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2015-2016 NBA Season Preview: the Quickie Edition

254px-NBA_Logo.svg_The 2015-2016 NBA season is upon us – and it’s as if no one knew about it.

I mean, given the whoopla surrounding the NFL, the excitement of college football (especially the last two weekends in Ann Arbor and Atlanta), and the World Series starting tomorrow night (arguably no one probably doesn’t know about that either), it’s easy to see why the NBA would get lost in the shuffle.  However, I believe this season will be just as exciting as last season.

There are lots of storylines heading into the season.  How will LaMarcus Aldridge and David West gel with Tim Duncan and the crew in San Antonio?  Will Keven Durant stay healthy long enough to guide the Thunder back to the NBA Finals?  Will the Warriors repeat?  Who will challenge Cleveland in the East?  And finally, will LeBron James bring a title to Ohio?

I cannot wait.

In the meantime, check out my extremely quick little NBA preview below.  You’ll be glad you did…

*: denotes playoff team

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. Toronto Raptors (50-32)-*
  2. New York Knicks (40-42)
  3. Boston Celtics (38-44)
  4. Brooklyn Nets (30-52)
  5. Philadelphia 76ers (22-60)

Analysis:  The Raptors are clearly the best out of this wretched bunch.  My Knicks will make a playoff push – MAYBE.  I don’t know if the Sixers should be still considered an NBA franchise.

Central Division

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (59-23)-*
  2. Chicago Bulls (53-29)-*
  3. Milwaukee Bucks (47-35)-*
  4. Indiana Pacers (41-41)
  5. Detroit Pistons (36-46)

Analysis:  This is basically a two-horse division.  As long as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love stay healthy in Cleveland and Derrick Rose does the same in Chicago, those two teams will be the best in the East.  The Bucks will be fun to watch, especially since they revamped their jerseys.  As for the Pistons, at least head coach Stan Van Gundy can put together a phat mix tape

Southeast Division

  1. Miami Heat (52-30)-*
  2. Atlanta Hawks (51-31)-*
  3. Washington Wizards (46-36)-*
  4. Charlotte Hornets (41-41)-*
  5. Orlando Magic (30-52)

Analysis:  I think you could easily go with either the Heat or Hawks in this division, largely because both are talented and well-coached.  And if Dwyane Wade stays healthy, Cleveland should look the hell out.  Look for the Hornets to return to the playoffs as possibly the eighth seed.

Eastern Conference Champ:  Cleveland Cavaliers

Western Conference

Southwest Division

  1. San Antonio Spurs (59-23)-*
  2. Memphis Grizzlies (55-27)-*
  3. Houston Rockets (52-30)-*
  4. New Orleans Hornets (47-35)-*
  5. Dallas Mavericks (44-38)-*

Analysis:  This is easily the best division in the NBA, and arguably in all of professional sports.  All five teams will make the playoffs, and even he Hornets and Mavericks would make plenty of noise in the Eastern Conference.  The only thing preventing the Spurs from winning over 60 games is that the division is too damn good to dominate.

Northwest Division

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder (57-25)-*
  2. Portland Trailblazers (40-42)
  3. Minnesota Timberwolves (36-46)
  4. Utah Jazz (30-52)
  5. Denver Nuggets (27-55)

Analysis:  The Thunder should moonwalk to a division title.  Only the Atlantic Division would rival this one for all-time suckiness.

Pacific Division

  1. Golden State Warriors (55-27)-*
  2. Los Angeles Clippers (54-28)-*
  3. Phoenix Suns (43-39)
  4. Sacramento Kings (40-42)
  5. Los Angeles Lakers (34-48)

Analysis:  I am looking forward to seeing the Warriors and Clippers duke it out for the division supremacy.  One could easily make the case for these two teams being the best in the Western Conference, if not the NBA.  I also love that the Warriors and Clips totally hate each other.  Oh, and Kobe’s last year as a Laker will end in embarrassment.  You heard it here first.

Western Conference Champ:  Oklahoma City Thunder

2015-2016 NBA Champion:  Cleveland Cavaliers (this season will be known as ‘LeBron’s Revenge’)

The Knicks’ Draft Sucked

ny-knicks-logoAt the risk of putting my health in harm’s way, I’m going to discuss my beloved New York Knicks’ draft.

My Knicks selected Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.  This was when Duke’s Justise Winslow, China’s Emmanuel Mudiay, Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein and Croatia’s Mario Hezonja were still on the board.

You read that right.  We drafted some stiff out of a remote European country when more talented prospects were available.

I wish I could say how surprised and appalled I was at the draft pick.  I wish I could be shocked at how basketball president Phil Jackson could have gotten that pick wrong.  However, that would mean I would have to forget decades of futility in the draft.

Here’s a bit of trivia for y’all.  Who was the last Knicks first-round pick that has been selected for at least one All-Star Game and All-NBA Team?  You guessed it: Patrick Ewing, class of 1985.


I was in middle school in 1985.  My Knicks had not had a meaningful player on that level in 30 friggin years!  UGH!

Yet in spite of the horrendous drafting of years’ past (Frederic Weis, anyone?), I had a modicum of hope.  Sure, we had the fourth pick in the draft, but at least there was a bevy of players that could have helped us in the draft.

Those damn Lakers drafting D’Angelo Russell?  Sure that hurt, but at least there were Winslow, Mudiay and Hezonja’s swag around that would have salvaged our draft.

Until I heard the following announcement…

“With the fourth pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select Kristaps Porzingis from Latavia.”

Oh hell no.  HELL NO.

My head fell straight to my desk.  Lots of yelled obscenities followed.  My beloved Knicks have fucked me yet again.

And yes, I know that Jackson and Co. managed to trade for Notre Dame baller Jerian Grant after said debacle.  That still didn’t make up for that horrific draft pick.

Sure, that Porzingis could turn out to be a good player.  Hell, based on his potential he could become a star in this league.

I doubt it, simply because he has the look of yet another European stiff that even my five-year-old son could post up and snag rebounds against.

As you can see, life is hard as a Knicks fan.  Why I allow those clowns to torment me and shave years off of my already short life expectancy is anyone’s guess.

Pray for me y’all…

LeBron Has Nothing to Be Ashamed of

NBA-Finals-LogoThe Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the new world champion Golden State Warriors in six games last night.  Check that, LeBron James fell to the new world champion Golden State Warriors in six games.

I know LeBron is now 2-4 in the NBA Finals.  I know that his record alone would pale in comparison to the all-time greats.  And I also know that one of those Finals he wet the bed in the worst way (vs. Dallas).

And while LeBron is sub-.500 in NBA Finals, I am not going to clown “The King”.  In fact, I think his performance in the 2015 NBA Finals enhanced his legacy.

Think about it for a minute.

His Cavs already went into the Finals two men down: a great offensive player in Kevin Love and a defensive stalwart in Anderson Varejao.  And while the Cavs played well in Game 1, star point guard Kyrie Irving fractured his knee cap in overtime and would miss the rest of the series.

As soon as Irving went down, everyone (including yours’ truly) thought that the Warriors would sweep them.  After all, how in the world would a one-man band win a game against the deep, young and powerful Warriors?

Well, not only did the short-handed Cavs win won game, they pushed the Warriors to six hard-fought games.  Ya know how they did that?

LeBron James.

If we took LeBron off of that team, it would be a lottery team capable of being owned by my sorry-ass New York Knicks.  Hell I could form a crew of four “all-DNP” NBA bench players and be competitive against that bunch.

Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, Timofey Mozgov and the Johnny-come-lately Matthew Dellavedova pushing the likes of regular season MVP Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Finals MVP Andre Iguodala (Curry should have won it), and Draymond Green?  Really?

That’s a testament to LeBron and his leadership.  He got every last ounce of grit and determination from that rag-tag bunch.

Unfortunately, he eventfully wore himself out and conceded the chip to Curry and his crew.

LeBron is feeling down in the dumps for not delivering the chip for NE Ohio.  He was despondent as hell during the post-game press conference.

But he has nothing to be ashamed of.  His performance in the Finals has created a new-found respect with me and many sports fans.

Man’s game LeBron.  Much respect.

A Quick 2015 NBA Playoff Finals Preview

NBA-Finals-LogoThis is going to be a weird NBA Finals of sorts to me.

The 2015 Finals are the first where I truly do not have a rooting interest – a dog in the fight, if you will.  Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are great teams with great guys.  They also provide the media and fans with great storylines.

First of all, who doesn’t like the story of LeBron James leading his “hometown” Cavs back to the NBA Finals after winning a couple of rings in Miami?  Sure no one outside of Miami liked the way he left Cleveland, but if LeBron delivers the city of Cleveland its first championship in 51 years, he would be considered a god.

And who doesn’t love Stephen Curry?  He is about to be the new face of the NBA, with his State Farm commercials to boot (with the assist from Chris Paul, pun intended).  The fact he comes from a small school that made one of the greatest Cinderella runs in NCAA Tournament history, not to mention being the son of a former NBA player (Dell Curry).

It’s a shame that a team has to lose this Finals, but at least one of these teams has a great chance of making it back next season.  But that said…

Cleveland has been on a roll in the playoffs, losing only two games to this point (12-2 postseason record).  LeBron is arguably playing his best basketball in recent memory, leading a team mostly comprised of castoffs to the brink of a championship.  Star point guard Kyrie Irving’s gimpy knee and Kevin Love being sideline by a shoulder injury make LeBron’s exploits much more impressive.

The Cavs role players have been stellar.  Tristan Thompson has been a monster on the boards.  He has also been a cleanup man along with Timofey Mozgov and has been an excellent rim protector.

Speaking of Mozgov, how about my Knicks castoffs?  Collectively the trade that brought in Mozgov, Iman Shumpert,and the enigmatic J.R. Smith saved the Cavs season.

And last but not least, Matthew Dellavedova is one of the scrappiest (and to some dirtiest) player I have seen in quite some time.

Golden State counters Cleveland’s grit with firepower and the ability to run any team out of the gym.  Curry and Klay Thompson alone could easily combine for 60 points on any given night.  Plus there is that Draymond Green cat who not only is a terror on the boards, but he is a walking double-double and could easily pour in 20+ points when called upon.

The Warriors are also a lot deeper than the Cavs.  Andre Iguodala leads the second unit.  You read that right, he COMES OFF THE BENCH.  Shaun Livingston, Festus Ezeli, and Leandro Barbosa help keep the Warriors rolling on offense.

Even though Golden State is the better team (and better coached) on paper, I do not think LeBron is going to be denied.

There is something special going on with this Cavs team.  Their role players are playing out of their minds.  Hell, watching Smith staying within himself and becoming a big contributor to the team is amazing in and of itself.  As long as head coach David Blatt lets LeBron coach this team and stays the hell out of his way, the Cavs will shock the world (sort of).

Prediction: Cavs in 6.

The Bulls Are Nuts for Firing Thibodeau…

chicago-bulls-logo2There are many ways to describe the Chicago Bulls’ firing of head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Asinine.  Nutty.  Flat out stupid.

I mean how else should one describe firing a head coach who changed the losing culture of a post-Jordan/Phil Jackson franchise and amassed a 255-139 regular season record?

During that time star point guard Derrick Rose playing only 181 of 394 games because of injuries.  He damn near won 40 games without Rose, who was out all of last season.  Thibodeau also didn’t have power forward Joakim Noah for much of that time as well.

His teams excelled defensively, ranking first in the league in points per game (92.6) and field goal percentage (43.2) since the 2010-11 season, his first.  Oh, and Thibodeau was the 2010-2011 NBA Coach of the Year.

And despite all of those accomplishments, the front office duo of general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson decided it was time to cut bait and move on.

Look, I understand that no matter how good you are at what you do, you HAVE to get along with your bosses.  Paxson and Forman wanted Thibodeau to dial back the minutes on Rose, Noah and Jimmy Butler due to their nagging injuries and keep them fresh for the playoffs.  Thibodeau kept blowing his bosses off largely due to Thibodeau’s tendency to coach each regular season game as if it were a Game 7.  They also wanted Thibodeau to hire an offensive lieutenant to improve the offense, which he also said “no” to.

Thibodeau grinds on players, and has not done a good job of at least adapting to the modern NBA.  That doesn’t justify Thibodeau being out of a job.  After all, does the front office care more about winning or being right?

And who will Chicago bring in to take the team further along than Thibodeau did?

Fred Hoiberg?  The college coach (Iowa State) who had two serious heart surgeries and is not even 50 years old?  Good luck with that.

This is an example of a team not learning its lessons from the past.

Remember what the organization did to Phil Jackson after he and Jordan delivered a 6th championship?  Remember when Jerry “Fat” Krause infamously said “players do not win championships, organizations do”?  Remember the following season win the Bulls won a whopping 17 games the season after running Jackson and forcing Jordan into retirement?

I easily see the Bulls going down the same road.

You can’t tell me that Paxson and Forman will find a better man to coach this team than Thibodeau.  Look for a big drop off in terms of wins and postseason success from whoever the front office chooses to be its next puppet.  Then the team will go back to its dark ages a la the post-Jordan/Jackson years.

As a wise man once said, “one who refuses to learn from history is only doomed to repeat it”.  Paxson and Forman will learn that soon enough.

A Quick (and Late) 2015 NBA Playoff Preview: the Conference Finals

254px-NBA_Logo.svg_Before I get started with this rather tardy 2015 NBA conference finals preview, let me first give the Los Angeles Clippers a quick shout-out for making me look rather stupid for picking them to win the Western Conference before the season and during these playoffs.  Now that my acknowledgement of those Cottonelle-soft choke artists is out of the way, let’s continue with this brief preview.

These conference finals represent “chalk”: the top two seeds from both conferences.  Will this “chalk” continue into the NBA Finals?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Now, without further ado…

Eastern Conference

#1 Atlanta Hawks vs. #2 Cleveland Cavaliers

Analysis:  Even though the Hawks swept the Cavs during the regular season, both teams are a bit different since then.  Atlanta played .500 ball after the All-Star break, and has not looked all that impressive in the playoffs.  Cleveland is banged up to be sure, but as long as it has LeBron James, it is all good.  Kyrie Irving at 80% is better than his counterpart Jeff Teague at 100%.  The Cavs also have a deeper bench.

Truth be told, LeBron is on a mission to get his hometown team back to the NBA Finals.  The inexperienced Hawks may be in over their heads here…

Prediction: Cavs in 6

Western Conference

#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #2 Houston Rockets

Analysis:  It wasn’t the matchup I  (and the rest of America) was looking for, but it’s still a compelling one.  It features the two top vote-getters for NBA MVP in Stephen Curry and James “Please Trim that Damn Beard” Harden.  I still think the Warriors are much deeper and tougher than the Rockets.  By the way, I know the Rockets played well tonight, but the fact that they still lost to the rusty Warriors is a bad omen for the rest of the series…

Prediction: Warriors in 5

A Rather Quick 2015 NBA Playoffs Preview: Second Round

254px-NBA_Logo.svg_What an amazing first round!  By the that I mean the Clippers and Spurs series going the distance.

Homecourt advantage was nearly nonexistent in what was easily the best series in the first round.  The road team won FOUR times.  Outside of Games 1 and 3, the games came down to the last few possessions.

While it was weird to see the defending champion Spurs eliminated in the FIRST ROUND, I am excited to see what the second round holds for us fans.

Eastern Conference

1. Atlanta Hawks vs. 5. Washington Bullets

Analysis:  In Game 6 of the Nets series, the Hawks FINALLY played the complete dominant game that we have come to see from them for most of the season.  They will not get much rest going into this afternoon’s game vs. the Bullets, so fatigue may work against them.  Meanwhile, Washington looked pretty damn good in sweeping the Raptors.  The question now is will Paul Pierce punk the Hawks?  Given that the Hawks are a far better team than the Raptors, I think it’s unlikely.

Prediction: Hawks in 6

2. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 3. Chicago Bulls

Analysis:  This should be the best series in the second round.  Two division rivals who are arguably the best teams in the East.  Oh, and they hate each other.  LeBron James sniping with Joakim Noah.  The Bulls looking to exert their physicality on the Cavs.  Much-see TV indeed.  Having said all of that, it will be tough for the Cavs to win this series without Kevin Love.  His outside shooting created space for James and Kyrie Irving to operate.  Love’s rebounding will be sorely missed as well.  And with the Bulls (namely Derrick Rose) staying healthy, and with the obvious coaching advantage Chicago has, LeBron will have a tough time getting his crew past those cats.

Prediction:  Bulls in 6

Western Conference

1. Golden State Warriors vs. 5. Memphis Grizzlies

Analysis:  This fits the classic “styles makes fights” narrative.  A high-flying, up-tempo team in Golden State facing an old-school, grinding Grizzlies.  While I do think this series will be competitive, I think the Warriors will have too much firepower (led by MVP candidate Stephen Curry and fellow sharpshooter Klay Thompson) for Memphis.

Prediction:  Warriors in 6

2. Houston Rockets vs. 3. Los Angeles Clippers

Analysis:  On the heels of the most exciting series in the first round, the Clippers may be prime for an ultimate let-down in Game 1.  The Rockets have plenty of scoring punch led by MVP candidate James Harden, but they do not have the toughness that the Clippers have.  Besides, one can’t pick a squad that employs Dwight Coward.

Prediction: Clippers in 6


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