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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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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
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:
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 email@example.com.
This week has seen a great deal of basketball–some good and some bad. The way I feel about the NCAA tournament is the same way Steve Nash feels about the World Cup. It isn’t the best brand of play, but it is the most exciting.
That being said, I’d rather take good over exciting any day. I’ve had more “exciting” girlfriends than good ones. Hell, you can have an exciting ride in a beat up Chevette, that doesn’t mean it is a good one.
On Saturday, the “Good Ass Game of the Week” happened to overlap with the Jayhawks second round game against UCONN. I watched the first half, but after that, I kept up just enough to see the Wayne Selden alley oop.
Rarely will I say an NBA game where neither team scores 100 is a “good ass game”, but considering the stakes of Saturday night’s affair, I can say without any irony that it lived up to the hype.
The Spurs didn’t necesarily need to win this weekend, but it certainly eased a lot of Spurs’ fans anxiety concerning the prospect of facing the Dubs in the postseason. A Spurs loss would have ended their 43 game home winning streak, and possibly created a little bit of doubt for the rest of the league as to whether Golden State was capable of being beaten 4 out of 7 games.
The San Antonio win was akin to when Rocky finally struck blood on the Russian Ivan Drago, and he realized that the Russian was not indeed a machine (I went on Youtube to link that scene and quickly saw that it is one of the worst boxing scenes in the history of cinema).
All that being said, this is just 1 game out of 82. There are still two more games for them to play against each other. Yes the Spurs were able to bottle up the high octane offense of Golden State, holding them to only 90 possessions on Saturday (thirteen below their season average), but Golden State was also without two of their best defenders in Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguaodala.
The Warriors also were coming off of a back to back against the Dallas Mavericks, which could possibly account for what seemed to be tired legs for Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. There is just as little to take from this close victory at home in San Antonio as there was for the 30 point loss in Oakland back in January. They don’t hand out the NBA trophy until June for a reason.
This week’s Good Ass Games:
The #mesohornets will give the Spurs a good run, and then the Spurs will bend the game towards their will. I love these kinds of games.
I think this one falls under the Good Ass Game of the Weak category–something to tap that vein to.
“Tap that Vein” Tuesday
Los Angeles Clippers- Golden State
Definitely one of the best NBA games last week. Dirk put in 40 and even Deron Williams put in some work in this overtime affair.
Portland-Los Angeles Clippers
Sweet 16: Texas A &M-Oklahoma, Kansas-Maryland, Duke-Oregon
The results of course necessitate that you watch the next round games on Saturday
Did Dallas have a hand in the Warriors defeat on Saturday? I’d like to think so. It was a good ass game.
San Antonio-Oklahoma City (Good Ass Game of the Week)
This one is on NBATV (WTF?????), so unless you live in the Spurs or Thunder tv market, you will be watching it a bar, on a legal(?) streaming site, or spending time with your people. Then again, you can just watch some NCAA.
Houston-Indiana or you can watch the Midwest and East regional finals.
Big Ups of the Week go to the UT Longhorns Men Basketball team for their successful season. The results were not much different this year than last, but you can chart the growth of the team from the beginning of the season to their final game on Friday.
Say what you will about former AD Steve Patterson, but his decision to hire Shaka Smart will go down as the best move he made at UT. Shaka Smart is not only a brilliant head coach, he’s a great teacher and mentor. If you ever have some time on your hands, check out LHN All Access with coach Shaka.
You can tell he really cares about his players becoming better people, and not just winning games for the university. Something I could never understand was how parents could send their children to go play for coaches like Bob Huggins and Bobby Knight. People still to this day confuse yelling with teaching.
You don’t see Shaka showing his players up or demeaning them. When he points out mistakes to be corrected, he uses the mistakes as teaching lessons. If there were ever any doubt about how his players feel about him, just watch the press conference after the loss to Northern Iowa. You can tell his players love playing him.
I said that UT will be in the Final Four within 5 years of hiring Shaka Smart, and I am not budging from that prediction. He is the real deal. Hopefully, he doesn’t leave for UNC before he can prove me right.
Enjoy this week’s slate of NBA games and the Sweet Sixteen.
It’ s spring break for your boy, and I’ll be making my annual trip to Austin, Texas for a little fun, sun, and hopefully no guns. I wish you a week of Good Ass Games.
Los Angeles Clippers-San Antonio
Golden State-San Antonio (Good Ass Game of the Week)