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

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