NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Dallas Mavericks take out the Spurs and Cavaliers

One team that has been pretty quiet this season is the 18-30 Dallas Mavericks. With Dirk Nowitzki past his prime, this team hasn't been as competitive as they've been in past seasons, but after taking out the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers in back-to-back games, maybe we should pay more attention to them.

In their 105-101 win over the Spurs, Seth Curry led the charge with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists on 4-9 shooting from the field while Harrison Barnes finished with 19 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. In addition to Curry and Barnes, Wesley Matthews (17 points and 7 rebounds) and Dirk Nowitzki (15 points and 10 rebounds) had solid outings as well. What made the win all the more impressive is the fact that the game was in San Antonio and the Mavericks came back from a 49-59 deficit at the half to win. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge both played solid games for the Spurs, Leonard finishing with 24 points and 7 rebounds and Aldridge finishing with 16 points and 7 rebounds. It was probably the best game the Mavericks played all season up until that point.

I say up until that point because the very next night in Dallas, the Mavericks took out the Cleveland Cavaliers by a final score of 104-97. Even with LeBron James putting up a near triple double (23 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists), the Mavericks were able to fend off the defending champs and get the win. Harrison Barnes (24 points and 11 rebounds) and Wesley Matthews (21 points and 4 rebounds) were the top performers for the Mavericks in this game, but much like their game against the Spurs, the Mavericks got help from other players as well. Seth Curry finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists while Dwight Powell finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds.

 Perhaps the most shocking contributor was Yogi Ferrell, an undrafted guard out of Indiana who is currently playing on a 10-day contract. Ferrell finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists, which should guarantee he stays with the team for the rest of the season. Ferrell stepped up big time and is a major reason for why the Mavericks were able to get the win. If he is able to continue to prove his worth as a solid rotation player, the Mavericks will have hit the jackpot since they desperately need more backcourt depth with Deron Williams and J.J. Barea sidelined with injury.

Even though these wins over the Spurs and Cavaliers are only two games out of 82, they are still very noteworthy and should grab our attention. Especially since the Mavericks are only 4 games back of the 21-25 Denver Nuggets for the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Mavericks could be on the verge of turning the corner and making a serious push for that final playoff spot.

When looking at this Mavericks roster, there's no good reason to not expect them to make the playoffs. They've been dealing with injuries all season, but at full strength, these guys have the pieces to be a dangerous team. Dirk Nowitzki is a wily old veteran with some juice left while Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, and Seth Curry are shaping up to be a very solid trio to build around for the future. Unless some other team starts to grab the bull by the horns and take command of the 8th spot in the Western Conference, I got my money on the Dallas Mavericks to be the team that gets it. They have the most talent of all the teams battling for it and the most experience. They just have to stay healthy and continue to play sound basketball on both ends of the floor.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: What Enes Kanter's injury means for the Oklahoma City Thunder's rotation

                                         (Credit: YouTube. Click here for source) 

In their game on Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter assaulted one of the padded chairs on the team's bench, resulting in a fractured right ulna in his forearm. Kanter underwent surgery on Friday, putting him out of commission for 4+ weeks. Enes Kanter is the third leading scorer on this Thunder team averaging 14.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game despite coming off the bench for 21.6 minutes per game. Going without Enes Kanter for any extended period of time hurts the Thunder. Especially since they are currently in the middle of a dog fight with the Grizzlies, Jazz, and Clippers for the 4th seed in the Western Conference playoffs, which guarantees home court advantage in the first round.

 Enes Kanter's primary value lies in his ability to score and produce points off the bench. He is one of the most offensively talented big men in the NBA, averaging 24.0 points per 36 minutes, which is second on the team behind Russell Westbrook, who is averaging 32.2 points per 36 minutes. Enes Kanter doesn't just score points, he scores points quickly and efficiently (56.3% shooting from the field and 78.9% shooting from the free throw line). It will be no easy task for the Thunder to make up for his efficient scoring. Especially since there isn't anybody else on the team who scores nearly as efficiently as he does, including Westbrook.

Probably the most sensible thing for the Thunder to do is to extend the minutes of Steven Adams a little bit and give rookie big man Domantas Sabonis a significant bump in his minutes. Sabonis actually averages fewer minutes per game (21.3) than Enes Kanter and so he should be good to run for 30+ minutes per game until Kanter returns. I do not see the absence of Kanter having a huge impact on the minutes that Victor Oladipo and Russell Westbrook play since they are already logging in heavy minutes in the backcourt. It is Sabonis and Adams who should see the biggest change in their minutes until Kanter returns.

The other guy who may see a change in his role is Andre Roberson, who plays the shooting guard/small forward position. At 6'7", 210 pounds, Roberson could be asked to play the stretch power forward position at times, allowing the Thunder to go small in certain packages with Steven Adams or Domantas Sabonis at the center position. Roberson is averaging 6.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 30.9 minutes per game, so he is already getting a ton of minutes in the rotation. Still, I would expect Thunder head coach Billy Donovan to experiment with Roberson at the 4 spot at least a little bit and see if Roberson can help give some relief to Sabonis and Adams inside.

As far as the big picture is concerned, the good news for the Thunder is that Enes Kanter isn't out for the season and he will be back with plenty of time to go before the playoffs. If the Thunder are able to weather this storm and keep themselves in the mix for the #4 seed until Enes Kanter comes back, they  could very well succeed at snagging the #4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. If on the other hand they slip a bit and fall back into the #7 spot, odds are good they'll have to go on the road in the first round of the playoffs, greatly diminishing their odds of making a deep run in the playoffs.

Personally, I think the Thunder will hang around and keep themselves within striking distance of the #4 seed. So long as they have Russell Westbrook averaging a triple double, they remain one of the most dangerous teams in the league. I expect him to step up his game as much as anybody and keep his team in the hunt for that #4 seed while Enes Kanter recovers.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday Slam: Should the New York Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony?

                                          (Credit: Keith Allison. Click here for source) 

According to multiple reports, the New York Knicks have been actively shopping Carmelo Anthony, hoping to find a team that is willing to give them a lot in return for the superstar. At 21-27, the New York Knicks remain in the mix for a playoff spot but are almost certain to get squashed in the first round of the playoffs should they get there. With no championship in sight, the New York Knicks feel it would be in their best interest to trade Carmelo Anthony and start rebuilding, presumably around Kristaps Porzingis.

Like any major move, there are pros and cons that need to be weighed before making a final decision. I will do my best to list the pros and cons of trading Carmelo Anthony and then come up with a conclusion of as to what I think makes the most sense.

Pros: The most obvious reason for why the New York Knicks should trade Carmelo Anthony has to do with the fact that they are not on track to win a championship. Carmelo Anthony was brought in to bring a championship to New York and with that clearly not happening anytime soon, it makes sense to not prolong the rebuilding process any further. The Knicks might as well pull the trigger on a good offer and move on to the next chapter of their history.

No hard feelings towards Carmelo Anthony or anything. Basketball is a business and the Knicks need to do what is best for business, which is to position themselves for long-term success in the future as opposed to trying to make a quick fix for the next couple of years. If the Knicks make a deal at the trade deadline, while Carmelo Anthony is still 32 years old with some gas left in the tank, they may actually get a pretty good offer that will benefit them for the long-term. The longer they hold on to him, the older he gets, and the more his value drops.

Cons: The reason why trading Carmelo Anthony is not a good idea is that Carmelo Anthony still has some gas in the tank at just 32 years of age and further, he's not the problem. Carmelo Anthony is averaging 22.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, making him one of the best players in the NBA, even though he is past his prime.

If the Knicks actually wanted to get better, they would get a new front office or their current front office would start making smarter decisions. Carmelo Anthony can still contribute to a championship caliber team and so why not see if such a team can be built in New York? Get rid of Derrick Rose, continue to build around Kristaps Porzingis, and see what free agents you can attract in the summer.

The fact that Carmelo Anthony wants to stay in New York is enough of a reason to hang on to him. So long as you have him, you have a flicker of hope. The moment you deal him, you are officially in rebuilding mode once again without ever building up to something in the first place. Trading Carmelo Anthony would anger the fan base and further prove that the front office is inept and incapable of building a championship caliber team.

Conclusion: When weighing both the pros and cons of trading Carmelo Anthony, it appears as though there is more reason to hang on to him than to trade him. Carmelo Anthony is still one of the top players in the NBA and he has been the one bright spot on this Knicks team during the past few seasons. Trading him would not make the team better in the short term and with draft picks likely being what gives hope for the future, there is no guarantee that those draft picks ever materialize into anything valuable. The bottom line is the New York Knicks need to do all they can to be competitive with Carmelo Anthony playing an important role. They still have time to build themselves into a quality team with him around. They just have to make the right decisions going forward.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Fadeaway Friday: Memphis Grizzlies to operate expansion D-League franchise

Starting in the 2017-18 season, the Memphis Grizzlies will operate their own D-League team in Southaven, Mississippi, expanding the NBA's Developmental League to 23 teams, 19 of which will be owned by a single NBA team. The news was revealed shortly after it was announced that the Minnesota Timberwolves officially purchased the Iowa Energy, the same team that the Grizzlies have been affiliated with during the past few seasons.

The NBA continues to progress towards its goal of having 30 D-League teams with each NBA franchise having its own D-League affiliate. Should the NBA expand to 32 teams like many expect, that will mean the D-League will likewise expand to 32 teams. The reason the NBA wants each NBA franchise to have its own D-League team is so that the NBA can do a better job of developing its players and give guys more chances to develop and grow. There are many players in NBA history who would have tremendously benefited from the D-League and so it is great to know that there will be many careers improved and possibly saved thanks to the D-League.

In addition to improving careers and the quality of play, I think another reason for this expansion has to do with giving more communities a taste of NBA basketball. Mississippi for example will never have an NBA franchise, but thanks to the D-League, they will be able to enjoy watching professional basketball up close. By having 30 D-League franchises, the NBA will have in effect doubled the number of communities it is directly involved with, which helps grow the popularity of the league across the country.

It will be interesting to see how much longer it takes before each NBA team has its own D-League team. I think in 10 years, we will see 30 D-League teams affiliated with 30 NBA teams. If anything, we very well may see 32 D-League teams affiliated with 32 NBA teams. The NBA is certainly growing and continuing to establish itself as the preeminent professional sports league in world. Not only are they doing a great job of growing their brand, but they are also doing a great job at improving the quality of their brand. By investing in a developmental league, the NBA in turn is investing in the overall quality of play at the NBA level, something that benefits all involved whether it be the owners, players, or fans.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday Windmill: The Washington Wizards are catching fire

The Washington Wizards have started to catch fire, winning 9 of their last 11 games, putting them at 25-20 overall, which is good for 5th in the Eastern Conference. The key to the Wizards success is the fact that everybody is healthy and Otto Porter, Jr. is starting to come into his own.

Otto Porter, Jr., in his fourth NBA season out of Georgetown, has really stepped up his game this season, averaging 14.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Porter took a little while to find his groove, being proclaimed a bust after his first NBA season due to his lowly 2.1 points per game average. Being the 3rd overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft placed a lot of expectations on Otto Porter, Jr. and after not living up to those expectations early on, he's starting to live up to them now.

 John Wall (23.1 points and 10.1 assists) and Bradley Beal (21.9 points) form a very dynamic backcourt while Marcin Gortat (11.3 points and 11.4 rebounds) has no trouble holding his own down low. With Otto Porter, Jr. now playing like a future all-star, the Washington Wizards have one of the better starting lineups in the NBA. They can beat you in multiple ways, whether it be inside or out on the wing. Instead of having two guys that can beat you out on the wing, they now have three guys, which makes them a lot tougher to defend.

So long as the Washington Wizards remain healthy, they have the pieces to do some serious damage in the playoffs. The Cleveland Cavaliers are heads and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference, but the Raptors, Celtics, Hawks, and Wizards are all within striking distance of each other, which means that the Wizards are still very much in play for the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this Wizards team progresses through the all-star break and where they finish in the standings. If given the right circumstances, this could be a team that wins a series and makes a serious push to the Eastern Conference Finals. They're that talented.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: Should the Los Angeles Lakers trade one of their guards?

The Los Angeles Lakers are currently the worst team in the Western Conference with a 16-32 overall record. They've lost 7 of their last 10 games and got absolutely destroyed by the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday by a final score of 122-73. They are still in rebuilding mode in the post-Kobe Bryant era with D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle as their core trio for the future and while that trio appears to have a lot of potential, it feels as though the Lakers need to make some moves in order to better position themselves for success. 

When looking at the Lakers' roster, what really stands out is all the quality guards that they have. Lou Williams (17.9 points per game), D'Angelo Russell (14.3 points per game), Jordan Clarkson (13.9 points per game), and Nick Young (13.7 points per game) are all quality guards that can score the ball. It feels a bit redundant to have so many guys at the same position that produce at roughly the same level, which makes a trade a viable solution to the conundrum. 

Of the four guards to trade, Lou Williams or Jordan Clarkson make the most sense to move. Nick Young I feel doesn't have that much trade value given that he is a "chucker" and known for being a diva while D'Angelo Russell has got too much upside and is still very early in his career. 

The reason Lou Williams makes sense is that's he's a quality veteran guard who could help out a playoff contender at the trade deadline. Teams like the Celtics, Raptors, Hawks, and Clippers may be interested in making a move for him. Of course, it depends on what the offers are, but considering that Lou Williams will likely be past his prime by the time the Lakers actually become something indicates that he's a good player for them to unload. With him gone, the Lakers could give more minutes to D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, helping them develop one of the better young backcourts in the NBA. 

As for Jordan Clarkson, the reason it could make sense to trade him is that they could get a lot more for him. Considering his upside and potential, a lot of teams would be willing to make a move for him and could offer future draft picks, a big man, and other pieces. By trading Jordan Clarkson, the Lakers would be sending a firm message to D'Angelo Russell that he's their guy and that they are committed to building around him by getting better complimentary pieces. 

What will be interesting to see is how the Lakers handle their crowded backcourt and whether or not they start to engage in trade talks to solve the problem. The Lakers are slowly heading in the right direction and so I don't necessarily think they should feel pressured into making a trade right away. What they should be doing is putting their feelers out and seeing what the market is for Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson. If some team is willing to make a trade for either player that helps them form a more well-rounded team, they should absolutely pull the trigger. 

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: The fact that Russell Westbrook isn't an NBA All-Star starter is an insult to the game of basketball

                                                (Credit: Keith Allison. Click here for source) 

Earlier this week, the NBA All-Star starters were announced. Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Anthony Davis will start for the Western Conference while DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Jimmy Butler will start for the Eastern Conference. Guess which one of them is the dude averaging 30.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game? The answer is none of the above. The dude with that RIDICULOUS stat line is Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and yeah, that's right, he's not an NBA All-Star starter!

I don't want this blog post to turn into a discussion of who should be booted off to make room for Russell Westbrook. All five players who have been named All-Star starters in the Western Conference are having excellent seasons of their own and I don't want to diminish a particular player's success through suggesting that he shouldn't be an All-Star starter.

With that being said, it is still an utter joke that Russell Westbrook was not named an NBA All-Star starter. The man is averaging a triple-double through 44 games and is attempting to be the second player in NBA history to average a triple double through a full season. The only one to do it was Oscar Robertson back in the 1961-62 season and that season is widely regarded as the greatest statistical season that any individual has had in NBA history.

Averaging a triple-double for a full season is the stuff of legends. It almost has a mythical aura to it as if it isn't actually possible. It's the basketball equivalent of Paul Bunyan creating the Grand Canyon with his axe or Chuck Norris counting to infinity twice. It's almost too impressive of a feat to be possible and yet through 44 games, Russell Westbrook is doing it.

I don't care how good the other NBA All-Star starters are. When you are accomplishing a statistical feat that has only been done once in NBA history back when John F. Kennedy was President of the United States, you have to be an NBA All-Star starter. It's that simple.

In addition to his frightening stat line, Russell Westbrook has won back-to-back NBA All-Star Game MVP awards. This isn't like he's come out of nowhere. Russell Westbrook has been an elite NBA player for quite some time and right when he's in the middle of perhaps the greatest statistical season in NBA history, he gets snubbed as an NBA All-Star starter.

People will try to justify Russell Westbrook not being a starter by saying that the Thunder are not doing as well as the Warriors, Rockets, or Spurs. The problem with this logic is that the NBA All-Star Game is all about the best individuals in the NBA and rewarding the players who are having the best individual seasons. NBA championships are given to teams while MVP awards, All-Star appearances, and other accolades are given to individuals. Given that starting in the NBA All-Star Game is an individual accolade, Russell Westbrook belongs in the game as a starter and that's that.

What I find to be most surprising about all of this is the fact that fans only decided 50% of the vote with media and players counting for the other 50%. One would certainly think that the media and players would have recognized Russell Westbrook's accomplishments enough to get him voted in as an NBA All-Star starter. Hell, any knowledgeable NBA fan should have voted for him as well. If you just look at his stat line, that alone should be enough to vote for him. No questions asked.

While I don't want to come off as arrogant or condescending, the fact that Russell Westbrook isn't an NBA All-Star starter is a flat out joke. Actually, it's much worse than that. It's an insult to the game of basketball itself. Dr. James Naismith is rolling in his grave right now and I'm sure Oscar Robertson is insulted, too.

What Russell Westbrook is doing is beyond historic. It's monumental. His season warrants more than just starting in the NBA All-Star Game. It warrants the regular season NBA MVP award. In an even more disgusting twist, the man who bailed on Oklahoma City and left Russell Westbrook behind for greener pastures is starting in the NBA All-Star game while Russell Westbrook will have to come off the bench. That reeks with injustice and should make us all wonder whether or not we value winning a little too much.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday Slam: How will the Los Angeles Clippers weather the storm without Chris Paul?

Earlier this week, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul suffered a torn left thumb ligament and will be out for an estimated 6-8 weeks following surgery. While Blake Griffin may be back soon from his knee surgery, the Clippers will have to figure out a way to stay afloat with both players out for at least the next week.

Even when Blake Griffin does come back, the Clippers will still be without Chris Paul for 5+ weeks and that alone will be a huge challenge. Raymond Felton, Jamal Crawford, and Austin Rivers will be expected to run the offense until Paul returns and do all they can to make up for Chris Paul's 17.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 9.7 assists per game.

The Clippers can't seem to catch a break when it comes to injuries. It feels like during the past couple of seasons, they're always dealing with at least one of their key players on the shelf for several weeks, which makes it really hard to develop continuity and team chemistry. While I do not personally believe the Clippers at full strength have enough pieces to win a championship, all of these injuries really do take its toll and make things a lot tougher.

As far as where they are in the standings, the Clippers are currently tied with the Utah Jazz for 4th place in the Western Conference with a 29-16 record. With home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs on the line, these next several weeks without Chris Paul are crucial. If there is anything that should give the Clippers some hope, it's the fact that Blake Griffin should be back within the next 7-10 days. If he is able to get back sooner rather than later that will be huge.

When it comes to weathering this storm, the Los Angeles Clippers need to play smart, disciplined basketball and really play as team. They still have a lot of nice players in Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, J.J. Redick, and DeAndre Jordan, so it's not like they don't have anybody to go to during this stretch. All four of those guys will need to step up their game and do a good job getting each other going until Blake Griffin and Chris Paul return. The Clippers will need to have a win by committee approach and so it will be vital for all of their healthy bodies to do their part to step up and make plays.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Fadeaway Friday: The Return of Ben Gordon

                                                 (Credit: Keith Allison. Click here for source). 

After 11 NBA seasons and taking a year off, former UConn and Chicago Bulls star Ben Gordon has signed a contract with the NBA’s Developmental League. He is yet to sign with a team as signing with the D-League first puts you on the waiver wire.

In his prime, Ben Gordon averaged 21.4 points per game on 41.3% shooting from 3-point range. He was a talented shooter who was absolutely lethal from downtown. Injuries derailed what could have been a hall of fame career, but with a year off, Ben Gordon is ready to give pro basketball one more shot.

During his last season in the NBA (2014-15), Ben Gordon averaged 6.2 points per game in 14.1 minutes of action with the Orlando Magic in 56 games. It would be foolish to think he’ll be anything remotely close to what he used to be, but given his experience and shooting ability, he could find a nice home in the D-League as an offensive spark plug of sorts.

Ben Gordon is clearly hoping to make a return to the NBA and while I wish him the best of luck, it’s hard to see him sticking with an NBA team. He hasn’t played for a full season and has declined over the past few seasons. Hopefully, he’ll be able to have some success, have some fun, and make one more return to an NBA floor. If he can accomplish that, that will be really cool.

UPDATE: Ben Gordon has signed with the Texas Legends.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

The NBA does a tremendous job honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


 The NBA once again had an entertaining slate of games throughout Martin Luther King Day, taking time to honor Dr. King in each game. In a time when racial tensions are on the rise and bigotry gets used as a successful tool to win a presidential election, the NBA shines its light across the globe spreading a message of love, peace, and acceptance for all groups of people regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

To quote the vocal group Take 6, “What the world needs now is love, more love is what we need.” That very optimistic message is exactly what Martin Luther King Jr. fought for and it’s a message that we need to continue to fight for today. We cannot get complacent and assume that it’s a message that will win out. We need to continue to make our voices heard and continue to be activists for peace like Martin Luther King Jr. was. Only then will we be truly honoring and remembering him.

What the NBA does that is so good is they keep the focus on Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the day. It’s a day when they remind us that there is so more to life than just basketball, using their very best players to speak out and set an example for the rest of us. When guys like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook speak out, people listen. Their words carry weight in ways that politicians or even religious leaders don’t. People look up to their favorite athletes and respect them because of the sacrifices that they make to reach the pinnacle of their craft. As such, these athletes have a great responsibility to lead out and set an example for the rest of us to follow. 

                                         (Credit: YouTube. Click here for video)

As far as Martin Luther King Jr. is concerned, there are few people to walk the face of the earth who have had left a more permanent imprint on society. He stood up for love, racial equality, and peace in a time when having such views would ultimately get him killed. Dr. King didn’t worry about what would happen to him because he knew that what he was fighting for was much bigger than him. He had a dream and he wanted to share it with all of us.

It is our responsibility to make sure that Martin Luther King’s dream never dies. We must do all we can to make sure his dream lives on and ultimately comes true. We aren’t there yet, but I am optimistic that we eventually will get there. We just need to continue to not remain silent in the face of racism, hatred, and bigotry. When we hear someone say anything that is racist, hateful, or bigoted, we need to stand up and tell them those views aren’t ok. Some will tell us to “see the other side”, but if the “other side” promotes hatred, racism, and bigotry, we don’t need to go there with them and try to rationalize their hateful views of humanity. So long as we stand firm in our values that promote love, respect, and equality, Dr. King’s dream will continue to burn brightly and remain a source of hope in even the darkest of times.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday Windmill: The Orlando Magic are having a rough go

The Orlando Magic are having a rough go to say the least. They are 17-27 overall, 2-8 in their last 10 games, and currently on a three game losing skid after getting rocked 118-98 in New Orleans by the Pelicans. Evan Fournier is leading the way for this team with 16.5 points per game while Serge Ibaka is scoring 15.5 points, grabbing 7.1 rebounds, and blocking 1.6 blocks per game.

If I can get to the heart of the matter real quick, the issue with this Orlando team appears to be the lack of a true franchise player. Serge Ibaka was a nice addition, but he so far hasn't lived up to expectations. As for Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, I am not yet convinced that either one of those guys will become franchise level players even though both guys are improving and scoring in double figures every night.

When the Orland Magic traded Victor Oladipo to get Serge Ibaka, the thought process was that Ibaka was going to be their franchise player and be a better guy to build around than Oladipo, who is currently getting 16.1 points per game playing alongside Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. While on its face, trading Victor Oladipo to get Serge Ibaka wasn't a bad move, it hasn't exactly energized the franchise. Victor Oladipo (24) is three years younger than Serge Ibaka (27) and appeared to be all the more ready and excited to be the new franchise player in Orlando. Given his youth and upside, the only way it makes sense to trade him is if you can get an instant upgrade and a guy who is more capable of leading your franchise. Serge Ibaka at the moment is not looking like such an upgrade.

Overall, all that the Orlando Magic can do is hope that Serge Ibaka and Evan Fournier get more comfortable being their go to guys and continue to grow in their roles while Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton continue to develop as well. I'm not ready to write off this Magic team as a lost cause, but it's certainly approaching that point. I just don't see this team being a a serious contender for quite a while.

Note: Evan Fournier has missed three straight games with a right heel injury and remains out indefinitely. Not good.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: Golden State sends a strong message to Cleveland

On Martin Luther King Day, the Golden State Warriors sent a strong message to the Cleveland Cavaliers, crushing the defending champions 126-91. After falling to the Cavaliers 109-108 on Christmas Day, the Warriors struck back in commanding fashion, reminding the Cavaliers that at the moment, the road to the 2017 NBA championship goes through Oakland and not Cleveland.

The Warriors' supreme excellence was on full display as they controlled the glass 58-35 and shot 50.5% from the field while holding the Cavaliers to 35.2% shooting from the field. The Warriors played elite level basketball on both ends of the floor and it showed in the final result. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson all had 20+ points while Draymond Green finished with another triple-double consisting of 11 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists while LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love combined for 30.2% shooting from the field.

The Warriors are seen as an offensive juggernaut that loves to play at a fast tempo, but the reality is that they are so much more than that. They are a multi-dimensional basketball team that is capable of destroying teams on both ends of the floor due to their athleticism, talent, and versatility. Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant are all elite shooters while Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala are some of the best defenders in the game today. Such a combination of offensive potency and stellar defense has rarely been seen in NBA history, which is why the Warriors are 35-6, on pace to win 70 games.

The one play that everyone is talking about is a flagrant 1 foul that was called on Draymond Green in the second quarter. LeBron James was driving down the court and Draymond Green bumped him at half court. LeBron James sold the call by flopping, which caused Warriors fans to freak out and complain about LeBron James getting superstar treatment. Having watched the play myself, it is clear that Draymond Green committed a flagrant foul and it's also clear that LeBron James helped to sell the call. Draymond Green wanted to send a message to LeBron James and he succeeded by getting the flagrant 1 foul.

On NBA TV,  Rick Fox said the Warriors needed to win big and I think he's right. The Warriors had to bounce back convincingly from the Christmas Day loss and give off the impression that winning in Oakland will be no easy task come June. While the Warriors still have the entire Western Conference playoffs and about half of the regular season to go before the NBA Finals, it is still important for them to send a message to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors know that should they reach the NBA Finals for a third consecutive time, the Cavaliers will likely be the team waiting for them. The Warriors want to give themselves as much of a mental advantage as possible by clinching home court and holding serve at home against the Cavaliers this season.

At the moment, the Warriors have the edge over the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have the better record and had the more convincing win on their home floor. While there is still tons of basketball to be played, Monday's game will definitely linger in the minds of both teams until/should they meet again in June. What's perhaps most amazing is that despite playing in different conferences, these two teams are forming one of the most fun and exciting rivalries in NBA history. I certainly would like to see both of these teams have a rubber match in June. That would be thrilling entertainment.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: Joel Embiid is looking like the real deal

                                          (Credit: YouTube. Click here for video) 

Philadelphia 76ers fans have been told to "trust the process", which means to trust that even though their team traded away all their good players and tanked, they should still believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. After initially appearing like another wasted draft pick, it appears as though the 76ers have hit pay dirt with Joel Embiid, who is averaging 19.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game while also shooting 79.2% from the foul line in his first season healthy.

The 76ers drafted Joel Embiid #3 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft but due to back issues and foot issues, Embiid had to sit out for his first two seasons. Naturally, comparisons to Greg Oden and Sam Bowie started to come forth as a result since they were also highly drafted big men that had NBA careers derailed by injury. Fortunately for Joel Embiid, he doesn't appear to be destined for the same fate as them. The 76ers are being cautious with him and monitoring his minutes, but so far all appears to be going well.

During the 2014 NBA Draft, a lot of people were saying that Joel Embiid could wind up being the best player in the whole draft. He was garnering comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon when he was coming out of Kansas, which might be the highest praise that any big man can receive. While he hasn't yet established himself as at the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon, he is off to a great start considering how his first two seasons went in the NBA. He's gone from bust to boom during these past couple of months and is starting to look like the best player out of the 2014 NBA Draft class.

As far as the 76ers are concerned, they still have a ways to go, but the good news for them is that they appear to finally have their franchise player in Joel Embiid. He's delivering the goods and is on track to being the next elite center in the NBA. While the NBA is increasingly going more and more towards "small ball", quality big men are still valued at a premium. If Joel Embiid continues on the path he is currently on, there's no reason to not see the 76ers as serious contenders within a few seasons.

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday Slam: Giannis Antetokounmpo is turning into a legitimate superstar

                                              (Credit: Keith Allison. Click here for source)

In his fourth season, Milwaukee Bucks small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is turning into a legitimate superstar right before our very eyes. The 6'11", 225 pound small forward, better known as "The Greek Freak", is having the best season of his young career averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and 2.0 blocks per game on 53.3% shooting from the field and 77.9% shooting from the foul line.

What's most scary about Giannis isn't his stat line. It's the fact that he appears to be able to do whatever he wants to do on a basketball court. Due to his freakish combination of size, speed, and skill, Giannis is able to beat opponents both inside and out. He is developing some nice moves in the post that allow him to score over big men, he's developing a really nice outside jumper, and due to his ball handling ability, defenders never can be sure if he's looking to score or dish the ball. He's probably the most multi-dimensional player to come into the NBA since LeBron James and that is really saying something.

As far as what he needs to work on the most, I would say that Giannis Antetokounmpo needs to improve his three-point shooting. Giannis is shooting just 29.5% from three-point range, which isn't nearly as good as he needs it to be. During his rookie year, he shot 34.7% from three-point range on 1.5 attempts per game. This season, he is attempting 2.4 three-point shots per game, which means he only makes .7 three-point shots per game as opposed to .5 three-point shots per game during his rookie season.

While it is good that Giannis Antetokounmpo is shooting more threes and is becoming more comfortable from that range, he needs to make sure he is still taking good shots. Shot selection is as important as it is making more threes. In many ways, improving three-point shooting doesn't necessarily have to mean taking more threes or even making more threes. It should more revolve around efficiency and making sure that the shots that are taken are good shoots.

For Giannis, more than anything, he needs to figure out how to utilize his three-point shot properly within the larger context of his overall game. Because he has so many weapons and is so talented, he doesn't necessarily have to be a guy that relies on his three-point shot. He just needs to know when to use it and use it effectively.

Outside of his three-point shooting, there really isn't much to complain about Giannis Antetokounmpo. He's averaging more points per game, he's becoming more confident on the floor, and as a whole he is a much more developed and well-rounded player. What's scary to think about is the fact that he's only in his fourth year in the NBA and will only get better.

As far as the Milwaukee Bucks are concerned, I've been saying for a while now that they are a team to keep an eye on and Giannis Antetokounmpo is a big reason why. In addition to Giannis, the Bucks also have another budding star in Jabari Parker, who is starting to make a name for himself, averaging 20.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game in his third NBA season. At the moment, the Bucks are 20-18 overall and are 5th place in the Eastern Conference. So long as "The Greek Freak" and Jabari Parker stay in Milwaukee, the Bucks are going to be an exciting and dangerous team.

Note: Saturday Slam is a weekly blog post that focuses on a major story or star player of the week. 

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Fadeaway Friday: Chasson Randle and Quincy Acy sign 10-day contracts

This week, there were two guys who signed 10-day contracts from the NBA Development League. Point guard Chasson Randle signed a 10-day contract with the Philadelphia 76ers after being with the Westchester Knicks and power forward Quincy Acy signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets after being with the Texas Legends. I will provide a quick breakdown of transactions.

                                               (Chasson Randle. Credit: 

Chasson Randle is a 6'2" 185 pound guard out of Stanford who has bounced around a little bit following his collegiate career. During this season with the Westchester Knicks, Randle has averaged 20.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 42.2% from the field, 40.2% from 3-point range, and 82.5% from the foul line. Randle has always been a good shooter, but due to being a bit undersized and being more of a combo guard than a true point guard, he's struggled to find a home in the NBA.

Chasson Randle has taken advantage of the D-League, using it to showcase his skills and refine his craft. His decision to sign in the D-League has paid off by getting a 10-day contract with the Philadelphia 76ers and now he looks to prove his worth by signing a second 10-day contract and sticking with the 76ers for the rest of the season.

The reason the 76ers signed Chasson Randle is due to their lack of depth at the point guard position. Jerryd Bayless is out for the season due to wrist surgery and neither T.J. McConnell or Sergio Rodríguez are exactly "lighting it up." The 76ers could use another point guard on their roster, which means there are good odds Chasson Randle gets some minutes at the point guard spot. If he performs well, I could see him staying in Philly for the rest of the season.

                                         (Quincy Acy. Credit: 

Quincy Acy is a 6'7", 240 pound power forward in his 5th year in the NBA out of Baylor. Acy has proven himself to be a quality rebounder in the NBA, averaging 8.4 rebounds per 36 minutes of action. Acy is a banger in the post and is very physical, overcoming his lack of height to still make his presence known in the paint.

The Brooklyn Nets rank 11th in rebounding and so by adding Quincy Acy, they are aiming to get even better in this department. What Acy will provide is toughness down low and one more big body to wreak havoc inside. In some respects, signing Quincy Acy doesn't make a whole lot of sense since where they need more bodies is in the backcourt. Isaiah Whitehead is dealing with a sprained left knee and Jeremy Lin is dealing with a strained hamstring. One would think that if the Nets were looking to sign somebody to a 10-day contract, they would have tried to sign a guard.

All the same, when you are 8-31, you really could get better in every aspect of the game and so in that sense, adding a veteran big guy like Quincy Acy that can crash the boards, play defense, and be a good practice player makes sense. Due to having a healthy front court, it's hard to see Quincy Acy cracking the rotation, but if he can prove himself to be a good practice player that pushes their big men and makes them better, he could warrant a second-day contract.

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