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

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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

It’s Kentucky’s World (and everyone else is just in it)

Are you ready to read the fastest college basketball preview ever?
This year’s title is Kentucky’s to lose. Why do I say that?

Let’s start with the number 9.

That is how many McDonald’s All Americans John Calipari has playing for his team this year.
You know how many NBA teams have nine McDonald’s All Americans playing for them?
One–the Charlotte Hornets.

With a front-line of (Olathe’s own) Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee, and a backcourt of the Harrison twins (who led the team to Final Four during their freshman year–think about THAT), Kentucky is the hands down favorite to take the championship this year. People from Syracuse, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Lawrence ain’t gonna wanna hear that but it’s the truth.

If you are a hoops fan, this is the year to just watch for the players (There won’t be much drama–hate to say it). This draft could be just as deep as last year’s–if not deeper. The majority of those lottery picks will be coming from two programs, Duke, and Kentucky.

Kansas will be good of course, they reloaded after losing Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. Cliff Alexander stands to become the next Thomas Robinson, and Kelly Oubre is a great replacement at the wing. Wayne Selden will be returning to have an even bigger impact as the leader of that team. Perry Ellis will continue to quietly put up his double-doubles.

The biggest question (again) will be at point guard. Conner Frankamp, Frank Mason, and newcomer Devonte Graham will all get chances to handle the rock. I’m curious how much improvement we will see from Frankamp, Mason and former “Mr. Georgia Basketball” Brannen Greene. There is also some hype surrounding this new kid from the Ukraine, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (though I do wonder how an 16 year old from a war torn country will handle being away from his family). I’ve seen his highlights and I like what I saw from him (I was really impressed when I played with him on NCAA basketball on X-box–he was the only one who could consistently hit 3’s).

If you look at the Jayhawks roster, you’ll see that they are still pretty young, with only one senior on the team–benchwarmer Christian Garrett. If anyone other than Rick Barnes coached the University of Texas basketball team, I’d say the Horns were ripe to pluck the Big-12 title away from Bill Self. Texas will be entertaining to watch though, with Cameron Ridley, Isiah Taylor and newcomer Myles Turner as the top stars. Barnes will figure out a way to lose at least 3 games they should win this season.

If anyone is close enough to snatch that streak from KU, it is Fred Hoiberg and Iowa State. The “Mayor” always seems to get the best out of his players, and not in a Tom Izzo “scream at the players until he’s hoarse” kind of way. Iowa State will miss DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim, but don’t sleep on the Cyclones. They could easily grab second place in the Big 12 standings.

I just looked at Duke’s stacked roster for the year and was tempted to write up a quick blurb about them, but then again what is there to say? They’ll blow through the ACC with that loaded roster and put up points against every team they face. They’ll win 20 plus games and lose maybe 5 (one of them to Carolina of course), and then they’ll get knocked out in the Elite Eight (yawn). Wake me up for the next lacrosse court case, otherwise I don’t wanna hear shit about Duke University.

Don’t sleep on the boys out of the Missouri Valley Conference–Wichita State. Sure they lost CleAnthony Early, but they return Tekele Cotton, Ron Baker, and Fred Van Fleet, along with coach Gregg Marshall. they won’t go undefeated this year, but they will still “play angry” and win their conference (and could go deep into the tournament depending on who they draw).

Living back on Tulsa time, I am right in the middle of things. I can catch a few Jayhawks’ games up in Allen Fieldhouse, down in Texas, or right here in Oklahoma. I’m honestly more excited about the NBA this year (again), but I have a couple of games circled this year. I want to be there in person for the KU-ISU game in Lawrence, KU-Texas is worth a drive up as well, and on December 5th, Florida visits Kansas for what should be a pretty hype affair.

Depending on what you are looking for, it will be a pretty entertaining year. There will be tons of draft hype, and there will be some good games for sure. If you are hoping for somebody other than Kentucky to win this year, you’ll more than likely be disappointed. Otherwise just enjoy it for what it is. If you saw how close Kentucky came last year to winning it all, then it won’t surprise you to see the Harrison boys and Alex Poythress cutting down the nets in April.

Next post: NBA Preview Click-Picka style!