Courtside Chat: March 19 2017

Alot has happened over the last few weeks in the NBA and if you are like me, you keep your ear to the court to get your updates on whats going on around the association.

Below are a few topics that have shaken up the NBA lately:

ABC Primetime has its second “sit-out” game 

Not even a month removed from the headlining Spurs vs Warriors match-up the Cavaliers decided to rest their trio of James, Irving and Love in their game against a fully healthy Clippers squad in Los Angeles. This stirred up a somewhat deserved outcry from fans who were once again duped out of a highly entertaining game in a nationally televised spot with ABC/ESPN. The Cavaliers just recently came off of a great win against Utah at the Q on Friday so their was no real claim for a back-to-back resting spot to fall back on to justify the sit-out.

Irving has been delaying with some knee issues, LeBron continues to play high-volume minutes and Kevin Love has only just returned from his surgery on his knee to round out the report on the 3 stars. Something interesting that was brought up during the broadcast however (which was pure entertainment in itself) was to question why the Cavs chose this game to rest rather than the game against the Lakers the very next night. It would seem logical to do it this way as the Lakers have openly began tanking and a Cavaliers team without their big 3 should be able to handle themselves, as well as this the game is not being nationally televised and the Lakers aren’t drawing the same eyes the Clippers and Cavs are this year by any means.

So how should we feel about the stars resting? Is it fair to the fans, who are being deemed as the group that are suffering the most from this tactic. Is their a solution that the NBA could implement to stop this from happening? For right now, it doesn’t appear that answer is anywhere near being clear and for the time being it doesn’t appear to be stopping as more teams try their hand at the whole “resting” thing.

Most Valuable Question 

The battle continues with MVP talks and it does’t appear to be stopping as we inch closer to the playoffs so heres my quick take of the 2 front-runners as of late:

Westbrook: It is becoming increasingly difficult to deny Westbrook of having an MVP season with the most insane stat lines game after game and showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. But even after all the stats and amazing performances somehow the Thunder are finding themselves with a chance to capture a 5th seed in the West. Let that sink in and combine that with the projections for how the Thunder would fair this year and you’ve got a very worthy candidate for MVP.

Harden: Sometimes I can’t help but feel bad for the guys in the MVP race this year, and that certainly applies to Harden some nights more often than not. Harden’s game has been thrown into a complete 180 after coming off a year that had alot of people questioning his leadership skills both on the court and off the court with his teammates. The saviour that is Mike D’Antoni broke out some fresh batteries and stuffed James Harden with them and set him to complete floor general mode. Much like Westbrook, Harden is the beginning and ending for the Rockets, however Harden may have a slight edge over Russell when we look at efficiency and overall selfishness to unselfishness ratio.

With both guys dominating the games for their teams respectively, this is shaping up to be one of the closest MVP races in a long time. So who do you have winning and as the topic of winning record continues to factor in, does that sway your overall choice?

Slump Brothers 

As quick as Kevin Durant went down just a few weeks back, the panic button was hit immediately. Almost just as quickly the Warriors 2 best shooters somehow became human and developed a slight shooting slump, so much so that Curry shot 23-76 while Klay shot 25-66 since Durant’s departure.

While everybody thought the world was ending, its not as if Steph and Klay fell off the face of the earth as the sharpshooting backcourt both averaged 25.9 (Curry) and 23.9 (Thompson) between the Wizards and recent Bucks win. If the Bucks performance is anything to go by, then it would appear that they’ve both reverted back to normal and perhaps could be finding that magic that they both shared during the 73 win season.

With Durant now back with the team and travelling as well as making an appearance at the Warriors training facility with a heavily wrapped left knee, perhaps KD’s return can be held off a tad longer. The Spurs are yet to close the gap on the Warriors for the 1 seed as they now hold 2 games for the top spot. Does the time with Durant appear to be a good or bad thing for the splash brothers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#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.

Top 10 moments of the 2016 NBA season

2016 was a great year for NBA fans, especially if you were a Cavs fan, and maybe not so much a Warriors fan. Regardless, we saw some great basketball in the 2015-2016 season and the offseason that followed it. It wasn’t just some things that caught us by surprise, but rather everything about it caught us off guard.

Lets begin.

#10

Thunder lose in the Western Conference Finals, change NBA landscape forever. 

Kicking the top 10 off is OKC’s huge collapse in the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors. Preceding the dubs at their own fortunes, the Thunder blew a 3-1 lead over the former NBA champs after knocking off a Spurs team that was on it’s last legs mentally and physically after capturing a title just 2 years prior. The Thunder finally looked to be avenging their 2012 appearance in the Finals when they were still so young and promising, except this time with the departure of James Harden, the team of Westbrook and Durant looked primed to walk right into a Finals meeting with the Cavs.

In actuality however, it took a absolutely crushing Game 6 loss for the Thunder to finally see the writing on the wall. After Klay Thompson lit them up for 11 three’s in the game, with the Warriors not yet finished writing NBA history, Thompson’s playoff record setting shooting display propelled the Warriors to a Game 7 back at the Oracle for the nail in the coffin.

#9

Curry gets second MVP in consecutive years, this time unanimously.

Steph Curry set a new record for most-recorded 3-point field-goals in a regular season at 402, yes you read that right, accumulating over 1200 points alone on 3-point shots. That wasn’t the only milestone that he and the Warriors achieved but it does help add some insight into one of the greatest regular seasons from a player and team we’ve ever seen. Steph Curry led the Warriors through some of the most exhilarating games and at times himself appeared to be in his own world out on the floor. Some of the performances that Curry had last season were jaw-dropping and usually dominated media headlines for days on end.

And yet even with all of the praise and attention, there were still doubts about Curry receiving the award for a second time as some pinned him to be the shiny object that dazzled and swindled everyones vote. Well, even if that was the case the voters certainly didn’t seem to disagree as Curry made more history becoming the first player to be unanimously voted as Most Valuable Player.

#8

Toronto Raptors reach Eastern Conference Finals for first time in franchise history

The Raptors had a great run last season after they made a push to become the 2nd best team in the East, and ultimately reach their first Eastern Conference Finals in the franchises history. A huge deal for the Raptor fans who have been longing for some success for the last few years with their great tandem of Lowry and Derozan.

While the Raps looked relatively dominant throughout the season, they definitely kept their fans on edge once the playoffs began. Looking back at it now – I said it at the time – the Raptors had one of the most difficult playoffs and it was usually to their own detriment. Toronto found themselves in 2 Game 7 situations before even meeting with the Cavaliers and while it was certainly the hard path taken, it did give some entertaining basketball in the Eastern playoffs.

#7

Wade leaves Miami, Durant leaves Oklahoma City

Appropriately at #7 we combine 2 of the biggest moves in the NBA this past offseason, as if the Finals didn’t give us enough excitement, the moves made over the summer changed franchises and broke hearts.

Dwyane Wade was beloved in Miami (and still is) and its doubtful that will ever change after giving the franchise 13 years of greatness, including 3 NBA Championships. Sure he had to make room for both LeBron and Chris Bosh, but at the heart of the team it was Wade county through and through. After conversations broke down with Pat Riley, Hassan Whiteside receiving a max deal rather quickly and the franchises obvious pursuit of Kevin Durant it seemed as though Wade was pushed to the side in Riley’s list of priorities. Well for Dwyane, it was clear he was searching for more and was tired of being an afterthought, which ended up landing him in the windy city with the Chicago Bulls, or better known to Wade as home.

Kevin Durant was all the buzz throughout the entire offseason and for alot of us who weren’t Durant himself, Draymond Green, Steph Curry or his immediate family we were for the most part led astray that he would be considering any other team not named the Warriors. After the fact, it was clear that the courting from the Warriors players and the crushing defeat in the Western Conference Finals that Durant’s mind was made up – Oakland was the destination and it has been weird to see Durant in a Warriors jersey ever since.

#6

Feb. 27 2016 – Warriors vs. Thunder, the game winner for the ages

The Warriors dominance was in full force when they met up with the Thunder for just the second time in the same month of February. The Thunder and Warriors games were 3 of the best games of last season because it served as a preview to the Western Conference finals. Our post-All Star hangover was met with possibly the best regular season game of last season as the Warriors and Thunder dueled it out all the way into overtime.

The game itself was back and forth the entire time, leading all the way up to the wire which is what we wish every NBA game was like as it brings the best out of players. In a crazy finish that saw Kevin Durant cough up a costly turnover leading to the fouling of Andre Igoudala who stepped up and hit 2 massive free-throws to send the game into OT. Overtime was once again a back and forth fight until Russell Westbrook had the ball in his hands as the final 20 seconds ran off the clock. Westbrook’s attack led him to a shot of hope as hit attempted to lay the ball up only to watch it bounce off the rim into the Warriors hands. With the rebound secured, the ball found Steph Curry who dribbled it just past half court with around 2 seconds remaining – the rest is history.

#5

The Dunk contest heard around the world

If as picture was a thousand words then this top 10 list wouldn’t be enough to even begin to describe the high level of entertainment that the Dunk Contest brought fans worldwide back in February this year. Everyone’s seen it by now, if you haven’t then I don’t know what to tell you other than you’ve missed out on one of the best Dunk Contest’s since the battle between Jordan and Dominique back in 1988.

For years the Dunk Contest was losing it’s “wow-factor” and was forever being compared to the last time it truly took the NBA world by storm in 2000 by Vince Carter and company. That was until this years past All-Star Weekend where the seemingly unchallenged Zach Lavine was met head-to-head by Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon. The 2 made it to the final round without much competition, but once they began their final dunks it quickly turned into a “anything you can do I can somehow do inhumane-video-game-style better”.

For a moment in time we were in the trance of some of the most amazing stretch of dunks that I personally have ever seen. The best part about all of it is that it was everything that encompasses the Dunk Contest – mind-blowing dunks, 2 or more competitors battling it out and dunks being completed in less than 3 attempts.

#4

Kobe’s Finale in LA

In 2016 believe it or not there was another attraction in the league not named the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers Kobe retirement tour of the United States kicked off early into the 2015-2016 season and didn’t stop for anybody. The Lakers became a travelling spectacle purely for fans to get a final glimpse of Bryant that in turn took the Laker’s focus completely off of basketball and just through them into a sideshow all season.

Regardless, all good things must come to an end and given Bryant’s track record, his final game of his career couldn’t have ended any better being at home and giving a performance that was only fitting for Kobe to exit on. Unbelievably, the Warriors make another return into 2016 storylines as Kobe’s last game happened to coincide with the night that the Warriors were going for their 73rd win against the Grizzlies. However, in true Kobe fashion he stole the show by dropping 60 points against the Utah Jazz in a close game and eventually winning that game to much of the delight of the fans in Staples that night. It was truly Bryant’s showcase of everything his career was in LA and his loyalty to the franchise has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest Laker’s in history.

#3

Move over Chicago, there’s a new record in town.

The questions that eventually surrounded the Warrior’s completing the feat that was 73 regular season wins is something that will haunt the franchise for years to come. However to most people it’s debatable that this had anything to do with how the Warrior’s playoff run eventually ended.

The Warriors started off the season going on a 24-0 run on the league and had the NBA media in a frenzy from there onwards as they scrambled to try and explain just how dominant the Warrior’s were being and if it was fair on the rest of the league. As the season went on the wins began to pile up, they had stats that would almost begin to guarantee wins – unbeaten at home, up by 15 at any point they win etc.

It was incredible to watch and with all the hypothetical 1996 Bulls vs 2016 Warriors match-ups aside it now etches them into the history books, for a record that was seemingly untouchable, the Warriors proved that basketball had changed and was in a new phase of how the game will be played for decades to come.

#2

The big 3’s big moment

By now i’m sure you can guess whats coming at #1, but before that could even happen there was a series of events that deserve their own top 10 spot. The big 3 of Cleveland came together for one reason and like a previous LeBron lead team in Miami the beginnings were not so smooth and their trip to the Finals was not how they wanted it to turn out with injuries being a big part of their failures.

So how do you bounce back from a year of criticism as a team as well as LeBron shouldering alot of the criticism as he likes to do? In a 7 game series with the Warriors it all built up to one of the great 5 minutes of basketball in NBA Finals history. What will forever be tagged as “The Block, The Shot, The Stop” marks one of the greatest achievements in Cavaliers history.

The Block was one of the defining moments in LeBron’s illustrious career as he sprinted from half court to deny Andre Igoudala a go ahead bucket for the Warriors. The Shot was Kyrie Irving’s arrival to the grand stage, in one of the most gutsy isolation situations with so much on the line, it was too much Uncle Drew to handle. Lastly, The Stop which remains as one of the most underrated defensive plays to this day. With Kevin Love switched on to Steph Curry it was a true hold-your-breath moment as Curry danced on Love with several dribble moves, something that all year resulted in bigger players having a 3 drilled right in their face. This time however, Kevin Love re-wrote the script and challenged Curry just enough.

#1

52 years

Capping off this list was the biggest moment of 2016 for obvious reasons, and with fandom aside, no mater which team you back it’s difficult not to admit that the 2016 NBA Finals was something special. A series that boasted some of the biggest storylines and history between 2 teams in just 2 years. A build up that almost didn’t happen.

If you’d like to really dive deep into the #1 moment of 2016 then I urge you to read the breakdown of just how important these storylines were.

What a year and hopefully 2017 will bring us just as many moments if not more.

Courtside Review: Week 3

Another great week of NBA action, some games we’ve picked out this week were definitely must-watch games if you have league pass available. Game of the week would have to be the Suns vs. Blazers, but honestly its hard to pick just one so enjoy our little breakdown of each of the weeks best games!

 

November 7th


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Warriors 116 – Pelicans 106


The winless Pelicans came into Oracle and shocked everyone to start Week 3  and did so on a night that saw the Warriors, specifically Steph Curry, etch their name in the history books.

On the back of another superstar performance from Anthony Davis, the Pels actually had their other starters give AD the support he needed. The Pelicans did quite well to stick with the Warriors for the better of 2 quarters and after dropping down 16 points at one point managed to cut that lead right down as the 3rd quarter concluded.

However, The Warriors had Steph Curry coming of an 0-10 night of 3pt shooting in LA and bounced back to go 13 from 17 and secure the best single game 3pt performance in NBA history. It was a show within itself as Curry was firing from deep even if the ball bounced off of Draymond’s leg, Curry dribbled through 2 defenders to get tot he 3pt line – you name it he did it.

Unfortunately for the Pelicans it was this night that Curry decided to be lights out from deep, otherwise its possible that New Orleans could have stolen this one.

 

November 8th


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Trailblazers 124 – Suns 121


The first time these 2 teams met, with the Suns win over the Blazers I awarded Bledsoe with the best performance for that game. With this game being the exact opposite and the Blazers pulling out the win in another close game, the Blazers CJ McCollum showed up and showed out with a huge 33 points as well as his partner in crime Lillard finishing with 38 points for another massive game for Dame.

Even with the Blazers win, I have seen 2 instances now that have shown me that Eric Bledsoe is one of the best 4th quarter players in the league as of this moment. Both times these teams have now met it has been Bledsoe who has brought the Suns either close to victory or sealed it for them. With the Suns down 8 with 4 minutes remaining, Bledsoe took it upon himself to score 15 points in the last 4 minutes of the 4th. That is the type of performance that shouldn’t be swept under the rug, but with so little coverage of all the NBA teams, these are the things that get lost in the NBA media cycle.

 

November 9th


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Clippers 111 – Trailblazers 80


Clippers, Clippers and more Clippers.

This year the LA shadow team for many years to the Lakers has taken command of the ship and look to be in better shape than ever to contend for a title this year. With this win over the Blazers improving the Clips to 7-1, it seems like things are nothing but up from here.

This game was dominated by the Clippers from start to finish taking an early 20+ lead and never letting go. It seems a little bizarre that we would discredit the Clippers for dropping that series to the Blazers last year, however now we know why. One major part of this was injuries and as we saw in this game, the Clippers were simply too much for a Blazers team that had an awful night scoring from their starters.

Now this could have a lot to do with the fact that the Blazers had just played in a slug fest with the Suns the night before, certainly it had to have played a factor. It seems highly unusual that you’ll see the Trailblazers starters each individually score under double figures.

 


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Warriors 116 – Mavericks 106


Injuries aren’t wished upon anybody in the NBA (unless you’re an opposing fan in an NBA Finals game perhaps) but in some cases injuries allow bench players to get some shine and prove their worth and sometimes surprise teams and coaches alike.

Dallas may have lost this game, but by no means were they playing with a whole roster especially while Dirk rehabs his Achilles injury. The Mavs were also without Wesley Mathews, Deron Williams and JJ Barea which for a more veteran type of team is something that is more likely to happen as the season goes on.

However, as stated before, this spawned an opportunity for Seth Curry who so far has bounced around from a few teams as of late. Seth had 10 points on the night but was also undertaking the assignment of guarding his brother Steph and by no means is that easy in itself and even harder when the other brother is trying to school you at any chance he gets.

On a night that celebrated the return of Barnes and Bogut its unfortunate that the Mavericks couldn’t have enough of the roster to compete, however if these 2 teams are to meet in the future with full rosters then perhaps the story might be different.

 

November 10th


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Bulls 98 – Heat 95


It’s kind of funny looking back at everything that went down with the Heat and Wade this past summer and thins game was a bit more added proof  that perhaps the move to Chicago was both good for Dwyane and the Heat. On the very surface of it all the Heat were clearly in a position where they wanted to begin a rebuild with the big 3 era evidently over and Wade didn’t feel like doing anymore favours for the Heat.

For Dwayne this move couldn’t have placed him in a better situation, this game specifically showed that even with Wade having an emotional game where stars usually make it a point to play very well. It was the Bulls who carried Wade to the victory on his return to Miami, and of course Wade had his moments but ultimately this game wasn’t really what most expected it to be. At this point I don’t think that it was Wade’s mission to return and drop a 30+ game to remind the fans what their missing as that damage was done as soon as he left.