The Finish Line

Here we are at the finish line. If the season ended today, the first round would look like this:

Eastern Conference

Cleveland vs Indiana

Toronto vs. Detroit

Atlanta vs. Charlotte

Boston vs. Miami

Western Conference

Golden State vs. Utah (please Hoops Gods, for the love of everything sacred about basketball, don’t let the Rockets get in)

San Antonio vs. Dallas

Oklahoma City vs. Memphis

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Portland

Wednesday is the last day of the regular season. By Thursday the playoff matchups will be set, and by then it will be fairly easy to predict what the Finals matchup will look like. At this point, Golden State vs. Cleveland seems to be a forgone conclusion, but anything can happen in 2 months of playoff ball.

Spurs fans should pray that someone beats up, or knocks off the Warriors before a potential playoff meeting, because that is a really bad matchup for them. The length and athleticism on Golden State is just too much for San Antonio. Watching them play reminds me of the Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis fight. Lewis was too fast, too strong, for the past his prime Tyson.

The Warriors have a far superior backcourt, and the slim advantages that the Spurs have in depth and coaching aren’t enough to overcome that mismatch (Not to mention that Harrison Barnes is a huge x factor to plan against, Barnes is about to get PAID).

Despite the postseason outcome becoming fairly apparent way early in the season, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what this year brought. The Timberwolves were a nice little story despite the Flip Saunders tragedy. Karl Anthony Towns is going to be a force to reckon with, and Andrew Wiggins can be the Kobe to his Shaquille (but without the fight for Alpha dog status). The Spurs had a very fun and memorable season and despite what happens going forward, it will be remembered as a success.

There was a lot of goofy shit that happened off the court that isn’t worth getting into, but it did affect the on the court product for the Lakers, Clippers, Sixers, the Cavaliers, and the Kings. People who expected the Pelicans and Bucks to improve upon last year’s success were disappointed.  Hopefully next year will be just as exciting on the court, but with less off the court b.s. My wish list? Alright, twist my arm.

  1. Shabazz  Muhammad to the Mavericks. I think he and  Rick Carlisle would be good for each other.
  2. Tom Thibodeau to Sacramento. All I want in this life is to see Ben Mclemore and “Boogie Down” Cousins to play for a real coach.That Kings team was too talented to not make the playoffs this year. #dysfunctionjunction
  3. Kevin Durant to Golden State and Harrison Barnes to Portland. Aren’t you just a little curious? Despite what people think, I’m not sure KD is obsessed with getting his touches. I bet he’d be satisfied with an 11 for 15 line and a legitimate chance at a chip. For some reason I think Barnes with Damien Lillard and C.J. McCollum would be a great trio to build around. All you would need to do was add a rim protector and suddenly they are a contender.
  4. Thomas Robinson to the Spurs. T-Rob has not gotten a fair shake in this league yet. I think Gregg Popovich could use a guy like that. Imagine Dejuan Blair, but with knees.
  5. Shelvin Mack and Gordon Heyward to Boston. I know it is unrealistic, but I can’t be the only one fantasizing about them reuniting with Brad Stevens. The “Salt Lake City Punks” would be crazy to give up Heyward. It is in Utah’s contract to always have a white superstar for their franchise, and Heyward is that face. gordon-hayward-nba-utah-jazz-golden-state-warriors5

If at least one of these things occurs, I will consider the 2017 season a success.

I’m not sure how many of you have subscribed to Shea Serrano‘s Basketball and (Other Things) Newsletter, but I would recommend you peep game. Last week’s “Assault on Precinct 1” issue was easily one of the funniest things I have come across this year. It was so good that it inspired me to do an ESPN REMIX using the exact same premise. You can’t be the “World Wide Leader” without having snitches, police, double agents, and confessions. So according to the format provided by Serrano, just who on ESPN is police?

Are Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith police?  Typically in comic books, graphic novels, Edgar Allen Poe short stories, movies and television shows, the police are depicted as inept, bumbling and comical—“so dumb that they have to be told to come out of the rain” as an English professor once told me. Bayless and Smith, if they are cops, would be likened to the Smitty and Hoppy characters from Sanford and Son. Bayless and Smith are mostly on some harmless buffonery in ESPN’s attempt to get ratings. I guess it works. People watch them and let themselves worked up. Do they mislead people to get ratings? Do they take quotes out of context and run with them? Oh you betcha. Do they say things they really don’t believe just to stir up controversy? Absolutely. They are definitely the “Po-Po.”

Is Bill Simmons the police? You ever see those cop shows, where there is a detective who always thinks he is the smartest guy in the room? You know– the cop who does things according to his rules, they call them “rogue cops.” That is Simmons. Simmons thought he was Dirty Harry, but went out more like Officer McNulty from the Wire.  Simmons got wind of the corruption in City Hall and threatened to expose it. Tired of the office politics at his particular station, Simmons goes rogue once too many times, and gets shown his walking papers. The police chief, John Skipper said “Gimme your badge Simmons. You’re done here. Consider yourself retired, you can cash in your pension at the district offices.” Then Simmons was like ” Fuck this department. You know where you would be without me? You’d still be showing Roy Firestone interviews on ESPN2, on the 4pm time slot, if it weren’t for my brilliant police work.” Then on his way out, he slams the office door so hard that the glass shatters everywhere. Skipper’s personal assistant immediately tries using his stack of paperwork for a dustpan as Simmons walked past him, but Skipper tells him to just leave it. Simmons then waits outside the station for his Uber before the scene cuts to a commercial. So yes. Bill Simmons was once police. Now he is not. He’s more like a private detective now.

Is Dan Lebatard the police? Yes, but in the way that David Simon was police. Simply putting reporting crime in hopes of weaving together a tale that will someday get him a tv deal.

Is Zach Lowe the police? No. Even in a fictional world, Zach Lowe is a reporter who just wants to do good work and go home to his family. He is thorough, and methodical and enjoys his job. He is a man above the corruption and politics. He usually asks the right questions that hint at plot twists, and reveals. In a police movie, he would be the reporter who got himself kidnapped because he got a little too close to the truth.

Is Jason Whitlock police? HA! Have you seen Jason Whitlock? He wouldn’t be able to pass the physical exam. If he were police, he’d be an extra on a Police Academy remake. That being said, Jason Whitlock has a reputation of being a hater, and a suspected snitch.

Is Adam Schefter police? Man. What do you think? Is there anybody on that staff with more eyes and ears on the streets than Adam Schefter? Schefter is the kind of cop whose motto is you are only as good of police as your informants.” Hell yeah he police.

Other notable ESPN police:

Amin Elhassan- Yes. A dirty one. Officer Friendly from Master P’s “I’m Bout it” movie. He is every black cop you’ve ever seen (on tv or in real life) who is an asshole for no reason at all. That being said, a great twitter follow. The man is such a fantastic shit to everyone (to be fair he’s bombarded with tons of idiotic tweets) that it is impossible to take your eyes off his timeline, but it may be better just to avoid this guy altogether if you to. 

David Jacoby –Maybe he is, or maybe he isn’t. But anybody who claims to love hip hop and says they don’t know about Nelly’s “Tip Drill” video, is in my mind suspect. “Pleasssssse. Check him for a wire or an ear piece.”

Notable Non-Police:

Jalen Rose– Just that dude from the neighborhood who knows everything that is going down before it even happens. Homie is like Huggy Bear from the Starsky and Hutch series. He may work with police, but he ain’t police. Also check out his autobiography, “Got to Give the People What They Want.” It is a pretty entertaining read. I’ll be doing a book review on it later this week on the site.

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Bomani Jones– HELLLLLLLLLLL NO!

jones

 

Big ups to Shea Serrano, one of my favorite writers right now, who I hope isn’t offended that I borrowed his format and ran with it. As a hip hop fan (whose book I will be purchasing this week sometime), I hope he thinks of this as someone freestyling over a beat he made hot, as opposed to straight biting his style (Call me crazy, but I think we may be able to get him on the Full Sass Podcast someday).

Good Ass Games of the Week are posted below, and remember folks, “Be careful out there.”

 

Peace,

BM

#fullsass #thisagoodassgame

thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

Good Ass Games of The Week:

 

Monday

Dallas-Utah 

Somebody has to play the Spurs, and somebody has to play the Warriors.  This game is basically flipping a coin to determine their team’s playoff fate.

Charlotte-Boston

Both teams are just jockeying for seedings, but no matter the result, it looks like those first round matchups out east are pretty much set.

 

“Tap That Vein” Tuesday

Memphis- Los Angeles Clippers 

This may be a preview. We may see these teams face off in the playoffs. This is like getting a first round bye for whoever gets to play Memphis. They got decimated with injuries this year and still made the playoffs. #respect

Oklahoma City- San Antonio

I doubt either team will play their starters, but it is always fun to watch the Spurs bench whup on the other teams’ reserve players.

 

Wednesday

Spurs-Dallas

Dallas will try to win this game and still may get blown out.

Memphis-Golden State (Good Ass Game of The Week)

This could be win number 73 or this could be win number 72. We’ll see how San Antonio plays things tonight against the Dubs.

 

END OF SEASON. NEXT WEEK: FULLSASS PLAYOFF PREVIEW

 

 

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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.