Clicks to Pick Dec. 12-18 [Updated]

This week’s Click’s to Pick are brought to you by Aaron Ross from the Portland late night talk show, “Who’s the Ross?” Bmick returns from Bermuda next week (we hope) to bring you the column in its regular format.

With Xmas around the corner, this week’s Clicks to Pick are rated as classic children’s presents you may have found under the tree, back in the day.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 12

POR @ LACNBA LIVE 2016: We’ve played this game before… It’s not as much fun to play as the new version, but it’s familiar, and we keep coming back to it.

Can the ‘Zers avenge an early season beat down? Probably not. Do the slumping Clips need any more motivation than last year’s injury plagued 1st rd exit? Definitely not.  

  Even though this season is only entering the 2nd quarter, a win here would be huge for the Blazers, who have been viciously spanked by contenders this year, while another home loss for Doc, Son, & Co. could turn into the kind of finger-pointing that would signal an early demise for these “so called contenders.”

LAL @ SACEASY BAKE OVEN: You won’t play with this toy next year (Boogie will be gone), but with a stroke of luck, and Mom’s helping hand (Luke Walton), you might walk away with a tasty treat (or it’ll taste like garbage, and you’ll be asking yourself why did you waste your time?).

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13

OKC @ ZERS (GOOD ASS GAME OF THE WEEK) – YOUR FIRST BASKETBALL: The gift that keeps on giving, which you will use for years to come (until you leave it at the gym, someone else takes it, and your pissed-off parents won’t buy you a new one).

I’m a Blazers homer, so no surprise they dominate my Clicks to Pick. But there are four great reasons to watch this game:

  1. It features two of the most exciting point guards in the league, in their prime.
  2. The New O will be going for his 9th triple double in a row. (yes, the streak will still be alive) {Edit: It ended on Sunday against the Boston Celtics.}
  3. Last year, “Dame Time” became a national catchphrase when Lillard ethered OKC with 17 pts in the final 3 mins of a Jan. game at the Rose Garden, and don’t think Russ doesn’t want to duplicate this nuclear explosion, one year later.  
  4. The Blazers will be coming off another beat down to the Clip Show, and in desperate need of a home win, less than 24 hours later.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14

 BOS @ SA – SOCKS: Socks are the worst gift you can receive as a youth. (unless you’re a teenage Bobby Mickey, then you fill them shits right up! Skeet Skeet Skeet!) But as an adult, they are not only sensible, but can definitely add to your style game (I match my socks with my dress shirts and/or neckties *wink*).

 These aren’t the boring Spurs of you grew up with, but they’re not the most intriguing team in the league either…unless you’re a bball junky, then the ball movement, defensive close-outs, and Pops grouchy demeanor make you harder than Bobby Mickey peepin’ a primetime thigh after a long night of grading papers (ZING x 2!!).

 Facing the Eastern Conference’s best “other” team, this would be the 2017 Finals matchup if LeBron & Steph pulled an MJ and left the game at their peak–giving someone else a chance for a couple of years. But just to be clear, SA is only a smidge under GSW’s power ranking, whereas BOS is in a second tier, far below them. However, Beantown Brad’s Boys have the ability to beat an elite team on any given night (just not in a 7 game series). Is this that night? It’s possible. San Antonio has not been impenetrable at home this season, and Pop recently ripped his squad for their lack of effort.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15

CHI @ MILPLAYBOY MAGAZINE vs BRAZZERS SUBSCRIPTION – First off, no kid ever received these filthy-ass XXXmas presents…we stole ‘em! Secondly, there’s no reason to buy Playboy in 2016. But if you’re from my generation, there’s something refreshing about the tangible nature of a porno mag, plus the articles are pretty great. We’re talking knowledge & experience vs. balls out and…well, BALLS OUT! (set amongst the finest knockers in the game)

2016 Bulls, 2013 Nets, 2011 Celtics, 1997 Rockets. See the trend? Talent, experience, too late, nice try. WHO’S NEXT???

2015 Thunder, 1996 Magic, 1990’s Seattle Mariners. TALENT! TALENT! TALENT! WE NEXT! Will it gel? Probably not. But for a couple of years, it’ll be fun to watch, and that’s enough, especially coming from the Bucks, who’d be praising all major deities if they make it out the first round.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16

LAL @ PHI (GOOD ASS GAME OF THE WEAK) CHIA PET: Waiting…waiting…waiting. Will it ever grow? Why isn’t anything happening??? Oh shit! It’s hurt again?!? Wait…is it actually starting to grow, now?!? Holy shit, if this keeps up, it will be beautiful! Buuuuuuuuuut, it’ll probably end up failing in the long run.  

A year ago, these teams were helpless busters! Shit, a month ago, these teams were helpless busters. But all of a sudden Luke’s Lil’ Lakers & The Process are two of the most intriguing teams in the league. With Kobe out the picture, these young guns have been let loose, and EMBIID! EMBIID! EMBIID! has reminded us that a Big Man with ACTUAL POST MOVES is not a myth! This game means nothing in the now, and these teams may never materialize, but at least it will be fun to watch.

ZERS @ GSWPOWER WHEELS vs A REMOTE CONTROLLED CAR: One is fully powered, the other is a smaller imitator that can’t keep up.

A year ago, I thought the Blazers nailed the Golden State formula, and were on their way to being a young, shoot the lights out, run & gun, small ball team that was one piece away from turning the corner to being an elite team.
I was wrong. They are AT LEAST one piece away from being a top-tier team, and moving to the next level may involve trading a key piece (CJ). These boys need defense, and a real inside presence to make it out the first round, and that ain’t coming this year, unless Neil Olshey makes some magic happen before the trade deadline (which I don’t see him doing).

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17

LAKERS @ CAVS (TRAP GAME OF THE WEEK) 3-D PUZZLE: At first you’re a little disappointed you got a fuckin’ puzzle, but once you start putting it together, it’s way more exciting than you anticipated.

Last time the Baby Lake Show was on the road against the league’s best team, they smoked ‘em like Gouda, sausage, or the sweetest Oregon sticky icky. This is the type of game young, hungry, well-coached teams surprise you with, and I see the Lakers coming out on top against a Cavs team thinking ahead to an Xmas Day matchup with their only real competition in the league.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18

NO @ SAENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA: When unwrapped, no one wants this present. Whether it was hardback, CD-ROM, or however a kid receives an encyclopedia nowadays (I assume it’d be like donating to Wikipedia on a child’s behalf, which is corny as fuck! (although I may pull that move for a little bastard down the road, just cause).  But down the road, you will retain the knowledge you received from the encyclopedia, and while you may not fondly reflect on where it came from, it will be beneficial to your growth as a Bball fan.

The game’s best big man, backed by the worst “others” in the league play the team that ALWAYS has the best “others.” Take note Pelicans: if you wanna keep the Brow Down, you need to figure out how to build a team around him, and we all know you can’t spell TEAM without San Antonio!

image1   AARON ROSS is the host/head-writer of “WHO’S the ROSS?” – Portland’s weekly late-night talk show. You can catch him at Dante’s every Tuesday night, right down the street from Voodoo Donuts and the spot where Ndamukong Suh had that car wreck. 

Clicks to Pick Week of Dec. 5th

With Bobby Mickey still on vacation in Bermuda, This A Good Ass Game brings you a rotating cast of guest Picks to Click. Bmick will be back next week (hopefully) to bring you the column in its regular format.

Clicks to Picks WEEK 12-5-16 to 12-9-16

MONDAY, DECEMBER 5

CLE at TOR

Start your week out right. Start your week off with the King. LeBron and the Cleveland LeBrons make a trip up to Toronto to play against DeMar “I Live In The Midrange” DeRozan and some other losers who can’t keep up with LeBron. Look for Kevin Love to BEAST on Pascal Siakam. And Kyrie will break Kyle Lowry’s ankles at least twice.

POR at CHI

Given that I’m a Blazers fan, I gotta recommend watching the Blazers at the Bulls. Chicago has been surprisingly impressive to me, which I didn’t expect. At some point, Rondo/Wade/Butler will implode and SOUND THE ALARM… I’m calling it to happen against the Blazers tonight! Damian “The George Hill of Rapping” Lillard is gonna torch Rondo, C.J. will have a breakout on the tired knees of the hometown hero Wade, and Allen Crabbe is gonna prove he should be starting. Mark my words.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6

SA at MIN

This is the only game that deserves your attention tonight, even if you’re a diehard of any teams playing outside of the “Arena Wally Szczerbiak Built”. LaMarcus Aldridge will officially be passed as the preeminent Power Forward in the NBA by Karl Anthony Towns (if he hasn’t already, and lemme tell you, it is damn close right now in November). Andrew “Drake Mentioned Me In A Song” Wiggins vs Kawhi “I’m Quiet And Only Listen To 90s R&B” Leonard could be a really fun head to head match up for the next decade. Who knows, it could start tonight!

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7

POR at MIL

What better way to celebrate Pearl Harbor Day than seeing Dame and C.J. drop from long range on the Bucks? Giannis “Can I Buy A Vowel” Antetokounmpo should be able to feast on the free range, gluten free Portland defense. The Blazers can’t stop big men, so Greg Monroe will look like Lew Alcindor against the front court of Plumlee/Leonard/Davis. We know who teams are at this point in the season. Will the Blazers be legit, or Coach Kidd show us last season’s overachieving was a Northwest fluke?

CLE at NYK

Whenever the NBA’s best player gets an opportunity to play at the Mecca (Madison Square Garden) it’s appointment viewing. Kristaps “No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Die” Porzingis is ready for prime time and will show up and show off against Tristan “Khloe Totally Isn’t OJ’s Daughter” Thompson, and I’m calling for an upset. Knicks beat Cavs on route to gelling in the Hornacek led version of the triangle where they’re destined to lose in the first round in 5 against Toronto.

GSW at LAC (Good Ass Game of the Week)

The league’s best talent versus the league’s biggest phonies. If you’re not sick and tired of the Clippers by now, you are somehow; some way, a fan of this godforsaken group of  Susan Lucci’s. As much as I love Charles Barkley, who always mentions the Clips as a team who can beat the Dubs, he’s gonna have to either dead that talk or pray DeAndre “I Wear More Dresses On TV More Than I Make Free Throws” Jordan and Blake “Let Me Tell You About How I’ve Done Improv” Griffin punish the Warriors bigmen. Also, when are you gonna have a chance to see a game where only dunks and threes are made is an actual scenario that could happen?

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8

PHI at NO

You’re reading that correctly. Being the follower of NBA Twitter and podcasts that I am, I’m all in Joel “I Never Weighed 300 Pounds” Embiid. Embiid vs Anthony “More Brow Than Upper Body Strength” Davis could be really fun to watch. Embiid was the best player in college basketball during his one year at Kansas and is putting is crazy numbers now even under his minutes restriction. The NBA ebbs and flows. It was all about small ball, but with the amount of talented big men (Towns, Porzingis, Embiid, Davis, Randle, Turner, etc) we might be heading back to post moves rule everything around me. If we are, this game will be a sign of things to come.

SA at CHI

Two good teams playing in a good basketball city, this should be fun. Kawhi “I Only Say Please And Thank You” Leonard is gonna continue his MVP caliber run, but the thing to watch out here for is Rajon “I’ll Call You A Gay Slur If We Can’t Play Connect Four” Rondo. Rondo famously balls harder in nationally televised games, and he SHOULD be able to get the best of Tony Parker and Patty Mills. The performances will be prettier than the game, but it’s gonna be fun.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9

TOR at BOS

The battle for the second seed in the East! Can the C’s live up to the expectations that signing Al “My Eyes Are As Pretty As My Jumper” Horford brought on? Probably? I’m not actually sure. The Celtics kinda reek of great but not championship level great. As good as their coaching and guard play has been and will be, they’re still a pretender. If they want to make a believer out of me (which they should because I’m cool)this is gonna be where it needs to happen. Beat a good team and maybe I’ll start drinking the spiked Kool Aid.

PHO at LAL

I’m a Celtics fan and Blazers fan, but I’ll tell you what… I like this Laker team! D’Angelo “CCTV” Russell has been balling, Brandon “I Make Durant’s Body Look Like Eddy Curry” Ingram can shoot, and the rest of the Lottery All Stars have been a fun, run and gun team who are well coached and likable. Maybe it’s just that Kobe is gone, but maybe, just maybe, they’re actually a good team who are entertaining to watch? It could be interesting to see how the celebrity fan Laker faithful  take to a team that isn’t great but has an upside. Will Jack Nicholson want to watch millennials who know him best as the guy from sitting courtside during the last Laker title instead of the guy from “The Bucket List”? Find out at Staples tonight!

Saturday, December 10th

No good ass games scheduled.

 

Sunday Dec. 11th

No good ass games scheduled.

 

image1-7  Jordan Paladino is a Portland comedian, internet troll, rapper, and writer for the show “Who’s the Ross?” He is a staunch defender of all things Lebron James, Drake, and Kanye West. He is also a KD hater. We try not to hold these things against him.

 

Clicks to Pick Nov. 28th to Dec. 4th

This A Good Ass Game will be run by carefully chosen special guests while Bobby Mickey is on vacation in Havana. This Week’s Clicks to Pick are brought to you Devon Singrey.

Monday, November 28

Kings @ Wizards
The world is a confusing and frightening place right now. We can all use something to make us feel good. What better way than to look down on the two most dysfunctional franchises in the league? There’s nothing quite like watching John Wall and Bradley Beal fantasize about murdering each other in real time, or Boogie Cousins spontaneously combusting in frustration, to make your problems feel like mere trifles! Sac-Town vs. Chocolate City is the dumpster fire America deserves.
Hawks @ Warriors
Clearly the Dubs have figured some stuff out after the early-season ugliness, and Atlanta looks just good enough again to get fans’ hopes up before another sweet, sweet second-round exit. Steve Kerr is always tinkering with his rotations, but watch out for Spurs protege Mike Budenholzer and his All-Tepid Lineup of backups Tim Hardaway, Jr., Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Muscala and Kris Humphries. It’s hard to not hate the Warriors, but then you watch Dwight Howard for 48 minutes and think, “these guys aren’t so bad.”

Tuesday, November 29

Lakers @ Pelicans
After starting 0-8 and looking primed to waste another year of Anthony Davis, the Pellies have gone 6-3, including a recent four-game win streak. It should be entertaining to see how they deal with the surprisingly decent Lake Show, especially after getting smoked 126-99 earlier in the season. So many questions with these teams! Has Swaggy P made a change for good? Will Mozgov smash? Can Tiny Tim Frazier survive and thrive, or will it be L.A. saying, “Bah, Humbug!” again?
Rockets @ Jazz
It’s a Battle Royale between two teams the media likes to pretend are going to compete in the West! I assume the very existence of James Harden’s ostentatious beard, spicy offensive game and no-cares D will send the fans in Salt Lake City into a frothing rage, so expect a contentious affair between “The Beard” and Utah’s favorite adopted son Gordon Hayward. “Facial hair? 3-pointers? Bad defense? THAT’S NOT REAL BASKETBALL! Jerry Sloan would disapprove of that even more than he would a gay player!”

Wednesday, November 30

Grizzlies @ Raptors
Skinny Kyle Lowry deserves recognition for shedding those pounds, but he’ll never achieve DeMar DeRozan skinniness; just as Toronto will never be a real contender with this group of above-average dudes. The Griz know that life, having existed for years on the periphery of elite relevance and never quite getting there. The winner gets to pretend they have a real shot past the first round for another month.

Thursday, December 1

Clippers @ Cavaliers (Good Ass Game of the Week)
The Clips are dope. The LeBrons are dope. This game is dope. Like every other basketball fan in America, I’m curious to see if L.A. is actually for real this time, or if they’re going to faceplant before the conference finals again. Beating the champs on the road would be a good indicator, but it’ll take a lot to top The King, who’s currently averaging 23, 9 and 8 on 50% shooting. Plus, Kevin Love has decided to show up this season. And Kyrie! Damn, the Cavs are good.
Rockets @ Warriors
It’s always fun to watch Houston take on Golden State. The Rockets aren’t good enough to seriously threaten the Dubs, but they’re not smart enough to realize it; which makes it super entertaining as they fire off 45 threes only to lose 130-100. It’s kind of cool that James Harden is a point guard now, so he and Steph get to not guard each other as they both go off for 40-plus. This is one of those nationally televised games in which KD needs to really drive home his new villain status. Embrace the evil, Kevin. Everyone hates you already.

Friday, December 2

Timberwolves @ Knicks
You’d better tune in to check out two of the best young big men in the game as Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis go head-to-head. Plus: Carmelo! Andrew Wiggins! Zach LaVine will probably dunk! There’ll be a gross slap-fight as snarly tough guy Joakim Noah and future Noah replacement Robin Lopez butt heads (possibly literally). As an added bonus, the 27 percent three-point shooting percentages of point guards Derrick Rose and Ricky Rubio will have a bricklaying contest to the death. Fun fact: D-Rose’s career percentage from distance is worse than Ricky’s. ¡Ay Caramba!
Cavaliers @ Bulls
The King on back-to-back nights! Chicago HATES LeBron, and the unholy Rondo-Wade-Butler triumvirate hasn’t blown up yet, so this ought to be a loud, angry environment that will test Cleveland one night after playing the Clips. The Bulls aren’t going to be a legit contender to win the East, but up until Rondo quits on the team everyone should be watching. There’s just no way this ends well. A sweep of this back-to-back would be pretty impressive for the Cavs.

Sunday, December 4

Pelicans @ Thunder
Why not? We get two of the supreme athletic freaks in the Brow and Russ, with both players vying for the title of “Most amazing plays without any help in a single season.” Russ will try to posterize Anthony Davis. Davis will try to end Russ’ life. The other eight players are completely superfluous in this game. We shouldn’t even count their stats. With enough assists from Davis, there could be a triple-double on both sides.
img_3186 Devon Singrey is a Portlander and creator of the college football blog, Making Sense of Saturday. His interests include basketball, football, history, mythology, funky music, and all things Prince.

Knapp Time: Alex’s Picks To Click For the Week of Nov.14th-20th

This A Good Ass Game will be run by carefully chosen special guests while Bobby Mickey is on vacation in Bermuda. This Week’s Clicks to Pick are brought to you by Alex Knapp. You can also check out Alex Knapp’s Weekly Hot Take Roundup here. #fullsasstakeover

 

 

MONDAY

Thunder @ Pistons 7:30pm EST

Record wise this is the best game of the night, and somehow the Pistons got off to a decent start despite missing their all-star PG, Reggie Jackson. I could see Westbrook going for 45 but the Pistons still wining this game. Should be fun to watch.
Mavs @ Knicks 7:30pm EST
Old man Dirk vs Young man Zinger. Worth a click.
Magic @ Pacers 7:00pm EST
Here are two young and fun east coast teams battling for a playoff spot. Each team needs to win this to prove to they belong in the playoffs.
Indiana is better but I think Orlando gets the win.

TUESDAY

Bulls @ Blazers 10:00 pm EST (NBA TV)
The jury is still out on the new-look Bulls. After a hot start they’ve stalled with 3 straight losses (can’t score sometimes).
When they shoot above 40% from 3pt land they win. When they shoot below 36% from 3pt land they lose. There is very little in-between.
Dame vs Rondo, C.J. vs Wade/Butler, Myers Leonard vs Doug McBuckets?!?!?!
Toronto @ Cleveland 7:30pm EST (NBA TV)
Oh you that lame kind of NBA fan who only watches “the best” teams play? That is sooooooo cool LAME.

WEDNESDAY

Golden State vs Toronto 7:00 pm & Memphis vs Los Angeles Clippers 9:30 pm
Both the ESPN matchups will likely be more blah then exciting. I can’t stand watching Toronto or Memphis. I hope KD and Curry go for 80 combined and Blake Griffin ends somebody career with an earth shattering dunk.
Rockets @ Thunder 8:00 pm EST
Harden vs Russ. Gonna be high scoring!!!
Bucks @ Hawks 7:30pm EST
If the ESPN games don’t hold your attention, then watch the Greek Freak play a squad with an actual good team defense. They will be a good test of his skill level. NBA nerds will get off watching how many different defensive looks coach Bud throws at him.

 THURSDAY 

Blazers @ Rockets 8:00pm EST
Both the TNT games kind of suck here too (Philadelphia vs. Minnesota; Los Angeles Clippers vs. Sacramento). You can call me a homer but I’d rather  watch Dame and Harden go buck wild on each other (neither of them can play a lick of defense).

FRIDAY (GOOD ASS GAME OF THE WEEK)

Warriors @ Celtics 8:00 pm EST (ESPN)
Celtics always want to beat this team, and coach Brad Stevens usually has a good enough–
creative game plan to make it fun and exciting. My money is on an overtime win by the Celtics.

SATURDAY (Go Do Something Fun)

Warriors @ Bucks 8:30pm EST
Maybe…
Hornets @ Pelicans 7:00pm EST
Watch “The Brow” drop 50 on Kemba and company.
They have no big man to guard him. Cody Zeller, Roy Hibbert, Marvin Williams? Get the fuck outta here with that weak shit.

SUNDAY 

I will be at the Blazers @ Nets game, so I hope it’s a blowout.
Other than that, this looks like a football day (Cowboys-Steelers; Patriots-Seahawks).
f16fe4_33a1706de82a46a9b053723415da08dc      Alex Knapp is a Portlander who has lived in Brooklyn, New York for the past 7 years. He is a filmmaker and actor currently working in HR to pay the bills. Alex is an avid NBA basketball fan who likely has an opinion on every team and every player, seriously – try him. You can check out his podcast with Anthony Levy, PDXPATS on iTunes. 
 

Better late then never: Top 8 Over/Under’s & Award Predictions

[Editor’s note: After a full NBA Season, 2 blown 3-1 series leads, and an east coast west coast podcast beef, our hero Alex Knapp returns with another series of wild predictions and theories for the 2016-2017 season. Betting with Vegas has closed for the season, but we at Fullsass will gladly take bets with anyone willing to fork over some cash.]

THE UNDERS

OKLAHOMA CITY 45.5: UNDER (lock)

This team will be trash. I don’t believe in Westbrook to WIN, yes maybe he puts up crazy numbers (except any of the efficiency stats), but none of that will translate to wins – in fact by the end of the season it will be known that his wild ball-hog dominate-everything style of play will translate to a lot of their losses. This team won’t make the playoffs.[UPDATE* – They will make the playoffs if they trade for Rudy Gay, he would become a great addition to their squad and surprise a lot of people with how he can help a team win.]

UTAH 47.5: Under

I don’t necessarily believe the hype. Adding “Iso” Joe, Boris Diaw, and George Hill doesn’t translate to 8 more wins,as I think Joe and Boris are both washed up at this point. This team is solid, but unless Gobert becomes Dikembe (which could happen), I don’t see this team being as good as everyone wants them to be. They could win 45 games though. I just think the difference between being good to being great is a big leap in the NBA. Plus Hayward is slated to miss some time with a finger injury. He is more important than people realize.

PORTLAND 46.5: (Under….I know…sorry)

With Ezili still sidelined (until possibly February–yikes!) we still have yet to fix our interior defense (Statistically Plumlee was the worst interior defender out of all 30 starting centers). The jury is still out on whether Evan Turner can actually fit in and impact games, or if he is destined to land in Stotts 3/4 merry-go-round rotation. Crabbe isn’t worth 17 million. Dame and C.J. are the same turnstiles on defense. We don’t have a consistent 3rd best offensive option – in a league that demands one. Basically we are the same team we were last year –a team that overachieved last year –and will regress to the mean this year, at right about 42 wins. I’m pessimistically taking the under.

MINNESOTA 41.5: Under

This is an all time hype line set by Vegas. People want this team to be so good so fast that they would probably be willing to bet the over no matter what it was set at.
Yes, this team is exciting. Yes, a bunch of young athletes just got the coach they desperately needed. BUT NO – Tibs is not worth 13 games this season, just not this season.
This team will get to 38 or 39, contend for the 8th seed – and then, next season…Explode for to a top 4 team in the West. I don’t know why people still hate on LaVine, guy is an athletic freak with a motor and near perfect form on his JUMP shot.

THE OVERS

HOUSTON 41.5: Over

Can they score? YES. Can they defend, TBD. I like the additions of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon letting it fly from deep. I think Clint Capela will and can anchor their interior defense – whether they let teams bomb from 3 may not be something he can control. I think they secretly have a very competent and fun, deep bench with guys like Montrezl Harrel, K.J McDaniels,  Tyler Ennis, and Portland-native NBA-underdog Kyle Wiltjer (dude won’t play, but he can score).
With Hybrid PG Harden running the show, what could go wrong?

INDIANA 43.5: Over

Eastern Conference Finals dark horse winner right here:
Competent PG’s, top 5 player in the game, Myles Turner is a beast just needs to get more consistent every night, Thad Young is a professional starting NBA PF, and a decent enough bench. They need to find a way to rebound and guard the 3pt shot (ultimately that’s just effort). Nate McMillan doesn’t add any wins to this team – but the addition of Thad and emergence of Turner does.

DALLAS 39.5: OVER (lock)

In the last 15 seasons (Dirk/Cuban era) the Mavericks have missed the playoffs ONCE, in ’12-13 with a record of 41-41. That was also their lowest winning percentage in the last 15 seasons.
This team wins more than 40 games and makes the playoffs every year, and this year will be no different. Lock of the century.[UPDATE* They started 0-3 and I still don’t care. This team will make the playoffs. ]

NEW ORLEANS 36.5: Over

When you read my individual award selections below, this “over” will make more sense to you:
Another year of Gentry to install a faster paced offense, a handful of decent/hungry FA role player signings to help build out around Davis, hopefully Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday come back sooner rather than later to give Ant more offensive options to play with. My boy Tim Frazier finally gets the burn he deserves (ghost handshake). Davis is a fucking beast, so if he can get even a tiny bit more help than last year and stay healthy, this team should clear this over/under.

2016-2017 Individual Award Predictions. 

The predictions below take into account the Las Vegas betting odds, specifically the “Moneyline odds”, the number in parenthesis is how much money you make for every $100 you spent betting on this specific thing. These can also be translated into more standard fractional odds (+1300 = 13/1).
My picks are what I think the pre-season “best bets” would be. Where you can make the most money for something that actually has a chance of happening.

MVP

My Pick: Anthony Davis (+1300) – I think the Pelicans have a bounce back season under Gentry and with a restock of roll players, and Buddy Hield firing from deep (see below), I think they make the playoffs. Davis’s 25ppg, 13rpg, 2 blkpg could make a strong case for him. [UPDATE* – Dude averaged 42 points through the first 3 games. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?]
More likely to happen: Kawhi Leonard (+1100) – The best bet if the Spurs have the best record in the NBA–which I think they could. Kawhi is going to be all over the floor, on every end, and with Tony Parker’s decline in production, and Duncan doing laps in a pool somewhere – Pop will lean on Kawhi to shoulder the offensive load a lot of nights. I’m excited to see it. 
Long Shot: Paul George (+2200) – A bit more of a long shot bet, but he is the 2nd (maybe 3rd) best two-way player in the league. I think he is going to put up super dope numbers and Indiana is a top 4 team in the East (see above). PG for 3!!!!

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My Pick: DeAndre Jordan (+800) – DeAndre could possibly just beast shit up this season. He’s consistently averaging around 15rbs and 2.5 blocks the last couple seasons. He anchors the Clippers D and yet is athletic enough to chase stretch 4’s and 5’s to the perimeter when necessary. Watching him defend the Pick and Poll during the last playoffs was pretty devastating. He impacts EVERY shot at the rim. This could be his Dwight year.
 
Could Happen: Rudy Gobert (+550) – IF the Stifle Tower becomes Dikembe Mutumbo this season, then Utah will be a serious team to deal with, and all the Jazz hype will be vindicated. This goes contrary to my Utah under 47.5 pick (see above), but for those of you inclined to agree with the likes of Zach Lowe – then this might be the pick for you.
 
Long Shot: Jimmy Butler (+330) – I consider this one more of a long shot, but if the Bulls are going to be any good this year, somebody is going to have to play lockdown D and it seems like Butler is the only one we can turn to. If some crazy sport tracking data comes out where Butler is the best on-ball wing defender in the NBA (opponent shoots lowest FG% against him, opponent takes less shots, opponent is forced into higher degree of difficulty shots, etc), then Jimmy may have an outside chance.
 

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

My Pick: Buddy Hield (+1400) – Buddy is the Jimmer we always needed. The guy can flat-out score and with Jrue Holliday away from the team, Tyreke still injured, and a cast of new characters – Buddy will crack the starting lineup, play at least 20 minutes a game and lead rookies in scoring, while helping Anthony Davis get back to the playoffs (see above).
Could Happen: Buddy Hield (+1400) – I’m all in on Buddy.
Long Shot: Joel Embiid (+900) – Let’s say Ben Simmons misses the entire year with his foot injury. Let’s say one of Okafor or Nerlens gets moved for a competent wing/guard. Let’s say somehow the 76ers are halfway decent, even just winning somewhere around 25 games. Let’s say Embiid doesn’t get seriously injured this season and plays 70+ games. This would be your rookie of the year – he’s that talented….but only if all those other things I said happen.
 

COACH OF THE YEAR

My Pick: Stan Van Gundy (+2000) – If the Pistons win 55 games this year (oh baby watch out), that’s an 11 game upgrade over last season – Then SVG will be the COY. Or maybe I’ve just become brainwashed from JJ Redick saying he is the best coach in the NBA over and over on his podcast. GET OUT OF MY HEAD JJ! 
More Likely to Happen: Brad Stevens (+700) – People love this dude, and for good reason. He is probably the best coach at drawing up after-timeout plays (ATO’s), and it seems like Boston is primed to make a serious push for the best record in the East (they added Al Horford and I think Lebron will chill during the regular season).
Long Shot: Rick Carlisle (+5000) –  This Mavericks team WILL make the playoffs this year, just like they have 15 of the last 16 years since Cuban bought the team. AND, they will win more than 40 games, just like they have 15 out of the last 16 years (The shortened lock out year they went 36-30, and lost in the 1st round of the playoffs). AND if they compete for the 4th seed (it could happen), then Carlisle WILL be your Coach of the year. All he does is win.

FINALS

Western Conference Finals

Golden State Warriors vs San Antonio Spurs
That’s right, we are going to get the matchup everyone wanted last year – and this one is going to be a doozy. The Warriors are going to be the best offensive team we have ever seen in the history of the NBA by several metrics. And this Spurs team is going to fare better in the playoffs then they did last season with the addition of Pau Gasol. They still have a solid bench with Patty, Manu, Simmons, Kyle Anderson, and I like the additions of David Lee, Dewayne Dedmon, and Dejounte Murray.

Eastern Conference Finals

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Boston Celtics 
I really want to pick my sleepers of Indiana or Detroit here, and I actually think the Eastern playoffs are going to be chalk full of awesome series. But you just can’t bet against Lebron, the guy is just the GOOG (Greatest Of Our Generation) and Boston is primed to take the leap after adding Al Horford and Brad Stevens in his 4th season.

Championship Series

Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
I have never done this in my life. I have never EVER picked a repeat title series. It’s just not something I do, it’s completely the opposite of my personality. VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE! I’m the kind of guy who can’t order the same thing twice in a row when visiting a restaurant, even months apart. “I had the burger last time…so I HAVE to get the chicken…” But this is different, I just see it in my head – the epic climax to the three-part series. Curry and new best friend KD try to prove they are the best tandem in the history of the game, while Lebron and his Frien-emies, Kyrie and KLove try to work together to repeat for the title. Dubs in 7.

  f16fe4_33a1706de82a46a9b053723415da08dc  Alex Knapp is a Portlander living in Brooklyn, New York for the past 7 years. A filmmaker and actor currently working in HR to pay the bills, Alex is an avid NBA basketball fan who likely has an opinion on every team and every player, seriously – try him. You can check out his podcast with Anthony Levy, PDXPATS on Itunes. 

Dame D.O.L.L.A.

My two favorite things in the world are rap music and basketball. I’m very particular about what I like, so keep that in mind. My favorite rapper of all time is Kanye West. My favorite young rapper is Young Thug. I thought “To Pimp A Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar was a perfect album, but I have zero interest in ever hearing it again.

I hold the belief that rappers in 2016 are objectively better at rapping than 90’s dudes. When I say better at rapping I mean interesting flows, ability to rhyme multi-syllabic-ally, and an innate skill at having catchy melodies mixed with content that is either intelligent or reflective of a larger societal view.

My favorite basketball team is the Portland Trail Blazers. My favorite player on the Blazers? Damian Lillard. So, when I found out Damian Lillard was making a rap album, I hollered at my Editor-In-Chief-Keef Bobby Mickey, and begged him to let me do a track by track review of Dame’s debut LP “The Letter O”. This is that review.

EXPECTATIONS: Having only seen Lillard rap on “Sway In The Morning” and having heard him rap during a commercial timeout at a Blazer game, I’m expecting the word “lyrical” to be said over 15 times. I’m hoping for some cool basketball references or wordplay “I’m coming with that heat flow/Making it look easy like a free throw”, something about Portland’s fans being the best, and reference to grinding hard to make it out of Oakland.

Track 1 – Bill Walton

I already am skeptical based off the title. Is there any way this song isn’t about winning a championship for Portland like Bill Walton did? Well, the song isn’t ABOUT Walton, but Dame does end this freestyle with a line about Walton.

As far the rapping, Dame does a lot of multis, which is cool. He clearly has a skill to rhyme words. As for the content of the lyrics? Pretty generic. I won’t hold that against him… unless his only thesis on the album is “we didn’t have much when I was a kid and no one believed in me.” The beat was fine–a solid head nod with some 90’s style drums.

STATS: 18pts/3rbs/4ast

Track 2 – Wasatch Front

More 90’s drums! I’m starting to make assumptions about what the sound of this album will be. This track is about Dame’s time at Weber State (where he went to college). It’s a solid narrative, the song doesn’t feel too long, and there’s a chorus. The chorus is alright, too!

There’s still too much talk of struggle for my liking. Still not holding that against Dame though. The unquestioned best part of the song is the ad-libs though. Dame’s ad-libs are like Kent Bazemore on the Golden State bench in 2012. They’re hyped, funny, and positive. More ad-libs, less boring narratives, please!

STATS: 22pts/5rbs/5ast

TRACK 3 – Growth Spurt (feat. Dupre)

808s! Hashtag rapping! This is the best song on the album after 10 seconds, easily. Some dude named Dupre shows up for an alright song. Dame sounds better on the track than Dupre. That’s a good sign. Dame sounds more comfortable on the beat, but maybe I’m just getting used to it? I don’t hate this song.

Also, I haven’t read  much of anything about Dame as a rapper, but he’s not cursed once, and I think by track nine he’ll address not needing to swear. “I’m everywhere, you ain’t never there/why would I ever swear?” is my Jay Z lyric flip prediction for not swearing. Three songs in, and the most modern sounding track is my favorite.

STATS: 24pts/6rbs/8ast

TRACK 4 – Misguided

It took four songs, but we finally got Dame to mentioned another NBA player. And, drum roll please… it’s LeBron. And he mentions owning Yeezys. This is definitely Dame’s “I guess the money changed him” song. But Dame is capital R Real, so he’s not gonna forget where he came from.

Portland, we can believe in Damian Lillard. This song is the most interesting, as far as content goes. I found myself actually kinda caring what Dame would say about growing up, getting money, etc. Not shockingly, it’s pretty run of the mill. The saving grace of the song is the tend to see/Tennessee wordplay in the first verse. A third of the way through the album and I think I’ve know what to expect for the rest of it.

STATS: 21pts/4rbs/7ast

TRACK 5 – Thank You (feat. Marsha Ambrosius, Brookfield Deuce, and Danny from Sobrante)

Based off the title and the names of the features, I’ve got low expectations for this. I expect this song to be the Blazers on their third game in four nights, coming off a double overtime loss in Denver. It’s hard to hate on a song for someone’s deceased family members, so I’ll just say this song isn’t for me.

Brookfield Deuce is an alright rapper, he provides us with the second NBA player reference when he alludes to Kobe Bryant! The chorus is fine, I don’t love the woman’s voice, and it’s mixed a little weird that makes it stand out in a not great way. Tonally, this song sounds like a heartfelt Beanie Sigel song from ’02. Dame does TWO verses on this song, so it’s probably the most important song. Verse two has Dame mentioning Hulk Hogan and getting caught drinking by his grandma. Dame wants us to know he’s a good kid.

STATS: 20pts/6rbs/6ast

TRACK 6 – Plans (feat. Jamie Foxx)

Ray Charles himself, Jamie Foxx is featured? This could be interesting! Jamie’s chorus is pretty good. This is clearly Dame’s song for the ladies. He mentions sending an eggplant emoji and a woman’s waist line! Dame is for the ladies! A good juxtaposition after his heartfelt song for his grandmother. Dame is for everyone.

The production is modern again, but the beat certainly doesn’t knock, which shouldn’t be expected. Dame doesn’t exactly rattle the rim with his dunks and the beats on the LP reflect that. Halfway through the album and no swearing, no mentioning his teammates, no mentioning other NBA players who have rapped, and still no cursing! These are things to watch out for on the second half of the album!

STATS: 25pts/4rbs/5ast

TRACK 7 – Legacy (feat. Juvenile and Danny from Sobrante)

I guess at this point my biggest question is, what is Sobrante? And why is Danny, who is from there, on this album twice? I’m not actually going to look up who the dude is though, I’m not getting paid for this. Juvenile of “Back That Azz Up” shows up for a guaranteed emailed-to-Lillard feature here. The inconsistency in the mixing on this song is unpleasant. I like the beat though, AND Dame says “hell” which MIGHT count as cursing? But since we know Dame is a God fearing man, it probably isn’t. Portland is name checked on this song, which is cool because I live in Portland, so now I can relate more to multimillionaire Damian Lillard! I gotta be honest, if this song was just Juvenile and Danny from Sobrante I’d really like it. Dame sounds uninspired and completely extraneous here.

STATS: 11pts/2rbs/0ast

TRACK 8 – Loyal to the Soil (feat. Lil Wayne)

Holy moly this is generic struggle rap. The best part of the song is the Lil Wayne overdub of his lighter sparking. And my goodness, Wayne is so much better at rapping than Dame. Wayne’s flow is sharper and bouncier, his metaphors are more clever, he enunciates words in an interesting way, and he doesn’t swear! Wayne does mention being a Blood though, which is kinda weird and jarring.

I was hoping the way Wayne raps here is how Dame would have rapped on the song, but that’s not the case. Props to Dweezy F. Baby for bringing a quality verse and providing overdubs and ad-libs on Dame’s second chorus! Dame is whatever, by the way.

STATS: 17pts/4rbs/2ast

TRACK 9 – Roll Call (feat. Brookfield Deuce)

I like this beat. I can imagine a Future clone rapping on this. The chorus isn’t catchy, like, even a little bit though. I’m not sure how someone with such a pretty jump shot would have zero ear for melodies, because nothing on this album is catchy. And based off how he raps, you know Dame listens to J Cole and Kendrick Lamar, two guys  who are capable of writing mammoth choruses that get stuck in your head instantly. As impressive as Lillard’s ability to string together multis is, when you’re not supplementing it with anything that makes the listener want to hear what else you’re capable of, it might be time to make that LP an EP.

STATS: 15pts/4rbs/4ast

TRACK 10 – Pillow Talk (feat. Manny Lotus)

Sexy flow Dame alert! “I’m feeling that arousement” is the basic idea of the whole song. I will say, it seems a little weird to make a song called “Pillow Talk” when Zayn Malik did it this year and reached Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Again, Dame rapping sexy or about anything that’s not working hard in a small town doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t sound right either.

I appreciate the production on this song, as it sounds more similar to the sort of music I listen to the most. This feels like a Manny Lotus song featuring Dame D.O.L.L.A., which isn’t the best to have on your debut album.

Part of me isn’t sure if Lillard isn’t taking a risks topically because he’s not interested in it or he wants to keep up a good guy Portland image? Regardless, this album’s lack of concepts and subject matter is making it wear pretty thin after only 10 songs. STILL NO SWEARING!

STATS: 12pts/3rbs/1ast

TRACK 11 – Baggage (feat. Adrian Marcel)

Another back half of “The Letter O” song, and another generic R&B chorus that doesn’t fully work. If this song was supposed be a parody of cliche ridden rap I’d love it, but it certainly doesn’t do that at all. In the words of Roman on “Party Down”; “Am I supposed to enjoy the irony, or pity the sincerity?”. Since I’m pretty bored with this song, I’m just gonna imagine what Kristaps Porzingis would sound like on a track. It would be so dope. And I guarantee he’d be a gun rapper. Fuck. I need this to happen now. “I’m seven foot, so you know I bang/after I dunk on you ain’t the only time I can hang”. “Gatvia” by Kristaps Porzingis, coming soon.

STATS: 15pts/3rbs/3ast

TRACK 12 – Hero (feat.Raphael Saadiq) [Bonus Track]

Dame sounds like he yearns on this track; which is actually kinda interesting. This track also has Dame making a handful of basketball references, including Erik Spoelstra and Villanova. Unfortunately, “Hero” also takes the previous track’s generics to a new level. This song is exactly what you’d think a song by a non swearing, basketball player with a song called “Hero” would sound like. Given the ridiculous signing bonuses and endorsement deals that NBA players made in the last two off-seasons, it makes sense that this is a bonus track. It’s unwarranted and unwanted.

STATS: DNP (Coach’s Decision)

After listening to “The Letter O” by Damian Lillard, a few things are clear. Dame’s favorite rapper of all time HAS to be someone whose heyday was in the 90’s. Dame is definitely a basketball player before he’s a rapper. He’s a “real” rapper,  not a “real rapper”.

This is most apparent when anyone appears on the track with him. 2016 rap heavyweights Brookfield Deuce, Dupre, Danny from Sobrante, and Lil Wayne do to Dame on a track what anyone does to Dame on defense, which is to say low-key embarrass him. When Lillard raps on a song by himself, it’s fine and cute; however, when going toe to toe with someone who raps for a living rather than as a hobby, a lot is left to be desired.

In summation, the best way to describe Damian Lillard as a rapper, and I say this as objectively as possible, is that he’s the EXACT opposite of Young Thug. Where Thug opts for flows, melodies, and absurdism, Damian Lillard goes for his version of introspective, emotional, and REAL.

I can’t say I’d recommend this album to any of my friends who listen to rap, and I wouldn’t even really recommend it to my friends who don’t like rap. Lillard can ride a beat decently, has above average rhyming ability, but isn’t catchy in the least bit. If Damian Lillard the rapper were a basketball player, he’d be George Hill.

ALBUM STATS: 18pts/4 rbs/4 ast

 

 

 

image1-7  Jordan Paladino is a Portland comedian, internet troll, rapper, and writer for the show “Who’s the Ross?” He is a staunch defender of all things Lebron James, Drake, and Kanye West. He is also a KD hater. We try not to hold these things against him.

On the Legacy of LeBron James, the Future for Kevin Durant and the Zenith of Busterism

 

Kevin Durant should be celebrated. He is a fantastically gifted scorer who possesses the skills of an elite guard, but has the wingspan of a center.The University of Texas product is certainly on the way to the Hall of Fame, if not the top of the Association’s all-time scoring register. He can shoot, he can create, and as this year’s Western Conference Finals showed, he can actually play some defense.

Yet public opinion on Durant has been waning for years, long before his aptly-timed Independence Day heel turn that saw fans – and sportswriters – roll their eyes in disgust and revolt from his side en masse. The timeline of how this happened, or more accurately, how Durant let this happen, is a complicated one.

Because of his prodigious talents and the timing of his league entrance, KD will always (probably unfairly) be compared to LeBron James. Although both players are nominally small forwards, with the blurring of positions and roles in the modern NBA, the two couldn’t be any more different.

“Bron-Bron” has never been a deadly spot-up shooter like KD, just as Durant has never possessed the world-class court vision and passing ability of James. LeBron thrives on creating for others in the Magic Johnson point forward role; KD is at heart; a volume shooter (albeit a brilliant one). Their respective games are markedly different, a fact that’s always been understated in comparing the two.

But those die have been cast. James and Durant are both super-duper-megastars, they’re of a similar age, they play the same position; therefore, they have to be measured against each other. This is product of fan culture, of media culture and of the pressure former players put on current stars. Durant is not to blame for that.

He’s far from blameless, though. When LeBron signed with Miami following the infamous “The Decision” special in 2010, the public opinion of him plummeted. Never mind that the Cleveland team(s) he left had embarrassingly weak supporting casts (more on this later). He was abandoning his hometown (more or less) team to create a super team and was roundly derided for it.

In that first season in Miami, James tried to double down. Tired of being the calm, collected superstar, he attempted to play the bad guy on the Heat. It didn’t work. It was forced, and later, he admitted that he was mentally exhausted by the act. Notably, the next season, Leron returned to his normal personality en route to his first title. This is where Durant should have been better.

Writers have said for some time that Durant is impressionable and emotional, that “he sometimes makes decisions rashly” and, more alarmingly, “with the intent of choosing the course of action that will please others.” In that context, it is easy to see how a marketing team in KD’s ear could have watched James’ struggles over the first year in Miami and seen an opportunity – one that Durant was all too quick to embrace.

kevindurant

With LeBron as the league’s new villain, KD tried to position himself as the NBA’s new golden boy. Aided by sycophantic writers eager to buy into the idea of Durant as the humble superstar, public opinion of KD soared. He bought into his own mythos, signing a contract extension with the Thunder in a clear attempt to make himself the anti-LeBron: soft spoken, nice, loyal, and team-first.

LeBron gained some supporters back by defeating Durant soundly in the 2012 Finals, but with the Thunder positioned as the West’s team of the future, the loss didn’t seem particularly significant. A group as talented and as young as OKC would surely be back.

History played out differently. Trading James Harden was a massive mistake, yes, and injuries derailed the Thunder at various points. But as this past season showed, the team has copious talent and is still a championship contender. The excuses started to wear thin, and public perception of the team slowly pivoted from “celebrated young upstarts” to “brash loudmouths without a ring.”

This was helped in no small part by the team’s behavior, from publicly claiming things would have been different with a healthy squad, to the actions of individual players. Serge Ibaka plateaued, and fans got tired of being told he was an elite defender. OKC kept bringing in unlikable, or overrated role players (Caron Butler, Dion Waiters, Kendrick Perkins). And as the lack of ultimate success continued, the team’s constant complaining – which manifested in the form of three consecutive top-two finishes in team technical fouls – got old (a Thunder player led the league in T’s in three of the past five seasons).

There’s a word for this kind of stuff: buster. OKC saw the public gradually turn on it because a team can’t be unlikable AND unsuccessful. If you’re going to be loud and defiant and claim you deserve respect as one of the league’s best teams, you’d better back it up. Failing to do so qualifies you as posers. Durant, as the team’s leader, was deservedly the face of that failure.

From an individual perspective, KD didn’t do himself any favors. As LeBron reestablished himself as (unquestionably) the best player in the world, and Durant continued to promote himself at the expense of another player, fans became less receptive. His impressionable, eager-to-please nature likely made it easy for his handlers to convince him this was the best course. He didn’t make that decision in a vacuum.

However, he did choose to tweet “Now everybody wanna play for the Heat and the Lakers? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!” just days after “The Decision”. He chose to sign that big extension, knowing how it would look. And in the absolute nadir of blatant nice-guy pandering, he told Bill Simmons he wanted his nickname to be “The Servant” because he made his teammates better.

It was phony, it was obvious, and it was widely rejected. People don’t want to be told how humble you are. A move that transparent, combined with the rest of the Thunder’s collective busterism, soured fans tremendously. This brings us to KD’s decision to leave OKC and sign with Golden State.

To be clear from the outset: Durant has every right to leave. OKC management drafted well and was reportedly player-friendly, but it also made several questionable personnel decisions– headlined by the Harden trade and the curiously long tenure of one Scott Brooks. Without a doubt, the media-and-fan-created stigma of retiring without a championship loomed large in his mind.

It’s the destination he chose that solidifies Durant as a first-team All-Time Buster. Had he left for San Antonio, his hometown Wizards, or some other team with a decent roster, it would be understandable. Moving on for a better chance at a ring is a respectable business decision. What isn’t respectable is leaving for the team that broke the regular-season wins record, just beat you in a thrilling seven-game conference finals and was likely the best collection of talent the NBA has ever seen (if not the greatest basketball team of all time).

It is the ultimate cop-out, the ultimate admission of defeat and disinterest in carrying a team. This isn’t LeBron leaving for Miami. Look at the roster Bron was playing with his final season in Cleveland. Look at the list of corpses he dragged to the 2007 Finals against the Spurs. No wonder he couldn’t get it done before he went to Miami.

By contrast, this year’s OKC team featured a great young center in Steven Adams, a halfway decent bench and another one of the top five players in the world in Russell Westbrook. The Thunder just made a fantastic trade for Serge Ibaka that landed them Victor Oladipo as well as a pair of bigs to add depth in Ersan Illysova and (rookie) Domantas Sabonis. With KD, that team was possibly going to be as good as the Warriors next year, and the Thunder knew they really should have knocked off the Dubs this season.

When LeBron went to Miami, the Heat’s Big Three had never played together. They had spacing issues and chemistry issues and no real center on the roster. It was a remarkable collection of stars, but there’s a reason it took time for the team to learn how to play together.

Golden State will face far less of a challenge in adding Durant. The Warriors have already won a championship and should have won a second. They were, despite the end result of these playoffs, probably the best team of all time. All they’re doing is replacing a good player in Harrison Barnes with an elite one in Durant. It’s a significantly smaller obstacle that will in turn make winning a title significantly less meaningful for KD.

This move isn’t close to LeBron going to Miami. It’s the equivalent of an alt-history in which Lebron signs with Boston after being eliminated by the Celtics in 2010 (upgrading the position manned by Paul Pierce) and riding the coattails of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to a ring. It’s the equivalent of Michael Jordan throwing up his hands after being eliminated by the Pistons three straight seasons and signing with Detroit in 1990. It’s disappointing, it’s weakness personified and it’s the ultimate endgame of the busterism KD signed on for way back when he agreed to be the foil to LeBron no one needed.

LeBron, on the other hand…

Where did last year’s Finals leave us with Lebron? To start with, it re-solidifies his place among the very best the game has ever seen, and his status as the current top player in the world. It makes the MVP’s of Derrick Rose (2010), Durant (2014) and Steph Curry (2015) look even more ridiculous in retrospect (Curry’s 2016 nod is acceptable). Most importantly, and thankfully, it finally closes the absurd argument that somehow Bron hasn’t done enough in his career to be included in “Greatest Ever” talks.

I get it. It’s natural to be threatened by change. People dislike when something new challenges their preconceived notions of what is and what should be. It’s why aged stars like Oscar Robertson claim players like Steph Curry would get crushed “back in their day.” It fuels the insecurity in Scottie Pippen when he claimed his Bulls would sweep this season’s Warriors. Ex-players don’t want to be forgotten or have younger players rewrite their accomplishments. Fans are no more rational than the players they support. But there seems to be a particular bent on diminishing James’ accomplishments.

That’s undoubtedly because James is the best player we’ve seen since Michael Jordan. He might end up being considered greater than MJ, or he might not, but it’s the mere notion that he COULD be that strikes so much unnecessary fear in the hearts of some fans. Why is this such a big deal? It comes back to insecurity.

If LeBron COULD one day be better than Mike, then what have all these fans been wasting their time with, stanning for a guy who isn’t the best player ever? It’s a particular fetishism of “The Best And Only The Best” that permeates so much of American culture, and when intertwined with personal identity it creates some truly inexplicable results.

LeBron James

You’d think that LeBron dragging a garbage fire to the Finals against San Antonio in 2007 would be a feat worth celebrating, but no, it makes him a choker. Ditto for the crippled six-man team he willed to a 2-1 lead last year against Golden State – one of the best teams of all time in their own right. What matters is that LeBron lost, and MIKE NEVER LOST IN THE FINALS SO Lebron is a fraud!! Apparently he’d have been better off losing in the first round like Jordan.

 

Never mind that LeBron was just 22 years old, and in his fourth season, when he took a bad team to the Finals. Never mind that it took four seasons for Michael Jordan to get out of the first round of the playoffs (and he promptly lost 1-4 in the second round). The sheen of a six-for-six Finals record is rightfully celebrated, but it tends to distract from MJ’s playoff struggles before he got to that point. Do you know how many playoff GAMES Jordan won without Scottie Pippen?

jordan_pippen2_130214

The answer is one. MJ went 1-9 in the first round in his first three seasons, making the playoffs each year despite a losing record. The latter, of course, was a result of a smaller league, featuring talent consolidation on fewer teams and a near-total lack of quality international players (but that’s a discussion for another time). It’s an ugly mark, but Jordan’s later achievements overshadow those early years, as they should.

If it’s down to rings and rings alone, as some fans attempt to use as a trump card, then neither Michael Jordan nor LeBron James is the best player of all time. Bill Russell’s 11 rings are more than MJ and Bron combined. Yet even the most ardent old-guard supporters would likely concede that Russell is not the greatest player ever. Different eras are difficult to compare, even back-to-back ones like Jordan and James’.

All this of course, misses the point. There is not, nor will there ever be, a consensus greatest player ever. The subject is too subjective and emotion-based to have an “answer.” The most a player can do is put himself in the conversation. If a reasonable argument can be made for a player’s inclusion on that short list, he’s in the conversation. Jordan is there. LeBron is too (and by the way, his career is not over).

That’s what makes Durant leaving for Golden State so disappointing. Michael Jordan broke through in 1991 after struggling for years to get out of the east and rewrote the end of his story. LeBron James went to Miami, learned how to be truly great, then came home and did the same.

No matter how many championships KD wins as a Warrior, he’ll never be the leader of his team the way MJ and Bron were. The Warriors belong to Steph Curry. Durant going along for the ride will only diminish respect for what he accomplishes.

 

img_3186 Devon Singrey is a Portlander and creator of the college football blog, Making Sense of Saturday. His interests include basketball, football, history, mythology, funky music, and all things Prince.