2016-2017 Season Preview: Top 26 Storylines Part One

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

All Illustrations by Louis Eastman

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

Amin Elhassan fullsizerender-4

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

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

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

Buddy Hield

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

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

Celtics Are Legit Contenders

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

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

Draymond Green

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

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

Everybody Eats This Season 

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

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

Finals Rematch (Again)

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

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

Giannis Antetokounmpo Playing The Point 

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

Harrison Barnes: The 94 Million Dollar Man

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

Iggy’s back  

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

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

 

The 3 J’s (reboot)

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

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

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

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

Klay “ I’m Not Sacrificing Shit” Thompson

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

TO BE CONTINUED:

 

BM

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

THE JUMP OFF

Its been a busy week for ya boi Bmick: Went to Austin to record a podcast with my Craig on fullsass.com, threw up a couple of blog posts (big ups to my boys Jordan and Alex for blessin’ the game), and last night worked my first private gig as a standup comic (also did my first clean set ever–who knew I had it in me?).

Out of all that activity, the most important thing I did was get that NBA League Pass. Its a game changer no doubt. Now I’m ready for “Tip-off Tuesday” So let’s get it:

TUESDAY

Detroit-Atlanta

Cleveland-Chicago

New Orleans-Golden State

Three good ass games that night. I’m curious how my boy Stanley Johnson plays. I was so hype on Justice Winslow this season that I forgot all about Stanley Johnson being on the Pistons. Detroit has interesting squad. If they were playing out West they’d be trash, but they benefit greatly from being out east. Later on in the season, I will tell you to avoid this game. But its “TIP OFF TUESDAY DAWG!!!!” We ain’t had no basketball in months. You gotta get it in!

Unless you napping, or peeping game 1 of the World Series, you should at least watch the second half of this game. Don’t get too up or down on either team for Cleveland-Chicago game. Media gonna be overreacting the next day no matter who wins. ESPN will have some bullshit narrative to run into the ground, as Bill Plaschke and other talking heads talk about early warning signs for the losing team. GUYS!! GUYS!! GUYS!!! Calm the fuck down. It’s only game 1 of an 82 season.

You best believe I’ll be up late  watching that Golden State-New Orleans game. Coach Gentry getting his ring will be a nice thing to witness for the Pelicans players, but minus Anthony Davis, they really don’t have anything. That is how good “Lil Brow Wow” is. He’s my MVP pick for the year.

Wednesday

Spurs-Thunder (Good Ass Game of the Week) 

I was supposed to work my second job this night, but I can already feel this developing cough coming on. [COUGH COUGH WINK WINK ELBOW NUDGE]

Dallas-Phoenix

Battle for the eighth seed begins.

Cleveland-Memphis

I’m not saying Cleveland is going to punk out, but this going to be a physical game on the 2nd of back-to-backs for the Lebrons. Go ahead and get that ice bath ready fellas. You’re going to need it. Speaking of physical:

Clippers-Kings 

Will be a game chock full of testosterone. If I were a groupie trying to get a meal ticket, this game would be circled on my calendar. There’s some young entrepreneurs holed now in some Sacramento hotel right now, poking holes in condoms and vacuum sealing the packaging.

Minnesota-Los Angeles

This game will be full of cool highlights, but will also have loads of stupid turnovers. This may as well be a Rookies vs. Sophomores game with KG and Kobe as the head coaches. I’ll fight off sleep just long enough to watch the first half. I like to leave the betting to Alex Knapp, but I’ll say that there will be at least 3 insane dunks that makes Sportscenter from this one.

“Tap that Vein Thursday”

You’ll have plenty of opportunities to watch the Pacers play, so unless you really need to see them unveil the

Hickory High uniforms, use the Memphis-Indiana game to be productive.

Side note: Am I the only one who thinks Memphis would be better off playing in the Eastern Conference? They would be beastin’ if they were over there (and they probably should be, they are no longer from Vancouver–also, how many Grizzlies are really in Tennessee?). If they were in the east they’d easily be a top 3 contender.

Dallas-Los Angeles Clippers

I don’t know about this one either. Use Thursday night to build up cache with your loved one. Its early in the season, but every little bit counts. Unless you and your wife are hardcore Mavs fans, and you want to brainwash your infant into being a Mavs fan too, I’d say do something else. Its only the first week. This matchup will mean a lot more as the season moves along.

Friday

Its going to be a busy night for the Mickster. The World Series will have moved to what is currently my favorite American city (Queens representin’), I’ll be showing my face at a Halloween party that night (dressed as you guessed it, an NBA ref), and there are a ton of games.

Houston-Golden State and Miami-Cleveland will be the main attractions, but with NBA League PASS, I can go home and watch the Portland-Phoenix, Lakers-Kings, and Bulls-Pistons games after the fact. #GAMECHANGER

Saturday

Its Halloween. Don’t bother. Golden State-New Orleans play again for the 2nd night in one week, and on the 2nd night of a back-to-back.In fact, everybody plays back  to back on Halloween. Do yourself a favor and go get liquored up and make a bad decision or two (nothing that you can’t videotape or that will get you thrown in jail).

Sunday (First of tha month)

Can you think of a better way to nurse a hangover than to watch the Spurs beat the Celtics?

Houston-Miami won’t be a bad watch either, and you could do worse things than tune in to Milwaukee-Toronto.

Monday

Oklahoma City-Houston

Runner-up to the Good Ass Game of the Week.

Memphis-Golden State

“YUP!!!!”

~E-40

Portland-Minnesota and Suns-Clippers 

are worth checking out during timeouts and commercials, but honestly the highlights will be better than the games themselves. No disrespect to the fan base of either franchises, but you know what it is.

Big Ups of the Week to:

Jerry Colangelo USA basketball committee for finally doing what is right. Gregg Popovich has done as much for the game of basketball as anyone not named James Naismith. This is a win for everyone involved, but most of all this is a win for the game of basketball. I’m getting choked up just writing about this. Big ups!

So that’s it. The NBA season starts on Tuesday, and I couldn’t be happier. Basketball season is finally here. GOOD NEWS. GOOD NEEEEWWWWWWWWHHHHHHOOOOOOSSSSSSS.

Shout out to the Mets and the Royals for what will be a classic World Series. I think the Royals will take it in 7. I’ll be happy for either fan base no matter who wins. Although,I’ll just be more happier Mets fans. Kansas City is in Missouri after all. And we all know how I feel about that state.

Be cool.

Bobby Mickey

@clickpicka79

#thisagoodassgame

fullsass.com

bobbymickey@gmail.com

Stretch Run

We’re down to the endgame of the regular season. The teams in the bottom half of each conference are jockeying for position. If the playoffs were to start today, the first round would look like this:

Boston vs. Atlanta

Cleveland vs. Miami

Toronto vs. Milwaukee

Chicago vs. Washington

Portland vs. Los Angeles

Houston vs. San Antonio

Golden State vs. Oklahoma City

Memphis vs. Dallas

Charlotte, Indiana, and Brooklyn are fighting it out with Boston, Milwaukee, and Miami for those last three spots. A well timed winning/losing streak will certainly affect which team will get knocked out in the first round, and which team will be opening envelopes at this year’s Lottery telecast.

The Western Conference teams are scrapping for spots as well. Dallas seems to be trending downward, while Phoenix and New Orleans can’t seem to get out of their own way. I personally haven’t enjoyed watching the Mavericks as much during the second half of the season. Something is wrong, and I’m not astute enough to figure it out.

If they don’t get it together though they won’t have to worry about facing Memphis in the first round, it will be Oklahoma City or New Orleans in their place. Speaking of Memphis, I think the key to anyone’s sustained playoff run is to avoid the Grizzlies in the first round. They are the kind of team where even if they don’t beat you, they will beat you up enough to where the next round is that much tougher on teams’ bodies. I like the Spurs chances of a deep run if they can maintain a 6 seed or higher.

From what I have heard, last week’s Good Ass Game of the Week was the ATLiens vs. the Thunder. This is exactly why I MUST get NBA League Pass next year.

Monday: Night off for “National Puppy Day”

Tuesday: Golden State-Portland Lamenting the fact that I can no longer send “Wesley!!!!” texts to my Portland homies.

San Antonio-Dallas [note: already played. Dallas won 101-94]

As opposed to the Mavs who are trending downward, the Spurs seem to be gelling at the perfect time. It is no accident that their success has been tied to Kawhi being healthy. I hear they have all kinds of nicknames for him down in San Antonio. “Kingslayer” is one of them. The “Claw” is another one. I was thinking Dr. Kawhi would be ill (because you know with hands that big he should be a doctor—or a masseuse). If you wanted to get on that Inspector Gadget tip, he could be “Dr. Claw.”

Wednesday

Houston-New Orleans M-V-P M-V-P M-V-P!!!!

Oklahoma City-San Antonio The playoffs won’t feel the same without my favorite NBA player in it. It’ll be interesting to see what the Thunder do without Durant.I hope this isn’t a sneak peek of what is to come for the franchise.

Cavaliers-Grizzlies Probably the Good Ass Game of the Week.

Thursday

NCAA sweet sixteen. I know I bag on the NCAA games this year, but if you were to watch, this is the round to do so—especially Thursday night.

Wichita State-Notre Dame

Wisconsin-UNC

Arizona-Xavier

Kentucky-West Virginia

Friday

Dallas-San Antonio

Run it back.

Memphis-Golden State Can there be a Better Good Ass Game of the Week?

Portland-Phoenix

Saturday NCAA’s Elite Eight?

Sunday

Oklahoma City vs. Phoenix
Memphis vs. San Antonio

Starting to feel like the playoffs.

Big Ups Of the Week to the Wichita State Shockers for proving me right about them. I been saying for a minute that they had the best backcourt in the country. I also remember saying that they would have beaten KU last year (when both teams had even bigger star power), and that if Fred Van Fleet were running point for them last year they’d have won it all (they’d be final four if they had both Van Fleet and Ron Baker). Most Jayhawk fans were shocked about the outcome, but this guy was not.

Buster of the Week Award goes to my little brother for picking the Iowa State Cyclones to win it all in one of his brackets. Even though it would be sweet to see the Shockers turn the tables on the Kentucky Wildcats, I don’t see anyone ending this historic run for “Cadillac” Calipari.

See you next week.

BM
@clickpicka79
#thisagoodassgame

Winter Flurries

Say hello and goodbye to the busiest trading deadline in NBA history. I updated my favorite websites every 20 minutes to catch up on any breaking news. Every 1 of 3 texts was NBA related from other junkies like myself. It was an exciting day. So who got better?

Oklahoma City may arguably have the best bench full of role players the team has ever had. Kyle Singler and Steve Novak should help stretch the floor the Thunder. I’m sure D.J. Augustin and Kevin Durant were hype to find out they’d be playing together again. Enes Kanter was a quality big too who was underexposed in Utah. He is already putting up numbers–getting 20 points in the first two games playing there.

More importantly, they shed some dead weight in Kendrick Perkins and Reggie Jackson. Both guys had put in some work during their tenure in OKC, but it was just time.

Detroit got a good deal in bringing Reggie along. Pistons look poised to take the 8th seed from Brooklyn, while Miami will certainly suffer with the loss of Chris Bosh (despite the crafty work of Pat Riley to get the Dragic brothers for next to nothing).

Finding minutes for a talent like Arron Afflalo is a good problem to have for Portland. They gave up very little for that acquisition. I was surprised there were no takers for his former backcourt mate Ty Lawson.

It looks like Phoenix is throwing in the towel this season by trading away half their team. Who knows? Maybe they’ll get lucky and draft Stanley Johnson, Jalhil Okafor, or Willie Cauley-Stein.

This Week’s Good Ass Games

Monday

Memphis-Clippers

It’s a shame that Blake is out for this one. I really enjoyed seeing him and Z-Bo tussle in the paint. The only game worth checking out tomorrow night.

Tuesday

“Tap that vein Tuesday” continues with Toronto-Dallas. Watch this game because you’re a fan of either team. I personally don’t enjoy watching Toronto play, but by all means tap that vein if you need it that badly.

Wednesday Between Dallas-Atlanta, Houston-LA Clippers, and San-Antonio-Portland, there should be no excuse for not finding a Good Ass Game to watch on Wednesday night. If I could only watch one of these games, then ATL-DAL would be my pick to click.

Thursday

Golden-State-Cleveland is the “Good Ass GAme of the Week if Steph Curry is healthy enough to play. I just got chills thinking about the possibilities.

Phoenix-Oklahoma City will be competitive, however Phoenix made themselves slightly less watchable by trading away Isiah thomas and Goran Dragic. It will still be worth watching it to see Russ Westbrook get them buckets.

Friday

Golden State-Toronto for the undercard, and then finish the night off with Portland-Oklahoma City.This one might get nasty.

Saturday

San Antonio-Phoenix gets the selection by default. I will personally find something else to do that night. If the game were in San Antonio, an earlier tip-off would allow a person to watch the game and have a Saturday night. 9:00 to 11:30 is a critical period in a person’s Saturday night. You have to commit to either staying in and vegging with your favorite pint of ice cream, or going out and socializing. I’ll have to check the weather channel before deciding.

Sunday

Cleveland-Houston Ugh. Why can’t they both lose this game?

Clippers-Chicago Remember when people use to debate who was the better point guard between D.Rose and Chris Paul? Those people scattered faster than you can say “#1 draft pick Greg Oden.”

Buster of the Week Award:

To anyone who watched the Oscars over the Memphis-Portland game tonight. As my man from “Unforgivable” says, “That’s a Mistake!!!.

See ya’ll next week.

Peace.
BM
bobbymickey@gmail.com
@clickpicka79

A Week of Good Ass Games

The more hoop I watch, the clearer it becomes to me how wack the other major sports are. This week really drove that point home. The National Football League’s on the field product is too goddamned boring to justify all the off-the-field bullshit that is going on. It’s like W-W-fucking E with all the drama outside of the white lines. It has gotten so bad that corny ass sports columnists have become major football stories.

Now with the new rules, they may as well put skirts on the quarterbacks and call it powder puff football. Look at this. This is now an illegal hit. I have no interest at all in watching flag football when I could be playing it. No thank you. “You can keep that. Don’t holla at me no more I’ll holla at you.” I liked it better when the NFL didn’t pretend it wasn’t a gladiator sport.

I love playing and coaching baseball, but let’s face it, that shit can be so boring to watch. Baseball is wack for the fact that in the American League a dude can rake in millions of dollars just to bat four times, not play the field, and sit in the dugout and spit sunflower seeds on the ground.

I know that in the NBA the Eastern Conference is the JV to the Western Conference varsity games, but that just means I can direct my focus on only 8 or 9 or 10 teams (and sometimes Chicago). This has been a week of good ass games, starting with
the Milwaukee-Phoenix nail biter, and ending with the Spurs-Mavs.
Tonight’s San Antonio-Dallas game was worth watching even without the Spurs’ top four players playing. I got to finally get a good look at Kyle Anderson, the Spurs first round draft pick (he looked good at times, made some rookie mistakes but I like that he is getting some minutes this early into the season). I also got to watch the Mavericks usher in the Rajon Rondo earlier.

I’m happy for Rondo for a couple of reasons: #1. He is out of the dreaded Eastern Conference. #2. He is finally free of the negativity that is associated with Boston sports. it is no picnic for anyone who plays there, but black athletes dating back to Bill Russell can attest to the difficulties of playing in the city of Boston. Texas is a warmer state (socially and climatically) with lower taxes and he’ll be appreciated in Dallas–playing for one of the best owners in sports.

Rondo is like one of your friends who has been seeing someone that everyone knew was getting a little “strange” on the side. The Celtics have been sneaking around behind Rondo’s back, calling other folks on the phone, sending secret texts and denying that they were looking around for something better.

How is a dude suppose to relax with all that going on? People have been saying for years that Rondo is an island, but maybe he was put on an island by the Celtics a long time ago. Ever since they traded Perkins to the Celtics, there has been an obvious disconnect between the words of Celtics’ front office and their action.

I’m happy for Rondo. He has a talented core of guys to run with, and a genius head coach to put him in a position to succeed. Fuck Boston.

Rondo looked a little in shock but still played well enough to help the Mavs win. He had a couple of nice dimes and a decent game overall with 6 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds (6 of them in the first half). Monta Ellis went full throttle during the end game of the 4th quarter and got 38 points. Even without Duncan, Ginoboli, Parker, and Kawhi Leonard, it managed still a “Good Ass Game.”

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Bobby Mickey, does this mean you’re a Mavericks fan now?” Hell no. But it doesn’t mean I can’t dig watching them. Rondo has always been in my opinion underrated, and I think he will finally be in an environment where he can thrive. Anywhere there is a pass first point guard who can rebound and play defense like Rondo, you best believe I’ll be tuning in.

For the rest of their season they have become the “Must Watch Mavs.” If they can fortify their subs on the front line, they will be as good as any of the other top flight teams in that conference (you could talk me into Memphis, San Antonio, Golden State, Clippers, or OKC depending on what day it is).

Good Ass Games of the Week

Sunday

Somehow I missed that the Grizzlies were playing in Cleveland tomorrow. Well if you are reading this right now while your date is passed out, or in the bathroom taking off their makeup, then don’t let brunch last TOO long. Drop them off in time to at least watch the second half of the game.I’m sure it’ll be worth it. The GrizzleBees should mangle them.

Monday

Portland-Houston In all the Rondo to Dallas excitement, people have slept on Houston’s trade for Corey Brewer. Brewer can defend the perimeter, and is a very good role player who has 3 NCAA rings and an NBA title. Say what you will about Houston, but you can’t call them busters this year. Portland is rolling right now, with everyone playing really well together. “Dark Nowitzki” (big ups Sam) and “Late Game Dame” willed the Blazers to a big win Friday night against the undermanned Spurs (a combined 75 points out of the 129 they scored that night). They are ready to go deep in the playoffs. They remind me of the 2011 OKC squad that made it to the Western Conference for their first time as a franchise. They have that look about them.

Speaking of the undermanned Spurs, they are pretty banged up right now. This could be a very short playoff run for them without Kawhi Leonard. He is the difference between getting to the Finals and getting knocked out in a fiercely contested first round. They have played and lost 3 “Good Ass Games” (2 of them unbelievably good triple overtime affairs) this week.

It doesn’t get any easier for them against the Clippers on Monday, who are looking scary good. J.J. Redick has finally figured out what will keep him in the league and he is doing that well. I knew that he wouldn’t be able to tear up the NBA like he did the ACC, but its good to see he has found himself a good situation. That pick n roll with Chris Paul is so much nastier with guys who can spot up, and they make defenses pay for over committing to the rolling big men.

“Tap the vein” Monday continues with Golden State-Sacramento. The first half of the Golden State-OKC game was the best half of basketball I’d seen all season–up until KD hurt his ankle (Durant had scored 30 points in 18 minutes, missing only 2 shots). The second half atmosphere was deflated a little when it became clear that Durant wouldn’t be back out, but by the fourth quarter it had already wrapped up “Good Ass Game of the Week.” Danny Green hit some big shots this week to make it a little closer than it should have been. I could watch and re-watch the first half of that game over and over again. MMMPPPHH!

Tuesday

Portland vs. OKC
Dallas vs. Phoenix
Golden State vs. Los Angeles Lakers

And they do run run run, they do run run. Look out! The Thunder have played themselves back int the playoff hunt and its no longer a matter if, but of where they will be seeded. Sacramento’s season is over. Unless Phoenix (who have been losing too many close games–you gotta beat those Eastern Conference teams–those are gimmes) and New Orleans make trades, they can call it a wrap. It will probably be the same playoff teams as last year as one super famous former Michigan alum correctly predicted.

Wednesday
Christmas Eve. Get ya money!

Thursday

Spurs-Thunder
Clippers-Warriors

This two games are the only Christmas presents I need. The only thing that would make these match ups better would a healthy Andrew Bogut for the evening showcase–my pick to click for “Good ass Game of the Week”

Friday

Houston-Memphis
There may be some pushing and shoving in what will no doubt be a physical game. Besides that, Friday may be a good time to capitalize on that holiday cheer and see who came into town for the holidays. Regardless whether you are giving, or receiving, make sure you wrap up any gifts that may come down the pipeline that weekend.

Saturday
Trust me. Tonight is the night to get out and do something. You don’t want to be home watching the Pelicans-Bulls on a Saturday night do you? If you must watch it, at least go out to a bar, have a few drinks and talk to to people.

Sunday
Houston-San Antonio
Oklahoma City-Dallas
Phoenix vs. the LOL Lakers

I can’t think of a better way to begin the week can you? Happy holidays and winter solstice. We are only a couple of weeks away from 2015. It’s time to chill, reflect, and project for the next year. As crazy as the world is, there is a lot to look forward to. If we have our health and our family,our hoops and our friends, then we have a lot. Everything else is gravy.

Peace,

BM
#Thisagoodassgame
@Clickpicka79

WHAT’S GOOD?!!

What’s Good?

Everythang!!!

There were a slew of Good Ass Games last week, including a B-Ball watching extravaganza on Friday. Six straight hours of watching basketball on a Friday night, and I couldn’t have been happier. Of course, once those games are over, reality sets in, and I realized that I made no plans for the late night tip. #poorplanning

Since I’ll be going to the Florida-Kansas game on Friday, let’s start with some college hoop. Kansas clearly has a lot of talent, but some of the pieces are not fitting. Bill Self recruits the guys to fit his system, and he always has talented big men, but there is only one basketball. If the ball is distributed evenly each player gets to touch the ball 20 percent of the time. The other 80 percent of basketball involves things other than scoring.

Obviously the Jayhawks are talented, but there is always someone bigger and badder on the block. Kansas ran into the big and bad Wildcats and got stomped. Part of that was talent (Kentucky is clearly the most talented team in the country), but Kansas also didn’t play that smart—which also contributed to such a lopsided score. Kentucky will be impossible to beat if a team is depending on isolation sets and one primary ballhandler. Kansas is not a very good passing team, and Kentucky just waited on the Jayhawks to drive to the rack so they could block their shot.

Michigan State didn’t fare as well defensively against the Jayhawks strategy. They fouled Kansas and put them on the free throw line. Every time the Jayhawks got fouled taking it to the rim, you could see an extra pass leading to an easier bucket. Kansas has to learn how to make that extra pass. Svia Mikhailhiuk gets it, and Frank Mason is looking more comfortable with each game (I really like that backcourt combo–I think they have good on court chemistry).

The problem with recruiting the “one and done” player is the constant turnover messes with cohesion. This is still a young Jayhawks team and the learning curve is almost as steep as last year’s squad. Roles have yet to be established and defined, and all the highly recruited cats come in thinking they are “the man.” Kelly Oubre has yet to look comfortable on the floor, and Cliff Alexander shows flashes of highlight reel potential, but they definitely play like Freshmen.

Cliff Alexander is definitely going to be ill, but I get nervous anytime the Kansas big men (outside of Perry Ellis)put the ball on the floor (do I have an affinity towards big men who can pass? Yeah you could say that). There are no “stretch fours” on the team and you see a lot of clogged lanes on the offensive end—not a good thing if your team doesn’t shoot well from the perimeter.

A basketball team is a community, and in a community different people take on different roles to make that community work. Some people do multiple things well. Some people are really great at one particular thing and mediocre at other things, but communities thrive when everyone is put in a position to succeed at what they are best at. By conference play, the Jayhawk players are going to have to figure out what roles to assume in order to help their team win.

Maybe Cliff Alexander decides that no one is going to outrebound him or get past him on defense, and whatever points he scores along the way is gravy (Kentucky’s Anthony Davis was the fifth leading scorer on that championship team but managed to control the game in every other aspect).

Maybe Wayne Selden decides that no matter how many points he gets on the offensive end (Can he be a “3 and D” guy in the NBA?) that his guy will get locked down on the perimeter. Maybe Frank Mason looks to drive and kick rather than drive and finish, with Svia Mikhailiuk there on the perimeter to keep defenses honest. And maybe Bill Self can get his guys to feed Perry Ellis 15-20 touches a game (he looked really good this weekend in Orlando).

Let’s switch gears and talk about that other team in Kansas–no not the Wildcats silly. I’m talking bout them Shockers. Despite losing Cleanthony Early to graduation last year, Wichita State is just as fun to watch this year. Ron Baker and Fred Van Fleet is the best backcourt combo that no one is talking about.

The way those two guys get their teammates involved is beautiful to watch. Van Fleet had 21 points on 6-11 shooting, 9 assists and ZERO turnovers. As a matter of fact, Ron Baker didn’t have any turnovers either, and he shot 6-14 with 19 points. Of Wichita State’s 25 made field goals, 18 of them were assisted.

People hate on the Shockers for playing in a less renowned conference against “inferior” competition, but if you like smart, beautiful basketball, then catch a Shockers game. They are a real treat to watch and play against Utah on Wednesday. I’ll be watching them play as much as possible this season (and possibly next if both Baker and Van Fleet come back to play with transferring guard Conner Frankamp).

GOOD ASS GAMES OF THE WEEK

Tuesday
OKC vs. New Orleans Would you believe it if I told you that I haven’t watched an OKC game since Russ Westbrook broke his hand. It feels good to put the Thunder on the Good Ass Games list again (for however long it lasts).

Toronto vs. Sacramento Damn. Demar Derozan……I hope he gets well soon. A groin tear sounds really painful, and I was just coming around to enjoy watching the Raptors play too. If you happen to catch this particular game, try to imagine playing an updated version of NBA JAM with these two teams. Which 3 players would you go with? I was thinking about this when I was watching the Hornets the other night (another good NBA jam team). You gotta admit, it’d be fun to play.

Memphis at Houston
Before the season began, both of these teams were my “bubble” teams. I’m still not sold on Houston’s role players just yet and I think they’ll come down to earth by March. As for Memphis, I’m not surprised by how well they are playing at all–Gasol has kicked it into another gear this year. What does surprise me is that they are healthy. It is a loooooooonnnnnggg season, so who knows what will happen.

But Memphis has been looking really tough. I also like that former Michigan State sharpshooter Shawn Respert is an assistant coach there, while Brevin Knight is a color commentator for the organization. It is little things like these that make me realize how fucking old I’m getting.

Chicago at Charlotte
I’m not crazy about the Hornets this year, but there is something very comfortable and relaxing about their announcing team of Steve Martin and Dell Curry. Listening to their play-by-play makes me want to eat Bojangles Chicken and drink sweet tea (or maybe I just had the munchies).

Also, how did no one tell me how hot the dance team was for the Hornets? I’ve been to Charlotte so maybe this shouldn’t have been a surprise but damn! i mean peep this photo from Carolinablitz.com, MAH LORD I DO DECLARE!!! ITS GETTIN

I just may peek in on Lakers vs. Wizards, if only to see that Washington backcourt knock Kobe and co. back to earth. But again, that may be a case of “doing too much.”

Thursday
Cleveland vs. New York It is always fun to see what Lebron will do when he steps onto the floor at MSG. Will his performance spawn inspiration for another rap tune?

Portland-Indiana This is the best I’ve seen Chris Kaman and Steve Blake play which leads me to conclude that Portland is a haven for white and light skinned players. Seriously, this demographic just thrives up in the Pacific Northwest. Imagine what Brent Barry’s career would have been like had the Trailblazers drafted him? then again it is too cold to surf up there, so maybe he wouldn’t have dug it.

New Orleans vs. Golden State This is going to be a good one, and I will probably only get to catch the highlights because I’ll be en route to Lawrence, Kansas. This one has “Good ASS Game of the Week” written all over it. in a couple of years, if Portland and Golden State play their cards right, these two teams could be jockeying for the Western Conference top spots for the latter part of the decade.

The Spurs will hit a small snag where they will be middle of the pack but still making the playoffs, and once Dirk retires, the Mavs will suffer a slightly worse identity crisis. There is nothing that anyone can say that can convince me that Westbrook and Durant are going back to OKC. Who will fill that power vacuum in the west?

Friday
Cleveland-Toronto Eastern Conference Finals Preview? Any takers? By the way, what’s up with this #mynorth commerical? #TorontoAINTHOOD

Memphis-San Antonio
Western Conference Finals Preview? Any takers?

Phoenix-Dallas You can tell Phoenix is really missing the spacing that Channing Frye (another light-skinned guy who flourished in Portland–he still has a home there) provided for the team. Everyone has to work just a little harder to get buckets. It’s so crowded that Gerald Green is throwing alley-oops to himself. Cue up the old ’05, ’06 playoff games NBATV. Those were the days!

Saturday
Clippers-Pelicans Two of the best power forwards. Going at it. ‘Nuff Said.

Golden State-Chicago No way in hell I’m missing this one. There are gonna be some sick dimes dished out in this one. The overused phrase of the night will be “Oooh Filthy!”

Sunday
Rest.

Basketball Movie of the Week:

Gunnin for That #1 Spot. Directed by Adam Yauch.

This is from the first Elite 24 game back in 2006. I first watched this movie back in ’08 when all these young cats were still in high school and college. Cole Aldrich, Lance Stephenson, J.J. Hickson, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Kyle Singler, Jerryd Bayless, Kevin Love, and Michael Beasley were all apart of this event as high school kids. I watched it again this past week, and was struck by how so much had happened in 8 years.

These guys are all NBA veterans now. It is always interesting to go back and watch that kind of stuff with the knowledge of what their futures hold. It’s kind of weird. Anyway, it is worth checking out. There was a bonus disc with my copy of footage of a 2-on-2 pick up game with Beasley and his coach vs. Yauch and someone else. MCA had a little bit of game. I bet he was fun to play ball with. By the way, what is up with Beasley? He must have some serious stuff going on if he hasn’t been picked up by a team. Damn.

Big week of hoops. The first week of December is off to a good start. Enjoy these good ass games.

BM