NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday Slam: The NBA should not weigh in on Hong Kong

                                          (Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) 

The big news of the week in the NBA was Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey weighing in on the Hong Kong protests, making a statement in support of their right to freedom. While Morey was well intentioned in his statement/tweet, it set off a firestorm that the NBA wants no part of. To his credit, NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement saying he will support the right of all NBA employees to exercise their freedom of speech and that the league will live with those consequences. He didn't totally cave to China and say that Morey was wrong.

While I think Silver handled this as well as he could have, I think that overall, the NBA shouldn't weigh in on this particular issue. I've been studying Mandarin Chinese for the last couple of years and have grown to love Chinese culture. As part of my Chinese studies, I've spent some time learning about current events in China and the political layout of the entire region. I don't have time to get into all the layers of the Chinese geopolitical landscape, but let me just say in short that it's complicated.

Taiwan for example sees themselves as the ones holding down the fort for democracy in China as the Republic of China while Mainland China (known as the People's Republic of China) sees themselves as the one true China. In their eyes, the Republic of China in Taiwan is a rebellious government that must one day be reunited with them.

Taiwan has broken off from Mainland China and started their own thing, which in a lot of ways makes things simpler. They have their own democratic government that doesn't have to answer to the PRC. While there is the potential threat of the PRC coming in and taking over their land, such a move by the PRC would result in too much backlash from the rest of the world. While there is tension there, Taiwan can be comforted by the fact that the rest of the world has their back and will stand with them if something goes wrong.

As for Hong Kong, they're in some weird in-between limbo kind of state. They were under British rule as a colony until 1997 in which they were handed back to the PRC under a certain set of conditions that promised them total freedom for 50 years (until 2047). What's happening now is the PRC is starting to infringe on Hong Kong's freedoms prematurely, trying to expedite the transition. The reason why the PRC is doing this is because there's now a lot more cities that are on par with Hong Kong's economic power such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. In 1997, Hong Kong was by far the most economically powerful city in China, making it a valuable resource that made sense not to touch.

With that no longer the case, the PRC is asking themselves why not just bring Hong Kong back into the fold and get this all over with? Why delay the inevitable? From their perspective it's a totally fair question to ask.

As a result of this weird limbo state and seeing what's on the horizon, Hong Kongers are going through an identity crisis. For so long, they've seen themselves as Hong Kongers first and separate from the rest of Mainland China. They have their own unique culture and their first language isn't even Mandarin. It's Cantonese. Now, they see that in the near future, they're going to become grafted back into Mainland China and thus risk losing their Hong Kong identity. Their language risks getting replaced by Mandarin and their culture risks getting replaced by Mainland Chinese culture. It's a scary thing for them.

With all of this going on and so many layers to unpack, the NBA couldn't possibly address this issue in an adequate or fair way. Especially in a tweet. Instead of muddying the waters, the NBA should let Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan sort this all out by themselves. The best way they can help is to stay quiet about politics and bring harmony to the region through the game of basketball.

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Saturday, October 5, 2019

Saturday Slam: Toronto Raptors need to sign Pascal Siakam to a max extension

                                          (Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports) 

Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that four-year power forward Pascal Siakam is seeking a max contract extension from the Toronto Raptors. After averaging 7.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in his sophomore season, Siakam had a breakout year last season, averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, establishing himself as one of the top power forwards in the NBA.

With Kawhi Leonard gone and Kyle Lowry getting older, the Raptors need a new piece to build around, making Siakam a no-brainer candidate to fill that void in the coming seasons. He's young, athletic, and evolving into a really nice stretch forward. If they don't lock him up, their future becomes a lot more uncertain.

One of the things I've wanted to address on this blog is that even without Leonard, this Raptors team is still really good with Lowry, Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, and Marc Gasol.  When talking about who could come out of the Eastern Conference next season, don't sleep on this Raptors team. They still have a lot of dangerous pieces.

Going back to Siakam, as I said earlier, he's the best piece that they have to build around for the future. At just 25 years of age, he has a lot of room for growth. If he doesn't get offered a max extension from the Raptors, some other team will likely offer him one instead. The Raptors need to listen to his demands and give him what he wants. If they don't, they're going to regret it.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: Everyone is sleeping on the Golden State Warriors

Due to the departure of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's torn ACL, many assume the 2020 Western Conference champion will be someone other than the Golden State Warriors, who have won the last five Western Conference titles. While there are a lot of good teams in the Western Conference that could certainly dethrone them, it has been surprising how many people, including myself, seem to have forgotten just how much of a strangle hold the Warriors have had. 

I don't want to undermine the significance of losing Durant and the injury to Thompson. Durant was huge to the Warriors' championship runs and Thompson, the second Splash Brother, is a killer back court mate for Stephen Curry. The road just got harder for the Warriors, but that doesn't mean it's impossible for them to conquer. Below are three reasons why the Warriors can still get back to the NBA Finals in 2020. 

#1. Stephen Curry: If there is one player who has had to sacrifice their ego to make this Warriors team work, it's Stephen Curry. Before Durant came aboard, the Warriors were Curry's team and he did a masterful job of running them. Now, once again, the Warriors belong to Curry and you can bet that he is excited. Plus, Curry knows how much he and his team are being overlooked. Look for a very motivated and focused Curry this season. That should scare everyone in the NBA. 

#2. Experience: When you have been to five straight NBA Finals, one thing you definitely have is experience. The Warriors have been through a lot as a team and have always found a way to come out of the West anyways. They know how to dig deep and go to the well better than any team in the NBA. The rest of the Western Conference is much more unproven and until someone comes along and proves that they can beat them, the Dubs deserve the respect that five straight NBA Finals appearances gets you. 

#3. Klay Thompson isn't out for the year: While the Warriors will start the season without Klay, he's not done for the season. He should be back after the All-Star break and help the Warriors make a championship run come playoff time. So long as they have the Splash Brothers as well as Draymond Green, the Warriors should be feeling pretty good. On top of that, they have an amazing head coach in Steve Kerr who can be trusted to make the right adjustments. 

The bottom line: The Warriors have made five straight NBA Finals appearances for a reason and still have a ton of talent and experience. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Steve Kerr have been through the fire before and know what it takes to go all the way. I understand the Western Conference has a lot of interesting new flavors, but that shouldn't make us forget who has been winning the West over these last several years. 

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Monday, September 30, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Ja Morant cleared for Memphis Grizzlies training camp

                                          (Credit: Getty Images) 

Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports reports that Memphis Grizzlies rookie point guard Ja Morant is cleared to participate in training camp following surgery on his knee. Given how vital Morant is to the Grizzlies' future, it's great news for them to have him start the season on time as opposed to having to miss training camp and possibly part of his rookie season.

Morant is not only making the jump from college to the NBA, he's making the jump from mid-major college basketball to the NBA. At Murray State, he was dominant and was always the best player on the floor. This will be the first time since his high school AAU days that he won't be the best player on the floor every night. It will be interesting to see how that adjustment goes for him.

By no means am I doubting Morant's future. I like his game a lot. He's an explosive athlete, finishes really well around the rim, knows how to make plays, and has the mentality to lead an NBA team. I'm just curious to see how his rookie campaign goes and whether or not he can threaten to win rookie of the year honors. Everyone seems to think that award will go to Zion Williamson, but perhaps Morant will make a strong case for himself.

As we look ahead to the 2019-20 NBA season, Ja Morant is definitely a name to keep a close eye on. He's got a lot of potential and a lot to prove as the #2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Grizzlies need someone to energize their franchise and hopefully for them Morant will deliver the goods.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: Can the Utah Jazz come out of the West?

One of the Western Conference teams that has gotten more buzz this summer/off-season is the Utah Jazz, who added three key pieces to their team in point guard Mike Conley, stretch forward Bojan Bogdanovic, and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. In 70 games with the Grizzlies last season, Conley averaged 21.1 points, 6.4 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, bouncing back nicely from his Achilles injury. Bogdanovic averaged 18.0 points per game on 42.5% shooting from 3-point range (4.8 attempts per game) with the Pacers, playing in 81 regular season games. As for Mudiay, he averaged a solid 14.8 points per game last year with the Knicks.

Conley and Bogdanovic join a talented Jazz squad that features third year shooting guard Donovan Mitchell (23.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, & 1.4 steals), sixth year center Rudy Gobert (15.9 points, 12.9 rebounds, & 2.3 blocks), and sixth year small forward Joe Ingles (12.1 points). Mitchell and Gobert are the heart of this Jazz team, but they needed a veteran presence, something Conley in particular hopes to add.

                                          (Credit: Rick Egan-Salt Lake Tribune) 

When looking at this Jazz team, what makes them so dangerous is their ability to get after it on both ends of the floor. Gobert is one of the best interior defenders in the NBA, giving the Jazz their best defensive weapon since Andrei Kirilenko. As for Mitchell, he is a budding superstar that isn't afraid of the big moment. He attacks the rim really well, is developing a solid perimeter game, and is actually a pretty solid defender. Conley is a killer floor general that knows how to get his teammates involved while Bogdanovic is an absolutely lethal shooter from the perimeter. The Jazz are much more multidimensional now, which is why many see them going far in the playoffs this year.

The big question that's on everyone's mind with the Jazz is can they reach the conference finals and possibly represent the West in the NBA Finals. Personally, I think this Jazz team is at least one more year away from reaching the NBA Finals, but if all goes according to plan, they should be a top four seed in the West, win their opening round series, and maybe even reach the conference finals. They're really talented. The only concern I have is there are a lot of other talented teams in the West. The Clippers, Warriors, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Rockets, and Lakers also project to be really good. I feel like the West is really deep this year and any number of combinations could reach the conference finals. A lot of it will come down to playoff seeding and match ups.

Casting playoff scenarios aside, one thing that is clear is that the Jazz have the pieces to have a breakout year. They're young, hungry, and have greatly upgraded their roster over the summer. If you are a Jazz fan, you have every right to be excited.

Note: This blog post also appears on my Utah Jazz blog. Click here to check it out. 

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: R.J. Barrett needs to deliver for the New York Knicks

                                          (Credit: NBAE/Getty Images) 

The New York Knicks have not been to the playoffs since the 2012-13 season in which they finished second in the Eastern Conference with a 54-28 record. Since that season, the Knicks have gone downhill rather quickly, finishing with six consecutive losing seasons. The 2014-15 and 2018-19 seasons were tied for the worst seasons in franchise history as the Knicks went 17-65 both years.

During this tumultuous stretch, the Knicks have really struggled to find a franchise centerpiece. Carmelo Anthony did a decent job at filling the role, but he didn't have enough help thanks to Phil Jackson's inability to run a front office. Kristaps Porzingis could have been the answer, but his torn ACL cast a lot of doubt over his abilities to be the man going forward.

Then comes R.J. Barrett, the #3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Duke. During his one year at Duke, Barrett was in the shadows of nationwide phenom Zion Williamson, playing second fiddle to his highlight dunks. Being second fiddle didn't mean he didn't produce. Barrett averaged 22.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, showing that if Williamson wasn't around, the Blue Devils would have still been a force to be reckoned with.

With Williamson now in New Orleans trying to turn the Pelicans around, Barrett has the Big Apple all to himself, fulfilling a boyhood dream to play for the Knicks. Excited for what lies ahead, Barrett hopes to turn the Knicks' fortunes around and bring them back to glory. They've been looking for a savior for quite some time and perhaps they have found their man in Barrett.

When forecasting the future of the Knicks, it's clear that R.J. Barrett is at the center of it. He's their new franchise piece and finally is out of Zion Williamson's shadow. This is his time to shine. If he's able to deliver and become a legit franchise player, odds are good the Knicks will bounce back and become a contender in the Eastern Conference. If he's not, the Knicks will continue to flounder like they have for the past few years until someone else comes along to deliver them from bondage.

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Saturday, September 7, 2019

Saturday Slam: DeMarcus Cousins has really fallen from grace

At the end of the 2016-17 season, DeMarcus Cousins concluded a season in which he averaged 27.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game in 72 total games played. He spent the bulk of that season with the Sacramento Kings but was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans to conclude the season. Since that year, everything has gone downhill for him in a rather shocking manner.

First, in the middle of the 2017-18 season, Cousins suffered a torn Achilles which limited his season to just 48 games. Prior to the injury, he was playing really good basketball, averaging 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. A torn Achilles is no joke, but an injury that one can come back from with the proper rehab. Still, no team wanted to take a chance on him until the Golden State Warriors scooped him up for close to nothing. He spent most of the 2018-19 season in street clothes, but was able to produce a little bit during the 30 games he played, averaging 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game before going down once again with a torn left quadriceps.

Already looking like he might be damaged goods, the Los Angeles Lakers threw their caution to the wind and decided to sign him this past July, hoping that he could get back to full strength. Instead, he tore his ACL in a preseason workout a little over a month later in mid-August, ruling him out for the entire 2019-20 season.

In the midst of all this injury misfortune, Cousins got married and even that didn't go as planned thanks to a leaked audio tape of him threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend over the phone for not allowing their son to come to his wedding. As a result, an arrest warrant was issued and now he's in the middle of an ugly legal dispute.

At just 29 years of age, Cousins' career seems to be over and what's crazy is that it wasn't that long ago that he was an NBA All-Star. We've seen guys drop off quickly, but rarely do we see guys drop off like this. It's like one day he's the best big man in the NBA and the next day he's having a hard time convincing teams to take a chance on him. Hopefully for him, he is able to find his second wind. If not, he better get ready for life after basketball.

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