game is contagious.

We’ll see if there is any momentum tomorrow against the K-State Wildcats who won a share of the Big 12 conference title last year. They beat Oklahoma State last Saturday so this will be interesting. One thing for sure, there will be some intensity tomorrow–all day long. Bring on the weekend.

Maple Jordan Lifts Off [Originally posted 1/12/14 on sportsblog.com]

I think that was the type of game Jayhawks fans have been waiting for. They picked the right game to break out the intensity. This was undoubtedly the best game they have played since the win against Towson. Kansas was dominant, efficient, and focused. The only mar to the game was the Embiid ejection, but I kind of liked the nasty side he showed. I know Bill Self thinks its “best for a player to think next play”, but I think him hitting K-State’s Nino Williams in the face will show opponents that he won’t be punked.

Quick thoughts from yesterday’s game:

How wet was Wayne Selden’s shot yesterday? He started out 5-7 from the field in the first half before he finished 7-10 with 20 points (3-5 from 3 point range). “Wet” Wayne set the tone early by being aggressive and looking for his shot. I like this new assertive Wayne Selden. He strikes me as the type who hates to lose. If he were to jump into the league today, he could compete in this year’s slam dunk contest. The powerful way he attacks the rim when he dunks physically reminds me of Russell Westbrook or Eric Bledsoe–two awesome physical specimens at their positions. I’m as excited to watch his progression through conference play as I am about any player.

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Kawhi Before Our Very Eyes

When its all said and done, Greg Popovich’s face should be on a postage stamp, “Spurs Forever”
Besides trading away Luis Scola and signing Richard Jefferson, can you think of any other glaring mistakes that the front office in San Antonio has made (I bet their front office is about as tight lipped as the KGB on draft nights. Even the slightest rumor that the Spurs are high on a player will raise their stock)?

Drafting the Admiral and Timmy “Time Machine” were both no brainers, but how did they know Manu Ginoboli and Tony Parker would be so damn good? Now they have Kawhi emerging as a legitimate two way threat. I don’t think he’ll ever be more than an 18 and 10 guy (He doesn’t strike me as the kind of player who’ll carry a team by himself–nor should he be asked to), but the impact that he has on a game can’t be ignored. The guy made three pivotal, mouth gaping, “HOLY FUCK” plays last night.
Kawhi’s presence cannot be ignored. There is going to come a point where Tony Parker won’t have the wheels and will have to say “You have the juice now Kawhi.” And Spurs fans will solemnly nod and cheer their team on to another 50 win season. Kawhi fell to # 15 in a weak 2011 draft and I would argue that he is clearly the best player to come out that year. I see why Mavs fans hate the Spurs so much. Imagine how mad they would be if the Spurs somehow landed Rick Carlisle as the successor to Popovich. They’d be swollllllllll.

Embeast Mode [Originally posted on sportsblog.com 1/15/14]

That loud crash you heard was the back axles straining from the weight of all those people jumping back on the bandwagon. After early non conference losses, people were ready to bury the Jayhawks for dead. If Kansas beats up on Oklahoma State on Saturday, then the same people who over hyped KU– only to abandon them after the San Diego State game–will be ready to crown them champs before we are even a third of the way through the schedule.

Let’s check out who the Jayhwaks lost to:

1)Villanova. They were unranked before the Battle of Atlantis tournament started. Now they are sitting #6 in the country.

2) Florida. They were top ten at the time they beat KU, and now they are # 7 in the nation.

3) Colorado. Also a top 25 team that was unranked during the time they beat Kansas. Now they are #21 in the nation.

4) San Diego State. Another top ten team that KU barely lost in a pretty physical game.

None of those losses were enough to justify the panic that some Jayhawks fans had. Critics outside of Lawrence were quick to write them off as too hyped even if they were the main culprits creating such media hype. It is a long season and there are still some highs and lows for the team to navigate. It seems silly to over react either way to how a team plays in January.

Notes from Monday’s game:

Big ups to Nadir Thaarpe for playing the way everyone was hoping he would. 23 points 6 rebounds and 4 assists may not get him out Self’s doghouse permanently, but it is a great start. As much as the Jayhawks need his outside shooting, I hope that Nadir doesn’t forget that his team needs his passing more than anything else. He has to get the ball into the playmakers’ hands. Every shot that went in for Thaarpe elicited a “Tharpeedo” yell from one of my buddies the other night. I know it’s kind of corny but I’m digging it.

After DeAndre Kane hit the 3 pointer to tie it up at the half, I was certain that the Jayhawks were in for a dogfight. I was severely disappointed that the Cyclones second half strategy was to flop and try to foul out KU’s big men. Besides Kane (who I believe could be a late round gem for a team like the Spurs–I think playing for Pops would be good for his development), I was not that impressed with any of the Iowa State players. This was the eighth ranked team in the country? It just goes to show how arbitrary the top 25 rankings really are. Iowa State played like some busters. As happy as I was to see KU perform like they did, I was just as disappointed that the Cyclones didn’t play better in the 2nd half.

I was even less impressed with the officiating. They fell for every flop that Iowa State attempted, and they blew the whistle way too much. It really interrupted the flow of the game and I hope that teams don’t copycat this strategy to try and get the KU big men out of the game. I also think people are over reacting about Embiid and teams are picking on him specifically to try and draw flagrants on him. That flagrant 1 call on him early in Monday’s game was a horrible call. The NCAA needs to nip this in the bud as soon as possible.

Embiid was in “Embeast” mode (courtesy of Sam) during one particular stretch of the game (he finished 7-8 with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 5 blocks).To see a player take over the game on both ends of the court like Embiid did the other night, makes me wonder how good he will be come tournament time. There were some Kareem jokes made the other night concerning his goggles, but it doesn’t seem such a stretch to suggest that Embiid could be a franchise changing center in the NBA. It is unreal just how fast his game has developed since the start of the season. I came away from Monday night’s game convinced that Joel is the best player on the team.

I wonder if having an enforcer on the floor with Embiid like Tarik Black, would help alleviate the bush league tactics of other teams, trying to get Embiid off his game. Sometimes its necessary to have these kinds of guys. Charles Oakley is the first player to come to mind who fit this role. Rick Mahorn for the Bad Boy Pistons is another. Tarik Black is the only true grimy player I can think of on the roster (though Wayne Shelden looks like he isn’t afraid to alpha dog when need be) who can protect guys like Wiggins and Embiid from taking cheap shots from the other teams. I guess that would mean a front line of Jamari Traylor and Ellis, but maybe that would open the lanes up a bit. It would be interesting to see these wrinkles for a couple of minutes a game just to see how it looked. I’m going to keep an eye out for it.

Lastly, as much as I liked Saturday’s uniforms, I disliked Monday’s uniforms just as much. I couldn’t get past the intrusive pinstripes on the gray background. I liked the font and lettering on the jerseys themselves. I didn’t even mind the gray. But those red pinstripes though……..

There is a lot to look forward to this week and weekend:

UCLA vs. Colorado

Oklahoma vs. Baylor

Denver at Golden State

Portland and San Antonio

Golden State and Oklahoma City (Not quite the luster without Russ Westbrook)

Niners-Seahawks (I’m taking the Niners–my boy Kaepernick is going to get it done up there)

Patriots-Broncos (Just a hunch, but I think the Pats like being the underdogs.)

Kansas vs. Oklahoma State

I’ve had this game circled since the beginning of the season. This is the litmus test to see how difficult it will be to win the Big 12. I’ve heard some people say that they Cowpokes are going to be hurting without Michael Cobbins, but the rest of the team can pitch in to get 5 points and 5 rebounds. I get the feeling that Marcus Smart is going to want to show the nation what he has to offer as a player as well (this may or may not work against him–we’ll see). It’s going to be an exciting atmosphere especially in regards to how well Smart plays. I’m doing whatever I can to get in the building on Saturday. Wish me luck.