MOUSE IN THA HOUSE!

And just like that, the season is here. What a treat opening night was. The Spurs get their rings and eek out a one point victory against the Mavs in what definitely was a “Good Ass Game.” Both teams a little sluggish early on (My boy Boris A.K.A. “the Big Pastry” looked especially out of sync), but by the 3rd quarter they were grooving. For a brief second I wondered if the Mavs were going to ride Dirk’s hot hand all the way to a “W”, and they even had the final shot at the end.

Somehow they managed not to exploit the switch on the pick and roll, which left Danny Green guarding Dirk for about 5-7 seconds. Chandler Parsons chucked it up for one of his 8 misses (2-10 for the whole game) and the Spurs escaped what could have easily been an opening night defeat. Now I may be giving the Mavs too much credit here (San Antonio is a little banged up and missing their Finals MVP–Kawhi Leonard– with an eye infection), but this could easily be a Western Conference Finals preview–don’t sleep on that Rick Carlisle and Dirk tandem.
Kiss the Rings BITCH!!

I peeped the majority of the disastrous Lakers-Rockets game. If you like watching isolation sets and one on one ball, then this was the game for you (38 combined assists for both teams). Besides James Harden, the Rockets have no one who can consistently create points for the team. The only excitement throughout the game was the weird 5 minute stretch where Dwight and Kobe had a tiff, and then Julius Randle (get well soon man) broke his leg on a freak play. It was not the kind of game that left me with swooning with excitement.

One bright spot was seeing my man Tarik Black out there on the court in an NBA uniform. I think he will add a little class to that Houston Rockets locker room. Dude is seriously one of my favorite players to come out of Lawrence in a long time. With his positive outlook and great work ethic, he should never have trouble finding work in the league. Big Ups!

There are going to be some good ass games this week tho:

OKC vs. Portland (Illard vs. Westbrook)
Washington vs. Miami
Milwaukee vs. Charlotte
Lakers vs. Phoenix (I forgot how much I enjoy watching the Lakers lose. I find Kobe at this point in his career as entertaining as Barry Bonds’ own “%&$@ it” period near the end of his own career. I like that brutal honesty. I think its good for the game–keeps all these yahoo media types on their toes.

Golden State vs Sacramento
OKC vs. Clippers (Thunder will go 0-2 to begin the season but Russell Westbrook will have a combined 75 points for both nights)

Cleveland vs. Chicago Possibly a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals
Golden State vs. Portland (two of the best backcourts in the NBA facing off)
Dallas vs. New Orleans (Can there be too much hype surrounding Anthony Davis at this point?)

Memphis vs. Charlotte (Grimey!!!)
Chicago vs. Minnesota (I get headaches from watching Minnesota homegames–not from the players–but because that court is so damn ugly)

Lakers vs. Golden State (#asswhupping)

Charlotte vs. New York Knicks (Two of Brooklyn’s finest coming home. No way in hell I miss this one)

Milwaukee vs. Washington (why not?)

Free Trial with NBA League Pass so I will be on that tip. This is the year I finally purchase it for real. It is going to be hard keeping a girlfriend who doesn’t like hoop. She better be damn interesting–that’s all I’m saying.

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Run That Shit Back!

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We back! The NBA pre-season is upon us, which means we are only 2 and a half weeks away from the ball being thrown up for realsssssssss.

I can sum up this upcoming season by grouping the teams into four categories of watchability:

a) “Don’t Waste my Time”

b) “I’ll watch depending on they are playing”

c) “Oooh they playing tonight? Let me see what I got going on.”

d) “Cancel all my plans. I’m staying in tonight.”

Basically teams fall into these categories by whether they got better, got worse, or stayed the same. Some teams were so wack last year they couldn’t help but improve. Others thought (rightly or wrongly) that no changes needed to be made. Let’s get to it, this thing is already going to be long enough.

As much as I love hoop, I will not spend too much time in front of the tube watching the following teams:

Celtics, Lakers, Pacers, Nets, Utah and the Atlanta Hawks.

As a certain social philosopher likes to say, “NOT GONNA BE ABLE TO DO IT!” Not interested, not even a little bit.

How many uncontested layups will the Los Angeles Lakers give up this year? I’m willing to bet anyone that the Lakers will finish in the bottom five in defensive field goal percentage.
Kobe Bryant, Carlos Boozer, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Swaggy P………if Jordan hill is your best option on defense…should I even continue?

Let’s just hope Jack Nicholson has low expectations this year, because I’d hate to see the old man blow a gasket after seeing his beloved Lake show give up bucket after 4th quarter bucket. Good luck Byron Scott. Lakers need to be in rebuild mode. Talk about being in denial. The Lakers will be right back in the lottery. Mark my words.
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With the loss of Lance Stephenson, I had Indiana being in the lottery even BEFORE Paul George got himself fucked up during the FIBA scrimmages.

I like what Danny Ainge is doing out in Boston, but it will be a couple more years before I can be excited about sitting down to a Celtics game. We’re just not there yet.

Even if the Nets were good, it would be hard for me to support anything Russian owned while that shit is going on in the Ukraine.

UTAH???psssttttttt just change your team mascot already. Saying there is Jazz in Utah is like saying there are good looking women in Maine. I’m sure at one time or another both have existed in each state, but neither are home grown products. If I knew anything about Utah other than Mormons, reformed Mormons, the X-games, and weed, I could come up with something clever–but I can’t. Let’s just move on.

I HAVE A DREAM…….that someday Al Horford will play for a legitimate NBA contender. Go to Chicago Al!!! Team back up with Joakim Noah, I swear I won’t root against you two this time.

DEPENDS ON WHO THEY PLAY

Memphis, Houston, Pelicans, Pistons, Bulls (without D. Rose), Orlando, Denver, Milwaukee, Philly, Knicks, Miami

After a couple of years of squeaking into the playoffs, I think this is the year Memphis finally misses the cut. Phoenix is better, and the Grizzlies are older. I think the injury bug will hit a couple of key veterans. The Grindhouse will not be rocking next April if my suspicions are correct.

I don’t find James Harden or Dwight Howard the least bit of entertaining to watch. I can’t stand Patrick Beverly, and if I wanted to watch someone shoot 30 free throws I’d go to the YMCA and volunteer.

Other than Kid Rock, Jalen Rose, and Eminem, no one outside of the state of Michigan is interested in watching Detroit basketball.

The “Brow” is almost intriguing enough to tune in, but the rest of his team is garbage. Next!

Orlando almost has enough pieces to warrant more than a peek in at their games. One more year of the lottery should get them in position to contend for a playoff spot next year.

Denver has the “Manimal”, and a nasty backcourt of Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson. But really that is about it. But props to Brian Shaw for smashing on Madonna (a remarkable feat that doesn’t get enough attention) in her prime.

Will Jason Kidd be the first NBA player-coach to suit up since Dave Cowens? I think they the pieces to grab that 8th playoff spot. The Eastern conference is wack as hell, and both New York teams will be in the toilet (more on the Knicks in a second) this year. Someone has to grab that last spot–it may as well be them. Peep the roster if you don’t believe me.
Gonna see a lot of this this year
I’m not even remotely interested in Philadelphia until they get completely healthy.

All the players on the Knicks I wanna see play are deep on the bench. I just don’t see how that roster can make the playoffs–even in the East. I’m not entirely sold on D-Fish as a head coach–at least right now. I believe he will have a pretty big learning curve. I think they will miss the playoffs, but just barely. Also Amar’e Stoudemire makes the most money on the team this year, and may actually play the least amount of minutes.

Do you remember when Chris Bosh was the best player on his team in Toronto? Well if you don’t, then this Heat team will remind you of what that was like. Chris Bosh is going to put up some numbers this year, and the Heat will not be as bad as you think. Don’t be surprised if they play Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals.

OOOOOHHHH THEY PLAYING?

Clippers, Bulls (with a healthy D. Rose), Raptors, Cleveland, Mavericks, Wizards, Hornets

These teams I wouldn’t exactly drop everything I’m doing, but I could be talked into meeting someone at the bar to watch any combination of these teams playing each other.

The Clippers were one of those teams that didn’t do much to get better or worse, but besides Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul, there aren’t any other guys who can create their own shot. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will be better this year, but barring a mid-season trade (and injuries to OKC and San Antonio), I don’t see how they make it out of the west. I do think they will have the best regular season record and will get home court in the playoffs, but that guarantees little against the Spurs and Thunder.

Bulls are deep this year. I’m salivating on watching Noah and Gasol run that Hi-Lo in the post. The Bulls have Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, Aaron Brooks, Doug McDermott and Kirk Hinrich as good role players. I would pencil them as Eastern Conference champs were it not for a few lingering questions.

1) Is the Curse of Michael Jordan real?

Ever since the Jerry’s ran off Phil, Scottie and MJ, the Bulls have had nothing but bad luck. Eddie Curry…..trading Lamarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas, the Jay Williams motorcycle accident, Derrick Rose getting hurt during garbage time of a playoff game—-oh wait that isn’t bad luck— those are the result of bad decisions aren’t they?

2) Will Tom Thibadeau finally learn from the Spurs model and figure out a way to spell his starters so the team can be fresh for the playoffs? Thibs just has a way of grinding his players down. I feel like this is an under reported item concerning his coaching style.

3) The big question of course is will Derrick Rose make it to the All-Star break? He is the difference between them getting knocked out in the first round, and them losing to the Spurs in the finals.

Raptors made no significant changes, which was a good decision. They re-signed Kyle Lowry, which is almost like getting a big name free agent. They could should easily win Atlantic division this year.

People are hype about Cleveland, (and the should be), but why aren’t people also acknowledging that besides their “Big 3”, Cleveland still has a number of questions. Just how much better is Lebron’s supporting cast in Cleveland than the one he left in South Beach? Was James Jones ever that good?
He old and Cleveland is COLD.

I could write that sentence again in regards to Mike Miller and Shawn Marion. All three of these guys are in their mid thirties and have had the luxury of playing in warmer climates for most of their careers. Sure the game is played indoors, but that has to have some affect on your psyche–especially in a shit hole town like Cleveland. It aint ‘Zona or Texas or Florida.

How many games will Kyrie Irving play this year? He hasn’t played a full season of basketball since he was in high school. I’m not saying he’s bad, I’m just suggesting he might be a little frail. I’m not judging (I’m someone who gets hurt playing everything). But we can’t pretend like Irving is a guy you can pencil in to be healthy at the end of the year. Perhaps this wouldn’t be that big of an issue had Cleveland not wasted that pick on Anthony Bennett.

They opted instead for Victor Oladipo, but who is to say they wouldn’t have had to trade him for Kevin Love (imagine what an addition that would have been for Minnesota)? regardless Lebron not only has his consistently monster numbers, but will earn the MVP because everyone else’s stats will inflate because of his presence on the court (especially the Wins column).

Dallas as a team that would drop in the west, but I took a look at the roster and realized that Raymond Felton was indeed NOT the starting point guard for the Mavericks (the Jeopardy answer would be “Who is Jameer Nelson?”). I like their squad, and as I have said before, Rick Carlisle is the 2nd best coach in the NBA. Nothing could surprise me concerning the Mavericks–including another Finals run.

I like the Wizards running the same team back with the addition of Paul Pierce. He will be a great presence for them in the locker room. They are a dangerous team that has a top five backcourt. They could easily be in the Eastern Conference Finals as well.

Lance Stephenson was a great pickup for the Hornets (feels so right doesn’t it? I miss calling them that). Charlotte will be more entertaining to watch this year, but they will still get bounced in the first or second round.

“Alright stop what you doing cuz I’m about to ruin……”

You know what it is….every day I will circle the games these teams are playing and will make damn sure I get to watch them–even if its on replay.

Golden State made a controversial move in ousting Mark Jackson, but they couldn’t have made a less controversial hire in Steve Kerr. I think he will fit in fine with the front office, and will be a breath of fresh air for the franchise, believe it or not. Their season depends on how many games they can squeeze out of their front court players, David Lee and Andrew Bogut.

I’m also curious as to how well Harrison Barnes is integrated into the playing rotation. They need him to play as well as he did during the 2012 playoff run, if the Warriors are to take that next step. Continuity is a huge factor every year, and no major moves were made this off-season. The core remains intact with a couple of key additions in their back court. The Splash Brothers will actually get some rest if Leandro Barbosa, Shaun Livingston, and Brandon Rush can contribute off the bench.

Super Bowl champion Head Coach Jimmy Johnson used to say, “If you are not getting better, then you are getting worse.” This adage pretty much sums up what the Thunder did this off-season. They wasted this summer’s draft picks, lost their best perimeter defender in Thabo Sefalosha, and only managed to sign Anthony Morrow. That being said, the still have two of the best five players in the NBA. That alone will be good enough to get them to the Western Conference Finals. Steven Adams will be starting at center no later than the All Star Break.

Portland didn’t do much to improve either. Then again, any off-season moves to be made on that roster would’ve had negligible results (Is the difference between a 7 seed and a 5 seed in the west worth messing up team chemistry?) Portland’s bench is better based on another year’s experience for Thomas Robinson and C.J. McCollum.

Phoenix will for sure be in the playoffs. They re-signed Eric Bledsoe, bringing back the nastiest back court duo west of San Antonio and east of Nevada. They managed to draft Tyler Ennis, T.J Warren, and acquired Isiah Thomas. The Morris twins re-upped and so did P.J. Tucker’s drunk driving ass. They won’t be sneaking up on no one this year. They ready. Fools are gonna get banged on when they play the Suns.

The T-Cubs will be the newest fun team to watch this year. It is too bad Rick Adelman won’t be around to coach this team. I think this is the second coming of the Baby Bulls, and early 2000’s Sacramento Kings. Rubio finally has some guys to run with him. Look at who the Timberwolves have: Zach Levine, Shabazz Muhammad, Glenn Robinson III, Corey Brewer, Mo Williams, and my boy A. WIGGINSSSS!!!

Last year, the Wolves were 3rd ppg, 6th in rpg, 5th assist, 26th in points allowed. If they can even get into the top 20 in team defense, I think they can contend for a playoff spot until the final week of the regular season. I’m excited to see this team play. Andrew Wiggins wins Rookie of the Year award (even if he has to share it with Jabari Parker–I think getting shunned by the Cavs/Lebron will be the best thing to ever happen for his career–this is the chip on the shoulder he needed).

You know who didn’t have to do a damn thing this year? The NBA (World?) champion Spurs re-signed their role players and drafted triple-double machine, 6’9 PG Kyle Anderson from UCLA. I see this being a quiet title defense for the Spurs. Everyone is going bananas over the revamped Cavaliers, when the Spurs dismantled a team that currently looked better than what Cleveland is running out onto the court. I see the Spurs just chilling in the cut until their “Rodeo trip” and then landing a #3 seed in the playoffs. Health is the biggest factor for them. Their bench players will play just as big a role (probably a bigger role) as last year’s title run.

Anyway, enough with all the formalities. Time to put my name on the line.

MVP Lebron (of course)

Co-Rookies of the Year
Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker

Eastern Conference
1. Cleveland
2. Wizards
3. Raptors
4. Chicago
5. Miami
6. Charlotte
7. Milwaukee
8. Atlanta

Western Conference

1. Clippers
2. OKC
3. Spurs
4. Mavericks
5. Warriors
6. Phoenix
7. Portland
8. Houston

Western Conference Finals

Spurs over Oklahoma City (again)

Eastern Conference Finals

Cleveland over Washington

NBA Finals

Spurs over Cleveland to defend their title and shut down any remaining naysayers. Cleveland isn’t ready yet. This year will be a toss up in the East, but by 2015, it will be Cleveland and then everyone else. As evidenced by all the hype surrounding his return to Ohio, this is still Lebron’s league.

It’s Kentucky’s World (and everyone else is just in it)

Are you ready to read the fastest college basketball preview ever?
This year’s title is Kentucky’s to lose. Why do I say that?

Let’s start with the number 9.

That is how many McDonald’s All Americans John Calipari has playing for his team this year.
You know how many NBA teams have nine McDonald’s All Americans playing for them?
One–the Charlotte Hornets.

With a front-line of (Olathe’s own) Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee, and a backcourt of the Harrison twins (who led the team to Final Four during their freshman year–think about THAT), Kentucky is the hands down favorite to take the championship this year. People from Syracuse, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Lawrence ain’t gonna wanna hear that but it’s the truth.

If you are a hoops fan, this is the year to just watch for the players (There won’t be much drama–hate to say it). This draft could be just as deep as last year’s–if not deeper. The majority of those lottery picks will be coming from two programs, Duke, and Kentucky.

Kansas will be good of course, they reloaded after losing Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. Cliff Alexander stands to become the next Thomas Robinson, and Kelly Oubre is a great replacement at the wing. Wayne Selden will be returning to have an even bigger impact as the leader of that team. Perry Ellis will continue to quietly put up his double-doubles.

The biggest question (again) will be at point guard. Conner Frankamp, Frank Mason, and newcomer Devonte Graham will all get chances to handle the rock. I’m curious how much improvement we will see from Frankamp, Mason and former “Mr. Georgia Basketball” Brannen Greene. There is also some hype surrounding this new kid from the Ukraine, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (though I do wonder how an 16 year old from a war torn country will handle being away from his family). I’ve seen his highlights and I like what I saw from him (I was really impressed when I played with him on NCAA basketball on X-box–he was the only one who could consistently hit 3’s).

If you look at the Jayhawks roster, you’ll see that they are still pretty young, with only one senior on the team–benchwarmer Christian Garrett. If anyone other than Rick Barnes coached the University of Texas basketball team, I’d say the Horns were ripe to pluck the Big-12 title away from Bill Self. Texas will be entertaining to watch though, with Cameron Ridley, Isiah Taylor and newcomer Myles Turner as the top stars. Barnes will figure out a way to lose at least 3 games they should win this season.

If anyone is close enough to snatch that streak from KU, it is Fred Hoiberg and Iowa State. The “Mayor” always seems to get the best out of his players, and not in a Tom Izzo “scream at the players until he’s hoarse” kind of way. Iowa State will miss DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim, but don’t sleep on the Cyclones. They could easily grab second place in the Big 12 standings.

I just looked at Duke’s stacked roster for the year and was tempted to write up a quick blurb about them, but then again what is there to say? They’ll blow through the ACC with that loaded roster and put up points against every team they face. They’ll win 20 plus games and lose maybe 5 (one of them to Carolina of course), and then they’ll get knocked out in the Elite Eight (yawn). Wake me up for the next lacrosse court case, otherwise I don’t wanna hear shit about Duke University.

Don’t sleep on the boys out of the Missouri Valley Conference–Wichita State. Sure they lost CleAnthony Early, but they return Tekele Cotton, Ron Baker, and Fred Van Fleet, along with coach Gregg Marshall. they won’t go undefeated this year, but they will still “play angry” and win their conference (and could go deep into the tournament depending on who they draw).

Living back on Tulsa time, I am right in the middle of things. I can catch a few Jayhawks’ games up in Allen Fieldhouse, down in Texas, or right here in Oklahoma. I’m honestly more excited about the NBA this year (again), but I have a couple of games circled this year. I want to be there in person for the KU-ISU game in Lawrence, KU-Texas is worth a drive up as well, and on December 5th, Florida visits Kansas for what should be a pretty hype affair.

Depending on what you are looking for, it will be a pretty entertaining year. There will be tons of draft hype, and there will be some good games for sure. If you are hoping for somebody other than Kentucky to win this year, you’ll more than likely be disappointed. Otherwise just enjoy it for what it is. If you saw how close Kentucky came last year to winning it all, then it won’t surprise you to see the Harrison boys and Alex Poythress cutting down the nets in April.

Next post: NBA Preview Click-Picka style!

A Pilgrimage of Sorts

It’s that time of year again. Baseball playoffs are starting, football season is just picking up, and NBA training camps have just kicked off. I took the summer off to venture up to the sticks, and managed to take a day trip to Springfield, Massachusetts–home of the Naismith Hall of Fame. Springfield is a strange place. It is a shit-hole town, where outside of the HOF, there is nothing. Everything about the town is sketch. The only place I felt safe was at the public library and within the confines of my departure bus.

Springfield is the true birthplace of basketball, and the town is revered for this fact alone (otherwise it would just be the Topeka, Kansas of the northeast). Dr. James Naismith drew up the rules and concepts of the game there; took it to Lawrence, Kansas, and from there–well you know the rest.

The Hall of Fame itself is pretty small. There are three levels to it, and only two really have memorabilia. The bottom floor is like one of those fan experience exhibitions, with goals and backboards from different eras, and different sized rims intended for dunking (I may or may not have “rocked the cradle” and flushed on a 12 yr. old who made the mistake of getting in between me and the rim).

I left feeling pretty underwhelmed for the money I spent, but the experience brought my hoops fanaticism (and friendships) full circle.

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