Category Archives: Basketball

Big Baller Brand: Junior Basketball Association

A few hours ago, several sports media outlets reported the news of LaVar Ball’s desire to start a Junior Basketball Association, where High School Graduates who are looking to forgo attending college will have the option to begin a professional career here in the United States, receiving a monthly salary of $3,000 a month (or $10,000 if considered the league’s best). Per sources, Ball seeks to fund this league entirely through his Big Baller Brand. The players will in turn exclusively wear Big Baller Brand apparel and sneakers on the court.

From LaVar’s perspective, this idea is pure genius, if all goes as planned. This appears to be the only way to get somebody without the last name Ball to wear any of their BBB merchandise. Not to mention, if ten teams are formed out of a pool of eighty players (like he is seeking to do), this will generate a fair amount of revenue from game attendance, sponsorships, etc. This will give LaVar the platform to run what is likely to become a multimillion business, if all goes as planned.

On the flip side, any parent who allows their child to enroll in this league is short sighted to say the least. While I understand that the thought of your son earning a $3,000 monthly income at age 18 may be very appealing to many, this will only generate an annual income of $36,000, assuming this league lasts for twelve months a year. $36,0000, depending on your location, is not very much money. It is barely enough for survival after taxes are deducted. Secondly, many seem to overlook the fact that a professional basketball career only lasts a small fraction of one’s life. The average NBA career lasts less than 5 years (assuming these players even make it this far). Once the said career is over, what else follows? This is where a college degree is beneficial. While college athletes do not get paid during their tenure at their respective institutions, they at least obtain a free education in exchange. This, in my opinion, is a fair tradeoff. It at least provides these young men with the tools to survive in the real world after a basketball career.

Lastly, and arguably most importantly, LaVar Ball’s development methods have not exactly panned out to be effective. While his son Lonzo was able to climb up the NBA draft ranks and get selected second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2017 NBA Draft, Lonzo’s game hasn’t exactly translated to the NBA level quite like one would expect. While I understand that he is still young and finding his niche in the league, his failure to emerge as a star early in his career provides further evidence that LaVar may not be as much of a developmental wiz as he may think he is. As a parent, I would be much more inclined to have my son receive guidance from the trusted coaching at a Duke University or a University of Kentucky as opposed to what will seemingly be an experimental run with this proposed Junior league.

In sum, while I believe that this would be a smart business move on the part of LaVar Ball and the Big Baller Brand, I do not believe that enlisting with his Junior League is a good idea for developing athletes. Going to a top-notch Division one school is likely to put them in a better position to succeed as a professional basketball player. Furthermore, a college education is likely to put these young men in position to succeed after a professional basketball career. Remember, life goes on after basketball. For the foregoing reasons, the proposed Junior Basketball Association is a good idea for its creators, but a bad idea for the prospective members.

Photo Credit:

https://solecollector.com

Looking Forward: 2017/2018 NBA Season

As the NBA season slowly approaches, the excitement for what’s to come is slowly building up. This NBA off-season has been entertaining to say the least. From the blockbuster trades, NBA draft, to the Ball family antics, NBA fans have had something to constantly talk about this past summer. With the season starting next month, however, it is now time to focus on what really matters.

First and foremost, the Golden State Warriors remain in a class of their own, atop the Western Conference (and the entire league for that matter). Despite the new additions of the likes of Chris Paul to the Rockets, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder, and Rudy Gay to the Spurs, none of these moves made any of these teams comparable to the formidable Warriors. I, for one, worry about the compatibility of the new Thunder Big 3. I have a hard time envisioning three ball dominant players gelling together without some type of friction at one point or another during the season. The Thunder will certainly be better (on paper at least) than they were last season; however, I do not think they will give Golden State that many problems when faced with each other. For the Rockets, the addition of another ball dominant playmaker doesn’t really help address the weakness that they have in the middle.

Secondly, Kyrie Irving showed the NBA world his true character: he is a self-centered young man who cares more about individual accolades than winning. Period. If he was truly primarily concerned with winning, like he and most other NBA stars claim to be, he would either a) remain on the Cavs and enjoy yet another trip to the NBA finals with the hopes of defeating the Warriors, as no teammate gives you a better chance of winning than LeBron James, or b) demand a trade to a team that would give him a better chance of beating the Warriors. By joining the Celtics, he is simply taking a step back as a winner, and will more than likely end up watching his former team in the NBA finals. The trade demand, as a whole, and the list of teams that he evidently mentioned to be his top destination choices, showed that he simply wants to be the center of attention in a big city, far away from LeBron’s shadow.

Next, the acquisition of Dwyane Wade will not make the Cavaliers significantly better. While this pick up came at a very little expense to the Cavs, given the money being offered, it did not make the Cleveland Cavaliers a considerably better opponent for the Golden State Warriors. First, Dwyane Wade is…old (simply put). It is common knowledge that once an athlete in the NBA surpasses the age of 33, they are considered old. While one gets wiser with age, and so forth, father time is undefeated. Regardless of how wiser one may get, the inability of your body to correlate with the desires of your mind makes one ineffective. This is why players retire! Secondly, the Cavaliers need more floor spacers in order for the likes of LeBron and Isaiah Thomas to be effective. Although D-Wade noticeably improved his three point shooting in the playoffs last season, his shooting has never been his strength, and I do not foresee that changing. Unless D-Wade perhaps accepts a 6th man role and puts on his best Manu Ginobili impression, this acquisition may not only be a minimal improvement at best, but it may even be a hindrance to what already exists in Cleveland. Lastly, D-Wade is another ball dominant player who is mostly ineffective unless the ball is in his hands. This will take away from the likes of Isaiah Thomas, D-Rose, Kevin Love, and even LeBron. In theory, it may seem to be a big pick-up, but in practice, I don’t see it being that huge of a move.

Lastly, the recent Super Team epidemic that has plagued the league is slowly but surely destroying the NBA competition. While there are about four or five super teams out (the majority of whom are simply fighting for second place behind the formidable Golden State Warriors), the rest of the league is essentially filled with mediocre teams who aren’t really contending for much. I fear that NBA fans (outside of the true die-hard fans who root for their teams regardless of the outcome) may only tune in to watch marque games which feature the super teams going against each other. This isn’t good for the NBA brand, as advertisements, endorsements and overall fan support may be lost. I’m not certain as to what can be done to address what Kevin Durant is essentially to blame for, but something must be done. Either way, it should be an entertaining NBA season, although we all know what is likely to happen in the end.

Photo Credits:

Gq.com

gazettenet.com

cavsnation.com 

sportsnet.ca

Given, Not Earned: The Kevin Durant Championship Run

This past Monday,  Kevin Durant accomplished something that many NBA players never get to experience over the course of their professional careers:  win an NBA championship.  Winning a championship is something that many will agree to be the ultimate goal of any NBA player.  While some NBA stars and legends have gone on to have long, successful careers, failure to win a championship tends to leave a void that no other individual accomplishment can seem to fill.  Fortunately for Kevin Durant, this is a problem that he may no longer have to face.

Despite winning the Finals MVP award for his incredible performance in the 4-1 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, many are refusing to give Kevin Durant the credit that he seemingly deserves, for a multitude of reasons.  For starters, many can’t seem to get over the fact that Mr. Durant joined the team that came back from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate his former team from championship contention in the 2015/2016 season.  Rightfully so.  As a competitor, one would think that Kevin Durant would’ve used this past failure as motivation to come back better, stronger and more focused to overthrow the defending Western Conference champions.  Instead, he took what most consider to be the easy way out, by joining them!  Considering the Warriors won 73 regular season games in the 2015/2016 NBA season, and were one game away from completing what could’ve been the greatest season in NBA history, it is crystal clear that they did not need the services of Kevin Durant to be a formidable team.  In fact, one could make the argument that they may have very well have won the championship had Draymond Green kept his composure and played the entire series; but I digress.  So, for Kevin Durant to weigh out his options and decided to join this team would constitute what Stephen A. Smith categorized as a weak move.

Many of Durant’s fans have made the counter argument that this move was similar to LeBron James’ decision to join the Miami Heat in 2010.  That, my friends, is absolute malarkey.  LeBron James did not leave the Cavaliers to join the Boston Celtics team that had just eliminated his team from championship contention.  He did not leave a top 5 type talent sidekick, with a bonafide deep roster.  Instead, he left a team that continuously failed to assemble a roster with enough help to contend for a championship (and no, an old and ailing Shaq does not count as help either). There is simply not a cogent argument to be made there.

Secondly, to join a team that essentially deprived you of what you should have considered rightfully yours is as cowardly of a move as I’ve ever seen. It is almost like walking in on your friend being assaulted by a group of men, and instead of helping out, joining the mob in this endeavor.  As a man, I am not quite sure how one’s pride could perceive the situation any differently.  I suppose the saying “if you can’t beat them, join them” was taken literally.

Lastly, this road to a championship was about as easy of a playoff run as we’ve ever seen.  The 16-1 record that the Warriors tallied up is indicative of that fact.  Besides the game 4 loss, the close contest in game 3, and game 1 of the Western Conference finals (prior to Kawhi Leonard’s injury), the Warriors did not break a sweat.  Kevin Durant was not challenged.  With two of the greatest shooters in NBA history on the same team as him, who would dare to double-team?  Kevin Durant’s high shooting percentages are indicative of the ease at which he operated.

Again, his fans make the argument that his efficiency is simply an illustration of his greatness; but let’s face it, all NBA superstars would feast if they had 1 on 1 coverage each time down the court.  What NBA superstar doesn’t face double teams?  Especially one who stands at 6’11 with the ball handling skills of a point guard, and the shooting range of a sniper?  He is literally a walking mismatch for any defender.  His 30 plus point average was about as easy of an exhibition as I’ve ever seen.

The bottom line is this:  although Kevin Durant a) finally won an NBA championship, b) ended up with the finals MVP, and c) did so averaging stellar numbers, this accomplishment will always come with an asterisk next to it, simply because it was given and not earned.  It was a given that he would win an NBA championship simply by joining the Warriors (just ask David West).  Let’s face it, if your mom has to convince you that you earned it, because even you don’t seem to truly believe that you did, then you probably did not.  The lack of tears or any great emotion after the win goes to prove my point.  Kevin Durant is not deserving of credit for this championship.

Photo Credit:

sbnation.com

NBA: “Rest” Epidemic

Imagine calling out of work at the last minute; not sick or on vacation, but simply needing to “rest” inexplicably.  How well would your superiors or upper management take that?  Even worse: imagine your superiors at work asking you to take a day off to “rest” inexplicably.  How well would the clients who rely heavily on the impact of your work, and pay thousands of dollars to create your salary, feel about such a move?  This is unfortunately a feeling that many NBA fans can relate to in modern times.  There is nothing more disappointing than a kid who has spent four months looking forward to a Cavs v. Wizards game, to which he was given tickets as a birthday present, only to find out on Game Day that while LeBron James is healthy and in the arena, he will not be playing.  What a bummer?

With this ongoing, and ever so prevalent “rest epidemic,” the NBA is slowly jeopardizing its brand.  While in my biased opinion the NBA is the greatest sports league in the world, I am in complete disagreement with what seems to be a trend that was started by the San Antonio Spurs organization and Greg Popovich.  I am all for protecting the players and taking steps to prolong their careers; however, sitting out regular season games for no apparent reason does not appear to be a necessary step in furtherance of this objective. Michael Jordon, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, etc., did not sit out games inexplicably, during what appears to have been a more physically daunting era of basketball; so, why is it acceptable now?

It shouldn’t be.  It is not fair to the NBA fan, simple.  An NBA fan shouldn’t be hesitant to buy tickets due to the fear of a favorite athlete unexpectedly sitting out a game.  TV audiences shouldn’t have to tune in to a marquee match up game just to see their favorite players on the bench drinking coffee and laughing it up.  This is a surefire way to lose fans, and to have ticket sales decline.  I shouldn’t have to tune in to an an ABC Saturday night matchup between the Cavs and Clippers, just to see that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, while healthy, are all sitting out to “rest.”  The even more disappointing part is that they will all suit up the following day to play the even more inferior Laker team.  How disappointing for us NBA fans?

If NBA fans begin to lose interest and revenues go down from reduced ticket sales and loss of endorsement deals, these extremely pampered NBA players will no longer enjoy the luxury of the ridiculous contracts they have been signing lately.  If I do not have the liberty of calling out of work randomly at my five figure salaried job, neither should these eight figure salaried athletes.  For crying out loud, you are getting paid to play basketball; something that many of us would love to do for free! So, Adam Silver, please save the image and brand of the NBA and put an end to this “epidemic.”  NBA players, do your job; play basketball.

Photo Credit:

ESPN.com

Legacy Solidified: LeBron James

With less than two minutes left to go in the crucial game seven of the 2015/16 NBA season, Andre Iguodala corralled a defensive rebound off of an ill-advised Kyrie Irving shot. All tied at 89-89, a fast break score would put the Warriors up by two points, with about a minute fifty to go.  As Iguodala raced down the court to the basket, for what seemed to be a sure lay up, several of the Cavaliers galloped back, in hopes of contesting the lay up.  Out of nowhere came LeBron James, seemingly shot out of a canon for one of his specialty chase down blocks.  Almost kissing the backboard with this maneuver, LeBron pinned the lay-up against the backboard, in what I would consider the greatest, most important block I have ever seen in my twenty-four years of life. That play, in essence, summed up the determination and drive that LeBron James showcased all finals long, to bring the illusive Larry O’Brien trophy to the land.  That play perfectly illustrated that LeBron was going to do any and everything, as unworldly as it may seem, to make sure that he accomplished this goal.  That play will go down as one of the greatest plays in NBA history.

On the path to this championship, LeBron and the Cavs faced the most difficult circumstances one could think of: facing the best regular season team in NBA history, the 2 time defending league MVP, the coach of the year, a well tested western conference team, a 3-1 deficit, etc., you name it.  They faced it, and they overcame it. LeBron put together what I would consider, in my biased opinion, the greatest NBA finals series in history.  Leading both teams in all major statistical categories, LeBron did just about everything anyone could ask of a man to do on a basketball court.  While he came out pretty passive and indecisive in the first two games, he did what any great NBA superstar would/should do on such a stage: make the right adjustments.  After those two relatively subpar games (for his standard), LeBron went on to finish with 29.7 points, 8.9 assists, 11.3 rebounds, 2.6 steals, 2.3 blocks in 42 minutes per game! These are the type of numbers one could only dream of while fantasizing through the “MyPlayer” mode on NBA 2K. With such a dominating performance, it was needless to say that he was the most valuable player out there amongst a group of world class athletes.

‘alas

Now that LeBron has accomplished what many doubted he would be able to, we are led to discuss the implications of this feat on his legacy.  I, for one, think that he has solidified his place in history as the greatest forward to ever lace ’em up.  I understand that he only has three rings, and that players such as Tim Duncan, Larry Bird, and even Julius Erving might have something to do say about that; however, I think it is a pretty one sided argument.  If you look at the totality of circumstances, LeBron James is undoubtedly the best forward to ever do it.  With 3 championships, 4 regular season MVPs, 3 final’s MVPS, 12 All star selections, 2 All-star MVPs, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, career averages of 27.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists, over the course of 13 NBA seasons, LeBron James is arguably the most decorated player to ever grace a basketball court. His ability to accomplish all of the above referenced, under such a bright constant spotlight, is impressive to say the least.

Despite all the greatness showcased, some critics will always dwell on his shortcomings. One thing that will always haunt LeBron is the fact that he is 3-4 in the NBA finals.  In my opinion, he should’ve been able to at least grab one more in the series against Dallas in 2012. In 2007, the Cavs were simply outmatched. In 2014, he faced a better team.  Last year, he gave his all but wasn’t able to overcome the better, deeper, Warriors team.  In 2012, however, I felt as though LeBron and his Heat teammates let one slip away, especially after a 2-0 series lead.  Critics may not go this deep in their analysis to come up with a fair conclusion; instead, they will always dwell on the fact that 4 championships slipped away from LeBron.  They will dwell on the fact that Michael never lost a finals series, or that Kobe won 5 of 7. They will overlook the circumstances, and instead point to the lack if a takeover mentality.

While the lack of a takeover mentality may nevertheless be a valid criticism, it does not diminish the body of work that LeBron has put together in his 13 seasons as an NBA player.  LeBron, in an unfinished career, has accomplished many goals that some of the greatest players in NBA history could only dream off. In my opinion, the only player stopping LeBron from being dubbed the “Greatest Player of All Time” is of course Michael Jordan. Nevertheless, If he were to decide to retire today, I believe that his work to date would be sufficient to solidify his legacy as the greatest forward to ever do it. Based on the standard he holds himself to, however, I believe that LeBron is coming back for much much more.  After all, he is only 31 years old. Watch out world, we may have more history to discuss in the upcoming years.

Photo Credits:

www.foxnews.com

ftw.usatoday.com

www.al.com 

 

2015/2016 NBA Regular Season: NAYked Truth Awards

The 2015/2016 NBA regular season gave hoop lovers yet another reason to be thankful for the good ole sport of basketball.  From Steph Curry’s heroics, to the Kobe Bryant farewell tour, each day in  this NBA season, up to the very last day, gave hoop fans a reason to tune in.  As the playoffs get under way, it is fitting for me to provide my “two cents” on the various awards that will (if not already done) be handed out,

MVP:

MVP

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

This is a no brainier, no need to argue further; moving on. Just kidding, but in actuality this really doesn’t create much of a debate. Steph Curry has dominated this league all season, in an average of 3 quarters a game. It is quite laughable to watch Steph essentially toy with opponents on a nightly basis, and do so effortlessly. Averaging 30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and  6.7 assists in just about 34 minutes a game, Steph Curry went on to improve upon the MVP season that he had last year. Although I believed James Harden should’ve been the recipient of the award last year, Steph Curry is in a league of his own when it comes to the award this year. The only other candidate who is somewhat worthy of acknowledgement would be Russell Westbrook; otherwise, this isn’t even a conversation worth having. Steph is currently in a competition with himself to show the best version of himself that we have seen yet. Don’t be surprised if he comes back next season even better.

Rookie of the Year:

Big Kat, aka T.R.O.Y

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves 

I must admit, when Karl-Anthony Towns was picked first overall by the Timberwolves in last year’s draft, I wasn’t so sure if they were making the right decision. 82 NBA games later, that decision was a no brainer for the Timberwolves front office. His numbers: 18 points and 10 rebounds a game, while impressive, do not do justice to how bright of a future this young Kat really has. The young man can do it all.  From posting up to handling the ball, playing defense to knocking down the long ball, the young man has proven to be leaps and bounds ahead of his peers.  The fact that he won the Skills Competition during the All-Star festivities (yes, a competition that involved NBA guards) goes to show how skilled and versatile he is. I foresee Kat turning into a top 10 player in the league within the next five years.  With the leadership of Coach Tom Thibodeau, I expect Kat to continue to develop, especially on the defensive end. At this present time nevertheless, he is undoubtedly the best rookie from last year’s draft; hence worthy of this award.

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most versatile defender in the league

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

While this award has already been presented to Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs, I actually believe that Draymond Green was more deserving of the honor.  Kawhi Leonard is undoubtedly the best wing/perimeter defender in the league; however, I believe that Draymond Green has more of an impact defensively on the best team in the league. Draymond can guard any position on the court; from a point guard to a center. With his size and yet agility, he is effective on the pick and roll, as he is able to switch onto any opposing player.  One-on-one, he does as good of a job as anyone of making things difficult for the opposition. On the help side, he is always at the right place at the right time. Whether its stepping in for a charge, playing the passing lanes, or coming from the weak-side for an unexpected block, his defensive awareness is second to none. His contributions on the defensive end undoubtedly played a major role in the record setting year for the Golden State Warriors. For the foregoing reasons, he should’ve been the recipient of the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Sixth Man of the Year:

Overlooked?

Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder

Jamal Crawford won this year’s Sixth Man of the Year, and deservingly so; however, I believe that Enes Kanter of the Oklahoma City Thunder was more deserving of the award.  Averaging 13 points and 8 rebounds off the bench, Kanter gave the Thunder a much need ed inside scoring source, one that came in handy when Durant and/or Westbrook needed a breather. His contributions in just over twenty minutes a game undoubtedly helped the Thunder get over some hurdles this season. While many may criticize him for his lack of defensive prowess, I do not take that into heavy consideration, as this award is mostly for players who are able to give their team an offensive punch off the bunch.  If defense was a factor, Jamal Crawford would not have three of these awards.

Most Improved Player of the Year:

Most Improved, no doubt

C.J. McCollum, Portland Trailblazers

The patience C.J. displayed in his first two seasons alone is worthy of some sort of recognition, as we all knew what this young man was capable of doing, if healthy and given the opportunity.  Nevertheless, CJ has taken the opportunity, and run away with it, exceeding expectations along the way.  While CJ’s game might not have improved vastly, he is finally getting the opportunity to showcase it. Making a jump from 7 points a game to 21 is an astronomical leap that is pretty much unheard of. He has gone from being a role player to a legitimate bucket giver in our beloved league. His improvements have earned the backcourt in Portland some much needed recognition, and a well deserved Most Improved Player of the Year award.

Coach of the Year:

Another remarkable season for Steve

Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors

I was hesitant to give this award to Steve, mostly because Luke Walton was at the helm for a good portion of those wins. Had the Celtics have finished 3rd or higher, Brad Stevens would’ve had my vote; however, that isn’t the case and so Steve Kerr essentially wins by default. No NBA team has won more than 73 games, and to lead the team to accomplish this feat is deserving of some recognition. For that reason, Steve (and Luke), you get the award for Coach of the year.

Photo Credits:

www.sportsonearth.com 

www.foxsports.com

www.bigplay.com

thunder.clutchpoints.com

www.foxsports.com

www.geeksandcleats.com

Kobe Bryant: The End of An Era

This past weekend, Kobe Bryant revealed to the world that yes, much like most of us probably anticipated, he will be retiring from the NBA at the end of the season.  Although this news was expected, it came as a surprise because it is very rare for us to see Kobe concede to anything.  As all great athletes have/will come to notice, however, father time will always prevail.  Accepting that he is no longer superhuman, and that he too has fallen victim to father time is probably the most difficult thing Kobe will have to do in his career.  While some of his fans are probably relieved to see him hang it up after what has been a woeful season so far, the basketball fandom at large is saddened by this news, as this will inevitably mark the end of an era.

With 17 all-star game appearances, 5 NBA titles, 2 finals MVPs and 1 regular season MVP,  Kobe Bryant will ultimately go down as the 2nd best shooting guard to ever lace them up (barring any other super humans morphing into the league).  He has had as decorated of an NBA career as one could possibly have.  The most impressive thing about it was that he did it all with one team.  Kobe dedicated 20 years of his life (more than 50% of his existence) to being a central piece to the success of the Laker franchise.  For that very reason, he is in my opinion the greatest Laker of all time (yes, over Magic, Kareem, Wilt, and Jerry West himself).

Kobe created many memories for us hoop fans.  From dropping 81 against the Raptors, to hanging 12 threes on the Supersonics, to the countless game winners he hit, we will never forget the thrilling moments he left us.  Although I wouldn’t categorize myself as a Kobe fan, he always put on a show every time I watched him.  His footwork, for a guard, was impeccable.  His fundamentals was off the chain, and his competitive nature was second to none.    From the 8 era to the 24 era, Kobe gave fans, and peers alike, a reason to tune in to Laker games on any given night.

The one criticism I have of Kobe is that unlike the many greats who have graced us with their game, he was not original.  From his game to his demeanor and even mannerisms, Kobe was essentially a clone of Michael Jordan.  Considering how well he was able to replicate Michael, however, he ended up having one hell of a career.  That is nevertheless a knock on his greatness because he wasn’t one of a kind.  He was one of Jordan’s kind.  Unlike a Barkley, a Bird, a Steph Curry or a LeBron, Kobe was not the first of his mold.  To take it a step further, he wasn’t even the best of his mold.  Fortunately for him, however, being the second best of his mold was sufficient to earn him a spot on the list of 10 greatest players in NBA history.

In sum, Kobe will be missed by the game of basketball.  He gave the game everything he had, and that is one thing we can never take away from him.  His hard work and determination will inevitably earn him a spot in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame one day, and in the rafters at the Staples center.  I don’t expect to see Kobe get into coaching post retriement, as I couldn’t imagine him having the patience to lead a group of guys less talented than he is; however, I expect him to stay connected to the game one way or another.  Maybe as a GM or possibly as an owner (again, following in the footsteps of Michael).  One thing is certain, however: Kobe will always be remembered as one of the best to ever do it….and so it is only right that the Nike checks keep coming in.

Photo Credits:

empirenews.net 

NBA Countdown: The Tristan Thompson Saga

We are all just as puzzled as Tristan looks here

The NBA season is about a week away and most teams are well prepared for the highly anticipated return of our beloved sport.  Players are starting to get back into basketball shape, as the intensity of 2-a-days increases.  One team that has been eagerly waiting for the reconvening on the NBA season is the Cleveland Cavaliers.  After losing a hard fought finals against the healthier, deeper, and quite frankly more talented Golden State Warriors, the Cavs have been looking forward to the opportunity to redeem themselves.  Unfortunately for them, a pivotal piece to this redemptive army is currently out of the picture, fighting his own personal battle.  Tristan Thompson, the Cavs’ playoff hero who made a name for himself this past post season, is currently using his playoff performance as leverage in seeking a contract extension.  Coming off a terrific NBA finals, where he averaged 13 rebounds and two defeated Warrior bigs per game, Tristan Thompson and his agent Rich Paul initially came out seeking a 5 year contract for 94 million.  After a soft decline by the Cavaliers, the crafty agent, who was able to also get Eric Bledsoe a similar deal last year, revised his request, asking for a 3 year 53 million deal.  The Cavaliers are yet to agree to this proposal and make an official bid, as they are presumably sticking to their 5 year 80 million offer.  That leads us to ponder what Tristan Thompson’s worth as an NBA player really is.

Over his 4 year NBA career, Tristan Thompson has been nothing more than a role player who excels very well at his job.  He is known to create havoc on the offensive glass, corral a few on the defensive end as well, and block a shot or two every now and then.  With his consistent effort on the offensive glass, and his athletic ability to catch lobs, it is inevitable that he will score a few points here and there.  Over the past season, he proved that his relentlessness on the offensive boards can create many problems for the opposition, and consequently favorable outcomes for his team.  With all that said however, Tristan Thompson is a one dimensional player in that his effort and energy is essentially all that he provides to a team at the present time.  His offensive capabilities are limited at best, as he isn’t of the caliber to consistently provide low-post scoring, or even floor spacing.  Defensively, he is at times a good help-side deterrence; however, his efforts on that end aren’t strong enough to make that a specialty worth a huge reward.

All things considered, Tristan Thompson is certainly not worth the asking price that his agent Rich Paul is trying to obtain.  While he is undoubtedly valuable, he is NOT irreplaceable, and not a star quality player.  With the return of Anderson Varejao, the Cavs already have a player more than capable of providing the same intangibles that a Tristan Thompson provides to a team.  With Love, Mozgov, and Varejao, the Cavs already have a solid 3 man rotation upfront (not to mention that LeBron can at times play the four).  Surely, it would be nice to have the luxury of bringing a Tristan Thompson off of one’s bench; however, that luxury is not worth the current inflated asking price.  It is absurd to think that Tristan Thompson should be receiving the same salary as a John Wall, or even an Eric Bledsoe (no offense, Tristan).  By my estimation, Tristan Thompson’s value as a basketball player shouldn’t cost a team more than 9 to 13 million dollars per anum.   On a championship caliber team like the Cavaliers, where many players take a pay-cut to make room for other winning role players, Tristan Thompson and his negotiating team have got to lower their expectations.  I highly suggest that Tristan and mastermind Rich Paul come back to earth and graciously accept the 5 year 80 million offer that the Cavs have offered, before they too wake up and retract the offer.  I sure would hate to see Tristan sit out a season (or majority of it) for this debacle, although it is looking very possible at this point.

Photo Credit:

www.cbssports.com

 

Legacy: What this Championship Really means for LeBron

The “Focused” One

LeBron James is arguably the most scrutinized and criticized player the NBA has ever seen.  Ever since he was drafted number one overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2003 NBA draft, all eyes have been on LeBron, and the expectations have not ceased.  Despite all the pressure, LeBron has had a hell of an NBA career, even if he were to call it quits today.  With career averages of 27.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game; in conjuction with 4 MVP trophies and 2 championship rings, LeBron has already cemented his place in the NBA history books as the greatest small forward of all time (Sorry Larry).  After making 5 straight NBA finals appearances, LeBron is faced with his biggest challenge yet: battling the Golden State Warriors without two of the Cleveland Big 3.  Although the odds are heavily placed against the Cavs, winning this series is imperative for LeBron; bigger than most can imagine.

Winning this series without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love (and Anderson Varejao) would be monumental for LeBron.  It’ll put him up there with some of the great individual championship performances ever, as he is responsible for 43% of the Cavs’ scoring output so far in the first 2 games of the finals.  This would be, by far, the most difficult task LeBron would’ve faced and overcome.  When we think of LeBron 20 years from now and look back on his greatness, this would be the post season run many will cling to.  (I mean, how glorifying? Leaving your hometown to go study the art of winning elsewhere, making a return after 4 years, and winning a championship the first year back; fairytale-like).  Although LeBron may never catch Jordan in terms of greatness (even if he winds up with 6 rings, simply because Jordan never lost in the finals), winning a series like this will certainly strengthen the argument for himself.  It’ll put him at an even .500 record in the finals; an impressive stat to go along with the other glorious figures attached to his name. Even at 3 rings, I think that would put him ahead of Kobe, given his entire body of work.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though.  Losing this series, despite the odds, will be extremely detrimental to LeBron’s winning resume.   Going 2 and 4 in the finals is not a good look, regardless of what obstacles might’ve been in the way.  No one will think of how lopsided of a match-up the 2007 finals were, or how uneven the rosters are for these finals.  The losses against Dallas, and the Spurs were fair, given the self-imposed demise against the Mavericks, and the defeat at the hand of the better San Antonio Spurs team.  Nevertheless, when people look back 20 years from now, they won’t focus on the justifications or excuses for the shortcomings; they will simply focus on the losses.  Critics will dwell on the fact that he would’ve had the opportunity  to win 6 rings, but only came up with 2. That would equate to a percentage of 33%; a losing percentage.  His two biggest competitors have posted way better winning percentages than that: Mike was 6-0 in the finals, Kobe is 5 – 2.    Even his good friend D-Wade is 3-2 in the finals; being 2 – 4 would leave a scar on his legacy, unless of course he is able to even out the ratio eventually.  Even then,  critics will never let go of the fact that 4 rings would’ve passed right by him.

In sum, the general perception of LeBron is bound to change immensely after these 2015 NBA finals wrap up.  We are either going to put LeBron up on a higher pedestal, or add on to the lashing that he receives on a regularly basis.  Regardless of what the outcome will be, one thing is for sure: we will look at him differently.  It truly is unfair for one man to have to face this much pressure on a frequent basis; however, it comes with the territory of being the best player in the NBA, and LeBron is fully aware of this.  One can tell from his demeanor and his body language that he is well aware of what is at stake.  I, for one, think that he is ready for the challenge, and is ready to re-write history.  Let’s witness.

Photo Credit:

www.washingtonpost.com

Warriors vs. Cavs: Previewing the NBA Finals

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The 2015 NBA Finals matchup is set and if you are like me, this is the best possible matchup any NBA fan could have hoped for. What’s on the line this year? LeBron is fighting for a chance for his third NBA title and Cleveland’s first championship. On the other hand, Steph Curry and the Warriors will be competing for the Warriors’ first title since 1975. Here is how I think the series will play out, starting with the player match ups:

PG: Steph Curry vs. Kyrie Irving

Both of these players will be thankful for the week’s rest before having to chase each other around in the Finals. This is a matchup that I think will be problematic for the Cavs. What many people do not realize is that the Warriors defense has improved largely due to the defense of Steph Curry. He is not the strongest but his quickness always seems to be a problem for opposing point guards defensively. If you have been watching Curry over the years, one thing that has impressed this year is his defensive footwork. He won’t block your shot or get the most steals; however, being able to stay in front of an opponent and pester them is definitely a strong suit for him. In attempt to defend Steph on the other end, the Cavs are likely to put a bigger defender (probably Shumpert of JR Smith on Curry); however, you cannot put Irving on Thompson, and I definitely would not advise putting him on a much stronger Harrison Barnes especially coming fresh off a knee problem. Irving will just have to deal with fighting through double screens and the elevator type screens the Warriors have been well known for. Kyrie can hurt you on the offensive end when he is fully healthy but this matchup with Curry will be one loss the Cavs have to live with due to Curry’s quickness, improved defense, and Kyrie’s knee problems.

SG: Klay Thompson vs. Iman Shumpert

In the Warriors-Rockets series, it was very easy to overlook Thompson’s defense because James Harden was making impossible shots look easy. In this series, I would not count too much on Shumpert’s shot but he can take advantage of moving around and cutting to the basket to get easy shots to avoid one-on-one defense with Thompson. Shumpert definitely has the ability to guard Thompson with ease but much of that may not be up to him as I anticipate Head Coach David Blatt will shift some of Shumpert’s defensive duties to guarding Curry, leaving Thompson with an advantage over a smaller Kyrie Irving. As long as Kyrie can channel his inner Steph Curry and bother Thompson that is a better match up the Cavs can live with. We all know that James will distribute the ball to the Cavs players so Shumpert has to be ready to make his shots when called on at home in front of the rocks crowd, but also on the road at Oracle. This is a tough one to call but because of LeBron’s ability to spread the ball and draw defenders like Thompson to him, this matchup goes to Shumpert.

SF: Harrison Barnes vs. LeBron James

Klay Thompson had arguably the toughest matchup in their most recent series but Barnes no doubt has the most work cut out for him in this one. Aside from team defensive tactics, guarding LeBron James has to be one of the most daunting tasks any player can be asked to do. In my years of watching basketball, I have never seen anyone do it as well as Kawhi Leonard did last season. Do you let him have his shot or do you double and live with the other 4 players’ scoring? Do you guard him up close or do you stay home under the basket and wait for him? There is no other player in the league that causes such a defensive headache on a nightly basis like LeBron does. There seems to be no definite, clear cut answer as to how to guard LeBron unless you have a Kawhi Leonard clone on your team. For the Warriors to win this matchup, it will take some extraordinary coaching on the part of Kerr and his staff. How to handle screens, who rotates and when are some of the questions that will confuse the Warriors whenever LeBron has the ball. Having a plan to guard LeBron is great but executing that plan is even harder. I expect the Warriors to have an excellent plan on paper but an ineffective execution on the court. I predict LeBron will score 40 or more points at least twice when these games are done. For Harrison, he should hope his nights will be easier with a double coming from Klay or Green.

PF: Draymond Green vs. Tristan Thompson

A set of players who have been playing extremely well for their respective teams are matched up here and I am sure they won’t disappoint. Green will have his work cut out on keeping Tristan off the boards, and Tristan will have a little trouble with Green’s quickness. With Green probably being forced to double and close out on LeBron, expect Tristan Thompson to get his fair share of easy dunks and putbacks. Green, however, has the uncanny ability to always be in the right place at the right time, collecting loose balls and scoring on potential three point plays. Both players have a phenomenal work rate; but I believe Tristan will do to Green as he did to Millsap in their previous series. Unless Green focuses solely on Thompson, it will be much of the same: offensive rebounds and second shot attempts for the Cavs.

C: Andrew Bogut vs. Timofey Mozgov

To me, this is the least exciting of all of the matchups. Mozgov is a painful (okay maybe not painful, but definitely not exciting either) to watch on the offensive end but his ability to guard the rim is decent. Bogut on the other hand does better offensively as his passing and capability to dribble can make Mozgov very uncomfortable. Both teams rely heavily on these anchors to protect their baskets; so these two will have a lot to say in the final box score. It will boil down to which player is able to give more time to his team by staying out of foul trouble. Expect Bogut to find his faster teammates on backdoor cuts to the basket, leaving Mozgov stranded out on the perimeter. Mozgov might as well be a statue on the other end of the court.

Benches: Iguodala vs. Smith, Dellavedova vs. Barbosa …

Keeping J.R Smith off the three point line will be difficult as he has been in a groove since his suspension. Iguodala will also have to do his time on LeBron when they’re both on the court so I expect Iguodala to be more of a defensive pin these games. I am not so sure that Dellavedova has the quickness to guard Barbosa, as Barbosa has always had a way of making defenders pay on hard close-outs. A very aggressive Dellavedova will pay if he reaches and/or closes hard on Barbosa with pretty much no one left to protect the rim.
The two rookie coaches will have a chess match of sorts in this series but thankfully they have some of the best players at their disposal. No matter who wins the Finals this year, I think both coaches have proven themselves in their own unique way and their successes should be applauded.

My Prediction: Warriors in 6 just so we can see a happy Riley Curry

Photo Credit: NBA.com