Loosely Connected Observations From The First Week of the Season

A few thoughts from the first week of NBA ball:

  • Looks like palming and traveling has gone the way of defensive 3 seconds.Maybe this is a way to amp up scoring–kind of like how NFL started making rules that only benefit offensive players.
  • Lakers-Rockets on opening night was fun. It reminded me of watching a Drew league game, or an All Star Game where everyone but James Harden had missed the bus, and they had  to suit up all the players who were in town just for the weekend festivities. I actually like this post Kobe era for the Lakers. Its pretty refreshing to see watch a Lakers game and not feel hate.
  • Watched the Kings-Spurs game from the other night. Ben Mclemore may have found his calling in the league as a scorer off the bench. It’s easy to forget that he is just a baby, but he has a lot of time to still hit his peak as a basketball player. I hope he finds a good team someday. Until then, Ben has to learn how to protect his cookies.
  • Speaking of the Spurs. I wasn’t very hype on them coming into the season, but they look really good. They have a nice balance of veteran leadership (a combined 14 championship rings on this roster) and some good young cats. I like what little I’ve seen of Latvian forward, Davis Bertrans, who has impressed me with his 3 point range. I’ve often talked shit about David Lee’s one on one defense, but he is actually a decent help defender. Also, I think he has a chip on his shoulder. After sitting the past 2 seasons, dude looks hungry. Kudos on the pickup Mr. Buford. Last but not least….Kawhi “frigging” Leonard!!!!!!! I cannot believe this is the same kid who found himself in a moment too big during the 2013 NBA Finals. He is ridiculously good right now.
  • Lakers-Pacers definitely was the Good Ass Game of the Week last week with their overtime affair (Those Pacers cheerleaders tho!!!! MPPPPHHHHHH), but one of my favorite moments last week was watching Damien Lillard and old Joe Jhnson go basket for basket in the 4th quarter of the Blazers vs. Jazz. Maybe we will get lucky and they face off in the first round of the playoffs. Although I gotta say, I’m not sold on Quinn Snyder as an NBA coach. He just seems too uptight. Maybe the Salt Lake City cuisine has him constipated.
  • Speaking of Lillard, Dame says he wants to win the MVP. I have mixed feelings on him publicly making this statement. On one hand, him winning MVP would obviously correlate with the Blazers having a great regular season. On the other hand, it sounds like Lillard worrying about something he cannot control. MVP is a subjective award. Saying at the beginning of the season that you want to win MVP is like a musician publicly saying that he wants the album he is working on to win a Grammy. Perhaps it is better to just do the best you can and let the product speak for itself.

 

We have some good ass games this week. If you have a way to watch them without accessing League Pass then you are already ahead of the game. I can’t believe that a mulit-billion dollar industry can’t find a way to hire people to fix their digital media site. It is befuddling and infuriating.

Demand for NBA is at an all time high. With so much interest in this year’s season, Adam Silver couldn’t have picked a worse time to drop the ball on that front. I hope they work this out soon, otherwise it will be a perpetually sour season for this hoops fan. I may abandon sportswatching altogether and just focus on being a normal human being. Or maybe I’ll just become a full fledged soccer guy. Chew on that reality for a minute.

 

Peace,

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 FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

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Turning the Thing Around (again)

Two Friday nights ago, while scouring the internet for new and exciting content, I discovered that the Mavericks were playing the Lakers just four train stops from my mother’s house. I debated whether or not to go, but then figured it couldn’t hurt to at least see if I could get in the building for less than 30 bucks.

I was hoping to find a ticket for 20, but ran upon a deal I couldn’t pass on– an upper terrace seat (worth 70 dollars) for 30 dollars. Some scalpers were trying to get rid of $30.00 face value seats for up to 200 dollars. I just kept walking.

I hadn’t been to a Mavericks game since they’d played in the old Reunion Arena, back when Ross Perot Jr. owned the team (coincidentally, the first basketball game I ever attended was with my father was the 1984 playoff game against the Lakers–the only won they won that series).

By the time that Mark Cuban bought the Mavericks fifteen years ago, I was no longer living in Dallas. The Mavericks were a joke of a franchise, and the punchline of many jokes. Even people in Dallas took the time to ask the query, “Who’ll win more games this year, the Cowboys or the Mavs?”

Their ineptness led to my detachment (why in the hell would I invest my joy into a bad product?) and my detachment led me to watch other teams in the NBA, and not become a homer for any team (I think it worked out for the best).

Mark Cuban is not only one of the best owners in sports, he is also a glaring example of how one person can change the culture of a whole city. The city of Dallas doesn’t suck as much as it did when I was growing up there, and I’m sure Mark Cuban has at least a little bit to do with that.

Ever since Cuban bought the Mavericks, the city of Dallas has gotten a new basketball arena (they share the venue with the hockey team), a light rail that runs towards the outskirts of the city, and a massive growth of skyscrapers and condominiums downtown.

All that can’t be accredited to Cuban’s purchase of the Mavericks, but you also can’t tell me that the success of the franchise over the past 15 years has nothing to do with the city’s economic growth.

One of the things that makes Mark Cuban one of the best owners in sports, is that the man has attention for details. The American Airlines Center is one of the nicest venues you could ever attend an event.

It feels like a luxury hotel with a basketball court and stadium seating. Everything is immaculate, and state of the art. You will not find a single piece of trash lying on the ground, or in the arena.

The arena staff I encountered were all courteous and professional. I’ve even heard visiting players like Shaquille O’Neal say that the visiting locker room at the AAC is one of the most hospitable stops in the NBA–with a post game spread that resembles a luxury cruise buffet.

Pregame was pretty hype. The Mavs’ announcer worked hard to keep all the fans engaged. The Mavs were introduced to “Eminence Front” by the Who and fans got into that (I’m a little shocked that no rapper has ever sampled that intro and spit bars to it–I’m sure its a hard sample to clear). There were cool graphics up on the Jumbotron, and the two massive scoreboards.

The game didn’t live up to the hype though. It was the day after Christmas, and it seemed like everyone was hungover; including the fans who could barely muster any audible advantage for the home town Mavs.

Kobe sat on the bench wearing a really nice black suit (another reason why the 200 dollar asking price was laughable), and the flow of the game was really klunky. There were a lot of “Sportscenter” worthy moments, with lobs and deep 3 pointers, but the flow was just off. Both teams were in the 70’s at one point into the 4th quarter.

On balance it was still fun. Mark Cuban understands that NBA games are a product, and everything revolving around the team shapes the perception of the product. The Mavs’ drum line, the dancers, the DJ, the PA guy, and arena staff are as part of the product as the basketball team.

Mark Cuban’s comprehensive approach to handling the team (from hiring the right coach and general manager to the way he takes care of his players) is why he is one of the most innovative owners to ever buy a sports team.

Major League Baseball made a serious mistake by not selling Cuban one of their franchises. Cuban is one of the reasons why the NBA is such a progressive sport, especially compared to the NFL and MLB.

Even the most casual of fan can have a good time at an NBA game, and the reason is because the NBA is always looking forward, not in the past like baseball–a sport steeped in archaic rituals and traditions.

If you haven’t figured out what separates good franchises from bad ones, don’t focus solely on the players. Go directly to the ownership group, then look at who gets hired for drafting and personnel decisions, then watch their track records with head coaches.

In any successful organization, it all starts at the top. Being a great leader/supervisor/coach means having the confidence to hire smart people to work on your staff and allowing them to do their jobs. This is what separates the bad, mediocre, and good from the great.

Big shout out to Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks arena staff, and all those Mavs’ fans out there who stuck with the team even when they were the laughingstock of the league. The NBA is more fun to watch now that they are good again.

These games tho:

Monday

Wizards-Pelicans
Anthony Davis continues to have insane stat lines and the Wizards continue to have entertaining games against the West. I’ll check out this game until the Los Angeles “Cakeshow” rolls into Portland and the Thunder-Warriors Part Duex commence. I feel confident that this will be the Good Ass Game of the Week.

Tap that Vein Tuesday begins and ends with Cavs-Rockets. Tuesday would be a good night to rest up if you were recovering from a hernia surgery. As the cops used to say back in the day, “Move along now. Nothing to see here.”

Wednesday

The LOL Lakers versus the Clippers. It is always fun to watch the Lakers lose to their housemates.

Thursday
Miami vs. Portland You sure you’re recovered from that hernia surgery? “Tap that Vein Tuesday” has now become “Tap that Vein Thursday”

Friday

A slew of Good Ass Games. The Grizzlies beefy front line are going to put a hurting on Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.

Bulls-Wizards give us a playoff preview of could only be a handful of possible interesting match ups in the East. I’ll tune in until the Phoenix-San Antonio and Cleveland-Golden State games begin.

“Psssst. Take you out on Friday? Nah baby, I need to be in bed recovering from hernia surgery (wink.wink.) The doc says I should do nothing that doesn’t involve lying in bed and watching hoops.

Saturday

Dallas vs. Los Angeles Clippers Battle of two of the best point guards in the West. Can’t wait!

Sunday
Grizzlies-Suns
Cleveland-Sacramento
Portland-LOL Lakers

“Oh baby. You’ll never believe this. Doctor says I can do non-basketball related things again. It’s a Festivus Miracle! We should go out and celebrate. You should grab your wallet in case I somehow lose mine. Grab your keys too, doctor says I can’t drive.”

Buster(s) of the Week award goes to:

The New York Police Department for showing mad disrespect to the city’s mayor, police commissioner, and the families of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, by turning their back on the mayor during his eulogy for both slain officers. #Maddisrespectful.

These men have to understand that they are supposed to be the pillars of our society. It doesn’t make poor or citizens of color feel any less distrust towards the police. I don’t see any good coming out of this situation and their behavior. It just isn’t right.

Enjoy the games and don’t be foolish with ya money!!!

Peace.

BM

@clickpicka79
bobbymickey@gmail.com

“A Quick One While He’s Away!”

Yo Peep!

This one is a going to be a real quickie–the Spurs play the Clippers at 9:30. I just finished watching the Cleveland-New Orleans game in which Cavs finally reached .500 for their Win-Loss record. Bron-Bron vs. Lil Brow Wow was all that it was cracked up to be. Lebron put in some work with 32 points, 12 Rebs, and 10 Assists on 9/17 shooting. He had way more help than Anthony Davis–a force of nature (27 points, 14 points, 4 assists,4 steals, and 3 blocks)– with Kyrie Irving (who went HAM down the stretch of 18 points on 18 shots, finishing with 32 points on 21 shots, and 9 assists) and Kevin Love’s very efficient 22 points (7-13 shooting, 6-9 from three pointers).

Besides Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans don’t have anyone. Austin Rivers plays like a Buster! Tryeke Evans is a poor man’s Lance Stephenson. Jrue Holiday is decent, but he probably shouldn’t be starting. Eric Gordon is in the graveyard of players Bill Simmons thought was going to be raw. They suck. It’s depressing to watch them down the stretch of games. FREE ANTHONY DAVIS! Run BROW RUN! Go to New York and play for Phil, or go to Washington and play with KD, but don’t stay in New Orleans longer than this contract. Just ask Kevin Love what happens when you sign an extension with a bad team without doing your homework.

That being said, I’m going to have to watch more of the Pelicans in order to get my Anthony Davis fix. This dude is like Tim Duncan but with handles, and Kobe’s explosiveness.

Speaking of teams I’m going to watch more than I originally expected, I kind of like the Kings. I feel like they are a superstar away from being legitimate playoff contenders. They have a good core of veterans in the locker room with Carl Landry, Ramon Sessions, and Reggie Evans. Enough has been said of the effect this summer had on “Boogie Down Productions.” He has been killing it. I wonder what would have to be done to make a Rondo for Rudy Gay trade work.

Last night’s game between the Suns and Warriors played out as exactly as I figured it would. The game was a sluggish one–the refs threw the game out of rhythm with a high number of whistles early on. The Warriors shot well enough to start, but were spent by the end of the game. You could tell that the back-to-back games had taken away their legs. They were also without Splash Brother Klay who was nursing a sprained wrist. Phoenix ran away with it around the 9 minute mark of the 4th quarter.

Good Ass Games of the week:

Spurs-Clippers in about 15 minutes….hopefully they won’t wear those ugly ass jerseys that were worn on Saturday. Them shits were “muy muy feo!”

Tuesday
Hornets vs. Trailblazers Two nasty backcourts going head-to-head.
Spurs vs. Golden State You know Popovich will be sitting some starters–but at least Kyle Anderson will get some minutes.

Wednesday
Houston vs. Minnesota Wiggins and Zach Lavine make a pact to try to get on the cover of “Slam” Magazine by dunking on Dwight Howard.

Lakers-Pelicans Would have been great to see Randle v.s Davis matchup.
Denver vs. Portland The matchup for nastiest backcourts continues with Wesley Matthews-Damien Lillard vs. Arron AfflaloI-Ty Lawson. If I were a person visiting Colorado for an indefinite amount of time, I know I would be at this game.

Thursday

Chicago-Toronto Worth checking out for sure. There is a very strong possibility these two teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Friday
“Hey! Hey! It’s the Weekend babayyyyyy!!!” I’ve crossed the threshold now where if a girl ain’t down with hoop, then she ain’t down with me. It’s almost winter time and I’m already prepared to hunker down with some crock pot chili (or pot roast) and geek out on roundball for the next 6 months. There just isn’t enough time in the world for a high maintenance girlfriend and basketball. She be like “Ugh Sports. What’s so great about basketball Bobby?”
and I’ll say ” Look baby if you really want me to pay more attention, learn how to jump 12 feet in the air off one leg and dunk a basketball. Then I’d never take my eyes off you again girl. Can you do that for me? Didn’t think so. Next!”

Charlotte-Phoenix Damn. It gets no easier for Stephenson and Walker this week. Quite the gauntlet for the Charlotte backcourt.

Spurs-Lakers I’m not much into watching ass whuppings, but for some reason it gives me great pleasure to watch the “Lake-Show” go up in flames. It’s like going to a Siegfried and Roy show knowing that someone is going to get eaten. I haven’t been disappointed yet with the Lakers this season.

Minnesota-New Orleans In my best Drake voice, “Anthony Davis!!! A-Wiggins!!!!”

Saturday
Charlotte-Golden State Damn. No breaks for Charlotte this road trip. At all.
Phoenix vs. Clippers Who does Beige–I mean Blake Griffin punch this night? I’ll give you 2-1 odds on the Morris brothers and 3-1 on p.J. Tucker. This plot alone makes them game a must watch.

Sunday
Golden State-Lakers Kobe gets hurt trying to keep up with young bucks. I’m guessing its just a hamstring pull. He’ll be day to day for the next 5-7 games.

It’s exactly 9:48 pm and the Spurs-Clippers game is already underway. It’s deep into the first quarter–but you know what? It figures. I’ve never been good at quickies.

Run That Shit Back!

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We back! The NBA pre-season is upon us, which means we are only 2 and a half weeks away from the ball being thrown up for realsssssssss.

I can sum up this upcoming season by grouping the teams into four categories of watchability:

a) “Don’t Waste my Time”

b) “I’ll watch depending on they are playing”

c) “Oooh they playing tonight? Let me see what I got going on.”

d) “Cancel all my plans. I’m staying in tonight.”

Basically teams fall into these categories by whether they got better, got worse, or stayed the same. Some teams were so wack last year they couldn’t help but improve. Others thought (rightly or wrongly) that no changes needed to be made. Let’s get to it, this thing is already going to be long enough.

As much as I love hoop, I will not spend too much time in front of the tube watching the following teams:

Celtics, Lakers, Pacers, Nets, Utah and the Atlanta Hawks.

As a certain social philosopher likes to say, “NOT GONNA BE ABLE TO DO IT!” Not interested, not even a little bit.

How many uncontested layups will the Los Angeles Lakers give up this year? I’m willing to bet anyone that the Lakers will finish in the bottom five in defensive field goal percentage.
Kobe Bryant, Carlos Boozer, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Swaggy P………if Jordan hill is your best option on defense…should I even continue?

Let’s just hope Jack Nicholson has low expectations this year, because I’d hate to see the old man blow a gasket after seeing his beloved Lake show give up bucket after 4th quarter bucket. Good luck Byron Scott. Lakers need to be in rebuild mode. Talk about being in denial. The Lakers will be right back in the lottery. Mark my words.
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With the loss of Lance Stephenson, I had Indiana being in the lottery even BEFORE Paul George got himself fucked up during the FIBA scrimmages.

I like what Danny Ainge is doing out in Boston, but it will be a couple more years before I can be excited about sitting down to a Celtics game. We’re just not there yet.

Even if the Nets were good, it would be hard for me to support anything Russian owned while that shit is going on in the Ukraine.

UTAH???psssttttttt just change your team mascot already. Saying there is Jazz in Utah is like saying there are good looking women in Maine. I’m sure at one time or another both have existed in each state, but neither are home grown products. If I knew anything about Utah other than Mormons, reformed Mormons, the X-games, and weed, I could come up with something clever–but I can’t. Let’s just move on.

I HAVE A DREAM…….that someday Al Horford will play for a legitimate NBA contender. Go to Chicago Al!!! Team back up with Joakim Noah, I swear I won’t root against you two this time.

DEPENDS ON WHO THEY PLAY

Memphis, Houston, Pelicans, Pistons, Bulls (without D. Rose), Orlando, Denver, Milwaukee, Philly, Knicks, Miami

After a couple of years of squeaking into the playoffs, I think this is the year Memphis finally misses the cut. Phoenix is better, and the Grizzlies are older. I think the injury bug will hit a couple of key veterans. The Grindhouse will not be rocking next April if my suspicions are correct.

I don’t find James Harden or Dwight Howard the least bit of entertaining to watch. I can’t stand Patrick Beverly, and if I wanted to watch someone shoot 30 free throws I’d go to the YMCA and volunteer.

Other than Kid Rock, Jalen Rose, and Eminem, no one outside of the state of Michigan is interested in watching Detroit basketball.

The “Brow” is almost intriguing enough to tune in, but the rest of his team is garbage. Next!

Orlando almost has enough pieces to warrant more than a peek in at their games. One more year of the lottery should get them in position to contend for a playoff spot next year.

Denver has the “Manimal”, and a nasty backcourt of Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson. But really that is about it. But props to Brian Shaw for smashing on Madonna (a remarkable feat that doesn’t get enough attention) in her prime.

Will Jason Kidd be the first NBA player-coach to suit up since Dave Cowens? I think they the pieces to grab that 8th playoff spot. The Eastern conference is wack as hell, and both New York teams will be in the toilet (more on the Knicks in a second) this year. Someone has to grab that last spot–it may as well be them. Peep the roster if you don’t believe me.
Gonna see a lot of this this year
I’m not even remotely interested in Philadelphia until they get completely healthy.

All the players on the Knicks I wanna see play are deep on the bench. I just don’t see how that roster can make the playoffs–even in the East. I’m not entirely sold on D-Fish as a head coach–at least right now. I believe he will have a pretty big learning curve. I think they will miss the playoffs, but just barely. Also Amar’e Stoudemire makes the most money on the team this year, and may actually play the least amount of minutes.

Do you remember when Chris Bosh was the best player on his team in Toronto? Well if you don’t, then this Heat team will remind you of what that was like. Chris Bosh is going to put up some numbers this year, and the Heat will not be as bad as you think. Don’t be surprised if they play Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals.

OOOOOHHHH THEY PLAYING?

Clippers, Bulls (with a healthy D. Rose), Raptors, Cleveland, Mavericks, Wizards, Hornets

These teams I wouldn’t exactly drop everything I’m doing, but I could be talked into meeting someone at the bar to watch any combination of these teams playing each other.

The Clippers were one of those teams that didn’t do much to get better or worse, but besides Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul, there aren’t any other guys who can create their own shot. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will be better this year, but barring a mid-season trade (and injuries to OKC and San Antonio), I don’t see how they make it out of the west. I do think they will have the best regular season record and will get home court in the playoffs, but that guarantees little against the Spurs and Thunder.

Bulls are deep this year. I’m salivating on watching Noah and Gasol run that Hi-Lo in the post. The Bulls have Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, Aaron Brooks, Doug McDermott and Kirk Hinrich as good role players. I would pencil them as Eastern Conference champs were it not for a few lingering questions.

1) Is the Curse of Michael Jordan real?

Ever since the Jerry’s ran off Phil, Scottie and MJ, the Bulls have had nothing but bad luck. Eddie Curry…..trading Lamarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas, the Jay Williams motorcycle accident, Derrick Rose getting hurt during garbage time of a playoff game—-oh wait that isn’t bad luck— those are the result of bad decisions aren’t they?

2) Will Tom Thibadeau finally learn from the Spurs model and figure out a way to spell his starters so the team can be fresh for the playoffs? Thibs just has a way of grinding his players down. I feel like this is an under reported item concerning his coaching style.

3) The big question of course is will Derrick Rose make it to the All-Star break? He is the difference between them getting knocked out in the first round, and them losing to the Spurs in the finals.

Raptors made no significant changes, which was a good decision. They re-signed Kyle Lowry, which is almost like getting a big name free agent. They could should easily win Atlantic division this year.

People are hype about Cleveland, (and the should be), but why aren’t people also acknowledging that besides their “Big 3”, Cleveland still has a number of questions. Just how much better is Lebron’s supporting cast in Cleveland than the one he left in South Beach? Was James Jones ever that good?
He old and Cleveland is COLD.

I could write that sentence again in regards to Mike Miller and Shawn Marion. All three of these guys are in their mid thirties and have had the luxury of playing in warmer climates for most of their careers. Sure the game is played indoors, but that has to have some affect on your psyche–especially in a shit hole town like Cleveland. It aint ‘Zona or Texas or Florida.

How many games will Kyrie Irving play this year? He hasn’t played a full season of basketball since he was in high school. I’m not saying he’s bad, I’m just suggesting he might be a little frail. I’m not judging (I’m someone who gets hurt playing everything). But we can’t pretend like Irving is a guy you can pencil in to be healthy at the end of the year. Perhaps this wouldn’t be that big of an issue had Cleveland not wasted that pick on Anthony Bennett.

They opted instead for Victor Oladipo, but who is to say they wouldn’t have had to trade him for Kevin Love (imagine what an addition that would have been for Minnesota)? regardless Lebron not only has his consistently monster numbers, but will earn the MVP because everyone else’s stats will inflate because of his presence on the court (especially the Wins column).

Dallas as a team that would drop in the west, but I took a look at the roster and realized that Raymond Felton was indeed NOT the starting point guard for the Mavericks (the Jeopardy answer would be “Who is Jameer Nelson?”). I like their squad, and as I have said before, Rick Carlisle is the 2nd best coach in the NBA. Nothing could surprise me concerning the Mavericks–including another Finals run.

I like the Wizards running the same team back with the addition of Paul Pierce. He will be a great presence for them in the locker room. They are a dangerous team that has a top five backcourt. They could easily be in the Eastern Conference Finals as well.

Lance Stephenson was a great pickup for the Hornets (feels so right doesn’t it? I miss calling them that). Charlotte will be more entertaining to watch this year, but they will still get bounced in the first or second round.

“Alright stop what you doing cuz I’m about to ruin……”

You know what it is….every day I will circle the games these teams are playing and will make damn sure I get to watch them–even if its on replay.

Golden State made a controversial move in ousting Mark Jackson, but they couldn’t have made a less controversial hire in Steve Kerr. I think he will fit in fine with the front office, and will be a breath of fresh air for the franchise, believe it or not. Their season depends on how many games they can squeeze out of their front court players, David Lee and Andrew Bogut.

I’m also curious as to how well Harrison Barnes is integrated into the playing rotation. They need him to play as well as he did during the 2012 playoff run, if the Warriors are to take that next step. Continuity is a huge factor every year, and no major moves were made this off-season. The core remains intact with a couple of key additions in their back court. The Splash Brothers will actually get some rest if Leandro Barbosa, Shaun Livingston, and Brandon Rush can contribute off the bench.

Super Bowl champion Head Coach Jimmy Johnson used to say, “If you are not getting better, then you are getting worse.” This adage pretty much sums up what the Thunder did this off-season. They wasted this summer’s draft picks, lost their best perimeter defender in Thabo Sefalosha, and only managed to sign Anthony Morrow. That being said, the still have two of the best five players in the NBA. That alone will be good enough to get them to the Western Conference Finals. Steven Adams will be starting at center no later than the All Star Break.

Portland didn’t do much to improve either. Then again, any off-season moves to be made on that roster would’ve had negligible results (Is the difference between a 7 seed and a 5 seed in the west worth messing up team chemistry?) Portland’s bench is better based on another year’s experience for Thomas Robinson and C.J. McCollum.

Phoenix will for sure be in the playoffs. They re-signed Eric Bledsoe, bringing back the nastiest back court duo west of San Antonio and east of Nevada. They managed to draft Tyler Ennis, T.J Warren, and acquired Isiah Thomas. The Morris twins re-upped and so did P.J. Tucker’s drunk driving ass. They won’t be sneaking up on no one this year. They ready. Fools are gonna get banged on when they play the Suns.

The T-Cubs will be the newest fun team to watch this year. It is too bad Rick Adelman won’t be around to coach this team. I think this is the second coming of the Baby Bulls, and early 2000’s Sacramento Kings. Rubio finally has some guys to run with him. Look at who the Timberwolves have: Zach Levine, Shabazz Muhammad, Glenn Robinson III, Corey Brewer, Mo Williams, and my boy A. WIGGINSSSS!!!

Last year, the Wolves were 3rd ppg, 6th in rpg, 5th assist, 26th in points allowed. If they can even get into the top 20 in team defense, I think they can contend for a playoff spot until the final week of the regular season. I’m excited to see this team play. Andrew Wiggins wins Rookie of the Year award (even if he has to share it with Jabari Parker–I think getting shunned by the Cavs/Lebron will be the best thing to ever happen for his career–this is the chip on the shoulder he needed).

You know who didn’t have to do a damn thing this year? The NBA (World?) champion Spurs re-signed their role players and drafted triple-double machine, 6’9 PG Kyle Anderson from UCLA. I see this being a quiet title defense for the Spurs. Everyone is going bananas over the revamped Cavaliers, when the Spurs dismantled a team that currently looked better than what Cleveland is running out onto the court. I see the Spurs just chilling in the cut until their “Rodeo trip” and then landing a #3 seed in the playoffs. Health is the biggest factor for them. Their bench players will play just as big a role (probably a bigger role) as last year’s title run.

Anyway, enough with all the formalities. Time to put my name on the line.

MVP Lebron (of course)

Co-Rookies of the Year
Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker

Eastern Conference
1. Cleveland
2. Wizards
3. Raptors
4. Chicago
5. Miami
6. Charlotte
7. Milwaukee
8. Atlanta

Western Conference

1. Clippers
2. OKC
3. Spurs
4. Mavericks
5. Warriors
6. Phoenix
7. Portland
8. Houston

Western Conference Finals

Spurs over Oklahoma City (again)

Eastern Conference Finals

Cleveland over Washington

NBA Finals

Spurs over Cleveland to defend their title and shut down any remaining naysayers. Cleveland isn’t ready yet. This year will be a toss up in the East, but by 2015, it will be Cleveland and then everyone else. As evidenced by all the hype surrounding his return to Ohio, this is still Lebron’s league.

Lovable Losers: 2002 Sacramento Kings

Recently the 2002 Western Conference Finals was commemorated with an oral history by the people closest to the action.
A lot has happened in 12 years and there was so much I’d forgotten or just plain missed during that epic series. I wanted so badly for the Kings to dethrone the champs that I’d forgotten how lousy the officiating was for both teams throughout that series. I’d forgotten how poorly the Kings had played besides Bobby Jackson (why didn’t Rick Adelman give my boy more burn during crunch time?) and Mike Bibby (who was absolutely clutch). Let’s not waste anymore time, here is a long overdue, installment of “Lovable Losers”–an homage to the 2001-2002 Sacramento Kings.

Head Coach: Rick Adelman

Record 61-21

Starters: C Vlade Divac, PF Chris Webber, SF Peja Stojakavic, SG Doug Christie, PG Mike Bibby

Key Bench Players: C Scot Pollard, SF Hedo Turkoglu, PG Bobby Jackson

Were it not for Lebron James ascent into basketball royalty, the Eastern Conference would still be a doormat. Besides the Heat, there isn’t a team in the east what could beat any of the top Western Conference teams twice in a 7 game series. After Michael Jordan retired, the Eastern Conference became a doormat and once the Lakers grabbed the mantle away from the Bulls, the NBA Finals was about as entertaining as a community pick up game. The New Jersey Nets were atrocious and everyone knew that whoever won the West would take the title. The kings won 61 games that year, had home court advantage and looked primed and ready to finally give the Lakers a run for their money.

Well what happened? Why did they lose? The Kings had one of the most entertaining teams around. They played good enough defense. They were easily the best passing team in the NBA at that time with a legitimate point guard taking over the duties from Jason “White Chocolate” Williams. Chris Webber (a human highlight reel all by himself and Vlade Divac were two of the best passing big men around. Bobby Jackson was an electrifying spark plug that came off the bench (he won the sixth man award that year). Peja Stojakavic and Doug Christie were bombing 3 pointers from the wings and the corners. They also had one of the loudest arenas around (Think OKC’s Chesapeake Arena but with Cowbells). Watching the Kings play at home was about as good of a basketball watching experience as you could get back then. Just hearing the crowd go apeshit to Rock N “Roll part 2, after a back breaking 3 pointer, would get me and my brother hype. “Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!” I’m serious. I thought 2001 was the year. They had a better team than the Lakers from top to bottom, but a lot of things conspired to happen to keep that from happening (we’ll leave the refs out of it this and only discuss the things that were in the Kings’ control).

Coaching

Most players will tell you that Rick Adelman is a “player’s coach” and great to play under. He is a great offensive mind who has gotten multiple teams deep in the playoffs. However, no coach has cock-blocked Adelman’s path to the title more than the Zen Master, Phil Jackson. Jackson had Jordan when the Trailblazers ran into the ’92 Bulls, and ten years later he had Shaq AND Kobe Bryant. What the fuck you supposed to do with that? Outside of the Spurs and Kings, nobody could give the Lakers any run, and that was at Shaquille’s absolute peak as a player, and Kobe had barely scratched the surface of his potential. Phil was always a step ahead of Adelman, and Adelman’s failure to give Bobby Jackson any meaningful minutes (in game 7) when the rest of the players were nutting up, was a gigantic coaching error. Doug Christie was chucking up bricks, and Peja was shooting air-balls. I’m saying though.

Bench and role players

The Kings had no bench really. They only went 8 deep. Los Angeles had chess piece upon chess piece. Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, Brian Shaw chipped in just enough to help out Shaq and Kobe. Scot Pollard was good for committing fouls on Shaq, and offensively he was good for rebounding, or passing.

I’m going to name off these names and you tell me if any of these guys scare you:

Mateen Cleaves
Lawrence Funderburke
Jabari Smith
(a young) Gerald Wallace
Brent Price
Chucky Brown

That is what Adelman had to work with. When it came down to crunch time, the starters were tired. Christie was asked to guard Kobe Bryant on defense and then was expected to create shots on offense. Hedo Turkoglu was still green. Vlade was banging with Shaq the entire game, and Chris Webber preferred to get his teammates involved rather than take over (Bill Walton would call out Webber time after time saying “Chris Webber needs to take over this game”). Webber made great passes, they were just to people who didn’t want the ball in crunch time.

Experience

The Lakers had been there. Let’s face it. Experience is a motherfucker. Think about the first time you fell in love. Shit was overwhelming wasn’t it? All these hormones and feelings that you had never felt before. Some people got it right the first time, and said and did the right things. Often times this is not the case. More often that not, the flubs and mistakes from that first serious relationship are the reasons why you make things work the next time around. The Kings had never made it this far, and the Lakers were two time defending champs. Being down 3-2 did not scare them in the least bit. I remember in one interview Kobe said that “was looking forward to the challenge.” That was when I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy (though I still thought the Kings would win). The Lakers never blinked while the Kings traded haymakers with them. Any other team would have folded like lawn chairs in an overtime game 7 on the road. Not the Lakers. They stayed focus, climbed on the back of the Big Diesel and pounded their way into the NBA Finals against the putrid New Jersey Nets.

So did the Kings choke? Was there a conspiracy in game 6 to give the game to Lakers? Was Rick Adelman just a basketball version of Buck Showalter (the classic good enough coach to get you there but not good enough to win)? Or were the Lakers just the better team? Maybe it was all of these things, maybe it was none, or maybe the results speak for themselves. The Lakers were good and the rest of the NBA was really bad. It’s hard to call a team that won 61 regular season games and the only team that gave Los Angeles any type of run, a loser.

Maybe they were losers,but they were a fun team to watch, and if they were losers, then what does that say about the rest of the NBA at that time? San Antonio was winning championships back then, but no one outside of south Texas would pay to watch them play. I lived in Texas back then (in Austin) and their style of play put me to sleep. I’d have rather watched those Kings play and lose, than tune in to the Malik Rose, Speedy Claxton, slow it down Spurs of 2002. It just wasn’t entertaining. Maybe we all lost when the Kings were knocked out of the playoffs back in 2002. You’ll never convince me otherwise.

Lovable Losers Part Two: ’99-00 Portland Trailblazers

[Originally posted on sportsblog.com 12/29/13]

This will probably be one of the more painful posts I will ever have to write. Not just because this was one of my favorite NBA rosters of all time, but also because it signaled the beginning of a Lakers dynasty that (arguably) should have never been. Had Portland won that series, Jalen Rose, Reggie Miller, and Rick Smits may have won themselves championship rings. Rip City might have had a different decade than the one that elicited this video essay from Bill Simmons. We would be talking about Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in a whole new light. Maybe even the 2002 Kings would have managed to not get jobbed out of a chance to compete for the NBA title. As it stands, the Lakers beat the Blazers in the ’99-00 playoffs and this play will remain in NBA folklore forever. Today we will examine one of my favorite all time teams not win a dog gone thing: the ’99-00 Trailblazers.

Head Coach: Mike Dunleavy

Team Record: 59-23

Starters:

C Arvydas Sabonis, PF Rasheed Wallace, SF Scottie Pippen SG Steve Smith, PG Damon Stoudamire

Key Bench Players: PG Greg Anthony, SG Stacey Augmon PF Jermaine O’Neal, PF Brian Grant

SF Detlef Schrempf , SF Bonzi Wells

Besides Scottie Pippen, no one on the team had won an NBA championship. Scottie was supposed to be the player they needed to get them over the hump. I was never crazy about Scottie as a player (I hated the Bulls) but I had to admit the dude was good, and he definitely had championship experience playing with Jordan.

Rasheed was already one of my favorite players of all time. I had watched him as much as I could during his Carolina days and I loved his game. Rasheed could post up anyone on the block (something I always wished he’d done more of–he seemed to fall in love with shooting the 3 pointer). He could also get hot and make teams pay with his long range shooting (I remember him yelling at the Mavericks one time to “get someone on him” after he was taxing them with 3 pointers). Best of all, ‘Sheed refused to break under the iron fisted rule of David Stern. He managed to become one of the best quotable athletes of my generation (Warren Sapp is one of the other guys who comes to mind too)

Greg Anthony was one of may favorite guys too—I had first started watching hoops during his UNLV days and rooted for him when he played on the Knicks. I can’t say enough about Sabonis. I loved how he passed, I loved his shot, I loved that he was old and rickety, but still had enough old man game in him to make an impact. The whole time he played in the NBA, I wondered just how good he’d have been had he came into the league when he was young and healthy.

The rest of the guys I was whatever about. My little brother loved Bonzi for some strange reason (I think it was the head band). Mighty Mouse (Stoudamire) was an okay player, Augmon, Steve Smith, and Schrempf were good enough. I had never been too crazy about them as players, but I had owned their basketball cards at one time or another when I collected. Brian Grant seemed like a cool dude (this would be confirmed years later when I would run into him at PDX airport one summer).

There is something about game 7 of the Western Conference Finals that still haunts me to this day. I watched the game with my little brother and we laughed, oohed and awed in glee at the way the game was going. The Lakers were making mistakes and the Blazers were capitalizing on it. Los Angeles couldn’t figure out an answer to the Blazers’ offense the whole series.

Sabonis was setting up outside of the paint and daring Shaq to come and guard him. If Shaq ventured out to pick him up, Sabonis whipped a sick pass towards a cutter for an easy bucket (and for those of you who don’t know, Sabonis is one of the best passing big men the NBA has ever seen–check out this pass). If Shaq stayed in the paint, then Arvydas just hoisted up a 3 ball. Rasheed was popping it like he was known to do back then (he had 30 points in that game 7 while shooting only 2 3 pointers). There was even a stretch where Bonzi Wells seemed to be taking over the game (eliciting a “give it to Bonzi!” every time the Blazers brought the ball down).

To this day I can’t stand to watch replays of that game. My brother and I watched in uncomfortable silence as the Blazers all of a sudden stopped making baskets, and the Lakers started to digging into the (what appeared to be a comfortable) 15 point lead. By the time Kobe hit Shaq on the alley-oop, we were too stunned to speak. I spent the rest of the day trying to process the disappointment of not only the hated Lakers being back in the Finals, but my favorite cast of characters (since the ’93 Suns) losing their chance to face the Pacers. It reminded me of the feelings of bewilderment as I watched the Houston Oilers collapse against the Buffalo Bills in the 1992 playoffs.

So was it the Lakers defense or were the Blazers just standing around and settling on bad shots? I can’t tell you, and I don’t care to remember. But if you look at the box scores of that game you will see that Schrempf and Bonzi were the only two players to come off the bench and score (a combined total of 13 points). Robert Horry, Brian Shaw, and Derek Fisher combined for 25 points off the bench.

I can vividly recall the growing frustration with Portland’s inability to get buckets (there may have been a 8 minute scoreless stretch during the 4th quarter). They played great defense that game. If someone told me beforehand that Kobe would only get 25 points and Shaq would only get 18 points on 5 for 9 shooting, I would have penciled in a W for the Blazers. But it just wasn’t meant to be. No one could get any buckets in the paint (Sabonis and Pippen combined to score as many as Shaquille).

I’m sure some of the outcome has to do with the coaching match up of Phil Jackson vs. Mike Dunleavy. I’m sure by game 7 Phil had made the necessary adjustments to curb the Sabonis-O’Neal advantage that Portland had been exploiting over the course of the series. I’m also certain that Phil had made sure the Lakers stuck to their defensive assignments and forced Portland to be a jump shooting team.

Looking at things now as a 35 year old man, and not as an emotional 21 year Lakers hater, adds a little context to the situation. If I were to watch that tape now, it would probably be more of an examination of how brilliant of a coach Phil Jackson was, rather than revisiting one of the greatest collapses in sports history. The final score of the game was 89-84, Los Angeles, and the rest is history.

The Lakers became a dynasty and Portland well…. just watch the video essay by Simmons. I can’t necessarily say the Trailblazers were losers, they fought back from a 3-1 series deficit to get to that pivotal moment for both franchises. I can say that every Trailblazers fan I have come across since that night wears the same look of disappointment when that game 7 comes up in conversation. If you watched game 7 of the Western Conference Finals that year, its something that is impossible to forget.

Unfortunately Sabonis never got a ring, neither did Anthony,or anyone on that team other Rasheed (2004 Pistons). Only three players from that series are even active now, Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, and Jermaine O’Neal. Of the three, Derek Fisher is the only one not on the injured list (I’m not sure what this says about OKC that they are still relying on his production). O’Neal broke his hand playing for the Warriors, and Kobe of course broke his kneecap.

You know what? This post wasn’t quite as painful as I thought it would be. After careful examination, its much easier to give props to L.A. than to chastise Portland for choking. A few years ago, my buddy and I replayed this game on X-BOX, with me as Portland and he the Lakers. The game wasn’t even that close. He smashed me. Besides an occasional 3 pointer from Sabonis and Wallace, it was difficult getting buckets. I figured Greg Anthony and Schrempf would keep his team honest, but if the jumpers weren’t falling, I was in trouble. Every time I took the ball in the paint, my players would get blocked by Shaq or the ball would get stolen by one of his lengthy defenders. The frustration was building and soon I was cussing and yelling at the players on screen. His response was classic. ” Why you getting mad dude? There is a reason why they didn’t win anything. Pick a better team next time.”

Sometimes it’s not meant to be. Just ask Spurs fans.