Clicks to Pick Week of 10/30/17

Monday

San Antonio at Boston   NBATV

Everyone wants on the Dejounte Murray bandwagon now. No sweat. Just as long as I get credit for being a day one Dejounte Stan. Murray gets to match up against Kyrie. Should be fun for that alone.

Golden State at Los Angeles Clippers  NBATV (Good Ass Game of The Week)

Going to be lots of trash talk in this one. It won’t be close, but it still feels like a rivalry because Golden State loves beating the Clippers.

Tuesday

Oklahoma City at Milwaukee NBATV

Star studded affair as the OK3 go up against the longest team in the NBA.

 

Wednesday

Minnesota at New Orleans (VIP BOX?)

Timberwolves have not disappointed in being one the most watchable teams in the west. This is basically a Kentucky Wildcat alumni game, with three of the best big men to ever come out of UK playing.

 

Thursday

Golden State at San Antonio TNT

Deja vu.

Los Angeles at Portland TNT

If Lavar Ball pops off before this game, Damian Lillard might go for 60.

 

Friday

Cleveland at Washington ESPN

Must watch for the Jae Crowder/John Wall beef alone.

Boston at Oklahoma City ESPN

Push your date night to Saturday if you can.

Saturday

Memphis at Los Angeles Clippers  (VIPBOX?)

I’m still not ready to pencil Memphis in as a playoff team, but Chandler Parsons and Mario Chalmers aren’t quite as washed as I thought they would be…….yet

 

 

Sunday

Oklahoma City at Portland (VIPBOX?)

Who is going to guard Melo and Paul George? Russ vs. Dame should be fun too.

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Sacred Hoops: A Book Review

 

Nothing that you may have read by or about Jackson makes any sense when you consider the utter train wreck that he helped facilitate during his days as the president of team operations for the New York Knicks. In fact, it is downright puzzling to witness a man–who at one time was considered one of the greatest active minds in basketball—shit on his own legacy in such a short period of time. From his awkward attempts at running a Twitter account, to his public breakup with Lakers co-owner Jeannie Buss, to his bizarre feud with Carmelo Anthony, things have been nothing short of cringe worthy for the Zen Master.

I’ve written extensively about Phil Jackson’s coaching acumen and his basketball I.Q. when I reviewed Crazy Basketball and More Than a Game, and I felt compelled to write about him again because why not? His insistence alone on espousing the basketball purity of the “Triangle Offense” is reason enough to doubt Jackson’s reasoning. You would think that someone who believes that impermanence is a fundamental fact of life (you can’t step into the same river twice) would be able to adjust with the times. But no. Phil fucked it up for everyone, and my boy, Alex Knapp called it the very first day that the Knicks introduced Derek Fisher as the next New York head coach (wow doesn’t that seem forever ago?).

I can’t say that this book has more to offer than Maverick, or More Than a Game, it details the beginning of his coaching career, when (much like Luke Walton) his playing career was cut short by injuries. Jackson notes that sitting next to the legendary Red Holtzman during games taught him a different way of looking at the game of basketball.

Jackson talks about the development of his personal beliefs in accordance with his own basketball philosophies. Raised Pentecostal, he grew to embrace a Zen Christianity form of religion, and used that to help teach his viewpoints about basketball, invoking phrases like “Chop Wood, Carry Water”, “Don’t let anger cloud the mind”, and “awareness is everything”. 

When Phil discovered Tex Winter’s “Triple Post” Offense, he felt that it encompassed everything he wanted to teach to his basketball players, that it was a structure that could empower everyone on the floor, and that it employed the seven principles of a sound offensive strategy.

The book does a great job of taking the reader through Jackson’t time coaching in the Puerto Rican Superior League and for the CBA’s Albany Patroons, where he experimented with his lineups and personnel. He played two five man units in eight minute intervals, with the best playing five guys in the final eight minute quarter. Interestingly enough, each player was paid the exact same wage, which is something a team could only get away with in a non-NBA league back then.

It is a pretty enjoyable read, and if one can somehow forget that any of the post Lakers era stuff happened, then it is easier to read Jackson talk about the philosophy of mindfulness without a bit of cynicism creeping in. It’s hard to not laugh when reading Jackson tell a player that the “power of we is stronger than the power of me.” knowing that he made Melo’s final season as a Knick a living hell. 

I suggest that any basketball fan, or aspiring coach read this book, but to also take everything with a grain of salt. I don’t know whether to think Phil Jackson is a genius, a guru, a huckster, or a hypocrite. I can say however, that he is one of the more compelling characters to make an impact in the NBA, and this book is just another example of this fact.

B +

 

BM

 profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

Weekly Clicks to Pick Week of 10/23/17

Working on bringing weekly audio to augment the Clicks to Picks. I’m still shaking off the pre-season cobwebs but each week its going to get better.

Monday

Golden State at Dallas

 

Tuesday

New York at Boston

New Orleans at Portland

 

Wednesday

Houston at Philadelphia

San Antonio at Miami

Washington at Los Angeles

 

Thursday

Boston at Milwaukee

Clippers at Portland

 

Friday

Oklahoma City at Minnesota

Washington at Golden State (Good Ass Game of the Week)

 

Saturday

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

 

Sunday

Washington at Sacramento

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Clicks to Pick Week of 10/15/17

*Illustration by Louis Eastman

 

Monday

 

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

 

Tuesday

 

Boston at Cleveland

Houston at Golden State

 

Wednesday

 

Philadelphia at Washington

 

Thursday

 

Clippers vs Lakers

 

Friday

Cleveland at Milwaukee

Boston at Philadelphia

 

Saturday

 

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

 

Sunday

 

Minnesota at Oklahoma City (Good Ass Game of The Week)

 

 

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

2017-2018 NBA Season Preview L-Z

For Part 1 of the 2017-2018 Season preview : A to tha K, click here.

 

Lonzo Ball Era in Lakerland

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After having to endure a full season of hype and speculation, basketball fans finally get to see Lonzo Ball step onto the court as a professional. Ball had a pretty solid Summer League against his peers and other young prospects. Although I think Lonzo will be at times brilliant, he is going to take more L’s this season than he has in his entire life. This is a really young team, but they have a lot of talent.

They also have a great young coach in Luke Walton, and I like the combination of Andrew Bogut, Corey Brewer, Brook Lopez and Luol Deng acting as the vets in the locker room. With former legends like James Worthy and Magic Johnson only a phone call away, these young bucks for the Lakers have a chance to soak up some real game. I’m really excited to see highlights Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. trailing alongside a fastbreaking Lonzo Ball. Things are looking up in Lakerland–hell, maybe they’ll even hit .500 this season……….. Nahhhhhhhhh! That shit ain’t happening. 

 

 

My Dark Twisted Fantasy Point Guard

 

Mike Conley has been silently carving up defenses for years now, a largely unheralded hero who has achieved a cult status among NBA geeks. Conley would have already gotten his proper due as an elite point guard if he played in the Eastern Conference (still hoping to see this when Seattle gets a team again and the Pelicans move to Vancouver). He has never been chosen as an All-Star is because of the imbalance of superlative players at his position out west. After playing a perfect playoff series against the Spurs, Conley has proven that his skills can no longer be ignored.

Take a look at the Memphis roster going into this season. They are thin. Besides Gasol, there is no one else on this team that they can count on to consistently chip in with scoring. The front office is banking on Chandler Parsons to be healthy this year (HUGE GAMBLE) and hoping that Ben McLemore’s game will rise after being freed of his situation in Sacramento. This is the youngest the Grizzlies have been in a long time, and this time not for the better. The only way I see the Grizzlies making the playoffs this year is if Conley and Gasol stay healthy, and both have MVP level seasons–and even that may not be enough.

New York’s Next Chapter

 

With the departures of Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks are content to look forward on their road back to national relevance. The air will be fresher for the franchise as a whole, as New Yorkers endured one of its most dysfunctional seasons of all time (which is saying a lot). This year’s team won’t be significantly better, but this season promises to be relatively drama free (outside of the Charles Oakley/James Dolan legal standoff).

Jeff Hornacek gets to enjoy the freedom of working without a 6’10 micro-managing geriatric looking over his shoulder at every practice. Also, any locker room with the combination of Michael Beasley, Joakim Noah, Enes Kanter, Nigel Hayes, Ron Baker, and Kristaps Porzingis promises to be an interesting mix of personalities. Jarrett Jack and Courtney Lee will be great locker room influences, and I really like what Kyle O’Quinn has to offer under the boards.

Sorry Knicks fans, your boys will be lucky to win more than 35 games. But I think you are going to be proud of this year’s team. I think you will a ton of hustle plays that receive standing ovations from the Garden faithful and the team will fight until the very end of each and every loss. I just don’t think they had to pay Tim Hardaway Jr. 71 million dollars to accomplish this level of play from the Knicks.

One Tough Lottery Bound Squad

 

No one is going to be looking forward to playing the New Orleans Pelicans. This is another example of one of those “they’d be a playoff team if they were an Eastern Conference” teams. Rajon Rondo’s playoff performance against the Celtics made skeptics think twice about calling him washed, but it is hard to put money on a team to make that is relying on a full healthy season from Rondo. The Pelicans are an imbalanced team going into this season. Their starting front line with Boogie “down” Cousins and Anthony Davis is powerful, but their backcourt is thin and suspect. The biggest question concerning the Pels is “will they trade Cousins before he becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent next season and if not, where does Boogie end up? “

Is it crazy to imagine Cousins and John Wall teaming up in a Washington uniform in the 2018-2019 season? If I’m New Orleans management I’m taking calls from other teams the minute we go 10 games below .500. Demarcus Cousins might be one of those linchpin championship pieces (a la 2008 Pau Gasol or 2004 Rasheed Wallace) come February. Stay tuned folks.

Portland Keeps it Pushing

 

Paul Allen and Neil Olshey stay pulling the Okey Doke on the Portland locals–this is one of the luxuries of being the only professional sports team within 200 miles. Blazer management continue the formula of trotting out a couple of players good enough to get butts in the seats, then signing ill-fitting role players to high handcuffing salaries.

Are they good enough to make the playoffs? Certainly. Damian Lillard (who has worked himself into becoming an elite player) continues to show us something different every season and C. J. McCollum looks like he intends to light up the league this year. We”ll see how much of a difference a full season of Jusuf Nurkic makes. They are still a player or two away from being a title contending team (how many times since 2001 has someone written this sentence about the Blazers?), but the right kind of trade package for Demarcus Cousins could make very things interesting up there.

 

Quicken Loans Last Hurrah

 

Enjoy this last run Cleveland fans. Lebron is doing his hometown one last solid before he heads off to finish his career in Hollywood. The Cavaliers were already one of the oldest teams in the NBA going into the off-season. Now they’ve added Derrick Rose’s broke jumper and bad knees, Dwyane Wade’s bad knees and decent mid range jumper, and Isaiah Thomas’ busted hip to their payroll.

Wade and Lebron both know that the regular season is just for show, and the real money is made during the playoffs. Barring a major injury to Lebron, it is hard to imagine them finishing anything lower than a three seed out east before getting yet another eastern conference title and NBA Finals loss. Then its back to years of undetermined mediocrity for a mediocre sports city. Well Cleveland, at least Lebron got you one title. Some cities don’t ever get one. 

 

Reunited (and it feels so good)

 

Boston fans haven’t had a legitimate reason to be this excited about the Celtics since the 2012-2013 season. The C’s got younger, and even though they lost two of their best defensive players in Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, they managed to upgrade their point guard position, (Kyrie Irving is a slightly better defender than Isaiah Thomas) and picked up some badly needed scoring in Brad Stevens’ former apt pupil, Gordon Hayward.

I’m still not sold on the Celtics beating any team with a healthy Lebron on it. They are well stocked at the wing position, but their backcourt is suddenly thin. Outside of Kyrie and Hayward, there really isn’t anyone to bring the ball up the court. I still think they are a trade away from being a serious threat to the Warriors or Cavs. Perhaps, the city reunites with Rajon Rondo, if the Pelicans’ season goes belly up?

 

Sixers Sniff the Playoffs?

 

I don’t know if the Sixers have enough vets to get into the playoffs, but they will certainly show more offensive firepower this season. Washington Huskies phenom point guard Markelle Fultz  joins up with a healthy Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and don’t forget the Sixers added the sharpshooting (at least until the playoffs) J.J. Redick. They have an extremely young team, but much like the Lakers, they are talented.

However, it takes more than talent to win NBA games, and Brett Brown has shown he is a good coach and teacher. Win or lose, they will be a fun team to watch, and the combination of Embiid, Fultz, Saric and Simmons could be promising. There is still a good chance that trading Jahlil Okafor will tilt the Sixers in a favorable direction, depending on who they can net for him.

 

Thibs the GM >Thibs the Coach?

 

Minnesota jump started their rebuilding efforts with the acquisition of Jimmy Butler, and on paper, the Timberwolves finally have a playoff team. Years from now, you’re going to be reading think pieces in Sports Illustrated and ESPN about how Andrew Wiggins career trajectory took off when he became teammates with Jimmy Butler. This is the alpha dog the Teenwolves needed to help push Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns into playoff contention. That signing alone would’ve given Minnesota an A+ for the off-season, but then Tom Thibodeau went and grabbed Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Jamal Crawford.

Now we get to see what Thibs the coach will do. His “win at all costs” attitude has been known to shorten player’s careers 2 years for every one season they play for him (I bet Thibodeau has snapped more than his share of pencils doing his weekly crossword puzzles).  Outside of Jamal Crawford, there are still question marks concerning the T-wolves backcourt. Aaron Brooks is old, and didn’t exactly make his name with his rugged defense; while Tyus Jones still hasn’t proved himself to be a consistently viable option.

The biggest question is can Thibs utilize his role players. It only takes a 8-9 player rotation in the playoffs, but it takes all 15 players to get through the regular season and still have something left in the tank. Thibs’ biggest problem is that he has always coached each game as if it were game 7 of the Finals. This intensity, while admirable, is stupidly short-sighted and might cost the Timberwolves their best players down the stretches that they are needed the most. Do you really want to see Minnesota begin their first playoffs in over a decade with Cole Aldrich and Shabazz Muhammad in the starting lineup, while Jimmy Butler and Karl Anthony Towns cheering the team on in tailored suits? Me neither. Let’s hope this is the season that  Thibodeau figures it out. 

 

Utah Takes a Step Back

 

I found it strange that Boris Diaw couldn’t get on with any playoff contenders (If Emeka Okafor can get a job, I don’t see why Boris couldn’t get signed somewhere). I’m sure he’d have fit in well up in Portland or down in Memphis. He’ll be playing in France this season with an opt-out clause if any NBA teams want to take a flyer on him. 

Moving on, Utah lost their other biggest star, scoring forward Gordon Hayward and now are hoping Joe Ingles can take over the scoring duties at the small forward position. I was excited about backcourt of Rodney Hood and Ricky Rubio until I remembered that basketball is a two-way sport.

Rudy Gobert is going to have plenty of chances to swat shots because their perimeter defense looks a little suspect on paper. The good news is they will get another lottery pick, because they will not be in the playoffs this year.

 

Veteran Locker Rooms

 

You can count the number of veterans on any NBA roster and figure out what direction the franchise is going. The Dallas Mavericks for example are in the middle of a quiet  rebuild. On paper, they are a veteran team, but this year they will lean heavily on the production of Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, and Dennis Smith Jr.–all three players who are still relatively young for their positions. Dirk will still be the guy who takes the final shot, but at least this season he knows the young guys can carry him until money time, late in the 4th quarter. No one quite expects the Mavericks to win more than 45 games, but it also wouldn’t surprise anyone if they got 50. Rick Carlisle is too good of a coach for Dallas not to compete.

Minnesota, has been perpetually rebuilding ever since before the Kevin Garnett trade. They went young in 2007 and stayed young. If you went and looked at any game footage from ’07 to the present and you won’t count more than three or four veterans on the roster. In just one off-season, the Timberwolves have gone from just hoping to win every night, to expecting to a playoff berth in April.

Of course, the most extreme example of a veteran locker room was the 2015 San Antonio Spurs who were one of the oldest teams in NBA playoff history and they got their shit rocked by a younger, more physical Oklahoma City Thunder team. The point is that a championship team has to have a perfect balance of superstar players in their prime flanked with role players around the same age or slightly older. This is why I can’t convince myself that Boston can beat Cleveland in a 7 game series–I think their key role players are just too young.

Washington, D.C. belongs to John Wall

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John Wall passed his “Point God” audition last playoffs with flying colors. He was the only reason to even check in on the games out east. Had he had even a little bit of help with the ball handling duties, we’d probably have been treated to a more competitive Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately for Wall, the Wizards didn’t get any better, and they will be lucky to get to the 2nd round. The Wizards can’t expect to get far with such thin backcourt reserves.

 

X Marks the Spot

 

One of the downsides to teams like the Warriors playing with pace and space, is that the rest of the league tries to copy that formula, and it messes with the product. Sure it works for the Warriors because they have three of the best 3 point shooters in NBA history. That doesn’t mean I want to watch the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers just chuck 3 pointers up for 48 minutes a night. It doesn’t look good even when they are going in. Expect more three-point shots attempted, which of course means more three point shots missed this season. We’re going to see a lot of bricks this year.

 

Yesterday’s New Quintet

 

People are sleeping on the Clippers, but a couple of things happened this summer that makes me take them seriously:

1) They finally relieved Doc Rivers of his front office duties and

2) They hired Jerry West as a team consultant.

The media narrative is that the locker room is a lot looser now that Chris Paul has been traded. I thought their biggest problem was replacing him, but the team looks like theya re having more fun playing with Milos Teodisic at the point. Lou Williams only steps on the court to get buckets. Austin Rivers is better than he was three seasons ago, and has managed to go from being laughable to playing like a dark-skinned Steve Blake. The Clippers are going to be a real pain in the ass to play with Patrick Beverley on the perimeter and DeAndre Jordan in the paint. 

We can only be so lucky to see another  Rockets-Clippers matchup come April. I could be talked into watching any of the series swinging games with the right company. I like what the Clippers have done this off-season and think they will make the playoffs.

 

Z-Bo Making M’s, smoking  Taking L’s

 

Zac Randolph has been the OG around the block for a while. He, George Hill,  and Vince Carter are teaming up to be the big homies of reason for the Sacramento Kings this season. The mixture of players on that roster has the feel of a bad basketball movie , and not because Randolph looks like the dude from Family Matters.

It is a shame to see Randolph ending his career on a rebuilding team, but I guess Sacramento isn’t a bad place to spend your late 30’s–especially as a multi-millionaire. It wasn’t that long ago when Randolph was one of the scariest black dudes in the NBA. Remember when he would just mush Blake Griffith’s face into the court floor and Blake wouldn’t even look Z-Bo in the eyes? If there is any justice from the basketball gods this season, Randolph will get bought out of his contract and end up a key bench contributor for a title contender.

Fans of rebuilding franchises like Philadelphia, New York, Sacramento, Dallas, and Minnesota should feel optimism going into this NBA season. There is a lot to look forward to throughout the league and you won’t have to watch the Warriors or Spurs to be spiritually fulfilled. For the first time in a long time, the NBA has enough good basketball to go around for everyone.

 

 

Other Predictions:

East Standings

1)Boston 2)Cleveland 3)Washington 4)Milwaukee 

5)Miami 6)Charlotte 7)Toronto 8)Philadelphia

 

West Standings

1) Golden State 2) Houston 3) Oklahoma City 4) Minnesota

5) San Antonio 6) Los Angeles Clippers 7) Portland 8) Denver

 

Regular Season MVP Kawhi Leonard

Defensive Player Of Year Draymond Green

Most Improved Player Zach Lavine

Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams

Co-Rookies of the Year Ben Simmons/Lonzo Ball

Coach of the Year: Brett Brown

Western Conference Finals Golden State vs. Oklahoma City

Eastern Conference Finals Boston vs. Cleveland

NBA Finals Golden State over Cleveland in six games

Finals MVP Kevin Durant

 

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Everything is All Love With Kool Bob: My Run at the Full Court 21 NYC

You don’t have to be a basketball aficionado to have heard of the renaissance man Bobbito Garcia, AKA Kool Bob Love, AKA Bobbito the Barber. Sneakerhead, hip hop journalist and Radio DJ, the man has starred in many a documentary, and by the way, was also a B-Boy in the Rock Steady Crew.

Bobbito is a New York legend, whose imprint is on many things, but the basketball world was where I had first heard of him. I first did my Googles on him about ten years ago, after watching the Gunnin’ For that No.1 Spot documentary where he emceed the first “Elite24” basketball game at Rucker Park. 

Earlier this year I came across the Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives documentary and it blew my mind to learn that Garcia played a pivotal role in breaking many of the hip hop acts that I still listen to today. Not too long after that I find out that he is DJ Cucumber Slice from the NBA Streets video games. Basically every hobby I’ve ever thought of having, this guy has been paid to do professionally.

Needless to say I rock with him and DJ Stretch Armstrong pretty heavy. I spent a great deal of time digging up old uploaded You Tube audio recordings of their WKCR show  from back in the day (one of the best is an episode from June of 1994 where they say that “Rockets fans can feel balls”), and of course I follow them both on Twitter.

I’d heard good things about Bobbito’s latest basketball documentary, Doin’ It in the Park and watching it got me so gassed up about hooping, that I signed myself up for his annual Full Court 21 tournament– even though I’ve been threatening to retire from playground ball for the last year or so. The dates of the tournament lined up perfectly with my visit to New York City, and though I doubted my chances of winning, I knew I had to at least compete in it. 

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2017-2018 NBA Season Preview: A to the K

“A to the K?” 

 

“A to tha mutha*%$king Z”

 

~Hold up scene from the movie Wild Style

 

 

I love NBA basketball, but I find it unfortunate the off the court news is more entertaining than the majority of what happens on the court . We’ve had a lot of players changing jerseys to bridge the gap between the top four teams (Golden State, Boston, San Antonio, and the Lebrons). Some teams got better (Minnesota, Houston, Boston, Los Angeles, Golden State,Oklahoma City). Some teams got worse (Toronto, Utah, Memphis, Chicago and the Clippers) and some teams stayed the same (Detroit, Portland, Washington, San Antonio, and Dallas).

Although this season will undoubtedly be more competitive (at least out West),–all things being equal— I don’t see how a Warriors-Cavs finals is anything but inevitable. Luckily for me,  I’m a hard-core hoops fan, and NBA minutiae fulfills the geek in me. There is a lot more to a basketball season than who wins and who loses. It is a long season and if all you care about is your favorite team winning a championship, then outside of the four cities I mentioned earlier; there are going to be a lot of dissatisfied people. There is a lot to look forward to this year: new players in the league who look to be exciting, and older players looking to leave their mark on the league before their career is over. Personally, I’m looking forward to the various basketball threads I have running in my email and text message inboxes.  And with that, I’m happy to bring back for you: Bobby Mickey’s 26 most compelling NBA story lines: A-Z.

 

Adjusted schedules

Shout out to Adam Silver and staff on this one. Despite the national anthem edict, the man is such a breath of fresh air compared to that old Fuddy-Duddy–ass fun ruiner, David Stern. Silver saw a problem that was ruining the product and he wasn’t afraid to fix it. There will be no more stretches of four games in five nights for the players, and back–to–back games have been reduced for all the teams, with no team having more than 16, and no team having fewer than 13. And guess what else? Marquee games will no longer fall in the midst of those back to back or five games in seven nights scenarios. Let’s get it!

 

Beware: Deer Crossing

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Sacramento Kings

Like Bambi, we’ve had the privilege to watch Giannis Antetokounmpo grow up before our very eyes. My Nigerian brethren even thinks he can make a run at the MVP this year–which typically scares me away from a player– but in Giannis’ case, his swag level may be justified. Other than Khris Middleton, and an injured (expected back at the second half) Jabari Parker, the Bucks are a team filled with role players. I expect their backcourt to be better with the return of Rookie Of the Year winner Malcolm Brogdon, and the vets Brandon Rush, Jason Terry, and Gerald Green can help out on the court in addition to being good locker room guys. Don’t be surprised if they get a second seed in this year’s Eastern Conference playoffs.

Carmelo Finally gets a Mulligan

 

Let the Hoodie Melo-era begin. As rough as Melo’s season was last year, it was tough to feel sorry for the guy knowing that he chose to sign a huge contract extension–with a no-trade clause. Who knows how much that had to do with his family dynamic, but he took James Dolan’s money– which is like doing a deal with the devil. But Melo is free now, and he finally has some teammates in which to share the burden with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. It took me a minute to process it, but when you look at the collective star power of the three, and the incoming role players, it is hard to not to get excited about this lineup.

Oklahoma City might be pretty nasty (at least in the regular season). Presti may have finally got some players whose playing styles blend with Westbrook. Russ might average a triple double again this season with an increase in rebounds and assists and a decline in points. Paul George doesn’t have to be the man, and can just concentrate on spot up three pointers and playing defense. Andre Roberson just has to shoot a better free throw percentage to justify his playing time. Raymond Felton  (by the way, OKC finally got a decent backup point guard) can just feed Melo when Russ is taking a breather, and now the Thunder have one more lethal offensive option in endgame scenarios. Teams can’t just key in on Russ anymore and the most immediate beneficiary for that is Carmelo Anthony.

Dejounte’s Big Audition

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Tony Parker’s torn quadricep may end up being a blessing in disguise. Parker stands to be a little extra rested come April (and we saw what a rested Parker was looking like before he had that season ending injury last spring). Which brings us to the precocious point guard out of Seattle, Dejounte Murray. It isn’t his time yet, but this is a pivotal opportunity for him to develop.

Murray showed flashes of a very dynamic skill set last season. He is tall, quick, a decent ball handler, and can finish around the rim. We should see an overall improvement in his game. He has had a year to see what it is like running an NBA offense, and with Kawhi Leonard handling the ball at such a high user rate, Murray won’t be asked to do more than he is capable of at this point in his career. I think he’ll show flashes of brilliance that will become more frequent as he develops into the player that we suspect he is.

Eastern Conference Still Doo-Doo

 

While 50 wins may not even be enough to get into the Western Conference Playoffs, we may only see four teams out east that get to 50 wins. You know Boston and Cleveland will hit their 50, but would you put money on Washington or Toronto hitting the half century mark? If you are just aching to bet on someone other than the Celtics or Cavs, I’d suggest the Bucks, which may be asking much to see an 8 game increase in win expectancy. I doubt I will be watching much basketball before 6 pm this season and that is probably a good thing. As busy as I am for the next 12 months it will be hella difficult to justify watching any scrub teams–east or western conference– this season. Life is too short.

Feels like 1996 Again

 

Remember when the 1996 Chicago Bulls won 72 games and they were immediately hailed as the greatest team of all time? Do you remember the very next year when they brought back almost exactly the same team except they added Robert Parish (well past his prime) and Bison Dele (RIP)? We bout to have some De Ja Vu up in this mofo (shout out to Co-founder of Steely Dan, Walter Becker who died last month).

The Warriors have managed to get better this season with the additions of (don’t laugh) Nick Young and Omri Casspi. They managed to snag a couple of bigs from Oregon out of the draft in Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell (possibly the biggest steal of the entire draft). Both players could make great pupils under the tutelage of Draymond Green and David West. Somehow Iguodala had everyone convinced that he was washed before last season started, but then he managed to stay healthy for the entire year with no major injuries. Was it luck, or conditioning and diet? His health is still the key, but what is great about the Nick Young acquisition for the Dubs is that they added yet another 6’5 ball handler to come off the bench.

Good and Terrible: The Phoenix Suns

 

Poor Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley must feel like they got sent down to the junior varsity team. The Suns are a young team, which makes this the perfect place for Earl Watson to start his head coaching career. He has a chance to kick some real game to those youngsters down in Phoenix, and this is a great opportunity for him to springboard his career. No one expects Phoenix to win 40 games (at least no one sane), so what Watson will ultimately be judged on his how the players developed individually and as a team.

Under the stewardship of Robert Sarver, this franchise (from the front office to the players) has become a great farm system for the rest of the NBA.  Watson eventually leaving for a better situation is an inevitable reality, once the young studs in Phoenix play themselves into situations where they control their next NBA destination–while the Suns franchise revolve into their perpetual rebuild. I think Devin Booker will continue to get buckets, and Josh Jackson will give us a glimpse of what Andrew Wiggins would be like had he grown up in America. Also, don’t be surprised if Eric Bledsoe (reunion with Doc in L.A.?) finally gets traded this season; as Tyler Ulis and Brandon Knight’s (geezus they’ve got FOUR  Kentucky guards) combined salaries equal what Bledsoe is due to make. I’d go to a Suns game, but not for anything higher than 28 bucks (after fees).

Houston Remains Annoying

 

I was worried the Spurs would acquire one of my least favorite NBA players, Chris Paul, and was so relieved when Houston signed him. He is a great player and the best point guard in the league, but I’m not trying to root for that guy. Plus, Houston is such a great fit for him and his cantankerous on court personality. I thought there could be no more of an annoying scenario than watching the Chris Paul-era Clippers play the Harden-era Rockets. I was wrong.

The fascinating part of this trade is that neither the Clippers nor the Rockets got any less annoying for this season. Add Patrick Beverly to a team that already has Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin, then subtract Jamal Crawford, and voila! The Clippers got MORE annoying. For the Rockets, you’ve just put one of the biggest crybabies in the NBA and paired him up with the biggest flopper in the NBA. Good luck watching that for 82 games a year Rockets fans.

The good news for NBA fans is that Rockets are coached by Mike D’Antoni. We finally have a coach that can use Chris Paul the way God intended Paul to play basketball. Harden says he wants to just spot up and shoot, but watching the both of them run a fast break will be–at times– a thing of beauty. Also, don’t sleep on the Tarik Black and P.J. Tucker signings. The Rockets front line just quietly got bigger and meaner. Rebounding, while always important, is even more integral in a D’ANtoni  run offense, where so many shots are taken during the course of a 48 minute game. Also, is Isaiah Taylor going to get some tick playing for D’Antoni? Or is he Daniel Gibson 2.0?

Indiana is NBA Siberia

 

Unlike places like New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami,  Atlanta, or D.C. where a player can take solace that they are a millionaire in a premier city, Pacers players have only basketball and road  *ahem* attractions to keep their minds off the fact they play for a floundering franchise. A guy can even drown his sorrows in some delicious fried chicken in places like Charlotte and Chicago. But I can’t imagine an NBA reality worst than playing for a midwest franchise that has no chance of competing for a title.

I took a peek at the prospective depth chart of the Pacers and my first thought was, “maybe they aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be.” But then I saw that their strongest locker room personality is Lance Stephenson and that Nate McMillan is their head coach (No disrespect). They have some good young players. but I’m not sure they have enough veterans to push them through the tough times and into the playoffs. I think they’ll come close though and it will be a dogfight for that 8th seed between *YAWN* Indiana, Miami, and Charlotte. 

 

Jokic Might Be The Real Deal

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Every time I look at the Nugget roster, I want so badly to plug them in as an eighth seed but there is no way to do it without envisioning an injury to someone in the Portland Trailblazers’ backcourt.  While Jokic may not be enough for the Nugs to be playing a home game on April 20th, I think this is the year that he turns the mainstream media’s heads–and maybe even make the All Star Team. He averaged six more points last season than he did his rookie year, and he should average 20 points a game in this one. In addition to being a decent ball handler, the young Serbian is an avid passer, averaging 4.9 assists last season and he gobbled up 9.8 rebounds a game. Jokic is in line for a monster year if he can stay healthy. If there is any slippage with Portland at all, then I think Denver will take that eighth seed for the West.

Kawhi’s MVP Campaign

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My alter ego, formerly over at Fansided, predicted the jump Kawhi Leonard would make right before the beginning of last season, by midseason, NBA nerds were wide open to the San Antonio phenom. Kawhi’s metamorphosis has been nothing short of beautiful and spectacular and now that he has everyone’s attention, his game will take yet another leap. People are high on the Thunder, Rockets, and Timberwolves, but the Spurs will still win their 60 games, and it will be because Kawhi Leonard put the team on his back. He just might be Jordan 2.0, but if that is the case, then he still needs his Scottie Pippen 2.0.  Which is why he will win MVP, because of all the superstars left on title contending teams, Kawhi is the only one without a superstar to step onto the court with him.

 

To Be Continued…….

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com.