Saturday, August 23, 2014
The Minnesota Timberwolves officially traded Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday with the Philadelphia 76ers as a third team involved in the trade. The Timberwolves got Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett from the Cavaliers and Thaddeus Young from the 76ers. In addition, the Timberwolves also acquired a trade exception. The 76ers got Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved from the Timberwolves and a 2015 first round pick from the Cavaliers.
Obviously, the biggest winner of this trade is the Cleveland Cavaliers since they now have solidified themselves as the favorites to win the Eastern Conference with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love as their "Big Three". The Minnesota Timberwolves made off very well in this trade, too and perhaps may end up being the winners of the trade should Andrew Wiggins reach his full potential.
Putting aside the fact that Kevin Love was going to leave in free agency and that a trade was necessary, I think it is interesting to ask if the Timberwolves are actually better off as a result of this trade. While it is a disappointment to lose the best power forward in the NBA, getting back a young player who could lead you to a championship in 5-10 years makes things a lot easier to swallow. In addition, when you look at the other young talent they got with Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young, it starts to look more and more like the Timberwolves just committed a high-end level robbery.
Andrew Wiggins could wind up being the best player in the NBA in five to ten years, Thaddeus Young is a budding all-star forward, and Anthony Bennett could likewise prove himself to be an all-star caliber player in a few seasons. Plus, when you factor in the fact that they have Gorgui Dieng as a legitimate presence in the post that actually defends better than Kevin Love while also possessing a fantastic pass-first point guard in Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves suddenly don't look so bad after all. As a matter of fact, they look like a team that may not even miss the presence of Kevin Love, especially since they weren't going to win a championship with him anyways.
Obviously, only time will tell if this trade actually works out for the Timberwolves. Perhaps Andrew Wiggins doesn't live up to expectations, Anthony Bennett continues to struggle, and the rest of the young players will also fail to reach their full potential. But assuming that things go reasonably well for all of these young players, it looks like the Timberwolves did very well with this trade and likely are better off as a result.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
I don't mean to curb the enthusiasm of Clippers fans, but they need to understand why it is that they are excited before they go insane like Ballmer did at the most recent Clippers rally. If Clippers fans want to say they are excited purely on the grounds that they can finally cheer for their team in good conscience, then they have every reason to be excited. But if they are excited because they think a championship is just around the corner, they may be in for some disappointment.
I don't deny that having Steve Ballmer as their new owner is a good thing for the Clippers organization. I think it's a great thing for the organization, but not because I think it will result in the Clippers winning more basketball games. If you look at the team that they have on the floor right now, it isn't clear how much better they can really get.
They have a top flight coach in Doc Rivers, the best point guard in the NBA in Chris Paul, and one of the top five best power forwards in the game in Blake Griffin. Not only that, but they have quality players around those two guys with DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Hawes, J.J. Redick, and Jamal Crawford.
The Clippers right now are as good as they ever have been, and ironically, the building of this strong team was under the stewardship of Donald Sterling and not Steve Ballmer. Of course, with all the losing that the Sterling era went through, it stands to reason that Clippers fans can expect to see a more consistently competitive product on the floor, but that doesn't mean the product will be any better than what it presently is.
If you look at this Clippers team, there really is not way to improve the team other than having Blake Griffin and Chris Paul get better as a duo. Ultimately, that will come down to those two players working on their game and perhaps some of the instruction they get from Doc Rivers. Steve Ballmer has zero control over how much better Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get and he also can't do much to better the roster since I really think the roster they have is as good as it can possibly be.
At the end of the day, I don't see Steve Ballmer producing a better product on the floor for the Clippers. They may get better and eventually win a championship, but it won't be because Steve Ballmer arrived. His arrival energizes the fan base and gives people in Los Angeles better reason to cheer for the Clippers, which in and of itself makes his arrival a great thing for the Clippers. However, I think it is important we clarify that and not make the mistake of thinking that the Clippers are suddenly going to win a championship because they got new ownership.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord
Thursday, August 14, 2014
1. Tuesday, October 28, 2014---Dallas Mavericks @ San Antonio Spurs (8:00 PM ET on TNT)
As is fitting, opening night of the 2014-15 NBA season will feature the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs with a championship ring ceremony! The Spurs deserve to be slotted as the feature game on opening night and they have a quality opponent in the Mavericks to face them. Last season, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks took the Spurs to a Game 7 in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, and I'm sure they will be eager to spoil the Spurs' opening night as some form of revenge. If you are looking for a fun and competitive game early on in the NBA season, this will be a game to watch.
2. Thursday, October 30, 2014--- New York Knicks @ Cleveland Cavaliers ( 8:00 PM ET on TNT) If you follow the NBA at all, you know that LeBron James left the Miami Heat to return home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. If you want to see LeBron's first game back in Cleveland as a Cavalier, then you will not want to miss this game.
3. Wednesday, November 5, 2014--- Los Angeles Clippers @ Golden State Warriors (10:30 PM ET on ESPN) You should watch all four Clippers-Warriors games this year because all of them are sure to be intense and filled with high drama. Expect Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to throw down 100 dunks and also expect Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to knock down 100 threes during these four games. Since this is the first of those four, this makes the list as one of the eleven games to watch this year (Note: Clippers and Warriors also will play on Christmas Day) .
4. Friday, November 14, 2014---San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Lakers (10:00 PM ET on ESPN). If you want an early read on how good the Lakers should be, this will be a good game to watch. If they have any chance of being relevant, they will at least play the Spurs close at home on ESPN.
5. Monday, November 17, 2014---Chicago Bulls @ Los Angeles Clippers (10:30 PM ET on NBA TV)
If you want an early look at the Bulls with Derrick Rose back while also watching them face a fun team, then it can't get much better than watching the Bulls take on the Clippers. Also, Pau Gasol will be making a return to Staples Center as a member of the Bulls.
6. Wednesday, November 19, 2014 --- San Antonio Spurs @ Cleveland Cavaliers (7:00 PM ET on ESPN) This is a must see game because it is LeBron's first game of the year against the Spurs who knocked him out in the NBA Finals last season. Also, this game will be an early test for the Cavaliers who are favored by many to win the Eastern Conference thanks to the addition of Kevin Love as well as LeBron James.
7. Christmas Day---Watch all of the games, but if you have to pick one, don't miss Cleveland Cavaliers @ Miami Heat (5:00 PM ET on ABC) When I say watch all of the games on Christmas Day, I'm being completely serious. The NBA has hijacked Christmas, and I'm totally fine with that. All the games on Christmas will be wonderful presents for me, but Cavaliers @ Heat is the most interesting game because it is LeBron James' return to Miami.
8. Wednesday, January 7, 2015--- Phoenix Suns @ Minnesota Timberwolves (9:30 PM ET on ESPN). The Suns are a fun team to watch, but all eyes will be on the Timberwolves with their franchise centerpiece Andrew Wiggins, who went #1 in the 2014 NBA draft. If you want to see how Wiggins looks now that he'll have had several NBA games under his belt, turn this game on.
9. Thursday, January 15, 2015--- New York Knicks @ Milwaukee Bucks (3:00 PM ET on NBA TV). If you want to watch the #2 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft Jabari Parker and the Bucks play on national television, there aren't many options. This is the best option because it is against the Knicks who will be an interesting team to follow this season. If you are out at work, DVR this one. It should be fun.
10. Wednesday, April 1, 2015--- Brooklyn Nets @ New York Knicks (7:30 PM ET on NBA TV). February is the most boring month of NBA basketball with the exception of All-Star Weekend due to none of the games having any real meaning. As for March, everybody is rightfully tuned in to the NCAA Tournament. But once April comes around, the NBA regains momentum with the playoffs in sight. The Knicks and Nets are creating a fun rivalry out in New York and this game could have some playoff implications.
11. Wednesday, April 8, 2015--- Toronto Raptors @ Charlotte Hornets (7:00 PM ET on ESPN). This one I know seems like an odd game to make the list, but hear me out. At this time of year, you want to see games that mean something and are entertaining. This game should provide both of those needs for you. The Hornets and Raptors will be in the middle of a playoff chase at this time of year and they are both fun teams to watch. Plus, watching this game ensures that you will have seen the new look Charlotte Hornets.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord
Saturday, August 9, 2014
The news of Paul George breaking his leg in a USA Basketball scrimmage in Las Vegas rocked the basketball world earlier this month. Whether you are a fan, a writer, a player, a coach, or somebody in management, this news was tough to stomach. Part of it has to do with the setting and part of it has to do with the sheer nauseating nature of the injury itself. You don't want to see any athlete break their leg, but when it happens in a setting in which the athlete is representing their country, the word "tragic" comes to mind as the best way to articulate and describe what has happened.
In a larger context, questions arise about what this kind of injury does to the future of USA Basketball when the participants are being paid millions of dollars by their respective NBA teams while not being paid even a fraction of that to play for Team USA. Will it make more superstars pull out like Kevin Durant did this week or will most players hold the position that what happened to Paul George was an unfortunate freak accident that could have happened in any NBA game? I will argue that while most players will hold the position that this was just a freak accident, this will also greatly affect USA Basketball when it comes to getting players for non-Olympic competitions.
People are wondering about whether or not Kevin Durant's decision to pull out of USA Basketball for the upcoming FIBA World Cup has anything to do with Paul George's injury. The answer is yes it does and so does the fact that nobody cares about the FIBA World Cup outside of basketball junkies like me.
Had this injury happened right before the 2016 Olympics, I don't think Kevin Durant would be pulling out due to the fact that in basketball, the Olympics carries a lot more weight than does the FIBA World Cup or any other international competition. The success of the 1992 Dream Team in Barcelona, Spain has made a lasting imprint on the history of basketball to the point that I think every NBA player who is an American citizen wants to play on the USA Olympic basketball team at least once in his career.
The United States has a rich tradition of dominating that event every four years and taking home the gold medal, making it one of the highest honors in all of basketball second only to winning an NBA championship. To many great players who failed to win an NBA championship like John Stockton, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, and Charles Barkley, winning an Olympic gold medal is the greatest achievement of their careers due to the sheer prestige of being able to play on Team USA.
However, that honor and distinction doesn't accompany the FIBA World Cup or any other international competition because the best players in the United States don't play. LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony are all sitting out of the FIBA World Cup, so should it really come as a surprise that Kevin Durant is doing the same thing especially after the Paul George injury?
The bottom line is that I don't think the Paul George injury will affect USA Basketball participation in the Olympics, but I do think it will affect USA Basketball participation in every other event including the FIBA World Cup. I think that the cream of the crop will only want to play for USA Basketball if there is an Olympic gold medal on the line. Otherwise, they'll let lesser known players get the chance to represent the United States in their place.
However, this doesn't mean that the United States won't be able to compete and win other international competitions outside of the Olympics. USA Basketball can go 25-35 guys deep and still have the best team on the floor. But USA Basketball isn't just about winning trophies. It's about featuring the very best players in the world and the opportunities for USA Basketball to do that are going to shrink to being once every four years at the Olympics.
In terms of its impact on world-wide basketball events, this is obviously huge since USA Basketball is always the biggest draw and the team that everybody wants to see. FIBA wants to eventually rival FIFA in popularity, but it's always going to seem like a little brother standing next to FIFA so long as USA Basketball is only able to get its best players on the floor for the Olympics.
The Paul George injury has a larger impact on FIBA than on USA Basketball because USA Basketball is all about the Olympics and FIBA is all about the other events that go on besides the Olympics. If FIBA wants its World Cup to become a major event, it will have to find ways to get guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant to participate which at this point seems like a tall order. USA Basketball will continue to march on as a gold medal winning machine at the Olympics with its brightest stars showing up, but as for FIBA and its efforts to build up events like the FIBA World Cup, this injury could be a devastating blow.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Wednesday Windmill: When it comes to breaking barriers and fighting intolerance, the NBA leads the way while the NFL fails
25 years ago, male professional sports in the United States was solely dominated by heterosexual men. Anybody who didn't fit that description was said to be a scarcity in locker rooms, on the sidelines, and in the press box. While people who weren't heterosexual men were still involved in male professional sports, they weren't really noticed or recognized. They were in the shadows with their silhouettes invisible.
Nobody knew who these people were and nor did anybody really care to know. People wanted to believe that everybody involved in leagues such as the NFL and NBA were the same and should be the same. I.e. Only heterosexual men should be involved in these leagues. The role of women and members of the LGBT community in these leagues wasn't even though about since it was falsely assumed that when it came to male professional sports, people in those demographics had other interests.
Thankfully, as time has gone on, we have finally seen barriers be broken. Last season, Jason Collins came out as a gay man and was welcomed on an NBA team as a member of the Brooklyn Nets while just a few months later, Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams of the NFL after announcing that he too was gay.
In addition, we saw Becky Hammon become the first woman to be hired as a full-time assistant coach in the NBA when the San Antonio Spurs hired her earlier this week. NBA fans and NFL fans alike are seeing a more diverse group of people become involved in their favorite sports, and whether they like it or not, they're going to have to deal with the fact that times are changing, and that they are changing for the better.
Out of all the four major pro sports leagues in the United States, the NBA has by far been the league that has done the best at breaking barriers for people of all walks of life with the other leagues (especially the NFL) still having a lot further ways to go.
When Jason Collins came out as gay, he was welcomed by the NBA; when a woman had all the qualifications to be an assistant coach on an NBA team, she was hired; when an owner recognized that the name of his team could make other people feel uncomfortable (Washington Bullets), he changed it; and when it was revealed that an owner had intense feelings of hatred for people of other races, he was punished to the fullest extent and banned from the league by the NBA's commissioner Adam Silver.
In contrast, the NFL has seen a team cut a player who was trying to promote gay rights, an owner who defends the racist name of his franchise, and a player only get a two game suspension for knocking his fiancé unconscious in an elevator. The only bright spot for the NFL when it comes to breaking barriers is Michael Sam coming out as gay. Every other opportunity for progress and breaking barriers has resulted in the NFL falling flat on its face to the point that Keith Olbermann is rightfully calling for the resignation of its commissioner Roger Goodell.
While the NBA isn't perfect and has made its share of mistakes over the years (E.g. players punching fans), it is still leading the way when it comes to fighting against intolerance and every other kind of moral indecency that might exist within its walls. Hopefully the other major pro leagues in the US will take notice and look for ways to improve when it comes to being progressive and inclusive of all people. Especially the NFL.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord
Sunday, August 3, 2014
With LeBron James leaving Miami to return to play for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, many people are now starting to wonder if Kevin Durant will pull a similar move and leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join his hometown Washington Wizards. Durant was born and raised in the D.C. area and he is proud of where he is from, but would he really leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Washington Wizards when he hits free agency in 2016? While it sounds like pie in the sky for Wizards fans, I will argue why it could actually end up happening.
The first reason why it is possible that Kevin Durant joins the Wizards in 2016 is that he may find their roster more attractive. If Kevin Durant can't win a championship or at least get back to the NBA Finals with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, he may look at what the Wizards have with Bradley Beal, John Wall, and Marcin Gortat and think to himself that his odds of winning a title with the Wizards are higher than they are with the Thunder.
I don't doubt for one second that Durant likes Oklahoma City a lot, but he is also a very competitive guy who wants to win. If he feels like the grass is greener somewhere else, odds are good he leaves, especially if it's his hometown team calling with an attractive roster.
The second reason why it's possible he makes the move from Oklahoma City to Washington D.C. is that I'm not convinced he really likes playing with Russell Westbrook. Russell Westbrook will be a free agent in 2017, which means that if Kevin Durant re-ups on another 5 year max contract with the Thunder, he'll have to do it with Russell Westbrook still on the team for the following season. It would be hard to negotiate things in such a fashion in which he says "It's me or him" when Westbrook still has one year left on his contract, which is why I think if he doesn't care for Westbrook, he'll probably just go somewhere else to play.
The final reason why I think a move to Washington D.C. is possible is that if Kevin Durant wanted to get out of Oklahoma City, Washington D.C. would be the most publicly acceptable place for him to go. Nobody would criticize him for desiring to bring his hometown team a championship especially since it is the Wizards, a team that has historically been unsuccessful at recruiting marquee free agents. If his hometown team happened to be the Lakers, Bulls, or Knicks, a lot of people would perceive the whole "I wanna play in my hometown" argument through a more cynical lens.
While I think these are legitimate reasons for thinking he goes to the Wizards, there are reasons for why it's also very unlikely that he leaves the Thunder. For one thing, he seems to enjoy playing for the Thunder and seems to really have an attachment to the fans and the Oklahoma City community. Durant has repeatedly talked about how much it would mean to him to bring that city a championship and how he feels a sense of duty to the community. Durant comes off as a really humble and sincere guy. If he says he loves it there, I want to believe him.
In addition, he and Russell Westbrook overall make a great team and he once again seems to like playing alongside Russell Westbrook. While I do think it's possible that things between them are strained, it sure doesn't look like it judging by what Durant says about him. He seems to genuinely enjoy Westbrook's company and seems to want to make things work between them.
Finally, he has a great thing going with the Thunder as is. The fans love him, the community loves him, the Spurs are sure to go away eventually, and the team is really good. Leaving behind the Thunder would be leaving behind a very good team, which may only be one piece away from a championship. He knows what he's getting in Oklahoma City, whereas in D.C. there would be some unknowns such as whether or not the team could afford both him and Bradley Beal.
While over $70M in cap space will open up in 2016 to sign Kevin Durant thanks to Nene and Paul Pierce becoming free agents, Bradley Beal will be a free agent, too. Beal is certain to command a lot of money which means that Durant may not be able to play with John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat. He may only be able to play with Wall and Gortat, which suddenly doesn't sound as good. Plus, going to the Eastern Conference means playing in the same conference as LeBron James and I'm not sure he wants to do that.
In conclusion, could Kevin Durant really leave the Thunder to join the Wizards? I think it's very possible, but it's far from being a slam dunk. A lot of factors are still at play that could make him lean one way or the other. His love for the city of Oklahoma City, the fact that he knows what he's getting there, and also being in an opposite conference from LeBron James are good reasons to stay where he is. On the other hand, his hometown would also fully embrace him while also providing him with an attractive roster to play with. Both options seem possible to me at this point, and only time will tell what decision Durant ends up making. It will certainly be interesting to see.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord