2016-17 NBA Eastern Conference Preview

Written by :
Published on : October 20, 2016

 

 

Another NBA Season is upon us! While there was some notable events last year (Warriors breaking the single season record, retirements of Kobe, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett), there was a lull in action before the All Star break. There wasn’t a lot of great basketball being played and it was boring at times. I think this season will be much different with a surge in talent across the league.

 

With that in mind, let’s delve into my preseason rankings for the NBA Eastern Conference.

 

15. Brooklyn Nets

The “star” acquisition this summer was point guard Jeremy Lin. Yes, that Jeremy Lin! Aside from the creative hair styles, he offers nothing in regards to actually leading a basketball team. Center Brook Lopez has continued to struggle to stay healthy. Coach Lionel Hollins is gone. Insert coach Kenny Atkinson who I had to Google to find out who he is. There is not one player that could vie for All-Star recognition. This team is an instant dumpster fire. Tanking isn’t even an option as the team may have surrender it’s first round draft pick to the Celtics.

 

 

14. Philadelphia 76ers

Another year of “The Process.” The team has an overload of young big men and no point guards. They are still paying Elton Brand to play basketball at his advanced age. There is some excitement around the arrival of power forward Ben Simmons. However, it will be a few months before he will be on the court due to injury. The team must decide which big man (Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, or Jahlil Okafor) they can package in a trade to get some backcourt help. It should be a slight jump in wins for this team but anything above 25 wins would be remarkable. Another top 3 lottery pick awaits.

 

13. Milwaukee Bucks

This is the team of intrigue. Head coach Jason Kidd has brought in guys so tall that if they stood on top of one another they could possibly touch the ceiling of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Long wingspans and crazy height across the board on this roster. The projected starting point guard is 6’11” Giannis Antetokounmpo. The question is how do all these players mesh together? The team drafted relative unknown Thon Maker in the first round of the draft. They still have to find a role for former first round pick Jabari Parker. There are trade rumors around center Greg Monroe. This team may have a lot of intriguing talent but no clear direction.

 

12. Orlando Magic

My gut is telling me that this team should be lower in my rankings. The only reason I have them this high is because of Head coach Frank Vogel. I truly believe he’ll maximize the talent that’s currently on the team. Power forward Serge Ibaka should be a great veteran addition on a young team. Point guard Elfrid Payton has to make a quantum leap in production for this team to be successful.

 

 

11. New York Knicks

Phil Jackson should be to blame for this team’s failures, but I will start by shifting the blame to the former regime for poor salary cap management. When they inked Amar’e Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony to lucrative contracts they also ensured that the team could not obtain good free agents or bring on young talent to mold. Now with a new coach in Jeff Hornacek, should we expect the triangle offense or the three guard sets he ran in Phoenix? If he does run three guard sets, how effective will it be with ball dominant point guard Derrick Rose in tow?

 

10. Charlotte Hornets

Simply put, this is point guard Kemba Walker’s team. They will go as he goes. Beyond that, they don’t really have an identity. Can Roy Hibbert return to All-Star form? What is the role of former number two overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? Will head coach Steve Clifford survive the entire season? This is definitely a sleeper pick for the playoffs but also a team that could tank its way to a top pick in next year’s draft. Low floor and low ceiling here.

 

9. Atlanta Hawks

Head coach Mike Budenholzer has done a great job with this team in two seasons on the job. Led the conference in wins in year one and playoff berth in year two. Even with the loss of center Al Horford, this team will be in contention for a playoff appearance. The team also let point guard Jeff Teague go, handing the keys to the franchise to Dennis Schroder. This team could be a non-playoff team or a division leader.

 

 

8. Miami Heat

Team President, Pat Riley, seems hell bent on rebuilding this team. First, there was the departure of Dwayne Wade to the Chicago Bulls. Now, he is not allowing Chris Bosh to play for the team because of concerns with blood clots. There are even rumors of a trade involving Goran Dragic. Riley clearly wants to go younger and build through the draft. Shooting guard Josh Richardson shows promise, Small Forward Justice Winslow is still developing, and Center Hassan Whiteside is emerging as one of the league’s best big men.

 

7. Chicago Bulls

This is a team that has a great mix of young and veteran talent. The issue is that head coach Fred Hoiberg does not look equipped to handle the job. Sure, you have future Hall of Famer Dwayne Wade, perennial All-Star Jimmy Butler, and facilitator Rajon Rondo on your roster. The problem for Hoiberg is how do you generate enough offense with such poor three point shooters in your starting lineup?

 

6. Detroit Pistons

It’s been a while since the Pistons were regarded as a top-tier team but the time has come. If the talent surrounding All-Star center Andre Drummond can fulfill their responsibilities then this team could be dangerous. Team president and head coach Stan Van Gundy’s style fits Drummond’s strengths. The team is loaded with catch and shoot players that will allow Van Gundy to deploy the same system he used when he coached a young Dwight Howard to the NBA Finals.

 

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5. Toronto Raptors

The league’s best overachieving team. Last year, they pushed their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Two wins against a stacked Cleveland Cavaliers team might make you believe that they could possibly be destined for the Finals this year. However, despite having All-Stars and Gold Medal Olympians Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan, they did little to upgrade their roster in free agency. It will be hard to for the team to duplicate the success they had last year with playoff breakout star Bismack Biyombo defecting to the Orlando Magic. Unless there is a great trade in the works during the course of the season, the team is a second round playoff team at best.

 

4. Washington Wizards

The team will fare well with a coaching change from Randy Wittman to Scott Brooks. Brooks does not get the credit deserved for handling the egos in Oklahoma City for so long. John Wall and Bradley Beal seem to genuinely like one another and play well off of each other. There’s a lot of hype around the emergence of small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. This team is set at the backcourt and just need solid frontcourt play to be contenders for the Eastern Conference Finals.

 

3. Indiana Pacers

With all respect to Kawhi Leonard, I believe small forward Paul George is the third best 3 behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The fact that he moonlighted as a power forward makes George an even better player. The knock on this team has been the fact that they have never had a traditional point guard during George’s tenure. The team acquired former All-Star point guard Jeff Teague. Teague has tons of playoff experience to help this roster. Furthermore, center Myles Turner is becoming one of the best versatile big men. Add in proven vets Al Jefferson and Monta Ellis, and this team has enough scoring at all positions to push the number 1 team out of the playoffs.

 

 

2. Boston Celtics

There are a few teams that can leapfrog the Celtics but with head coach Brad Stevens, this team has been on the rise. The addition of center Al Horford will solidify an already great lineup. Moreover, the team brought in Gerald Green for more scoring and added versatile player Jaylen Brown through the draft. I believe that this team is LeBron’s kryptonite. This is the only team I feel can ELIMINATE the Cavaliers in a playoff series.

 

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron + Six straight NBA Final Appearances + A Healthy Kevin Love + The “Ankletaker” (Kyrie Irving) = Another Championship?

 

 

There you have it for the SBS preview of the Eastern Conference of the NBA. Stay tuned for the Western Conference preview coming soon.

 

 


2016 – Possibly The Best Year Ever For Cleveland Sports

Written by :
Published on : October 16, 2016

 

 

So we’re here. We are really here. It’s October of 2016, just four months after winning our first major sports championship in 52 years, and we just might get another one. So let me tell you a tale. Go in the backyard and get your fire started because it’s kind of spooky and a little chilling, as we sit with the ghosts of years past. But maybe the ghosts are coming back not to haunt us this time around, but to witness it for themselves. Something truly unbelievable. There’s a Coco Crispness in the air after all. The temperature is finally beginning to cool just as the leaves are starting to turn. The cycle of life is upon us once more. But this time we’ve come back from the dead as team champions once, twice, and maybe three times over.

 

I got home late this past Friday night. The moon was full and bright, casting a glow on the night creatures of Los Angeles. When I entered the gate to my apartment I was greeted by Cat Friend (That’s right. He’s a cat. A black cat in fact). I was getting ready to enter my humble abode when I heard a sound coming from inside. It was muffled through the thick wood of the door, but I could make out this maniacal laughter. And cheering. I heard it over and over. And I knew it could be only one thing:  A replay.

 

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I quickly tuned in to see Francisco Lindor hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth that would ultimately win us the game. Holy sh*t, I thought. We won Game 1 of the ALCS. We’ve won four games in a row! And as I sit in my room, writing this article just one night later, we’ve won five in a row! That’s the longest playoff winning streak that the Cleveland Indians have had since their 1920 season when they beat the Brooklyn Dodgers (also known as the Robins back then). The Indians also went on to win the World Series that year in a best of nine series as they used to do it – in honor of their former shortstop, Ray Chapman, who was killed earlier that season from a pitch. Crazy, right? And not to dwell on tragedy or eerie coincidences too much, but the 1995 Cleveland Indians also went onto win the ALCS after two of their pitchers died tragically in a boating accident.

 

s-l1000

 

All of that aside and of course not to downplay tragedy or winning streaks, this season really isn’t about coincidences or statistical victories. It’s about a new found confidence. It’s about honoring hard work, legacy, and loyalty to our teams like we’ve done all along. But this thing, this strange thing called winning (I’m still not used to it), is spreading like a virus! We’re like rabid zombies coming out at night to soak up these wins in the moonlight, and yes even during the day! We’ve won an NBA championship, an AHL Championship (The Cleveland Monsters win does mean something), a UFC heavyweight title, and now we are on the verge of winning a World Series in one perfectly glorious season!

 

The city of Cleveland is running on Pepsi, Beer, hot dogs, and dare I say happiness? For once in my life I can turn on my father’s post game show (he’s the seasoned ESPN Cleveland Sports Radio Post Game Host, aka @sirfranksbacon), and I can hear the joy in his voice. Yes, joy. Coming from a man who’s built a lifetime around his hometown sports teams only to see them fail time and time again, it has turned him into a curmudgeon of sorts. But not anymore. His hope has been restored. And he is finally living out possibly the happiest year of his life.

 

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For so long the city of Cleveland was defined by its losses. And these memories came back to haunt us each and every year since 1964 (1948 for Indians fans). Many fans blamed it on a curse. My father even tried to remove this curse one fateful summer night by bringing a witch to the stadium, complete with magic and incense, and to no avail! But finally, the curse has been lifted. It took LeBron James and the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers to do so, but I believe we are no longer losers. We are champions. I believe in The Cleveland Indians. I believe in Andrew Miller and Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, Coco Crisp, all of our team and coaching staff. The tribe is alive. And if you’re from Cleveland, if you’re from anywhere in the US, you gotta love October baseball.

 

One last thing, to sit on as the Indians and Blue Jays take a Sunday to relax… are the Cubs still cursed?

 

 


LeBron is King, and I finally have to admit it

Written by :
Published on : June 22, 2016

 

 

If you haven’t yet seen that Game 7 from Sunday, then you should go find it and watch it right now. Despite there being a total of only 4 points scored in the last four-plus minutes, it was one of the greatest basketball games I’ve ever seen. The outcome was not the one that would have pleased me the most but the game itself couldn’t have been better. It was a back and forth battle that was highlighted by a LeBron James triple double. He finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks.

 

Although the game was close for its entirety, it was a tale of two halves. Draymond Green was the star of the first half, going 5-for-5 from the 3-point line and 8-for-10 from the field overall. He was killing it. The Saginaw, Michigan product was dominating the game. I remember wondering aloud with my fellow Michiganders here in LA, if the Cavs would be able to adjust and slow Draymond down in the second half. The Cavs did adjust, and they did slow down Draymond Green. He finished 1 assist shy of a triple-double, but did not impact the game in the same way during the second half.

 

View post on imgur.com

   

No, it wasn’t Draymond who made the biggest second half impact, it was everyone’s (myself included) favorite player to hate, LeBron James, who stole the show to end Game 7. It could have been Steph Curry but he was too busy throwing the championship trophy away with ridiculously ill-timed behind the back passes or missing shots. The Warriors were stifled by the defensive efforts of the Cavs, and LeBron James especially, and that’s why they lost Game 7 after leading the series 3-1. You can point to suspension of Draymond Green, but that was only for Game 5. No excuses for Games 6 and 7. In fact, I would say Andrew Bogut’s injury was a bigger factor than the Green suspension.

 

After losing the center in Game 5, the Warriors were not able to fill the void he left and were out-rebounded by the Cavs in both of the final two games by a total of 93 to 74. Despite the rebounding disparity, the Warriors had every chance to win this thing and they didn’t. It seems to me like Steph Curry wasn’t really himself out there and we will probably hear soon that he was much more hampered by injuries than he let on, but you can’t use that against LeBron James. It’s because of him that the city of Cleveland has its first championship in any sport since 1964. They should make a statue of him and it should be of this late game block on Andre Iguodala.    

 

 

That block says everything you need to know about LeBron James’ effort in these NBA Finals, and really the playoffs as a whole. It might have been Kyrie Irving’s late 3-pointer that sealed it up and LeBron never could have done it without his team, especially Uncle Drew, but it was the willpower, determination and other-worldly talent of King James that brought Cleveland a championship. He is the greatest player in the world, and after leading that outrageous series comeback against the team that set the NBA single season win record by going 73-9, LeBron now resides in an upper-echelon of basketball lore previously occupied solely by Michael Jordan. And he’s only 31 years old.

 

He might not quite yet be Michael Jordan, but he’s getting there. And that’s just something I have to get used to, even if I don’t like it. Like Michael Jordan, LeBron James last step to greatness came by overcoming my beloved Detroit Pistons, who were the main early career roadblock to both of those all-time great NBA players. Because of that fact, I’ve never been a very big fan of either. I recognize the tremendous talent but that doesn’t mean I have to cheer for them always winning. But I’m now certain that they are the two best basketball players ever. Unlike Jordan, LeBron James seemingly runs the franchise too. He is the only person I’ve ever seen get their head coach fired while the team sat in 1st place in the conference, then pretty much pick out a successor, then go on to win it all.

 

I still don’t really like LeBron all that much, and I’m almost sure that he was totally full of shit for his manufactured emotional reaction to winning that Game 7 but I’m grateful for what he did in the playoffs this year. It was a sight to behold and I’m not sure I’ll ever get to see a comeback like that again. So here’s to you LeBron James. Thanks for the memories.

 

 

 


League gets their way as the NBA Finals head to Game 6

Written by :
Published on : June 14, 2016

 

 

 

The NBA dropped a bomb on the basketball world when they suspended Draymond Green for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. It was the result of getting his 3rd flagrant foul of the playoffs, one that was given to him retroactively by the league for hitting LeBron James in the groin as James stepped over him during the 4th quarter of Game 4. Here’s the play in question:

 

 

I understand that Draymond had been warned by the league, and that he has already displayed poor judgment and an affinity for attacking the nuts of other players during these playoffs, but I’ve got to say that this is pretty weak. There’s not a player in the league that wouldn’t have responded in similar fashion and the contact with LeBron’s groin area looks incidental.

 

I thought this when I first heard about the suspension and I think it now; The league made this move solely to try and ensure a Game 6. And it worked! Here are a few reactions to the suspension that I tend to agree with.

 

 

 


Last night the Cavaliers won Game 6 on the road in decisive fashion, by a score of 112-97. For most of the game it was closer but the Cavs pulled away in the second half and the absence of Draymond Green was noticeable. So noticeable that LeBron James and Kyrie Irving became the first teammates ever to both score more than 40 points in an NBA Finals game. That’s not to take anything away from the fact that they stepped it up when it really mattered, but you can’t help but think that things would have gone differently with Green on the floor. And you can’t deny that the Golden State Warriors were hindered by their inability to switch on defense without him.

 

This was a masterful orchestration by the NBA that seems to have gone according to plan. On the brink of another short NBA Finals series, the league had to be nervous about all the money they would be losing out on without a Game 6 or 7. They found something that wasn’t even called during the game and used it to severely hinder the Warriors hopes of winning their second consecutive NBA Championship on their home court. Way to go guys.

 

 

It’s totally reasonable to think that the Cavs could have still won Game 5 with Draymond on the floor, especially when you factor in the performances of James, who was in vintage form. He found an outside shot that has been missing from his repertoire for quite some time now. He was on fire and deserves a ton of credit for sending the series back to Cleveland, and putting the Warriors’ chances of going back-to-back in jeopardy.

 

But you have to think that the NBA should get a little credit too. By suspending Draymond Green they took just a little bit of the decision of the game’s outcome out of the player’s hands and off the basketball court and put it in the hands of the league. And that’s not good for the game of basketball or the NBA.

 

 


The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t dead yet

Written by :
Published on : June 9, 2016

 

 

What a minute, shut up for a second… Can you hear that? I think it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers heartbeat…

 

Just when people were digging holes and getting ready to throw in the lifeless bodies of LeBron James & Co, Believeland came back to life and reminded the world that this is still a team that only lost two games throughout the entire Eastern Conference playoffs. After losing by 33 points in Game 2 on the road, the Cavs came back home and made a statement by beating the Golden State Warriors by 30 points.

 

 This photo is metaphor for Steph Curry’s Finals experience. He just can’t get there.

 

The Cavs continued to minimize Steph Curry’s impact on the game via their defensive efforts, as they have for the entire series thus far, but unlike the first two games, the rest of the team wasn’t able to fill the void. Curry finished with 19 points overall after having just 2 points in the first half. For the MVP that isn’t enough to get it done. Not only was the shot not falling, but Steph looked completely off last night, as he has for the entirety of these NBA Finals. On this night, Cleveland was a much better team and feeding off of the electric atmosphere of The Q, they sent a message to the world that they should not be counted out.

 

With an aged Richard Jefferson stepping in to start for the injured Kevin Love, Cleveland was all over Golden State from the get-go. There was never a tie or a lead change after the first points were scored by the Cleveland Cavaliers. There was a drastic change in the defensive energy without Love, which means there will be a tough decision for head coach Tyronn Lue when Love clears the NBA’s concussion protocol. Obviously, he is going to start once he is healthy but you can’t deny that his absence coincided with a change for the better in most aspects of the Cavs’ game.

 

 Kyrie was on his game.

 

In the past, falling into such a deficit and losing in such a fashion to start the NBA Finals would cause LeBron James to try to take over the game and win it himself. But it seems that this year he has learned his lesson. He may have led the team in points in Game 3 but it was the awakening of Kyrie Irving that made all the difference. Uncle Drew (30 points) was 7-9 from the floor in the first quarter and was an integral part of the Cavs’ 19-4 run to open the game. With the help of JR Smith (20 points) and Tristan Thompson (14 points), Kyrie and everyone not named King James made sure that this time things would be different.

 

Before we go saying that the momentum has totally shifted, we should realize that the Golden State Warriors have lost all five of their Game 3 matchups since the start of 2015 NBA Finals. They are probably just cursed. They do say that bad things come in 3’s. I guess they meant Game 3’s, because this one was really bad and if they don’t rebound and the Cavaliers win Game 4, all bets are off.

 

For today, the Cleveland Cavaliers have life. They were the better team in every way and they deserved this win. If they can do it again, we might just have a series on our hands. If not, they are dead. Maybe this time for good.

 

 


Three Key Players in the NBA Finals

Written by :
Published on : June 2, 2016

 

 

If you read my Conference Finals previews, you know that my predictions were pretty damn accurate (not to toot my own horn, whatever the hell that means). I predicted the Warriors in seven, when many NBA experts thought they would beat the Thunder in five or six games. I predicted the Cavaliers would beat the Raptors in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals. It actually took six games for Cleveland to beat Toronto, but the Raptors’ two wins at home were largely due to the Cavs getting Bismack’d, which I also predicted (sort of). My NBA credibility is pretty solid right now. I could just sit back and rest on my laurels, but instead, I’m putting that credibility on the line!

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers vs. the Golden State Warriors. This is the NBA Finals series that the people wanted to see. We were somewhat robbed of it last year, when the Cavs came in shorthanded with no Kevin Love, then lost Kyrie Irving in game one. But this year, both teams are fully healthy and coming in hot. The stakes are huge, as LeBron James and the Cavs have a chance to break Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought. Steph Curry and the Warriors have a chance to cement their place in NBA history with an unbelievable two year run that pays off with back-to-back Larry O’Brien Trophies.

 

In the NBA world, fans and the media like to advertise the finals as superstar vs. superstar (in this case LeBron vs. Curry). But as we’ve seen recently, these guys rise to the occasion in pretty much every game. We know LeBron will dominate in a variety of ways. We know Steph Curry will score a ton of points, as he’s proven that his knee injury is no longer a concern. We know Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson will be great, as they both consistently have been throughout the playoffs. These are knowns. I’m looking at the unknowns. There are three guys who have been very unpredictable lately who need to step it up for their team to win the championship.

 

Kevin Love

Cavaliers at Wizards 11/21/14

 

Kevin Love hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency in his first two seasons with Cleveland. We’ve seen moments of greatness; scoring in the post, stepping out to the baseline and hitting threes, grabbing rebounds, and making amazing outlet passes to LeBron for easy dunks. But at times he lacks confidence and aggression; passing up open shots, failing to get into post scoring position, and shying away from physical battles with intimidating bigs. In the first two rounds of the playoffs, Love did what the Cavs needed him to do, averaging 18.9 points and 12.5 rebounds.

 

In the conference finals, those numbers dropped to 15.2 points and 5.7 rebounds. Love took the bulk of the blame for the Cavs losses in Toronto, shooting 5-23 from the field, for a combined 13 points and 11 rebounds in those two games. Clearly Love was one of the biggest victims of the vicious Bismacking that occurred in the Air Canada Centre. Love has often been the scapegoat when the Cavs struggle, but this could be his chance to get that monkey off his back once and for all. Cleveland can live with mediocre defense from Love, but he can’t be afraid to take open shots and assert himself into the game. If the Cavs are going to win a title, Love needs to be aggressive and be willing to fight Draymond Green for rebounds. Speaking of Draymond Green…

 

Draymond Green

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While Green has typically been a great all-around player that Golden State can rely on, he’s coming off a very rough series against Oklahoma City. Green was brilliant in the second round against Portland, boasting 22.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game. But his numbers plummeted to 11.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game against the Thunder.

 

Like Love, Green was at his worst in the first two road games of the conference finals, shooting an atrocious 2-16 from the field. He also failed to be his disruptive self, as he seemed to let the Thunder bigs get in his head, particularly Steven Adams. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love aren’t nearly as physically intimidating as Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka, but we did see that Green’s confidence can be broken and he can be taken out of games. The margin for error is very small for both teams in this series, and the Warriors won’t be able to win many games if Draymond isn’t playing up to his potential. Golden State is going to need more just bodyslams and kicks to the groin from Green in order to win another championship.

 

J.R. Smith

JRSmith

 

J.R. Smith has never found a shot he didn’t like. In fact, I’m guessing right now, J.R. is somewhere in America taking a contested three with a hand in his face. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, only like the shots that go in. Smith is the epitome of a streaky shooter. When he’s hot, he’s on fire. We’re talking NBA Jam-style on fire. But when he’s cold, he can’t buy a bucket.

 

When these teams met in the finals last year, Smith was coming in hot, averaging 18.0 points and shooting 47.1% from beyond the arc in the conference finals against the Hawks. He then went ice cold (and not the good kind) against the Warriors, averaging 11.5 points and shooting 31.2% from the field. With no Irving or Love, the Cavs were asking way too much out of J.R. Smith. This time around, there won’t be nearly as much pressure on him. Smith’s job is simple, make the good shots, and cut down on the bad ones. When Smith gets in an offensive rhythm, he gives the Cavs one more guy that can handle the ball and create his own shot, taking some pressure off LeBron, Irving and Love. He has a chance to make up for last year’s awful finals performance, and a few big games from J.R. Smith could turn this series heavily in the Cavs favor.

 

When I watched the Finals last year, I felt like the Cavs could’ve beaten the Warriors if they had a full deck. Even as I watched the Cavs meander through this season, at times looking mediocre and firing their head coach midseason, all while the Warriors were putting together the best regular season in NBA history, I still thought Cleveland would eventually figure it out and win a championship. With all due respect to everything Golden State has accomplished over the last two years, I think the Cavaliers are built to beat any team in the NBA in a seven game series, but they are going to need Kevin Love and J.R. Smith to step up in order for that to happen.

 

Cavs in 6.

 

 


Why they can win: NBA Conference Finals Edition

Written by :
Published on : May 25, 2016

 

 

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of a couple of exciting and jaw-dropping NBA Conference Finals series. There have been blowouts, big shots, big fouls and enough big surprises to make this round of the NBA Playoffs exponentially more exciting than any of the preceding ones. We are left with four very talented teams, any of which could win their respective series and advance to the NBA Finals. Let’s take a look at each series and talk about why any of these teams could potentially be headed to the Finals.

 

Western Conference Finals:

The Western Conference Finals features the record-setting Golden State Warriors against the Oklahoma City Thunder. This series is not going according to plan for one of the teams, and the Thunder are currently up 3-1, but it is far from over. Let’s check out the teams.

 

Golden State Warriors

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The Warriors are sitting in a deep 3-1 hole right now and seem to be in some serious trouble, but that doesn’t mean that they are done just yet. This is still a team that won 73 games in the regular season and one that has the reigning two-time MVP. They just need to find their groove again. After that game 3 loss we were pretty sure that the Warriors couldn’t possibly play worse than that. Then they did in game 4. In order to come back from what seems like an insurmountable deficit, they need to calm down and take it one game at a time. Scratch that, one shot at a time. Game 5 is at home and if they can get a much needed boost from that Oakland crowd and take that one, then they might just have a shot at it. They’ve proven that they can rattle off a ridiculous amount of consecutive wins already this year. If they can do it again, they can win.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

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The Oklahoma City Thunder have beaten the defending champions by 20+ points in two straight games. That’s something that hasn’t happened since 1984. Russell Westbrook has been on fire in this series and has really taken it to the Warriors, posting a triple-double in game 4. In order for the Thunder to close out this series and head to the NBA Finals they just need to keep doing what they’ve been doing. They need to continue to stifle the defending champs with their defense, hold them to uncharacteristically low shooting percentages, create turnovers and out-rebound the Warriors. If they do that, then they’ll be headed to play the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals.

 

Eastern Conference Finals

At first, the Eastern Conference Championship seemed like it was going to be another cakewalk for the the Cleveland Cavaliers. They won the first two games against the Toronto Raptors and looked to be on their way to sweeping a third consecutive series. Luckily for basketball fans, things have changed quite drastically and the series now sits tied at two games a piece. Essentially it’s a whole new best-of-three series. Let’s see why either of these two teams could take it.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Bron

 

Up until the last two games, the Cavaliers have looked dominant throughout the NBA Playoffs, and they had yet to lose a single game. They definitely aren’t sitting in the same kind of hole as the defending champs, but they have finally gotten a little taste of what adversity is like. That being said, they are still the favorites to win the series and they still have LeBron James, as well as a healthy supporting cast and Kyrie Irving has shown up in a big way this year. It’s because King James finally has some help that the chances of a championship in the city of Cleveland are starting to seem much more feasible than any of LeBron’s other attempts to win it all in his home town. If they can get back to owning the paint and can improve their 3-point shooting marginally then they should win the next two games and advance to the NBA Finals.

 

Toronto Raptors

bismack-biyombo

 

In these last two matchups, the Toronto Raptors have Bismack’d the Cleveland Cavaliers. Center, Bismack Biyombo has kept LeBron James & Co from scoring at the rim in the same way that they were accustomed to in these playoffs. After spending the first two games of the series worrying about defending the three and paying little mind to points in the paint in losing efforts, the Raptors have owned that area of the floor over the last two games. And it has led to wins. The Raptors have adjusted to the speed of the Cavs, after looking visibly shaken by it in the first games of the series. With Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen scoring big points Cleveland hasn’t been able to push the tempo. If they can continue to keep up the pace and stay in a rhythm on both sides of the floor then there is a chance that they can shock the world and head to their first ever NBA Finals. They’ve proven they can beat the Cavaliers, now they just need to do it two more times.

 

 


3 Improbable ways the Raptors can beat the Cavs

Written by :
Published on : May 17, 2016

 

You may have read my Western Conference Finals preview, highlighting three reasons the Thunder will beat the Warriors, and three reasons the Warriors will beat the Thunder. I’m obviously a man of clear, concise opinions. Well this one is going to be a little different. With my apologies to Drake, I just don’t think the Raptors have a realistic shot to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers. I know, Toronto fans feel like they get no respect. They’re playing up in Canada with no nationally televised games and no one is taking them seriously, even with second best record in the Eastern Conference.

 

But the fact is, you’re going up against a team that has LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Your answer to that is DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Jonas Valanciunas, who’s out for game one and doubtful for game two. Don’t get me wrong, those are good players, but Cleveland has great players. You’re running into a Cavs team that’s playing their best ball since bringing LeBron back to Cleveland and assembling their big three. The Cavs swept their way through the first two rounds with ease, while out-Warriors-ing the Warriors by shooting a ridiculous 46.2% from beyond the arc while knocking down 16.8 three-pointers per game.

 

There’s always one big question for any team preparing for a series against LeBron James: Who’s going to guard him? Toronto’s big offseason free agent acquisition, DeMarre Carroll, will likely take the bulk of this task, as he did as a member of the Hawks last season when they were swept by the Cavs. LeBron averaged 30.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 9.3 assists in that series (not too shabby). Carroll is an underrated player, and he’s capable of playing the lockdown defender role at times, but that tends to change when the man you’re trying to lock down is LeBron James.

 

I’m not trying to bring you down, Raptors fans. I just see two teams that are on completely different levels right now. Is it possible that the Raptors could knock off the Cavaliers and advance to the NBA Finals? Sure. But a lot of crazy stuff would have to happen to lead to that result. So here it is…

 

 

3 Improbable ways the Raptors can beat the Cavs:

 

1. LeBron retires

LeBron press conference
                                         We just hope he wears that hat to the retirement press conference.

 

LeBron James never really runs into serious injuries, so it might be more likely that he retires before, or during, the Eastern Conference Finals. Maybe he pulls a Michael Jordan and wants to try another sport while he still has some good years left in his body. There’s always been talk that he could play in the NFL. OTAs start in about a week for most teams, so if he wants to take a shot at a football career, now is the time. Or maybe he decides he wants to leave Cleveland again and go back to Miami, but he wants to get it over with before Cavs fans get their championship and become that much more attached. If, by some unforeseen circumstance, LeBron James doesn’t end up playing in the series, the Raptors would have a pretty good shot. Unfortunately, they will likely be facing a Cavaliers team that will feature LeBron James playing a lot of minutes in every game and doing a lot of incredible LeBron James things. This means Cleveland will likely be coasting back into the NBA Finals. Unless…

 

 

2. The Cavs get Bismack’d!

Get Bismack'd!
                                                                                  Get Bismack’d!

 

Ok, I’ll admit, I just wanted to work Bismack’d into an article… But the Raptors backup center, Bismack Biyombo, will actually be a key factor in this series. Not only does he feature one of the best names in the NBA, but he proved he can be a force down low against Miami. When starting center, Jonas Valanciunas, went down in game three with a sprained ankle, Biyombo stepped in admirably. Starting the final four games of the series, Biyombo averaged 11.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game.

 

Biyombo has shown he’s up for the challenge before. In the 22 games he started in the regular season, he averaged 12.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. He also led the league in Bismacks, but apparently that’s still not an official NBA statistic. He’s an athletic, high energy big man who can rebound on both sides of the court, swat shots, and find ways to get points down low. Sure, it may be overly optimistic to think Bismack Biyombo could be the secret weapon that gives Toronto an edge against Cleveland. But with Valanciunas expected to miss the first game, and likely more, the Raptors will need to rely heavily on their Congolese big man. I’m just hoping he plays well enough to keep his name relevant so I can keep saying Bismack Biyombo. Try it: Bismack Biyombo… Watch out Cleveland, or you might just get Bismack’d!

 

 

3. The Raptors make the Cavs a one-man show

Can they make him do it alone?
                                                              Can they make him do it alone?

 

I’ll admit it, the odds of LeBron James retiring in the middle of the conference finals are very slim. The odds of Bismack Biyombo putting the Raptors on his shoulders and leading them to a major upset over Cleveland might be even slimmer, regardless of how cool his name is. Unless the Raptors are counting on a series of shocking misfortunes to strike the Cavaliers, much like the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team faced, causing Mr. Burns to lose all of his MLB ringers leading up to their big game against Shelbyvillle, Toronto will have to find a way to limit the effectiveness of as many Cavs as possible.

 

They’re not going to stop LeBron, but they can do their best to tempt him into shooting instead of letting him drive to the hole, draw fouls, get dunks and lay-ups, and make amazing passes to open shooters. If they clog up driving and passing lanes and limit LeBron’s ability to rack up assists, he’ll still do some damage in other ways, but it will at least help take guys like J.R. Smith and Channing Frye out of the game. It will also force Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to create offense on their own instead of relying on LeBron’s playmaking abilities.

 

Kyle Lowry can potentially outplay Irving and win the point guard battle, and Love can be mentally taken out of games when he gets frustrated. Bottom line, the Raptors need to do a much better job limiting the production of Cleveland’s ensemble cast (we’ll call them the LeBronnettes) than the Hawks did, and they are certainly capable of doing that. But even if Toronto does turn Cleveland into a one-man show, that one man is still LeBron freaking James! Remember, when Springfield lost all their ringers, they still had one left: Darryl Strawberry. That one man was still able to lead them to victory (I know, Mr. Burns pinch-hit Homer for Strawberry and Homer got beaned with the bases loaded to score the winning run, but that totally ruins my analogy).

 

Cavs in 5.

 

 


NBA MIDSEASON REVIEW

Written by :
Published on : February 20, 2016

 

 

Boy, was I wrong about a few teams and players in my 2016 NBA Preview (East & West).

 

I missed the mark, much like Kobe Bryant is missing three pointers, free throws, and dunks this season. After watching a lackluster All Star Game, arguably the BEST dunk contest ever, and a little more than half a season of NBA Basketball, I’ve come to eat my crow in front of you all.

 

The Lakers REALLY Stink

 

My favorite team sucks. Where did we go wrong? Perhaps giving Kobe a two year deal that has handcuffed their salary cap is a start. Also, letting Kobe’s influence drive Dwight Howard away is another point. Overall, they should not be confused with the Philadelphia 76ers; at least they have a plan. With only eleven wins on the season and fighting desperately to lose as many games as possible to secure their top three NBA draft pick, the only thing to look forward to is the countdown to Kobe’s last game. I’m sure I’ll cry as he walks off the floor for the last time as a player, but by June I HOPE the Lakers start the rebuild they’ve been holding off for three seasons.

 

I Underestimated the Will of a Champion

 

I thought that the Golden State Warriors would suffer from a championship hangover. I picked the Los Angeles Clippers to be a better team and have a better record than them. Well, clearly I was wrong with this one. Other than the San Antonio Spurs (whom I picked to be the best team in the league this year) there’s not a team that can challenge the Warriors. The Clippers aren’t a bad team as they have 35 wins thus far. Blake Griffin has had a hand (pun intended) in the team’s success thus far. The Warriors and Stephen Curry have a chance to make major history as the team is en route to a league record in wins for a single season and Curry can become a MVP in consecutive years. I am sorry Based God Chef Curry.

 

Why would I believe in these teams?

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks had the makeup of playoff contenders. The Timberwolves have Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns as the face of their franchise. The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker in tow to lead theirs. Both teams are 13th in their respective conferences. Both teams have dealt with absences by a head coach but for different reasons. Flip Saunders, formerly the head coach of the Timberwolves, passed away shortly before the season began. Bucks head coach Jason Kidd has missed games due to health issues. Perhaps with those two coaches at the helm the teams would be better at this juncture. That’s not the case and hopefully the teams can fulfill their potential next season.

 

Will the Cleveland Cavaliers make it to the Finals?

 

There is no team in the Eastern conference that can stop the Cavaliers when fully healthy. By keeping their core intact and going to an up-tempo offense, the Cavs may make a deep run into the playoffs. The one concern is that the team is working with another rookie head coach in Tyronn Lue. Whereas injuries played a significant role in not getting a championship last time, this year the assertive Lue and LeBron must be on the same page. Former coach, David Blatt, was merely a minutes and timeout specialist. Will Lue have the respect of LeBron to make the important decisions to get the team its first NBA championship?

 

The Detroit Pistons…might actually…be good this year?

 

I’ve been in a constant back and forth with one of my best friends over the current state of the Pistons. I do not believe in the team nor do I believe in coach Stan Van Gundy. My friend however thinks that the Pistons have a legitimate shot to go to the playoffs. He likes that Van Gundy has started to build the team around Andre Drummond. I hate to admit it but my friend may be right. Van Gundy is making the team in the mold of his Orlando Magic tenure. Getting players that can space the floor and shoot is what will propel this team in the top 8 in the Eastern Conference. They’ll likely get swept by the Cavs or Toronto Raptors but they are an improved team.

Quick Predictions on NBA honors

 

Rookie of the Year: Karl Anthony-Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves

 

The kid is getting better as the season progresses. He is a double-double machine and he is getting more comfortable with his mid range shot. He is even taking 3s. I don’t know if we’ve prematurely crowned Anthony Davis of the New Orlean Pelicans as the next great big man. Anthony-Towns seems to be just as skilled and may have the more talented team in the long run. He’s definitely worth watching out for.

 

MVP: Stephen Curry

 

I don’t think I have to make much of a case for Curry. The sad part is he’s sat out roughly 15 4th quarters thus far this season. Even if games get more competitive for the rest of the season he’ll likely increase his already league leading scoring average. Sick! I will throw LeBron James and Chris Paul in the mix as potential MVP winners but it’s Curry’s trophy to lose at this point.

 

Defensive Player of The Year: Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors

 

This is a tough one to call. I think the voters will lean toward either Green or San Antonio Spurs Kawhi Leonard. Leonard won last year despite Green receiving more first place votes. With both teams having not reached double digits in losses thus far, this award may be decided by team success. Whichever team has the better record may be able to catapult their DPOY candidate to the honor.

 

 


LeBron James: Coach Killer?

Written by :
Published on : January 29, 2016

 

 

 

I never thought that David Blatt was the right man to lead the Cavaliers and LeBron James. Sure, he had a ton of coaching success in the Euro League and Israeli League, but in the NBA world of superstars, it’s hard to see a team with arguably the world’s best player falling in behind someone with zero NBA experience. It just never made sense to me that Cleveland would go to such great lengths to bring ‘King James’ back to town and not give him a coach that would command the team’s respect.

 

He had won hundreds of games and championships and even an Olympic Medal before he ever set foot inside the Cleveland Cavaliers locker room, but none of that mattered. Once he arrived in the NBA, he was a rookie again, to fans and players alike. Never mind his 22 years as a coach. That was meaningless. The NBA is the premier basketball showcase in the world and all those other coaching jobs may as well have been children’s little league.

 

So when the Cleveland Cavaliers fired Coach Blatt last week, I can’t say I was entirely surprised. Anyone who has watched the Cavs over the last year or so could see that the team didn’t really have a ton of respect for the guy. Often times during breaks in the action, the team would look to LeBron James for strategy or advice, leaving Blatt to hover around the circle of players like the wimpy kid who didn’t get picked for the backyard football game.

 

 

 

Since the time that he announced he was returning home to bless the city of Cleveland with his presence, it’s been clear that this team was LeBron’s team. From top to bottom, his word was law and the ownership was going to back him up 100%. You have to think that was the understanding and one of the main reasons he was even entertaining the idea of going back to Ohio. So when early on in the relationship, I saw the lack of respect that James showed Blatt in regards to coaching the team, I knew the clock was ticking on the poor guy.

 

Despite leading his team to the NBA Finals last season, and sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-11 record, David Blatt got the axe and it seems to be LeBron James’ fingerprints on the handle. The firing of Blatt has caused some people to wonder if James is a ‘coach killer’ and I think that is a valid question. Gregg Popovich even made a subtle reference to it in a postgame interview. Most people associate LeBron with the firing of Mike Brown, who had similar success to Blatt in Cleveland but was never seen as the one responsible for that success; that distinction always went to James.

 

 

It’s not really fair to blame the firing of Mike Brown on LeBron because it happened in the same offseason that he took “his talents to South Beach.” That team had just collapsed in the second round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs and technically LeBron wasn’t under contract. So it really doesn’t have anything to do with him, but you can bet your ass that if LeBron said he wanted Brown back and that would make him re-sign that he wouldn’t have been fired.

 

There are also unfounded rumors that during his time in Miami, LeBron wanted head coach Erik Spoelstra fired. There isn’t any way to confirm this, but it doesn’t sound particularly far-fetched. Spoelstra was young, with no head coaching experience and I always found it hard to believe that he would be able to wrangle the best player in the world. But one big difference between Cleveland and Miami was the presence of Pat Riley, and there’s no way that Pat Riley would let a player run his team, I don’t care how big of a star he is.

 

If indeed LeBron James did want to get his head coach in Miami fired, he should be thanking his lucky stars now that Riley knew better than to succumb to the wishes of his biggest star. He has two rings to show for his time with the Heat, and that is due to the efforts of everyone involved, including coach Spoelstra.

 

The only other coach to be fired while LeBron James was on the team was Paul Silas when James was just 20 years old and in his second NBA season. That team missed the playoffs and was in the midst of an ownership change, so even if James did have an impact on the decision, it was probably coming either way. So is it fair to label LeBron a coach killer? Probably not, but he does wield that kind of power, especially since it seems as though Cleveland is willing to do whatever it takes to have him in town. Including axe his own head coach.

 

 


Most Annoying Fan Bases in Sports

Written by :
Published on : August 5, 2015

 

 

I’ve been all over. So this is the truth. Here is a list of the most annoying fan bases in sports:

 

Bay Area Fans

Don’t you just hate them?

 

Whether you’re a “die hard” Warriors or Giants fan or a fair whether flipper between the Raiders & 49ers, just shut up about all of it. Being a die hard fan of anything by inductive reasoning makes you extremely annoying. The Bay Area is a particularly spoiled sports region that most people don’t think of as a hardcore sports region. The term “sore winners” comes to mind. Don’t forget to recycle those empty fair trade, organic beer cans after you shotgun them while tailgating.

 

Boston

A fan holds up a ‘Free Tom Brady’ sign at a Red Sox game.

 

Another spoiled sports region. All 4 major sports franchises from here have won championships in recent years. The fan base most likely to physically fight you over a minor disagreement. Shout out to Philly fans on violence too.
A city of “die hard fans” meaning they have so little going on in their life that they pour their whole personality into devotions to a team of millionaires. Millionaires competitors who care less about winning than their loyal fans who talk like they all had strokes.

 

Chicago

Put your shirts back on!

 

Shockingly worse accents than people from Boston. The perfect storm of spoiled (Blackhawks, 90s Bulls, Black Sox from not long ago, 80s Bears) and tortured (Cubs, Derrick Rose, current Bears) to combine for an infuriating brand of in-your-face pride & loser’s lamenting. Go eat comfort food from anywhere within 5 feet of you & shut your yapper!

 

New York

Less than a year ago they wanted A-Rods head on a spike in the Bronx. Now it’s all Happy Birthdays and rainbows.

 

Ok, you do have the right to be genuine Yankee fans unlike 85% of Yankee hat wearers. Hearing New Yorkers belly aching about sports is like hearing your rich friend complain about their BMW.  You live in an overwhelming metropolis – find something better to complain about than Carmelo, Gino Smith/Eli Manning & ARod. I’m walking here!

 

Los Angeles

Lakers fans.

 

Similar to NYC fans, but worse because of general vanity & lack of self awareness; not to mention the entitled mentality all fans of big market teams are stricken with. Lakers fans are the hardest to stomach, directly followed by Trojan Fans or Dodger fans* who will beat the living shit out of you then fair-weather Kings fans. What a cross section of fair-weather & spoiled.

*non-violent Dodger fans are legit though

 

Ohio

I hope these drunks aren’t driving after the game.

 

Ohio State fans, the ones who are so enthusiastic/spirited/aggressive/loud – it makes you love U of M even if you have no rooting interest whatsoever. Cleveland fans who burned their Lebron James jerseys & welcomed him back with open arms. Bengals fans when they’re a fringe playoff team. They are the best of the worst, only because they’re consummate losers/silver medalists, but Ohio State fans are the worst braggarts about their success. These fans are those kids who get trophies despite losing.

 

Portland

Fair weather as fuck in a city with pretty fair weather. And I’ll never get behind a team that does this:

Recycle

 


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