Posts tagged Basketball
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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

I’m disappointed in the lack of coverage there’s been on Anthony Davis this season. Really and truly, I know that he was supposed to be 1 of the 2 new ‘Twin Towers’ accompanied by DeMarcus Cousins, and quite frankly they were in a good place to make a case for being one of those teams to fear when the playoffs came about.

But here’s the thing, and it’s something I hate about the Western Conference but still appreciate – there are so many stars. You could say “what about KAT? What about Lillard? No love for the Nuggets? OKC Big 3?” Listen, all of those whom I’ve mentioned have had significantly more airtime than Anthony Davis that I have noticed. The NBA’s a long season, and yes you have to spread out the storylines that come about, but come on, people, let’s be real here, the Brow has been balling.

He’s having a career year, the Pelicans are in a position they haven’t been in since their names were the Hornets, which is to be a top 4 seed in the West heading into the playoffs (07-08 was the last time it happened), and quite frankly, while Davis is a phenomenal player in his own right, he has endured many bumps and bruises to get the Pelicans, and his game to this point.

It should be appreciated more, kind of like Demar DeRozan in Toronto (I couldn’t resist). I can’t recall off the top of my head which game it was, but I vividly remember the Pelicans winning a game at home and seeing Anthony Davis yell “We’re not losing anymore!”

Bless him for the optimism, but it did indeed look like they were on the rise, despite being swept in the 1st round to the then-NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. Blame injuries for the reason why he couldn’t ascend to his current level of play sooner, or blame the fact that New Orleans as an organization didn’t do a good job in putting talent around him. The point is that, it’s not an irregular story in the NBA, because in sports, as in life, shit happens, and Anthony Davis’ story is no exception.

So what happened to the Chicago kid to spark such a drastic change in his dominance this season? There were so many questions as to how the ball was going to be shared between himself and Boogie Cousins, whom both are capable of going for 40 and 20 on any given night, lets be real. There was a healthy glimpse of what was to come after the Kings traded Boogie to New Orleans, and then talks of ‘Twin Towers’ came to light. The 1st full season of the two together brought excitement and playoff chatter, which would have been the end of what was misery for a good portion of Davis’ duration in New Orleans.

They didn’t disappoint. They were on a significant role, and when you factor in the contributions from Rajon Rondo, I mean, never mind talks of the playoffs, there was a title contention conversation starting up, but the West is loaded, so that was absolutely not happening, and until Houston proves they can beat Golden State four times out of seven in the playoffs, the Warriors still run the West until further notice.

And then came January 26th; DeMarcus Cousins went down with a torn Achilles right before All Star Break, and then everything turned back to Anthony Davis – not that he wasn’t already carrying his own weight for the team, but now they needed him more than ever, and going backwards was not an option.

What this man proceeded to do in the month of February was not only historical, but…actually, I can’t even think of a proper word (or words) to describe what he did. Being the first player in 40 years to average at least 35 points and 10 rebounds in a calendar month doesn’t even make sense. Davis’ numbers were 35 & 13, and the Pelicans won 7 straight games, which started February 10th.

It’s been that kind of run that defines seasons, and Davis has also thrown his name into the MVP race, and rightfully so. Many people have James Harden as the shoe-in, but there are no guarantees in life. I mean, I think he’s still going to win because the Rockets are more than likely to capture the 1-seed in the West and probably overall.

Either way, Davis is doing a great deal leading his team to the next level – a level in which he’d like to stay for a long time. Adversity is one thing that Davis has had to deal with for his career, and that won’t change, but it’s the matter of gaining significant traction in order to get his team to a place where they can compete at a high level consistently, which is the ultimate goal. It would appear that he’s on that mission, come hell or high water, and we should revel in the production of greatness that’s coming with it.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

Respect the Raptors' Bench Mob

A lot of a team’s success certainly relies on its starters, but it’s the supporting cast that can make or break teams when going through the rough stretch of the dog days in the NBA, and even in the thick of the playoffs. They play an integral role in helping propel a team’s chances of winning on a nightly basis. Usually there’s 1 or 2 players who come off the bench and can make a significant impact (hence the 6th Man award), but the truly great teams can go deep into their bench to not heavily rely on the success of the starters. Ideally, that’s what you want in a fully functioning team.

The Toronto Raptors have had the best bench in the NBA this season so far, and the fact that the majority of the players who contribute to this bench are 1st and 2nd year players, is very telling to not only the drafting from management (shoutout to Masai Ujiri & Bobby Webster), but also to coaching. And quite frankly, you need some luck too, because you can have all the talent in the world, and it won’t translate on the court to get you the results you’re looking for.

Fred Van Vleet, Jakob Poetl, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam are the key cogs that churn the 2nd unit for the Raptors. Including the starting 5 of Lowry, DeRozan, Valaciunas, Ibaka, and OG Anunoby, 11 players are averaging at least 6 points per game, which I’ve read has never been done before.

When Masai called for a “culture reset” after getting swept by the Cavaliers in 2017, I didn’t anticipate that it would have resulted in them having the depth that they do at bench. It’s hilarious to think of their depth, when in very recent memory, they had the ‘6 Man’ of the year with Lou Williams (which he has lived up to in his post-Toronto career – currently with the Clippers). Unfortunately, they were swept by the Wizards. The bench was decent, but not enough to get the Raptors to the next level.

What’s currently at hand is a unit that is not only young, but also mature enough to grasp the challenge of getting to that next level. When Lowry is down, you have two PGs who can get you 20 (FVV & Delon). When you need a shooter, CJ Miles can give you 3-4 threes a night (that’s not even an exaggeration either – the man can shoot). Jakob Poetl has proven nightly that not only is he a great rim protector, but the man’s offensive production is that which Raptors fans have been asking JV to be for years. I mean, JV has a 3-point shot now, and is noticeably quicker on his feet, so we’ll take that.

The biggest challenge that always proved to be the Raptors downfall, was the amount of minutes Lowry & DeRozan spent on a nightly basis. By the time the playoffs came around, they were groggy, consistently inconsistent, and visibly tired. It was a lot on their bodies, and they weren’t fresh. They’ve always had to carry the team on those latter stretches, and would run straight to the ground come the first week of May.

This year, they haven’t had that problem, but mainly because the team is so good and has been dominating teams so often, that they usually don’t play whole 4th quarters. That’s a testament as well to great bench play, because Dwane Casey has found significant footing with his approach to controlling his game. At times, he’ll pull the starters so the 2nd unit can give the team a jolt. The chemistry of the bench is infectious, and the guys enjoy playing with each other. They’re part of the reason why the Raptors are on pace to break their season-high wins record again, and why the possibility of basketball in June is actually a conversation (right now). The assist rate for the Raptors is the highest it’s ever been, because of years of watching ISO-ball-run rampant. It’s the method to their success that will only get better with time.

The significance of having a D-League team is also at play because the nucleus of the bench spent significant time there (and won the D-League championship). When you look at the Spurs, which is an organization that has set the bar for overall team success for the past 20 years, they pride themselves on developing their players into becoming key contributors on the next level. With that much experience and playing time, it only adds to a player’s confidence, and it translates when it comes to in-game action.

The Raptors 905 should be respected for the way in which they’ve been able to sculpt their players into becoming consistent performers when it matters. ‘Built not Bought’ is a phrase that rejects the notion that you have to buy your way to success, and through great drafting and coaching, that’s possible.

The Golden State Warriors are another model you can look at, given that they produced 3 all-stars through their draft and have had success with pivotal role players.

The end of season result is still to remain, but this Raptors team, with their upgraded and finely tuned bench, can give hope to the team and the fans of the team of future success, if not this year, then definitely sooner rather than later.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

David Nwaba's importance on the Chicago Bulls

Hello Bulls fans,

The NBA has changed a lot over the years as far as the type of players that are wanted in the draft. Big men are no longer wanted to just sit in the paint and play with their back to the basket. There is a big emphasis on 7-foot players who can shoot the 3-point shot effectively.There is one thing about the league that hasn’t changed over the years, and that’s having an energy guy on your team.

What I mean by that is a player who is going to come in off the bench and hustle hard, dive for the basketball, contest shots, and make the crowd get into the game. A way I like to look at it is imagine playing in a pick up game at the park. Usually on the court at the pick up game is a guy that wears running or track shoes. The guy who is wearing these shoes is the guy who plays aggressive defense or hacks whoever he is guarding. That is the kind of player needed for most teams that comes off the bench.

The Chicago Bulls acquired David Nwaba in the offseason from the Lakers. Nwaba has shown the ability to get to the rim and finish with authority during a fast break. Defensively he’s very aggressive and at times gets ticky tack fouls, but that all depends on how the referees are calling the game. He would be everything Thibs ever wanted in a player and more when it comes to tenacity and aggressiveness. The athleticism Nwaba possesses is quite remarkable to say the least. He can go up and get alley oops with ease or even jump over big men to grab rebounds. Nwaba does the dirty work like dive for the loose basketballs or take charges. These are all things that make Chicagoans fall in love with you as a player.

David Nwaba scored a career-high 21 points during a start with nine rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, three 3-pointers and six fouls in 33 minutes against the 76ers last Thursday. When given the minutes and shots he has shown to be an effective player for the Bulls. He’s come back from the all-star break shooting 3-pointers with confidence. He’s a developing player who will bring energy to a team in a way that ignites the crowd. I believe he will be an effective 6th man for this roster for next season no matter which way the organization decides to go.

Has the line between sports and gaming begun to blur?
Getty Images

Getty Images

I remember the day vividly. Down the stairs I went to my friends TV room. On the left a big tv, and on the right, two couches, one directly in front of the other, both facing the screen. They were playing 2K, I think 2K11, but I just assumed a real game was on. I never watched a basketball game consciously at that point, and wasn’t into sports at all. But I was into video games, I knew that.

Not long after that day, I went out and bought 2K for myself, and began to learn. I learned about the the teams, the players, and the game of basketball as I progressed through the game. But it began to branch out my interest. I’d check the stats of each player in 2K, then learn about them on the internet, and watch youtube videos from their playing careers. I dropped into the NBA and as a result needed to learn all about it.

Now it’s my life. Going to school to major in sport management. Writing for Barbers Chair Digital. Watching basketball and listening to related podcasts daily. But most importantly, actually playing the game in real life. And though I can’t remember whether 2K is what started my love for the game, or merely influenced it, it was pivotal to the process.

Getty Images

Getty Images

But I doubt my experience with 2K is out of the ordinary. In fact I think it may become the norm. I know a bit about millennials though, with my brother being one of them. It boggles my mind the amount of time one can spend gaming, or watching others game, but I know that it’s entirely due to circumstance. When I was about 10, I’d be using CD roms on a 30-pound Mac desktop, or a Nintendo 64 when I was allowed to use the TV. 

These days, kids can do just as much on their smartphones. But I wonder if games like 2K and even FIFA could bring the gaming generation an interest in the playing the physical games too. The same level of competitiveness in a Call of Duty, or a Fortnite match is just as prevalent in team sports. Hell, the gaming community has even created the world of “e-sports”, where video games are played and watched like traditional sports.

There are also big benefits from experiencing sports through a video game. The games are basically on demand. If you want to see how a certain team plays against another team, you won’t have to wait for the real thing. That leads to the next point, experiencing a game digitally doesn’t require cable, league pass, or the internet, and is probably more cost effective for young prospective fans.

Another thing that’s often overlooked is that real games are long. An NFL game is maybe 3 hours long, NBA 2.5 hours, and baseball can even take up to 5 hours (having worked for the San Francisco Giants, I know this all too well). Playing sport games speeds up this process. You can change how long the games is, and skip to the action once you begin playing, but for the diminishing attention spans of today’s youth, this is simply ideal.

Getty Images

Getty Images

It has to get out of the house at some point though. The challenge we’ll face is finding the rewards for real world sport that is so prevalent in gaming. In just about every sport game, playing yields virtual currency (VC) which can be used to purchase just about anything in the game. In the real world it’s just not as immediate. Often the benefits are emotional, social, or long term when considering ones health.

However, I think that sports games can work on the other end of the spectrum as well. For athletes and gym rats that don’t delve into video games, the computer simulations could provide a platform to gain experience on off time. One athlete that is open about gaming, is Lebron James, who can be seen on his Instagram or Snapchat playing with his own team, most likely to keep his competitive juices flowing.

Although pressing buttons and toggling a joystick doesn’t translate the same skills in the field, it’s still provides a level of experience. And while not every gamer has interest in physical activity, at the core, there is a flame instilling competition. I’ll gladly accept the trend of e-gaming, because I do consider it a sport, but shouldn’t go unnoted the importance of staying active and healthy. My hope though, is that the two can live in synchronicity, because they are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Blake Griffin trade a win for Pistons

The Los Angeles Clippers visited the Detroit Pistons last night, marking Blake Griffin’s first matchup against his former team since being traded Jan. 29.

After last night’s 108-95 loss to the Clippers, the Pistons are 4-1 since Blake arrived in Detroit.

When the trade first happened, it caught everyone by surprise.

The Clippers had just signed Blake to a 5-year, $173 million extension and sold him on being Mr. Clipper for the rest of his NBA career.

During their pitch to Blake - one of the stupid free agent pitches in NBA history - they put him on t-shirt with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in addition to fake retiring his jersey.

Several months later it was all gone and Blake made the move no one in their late 20s is trying to make – moving from L.A. to Detroit.

The trade was weird on the Pistons end as well. When Blake arrived, the Pistons were 23-26 and it seemed they were heading for a lottery spot.

For the past few years Detroit has been a team in the middle of the pack and multiple NBA media members have suggested Detroit blow it up and try rebuilding again.

Why would they bring in a player who, although he is a star, has injury issues and will cost them approximately $34.6 million per year for the next five years?

The truth is, Detroit was never getting a star of Griffin’s caliber in free agency. No one is voluntarily living in Detroit when you can move to far better NBA cities (no offense Detroit.)

With this deal, the Pistons have a top-25 player locked up for the next four seasons after 2018 and, so far, he’s had an immediate positive effect on the team.

Let’s a look at a few plays from the Pistons’ 111-91 blowout of the Portland Trailblazers.

Early in the game Blake showed off his playmaking with a half-court alley-oop pass on the money to Andre Drummond.

The package the Pistons sent back to the Clippers - Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 first round pick and a 2019 second-round pick  - included no one with the playmaking abilities Blake possess.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pistons eventually try lineups where Blake is the primary ball-handler and they space the floor with shooters like Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard and Anthony Tolliver.

Speaking of spacing the floor, on this play, Blake is doubled in the post and makes a pass to Bullock, a 45 percent three-point shooter, so he can knock down an open jumper from beyond the arc.

Prior to the trade, the Pistons didn’t have anyone like Blake who commanded the respect of a double team in the post and had the ability to make smart passes out of the post.

Andre Drummond is an excellent passer but he still has a ways to go in his post game before teams feel the need to double him like they do Blake.

Then there’s the part of Blake’s game he added at the start of the season - the three point shot.

Blake had always been a serviceable mid-range shooter. According to Cleaning the Glass, he shot 41 percent from mid-range last year, which was about league average, and about 35 percent from three.

Coming into last night’s game he was shooting 34 percent from three. Although that’s one percent lower than last season, he’s shooting way more threes this season, taking about 28 percent of all his shots from three this year as opposed to about 10 percent last year.

If Blake can be a floor spacer, it makes his pairing on the court with Drummond even better than advertised because both of them aren’t clogging the lane.

By the way, Blake’s presence seems to be helping Drummond’s overall game.

Since Blake’s arrival, Andre Drummond is averaging 16.6 points per game and 19.2 rebounds per game, according to ESPN.com.

To Dre’s credit, he had a streak of good games at the end of January before Blake’s arrival. However, when you have a new star who can help carry the load it energizes the players around that star.

Plays like that half court alley-oop will make Drummond’s life much easier and keep him more engaged on defense.

The Pistons have arguably the best front court in the Eastern Conference and enter every night with a chance to punish teams in the paint and on the boards.

If Blake can stay healthy, he and Drummond - both all-star level players - could help the Pistons make some noise in the East.

Let’s just hope when Reggie Jackson returns – who we know loves to dominate the ball - things continue to run as smoothly as it has during the four-game winning streak.

Oh, I should add the trade seems to be working out for the Clippers too. They’re currently 28-25, the seventh seed in the West, and all-star caliber guard Lou Williams just signed a three-year extension.

This may be one of those trades that turns out to be a win-win for everyone.

The Third Pick Ep.1

In the first episode of The Third Pick Scott & Mariano go over how the Jimmy Butler trade benefits both teams through the first half of the season, they also go over the last week for the Bulls, Niko's trade value, Zach LaVine's debut & just how high is the ceiling for the baby big 3?

Hoops N Brews #68: Trade IT for Kemba & Batum

On episode #68 @Pavyworld and @reeltpj are joined by Kevin, The Irrational Cleveland Fan to talk Rockets vs Warriors, Cavs struggles, JR Smith, the Timberwolves chances, and TPJ says the Cavs should trade IT for Kemba Walker & Nicholas Batum.