Westwood HO!!!

Despite my phobia for driving cars and displeasure for sitting in traffic, I took two trips out to Los Angeles to attend 2 Men’s basketball games at Pauley Pavilion; the December 10th game against the Michigan Wolverines, and again on January 21st; about a month later.

Los Angeles is the kind of city where neighborhood proximity pretty much dictate one’s social habits. Nothing illustrates this more than the location of USC, a little private school across town that you may or may not have heard of. Let’s just say that there aren’t an abundance of BMW dealerships, jewelry shops and banks in the surrounding neighborhood. Once you step off campus at USC you’re officially back in the real world. Trojans students and faculty work in a cocoon are in a world unto themselves, while UCLA is like more of a vacuum.

UCLA, a public university; is its own ecosystem, nestled within the exclusive section of town that is Beverly Hills. Westwood has its own choices of movie theatres, eateries (shout out to Fatburger) and banks to the point where its possible that a UCLA student to live in seclusion in relation to the rest of Los Angeles.

I made some rookie mistakes my first go around as a driver there. I didn’t give myself enough leeway and made it to the campus at exactly 7:00 PM for a 7:00 PM tip-off.  After paying for parking and jogging to the arena–located in the middle of campus, I had to wait in a yet another long ass line to get inside the frigging building (Los Angelinos are notorious for showing up to sporting events late, and now I understand why).

I typically go to sporting events early because I like to vibe the place out and watch the players get loose for the game. Driving in traffic for two hours and still being late, I walked in Pauley Pavillion irritated; rushing to sit down in my ticket section. The “Oohs” and “Ahhs”of the crowd tormented me with each passing second. I finally sat down in the 200 section (great seats) with the score already 12-14 and four minutes having ran off the clock.

That lesson prepared me for the second time around. I arrived on campus 1.5 hours ahead of the 1 pm tip-off. I had enough time to park, walk over to Kinross to grab a Fatburger, and walk back to Pauley. With about 30 mins until tip-off, I was surprised to find lines of no more than eight people. This only further proved the theory about people in L.A. unable to get anywhere on time.

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You can feel the history within the  walls the very second that you enter Pauley Pavillion. Part of UCLA’s mystique is their long and storied history of producing champions and NBA players. You can’t talk about UCLA basketball without mentioning John Wooden, the legendary coach who went on to become one of the biggest ambassadors the game of basketball has ever had.

At UCLA, Wooden won 10 national titles–once with a run of 88 straight wins that lasted 3 seasons. Wooden, arguably the greatest college coach of all time, was known as much for his words of wisdom as he was for his coaching accomplishments. The man created what is known as the Pyramid of Success (there is model replica glass display in the arena concourse), a chain of philosophical guidelines that he used to help his players. John Wooden was just as much of an instructor as he was a coach. His approach to the game was for his young men to learn the game within the game. He insisted that the true opponent was an internal one and that the only result that mattered was that one played their personal best.

At the program’s peak, many legendary players passed through Westwood. Men such as Jamaal Wilkes, Kareem Abdul Jabbaar, Walt Hazzard, Marques Johnson, Bill Walton, Baron Davis, Gail Goodrich, Sydney Wicks, and Henry Bibby (father of future Wildcat great Mike Bibby) all won under the tutelage of John Wooden.

What I liked most about Pauley Pavillion was the way they’ve meticulously preserved remnants from each era of UCLA basketball. You’re just as likely to run into a banner commemorating Matt Barnes or Reggie Miller as you would a plaque with the image of Bill Walton or Lew Alcindor.

Both games I found myself swept up in the mirth and excitement. The arena is well lit with hardly a bad location among the 13,000 plus seats. The court sports a classically simple design, displaying the blue and gold UCLA letters in cursive at half court. There is a bigger than usual student section from both behind one of the baskets and along the sideline opposite the bench. The band loudly and proudly played the UCLA fight song and the crowd took direction from the cheer team U!!! C!!!! L!!!! A!!!!!!!

I’ve gone off before about how beautiful the UCLA cheerleaders are (they look like grown ass women. One pair of beauties passed me in the concourse at the Zona game. I geeked out for a brief second before I remembering that  I was 40 yrs old.), but what equally impresses me are the complexity of their routines. I suspect that these young ladies are dancing as if they are auditioning for the Lakers dance team (in L.A. you never know who could be in the stands). Makes you wonder what the future holds for some of these young ladies. I would believe any scenario thrown out there: Doctor, lawyer, NBA dancer, Playboy Bunny, reality housewife, porno star–the whole spectrum comes into play.

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UCLA fans, both young and old, proudly wore their blue and gold strolling the concourse, looking for the nearest restroom or vendor stand. I passed many older fans for whom it was obvious that they’d had season tickets for generations. Los Angeles is a huge city full of transplants so it shouldn’t have surprised me (but it did) to see so many Arizona and Michigan fans/alums in the crowd at these games. These fans would manage to find their voices during the other teams’ runs, but would always eventually get drowned out by the chorus of “UCLA” chants.

The game against Arizona was  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Day at UCLA, and he spoke to the crowd at halftime. Jabbar was honored for winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I got chills being in the same building as one of the greatest basketball champions of all time. He was greeted with applause as he was escorted to his courtside seat–everyone instinctively stood in reverence to such basketball royalty.

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Illustration by Louis Eastman

There has been a buzz surrounding the squad this year. They have been a top 10 team all season; which explains the electricity floating in the Westwood air–and its not just the drones and cell phone towers.

The team consistently won during Ben Howland era. UCLA went to three Final Fours under Howland and put a slew of pro players into the NBA, but even with future superstars like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, their wins were from a “grind it out,” Big East style of play. They weren’t exactly a fun team to watch.

This current outfit that head coach Steve Alford is in charge of handling is easily the most exciting team since the mid-90’s Tyus Edney/Ed Obannon/Toby Bailey Bruins teams.  The up and down style of play of those teams was frenetic and above the rim (they gave the Fab Five all they could handle during the 93 NCAA tournament). I imagine their exciting run would have been even longer had they given a scholarship to local high school phenom Paul Pierce rather than center Jelani McCoy (who to be fair wasn’t a bad player, but he was no Paul Pierce)–Pierce grew up in Inglewood and wanted to play for the Bruins (I just lost my mind for a second spacing out on a 1997 alternate reality with Paul Pierce catching oops from Baron Davis and vice versa. WOW!!!!!).

Aside Note: Speaking of Baron Davis, he was in attendance at the Michigan game. Bruins games have their own version of “celebrity row” with the arena cameras zooming in on the faces of Peter Dante and “Hills Street Blues” legend Mike Warren. I was secretly hoping to run into Jalen Rose at the game, but my tardiness erased any expectations that I had concerning the game. If he was there, I didn’t see him on the Jumbotron.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at UCLA

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Coach Alford employs a run and gun system that emulates the Spurs and Warriors motion offenses. Seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford (Steve’s son) anchor the team with their leadership while the youngsters, Aaron Holiday (brother of NBA guards Justin and Jrue) and freshman phenoms T.J. Leaf (who kind of reminds me of an 18 year old Nick Collison) and Lonzo Ball bring flash, height and speed for defenses to contend with. 

The team relies on defense and rebounding from big men, Ike Anigbogu, (had 4 really  impressive blocks in the Michigan game), and Thomas Welsh.

Pro scouts are drooling the most over Ball. When people say that he reminds them of Jason Kidd, I see it. He is a 6’6 light skinned point guard with incredible court vision. He is a better shooter than Jason Kidd was in college (he’s a threat to shoot it from nearly anywhere on the court), but I am not sure how the form on his shot will translate in the pros (perhaps he’ll find a shot doctor like Kawhi Leonard did in Chip Engelland).

The other night against Oregon, Ball hit a dagger three from deep behind the line that I’m almost certainly would have gotten blocked in the NBA. Though I wouldn’t get too caught up on his shooting form if I worked for any NBA team scouting him. Jason Kidd could barely shoot free throws when he first got to the league, but he ended his career in the top ten of all time 3 point shots made.

My only (albeit mild) critiques was that he tended to rely on his dribble too much sometimes and would get stuck in the air because he’d penetrated too far into the paint. Somehow he’d get bailed out with a spectacular pass to an open teammate, but again, the kind of passes that are spectacular in the college game become turnovers in the NBA against better athletes and defenders. He will be a lottery pick, as there is no reason for him to come back to school (other than playing with his younger brothers again). Any development he needs for the next level will have to be gained from on the job training.

UCLA is stacked with talent, but their perimeter defense is suspect. In their loss to Arizona,  the U of A guards, Kobi Simmons, Kadeem Allen and Allonzo Trier, got to the rack anytime they wanted AND when UCLA collapsed the paint, they kicked the ball out for someone to hit an open 3 pointer. Seven Wildcats players were in double figures and Kadeem Allen was only 1 point away from it being 8 players.

The Arizona game showed what can happen to the Bruins when they don’t make their 3 pointers and can’t get any points in the paint. I’m curious what happens in their rematch later this month (‘Zona may be the most balanced team in the county right now).

UCLA has the depth to go far in the tournament. They are fast and can get up and down the court, routinely scoring in the 100’s. Their downfall will be their defense however. At some  point this season the Bruins will need to make a crucial stop in a game. The question is will they be able to?

Either way, it is good to see UCLA basketball is exciting again. It is easy to be happy for these fans and I’m glad they have a reason to be excited. Nothing connects the fanbases of different eras more than winning and tradition, and you’ll find plenty of both at UCLA.

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 @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Book Review: Life Is Not An Accident

You may have heard the cautionary tale about former college hoops phenom, Jay Williams and wondered how the hell could someone throw away such a promising career by doing something as reckless as owning a motorcycle. Well if you read his memoir, Life Is Not An Accident, the book will answer every question you’ve ever had about the man.

The book begins on the day of his accident and then works backward (kind of like a movie—upon writing this, I immediately pictured Michael B. Jordan playing the role of Jay Williams). Williams had just finished his rookie campaign and had barely gotten used to NBA life before the abrupt end to his playing career. Unlike Bobby Hurley, another legendary Duke point guard who managed to salvage a couple of years playing despite his own life threatening vehicular accident (car crash), Williams never played in the league again.

The memoir then follows back towards the twists and turns that dog Williams all the way through rehab and his post NBA career, detailing the mental anguish he felt from self-directed guilt and anger. Sandwiched between the details surrounding the accident and his journey to becoming one of ESPN’s best basketball analysts, are tales of various on the court and off the court experiences by the 2002 Naismith Player of the Year.

Most notable are:

  • Scoring 9 of the 11 points in a pickup game while being guarded by J.J. Redick.
  • His recruitment as a high school player and his unrequited desire to be a UNC Tar Heel.
  • His collegiate battles against the Maryland Terrapins;including this unforgettable game.
  • Playing with Shane Battier, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, and Mike Dunleavy Jr.
  • Being on the Bulls with Jalen Rose and Jamal Crawford.
  • Losing the stamina and quickness that gave him an advantage over other college studs.
  • A brief career as an agent that included an unsavory recruitment process of Kevin Love.

 

After a successful rehab stint that involved relearning how to walk, Jay Williams discusses his unsuccessful comeback attempts and his head space immediately following the wreck. Painfully honest, Williams gives an unflinching account of his addiction to pain-killers and being suicidal period.

The most pivotal moment of the book comes when Williams realizes that the self-pity and neurosis that led him to his post-injury depression may have been the same factors that led him towards that fateful bike wreck.

Williams finally gets to a point where he decides to start embracing the things still in his life, instead of mulling  over the things that he (seemingly) threw away in his costly accident. It is here where he confronts his insecurities and demons head on, and turns his life around.

Although not Pulitzer material, this memoir is well written and insightful into the pressures some players deal with the moment they realize they have an opportunity to achieve their wildest dreams. Even the most fervent of Duke haters can empathize with the on the court wins and off the court losses of one of college basketball’s most decorated players. I give this book a 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 Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

The Award Tour

We are 11 days away from the beginning of the second season. I’m not sure if you watched any ball last night, but Boston vs. Golden State was undoubtedly the Good Ass Game of the Week. Golden State finally got beat at home; losing for the first time in 55 games. Their last loss was January 27th, 2015, against the Bulls, in what happened to be the Good Ass Game of that particular Week. Both games were filled with careless turnovers for the team, and both ended with the team in disbelief as the buzzer ended. The real difference is that the Warriors were a question mark going into the playoffs. This year they are the exclamation point.

The Dubs are upstaging the rest of the league in a year where most contending teams are having banner years. Cleveland has a .711 winning percentage, and are the odds on favorite (except to Alex Knapp) to come out of the East, but no one is really taking them seriously to win the Finals.

The Spurs just won a franchise record 64 games, 38-0 at home, and have a .842 winning percentage, but are a full 4 games back of first place in the West. Toronto has a .671 winning percentage, and no one is confident they will beat the Cavs. While Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers are respectively winning 69 and 62 percent of their games, but both teams will need tons of help to have any remote chance of competing for a Western Conference title.

This is the last full week of games, so let’s hand out a few end of the year awards while we have a chance. I polled a few NBA outsiders, Fullsassers, and avid hoop heads for their opinions and insight. Here are the results.

 

The Drake Award is for the most sensitive light skinned player in the league. Also known as the Jerryd Bayless award, also known as the fake tough guy award.

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Nominees: 

Gerald Henderson for “always yelling at Meyers Leonard for being out of position”

Blake Griffin for breaking his hand over the equipment manager’s face over some jokes that cut too deep.

Austin Rivers for trying to always look hard when you know he is soft as “baby lotion”

Matt Barnes for driving to his ex wife’s crib and whupping Derek Fisher’s ass and giving inspiration to an ad lib in one of Kanye’s best songs in years.

Derek Fisher for getting his ass whupped for being a snake, then snitching on Matt Barnes to the cops. Ironically, this only led to further the perception that Derek Fisher was a snake, and a buster.

Winner: Biege Blake Griffin.

He took an L for going upside the Clippers equipment manager’s head, but the reason he did so, was because of some friendly ribbing. Matias Testi apparently kidded Griffin about the Clippers playing better without Blake, and this got Blake so heated that he punched his 5’9 homie in the restaurant, and then follwed him outside to give him a”two piece and a biscuit” for dessert. Whenever P.J Tucker and Zack Randolph got up on that ass, Blake somehow lost his nerve, but he got real froggy and leaped onto his buddy who apparently took things too far. Que lastima.

 

The Gin Baker All NBA Honors go to the players most likely to show up to a Sunday game hungover.

G  J.R. Smith –You know hit the big time when Miley Cyrus is asking what the post game plan is.

PF  Jahlil Okafor-Homie aint even old enough to drink, and he is trying to start real life fight clubs out in Philly and Boston. He must have grown up watching his pops play Urban Champion on the original NES game system. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if he should have been nominated for the “Drake Award” 

G  Ty Lawson for obvious reasons.

C  BOOGIE Cousins- This would explain why he’s so surly all the time.

SF  Nick Young- Oh man. If you thought he was getting it in while he was engaged to Iggy Azalea………well more on that later.

Aside Note: Don’t confuse any of these with the “Vin Baker’s Dozen” which was awarded to Jared Sullinger for gaining the most weight during the offseason. When I was watching the my first Celtics game of the season, I had to do a double take, because I thought that Glen “Big Baby” Davis had resigned on the team without me knowing it.

 

The “Seven Sloppy Seconds or Less” Award goes to the Los Angeles Clippers for acquiring Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson AND Josh Smith in the same off season. THEN getting rid of both of them during the trade deadline. Everyone on Earth thought this was a bad idea but Steve Ballmer and Glen Rivers.

How in the hell does that happen? Do they not have any friends in the league who they could have texted or called, just to throw the idea at them? I know when I’m considering doing something stupid, I at least have 3 or 4 friends who I can message and say “I’m thinking about hooking up with my ex-girlfriend this weekend–you know the one who was in the cult.” I know I’ll get some honest feedback within the next 20 minutes–something along the lines of “Are you that hard up, or are you just a masochist?” Baffling.

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Honorable mention:

The Houston Rockets who took back Josh Smith during the trade deadline, after a weird and awkward goodbye last summer. Oh yeah. They also signed post-rehab Ty Lawson who they eventually let go during the trade deadline. I don’t know what the hell is going in Houston (But if you want to hear more about their miserable season, tune into Fullsass.com sometime this week to hear our Rockets roundtable, featuring Phillip Martin and Heath Hamilton).

 

The “Adrian Dantley Award” for worst mid season trade/acquisition goes to the Orlando Magic. They traded Tobias Harris for Ersan Illasova and Brandon Jennings. As per Full Sass NBA analayst, Alex Knapp: “Jennings numbers are slightly up compared to the 20 horrendous games he played for the Pistons earlier this season, and yet his numbers are still by far the worst of any season of his career. Illyasova’s numbers are down across the board except for rebounds. The Magic are 8-14 since the trade and dropped themselves out of playoff contention. Horrible trade both short term and long term. They made a mistake, akin to most sloppy seconds choices.”

Conversely, the Mark Aguirre Award  for best midseason acquisition goes to the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade is going to make one hell of a front office member when his career is over. He already had convinced Lebron and Chris Bosh to take less money to come to his team and win. Now he talked Joe Johnson into coming down and joining forces with him in Miami.

They have the perfect pieces to beat Cleveland in the playoffs–even without Chris Bosh. Joe Johnson is a guy who may not be able to light it up like he used to, but he can still get you buckets in crunch time. They have the best chance out of any East team to knock off the Lebrons, which would essentially make the Western Conference Finals into the NBA Finals.

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Honorable mention goes to the aformentioned Houston Rockets, who strangley enough, signed former (?) blunt rolling specialist Michael Beasley. He has been surprisingly great for them. He is scoring double figures and getting rebounds. Most importantly, he is taking nothing but good shots. Whatever happened to him in China, may have been for the best.

Perhaps Stephon Marbury took him took an opium den, and offered some kindly, sage advice. Even stranger, is the fact that Lance Stephenson is suddenly the best thing to happen to Memphis since the movie “Hustle and Flow” was in the movie theaters. I personally prefer Mystery Train by Jim Jarmusch, but hey, whatever is clever. I just something disconcerting about seeing mid 50’s white women chanting “Whup that trick” in the midst of a Grizzlies’ commercial timeout.

The “Vinny the Microwave” Award goes to co-winners Steph Curry and Klay Thompson who heat up faster than Nina Hartley, girl on girl scene on Pornhub (fittingly this duo’s nickname is the Splash Brothers). I’ve never seen so many games where a team can take a 10 point deficit, and create a 30 point swing in a mere 4 minutes of game time. Klay in particular, has been on a tear the last couple of weeks, scoring at least 30 points in 5 games last March (2 of them back to back 40 point games).  This race wasn’t even close. The best anyone else could come up with besides Dame Lillard, was Will Barton from the Denver Nuggets.

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The Drazen Petrovic goes to Nicolas Batum for best unheralded European player. He has started 66 games for the #mesoHornets this year, while averaging 15 points a game, and providing veteran leadership and perimeter defense. It is no accident that he replaces Lance Stephenson and suddenly Charlotte is back in the playoffs.

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Honorable Mentions go out to Rudy Gobert (a French DeAndre Jordan), Evan Fornier, Boris Diaw, ZaZa Pachulia, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Jokic, internet sensation and 9th wonder of the world, Boban Marjanovic,and especially Bucks point guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks have been a disappointment this year, but the “Greek Freak” has been toiling away in near obscurity up in Milwaukee. I thought for sure this would be the year they took a step forward, but much like New Orleans, injuries and personnel changes hampered their growth. I like Jason Kidd taking a chance on this experiment of having Giannis play the point. We’re almost to the point where NBA basketball is positionless anyway.

 

The Charles Oakley Award for best enforcer goes to OKC’s Steven Adams. He is a dirty player, but he adds a toughness to a team that is a little soft. Outside of Adams, and Ibaka (who has gradually become a finesse player), the Thunder have no one on the roster to keep a team honest. No one is scared of Kyle Singler or Andre Roberson. He has a way of getting under a player’s skin, that I haven’t seen since Dennis Rodman was in his prime.

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Having Adams on the team allows fake tough guys like Russell Westbrook to act an “ass” on the court without threat of retribution. Russ is amazing, but he can’t lose his shit every time he makes a basket, then get mad at Reggie Jackson because he wants to celebrate the moment.

Shit, I’d probably be the same way if I beat Westbrook in anything. When dudes wanna bring all that extra into anything, I’m gonna amp it up too. I don’t give a damn if its ping pong, Madden, or pickup basketball. I bet it feels damn good giving Westbrook an L.

Honorable mention goes to Andrew Bogut. Bogut doesn’t need to score to feel involved. He is a great high post passer, and sets effective screens. He isn’t afraid to mix it up down low either. It is a different game when he is not in the game. Festus Ezeli is an athletic guy who can explode to the basket and catch a lob or block a shot, and Marreesse Speights is a fantastic change up off the bench. Bogut brings a different dimension altogether, and part of the reason the Warriors lost Friday night, was because Bogut never came back from the rib injury he incurred.

Juwan Howard

The Juwann Howard “Damn you still be going to the Club at Your Age? ” Award goes to Nazr Mohammed, who talked someone into to paying him to sit on the bench and mentor some young folks. This award is for players you almost forgot were in the league. Sometimes this is because they are buried so far on the bench. Sometimes it is just because they play in places like Philadelphia or Brooklyn.

This could have also easily been named the Joel Anthony, the Prigioni, the Sciola, the Tayshuan, or the Kris Humphries, or the “Perk” award.

The “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe Award” for worst locker room presence in the NBA. Which D’Angelo Russell wins by a landslide. We could have easily said “J-Smoove”, or Lance Stephenson, but it is hard for me to recall an event so disruptive and destructive that did not involve Donald J. Sterling. Even Terrell Owens had at least a couple people who rode with him at his worst.

Twenty years ago, this would be called the Toni Braxton Award for the irreparable damage that her love triangle with Jason Kidd and Jim Jackson caused. The locker room tension forced a rebuilding period that put the 90’s Mavericks into a deeper hole that took half a decade to recover from. Russell is only 20, and this is the kind of stupid mistakes 20 year olds make when they are “playing around”,but this has huge ramifications on that locker room.

Even if the Lakers wanted to trade Russell, there is too much heat on the dude for another franchise to bring him into their locker room. The only way he’ll be able to get through this is to play hard, play well, and keep his nose clean for (at least) the rest of his rookie contract. This is the kind of mistake that can jeaopardize a player’s career.

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The other day on SportsNation, Spurs superfan Michelle Beadle was visibly upset because no one was taking Nick Young to task for “cheating” on Iggy Azalea. First of all, it isn’t like Nick Young was openly bragging about fooling around on his fiance (for all we know they may have some strange arrangement that no one is privy to). Russell can be heard asking Young probing questions to get him to admit to his actions.

Taping Young without his approval is the first offense. Secondly, you have to address why Russell would think it would be fly to share Nick Young’s private sex life with other people in the worst possibleway–on social media. If you don’t get that, then there is no understanding why this is such an egregious breach of trust.

Nick Young was secretly taped without his consent, and then that sensitive information was shared with the general public–information that could put his current relationship at risk. Now if you rode with Erin Andrews on her stalker case (which I’m sure Beadle did), then why can’t she understand why this is such a terrible thing to do to someone?

My last point, and this is still uncomfortable, is that Tony Parker had to endure a public divorce because his famous wife found inapropriate texts to his teammates’ wife. I didn’t even know who Michelle Beadle was back then, but I do wonder how she felt about that situation, and what she said publicly about our boy Tony. I’m not saying anything to disparage Tony, because that sounds like a terrible situation for everyone involved. Though I imagine that it raised some eyebrows in that locker room, and among the Spurs management.

 

People who argue that “Nick Young shouldn’t be cheating are missing the point altogether.


 

With the top standings pretty much set, the only games that matter outside of Golden State’s record (they must go 4-1 for the remainder of the season) pursuit are the ones involving middle tier teams.

The Warriors play the Spurs twice this week, and I seriously doubt the Spurs will even dress any of their starters. It hurts to see the Spurs concede that final home game against the Dubs on Sunday, because they could have the only undefeated home record in NBA history. But I get it.

Management planned ahead with the signings of Kevin Martin and Andre Miller for this 20 game stretch where players would need rest, but the team would still need wins. The Spurs understand something that Kerr said the other night; which is “records are made to be broken, while championships are forever.” The Spurs need a healthy backcourt if they are going to wear down the Warriors in the Conference Finals.

This week’s games are posted below in bold.

Peace,

BM

#fullsass #thisagoodassgame

thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

Monday

 

North Carolina vs. Villanova

 

“Tap that Vein Tuesday”

 

Detroit vs. Miami

 

Wednesday

 

Oklahoma City-Portland

Dallas-Houston

 

Thursday

 

San Antonio-Golden State 

 

Friday

 

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah

 

Saturday

 

Golden State-Memphis

Boston-Atlanta

 

Sunday

 

Golden State-San Antonio (Good Ass Game of the Week?)

 

 

 

1 of 82

This week has seen a great deal of basketball–some good and some bad. The way I feel about the NCAA tournament is the same way Steve Nash feels about the World Cup. It isn’t the best brand of play, but it is the most exciting.

That being said, I’d rather take good over exciting any day. I’ve had more “exciting” girlfriends than good ones. Hell, you can have an exciting ride in a beat up Chevette, that doesn’t mean it is a good one.

On Saturday, the “Good Ass Game of the Week” happened to overlap with the Jayhawks second round game against UCONN. I watched the first half, but after that, I kept up just enough to see the Wayne Selden alley oop.

Rarely will I say an  NBA game where neither team scores 100 is a “good ass game”, but considering the stakes of Saturday night’s affair, I can say without any irony that it lived up to the hype.

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The Spurs didn’t necesarily need to win this weekend, but it certainly eased a lot of Spurs’ fans anxiety concerning the prospect of facing the Dubs in the postseason. A Spurs loss would have ended their 43 game home winning streak, and possibly created a little bit of doubt for the rest of the league as to whether Golden State was capable of being beaten 4 out of 7 games.

The San Antonio win was akin to when Rocky finally struck blood on the Russian Ivan Drago, and he realized that the Russian was not indeed a machine (I went on Youtube to link that scene and quickly saw that it is one of the worst boxing scenes in the history of cinema).

All that being said, this is just 1 game out of 82. There are still two more games for them to play against each other. Yes the Spurs were able to bottle up the high octane offense of Golden State, holding them to only 90 possessions on Saturday (thirteen below their season average), but Golden State was also without two of their best defenders in Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguaodala.

The Warriors also were coming off of a back to back against the Dallas Mavericks, which could possibly account for what seemed to be tired legs for Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.  There is just as little to take from this close victory at home in San Antonio as there was for the 30 point loss in Oakland back in January. They don’t hand out the NBA trophy until June for a reason.

 

This week’s Good Ass Games:

 

Monday

 

San Antonio-Charlotte

The #mesohornets will give the Spurs a good run, and then the Spurs will bend the game towards their will. I love these kinds of games.

Milwaukee-Detroit

I think this one falls under the Good Ass Game of the Weak category–something to tap that vein to.

 

“Tap that Vein” Tuesday

 

Houston-Oklahoma City 

Ugh.

 

Wednesday

 

Los Angeles Clippers- Golden State 

Never disappoints.

 

Dallas-Portland

Definitely one of the best NBA games last week. Dirk put in 40 and even Deron Williams put in some work in this overtime affair.

 

Thursday

 

Utah-Oklahoma City

Portland-Los Angeles Clippers

Sweet 16: Texas A &M-Oklahoma, Kansas-Maryland, Duke-Oregon

The results of course necessitate that you watch the next round games on Saturday

 

Friday

 

Toronto-Houston

Dallas-Golden State

Did Dallas have a hand in the Warriors defeat on Saturday? I’d like to think so. It was a good ass game.

 

Saturday

 

San Antonio-Oklahoma City (Good Ass Game of the Week)

This one is on NBATV (WTF?????), so unless you live in the Spurs or Thunder tv market, you will be watching it a bar, on a legal(?) streaming site, or spending time with your people. Then again, you can just watch some NCAA.

 

Sunday

 

Houston-Indiana or you can watch the Midwest and East regional finals.

 

Big Ups of the Week go to the UT Longhorns Men Basketball team for their successful season. The results were not much different this year than last, but you can chart the growth of the team from the beginning of the season to their final game on Friday.

Say what you will about former AD Steve Patterson, but his decision to hire Shaka Smart will go down as the best move he made at UT. Shaka Smart is not only a brilliant head coach, he’s a great teacher and mentor. If you ever have some time on your hands, check out LHN All Access with coach Shaka.

You can tell he really cares about his players becoming better people, and not just winning games for the university. Something I could never understand was how parents could send their children to go play for coaches like Bob Huggins and Bobby Knight. People still to this day confuse yelling with teaching.

You don’t see Shaka showing his players up or demeaning them. When he points out mistakes to be corrected, he uses the mistakes as teaching lessons. If there were ever any doubt about how his players feel about him, just watch the press conference after the loss to Northern Iowa. You can tell his players love playing him.

I said that UT will be in the Final Four within 5 years of hiring Shaka Smart, and I am not budging from that prediction. He is the real deal. Hopefully, he doesn’t leave for UNC before he can prove me right.

Enjoy this week’s slate of NBA games and the Sweet Sixteen.

 

Peace,

BM

#thisagoodassgame #fullsass

thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

 

 

Lovable Losers: Remembering the Fab Five Era

2012-fab-five

91-93 Michigan Wolverines

Head Coach: Steve Fisher

Record: 56-14

Final Fours: 2

Big Ten Titles: 0

National Championships: 0

Starters: F Ray Jackson, F Juwan Howard, C Chris Webber,

G Jimmy King, G Jalen Rose

Key Role Players: G Rob Pelinka  C Eric Riley  F Michael Talley

With the NCAA tournament only hours away from starting (oh who am I kidding? By the time you read this, it may be the 2nd round), I thought it’d be fitting to give a quick shout out to the Michigan Fab Five. They changed the game of college basketball, taking what the Runnin’ Rebels started and taking it to a whole other level as far as style, flair, and image.

Unlike UNLV, they never won a championship, losing in the title game back to back years. In fact, they never even won a Big Ten title (something Bill Walton used to always bring up back in the day).

Were they overhyped? Perhaps. Were they revolutionary? Absolutely. No team dared to wear  baggy shorts, and low cut blacks socks. No team encapsulated the times like they did, coming onto the scene right around the beginning of the ‘golden age of hip hop’.

I was in 7th grade when the Fab Five formed, having no idea that only 30 miles away from my Dallas suburb was an 18 yr-old named Jimmy King, who could jump out of the gym. In fact, I’d never even watched a full college basketball game up until the 1991-92 NCAA tournament. My dad rooted for teams like  UNLV, Arkansas and Georgetown,  because they had “more brothas” playing for them. The games were always on in the background, but the only sports I liked back then were football and baseball.

That all changed after watching my first Michigan basketball game. These guys were brash, fun, and high flying. Nothing gave me a bigger thrill than watching Chris Webber throw down an alley-oop dunk, and Jimmy King in the open court was an automatic two points. After watching them play the Bob Huggins coached Cincinnati Bearcats (led by Nick Van Exel) in the semi-finals, I spent the rest of the eveing practicing Jalen Rose’s lefty leaner in my buddy’s driveway.

I made some academic mistakes that forced my mother to ground me from television, and I was stuck listening to the championship game against Duke on the radio. The first half of the game went well for Michigan, but Duke dismantled them in the second half of the game. I listened in dissatisfaction while trying to imagine what Webber’s 360 dunk must have looked like on television.

We didn’t have cable at my house. This made every televised Michigan game an event, and I sat in front of the living room tv humming the “Hail to the Victors” fight song during the timeouts. One particular conference game between the Wolverines and Hoosiers was especially memorable because it got interrupted by local coverage of the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco.

I knew nothing about David Koresh, and had never been to Waco, and couldn’t care less at the time about any of it. The game was over by the time they cut back to the action. Indiana fans were cheering and the Wolverines were sulking on the sidelines as time expired.

The Fab Five run through the tournament was not a thing of beauty. They had trouble scoring at times because they weren’t a very good three point shooting team. Rob Pelinka (also known as NBA superagent to players like Kobe Bryant and James Harden) was their biggest outside threat off the bench. You could see how things opened up inside when he was in the game, as teams couldn’t sag off.

Their bench was also pretty young and thin; one that only went 8 deep at best. It goes to show just how good their starting five were because everyone (not named Ray Jackson) played over 1,000 minutes for the season.

I wonder now in hindsight if playing all five freshman (and sophomores) as starters was the best idea. Chemistry aside, I wonder just how more effective the second unit would have been had  King and Jackson led the helm.

Back then, small ball wasn’t really a thing outside of teams like FSU (with their 3 guard attack of Bobby Sura, Charlie Ward, and Sam Cassell) and sometimes Duke, but this era of Michigan ball sometimes looked unbalanced.

UCLA and Kentucky took the Wolverines to the limit before bowing out of the tournament, and a part of me wonders if they were spent by the end of that championship game against North Carolina. Mental fatigue can make people do funny things, and maybe that contributed to that ill fated timeout (causing me to lose my first ever sports bet).

There are plenty of games to watch online (courtesy of the NCAA vault), if you feel yourself geting nolstagic for the New Edition of 90’s basketball. They were not the most fundamentally sound of teams, and they rubbed a lot of old white people the wrong way, but they were still a lot of fun to watch.

You can’t look at the career paths of the Freshman Fab Five and say they were losers. Webber and Rose has gone on to have outstanding careers in the media, while Howard is an assistant coach for the Miami Heat. Ray Jackson runs an elite basketball program for Austin youth. Jimmy King is mentoring youth in Detroit.

King and Jackson didn’t do much professionally after Michigan, while Webber, Howard, and Rose played on various entertaining teams in the NBA (Howard of course got a couple of rings with the Heat).

You can bring up the off the court controversies that caused Michigan to vacate the wins, and you can always bring up the fact that Michigan never won any kind of championship. But as Jalen Rose himself says, “there is the scoreboard, and there is the score of the game of life.” I think you can say they all won in that regard–especially Rob Pelinka, that dude is filthy rich.

SXSW and Other Matters

It’ s spring break for your boy, and I’ll be making my annual trip to Austin, Texas for a little fun, sun, and hopefully no guns. I wish you a week of Good Ass Games.

Peace,

BM

thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

#fullsass #thisagoodassgame

Monday

 

Dallas-Charlotte

Portland-Oklahoma City

 

Tuesday

 

Los Angeles Clippers-San Antonio

 

 

Wednesday

 

Oklahoma City-Boston

Orlando-Charlotte

Dallas-Cleveland

 

Thursday

 

Toronto-Indiana

Portland-San Antonio

 

Friday

 

Boston-Toronto

Golden State-Dallas

 

Saturday

 

Golden State-San Antonio (Good Ass Game of the Week)

 

Sunday

 

Portland-Dallas

Stretch Run

We are pretty much in the 4th quarter of the NBA regular season. After losing to the LOL Lakers, the Warriors need to go 18-3 to pass the 95-96 Bulls for the best of all time. If any team is going to beat them 4 times in 7 games, they will have to take advantage of them on the offensive boards where they rank 27th in opponents offensive rebounds (OKC outrebounded them by 30 two weekends ago).

They also turn the ball over a lot. With all that being said, it takes a perfect game to even come close to beating the Warriors for one game. Of course, with all championships, teams have to be good and lucky as well. The Dubs are nicked up, let’s see if this plays a factor in how they finish the regular season.

The Spurs are only 2.5 games back of the Dubs with a 53-9 record–and guess what? They have Kevin Martin and Andre Miller added to their bench now. Come playoff time, they will be well rested.

It was a really rough week for the Thunder. Yet for all the doom and gloom coming the way of Oklahoma, the Thunder are 3rd in the west with a 43-20 record. If they finish .500 for the rest of the season, they will still have 50 wins this year. That is not bad at all for a team with 2 superstars and a bunch of scrubs. T

You could say the same thing about the Clippers who have not missed a beat without Beige Blake Griffin. The one glaring *ahem* to the previous statement is that they are only  15-14 against .500 teams and have only 3 wins all year against .600 teams. This just screams pretender to me. But they were suspect even with Blake.

Memphis is trending down despite their 7-3 record over the past 10 games. They just don’t have a way to get easy buckets. Everything is a grind for them. If Mike Conley were playing in the east (and why aren’t they?), he’d be an all-star point guard.

Dallas is just as pesky as ever. I love the addition of David Lee, but they are still a little thin in their frontcourt to make any noise in the playoffs. Mavs (dads) fans should be happy for what many (not me) expected to be a possible lottery season. I think they could take the Thunder to 6 games in the first round if the standings continue to be this way. I’d much rather see them grab that fifth spot and give the world a Clippers/Mavericks first round series.

My boy Knapp is super paranoid about all the love the Trailblazers are getting. The problem they will encounter if they make the playoffs, is that teams will find a way to take away your best options. CJ and Dame won’t be enough to push them into the 2nd round. They’ll need another certified weapon down the road if they wanna go deep into April next season. I think David Lee looks good in Maverick green, but if I’m a Blazer’s fan, I’m not sure I would not thumb my nose up at a 6’7 lefty forward who can get you some easy buckets.

The Rockets are pathetic. I’m going on record now and rooting that Mizzou Quinn can coach the SLC’s into that 8th spot. They at least like basketball. Rockets players just wanna get paid. #cashbeforefame

The Clevelandiers are still a second tier team, but you would be a fool to bet against Lebron in a 7 game series over in the east.

How about that Raptors game on Friday huh? Guess what? I still haven’t watched it yet. We just got internet at my house as of 20 minutes ago. I think the Raptors can give Cleveland a run for their money. Had they one more big man, I’d say they’d have a chance to upend the Cavs for the east title.

The Celtics are standing strong at the third spot. It is an understatement to say they are outpacing their initial expectations. They are one major piece away from being Finals contenders. C’s fans will be happy if they just make the second round this year. Like I said last week, a Hornets-Celtics first round would be a good ass series.

Would anyone outside of Miami and Atlanta be checking for a Heat-Hawks series? This has NBATV written all over it for April.

I would definitely mess with a Raptors-Pacers first round. Pacers are gritty, and I’ll take Frank Vogel, Paul George and Monta Ellis against anyone in the east. Though I have to say, I’m not sure about the Ty Lawson signing. Too many players get into trouble in citiess like Indianapolis and Cincinnati because there is nothing to do except hit the strip clubs and drink. Managment as a precaution, needs to make sure Lawson has Uber on his phone, and never let him drive for the rest of the season.

Will someone please put the Bulls out of their misery? Please? I’m tired of seeing them get beat by Lebron. Let the Pistons have a crack at em. The NBA needs a new narrative. Go to the lottery, trade Derek Rose, and build the team around Jimmy Buckets.

This week will be a slew of good ass games. Conference tournaments for the Power Five, and if I were a betting man, I’d lay money on the Pac-12 being the most entertaining of all the major tourneys. Any combination of  Cal, Oregon, Washington, Arizona,and even UCLA will be worth staying up for.

The Big 12 is the runner up for Good Ass Conference Tourney of the year. Kansas has already locked their 12th consecutive regular season title. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill extends the bench a bit and let some players get loose for the Big Dance. Barring a major collapse they pretty much have a number 1 seed locked up. This is the most realistically confident I have felt about a Jayhawks team in years, which means they’ll get uset by Richmond in the first round. I wouldn’t leave a dollar bill anywhere near a tournament bracket this year. The field this year is more wide open than……….. well you get the picture.

Have a great week. The Good Ass Games are in bold below:

Peace,

BM

@clickpicka79

#thisagoodassgame #fullsass

thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

 

Monday

 

Los Angeles Clippers-Dallas

San Antonio-Indiana

Orlando-Golden State

 

“Tap That Vein Tuesday”

 

San Antonio-Minnesota

Washington-Portland

 

Wednesday

 

Los Angeles Clippers-Oklahoma City

Detroit-Dallas

Utah-Golden State

Cleveland-Sacramento

 

Thursday

 

Atlanta-Toronto

Chicago-San Antonio

 

Friday

 

Detroit-Charlotte

Portland-Golden State

Orlando-Sacramento

 

Saturday

 

Oklahoma City-San Antonio (Good Ass Game of the Week)

Orlando-Portland

Miami-Toronto

 

Sunday

Cleveland-Los Angeles Clippers