Clicks to Pick Dec. 19-24

[Editors note: We’ve just received a ransom note from Bermuda demanding 100,000 dollars (HA! Good Luck with that kidnappers) for Bobby Mickey’s return. We’re doing our best at the Fullsass office to round up that kind of money up so close to the holiday season. We will continue to give you the Clicks to Pick during his absence–in addition to old pieces he sent in that have yet to be published. We hope the year 2017 brings with it a safe and healthy Bobby Mickey. Happy Holidays.]

 

This Week’s Clicks to Pick

Monday

Phoenix at Minnesota

 

Tuesday

 

San Antonio at Houston

Los Angeles Lakers at Charlotte

Utah at Golden State

Cleveland at Milwaukee

Portland at Sacramento

 

Wednesday

 

Dallas at Portland

Sacramento at Utah

Thursday

 

Los Angeles Lakers at Miami

San Antonio at Los Angeles Clippers

Friday

Sacramento at Minnesota

Saturday

No Games Scheduled

 

Sunday (Christmas Day)

Golden State at Cleveland (Good Ass Game Of The Week)

 

 

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.

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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.

2016-2017 Season Preview: Top 26 Storylines Part Two

[This preview also appears as a post on fullsass.com. What does Fullsass mean? Well check it out for yourself.] 

All Illustrations by Louis Eastman

We are only a few days away from the beginning of training camp, and it is time to dust off the cobwebs and fire it back up. Although the biggest story of the off-season was the Kevin Durant free agency, there are plenty of other story lines to follow this year. I’ve listed (from A-Z ) the ones that I find the most compelling for the 2016-2017 season.

Did you miss Part One? Well catch back up here

 

The LOL Lakers are finally Kobe-free

Maybe Mr. Jellybean Jr. should have hung it up after that first Achilles tear back  in 2013, but I understand why he kept coming back. He was only 34, what else was he going to d0? Join a hipster bingo league? His hard work paid off handsomely because the Lakers gave him an extra 38 million to invest in drones, video games, or whatever is really wealthy people do when they get bored with being rich.

The Lakers will still have their growing pains, but at least they won’t be as pitiful as they have been in past years. With some young, talented wings in  Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram, and an occasionally dazzling point guard in D’Angelo Barksdale  Russell, they should  be competitive on a nightly basis.

I think Larry Nance Jr. will have some opportunities to get loose this season, and a locker room with Luol Deng, Thomas Robinson (hopefully), Tarik Black and Timofey Mosgov will have a positive impact on the younger players.

Luke Walton will actually get a chance to coach the team this year. I was never sold on Byron Scott as the head coach, but the organization put him in an unfair situation when they signed Kobe (after multiple surgeries) to that contract extension.

Manu Ginobili’s Swan Song?

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The 2016-2017 may be the last chance for Spurs fans to celebrate the phenomenal basketball career of Argentina national hero, Manu Ginobili. He won’t average 19 points for the season like he did in his prime, but you can expect at least 1-2 wow plays a game. He may be old, but the man still plays like a veteran magician.

Nerlens Noel and The Other Philly Bigs

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Sam Hinkie’s Matt Millen impersonation (drafting 3 big men in 3 straight years) probably  contributed to him being ushered out-of-town. I still have yet to read the rationale behind it, put so eloquently in his manifesto (and I probably never will), but apparently it was a good internet laugh for a day or three.

I think at his best, Nerlens becomes a Marcus Camby/Tyson Chandler type defensive specialist. He needs someone to get him the ball because he can’t create his own shot. Don’t be surprised if Noel is traded to a playoff contender near the February deadline. Philadelphia needs either assets or some wing/back court help if they are going to do anything positive in the next 4-5 years.

Joel Embiid, Noel’s backup is reportedly ready to begin his rookie campaign. I’m slightly skeptical that he will remain healthy since it hasn’t even been proven he can last a full season of NCAA hoops. Foot problems can be the death of big men’s careers, and I hope this is not the case for “Embiidst Mode”. Joel is a gifted player who has a lot to offer the game. It would be a shame if he didn’t get a chance to show off those gifts.

Ben Simmons is coming into the league with Lebron James level type of hype. Simmons is tall, athletic,and a gifted passer, but word on the street is that he lacks a jump shot. I’ve only watched a handful of LSU games last season, where Simmons was playing with scrubs, and he still handed out assists like cops be handing out beat downs.

Philly has not one transcendent ball handler on their roster, so expect the ball to run through Simmons hands more often than not. I think he will be the real deal, but I don’t think this is the right situation for him.

Jahlil Okafur’s sophomore season can’t be nearly as bad as his first year. I feel bad for the guy. He gets drafted by Philadelphia, a terrible God forsaken, racist sports city, and he loses more in the first month than he did his entire freshman season at Duke. The good news: 76ers surely win more than 10 games this season. The bad news: they will still end up in the lottery. But look on the bright side Sixers fans, you may end up with yet another number one pick next summer.

Oladipo Lands in Oklahoma 

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Victor makes a great back court mate for Russell Westbrook. Oladipo’s pressure on the defensive end will create a ton of fast break opportunities. He isn’t a great shooter yet, but anyone who saw him play for Tom Crean at Indiana, knows that he is a great defender and a high flyer. He ain’t no punk. Oklahoma City lost some talent, but they still will not be fun to play against –especially for teams coming off the front end of back-to-back scheduled games.

The Parsons-Timberlake Bromance

You mean you haven’t thought about this?  He’s probably already having dinner with Timberlake and Jessica Alba, bringing a different girlfriend over to their house every other week. Jessica be like, “Chandler, when you gonna finally settle down–meet you a nice girl? You know I have plenty of single friends in Hollywood.”

Justin cuts her off, “Uhhhh you don’t wanna mess with no Hollywood girls man.”

JA: “What’s wrong with Hollywood women Justin? I’m from Hollywood.”

JT:“Yea but you’re different baby.”

JA: “How?”

JT: “Well you know, the only difference between a lot of Hollywood women and NBA groupies is that Hollywood girls have a better acting resume–though I could argue that NBA groupies may be better actors.”

JA:“Wait what? Half the women you’ve messed with were from Hollywood or Mickey Mouse Club.”

JT: “Which is why I’m able to give an informed opin–never mind. Do what you want Chandler. You’re a grown man.” Jessica turns her back to take the dessert plates into the kitchen. J.T. shakes  his head feverishly and mouths“NO! Don’t do it.You’ll thank me later.”

By the way, am I the only one who thinks Chandler Parsons is destined to be either an agent, or a general manager, or maybe both? I bet he looks at Warriors GM, Bob Myers and thinks, “That is going to be me someday.”

Quinn Snyder’s Moment of Truth

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This is Quinn Snyder’s year to prove he belongs in the NBA as a head coach. I personally have mixed feelings about Snyder. Here is a guy who played at Duke and coached at Missouri, but was also a Gregg Popovich disciple. Maybe my dislike can be reduced to just not liking his face. I guess because he looks like he could’ve been Andrew McCarthey’s understudy in all those corny 80’s movies.

Unfortunately for me I will be seeing a lot of his face this season, as I plan to watch a good chunk of Jazz games. They are primed to take that next step of the young, pesky team that pushed their first round opponent to the brink of elimination. On paper there is no reason this team doesn’t make playoffs. The veteran signings of Boris Diaw, George Hill, and Joe Johnson should be the extra push in the right direction.

Russell Westbrook Unleashed

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A lot of people are excited to see Russell Westbrook win the scoring title, put up multiple 40 point games, amass a long reel’s worth of jaw dropping, head shaking highlights, and lose 40 plus games this season. I mean, I guess if you are into that sort of thing. By the way, major props to Russell Westbrook for speaking out about all these shootings. He isn’t hiding behind his “brand” he is saying what a lot of us feel (I’ve never felt more proud or terrified to be a black man in this country than I do right now). I appreciate Russ, and I’ll never (publicly) give him grief for doing #fucboishit again, but unless they get some outside shooting, there is going to be some ugly basketball played in the land of red dirt.

Spurs Enter The Post-Duncan Era

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I don’t know if I can put it better than my dude Robert McFail, who sums it up perfectly with this preseason preview of the Spurs. Yes the Spurs will still win, but it would take a series of extraordinary strokes of luck for a return to the NBA Finals. Spurs fans, it is time to start having realistic expectations. For the first time in a very long time, your team is in the “everybody else”category.

Thibs’ Crazy Litter Of Teen Wolves

The Timberwolves are only slightly better than last year. Drafting Kris Dunn may signal the end of the Ricky Rubio experiment in Minnesota. Rubio should get on the phone with his agent and see if they can swing a deal to get him to Boston rather than a spot in Sacramento, Atlanta, or Philadelphia. Minnesota will be a tough team to beat night in and out, but they are young and still rebuilding. I bet the Knicks win more games than they do this year.

While I’m sure players like Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns will be improved, they brought back pretty much the same team minus Kevin Garnett (who retired yesterday) and Nikola Pekovic (who may not ever play basketball again). Kansas Jayhawks fans will watch more Timberwolves games this season with the addition of Brandon Rush and Cole Aldrich, but that won’t necessarily translate to wins will it?

Uncle Drew Earns A Ring

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Kyrie Irving shut up all the haters (including me) when he balled out in the final 3 games of last year’s Finals. For the record, I’ve never said he wasn’t good. He just could never stay healthy. I’m still of the belief that last year was about as fluky of a title this side of 1999 (sorry Spurs fans–even you all admit that was the worst roster of all the championship seasons).

Now that Kyrie has that chip, let’s see if he will lose some competitive fire. Or will he ball even harder now that the pressure of winning a title is lifted? Will he shock the world and remain healthy for another full season? Last season, Clevelanders believed he would be the difference between another Finals L and some champagne, and I guess they were right.

 Vroom!!! Vroom!! (Go The Houston Rockets)

Pick up your door prize if you guessed that the letter V would be dedicated to the Houston Rockets. How do you appease a high volume scoring 2 guard who doesn’t like playing defense? You go out and you hire a coach who doesn’t give a shit about playing defense. This is a marriage made in NBA heaven for Mike D’Antoni and James Harden. There will be some games this season where they will score 132 points. The bad news is they will be giving up 145 points in those same games.

No Dwight Howard? No problem. Ryan Anderson will have multiple 30 point games. James Harden will score at least 60 in one game and have multiple 50 point games. Even Corey Brewer will break 30 points in a couple of games this year. The Rockets season will resemble an after-party thrown by Magic Johnson in the 1980’s, EVERYBODY GETS SOME!!!!

Waiters Island

Remember when I said that “everyone” in the NBA was eating? This is absolutely true. However some people are eating expensive grass-fed Chilean steaks from cows that were shipped to the U.S. before they were slaughtered, and some people, like Dion Waiters, are going to Sizzler.

Dion Waiters sat on a 1 year offer for 6.7 million dollars from the OKC Thunder for so long, that the organization rescinded it. Miami, blindsided by the Dwyane Wade departure, offered Waiters a 2 year contract worth 5.9 million (1st year worth 2.9 million with a second year player option).

I’m no mathematician, but isn’t  6.7 million is a larger sum than 2.9? You ever hear the phrase “He bet on himself and won”? Well no one is saying that about Dion Waiters. This scenario screams of two jilted lovers, fresh out of relationships, clinging to the first warm body they could get to move into their apartment with them.

Time will tell which as to which party “settled” the hardest. I think Waiters has to stay the full 2 years to make this worth his while. Imagine the phone calls Dion made when he fired entire entourage because he can’t pick up any checks this season (how much of that 2.9 million will be left after taxes and agent fees?). Funnily enough, this is exactly the kind of player that Miami Heat fans deserve. Maybe we’re witnessing karma for the Lebron years.

X’s and O’s

The NBA as a whole got better in the head coaching department. Frank Vogel is a solid replacement for Scotty Skiles. I think he’ll be worth an extra 5-7 wins for that franchise. Dave Joerger will be a good fit for Sacramento,  but their dysfunctional front office will find a way to mess that up. I’m still not sold on Tom Thibodeau as a long-term solution,only because I think he burns his players out.

The Knicks can’t help but get better under Jeff Hornacek, who hopefully won’t date his players’ ex-girlfriends like the previous coach. Scotty Brooks may or may not be better than Randy Wittman, but it is D.C. Those Wizards are going to do what Wizards do regardless of who is coaching them.

In Dallas, it feels like Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle sit down at the beginning of every off-season to figure out a way to keep Carlisle mentally stimulated. “What is that Rick? You don’t feel challenged enough? Well how about we go into next season with only 1 small forward, and I’ll pay him a 100 million to keep our salary cap strapped? You’ll definitely win Coach of the Year with this lineup we’re trotting out.Be sure to thank me in your acceptance speech.”

Youth Movement

Out with the old and in with new right? KG, TD, and Kobe are done. Steve Nash is done. Vince Carter, Jason Terry, and Tony Parker are old. Jason Kidd is a head coach now. Remember that 2003 draft? Well those guys are veterans now, and many of them are on their way out of the league too. Guard play and small ball is the new emphasis of the NBA, which means its even more of a young person’s game.

It is hard to believe, but players like Demarcus Cousins, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook are barely into their primes. Once Lebron finally slows down, the league will belong to the picks from the previous 5 drafts (Devin Booker is getting all kinds of hype). Compared to the vacuum the Jordan era players left when they retired, NBA fans of today are pretty spoiled. The legends from my youth are done, but NBA basketball is still a good ass game.

Zach Lavine: Is He Good?

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It seems silly to judge a 3rd year player too harshly, but NBA fans will be watching Zach Lavine closely, if only to see how much he improved from last season. His decision-making last year was spotty at best, and teams dared him to settle for 3 pointers and jumpers. Will Lavine be the next Demar Derozan, or will be he more like Gerald Green? This season could give us a glimpse into Lavine’s (and Minnesota’s) future.

 

Season Predictions:

Eastern Conference Playoff Teams:

Cavs, Celtics, Pistons, Raptors,Hornets, Pacers, Bulls, Bucks

Western Conference Playoff Teams:

Warriors, Spurs, Trailblazers, Clippers, Rockets, Mavericks, Jazz, Thunder

 

Eastern Conference Finals:

Cavs vs. Pistons: Cavs in 5 games

Western Conference Finals:

Warriors vs. Thunder: Warriors in 6 games

NBA Finals:

Warriors vs. Cavs III: Warriors in 7 games

Finals MVP: Draymond Green

Regular Season MVP: Russell Westbrook

Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green

Rookie Of The Year: Ben Simmons

 

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. 

 

2016-2017 Season Preview: Top 26 Storylines Part One

[This preview also appears as a post on fullsass.com. What does Fullsass mean? Well check it out for yourself.] 

All Illustrations by Louis Eastman

We are only a few days away from the beginning of training camp, time to dust off the cobwebs and fire it back up. Although the biggest story of the off-season was the Kevin Durant free agency, there are plenty of other story lines to follow this year. I’ve listed (from A-Z ) the ones that I find the most compelling for the 2016-2017 season.

Amin Elhassan fullsizerender-4

ESPN’s most merciless twitter troll is a must follow this season.

Amin is great not only for his tendency to roast any unlucky soul stupid enough to tweet some dumb shit, but also for his great insight into how things operate behind the NBA scenes. Having worked in both the Knicks and Suns front office before his stop at ESPN, Elhassan is a wealth of insider knowledge.

What I love most about him is that he does not hold back in any of his funny–but often wickedly straight forward analysis. His creation of the #Pitino game is one the more underappreciated social media phenomenons you’ll experience during playoff elimination games. #Pitino game is just as a part of the playoff pageantry as TNT’s Gone Fishing segments, but more interactive and way more clever. 

Buddy Hield

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Back in 2015 he simply slid into place. Buddy Buddy Buddy All up in my face.

Is Buddy Hield the Real Deal Holyfield? Inquiring minds want to know. It is a little too early to anoint him as the sidekick to Anthony Davis, but if Hield shoots as well as his reputation suggests, then this could be a good working relationship for the two. Hield wasn’t exactly a defensive stopper in college, but that hasn’t kept James Harden from receiving tons of (mostly deserved) accolades. He could be a nice small ball option for Pelican’s coach, Alvin Gentry, who is looking at a very thin back court-especially with Jrue Holiday absent from the team for personal reasons. 

Celtics Are Legit Contenders

Had the C’s managed to get Horford and Durant this off-season, you could have  penciled them in for the NBA Finals (and I doubt anyone one would have argued with you). As it stands, they only have two reliable scorers, Isiah Thomas and Horford (who has never averaged a 20 and 10 at any point in his career). Isiah Thomas is great at getting his own shot, but he isn’t much of a distributor.

Avery Bradley is an all NBA defender, but anything he gives you on offense is considered icing on the cake (Bruce Bowen 2.0?), and their outside shooting is too reliant upon Kelly Olynk shooting a high percentage. I think they are still two really good players away, or one superstar and a role player (probably a backup pg) away from being in the conversation to knock off the Lebrons for the Eastern Conference crown.

Draymond Green

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Steph Curry may be the league MVP, but I think the team MVP for the Golden State Warriors is Draymond Green. Klay Thompson, Curry, and Green are all irreplaceable, but the intangibles that Dray provide for that team are immeasurable. The league’s decision to suspend him changed the course of that series, as the Warriors were dead in the water after game 5. Regardless, had Dray kept his head, the hometown of Jive Ass Don King would still be without a title today. 

Had we laid money on “Finals player most likely to send pictures of their ding-dong to all their Snapchat followers”, most people would have place their bets on J.R. Smith. I think the public opinion of Draymond Green will be cemented for the rest of his career, according to how he performs both on and off the court this season. The Warriors need his fire, but he has to learn to harness it if they are going to get back to the Finals.

Everybody Eats This Season 

The NBA has never been a better league to play in. Owners are making money hand over fist. The league just signed a lucrative television deal that allows even scrubs *ahem* players like Matthew Dellavedova to cash in a meal ticket. Allen Crabbe made 70 million to stay in Portland.

The Grizzlies’ Mike Conley leveraged his way into a 153 million dollar contract and for a couple of months, was the highest paid player in league history. This year’s 90 million dollar salary cap is only going to get larger (reportedly $118 million next season), so dudes are about to get paid. Now that everybody is eating, let’s start taking bets on who will eat themselves out of the league.

Finals Rematch (Again)

We can just stop this right now huh? No need to even play the season out. Forget preseason. Let’s put it on simulation mode like NBA Live 95? Barring any major injuries, I don’t see how anyone out west beats Golden State, or anyone out east beating Lebron.

I’m looking forward to the rubber match between these two teams. Kevin Durant is going to be the deadliest 4th option you’ve ever seen in the NBA Finals. The running thread all season will be “If Lebron beats the GSW super team will he be the greatest?” or “Will this championship validate KD’s career even though he joined a super team?” I personally don’t blame Durant or the Warriors for signing him. I bet it sucks losing to Lebron, but I bet it sucks even more losing to him after getting spotted a 3-1 series lead. This is the best reoccurring story line since Lakers vs.Celtics last decade. Stay tuned.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Playing The Point 

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I’m not saying the Bucks will be in the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m not saying that I think they will get back in the playoffs. I’m not even saying they will be fun to watch, but there will be at least 20 nights this season where Giannis does something to make Sportscenter top 10 highlights. 

Harrison Barnes: The 94 Million Dollar Man

I personally think Barnes will do well in Dallas. The city has a way of being a decent stop for exorbitantly rich black athletes (if they perform decently ). Of course, you have to wonder what is considered reasonable expectations for a contract like the one Barnes signed. For what it is worth Mavs fans, he will be a better investment than Roy Tarpley, Cherokee Parks, Erick Dampier and Shawn Bradley all put together. He can’t be any worse………right?

Iggy’s back  

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No I am not talking about the Nick Young’s ex fiancee’s booty (although it makes for an interesting google search #therabbithole). If Andre Iguodala is unhealthy, forget about the Warriors getting a chip for Kevin Durant. Iggy is one of their best defenders, and he was the guy who guarded both Durant and Lebron down the stretch of last year’s playoffs. By the time games 6 and 7 of the Finals came around, he was gassed (who is to say that a healthy Iggy doesn’t try and dunk the ball on that infamous Lebron chase down block?). 

Now that Durant is a teammate, there is no one in the west (outside of Kawhi Leonard) to push him defensively. Theoretically, he should be fresh for his Finals dance with Lebron. Then again, 30-year-old backs are more fickle than 23-year-old girlfriends. You never know how things will flare up from night to night. 

 

The 3 J’s (reboot)

My dude Joakim Noah is back in his hometown playing for the Knicks. No matter how he does on the floor, homie is going to be slaying it off the court. It is good to see Jeff Hornacek get another head coaching shot. He got a raw deal in Phoenix. Robert Sarver pulled the old bait and switch with Hornacek. The Suns front office didn’t bring back key players, but kept expecting the same results . It was unfair to everyone involved; Hornacek, the players, the fans, and League Pass subscribers who were unexpectedly treated to a near playoff run in 2014.

As for Phil, no one could figure out why the hell he hired Derek Fisher; but he corrected that mistake by firing D-Fish midway through the season. This is his third and most pivotal season as Knicks GM, because if they suck again this year, it will be tough to lure free agents to sign with the club next season. 

Are they going to make the playoffs? Maybe, if 40 wins is enough to get in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Courtney Lee was a good pickup, and Derrick Rose may be able to add some punch if he can find the basketball court, and stay out of the criminal court. Rose thinks they have a super team in New York, but kind of like the word consent,there may be some confusion as to what the definition of a super team is.

40 wins for this roster would be the equivalent of making the Finals. I’d play with them on NBA2K, because you don’t really need subs on a video game, but in real life, their bench is thin. Pencil them in for 30 wins.

Klay “ I’m Not Sacrificing Shit” Thompson

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I’ll fight anyone who says he isn’t the best 2 guard in the league. He may not be able to attack the rim like Demar Derozan (apparently the 46th best player in the NBA), but the man is the best defensive 2 guard; and his shot is wet. He is Ron Harper with a knock down J. Klay Thompson only benefits from the arrival of Kevin Durant.

TO BE CONTINUED:

 

BM

 

 profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post By Jordan Paladino: Fuck Kevin Durant

[Editor’s Note: Although I don’t agree with ANY of the assertions posted below, I did find the piece to be funny and well written. It’s also the perfect counterpoint to today’s earlier post on RUN-OKC.] 

Kevin Durant is a six-time All Star, five time All-NBA First Teamer, Rookie of the Year in 2008, and NBA MVP in 2014. He also has the honor of being my least favorite player in the NBA.

Our star crossed hate stems from a place of honest and sincere love. Growing up in Portland, OR (Go Blazers, I guess), I remember being one of two kids in my high school that has hoping our home team Trail Blazers would draft Kevin Durant over Greg Oden (shoutout to David Skolnik, being on Team Durant with me).

As it became more and more clear that the Blazers would be drafting Greg Oden, the more I, a noted contrarian, doubled down on the Durant love. I would tell my classmates that Durant would be twice the player Oden was within two years of the draft.

Greg Oden famously missed more games than he played in Portland, and the rest was history on his end. When Kevin Durant was a lowly Seattle SuperSonic (R.I.P.) he was likable. He could light up the Clippers for 40 one night and torch the 15-67 Miami Heat on a back to back. The SuperSonics sucked in 2008, but Durant was fun to watch, even if no one was paying attention.

In the offseason of 2008, something changed. I remember it pretty clearly too. People were getting over their love of Kobe, LeBron was too popular, and Bill Simmons declared Durant to be his favorite player in the league. Durant started to become the hip and in vogue player to declare your favorite when pressed by inquiring and basketball loving minds.

I let my love of Durant dwindle as the populace started taking notice. By the time 2010-2011 rolled around and Durant was named to his first All-Star game, won his first scoring title, and would be the FIBA World Championship MVP if not for the NBA player who casual fans never appreciated as much as they should (for no real reason other than people suck), decided he was tired of his home team and decided to link up with the greatest Toronto Raptor of all time, and a former Finals MVP. I of course am speaking of LeBron James.

Yes, my hatred of Durant stems from my love of LeBron. Look, I admit it. I love LeBron, and now that a lot of NBA fans hate LeBron for doing something that we all would do (look for championships when we already had more money than we’d ever need), I loved LeBron even more. The select group of “smart” NBA fans (aka the ones who didn’t care that LeBron left Cleveland) took umbrage with Derrick “No Knees” Rose winning the 2011 MVP over the clearly superior James.

King James did not make it easy on himself that year though. “The Decision” was poorly planned, his desire to be the bad guy in front of booing fans, and his ever-growing headband all made him look like the kind of guy who didn’t really understand what he was doing to his public image, which he clearly cared very deeply about.

Once the 2011 playoffs kicked off, LeBron went to a level of play as an individual and as a teammate that I’d not seen since Michael Jordan. King James averaged (rounding up) 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists per game in a 4-1 trouncing of the Chicago Bulls (perennial underachievers since the departure of Jordan).

Rose scored less, shot worse, and turned the ball over more than LeBron, for those keeping score at home. Miami was ready for the Mavericks in the Finals, and should have won in no more than 6 games.

But LeBron lost his first trip to the Finals with the Heat in one of the most bizarre and un-starlike performances I’ve seen in my years of watching basketball. Dwyane Wade was Miami’s best player, by a mile, and LeBron played almost as poorly as Derrick Rose (yeah, I don’t like Derrick Rose at all) in the Conference Finals the round before. I was sad. LeBron’s stock had never been lower, and Durant’s had never been higher. Something had to come to a head.

The 2011-2012 NBA season wasn’t of great note, other than the fact that LeBron won the MVP, Durant lead Oklahoma City past the, at the time, best team I’d ever seen San Antonio Spurs, and Derrick Rose blew out his knee in the first playoff game he played in that postseason. Finally, I had what I wanted. I had my guy playing against my least favorite guy.

LeBron wiped the floor with Durant (who cried when they lost) and Russell Westbrook was the best player on OKC. I couldn’t have been happier. The 2012-2013 season came and went, with LeBron winning another MVP and another NBA Championship, and Durant being boring and uncool.

I loved LeBron as much as any NBA player I ever have and hated Durant as much as any professional athlete I have ever hated (except for athletes who beat women or commit murders). Durant started to buy in to his “I’m the second best, and i’m tired of it, bruh!” narrative.

The more that Durant lived life in the spotlight the more I started to hate him. He had the lamest coach in the NBA (Scott Brooks), the coolest teammate in the NBA (Russell Westbrook), and still had acne. Durant was caught using homophobic slurs, cheering on battle rappers, and beefing with the Based God (Lil B).

Surely this was enough to get people to start hating Durant, right? Wrong! He could do no wrong! It wasn’t his fault he played for a bad coach, it wasn’t his fault that Russ shot too much, it wasn’t his fault their GM traded away James Harden. Why were excuses being made for Durant that weren’t being made for LeBron?

Why was LeBron clowned for losing his hair when Durant is balding himself? People like Durant because he doesn’t have tattoos (he does). They like him because he’s a nice young man (if using gay slurs and calling out the media makes you a nice young man… so be it).

People cried when Durant thanked his mother “You the real MVP” at his MVP press conference, and I’ll admit I thought it was very heartfelt, but then I remembered Kevin Durant has never won a Finals ring and beefed with Lil B.

Now when people ask me my favorite players in the NBA I answer before the question is out of their mouth. LeBron. Second favorite? Russ. Who do I think will be the MVP of the 2015-2016 season? Harden. Coincidence? No.

“Fuck Kevin Durant” – Lil B

Jordan Paladino is a Portland comedian, 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. I try not to hold these things against him.

RUN OKC: A Memoriam For The 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell+Westbrook+James+Harden+Oklahoma+City+m1hKjTuf3lwl

Watching the 2012 playoffs made me feel like I was witnessing the ascension of one franchise and their franchise player. I’d been keeping tabs on Kevin Durant since the year his Freshman year at UT and my time in Austin coincided. There was nothing that could convince me he wasn’t going to be a star in the NBA. By his third year, I’d concluded that not only was he my favorite NBA player, but my favorite NBA player of all time.

His first year in Oklahoma City was a rough one, the team lost often, but you could see the progress. Tickets were still cheap then, and there were still people in the city that had no idea there was a permanent NBA team.

When Pau Gasol’s put back bucket ended the 2010 season, there was no denying that the team and the city had embraced each other. 2011 brought more expectations, and the team did not disappoint. RUN OKC was born.

Even though the Dallas Mavericks dismantled the Thunder during key 4th quarter stretches in the Western Conference Finals, there was reason to be optimistic for the OKC boys. 2012 did not disappoint, and despite the beat down that was handed to the Thunder, it was still fun to watch what I thought was only the beginning of a budding dynasty in the west.

Little did we know that James Harden would force his way out of town by grabbing 80 Million to ball for Houston, and the following three seasons would be compromised by injuries to key players. But things were still innocent in 2012. It was one thing to hope for a trip to the NBA Finals. It was another thing altogether to watch it happen.

Once a team gets that close to winning it all, nothing is the same. Expectations change because the ceiling has been raised. Its like the first time you drink organic milk out of a glass bottle, or smoke really good weed after only trying Mexican dirt swag.

I feel like this year’s roster is on paper the most balanced squad that Sam Presti has ever assembled, but the 2012 was special to me for sentimental reasons. Three of my favorite college players of all time were on the same team in Royal Ivey (one of the nicest Longhorns on campus when he played there), Kevin Durant, and Nick Collison, and I’d seen Kendrick Perkins in his “Baby Shaq” days at Beaumont Ozen High School. James Harden wasn’t annoying yet, and Russell Westbrook was just coming into his own. They were a fun to team to watch.

The Starters on that team were:

C Kendrick Perkins

PF Serge Ibaka

SF Kevin Durant

SG Thabo Sefelosha

PG Russell Westbrook

The Key reserves:

SG James Harden

PG Eric Maynor

SG Daequan Cook

PG Derek Fisher

PF Nick Collison

Head Coach : Scotty Brooks

Regular Season Record: 47-19 Northwest Division Champions

After posting 47 wins in a lockout shortened regular season, expectations were tempered, but hopeful, that somehow the Thunder would at least make the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs were steamrolling opponents in the first 2 rounds of play, and it seemed inevitable that Oklahoma City was only cannon fodder for San Antonio on the way to their next championship parade (isn’t it crazy that there were almost 3 Spurs-Heat Finals Series?).

Kevin Durant and company had other plans however. Game 1 of the first round series foretold that the Thunder’s playoff run would be the revenge plot out of a basketball movie.

Mavericks got swept and the ghosts from the previous Western Conference Finals were exorcised.

Round 2 gave RUN OKC a chance to enact revenge against the soon to be LOL Lakers and Metta World Peace. Their recent run-ins had become testy at best, as the upstart Thunder had been giving the Lakers fits during the last couple of years. It was the young pups vs. the old dogs, and the biting had become less playful.

The Thunder were clearly faster, stronger, and better. The Lakers were just coasting on a dubious championship run (Denver and Orlando were talented enough to knock them out but they nutted up–and the refs had conveniently swallowed their whistles in the Lakers favor during a crucial stretch in game 7 of the 2010 Finals).

It was basketball justice to watch the LOL’s get that ass whupped–much like seeing a bully finally get what they deserve.

Round 3 against the Spurs was some of the best and worst basketball I’d seen during a WCF. There were stretches of incredible basketball, and there were times when I wanted to throw a shoe at the television.

Game 1 was probably the best game of that entire series from a pure basketball standpoint. There were so many OMFG plays that I went back and downloaded the game for whenever I needed to scratch that itch for “Hoops Porn”

The Spurs won that game and the next one, and with a 2-0 lead, the question wasn’t whether the Spurs were going to win it all, but were they even going to lose on their way to a title. The Spurs were 10-0 during the playoffs at that point, and had won 20 straight games going back to the regular season.

But RUN OKC had something to say about that and won 4 straight games, leaving San Antonio befuddled and confused, something I rarely saw from a Gregg Popovich coached team.

I was there when the Thunder clinched the West in game 6, and that was the loudest venue I’d ever been in at that point (Game 2 of the Finals’ volume would eclipse that night–and I hadn’t been to a Warriors game yet).

Game 4 of this series was the apex in my opinion, with KD scoring 36 in the game–18 of them in the final quarter. That shit was unreal to watch live.

This was the point where it was clear that my man was going to be a SUPER DUPER STAR, and everyone finally had to acknowledge it. It made for good cinema. Unfortunately in every good revenge movie, there is a foil, and the Thunder were about to face them.

THE MIAMI HEAT

Everyone remembers this:

and this.

Side Note: Is it just me, or does Lebron seem remarkably younger in this clips? He seems to have aged in the same ways that U.S. presidents age after a full 8 year term. I’m sure as great as those feelings were winning those chips, I can’t even imagine the stress he has faced in taking on that challenge.

I was very happy for Dallas Mavericks fans when they were able to deny the Miami “Lebrons” a title in their first year together. If you enjoy schadenfreude, then watching Jason Kidd whip the ball around to Dirk who whipped the ball to Jason Terry for open shots was enough to make a person giddy–or if you like watching grown men cry. The Heat losing that finals was their reward for doing everything the “wrong way”.

They were the perfect foil to the OKC Thunder and their (rightly or wrongly) choir boy personas.

As much as I wanted to see KD get that ring, they were just outmatched. Scotty Brooks was outcoached (not for the last time) and when Harden wasn’t on the court, it was a 2 on 5 offensive game, with way too much isolation play. This played right into the Heat’s hands who were smothering on defense.

Oklahoma City wasn’t ready for what the Heat had for them. Brooks had no adjustments for the series, and after game 2, it was clear that the moment was a little too big for OKC (especially Harden who had a terrible Finals).

Game 1 was a misleading blowout in the Thunder’s favor, and although Game 2 could have easily been won (terrible no call in the final seconds on a foul by Lebron), OKC had trouble achieving any sort of offensive flow. I was in the stands that night, and what should have been an enjoyable experience, only left me frustrated and hoarse from screaming so loudly.

3 games later, the series was over. The Thunder had their best chance to reverse their fortunes in game 4, but the person keeping them in the game, also contributed to the most devastating play in crunch time.

It was over just like that. Grown men were once again crying.
Others were basking in their redemption.

But everyone knew that this wasn’t the end. There was still another run for RUN OKC right? This only seemed like the part of the basketball movie where the team bonds during off-season workouts and then come back to face the villainous bad boys in a rematch and take the title from them.

But we know what happened next don’t we? No reason to go into all that again. There are countless columns by former ESPN employees that do this ad nauseum. I will say that I feel like I got robbed of my Hollywood ending–kinda like watching a movie for 2 hours at the theater and the projector craps out right before the climax.

It is hard to call a team that makes the NBA Finals losers. OKC got a taste of the good life. People started visiting Oklahoma City for reasons other than seeing the Bombing Memorial.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the most marketable players in the NBA (and let’s not forget that Harden is at least 280 million dollars richer since missing that crucial breakaway dunk in game 4 of that finals).

Yes, it is hard to call a team that has had such success for the past five years, losers, but each season preceding 2012 has been increasingly frustrating.

Unlike the 2013 Spurs who redeemed themselves after a heartbreaking Finals loss, with an even better roster that demolished the Heat (and destroying any need to write a requiem for that team),each season since 2012 has been increasingly frustrating for the Thunder.

Russ got hurt the very next season to a team that wouldn’t have made the playoffs if not for James Harden. Ibaka was hurt the year after that and they watched the Spurs advance. And of course KD broke his foot twice last year. Is this the “Curse of Daniel Plainview“–the Sonicsgate Curse?

Or is it just a series of increasingly bad decisions?

OKC should be odds on favorite to come out of west if they are healthy and all of this may be forgotten. The bottom could fall out just as easily though, if KD and Westbrook split for greener pastures. Then again, they could just as easily compete for championships for the next few years, while James Harden becomes the first player to play through being cursed two years in a row (the Khardashian curse is real).

Are we approaching an era where we see Oklahoma City-Cleveland series 3 years in a row (Golden State may have something to say about that)? I think this season will be the big fork in the road for Russ, Kevin Durant, and the Thunder franchise. If both KD and Russ end up leaving, people will point to this season as the fork in the road for everyone, but history might show that 2012 was the real turning point. We are only a week away from finding out.

BM
#Thisagoodassgame
@clickpicka79
bobbymickey@gmail.com