Clicks to Pick Week of 10/15/17

*Illustration by Louis Eastman

 

Monday

 

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

 

Tuesday

 

Boston at Cleveland

Houston at Golden State

 

Wednesday

 

Philadelphia at Washington

 

Thursday

 

Clippers vs Lakers

 

Friday

Cleveland at Milwaukee

Boston at Philadelphia

 

Saturday

 

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

 

Sunday

 

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

 

 

 

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

2017-2018 NBA Season Preview L-Z

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

 

Lonzo Ball Era in Lakerland

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

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

 

 

My Dark Twisted Fantasy Point Guard

 

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

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

New York’s Next Chapter

 

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

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

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

One Tough Lottery Bound Squad

 

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

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

Portland Keeps it Pushing

 

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

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

 

Quicken Loans Last Hurrah

 

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

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

 

Reunited (and it feels so good)

 

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

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

 

Sixers Sniff the Playoffs?

 

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

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

 

Thibs the GM >Thibs the Coach?

 

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

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

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

 

Utah Takes a Step Back

 

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

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

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

 

Veteran Locker Rooms

 

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

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

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

Washington, D.C. belongs to John Wall

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

 

X Marks the Spot

 

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

 

Yesterday’s New Quintet

 

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

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

2) They hired Jerry West as a team consultant.

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

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

 

Z-Bo Making M’s, smoking  Taking L’s

 

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

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

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

 

 

Other Predictions:

East Standings

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

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

 

West Standings

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

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

 

Regular Season MVP Kawhi Leonard

Defensive Player Of Year Draymond Green

Most Improved Player Zach Lavine

Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams

Co-Rookies of the Year Ben Simmons/Lonzo Ball

Coach of the Year: Brett Brown

Western Conference Finals Golden State vs. Oklahoma City

Eastern Conference Finals Boston vs. Cleveland

NBA Finals Golden State over Cleveland in six games

Finals MVP Kevin Durant

 

BM

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

2017-2018 NBA Season Preview: A to the K

“A to the K?” 

 

“A to tha mutha*%$king Z”

 

~Hold up scene from the movie Wild Style

 

 

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

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

 

Adjusted schedules

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

 

Beware: Deer Crossing

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Sacramento Kings

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

Carmelo Finally gets a Mulligan

 

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

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

Dejounte’s Big Audition

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

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

Eastern Conference Still Doo-Doo

 

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

Feels like 1996 Again

 

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

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

Good and Terrible: The Phoenix Suns

 

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

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

Houston Remains Annoying

 

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

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

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

Indiana is NBA Siberia

 

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

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

 

Jokic Might Be The Real Deal

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

Kawhi’s MVP Campaign

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

 

To Be Continued…….

BM

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

 

That’s That

Wow. Warriors in five games. If only somebody had warned us that the series would be over so qui— oh I did predict? Well I’ll be damned (feigns humility for brief second before continuing), maybe it was just a lucky guess. Or maybe it was just as simple as adding Kevin Durant and subtracting Harrison Barnes.

People forget that the Warriors came within a minute of repeating as champions last year with Harrison Barnes as their starting small forward no Andrew Bogut to clog the middle of the paint. Although the Warriors couldn’t quite replace Bogut this year, they made a significant upgrade at the 3 position. Golden State didn’t even need KD to perform as scintillating as he was against the Cavs, they just needed him to play better than Harrison Barnes (who may actually have turned out to be the biggest loser in this whole saga–you know if making 94 million dollars is considered losing).

Except for ill timed rashes of mental lapses, the Cavaliers actually played decent defense this series. While the occasional mental lapse may not hurt Lebron and co. against teams like Toronto, Indiana, or Boston, it only takes a couple of poor possessions for a 4 point deficit to become a double digit lead against the Warriors. The margin of error against them is extremely thin.

Lebron is the best basketball player I have ever seen, but he is a terrible general manager. Remember his first tour of duty with the Cavs when he said that forward J.J. Hickson was not an expendable piece around the trading deadline? Then shortly after that he had to have an over the hill Antawn Jamison on his squad. Right before he left Miami, he lobbied for the Heat to draft Shabazz Napier at the point guard position. This time around he leveraged his power to make Cleveland sign Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to huge contracts.

Now Tristan Thompson (who only pulled down 8 rebounds last night) would probably have commanded that kind of money eventually, being one of the few legitimate 7-footers left in the league, but Kevin Love did not play like a max contract player in this series. In fact, we may have seen the last of Kevin Love in a Cavaliers uniform. In a must win game, the guy takes only eight shots–missing three free throws and scoring only 6 points in the process. His plus/minus ratio was a -23 when he was on the court, and only three of his ten rebounds were on the offensive glass.

J.R. Smith surprised me this series. He had two stinkers in games 1 and 2 in Oakland, but managed to rebound and play well the last 3 games. Last night he put in 25 points on 9 for 11 shooting.  Still, the Cavaliers are going to need more wing players who defend to even have a chance in next year’s Finals (against either Golden State or San Antonio).

Cleveland’s biggest personnel problems stem from having too many one way specialist on the court. Though Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, and Kevin Love can add a little life to the offense, none of those guys can defend.

Isn’t it too bad that Andrew Wiggins begged for Cleveland to trade him because he didn’t think Lebron could help him be a better player? Wait. That’s not what happened? Oh well, its not like he was a wing who could score a little bit right? Oh he does have some offensive skills? Well, even if he can score, its not like he can defend. What’s that you say? He’s an elite defender at his position? Fuck outta here! I’m not tryna hear that. Lebron wouldn’t push for the team to trade a guy like that now would he? WOULD HE? Yea I didn’t think so either.

All you have to do is compare the Cavaliers’ bench production to the Warriors’ and you will see where this series was lost. 7 points from their bench last night and we didn’t see much of Channing Frye, or Derrick Williams. Backup point guard, Deron Williams, is beyond washed. I bet he gives his retirement papers to the league by Friday.

Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala played consistently well–better than anyone on Cleveland’s bench (Iguodala had a +60 rating for the entire Finals). Javale McGee had moderate success the first 2 games, and he and the rest of the second unit contributed just enough to make Cleveland feel it. Tyronn Lue had no one he could bring off the bench and have any kind of impact defensively. Lebron averaged 42 minutes a game this final round; logging 46 minutes total last night.

Kevin Durant put on such a beautiful display of dominance that Draymond Green’s own inconsistent performance was overshadowed; coming nowhere close to how he played in game 7 of last year’s instant classic.

 

It is understandable that many people found this season to be unsatisfactory. No one was able to match the beautiful basketball on display up in Oakland, and the only team that could come close to competing had its hopes dashed by an overzealous Georgian. Despite what you might hear, the Spurs were in fact, the second best team in the NBA. I don’t expect much to change for next year. Washington is two moves away from me taking them seriously, so they loom in the background as a potential troublemaker.

I’m extremely curious to see if a) the Celtics finally use their chess pieces to put a championship team together next season and b) who the Cavs bring back next year.

Outside of Lebron, I think everybody can be had at a price. As outstanding as Kyrie Irving is, I don’t think he is the right guy for the kind of offense that can beat Golden State. Before you start tweeting me, take a second and think about how much more deadly Kevin Love would be if Mike Conley or John Wall were running that offense. Kyrie doesn’t get his teammates involved easily, and typically passes when its his only option.

I’m sure second best doesn’t sit too well with James, so something will have to be done to at least give the appearance that maybe they can beat Golden State four times in a series.

We still don’t know if this is the beginning of a dominant era for the Warriors or just a vacuum, but we’ll soon find out this off-season. Shaun Livingston and Stephen Curry will be free agents and we’ll likely see a few new faces on the roster next season. The beauty of the off-season is that up until next season’s tip, all 30 teams have a legitimate chance at being champions. Maybe things won’t be as predictable as they were this season, but I highly doubt it.

 

BM

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

 

 

 

 

 

Delayed Gratification

Before we get into this year’s highly anticipated NBA Finals. I’d like to give a shout out to the Boston Celtics and San Antonio for having successful seasons. Although I think the Celtics didn’t work hard enough to get Demarcus Cousins or Jimmy Butler on the team this year, I’m not so sure that would have been worth two more wins in this year’s conference finals. I am curious if they are going to run it back with the addition of another young lottery pick are trade their number one pick for some vet pieces to help Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say they overachieved this year with their current roster. Whatever Danny Ainge decides to do this off-season, it will be tough to mess this off-season up for the Celtics. They have a lot of good options.

The Spurs will have a challenging off-season themselves, as there are a few questions that must be answered for them to sustain their run of excellence for the next few seasons. Though it seems like Dejounte Murray is poised to be the point guard of the future, I think it would behoove the Spurs to sign a veteran to serve as a bridge for Murray era. There are a number of free agent point guards the Spurs could sign on the cheap who could help mentor the young prodigy as he grows into his role as a floor leader. I personally am rooting for a George Hill/Gregg Popovich reunion next season.

Jonathan Simmons may have played his last game in a Spurs uniform, as his payday is right down the road waiting for him once the free agency period starts. He is a restricted free agent, but if a team offers him a ton of money to go play for them, San Antonio might let him walk. This would be unfortunate because I’ve been one of Juice Man’s biggest fans and I’d love to see him back on the team. For what’s out there at the wing position, he could turn out to be a good investment.

I would be surprised if Patty Mills plays for the team next year. He is an unrestricted free agent and some marginal team is probably going to be foolish enough to drop some major dough on a player who isn’t good enough to be a starting point guard for a contending team. Kawhi’s injury in Game 1 last round turned the conference finals into a pre season tryouts. Spurs players were just playing for their jobs after it was clear they were not going to advance.

Looking down the road, the Spurs are going to need some young front court players as Lamarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol are clearly on the wrong side of their careers and can’t be depended on to carry a team if Leonard was unavailable for some reason. Kyle Anderson hasn’t improved all that much since he first got into the league three years ago, and it may be time to start looking for Danny Green’s eventual replacement. Green does some things well (like stopping 3-on-1 fast breaks)  and some things not so well (like dribbling). He is like that boyfriend some women have that does just enough to get dumped. She doesn’t break up with him, but she thinks about it seriously at least once every 3 months. 4 years later, both parties are wondering where this thing is going.

Outside of Kawhi and Murray, there are a lot of questions to be answered this off-season. A lot of critics think this is beginning of the end of the Spurs dynasty, but I think this is just a transition period. Either way, this off season will be the critical point we look back on five years from now when accessing the prime of Kawhi Leonard’s career.

 

FINALS PREDICTIONS

You must excuse me if I seem bored with the Cavs-Warriors threematch, but at this point it seems pretty anti-climatic. Besides the first 30 minutes of game 1 of Spurs-Warriors, there has been little doubt who would be in the NBA Finals. Neither team was tested on their way to the final round, and there was a part of me that was disappointed that Cleveland dropped a game against Boston. It would have been cool to see both teams head into the Finals 12-0. Alas, this is the best the 2017 season could give to us fans.

3 Keys to the series:

Draymond Green/ Andre Iguodala vs. Lebron

Lebron is going to get his no matter what, but Green and Iggy are going to have to figure out a way to slow him down, make him work for points, and not get into foul trouble. Refs tend to swallow their whistles when Lebron creates contact by dipping his shoulders into people’s chest and using his off-hand to push into guys. If there is a foul called, it’s usually on the defensive player somehow. Rasheed Wallace put it best when he said, “These guys (Kobe, Shaq, Lebron) are supposed to be the best right? So why do they need more help if they are so good?” That is exactly why I @bucks with Sheed even if he is fibbing about making up the phrase “Ball Don’t Lie”.

Role Players

We haven’t seen this kind of star power on both Finals teams since the 2013 and 2014 Spurs-Heat matchups, and before that, the Celtics-Lakers rivalry in the 80’s. However, anyone who knows anything about NBA basketball knows that its the how role players play that will determine who wins these playoff games.

It isn’t crazy to expect big numbers from Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Steph Curry, but you never know what you are going to get from Kevin Love and Klay Thompson on the offensive end (although both can easily put up 40 points in the blink of the eye). The difference between the two players is that Love is an average defender at best, while Thompson is the best defensive 2 guard in the league. To think that both players are afterthoughts shows you how good both teams are.

Look for the Kardashian curse to rear its ugly head this series as Tristan Thompson should have a big series against this thin front court of Golden State–but he won’t. I can’t ever quantify these suspicions with anything but intuition, but wasn’t I right about James Harden swoon last year because he was dating Khloe? I’m just saying.

Golden State has the better bench of the two teams with guys like Javale McGee, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala all making important contributions with the second unit. Ian Clark and Patrick McCaw can be counted on to steal some minutes at the guard spots. Don’t forget that Mike Brown (?) can always count on David West or Matt Barnes to provide some toughness whenever that is needed.

The Cavaliers have a lot of washed dudes coming off the bench, like old ass Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, Richard Jefferson, and Derrick Williams.

Defense

For all the talk about their offense, Warriors had one of the best defenses in the NBA this year. The Cavaliers? Not so much. There was even a time period where their defensive rating was 30th in the league. They haven’t exactly faced any offensive juggernauts this post season, so people have been tricked into thinking that they “flipped that switch.”

The Warriors are phenomenal at finding the “mouse in the house” and exposing it again and again. Outside of Tristan Thompson, Lebron James, and sometimes Iman Shumpert, is there anyone on that Cleveland roster that will scare the Warriors? J.R. Smith can bring it on  occasion, but he can just as easily space out at anytime. The rest of the team is compiled of average defenders. The Spurs were a top 5 team in defense and you saw what happened to them, and before you say “but Kawhi Leonard was hurt” please realize that it would have taken EVERYTHING to go right for the Spurs to even have a chance at winning last round.

People tend to think this has the makings of a classic, but I don’t see it. Star power aside for Cleveland, they are ill-equipped to deal with one of the best offenses in NBA history. Warriors in five, and the only reason I’m not predicting a sweep is out of respect to Lebron. I may sound as crazy as I did when I said the Spurs would beat Golden State last round, but you saw what happened that first 30 minutes before Kawhi got hurt (like what I did right there?). There could have been a number of reasons why San Antonio was dominating before that take down by Zaza, but before that infamous play, I wasn’t looking so crazy now was I? If both teams remain healthy the entire series, the Warriors will clinch it five games and it may not even be that close. And oh yeah, Draymond Green is going to win the Finals MVP, just like I predicted in the season preview.

Have a good week.

 

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. 

 

House Money (Tried to Told Ya’ll)

Didn’t I tell you the Rockets were busters? Didn’t I tell you that James Harden’s game is all smoke and mirrors? Didn’t I tell you that Tony Parker’s injury would be a blessing in disguise? I love to troll as much as the next man, but I don’t just be saying shit to hear myself talk. Ya’ll gon learn to start listening to me. As my dude Bomani Jones is fond of saying, “Listen to me now. Believe me later on.”

We got a game 7 in Boston on Monday between the Wizards and the Celtics. I would be shocked if the Celtics lose this game at home. Role players tend to not show up in elimination games on the road. John Wall and Bradley Beal are going to need help if they are going to advance to the next round. I’ll definitely be tuning in because a) its Monday and I don’t have anything better to do, and b) its game 7.  You really find out what these players are made of during the pressure packed situations. I love elimination games. Whoever wins this series will be lucky to get two wins against the Cavaliers.

 

The Warriors vs. Spurs Western Conference Finals may as well be the NBA Finals. Barring major injury to key contributors, whoever comes out of this round should be the clear-cut favorites against the Lebrons. People think this is dissing Lebron, but the beauty of basketball is that your weaknesses will get exposed. Everything comes out in the wash when you cut corners in hoop.

Cleveland has yet to play an offensively competent team in the playoffs and that trend will continue until they face the Warriors or Spurs. Cleveland statistically had one of the worst regular season defensive statistics of all the playoff teams. Luckily for the Cavs, playing in the east and having Lebron can cover up a lot of ugly blemishes. Lebron is like the most effective IG filter for any NBA team.

He has proved from time to time that he can drag the worst four scrubs ever assembled and still take them to the NBA Finals. Mad respect given, but to win in pro basketball the other players–four to nine–have to play well. You can’t convince me that the Warriors and Spurs aren’t stocked with superior role players in comparison to the Cavaliers. Go look it up if you don’t believe me, and after you do, I want you to make a list of all the players on Cleveland’s roster not named Lebron or Tristan who can defend their position well.

Bringing it back to this series for a second, the only chance that the Spurs has is through in-game adjustments and timely substitutions. Jonathan Simmons has proven he belongs on the court, and Gregg Popovich will have no choice but to give Dejounte Murray some run against the tall guards of Golden State.

Throw out what happened in the regular season, as these are two different teams from what you saw before April began. The biggest problem the Spurs face is the incredible amount of length and quickness they have to throw at San Antonio. Matt Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston all can come off the bench and disrupt an offense with their defensive versatility.

Spurs can take advantage of their mismatch in the paint with Pau Gasol and Lamarcus Aldridge if they can somehow get the ball across the court, and keep their entry passes from getting intercepted or tipped away (thus creating transition opportunities for the Warriors and igniting their offense). Spurs fans know that David West isn’t the defender he once was, but look for Javale McGee to continue to impact the game with his presence in the paint, rebounding, and athleticism.

The play of Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Kyle Anderson, Jonathan Simmons and Dejounte Murray–San Antonio’s ballhandlers not named Kawhi– will determine if these games are close nail biter endings or blowout losses. If the Spurs can slow the tempo down, attack the paint, and get Kevin Durant and Draymond Green in foul trouble, this could be a troublesome affair for the Warriors.

On defense, the Spurs will have to run the Warriors off the three-point line and control the boards. The Warriors feast off of open threes and transition points, so it will be important for San Antonio to not hoist jump shots early in the shot clock, and not turn the ball over.

Lebron couldn’t beat the Warriors by himself in 2015, so don’t expect a hobbled Kawhi Leonard to carry the San Antonio to finals alone. Aldridge and Gasol are going to have to chip in on the boards and points in the paint . I’m not sure what we can realistically expect David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon to contribute. Dedmon (with his stone hands) has played himself into Pop’s doghouse and Lee had serious issues on defense last round. If Dedmon can’t catch passes, then he will need to play smart defense and rebound to stay on the court. Lee could be a good piece on the offensive end, but better believe that the Warriors will go at him when he gets back on D. Golden State loves finding the mismatches and attacking it. #mouseinthehouse

This may sound obvious, but the Spurs will have to play their best team ball of the season to even have a chance at winning this series. By Game 4, both coaching staffs will have a clear idea on which lineups and matchups work most effectively, and the real chess game will begin. Popovich has to use all his chess pieces effectively in order to advance to the NBA Finals, so keep an eye on the role players in this series.

The margin of error is very small, and though San Antonio has proven they are talented and fearless, the biggest hurdle they will face is a mental one.The discipline and focus that it takes to beat these Warriors four times in seven games is what will determine who wins. The Spurs must stick to their game plan, value every possession, and take smart shots. The Warriors will penalize them on the other end every time they turn the ball over, take a bad shot, or forget how to set screens and make the extra pass.

At this point, San Antonio is playing with house money. Having won 60 plus wins and advanced to the Western Conference Finals only a year removed from Tim Duncan’s retirement, this season is already a success for them. They are also huge underdogs. They will be facing tremendously less pressure than veteran players like Zaza Pachulia, Matt Barnes, Javale McGee, Kevin Durant, and David West (who knows how many seasons he has left in him). Pressure does funny things to people, don’t discount that element this round.

As much as I want to say Spurs in six games, there are just too many unknowns. I still can’t pick them to——— nah you know what? Fuck it. Spurs in six. I’m putting 100 dollars on San Antonio and in a week and a half, I’m collecting 900 dollars. If you like watching exceptional basketball execution, then I suggest that you watch every minute of this series. Get your bets in before 2:00 pm today because Los Spurs are going to shock the world!

Buen Provecho

 

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. 

Where Have All The Tough Guys Gone?

The deeper the NBA goes into the playoffs, the more chirping you see from guys. Dudes start bumping their gums and folks get their feelings hurt, and that is when dudes wanna scrap. Things get chippy, and that is when the bitch made dudes get separated from the tough guys. Labels like “Fake Tuff Guy” get thrown around as folks get exposed for having no heart.

You’ve probably seen the “Kelly on Kelly” feud happening out on the east coast, and Kevin Durant telling the Utah mascot to “get the fuck off the court” is still fresh on people’s minds (a mere five minutes after doing Judo drills with Jazz center Rudy Gobert). I probably heard the “Fake Tuff Guy” take on Durant no less than ten times between last Saturday night and Monday evening.

Part of me agrees that KD is doing a little too much “extra”. I get it though. He’s feeling like Pac after he moved back to the west after signing with Death Row Records. Oakland has a swag about it that is hard not to adopt when you move there. You feel it in the air. You feel it in the street. You feel it when you put your hoodie on and you walk outside your door.

Is he doing too much? He probably is. “Fake Tuff Guy” though? I’m not ready to say all that. Homie grew up in the DMV, (PG County no less). I’ve driven through that area and its nothing nice. Even if he isn’t physically tough like say, a Charles Oakley; you don’t make it out of the environment KD is from by being mentally weak.

I think its important to delineate the different degrees of toughness that you see in the NBA. I respect the fight of little guys like Isaiah  Thomas and Allen Iverson just as much as someone with the physical strength of Goliath. Tough guys like Shaq and Kenyon Martin both played like complete dickheads from time to time–their behavior sometimes even bordered on bullying.

Think about it this way: there is being physically tough because you are bigger than everyone and no one in their right mind would fuck with you. But there are also those players who despite lacking in size, but played with a high pain threshold (#Kobe Tough). Sometimes being tough simply means growing up in a tough neighborhood and either fighting your way through the environment, or somehow sidestepping all the pitfalls that befall a lot of young people in that environment.

Being mentally tough is having the discipline to avoid being on the wrong block, or at the wrong party with the wrong people. You can’t make it out of the neighborhoods that people like Allen Iverson or Kevin Durant escaped by being “soft”. It’s almost disrespectful to suggest that they are.

Conversely, just because a person had a privileged upbringing with very little to worry about but school and basketball, that they are soft. Some of the toughest dudes I’ve ever  met– white, black or whatever–were guys who grew up comfortably, but their “Pops” was on their asses relentlessly to keep them from growing to be a candy ass.

As with any population, the NBA is a very diverse place. The league is full of guys with varying personalities who come from different backgrounds. I’ve put together Bobby Mickey’s tough guy spectrum” which allows us a wider range of freedom to classify who is tough and who is a “cupcake.” I’ve broken NBA players down into four main categories.

 

“You Better Check Your Tone ” Guys

ewingoakley_display_image

“I’m not a player I just crush a lot.”

~Big Pun

Let’s start at the top of the NBA food chain with the tough guys. These are the guys no one in their right mind would fuck with. To give you some context, think about when Ron Artest and Ben Wallace got tangled up in Detroit back in the 2004 melee. Artest is a bad dude who could play through crippling migraines and put up a 30 and 20 stat line. He grew up in Queensbridge . But he did not want anything to do with a fight with Ben Wallace, arguably the strongest man in the NBA at the time. This goes to show you that even at the top of the pyramid there is an order.

Unless a player is prepared to fight to the death, he should not pick a fight with Marcus Smart, Zach Randolph, Robin Lopez (don’t laugh I’ve heard enough rumors to be convinced that he’s crazy), Gerald Henderson (who I used to think was a fake tuff guy but I suspect he’s got hands), Matt Barnes (again, crazy), Marcin Gortat (dude looks like he could be in the Polish Mob),  David West, P.J. Tucker, Demar Derozoan   Boban Marjonovic,  Aryon Baynes, Steven Adams, The Morris twins, Metta World Peace (A.K.A. the aforementioned Ron Artest),  Udonis Haslem, Zaza Pachulia, Raymond Felton, Thomas Robinson, Demarcus Cousins, Nene (though you might get lucky and he gets injured and has to stop the fight) Tony Allen, Nikola Jokic (and that goes for any Eastern European, or anyone from Albania, the Ukraine, Serbia, or Georgia, those guys have seen some real shit) Domantas Sabonis (do you know who his dad is?) or Jusef Nurkic. Shout outs to CHARLES OAKLEY for still displaying that old man strength when James Dolan’s goons got in his face at MSG earlier this season.

 

The Silent Assassin 

stack5412

“Don’t pull the thang out, unless you plan to bang”

~Outkast

Don’t let the smiles fool you. These guys will fuck a dude up on general principle. They may be some of the chillest dudes on the team, but watch how quickly things go left when they feel disrespected. These guys come in different statures and sizes, but they are generally pretty down to earth, gregarious, and pleasant. They may not be physically imposing by conventional standards, but this particular kind of tough guys carries a quiet confidence.

They respect the seriousness of conflict and aren’t afraid to take it there, but they also understand that doing so can have immediate and serious consequences. Examples of this guy currently playing in the NBA are Taureen Prince, Davis Bertans (don’t sleep on them Latvians), Harrison Barnes (built like a brickhouse, and also made the Sweethearts list, but he seems like the kind of guy who once he finally got mad would go nuclear), Lebron James (he may be whiny but she is still 6’8 and strong as fuck), Avery Bradley (dude is too quiet), Dion Waiters (He and Kobe Bryant saw two different sides of Philadelphia. Don’t fall for the goofy stuff), Lance Stephenson, who people think is a joke because he has a screw loose and hams it up (don’t forget he still is from Brooklyn, and not the Gelato, fixed gear part of Brooklyn) Kemba Walker, (The last of the New York City Point Guard legends) Serge Ibaka (you see that punch he threw at Robin Lopez?), Shaun “people think we soft cuz we light-skinned” Livingston, Tarik Black, Marc Gasol, Brandon Rush and Chris “Birdman” Anderson (who people sleep on, but he looks “Get into a shootout at the Twin Peaks in Waco” crazy). 

 

Fake Tough Guys

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“You ain’t a crook son. You’s just a shook one.”

~Mobb Deep

These guys are quick to get in other dudes faces, but they not tryna fight. The league fines are too stiff, and the last time an NBA player physically hit someone in the face, that  player broke their hand and missed a significant portion of the season. You’ll see these guys start something, and do a little bit of yelling at each other, until someone breaks it up because everyone knows that no one is fighting. Stock examples of this guy are:

J.R. Smith, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Dahntay Jones (who would have been someone’s bitch in the 80’s and 90’s NBA), Russell Westbrook (you’ve seen the shit that he wears to the arena. Bruh is a bigger diva than Aretha Franklin #fashionista)and  Jae Crowder (J.R. Smith still hasn’t apologized to him for that season ending face smack two years ago).

I’m not saying that these guys are complete pussies. They aren’t. But I think we can all agree that they maybe their DNA more closely resembles Meek Mill than say someone like 50 Cent.

 

Sweethearts

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“Can’t we all just get along?”

~Rodney King

Sweethearts just want to ball. They are not trying to start any chingaso. Only a first class dickhead would start a fight with these kind of guys. The typical response when you see  someone picking at them is “WHY are they fucking with this guy? What is wrong with them?” Good examples of the Sweetheart are Jeremy Lin, Andrew Wiggins, Ron Baker, Kristaps Porzingis, Nick “What is You Doing?” Young, Mike Miller, Harrison Barnes, Roy Hibbert, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Nick Collison, and of course, Dirk Nowitzki. 

 

L-7 Weenies

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“Do you love this shit? Are you high right now? Do you ever get nervous?”

~Drake

 

Somewhere during the course of their lives, these players crossed the threshold that separates nice guys from being p@*$#y. Sweethearts are so well liked that messing with them that speaks volumes about the agitator. The full on weenies are so pathetic because they bring trouble upon themselves. They aren’t necessarily fake tough guys, but anytime they are involved in a dust-up you think “C’mon dawg you know you ain’t gon swing on nobody. Who do you think you are fooling?” You do kinda feel sorry for them until you realize that they probably brought it on themselves with their insecurities. Sometimes these guys were just unlucky and were born with punch-able faces.

Currently the best examples are Kelly OlynyckJerryd Bayless (light-skinned dudes am I right??), Matthew Dellavedova, Austin Rivers, Chandler Parsons, Sam Dekker (who had the face of a trust fund kid before he got into the league) Kevin Love, Paul George,  Aaron and Andrew Harrison (busters), James Harden, Enes Kantner, Kyle SinglerJames Harden, and Meyers Leonard who looks like the kind of guy who sold Adderall out of his briefcase while he was in college. 

The universe is constantly in flux. Things change constantly from day-to-day, game to game, and season to season. Every NBA sequence brings with it the chance to get exposed by someone bigger, faster, and younger. One never knows what can happen and going from being a stud to being washed can happen in the blink of an eye. I created this spectrum not to diss or slander any NBA players, but to illustrate how labels easily stick even if they aren’t entirely accurate. The truth is that the traits that we think make us “brave” are pretty nebulous. We can really only be as tough as the circumstances we fight through.

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.