#2 at UCLA, #1 in the NBA Draft?

It’s become a novelty year after year for basketball fans to try and predict the next big college star. Sometimes, if not more than most, our predictions are met with disappointment as our elected “future star” fails to live up to the high expectations upon entering the NBA.

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How to Trust The Process

 

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Born to the African nation of Cameroon, Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel ‘The Process’ Embiid and his impressive play has drawn comparisons to another player from the African continent. Hakeem Olajuwon. Embiid’s all-roundedness with his mastery of the post, rim protection and athleticism has only cemented the comparison and perhaps a high possibility of a Rookie of the Year win.

The 3rd pick of the 2014 draft, Embiid’s 76ers were scrutinised by fans and analysts for once again selecting a big man with history of injuries (Nerlens Noel was also sidelined for a year following an ACL tear). However, the ‘process’ of former general manager Sam Hinkie and his drafting of high risk-high reward players has led to a problem that isn’t necessarily a problem. Three top big men, Embiid, Noel and Jahlil Okafor are on roster creating a logjam with minutes and issues with spacing. With Noel and Okafor both in rumblings of trade talks, Philadelphia has the leverage with trade value on both players to acquire a scorer in the guard position. Additionally, with the team still in development, a high draft pick could await in what is seen as a stacked draft class.

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Ex-General Manager Sam Hinkie sits with Joel Embiid.

While casual fans and pundits are quick to dismiss this process as risky and isolating the fans with the lack of wins, more in tune viewers and loyal fans of ‘the process’ see this approach as future-proofing the team through stock piling talent and avoiding mediocrity in the playoffs.

In an era where records are constantly/continuously being broken in the NBA, we have Joel Embiid, the diamond in the rough with the 76ers, ignoring current trends of small ball line-ups and keeping post play alive and well in the league. A player who only logs around 25 minutes a night and sits on back-to-backs but averages 20 PPG, 7.5 REB and 2.1 BLK. Not to mention this is his first full year in the NBA.

For the Philadelphia 76ers, the tides are changing. Already improving from last year, and with Ben Simmons debut estimated about a months time from now. It’s about 2 years away where we’ll start to really fear this team. The process is real, and its human embodiment is Joel Embiid.

Triple-Double Troubles

Westbrook has been dazzling fans all season, and so far it has equated to OKC sitting at 7th in the West with a winning record just below .600. So far, Westbrook’s stats have been nothing short of eye-popping and yet even with all the stats combined it begs the question of how long this can act as the band-aid to the real situation that Oklahoma City is currently facing.

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Bragging Rights? – Game 2 of 3

This week we’ll see Game 2 of the 3 game regular season match up between the Warriors and Cavaliers. As we’ve done since this rivalry started in 2015 each game has been magnified and broken down so much that we think it really has an effect on how the Finals will eventually end.

But does it really matter in the end?

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No Rose, No Wins, Nowhere.

The Knicks season started off with some excitement of what the team could accomplish which had Knicks fans hoping for the best and possibly a playoff seeding. As it turns out, it has been anything but that as New York continue to find ways to lose games and in some ways more embarrassing game after game. The Knicks are 1-9 in their last 10 games, bordering on being a .500 team and only 2.5 games outside of the 8th seed, giving them plenty of incentive to hold leads and beat the teams they should on the schedule.

Unfortunately it seems that the Knicks are a collective that are damaging themselves internally even with a healthy Carmelo Anthony, sophomore star Kristaps Porzingis and a contract-year Derrick Rose. Internal problems such as Carmelo calling his own isolation play in part frustrating coach Jeff Hornacek and vice versa when Hornacek draws up a play that Anthony gets caught on camera being visually disgusted with his coaches decision.

The Knicks appalling play has gotten so bad that reports of Derrick Rose abandoning his team following a reported “blow-up” with Hornacek, eventually resulting in the Knicks being unable to reach Rose before, during and even a while after the game had finished.

The last stretch of games and life in general for the Knicks has been anything but pleasent and when you suffer 2 losses on game winners it tends to sting a little more, causing heavy evaluation and reflection on how the team got to that point and why it’s not an isolated incident but rather a consistent shortcoming. It’s alarming when your franchise player releases this gem to the media regarding the target of the “blame game” in relation tot he Knicks performance:

Carmelo Anthony:

“When We Win, It’s Us. When We Lose, It’s Me”

The real question is just how the Knicks will handle this and with the trade deadline coming up its only a matter of time before the Knicks and its players begin to decide their fate. The Knicks aren’t the only team struggling right now, however they’re actions and behaviour while dealing with the losses are being projected far more loudly than any other team in the league.

Courtside Review: Week 2

Week 1 provided some great scoring performances and had us wondering who had entered this season with a new purpose. As we regathered ourselves from the opening week hangover, some teams dropped games while others started gaining some traction.

The second week of the NBA lead with the Golden State Warriors having an overwhelming week of games as well as media coverage that stayed at the forefront for most of the week. However, there were some other teams that deserved to be mentioned with some notable games that captured our attention.

November 1st



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Jazz – 106 | Spurs – 91


Just when you thought the Spurs looked to be ready to go on a run on the league, the Hayward-less Jazz stepped up to the plate and handed the Spurs their first loss and it just happened to be on San Antonio’s home floor.

By the end of the first quarter the Jazz had run up a 10+ point lead on the Spurs and didn’t look to be letting that go anytime soon. Utah gained the lead thanks in part to some very solid 3 point shooting, something that if the Jazz can find some consistency in will make them a threat as the 3 point shot becomes more and more valuable. The Spurs had a different idea as the second quarter started, dashing Utah’s lead of 15 at one point in such quick fashion that it had Patty Mills trying to break the hardwood with his towel.

The last 5 minutes was something that I hope the Jazz continue and should even increase their success once Hayward is included back into the starting line-up. It was their unselfishness and finding the best shot available, and making the shots they found. George Hill kicked it off for the Jazz and eventually with things going so well a Trey Lyles 3 pointer made an appearance. The execution that the Jazz displayed throughout this game looks very smooth for a team that has gained a few new addition, and it is because these additions of Hill and Johnson that they don’t need time to fit into the Utah system.



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Warriors – 127 | Blazers – 104


After a win over the Suns and Pelicans coming off of their embarrassing loss to the Spurs the Warriors had the Blazers in their sights as one of the better teams they’ll face this year.

This game had the expectations of a close game and as far as analysis goes, it was anything but that. The Dubs looked reasonably calm from the start and something that stole the show was the Warriors bench and a little bit of crazy Steph shooting. One player that stepped up for the Warriors was back-up point guard Ian Clark who dropped in 22 points from the bench and was seemingly everywhere for Golden State.

On the Blazers side of the ball, they just let the game slip too quickly, as they kept the game close for the most part of 3 quarters, by the time the 4th quarter started the Warriors had begun their margin of separation. One of the biggest “lightning in a bottle” moments was Blazers rookie Jake Layman who stepped into garbage time and dropped 5-7 from three and in just an 8 minute span tallied 17 points. So who is this Jake Layman guy!

November 2nd



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Suns – 118 | Blazers – 115


Taking my early vote for the best back and forth, bucket-trading game of the season was the Suns defending homecourt against a pissed off Blazers team who were coming off a loss at the hands of the super-team of Oakland.

It was quite a shock to see just how much better the Suns have been this year with a huge improvement from TJ Warren and guards Bledsoe and Knight. The team still seems to be finding offensive cohesiveness, but in the meantime they can still crush poor transition defensive teams, which caught the Blazers a few times here and there.

In a huge “monkey off my back” moment Brandon Knight threw down a momentum shifting dunk that may have slightly removed him from the NBA doghouse – but who are we kidding, even Brandon knows he’s never going to shake off the run of lowlights he accumulated over the last few years.

I was actually watching this game as it happened and the ending was so worth it, after PJ Tucker got gifted a trip to the line he missed his second free throw to win the game and couldn’t have set it up any better. I was anticipating a Dame Time moment – ok I’ll admit I had some money on the game – but nonetheless it was all set up for the moment.

Well that moment never came and as Lillard fumbled the ball the Suns went back to the other end producing a Bledsoe running banked layup. As I sank into my seat realising it was all too late the man named Meyers answered my prayers.

Overtime was a whole ‘nother beast and that beast was Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe contributed almost half of the OT point scoring and they were the most important 7 Phoenix could have asked for. The Suns have something cooking and what I once thought was a team full of guards, it seems now that the roles have been assigned and everyone knows what their role is on the team.

November 3rd



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Warriors – 122 | Thunder – 96


The game that everyone was waiting for in Week 2 arrived with no shortage of media coverage and speculation of what team would do what and who would shake whose hand.

Westbrook’s photography vest shade throwing aside, The Thunder entered the game hot with a 4 game winning streak with the only noticeable win over an oddly distracted Clipper team the previous night.

The game kicks off and the Thunder kick off with great energy getting a headstart on the Warriors by a few points here and there. Almost instantly the team was being questioned and Russ was being elected as the most energetic and hungry player on the floor. By the end of the first we actually had a game, a Jeremy Grant dunk on Durant and a block by Westbrook good enough for a Sportscenter top 10 highlight.

Their were 2 possibilities to how the Warriors came out for the second quarter – either somebody gave transcripts of the hot-takes being given across twitter and halftime shows or Kevin Durant made it his goal to destroy the Thunder’s chances and every other Warrior just followed in his footsteps. It seems that whatever it was Durant made it his mission to get the W before heading back to OKC where I’m at least hoping for a more fired up Thunder team.

November 4th



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Knicks- 117 | Bulls – 104


The Bulls hosted the Knicks in spectacular fashion as longtime Bulls Noah and Rose returned to the place that they managed to build back in 2010 but then struggled to maintain for the years following. That struggle was evident as the fans rained down on Rose as he was introduced with a mix of cheers and boo’s.

As for the game, Rose looked to be in his element, in fact, all the Knicks seemed to be playing extremely well almost as if they finally had a purpose to be competitive. It was exciting to hear Noah audibly screaming at every move to the hoop by his teammates which is something that him a Carlos Boozer should be reunited just to keep me entertained and locked into a Knicks game.

Honestly speaking, even with the loss the Knicks seemed to have the inability to stop Dwyane Wade as he got anywhere he wanted and showed off the type of shooting that will have you rubbing your eyes to make sure you’re not seeing someone else.

My biggest take away from this game – GIVE PORZINGIS THE BALL!. The Latvian phenom was everywhere and it’s crazy to see someone his size, with his skill set not being exploited more in the Knicks offense.



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Lakers – 117 | Warriors – 97


Before I even mention the game, we must take a second to acknowledge the Lakers throwback uniforms that they chose to bust out on the ESPN game night. The Lakers went all the way back on these ones and in a way I’d like to think it gave the young Laker team a little more juice that night.

Theres no analysis or detailed breakdown for this one unfortunately, but it had the feeling of a Warriors team that was starting to get rolling and a Laker team that was still getting things in place. I’m not sure what it is about Lakers games, but this is now the second time that the Warriors have been upset by a young and fairly inexperienced Laker.

A lot of Laker fans on twitter throughout the game were quick to appoint Luke Walton the “real coach of the Warriors” making jabs at Kerr during his time spent away from the team when Luke assumed the interim spot. Honestly, it was getting hard to argue the point after seeing the baby Lakers producing great ball movement, cutting, screening which were all things that we see the Warriors do to this day.

With all that said however, this was not the reason the Warriors lost this game.

The Dubs lost this game on multiple defensive lapses, poor rebounding and one giant shooting slump that plagued both Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. Thompson hasn’t really looked right to start the season, and this game was no different as the Warriors continued to try to find the 3 point shot but to no avail. The single slump was so bad that it broke Steph Curry’s streak of 3 point field goals in consecutive games of 157!

Call it what you want, perhaps the Lakers got a break and compounded that with great play and the Warriors simply had an off night. Either way everyone should panic as we watch the super-team go down in flames.

 

Courtside Review: NBA Week 1

It’s been incredibly easy to dig in and be consumed with some great NBA action this past week. Opening week can sometimes show the ugly side of professional basketball as teams come out of training camp and begin to get into the coveted “mid-season” form.

I’ve heard a few people say it but coming into this season it hasn’t been easy to forget what occurred just a few months back in June – and so far – becoming a faint cloud over this current NBA season.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first week definitely triggered an onslaught of hot takes that only exist to drive conversation among the “sports talk” groups. However there were some things that stood out to us at the CC staff post-discussion before the season began.

October 25th



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Select any team to face the Cavaliers in the first game of the season and with the Knicks being scheduled it would seem they drew the short straw. From the first play however the Knicks appeared to have a tiny boost in their step as the newly acquired Derrick Rose drive to the hoop finishing with his signature gather-jump lay-up. As the game progressed the Knicks stayed relatively close to the Cavs right up until the 3rd quarter where the Knicks became the Knicks and the C’s rolled them over and into an eventual 29 point loss.

The game was a direct reflection of a team that stayed together for the majority and have entered the season in great condition physically and mentally. Physically the Cavs are not a question as long as LeBron is at the helm, but the mental advantage this team now has will more than likely land them right back into the NBA Finals for the 3rd straight season. The release for everybody on this roster made everything they’d been through as a group making their bond stronger than simply winning a championship together.



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Down in Oregon the team that was once a very promising payoff team is now a scary playoff team being lead by one of the most underrated players in the league. Coming off an All-Star worthy year last season, the Lillard lead Blazers are hungry for more.

It always amazes me how Blazers head coach Terry Stots constantly improves the offense around Lillard and McCollum. They run great PnR’s with Plumlee, Davis and Aminu who can also play dynamically and shoot from range. They always seem to get great energy from their shooters in Crabbe and Harkless who can deadly from doing the simple things while the defense is preoccupied with Lillard and McCollum.

On the other side, the Jazz are deserving of a playoff spot, and so far they seem to have a clear direction for how they want to attack this season. They’ve treated themselves to a good point guard in  George Hill who is more than capable of scoring but will also keep the ball moving. If you only saw the boxscore and thought that Joe Johnson’s 29 was a typo, you need to watch the second half of this game as the rebirth of Johnson seems to have engulfed him in Salt Lake City.

Utah was missing 3 of their key pieces in this game of Hayward, Favors and Burkes which could have been a factor in this game being a possible W for the Jazz. It’s clear they missed the offense these 3 can bring and will be something to re-visit once they do finally return to the starting line-up.



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I’ve finally given in to my hubris and still refuse to believe that #35 is actually Kevin Durant in a Warriors jersey. It’s become so bad that I find myself shaking my head in disbelief as soon as the Dubs take the floor… EVERYTIME!

Pre-season storyline, here we were with our first meaningful look at the Warriors and against who else but the San Antonio Spurs (thanks NBA schedule makers!).

The Warriors looked incredible during the pre-season but on their home floor on opening night that quickly turned into shaming from fan of the 31 other NBA teams. Everyone tuned in to see a great game which in almost no time at all turned into a thumping by the Spurs and ultimately making it one of the greatest games of the season so far.

The Warriors were met with an onslaught from both Kawhi Leonard and Lamarcus Aldridge along with some great contribution from gamer of the night Jonathan Simmons. The Spurs never once seemed to lose control of the game and the Warriors looked like they were still playing a pre-season game. * It’s only on game but…* the Spurs look ready to top the West and in the meantime continue to encourage Leonard to go after any award or achievement he damn well pleases.

October 26th



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On a bit of a hectic day of NBA action with 10 games being played, most casual fans would have been patiently waiting for the Rockets v Lakers game to begin. Well if that was you then you may have only found out later that this game was both amazing and awful.

The Nuggets are relatively the same this year and while they continue to build team chemistry and grow their young core they showed quite the fight against the Pelicans. The Nuggets survived one of the greatest stat lines in recent NBA history and did so as a team. The eye-popping figure that gave the Nuggets the W was their rebounding with 58 boards and 47 coming from the defensive side of the ball Denver was everywhere the Pelicans weren’t.

Alright, so the Pels lost the rebounding battle (eventually losing the game in the process) but they had one huge positive by the way of Anthony Davis. Davis has been injured for what seems like forever a this point, so much that it cost him millions in contract money. On the Pelicans opening night game however, Davis reminded the city and the league why we all jumped at the chance to crown him an MVP candidate just a season ago. With a 50Pt-15Rbd-5Stl statline he appeared to be unstoppable but none of that meant whole lot when only 2 other players on your entire roster cracked double figure points, 4 scored more than 2 points and 3 others scored 0.



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When I saw this game on the schedule I didn’t need a second longer to decide if I was in wholeheartedly to see how this would play out.

First of all, I (Jordan) lead the charge against CC staffers Tom and Rob that James Harden would be my clear-cut MVP winner for this season, and after this game it wasn’t easy to argue. Although, with all that said, Harden’s MVP chances require he have nights like these against LA, putting up 30+ points and 10+ assists. Harden is quite capable of these accolades with his new supporting cast and they didn’t disappoint as new acquisitions Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon dropped 33 points combined.

The Lakers scoring scope was a lot wider than that of Houston’s – they shared the wealth and managed to keep up with the Rockets the whole 48 minutes. This game made it very difficult to gauge  both teams when they combine for 29 turnovers each and play the equivalent of an all-star game allowing 134 points combined in the first half!

It was for this reason however that this is my pick for most entertaining game of the week, and here’s hoping that for the Lakers fans they’ll continue to see Clarkson and Russell have these types of games more often.

October 27th



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Theres 2 teams that the Blazers play every season that will continue to grab my attention and I don’t need to question if the game will be anything short of pure entertainment. Whenever the Clippers or Warriors roll into the Moda Center it almost always feels like a rivalry playoff game and the competition is always at its highest.

The Clippers are finally at full health to start another season and with some minor additions to the roster all systems appear to be good but whether or not that will last…. we’ll find out. CP3 and Blake gave the Clips huge games respectively, along with 15 a piece from Speights and Crawford to help give the Clippers the win. It appeared the Clippers were happy to let Damian Lillard try to win the game for the Blazers even when Harkless poured in 23 for Portland, and yet I feel like this was a big red flag for the Blazers.

Going forward, the Blazers won’t need to worry about Lillard’s offense as it will require guys like Harkless, Crabbe and Vonleh to provide the spark and scoring that will push this team higher up the Western Conference ladder and make them even more of a threat than past seasons.

 

October 28th



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This was amongst the many games played over the first weekend in the league and while its still early in the season the Raptors have a lot to prove this season. This rematch with the Cavs was a good way to kick off the Raps season and it didn’t disappoint.

DeRozan looks to be in a new mode coming into this season and if it remains consistent then not only will his contract seem reasonable, but would likely get the Raptors back in the Eastern Conference Finals. In a game that the Raptors could have won, the Cavs were too much from outside and what they gave the Raptors inside the paint – much like any Warriors statistic – the 3pt shot will do more damage.

 

Courtside Close-up: Jersey Edition

In this new addition to the series of “Courtside close-ups” we bring you a look at this adidas Revolution 30 Jersey from the 2014-2015 NBA season.

This New Orleans Pelicans Game-Worn Jersey was worn by Pelicans Point Guard Norris Cole. You may remember Cole from his 2 championship winning seasons with the Miami Heat, where he came in as a rookie and was an immediate spark for the team with some notable playoff performances.

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Once a Sun, Retired a Knick

 

After one season with the Miami Heat, Amar’e Stoudemire has decided to retire following a reasonably successful 14 year NBA career. Stoudemire had just recently signed a deal with the Knicks but immediately after decided to hang it up for good.

Amar’e was drafted in 2002 by the Suns however, where he spent 8 of the most exciting years of his career, helping to build the Suns alongside hall of fame point guard Steve Nash to become one of the most exciting teams in Western Conference for years to come. During his time in Pheonix he was a 5-time all-star and won Rookie of the Year honours in 2003.

“Although my career has taken me to other places around the country, my heart had always remained in the Big Apple,” he said in a statement. “Once a Knick, Always a Knick.”

After being knocked out of the 2010 playoffs, Stoudemire decided to follow his fellow head coach Mike D’Antoni to New York, where he would do things in a city that hadn’t seen alot of winning in a long time. In just his first season with the Knicks, Amar’e racked up an average of 25 points and was the first Knick selected for an All-Star game appearance since Patrick Ewing in 1997.

Although he started off great, his constant battle with knee issues was ultimately the detrimental factor to his career and eventually had him in a limited role on the court. Soon after Carmelo Anthony came into the fold, Stoudemire opted to be bought out and moved on to Dallas before ultimately playing his last season in Miami.