NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Monday, November 23, 2020

Mock Draft Monday: James Wiseman was the right pick for the Golden State Warriors

 

                                             (Credit: Santiago Mejia-SF Chronicle) 


Like every NBA draft, there is debate about whether or not the right players went to the right teams and vice versa. There is even more scrutiny about the guys who go towards the top of the draft and this year's draft is no exception. Last week, the Golden State Warriors selected former Memphis Tigers big man James Wiseman #2 overall with LaMelo Ball still on the board. Given the season-ending Achilles injury to Klay Thompson, many wondered whether or not the Warriors should take Ball instead since he's a guard who can shoot the ball and create plays for others. I.e. Perhaps Ball could be an insurance policy for Thompson. 

While this line of thinking isn't all bad, the Warriors were still smart to take Wiseman. He's a versatile, 7'1", 247 pound big man who can run the floor, block shots, score around the rim, rebound, and maybe even score from the midrange. There's a ton to like about him and given his unique package, the Warriors would have been foolish to pass on him. I understand that a guard may be a more pressing need, but the Warriors need to think big picture here, which is why Wiseman was the right pick. 

The one thing the Warriors have lacked over the past few seasons is an impact big man that can do it all on both ends of the floor. Assuming Thompson is able to make a full recovery as expected, the Warriors will have an added dimension that they haven't had before. In addition to their perimeter shooting, stellar guard play, and killer small ball lineups, they'll have a big man who can give them another look that they haven't had before. Some could argue it's a look they don't need, but still, having a big man who can do the things Wiseman does should be welcomed on this team. Plus, their other draft pick is a pretty talented guard in Nico Mannion, who I followed closely during his high school and college career. So, it's not like they didn't address their guard needs at all in this draft. 

In addition to being a good fit for this current Warriors team, Wiseman also has the potential to be a player who they can build their franchise around in the future. Impactful big men like Wiseman don't grow on trees and if you can scoop one up in the draft, you really have no reason to not do so. Hell, one could argue the Timberwolves weren't smart to pass on him even with the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns

The bottom line is when you look at what this Warriors team needs right now and what they need for the future, James Wiseman was clearly the right guy for them to pick. He gives them a post presence they've been lacking and a potential superstar to build around. Warriors fans should be very excited about how their team did in this draft. 

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Saturday Slam: How will the 2020 Los Angeles Lakers be remembered?

 

                                             (Credit: LakersDaily.com) 


One year after starting their journey for a title in October of 2019, the Los Angeles Lakers finished the job in October of 2020, defeating the Miami Heat in six games. This is the Lakers' 17th title in franchise history. LeBron James won his 4th NBA championship and 4th NBA Finals MVP while Anthony Davis won his first NBA championship. It was a strange season given the time off due to COVID-19 and the return to the bubble in Orlando, but as they always say, a win is a win and the Lakers found a way to get it done despite all the adversity. 

There will be some who will put a bit of an asterisk next to this championship, but I find that to be unfair. Especially since the Lakers came in as the top seed in the conference. The way this season was set up being in a bubble and played on a neutral court favored lower seeded teams and put higher seeded teams who earned home court advantage at a bit of a disadvantage. To win this title despite losing out on home court advantage is just another feather this Lakers team can put in their cap. 

More broadly speaking, this Lakers team will be remembered as the team that brought a title back to Los Angeles after a decade. The Lakers went through some dark times after their 16th championship in 2010. Giving Kobe Bryant an excessive contract, a lack of real identity or future, and tragically, the death of Bryant and his daughter earlier this year. To the credit of James, he came to Los Angeles firmly believing he could win a title and believed that Anthony Davis, a guy who has had injury issues over the years, could be his sidekick. 

In addition to James and Davis, this Lakers team truly embodied what it means to be a team. Head coach Frank Vogel did a really nice job of bringing everyone together and getting everyone to buy in. Rajon Rondo, Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dwight Howard, and others played their roles and made sound contributions. Unlike other teams that won due to superior star play, the Lakers won by their depth and unselfishness. This was the most likable Lakers team I've seen win a title for this very reason. 

Ultimately, there's a lot to like about this year's Lakers team. LeBron James showed why he's an all-time great, Anthony Davis proved he could deliver in the NBA Finals, and everyone came together to get the job done. It'll be interesting to see if this team can defend their title and bring an 18th banner to the Staples Center. 

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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saturday Slam: Can the Miami Heat go the distance?

 

                                                (Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)  

The Miami Heat are currently up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 3 coming up later tonight against the Boston Celtics, who will be looking to get a boost from Gordon Hayward's return. At the moment, the Heat have definitely been the biggest surprise of the playoffs, sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the first round, taking out the Milwaukee Bucks in five games, and now possessing a 2-0 lead on the Celtics. Their lone playoff loss to the Bucks was in overtime 115-118 and their average margin of victory in the playoffs is 7.64 points per game. Basically, they're on cruise control. 

At this point, they have to be favored to come out of the East, but the big question is do they have what it takes to beat whoever comes out of the West. It's early yet, but judging by last night's Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, it looks likely that the Los Angeles Lakers will take care of the Denver Nuggets, another team who has had an impressive and surprising post-season. The Lakers would no doubt be the toughest opponent the Heat have faced in the playoffs, but given how easily they've dismantled their opponents thus far, there's no reason to think the Heat aren't up to the task. 

What makes this Heat team dangerous is their depth and unselfishness. Jimmy Butler is the heart and soul of this team, averaging 20.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. He gets after it on both ends of the floor and isn't afraid to have others share the spotlight with him. Goran Dragic is leading the team in scoring with his 22.2 points per game while Bam Adebayo is taking care of business inside with 16.8 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. In addition to those three guys, the Heat are also getting solid production from Jae Crowder, Duncan Robinson, and Tyler Herro. An added bonus is the presence of veteran small forward Andre Iguodala, who knows a thing or two about guarding LeBron James

While they don't have that one singular superstar that leads them, the Heat have really good pieces that come together to form a very balanced and dangerous team. They remind me of the 2004 Detroit Pistons, who defeated a more star laden Lakers team in the NBA Finals. Even though they have more business to take care of, I see no reason to doubt the Heat's ability to win it all. They are clicking at the right time and don't seem afraid of taking on teams that have more talent. 

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Saturday, August 29, 2020

Saturday Slam: The NBA is taking social justice to another level

                                            (Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool/AFP)

 The Milwaukee Bucks' audacious decision to not play against the Orlando Magic in Wednesday's playoff game in protest of police brutality, specifically the lack of justice for Jacob Blake, sparked even more conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for change when it comes to better policing and racial equality. After a league-wide meeting, the league decided to resume the playoffs on Saturday, but there was reportedly serious talk about cancelling the season. As a matter of fact the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers were united in their vote to cancel the season. 

What prevented a cancellation was the overall consensus that the best way for the NBA to use their platform was to keep playing. Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown reportedly pressed players on this, saying that if they were to cancel the season, they better be willing to go in the trenches and not just head home and chill in their gated communities. President Barack Obama also advised players to finish the season for the same reasons. 

Personally, I think finishing the season is the right move for the NBA for all the reasons that Obama and Brown said. However, I do think it's pretty amazing that LeBron James and other players were willing to not finish the season because of how fed up they are with what's going on. The fact that a conversation had to take place on the matter says a lot.

For the first time in NBA history, players are starting to see themselves as more than just basketball players, but as agents for change. They recognize that they have an influence over society and they want to use their platform to the best of their abilities. I think this is great. 

At the same time, NBA players need to remember that without basketball, they have no platform to be agents for change. If they stopped playing basketball, they would also lose the megaphone that they are trying to leverage as much as possible. It's a tricky line to walk, but so far, the NBA seems to be walking it pretty well. It'll be interesting to see how the season finishes up and how players will use their platform going forward. 

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Tomahawk Tuesday: Can the Portland Trail Blazers reach the NBA Finals?

 

                                         (Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) 
 
Earlier today, the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 134-131 behind 61 points from Damian Lillard, tying a career-high (Click here to watch the highlights). With the victory, the Trail Blazers are now 34-39, moving up to 8th place in the Western Conference standings. Should they win out, they will guarantee themselves a spot in the play in series to determine the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The still-undefeated-in-the-bubble Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies are both .5 games back at 33-39. 
 
Last week on Inside the NBA, Charles Barkley boldly predicted that if the Trail Blazers make the playoffs, they'll upset the Lakers and reach the NBA Finals. While a lot of Sir Charles' predictions get made fun of, he could be right about the Trail Blazers. Given the lack of home court advantage in the Orlando bubble, the odds of upsets in the playoffs go up by a lot. A major reason for why we don't see more upsets in the NBA playoffs is home court advantage. Winning on the road in the NBA is not easy and in the playoffs, being at home is a huge help to a team's chances of winning. They get more calls, the crowd gets them going, etc. It's the nature of the NBA. 

With home court advantage not being in effect this year, we should see an NBA playoffs format that much more closely mirrors the NCAA Tournament. In the NCAA Tournament, we see a lot of teams win with their guard play. A guard gets hot and explodes for a lot of points. We've seen this with Jimmer Fredette, Stephen Curry, and many other guards. In the NBA, Damian Lillard is capable of doing just that. And not only do the Trail Blazers have Lillard. They also have a very talented shooting guard alongside Lillard in CJ McCollum. While Lillard is averaging 29.3 points per game, McCollum isn't far off, averaging 22.4 points per game. That is a really nice scoring punch in the backcourt! 

In addition to an explosive backcourt, the Trail Blazers also have a terrific frontcourt anchored by Hassan Whiteside (15.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks) and Jusuf Nurkic (18.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks). As an added bonus, the Trail Blazers also have Carmelo Anthony popping in 15.4 points per game. When you look at this Trail Blazers team, it is clear that they have a lot going for them. They got terrific guards, a terrific set of big men, and a seasoned veteran who can give them an extra scoring punch. 
 
Now, as for whether or not they can come out of the West, the odds are still not in their favor. They still need to take care of business in the rest of their regular season and hang on to win the play in tournament. But if they can do that and get to a first round match up with the Lakers, I don't see why they can't go the distance. They're getting hot at the right time and seem to really believe they can shock the world. It will be fun to see if they are able to prove Barkley right. 
 
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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Phoenix Suns are making the most of the Orlando bubble


                                                   (Credit: Kevin C. Cox-Pool photo via AP)

Earlier today, Devin Booker hit a clutch game winner over Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to give the Phoenix Suns a 117-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers (Click here to check it out). With the win, the Suns are now 3-0 in the Orlando bubble and only three games back of the 8th seeded Memphis Grizzlies. The Suns still have a lot of work to do, but so far are making the most of the restart season as they continue their push for a playoff spot.

Booker has been the catalyst of the Suns' playoff push, averaging 30.7 points per game in their 3-0 restart. Their most recent win over the Clippers was Booker's best game in the bubble, as he had 35 points to go along with his game winner. Regardless of whether or not they make the playoffs, Booker is showing why he's the highest paid player in Suns history and why they have a bright future with him at the helm.

As for whether or not they'll make the playoffs, the Suns' remaining schedule is against the following teams: Indiana Pacers (42-26; 3-0 in the bubble), Miami Heat (43-25; 2-1), Oklahoma City Thunder (41-25; 1-1), Philadelphia 76ers (40-27; 1-1), and Dallas Mavericks (41-29; 1-2). Like the Suns, the Pacers are perfect in the bubble and the Heat earlier today escaped with a win over the Celtics. So, those are two teams that will not be easy to knock off. The rest of the schedule isn't too bad, but at this point of the season, everyone is fighting for their lives and there are no bad teams in the bubble. That's why they're all there.

Personally, I think it's likely that the Suns will cool off a bit and miss the cut, but with Devin Booker running the show, anything is possible. Wins like the one they had over the Clippers build tremendous confidence and momentum. And at this point of an NBA season, this is the right time to get hot. It'll be fun to see if the Suns can keep this going and have a playoff run for the ages.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Wednesday Windmill: How should the Milwaukee Bucks approach the rest of the regular season?


                                             (Credit: Morry Gash/Associated Press)

On Tuesday, I addressed the Los Angeles Lakers and how they should approach the rest of the regular season and now I'm going to do the same for the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks. Like the Lakers, the Bucks pretty much have the top seed in their conference locked up, so they too have the luxury to view the rest of the regular season as additional tuneups before the playoffs.

Unlike the Lakers, however, they don't have anyone on their team who has led a team to a title. While LeBron James has been through the fire and knows what it takes, Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is still in the process of figuring out how to lead a team to a championship. Giannis is once again having a fantastic season, averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. He's the best player in the game and certainly has all the potential to bring a championship back to Milwaukee.

As they look ahead to their eight seeding games, the Bucks too need to figure out how to handle the rest versus rust debate. They don't want any of their key players (especially Giannis) to get injured, but at the same time, given the amount of time they've had off, they also don't want their players to get too rusty. It's the age old question that gets asked every year in the NBA and especially the NFL, and every team handles it differently.

For the Lakers, I said they should be all systems go aside from perhaps limiting Anthony Davis' minutes due to him having a history of getting hurt. As for the Bucks, they don't really have that same concern. Giannis has been pretty healthy his whole career as has their number two scorer Khris Middleton (21.1 points per game). Obviously, proper precautions should be made to not play either guy in garbage time and I do think it probably would be wise to not play either guy 40+ minutes a night during these seeding games. The Bucks shouldn't completely throw their caution to the wind when it comes to keeping them healthy.

At the same time, given the nature of this season and how there is no home court advantage (except for the Orlando Magic, sort of), the Bucks do need to do all they can to regain the momentum they had before the break happened and reestablish themselves as the top team in the NBA. I think putting minutes restrictions on Giannis and Middleton (30-35 minutes) would be perfect as it would allow them to get a good run in without overexerting themselves. Eight games isn't that many and before they know it, they'll be forced to enter playoff mode in a setting that no top seed has ever had to experience. It'll be interesting to see how things go for Milwaukee as they go about navigating this most unusual season.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Tomahawk Tuesday: How should the Los Angeles Lakers approach the rest of the regular season?


                                             (Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The NBA restart season begins on Thursday with two games: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Utah Jazz followed by Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers. Both games will air on TNT with the Jazz and Pelicans tipping off first (6:30 PM EST). In case you are unfamiliar with the format, each of the remaining 22 teams will play eight seeding games and if the ninth seed in each conference is within four games of the eighth seed, then a play in series will be triggered. That's the skinny.

While some teams are fighting for their playoff lives or jockeying for position, the Lakers pretty much have the #1 seed in the Western Conference locked up. They need just two wins to clinch. This is overall a good position to be in as the Lakers can more or less view the eight seeding games as tune up games and bonus scrimmage games to get themselves back in shape. However, there is the challenge of balancing rest versus rust. Obviously, the Lakers want to make sure their players stay fresh for the playoffs, but given the amount of time guys have had off, they also don't want guys to get too rusty.

Personally, I think the Lakers should err on the side of avoiding rust. There are only eight seeding games to play and they still do need to clinch the top seed. If they had everything wrapped up right now, that might change things a bit. But, given that they still need to secure the top seed and the fact that the number of seeding games is so few, the Lakers should use these final games to establish a good rhythm and make sure they're all ready to go come playoff time. Opening up against the Clippers is a great way for them to get their juices flowing as the Clippers are one of the teams in the West that is seeking to topple them off their perch.

LeBron James is also a workhorse and rarely gets injured, so I think the Lakers should feel pretty confident in his ability to log significant minutes with little risk. The only guy who I might be cautious with is Anthony Davis. He has a fragile history and the Lakers would probably be wise to not overwork him. If there's a guy who they should be careful with and mindful of, it's Davis. If he goes down, their road to an NBA championship becomes a lot tougher.

Outside of that, it really should be all systems go for the Lakers. They have the top record out West and have the luxury to view these eight seeding games as additional tune ups. As we look at the Western Conference, they're definitely the team to beat.

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Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday Slam: Is Tom Thibodeau the right hire for the New York Knicks?


                                              (Credit: Butch Dill/AP)

Earlier today, news broke of the New York Knicks hiring Tom Thibodeau as their new head coach. Fresh off a controversial suspension for berating Republican senator Josh Hawley, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Thibodeau's deal with the Knicks is for five years. Thibodeau is a big name in the NBA, but if you look at his body of work, he looks more like a flash in the pan than a guy who is going places.

Thibodeau got on the head coaching radar during his days as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics from 2007-10. He was known as the architect of the Celtics' championship defense in 2008 and being a hard-nosed tough guy that didn't take crap from anyone. After the success that the Celtics had with him, it made sense for some team to give him a shot as a head coach.

His first year as a head coach was with the Chicago Bulls in the 2010-11 season in which the Bulls had a league best 62-20 record. The Bulls reached the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the Miami Heat 4-1. Derrick Rose was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player that year and Thibodeau was riding high as the coach who helped bring the Bulls back from the dead. The Bulls followed that season up with a 50-16 season, once again locking up the top seed in the NBA. Rather than going further than the year before and reaching the NBA Finals, the Bulls instead lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Philadelphia 76ers.

After looking like a championship might be coming back to the Windy City, things kinda went south for the Bulls and Thibodeau after two promising seasons. The Bulls went 45-37, 48-34, and 50-32 in Thibodeau's final three seasons with them. They were still a solid team, but not what they once were. A lot of that had to do with Derrick Rose getting worn down, something Thibodeau is known for doing to his star players. The Bulls wisely made the decision to part ways with Thibodeau after the 2014-15 season, realizing that they weren't going in the right direction.

After taking a year off, Thibodeau resurfaced as the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, going 31-51 in the 2016-17 season. It was a rebuilding year for the Wolves and not a lot was expected. The following season, 2017-18 season, was a success as the Wolves made the playoffs as the 8th seed in the West with a 47-35 record. It was their first trip to the playoffs since the 2003-04 season. Even though they lost in the first round to the Houston Rockets, things were looking up for Thibodeau and the Wolves after the season.

The 2018-19 season was a weird one in which the Timberwolves fired Thibodeau midway through the season after a rocky 19-21 start. Thibodeau and Jimmy Butler did not get along and more news was surfacing about how Thibodeau's players, particularly the stars, don't like getting worn down by him.

As for his new chapter with the Knicks, it's hard to see it going well. The best case scenario is that Thibodeau will be a good short-term hire for the Knicks, providing them with some toughness, discipline, and identity. But knowing that this is the Knicks, it can be safely assumed that this won't end well. The bottom line is that Thibodeau is a guy who had a couple good years as a head coach, but preaches an out-of-date, old school philosophy that beats his players to a pulp. It's not a recipe for long-term success, something that the Knicks clearly know very little about.

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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Saturday Slam: Will the NBA be able to pull of its restarted season?

With the NBA restarted season fast approaching and their schedule already set (click here to check that out), the big question that I think is on everyone's mind is will they be able to actually pull this off? The plan is for NBA teams to descend on the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida and hunker down for a wild season in which players will be required to not leave the bubble created for them and be subjected to intense testing and screening.

Any player who tests positive for COVID-19 will be required to be in a period of self-isolation until they are cleared to return by medical professionals. As the league prepares for teams to fly to Orlando after the 4th of July and restart the season at the end of the month, I have a lot of questions about whether or not they will be able to actually pull this off. 

For starters, I wonder if the NBA will not run out of able bodies. If they're really going to strictly enforce these rules of self-isolation, it's entirely possible that the entire league at some point will need to self-isolate. At which point you are either forced to cancel the season or call upon G-League players and former And-1 Mixtape players to finish the season. Don't get me wrong, it would be entertaining as hell to see Grayson Boucher (a.k.a. The Professor) finally get his shot in the league, but it would also be really weird if we saw an NBA consist of non-NBA players. It just wouldn't work.

Going off that, if the NBA is going to pull off this season, they'll probably need to not freak the hell out over every single positive test and be a bit more lax about it. That isn't to say that they don't take the proper precautions, but they have to come to terms with the fact that guys will get the virus. Hell, they already have as 16+ players have tested positive within the past few days. Also, you all remember Rudy Gobert touching all those microphones, right? 

Another issue I have is whether or not the players will fully get on board. It's possible that the closer we get to the restart of the season, the more players we have bail for one reason or another. We've already seen a thinning of the herd a bit with guys choosing not to play to nurse an injury or just not deal with the risk of getting the virus. It's sorta like a Space Jam thing where the players didn't want to play after seeing Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Shawn Bradley, Charles Barkley, and Larry Johnson lose their ability to play at an even functional level. If enough guys get cold feet, the league may abort their restart plan.

Finally, there's public pressure. The NBA is very socially conscious and wants to appear like they are on the right side of important social issues like public health and social justice. I don't think this is strictly a PR thing. I think commissioner Adam Silver sincerely wants to do the right thing and have his league be a force for good. If there's enough pressure to fold the season from people like Anthony Fauci, Silver won't fight it. He'll only give the season the green light so long as the optics remain good.

Ultimately, I remain skeptical that the NBA will be able to pull this off. I definitely think it can be done, but there's still a lot of hurdles that need to be cleared. It will be interesting to see how the league navigates these next few weeks as they attempt to conclude the most bizarre season in league history.

Note: I started a conversation about the NBA's restart efforts on Cake.co. Click here to check it out.

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Saturday Slam: The Chicago Bulls should have gone for a 7th title


(Photo: Jack Smith, AP)

Upon finishing The Last Dance, one of the burning questions that remains is whether or not the Chicago Bulls should have gone for a 7th title. Jerry Krause, who was the general manager of the Bulls during their dominant run created a lot of tension between the players and the front office, especially during their final year together. What created so much tension was the fact that the players all knew that the 1997-98 season would be the last year that they would be together. If you watched the 10 part ESPN documentary, you would know that the name "The Last Dance" comes from the nickname that head coach Phil Jackson gave to that season.

They knew this would be their last time together because of Krause and his desire to begin the rebuilding process. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson all would have preferred to give it another go after they won their 6th title. If it was up to them, they would have all come back and chased a 7th title.

While every dynasty must come to an end and front offices need to think about the future, it's odd that Krause was so quick to shut the door on a run for a 7th title. Hell, Krause told Jackson before the season started that he could go 82-0 and he still wouldn't be back. Regardless of how successful the 1997-98 season was to be, it was to be the last that Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen would all be together.

What makes it odd is the fact that the Bulls were still kicking butt. They were just two seasons removed from their historic 72-10 season. While there were some signs of them slowing down a bit, they were still the best team in the NBA. We've often seen players choose on their own to walk away when they're at their peak, but it's another thing for an organization to do so. Especially when that organization historically hasn't been very good.

Before Michael Jordan came onto the scene, the Bulls were not a very good team. They were mediocre to bad. They were the least popular team in Chicago and there was very little buzz around them. The arrival of Jordan changed that, turning them into a franchise that gets mentioned in the same sentence as the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. For them to think that it was totally cool to prematurely end Jordan's run was ludicrous and to this day has proven to be a mistake.

Since Jordan's retirement, the Bulls haven't come close to sniffing another NBA championship. The Derrick Rose era was a little exciting, but fleeting. The Bulls are back to being a bad franchise and there is no sign of them changing course anytime soon.

Going back to the 1997-98 season, considering the success that they were having, the Bulls should have at least remained open to the possibility of one more go with Phil and the gang. When you have such a good thing going, why not ride it out and see how far that wave can take you? 

What makes it all the more difficult to justify the early disbandment is the fact that the 1998-99 season was a lockout year in which only 50 regular season games were played. Jordan and Pippen would have gotten some extra time to rest up and that may have made the difference in their quest for a 7th title. On top of that, the 8th seeded New York Knicks won the Eastern Conference crown. It's hard to think that Jordan and Pippen wouldn't have disposed of them rather easily. As for who they would have met in the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs proved to be a great dynasty in their own right, but at the time, they were sort of the new kids on the block with Tim Duncan leading the way. In hindsight, one would have to pick the veteran Bulls to snatch one from the Spurs, giving Jordan seven rings and Duncan four.

Now, I don't think the Bulls would have won an eighth title had they come back in the 1999-2000 season given the emergence of the Shaq and Kobe Lakers. The Bulls would have had no answer for Shaq inside and with even more mileage on them, it's fair to wonder if that series would have even been much of a fight. Still, it is fun to think about Jordan's Bulls going up against Shaq and Kobe's Lakers. I mean, had the Bulls actually won, that would have put the Jordan/Kobe debates to rest, right?

To wrap this all up, I think it's clear that the Chicago Bulls should have gone for a 7th title. They had the greatest player of all-time, perhaps the greatest coach of all-time, and would have had a shortened season to give them an edge. Perhaps all things do happen for a reason and that it's fitting things ended the way that they did, but all the same, it does feel like this team had one more dance in them.

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Saturday, June 6, 2020

Saturday Slam: How should the 2020 NBA champion be viewed?


The 2019-20 NBA season is tentatively scheduled to resume on July 31st with an NBA Finals ending on October 12th at the latest. The NBA Draft will be October 15th, free agency will start October 18th, 2020-21 training camp November 10th, and the 2020-21 season starting December 1st. These dates are per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The rest of the season is tentatively set to be played at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. All 16 current NBA playoff teams plus six additional teams that are within six games of the final playoff spot in their conference will make up a 22 team field. There is some discussion about what the other eight teams that aren't invited will be doing. At the moment, nothing is planned, but it is possible that they get allowed to do some joint workouts together or form their own summer league kinda thing. For more details on what the rest of the season will look like, click here.

The big question that I think is yet to be addressed much is how should the 2020 NBA champion be viewed? It's a unique season in that the champion will be determined at a neutral site location. Home court advantage won't be a factor. This of course means that lower seeded teams gain an advantage while higher seeded teams are put at a disadvantage. There is some discussion of giving higher seeds other advantages like an extra challenge or an extra foul for their best player, but let's be real, nothing the league can do can make up for home court advantage. Probably the best thing the league can do is give the higher seed a three point advantage in each game or something like that. But that would still feel kinda weird and artificial.

Personally, I think there's no way around the fact that there will be somewhat of an asterisk next to whatever team wins the 2020 NBA championship. Especially if it's a team that comes out of nowhere to win it. I think if one of the higher seeded teams wins it, there will be less of an asterisk, but if a five or six seeded team wins the title, there will be a greater asterisk for sure. I don't think it's totally fair as the playoffs will be played in a traditional best-of-seven format all the way through, but it is what it is.

On the flip side, one could argue that winning in this format and season is even harder and that it will require an even greater mental fortitude. Everyone is given the same set of challenges and whichever team prevails certainly will deserve credit. There also won't be the stink of home cooking from officials, so that in a way will make the games feel more legitimate.

Also, the NBA has had champions in unusual seasons before. The 1998-99 lockout season was a 50 game season in which the top seeded Western Conference team San Antonio Spurs defeated the eighth seeded Eastern Conference team New York Knicks in the NBA Finals. One could just as easily put an asterisk next to the Spurs' 1999 championship. At the time, I think there was some discussion about that, but as time has gone on, that championship has been viewed as legitimate. I think in part because of the fact that the Spurs went on to win four more NBA championships.

I think when it comes to how the 2020 NBA champion will be judged, I think a lot of it will come down to which team wins it and how that team does in subsequent seasons. If say the Milwaukee Bucks win the title and go on to win a few more afterwards with Giannis Antetokounmpo at the helm, I think the 2020 NBA champion will be still be remembered as an oddity, but there won't be much of an asterisk if any next to their name. If instead, a team like the Indiana Pacers shock the world, odds are greater there will be more scrutiny.

Regardless of how the 2020 NBA champion will be viewed, I think it's safe to say that this season will be one to remember and hopefully the most unique season in league history. While I do think odds are high that there will be at least a tiny asterisk next to the champion, I really don't think there should be one. Winning an NBA championship is not easy and if you are able to survive that grind and get across that finish line, you deserve to be remembered as a champion no matter how you got the job done.

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Saturday Slam: Remembering Jerry Sloan

                                         (Credit: Bob Leverone/Getty Images) 

On Friday, the basketball world lost a legend in 78 year-old Jerry Sloan, who averaged 14.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game during his 11-year NBA playing career, 10 of which were spent with the Chicago Bulls. Sloan was drafted 4th overall in the 1965 NBA draft by the Baltimore Bullets before getting selected by the Bulls in the 1966 NBA expansion draft one year later. As a result of being selected by the Bulls in their first season, Sloan received the nickname "The Original Bull." Sloan would go on to make two All-Star teams and six All-Defensive teams with the Bulls, becoming one of the franchise's most iconic players and the first to have his jersey retired (#4).

Known for his toughness and grit, Sloan epitomized what it means to come from the Midwest (McLeansboro, Illinois). He did all the things that a lot of today's players don't want to do: He played defense, he rebounded, he fouled hard, and he never backed down to anyone. Players like Jerry Sloan are a rare breed nowadays and with him no longer with us, it feels like the end of an era.

After a stellar playing career, Sloan took a shot at coaching. After three bumpy seasons as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1979-1982, Sloan joined the Utah Jazz as an assistant under then head coach Frank Layden. After spending four seasons on Layden's staff, Sloan took over the reins in the 1988-89 season. From then on, the rest was history as they say.

During his 23 years as head coach of the Utah Jazz, Sloan had a coaching career that earned him a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame alongside his two best players, John Stockton and Karl Malone. Together, the trio would take the Utah franchise to new heights, culminating in back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998 where they lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, Sloan's former team. Sloan finished his career with 1221 wins, 1127 of which came with the Jazz. Sloan is the 4th winningest coach in NBA history and without a doubt the greatest coach to never win an NBA championship.

The loss of Sloan is dear to my heart because I grew up as a fan of the Utah Jazz. I have fond memories watching Sloan's teams battle in the playoffs. I remember the shot that John Stockton hit to send the Jazz to the NBA Finals in Houston and the look of sheer jubilation on Sloan's face. Those were the teams that first got me interested in basketball.

What stood out to me the most about Sloan during those days was his competitiveness and how much he backed his players. Getting ejected from games felt like a regular occurrence for him as he would loosen his tie and blow up at the refs for a call that they missed or for no reason other than that he just felt like popping off. At the same time, he was always classy in defeat and knew how to connect with his fellow man.

In the end, Jerry Sloan became much more than a great basketball coach. He became an icon in the state of Utah for the way he connected with the state and the passionate Jazz fan base. He gave it his all and demanded the same from his players. He will truly be missed.

Note: This blog post also appears on NBA Lord's Utah Jazz Blog. Click here to check it out. 

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Saturday, May 9, 2020

Saturday Slam: Five players who challenge Michael Jordan as the GOAT

                                         (Credit: USA TODAY Sports) 

Given that ESPN's 10 part series "The Last Dance" about Michael Jordan's career is the most exciting thing happening in basketball right now, I thought I would do a blog post about his Royal Airness and those who tried or are still trying to knock him off his perch as the greatest basketball player of all time a.k.a. the GOAT.

In this blog post, I'm not going to argue that someone is the GOAT instead of MJ. I think MJ's career speaks for itself. He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, is #1 all-time in points per game (30.1), is #3 all-time in steals (2514), won six NBA Finals MVPs, five regular season NBA MVPs, is a 10x scoring champ, 3x steals champ, 9x All-Defensive, was the 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year, 11x All-NBA, 14x All-Star, the 1984-85 NBA Rookie of the Year, 1984 Naismith College Player of the Year, 1982 NCAA champion, member of the NBA's 50th anniversary All-Time Team, member of the 1992 Dream Team, and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Jordan is the GOAT. I don't dispute that. However, I think there are five players who legitimately challenge him in their own way. My list may shock you and that's ok. I'm not about writing what's always popular.

                                          (Credit: NBA.com) 

#1. Magic Johnson: The guy who I feel challenges Michael Jordan the most in the GOAT conversation is a guy who also has the initials "MJ." Magic Johnson. Magic Johnson alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships, is a 3x NBA Finals MVP, 3x NBA MVP, 4x assist champ, 10x All-NBA, 12x All-Star, an NCAA champion (1979), member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, member of the 1992 Dream Team, and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Why Magic Johnson: The reason why Magic Johnson challenges Michael Jordan is because he was a more complete player. Magic Johnson is #1 all-time in assists per game at 11.2 and also averaged 19.5 points per game along with 7.2 rebounds. At  6'9", 215 pounds, Johnson could play the point guard position as well as anyone who played the game and could also play the other four positions on the court as well.

When you watch highlights of Magic, it's not hard to see how he earned the nickname "Magic." He was literally like a magician out there on the court with his passing, court vision, and ball handling. There's probably never been a more complete player than Magic. To top it all off, Magic has five NBA championships, something that is big in the GOAT discussion.

Why not Magic Johnson: The number one reason why Magic Johnson is not the GOAT is because he doesn't have six NBA championships. If he had six rings and had beaten Jordan in the 1991 NBA Finals, then I think the debate would be much more fierce. Also, Magic played alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who is also in the conversation for GOAT. It's not really fair to dock Magic because he played alongside another all-time great, but one can ask if Magic would have won five rings if he didn't have Kareem alongside him.

One other reason why Magic isn't the GOAT is because the overall accolades don't match that of Jordan. He didn't win as many NBA Finals MVPs or NBA MVPs or All-NBA teams. If he had more MVPs under his belt, that would help his case a lot more.

                                               (Credit: NBA.com) 

#2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The second player on my list is Milwaukee Bucks/Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem is the NBA's all-time leading scorer (38,387) and is arguably the greatest center in NBA history. Alongside Magic Johnson, he led the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships and before arriving in Los Angeles led the Milwaukee Bucks to their lone NBA championship. Kareem is a 19x All-Star, 6x NBA champion, 3x NCAA champion, 6x NBA MVP, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 11x All-Defensive, 2x scoring champ, 4x blocks champ, 15x All-NBA, 1969-70 NBA Rookie of the Year, 1969 Naismith College Player of the Year, a member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Why Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Right off the bat, one has to acknowledge that Kareem has six NBA championships and won one of his titles without Magic Johnson. That's always the number one argument people use to say Michael Jordan is the GOAT, conveniently forgetting that Kareem also has six. If you look at the accolades, Kareem stacks up pretty well, too. He has more MVPs, more All-Star appearances, more All-Defensive nominations, more NCAA championships, and has four blocks championships to Jordan's three steals championships. Plus, no small thing, Kareem is #1 all-time in scoring.

When you look at the whole package that Kareem brings to the table, one could actually argue he's an even bigger challenge to Jordan than Magic Johnson. Especially when you consider his college career.  He played a different position than Jordan, which I think helps him and in his prime was nearly as dominant with that patented skyhook.

Why not Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The first reason why I think Kareem doesn't surpass Jordan is he had more help around him when he was with the Lakers. He played alongside Magic Johnson, who has already made my list of guys who challenge Jordan as the GOAT. If he doesn't play with Magic Johnson, I don't know if he has six NBA championships. I hate to hold that against him, but it is something to consider. Especially since as I mentioned earlier, he won one title, his first, without Magic in Milwaukee.

Secondly, Kareem wasn't as dominant offensively as Jordan. While he does have more total points, he ranks 15th all-time in points per game (24.6). Considering he spent all those years playing alongside Magic Johnson, who is #1 all-time in assists, one could argue that Kareem should have averaged more points per game for his career. If Kareem had more points per game and was a bit more dominant on offense, the gap between him and Jordan would be much closer.

                                         (Credit: Mark Duncan/AP) 

#3. LeBron James: LeBron James is the modern challenger to Michael Jordan in the GOAT discussion as his career is still unfolding. LeBron is a 16x All-Star, 3x NBA champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 4x NBA MVP, 15x All-NBA, the 2003-04 NBA Rookie of the Year, and future member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Ever since he entered the NBA, LeBron has been compared to Jordan and so far has done about as good of a job of living up to the hype as possible.

Why LeBron James: The number one reason why LeBron James challenges Jordan is that he was a better and more complete player at a much younger age and also played a more complete game. James was a phenom in high school and was drafted #1 overall in the 2003 NBA Draft, skipping college altogether. Jordan in contrast played three years of college at North Carolina and had to spend more time polishing his game.

To a certain extent, the fact that Michael Jordan played college is also reflective of the era he played in. Had he come up in today's era, he probably would have been a one and done player. But that notwithstanding, James was pound for pound a more complete and better player out of the shoot. Remember, Jordan was selected #3 overall in the 1984 NBA Draft behind the infamous Sam Bowie and Hakeem Olajuwon, who while not making my GOAT list, was definitely the better pick at the time.

On top of being the better player out of the gate than Jordan, LeBron also has put together a pretty impressive resume of his own with three NBA titles, three NBA Finals MVPs, and four NBA MVPs. If the eye test matters at all, it's hard to imagine anyone being better than LeBron James. He's a 6'9", 250 pound freak of nature that can do it all on the court with Jordan-like athleticism.

Finally, LeBron led the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA championship. The freaking Cavaliers! One championship in Cleveland is arguably worth several in another city. The fact that he delivered the goods for his hometown team and brought them a title against a Golden State Warriors team that won a league record 73 games absolutely puts him in the GOAT discussion. That might be the greatest NBA Finals performance of all-time, putting up a triple-double on the road in a Game 7 to beat a 73 win team.

Why not LeBron James: The first reason why LeBron isn't the GOAT is because of the whole "I'm taking my talents to South Beach" thing. While he did deliver a title to Cleveland, one cannot ignore the fact that he bailed on Cleveland for the Miami Heat where he won his first two titles with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Michael Jordan never bailed on the city of Chicago when the going got tough against the Bad Boy Pistons. Instead, he kept getting better and had the patience to figure it out.

Secondly, LeBron doesn't have as many rings as Jordan. He's got three to Jordan's six. That's a problem if you are arguing that he's the GOAT. While his accolades and personal achievements are amazing, they don't quite stack up to Jordan.

Finally, this is a super technical thing, but LeBron has never been a good foul shooter, shooting a career 73.5% from the line. LeBron has shot less than 70.0% from the foul line in four of his 17 seasons. LeBron's best foul shooting season is 78.0% in his sixth season. Jordan in contrast shot 83.5% from the foul line for his career with his worst foul shooting season being 78.4% in his final year in Chicago. That's right, Jordan's worst foul shooting season was still better than LeBron's best foul shooting season. If you had to have Jordan or LeBron at the foul line to win a game, you would have to take Jordan for sure.

                                            (Credit: NBA.com)

#4. Bill Russell: When talking about the greatest basketball players of all-time, Bill Russell absolutely deserves to be in the conversation. Russell is an 11x NBA champion, 12x NBA All-Star, 5x NBA MVP, 11x All-NBA, 4x NBA rebounding champion, 2x NCAA champion, member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Why Bill Russell: The first reason why Bill Russell challenges Jordan is the simple fact that he won 11 NBA championships and was the anchor of those Boston Celtics teams. He is the greatest team player of all-time. 11 NBA championships plus two NCAA championships. In his last two championships in the NBA, he was player-coach!

Russell knew the game better than anyone and understood better than anyone that basketball is a team sport. He said the happiest he's been was when he was on a team in middle school that won a title even though he didn't play much. It was his first taste of success and he was happy to be on a winning team above anything else. If that doesn't say how great of a team player he was, I don't know what does!

On top of the consummate team success, Russell was an amazingly gifted player who averaged 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. We don't know how many blocks he got because they didn't keep track of that stat back then, but if they did, that would just add to his already impressive stats. If you put him in today's NBA, Russell would be one of the top players in the league. Period.

Why not Bill Russell: This is mostly due to being a victim of his own era. In his last season (1968-69), the NBA had 14 teams. For most of his career, the NBA had 10 teams or fewer. It's a lot easier to rack up championships when there's only nine other teams to compete against. If you put him in today's NBA, Russell wouldn't have won 11 titles and I'm not even sure if he would have won six.

If you want to put a modern comparison to Bill Russell, it's probably Tim Duncan. Russell in today's NBA probably wins 4-5 titles if given the right system and pieces around him. Duncan was a fabulous team player who learned how to maximize his talents by buying into Gregg Popovich's system and putting the team above individual accolades. That sounds just like Russell.

By the way, Tim Duncan, I'll quickly slip in as a bonus honorable mention for the GOAT discussion: 5x NBA champion, 15x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, 15x All-Defensive Team, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 2x NBA MVP, 1997-98 NBA Rookie of the Year, and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. If I'm going to say Tim Duncan is a modern day Bill Russell, I kinda can't leave him out of this blog post.

The reason why Duncan isn't #5 on my list is because of his individual statistics. He led the NBA in total rebounds just once (2001-02) and never led the league in any other major category in any other season, whether it be totals or per game. As great as he was, you would think he would have led the NBA in rebounds per game and blocks per game at least a few times.

                                            (Credit: NBA.com) 

#5. John Stockton: I said at the beginning that I would have a controversial choice and that choice is John Stockton. Stockton is #1 all-time in steals (3,265) and #1 all-time in assists (15,806). He is a 10x NBA All-Star, 2x steals champion, 9x assist champion, 5x All-Defensive, 2x Western Conference Finals champion, member of the 1992 Dream Team, member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Why John Stockton: If you want to talk about who the best pure basketball player is of all-time from a technical/IQ standpoint, it's hard to find a better player than John Stockton. At 6'1", 170 pounds, Stockton was as well-rounded as they come. He could shoot, pass, rebound, and defend at an elite level. He is the consummate point guard. No one in NBA history knew how to run an offense better than Stockton. His assist numbers reflect that.

Stockton was also an amazing defender as is evident by his all-time steals record. He wasn't afraid to guard the team's best player and had many fierce battles with Michael Jordan over the years, giving him as tough of a run in the NBA Finals as anyone else. As a matter of fact, Hall of Famer Gary Payton said Stockton was the toughest player he ever had to go up against. Not Michael Jordan:

"It's not Michael Jordan because it's fun to play against Michael Jordan. It's a fear to play against him [Stockton] because I had to guard him 94 feet every time. He had the ball all the time. When a guy can shoot 10 times and make eight, he shoot 10 free throws and make nine, he has 16 assists, he has five rebounds, and five steals. You do the math of that."

If you got Gary Payton saying you were tougher than Jordan and you're 6'1", 170 pounds, that's pretty amazing. One other thing Stockton has going for him is his durability. He played in 1504 games in his 19 year career. He played in all 82 games in 16 of his 19 seasons. One of those seasons was the 1998-99 lockout season in which the NBA played in 50 games. In case you were wondering, Stockton played in all 50 games that season.

As a result of his durability, Stockton is way out in front of the rest of the field in steals and assists. #2 in steals is Jason Kidd (2,684) and #2 in assists is also Jason Kidd (12,091). I don't know if either of those records will ever be broken. To be #1 all-time in two of the five major statistical categories has to put you in the GOAT conversation. Especially when you hold those records by miles and miles.

Why not John Stockton: Considering that he's a controversial pick, I feel I had to say a little more about Stockton and why he deserves to be on this list. The reason why Stockton is not the GOAT starts with the fact that he never won an NBA championship. It's somewhat unfair because he was so amazing, but you can't be the GOAT without a ring. He also played alongside a phenomenal power forward in Karl Malone, who was responsible for a lot of those assists. Without the Mailman by his side, one has to wonder if Stockton has the legendary career that he has. And vice versa. Without Stockton, Malone may not have reached #2 on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

Also, Stockton wasn't as physically gifted as Michael Jordan. He could barely dunk and while being lighting quick and possessing hands the size of frying pans, Stockton wasn't anything near the physical freak that Jordan was. What makes Stockton amazing is that in spite of not being a physical freak like Jordan, he was able to hang with him and give him a run for his money. But, at the end of the day, not being as physically gifted as Jordan is what prevents him from being the GOAT. But, as I said earlier, you wanna talk pure technique and basketball IQ, no one was better than Stockton.

                                         (Credit: Blazersedge.com) 

Honorable mention-Arvydas Sabonis: An honorable mention in this discussion is Arvydas Sabonis. Born behind the Iron Curtain in Kaunas, Lithuania, Sabonis was truly a victim of his own era. When he finally reached the NBA in the 1995-96 season with the Portland Trail Blazers, Sabonis was past his prime by quite a bit. Sabonis had his best years from 1981-1989 with his hometown team BC Zalgiris based in Kaunas, Lithuania. Sabonis was 1995-96 NBA All-Rookie, FIBA's 50 Greatest Players (1991), 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors, and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Why Arvydas Sabonis: When he was coming up, Sabonis was arguably the best player in the world. There were articles written about how the best basketball player in the world (Sabonis) wasn't even in the NBA. At 7'3", 292 pounds, Sabonis was truly ahead of his time as a versatile big man that could score, rebound, defend, and facilitate. He had guard like skills at 7'3" in an era when most guys his size were just there to block and rebound. Had he played in the NBA since the 1980s, he may have won several NBA championships and given Jordan a real run for GOAT.

The fact that Sabonis was as productive as he was when he did finally reach the NBA (16.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in his third NBA season) just shows how gifted he truly was. To be that productive at age 33 is remarkable. Especially when you've had all the mileage that he had.

Why not Arvydas Sabonis: This one goes back to the simple fact that he wasn't allowed to play in the NBA until later due to being a citizen of the USSR. The Iron Curtain held him back. While he could have played in the early 90s, he was such a rock star over in Europe that it makes sense why he didn't play in the NBA earlier. Had he played a full NBA career in his early 20s as well as his late 30s, we might be talking about him as the GOAT instead.

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Saturday, April 11, 2020

Saturday Slam: Is there a real possibility the NBA season gets canceled?



We are one month into the 2019-20 NBA season being shut down due to COVID-19 and with a return date still up-in-the-air, we have to start thinking about the unfortunate possibility that the season does not return. If it does return, I don't see the full 82 games being played. Rather, I see the league doing something like stopping at 72. That way teams get a few games in before the playoffs start. You wouldn't want to just dive straight into playoff mode after missing more than one month of action.

Further, I don't see fans returning this season. If the NBA does indeed return, I foresee a scenario in which only players, coaches, refs, and essential media personnel are allowed into the arenas. Something that was discussed as an alternative to the season getting shut down. I think that's how we'll ease back into things.

Back to the possibility of the season getting canceled, there are a number of reasons why I'm starting to think this will happen. The first reason is the NBA calendar. You gotta remember, the NBA operates year-round. It's not like during the offseason nothing happens. You have the NBA Draft, free agency, training camps, summer league, etc. That's not to say those things can't be rearranged for a year. They can. It's just that the longer things remained shut down, the more complicated things become.

The second reason why the season could get canceled is television. Television companies have built in contracts to broadcast certain events at certain times. ABC for example may have to choose between the NBA Finals and some other program they want to air and may not be willing to give up the NBA Finals to another company. Things like that.

Third, there's the issue of player safety. It's hard to go from not playing at all to playing high level basketball. Players will need at least a couple of weeks to get back in game shape before play resumes. It's possible that players decide that resuming play just isn't feasible if they want to have some recovery time in the offseason and resume things on time in the fall.

Finally and most importantly, the fluidity of this whole COVID-19 situation makes the possibility of a canceled season all the more real. I could see the season restarting in June, but what about July or August? At some point, doesn't it just make more sense to bag the season and restart in October?

I want the NBA to return as much as anyone. It's been a fantastic season with lots of fun stories to follow with the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks, Raptors, and much more. But, that all said, sometimes you have to acknowledge the writing on the wall. At best, I think there's a 50% chance the season resumes and the longer this goes on, the more I think the odds of a canceled season will go up.

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Saturday Slam: It's about time the Los Angeles Clippers get their own arena

                                          (Credit: Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze/SCNG)

Earlier this week, Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer purchased the Forum in Inglewood, California for a cool $400M from The Madison Square Garden Company. This purchase helps pave the way for the Clippers to get their own arena in Inglewood. It should be noted that the Forum isn't being torn down and will remain as a concert venue. However, the Clippers' new arena will also be able to serve as a concert venue, making it competition to the Forum. That is, unless the Forum and the Clippers new arena are owned by the same company. So, in case you were wondering why Ballmer needed to purchase the Forum, that's why.

As for the title of this blog post, it really is about time the Clippers finally get their own arena in Los Angeles. I've believed for the longest time that the Clippers should have their own arena and have wondered why they didn't move into the Honda Center (home of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks) years ago.

During their entire time in the Staples Center, the Clippers have been second fiddle to the Lakers. At times it's almost been awkward. There was the whole controversy of them putting black drapes over Lakers banners during their home games to get some distance from their more successful co-tenants. But no matter how many drapes they put up in the Staples Center or whatever other moves they make, so long as they play in the Staples Center, the Clippers will always be the B-team in Los Angeles.

But by finally having plans to have an arena all to themselves, the Clippers can finally establish their own identity that is separate from the Lakers. Especially since they'll be in a different part of town. Typically, I'm not a fan of all these teams getting new arenas, but the Clippers are one team that I feel really needs to get a new home that they can truly call their own. It's the principle of the thing.

What also helps is that with Ballmer at the helm, the Clippers are actually putting a competitive product on the floor. These aren't the Clippers of the 1990s and 2000s that were dismal. They're finally a championship contending team and should treat themselves as such by getting their own arena.

As for when the arena is scheduled to be completed, per Wikipedia, construction is supposed to begin in 2021 with a completion date in the fall of 2024. So if you're a Clippers fan that is nostalgic for the Staples Center era, you have at least a few more years to enjoy it. However, I bet that most Clippers fans can hardly contain their excitement for this new arena and are eager to say goodbye to the Staples Center. Saying goodbye is often hard, but in this instance, saying goodbye will be a feeling of sweet relief for the Clippers and their loyal fans.

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