Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Durant’

Dear Kevin Durant Haters: Let It Go!

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

KD

Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double this past year brought much deserved attention to the great Oscar Robertson, who previously had been the only player to accomplish such a feat, way back in 1962, his second year in the league.  Robertson came close to doing it his first 5 years in the league, usually missing because he would “only” average 9 assists one year or 9 rebounds another year.  He also had 5 different seasons in which he averaged over 30 points a game.

But as for rings for NBA titles with the Cincinnati Royals, he had nothing to show for his greatness.  While his teams made the playoffs 6 straight seasons from 1962-67, they lost to either Bill Russell’s Celtics or Wilt Chamberlain’s 76ers in 5 of those six seasons.   Four of those 5 defeats were to the eventual NBA champions.

It was not because he did not elevate his game in the big moments.  He averaged a triple-double in the 1962 playoffs.  Over that 6-year period his average playoff numbers were 29 points, nearly 10 assist, and over 8 rebounds a game.  Oscar Robertson spent his first and best 10 years in the NBA losing year after year in the playoffs because his team was simply not good enough.

Here is my question for the Kevin Durant (KD) critics who insist that he should have never joined the team that he could not beat: do you honestly believe Oscar Robertson would have stayed in Cincinnati all those years with the same foreseeable outcomes if he had the choice to join Wilt in Philly or Bill in Boston or even Elgin Baylor and Jerry West in LA?

Would you have?  If your GPS tells you that you can shave 10 minutes off your commute to your destination, can you honestly say you would ignore it and insist on going the hard way?

The fact is he didn’t have a choice because free agency at that time was a mere shadow of what it is today.  As a matter of fact, Robertson would go on to become the National Basketball Players Association president and in that capacity, in 1970, would file an anti-trust suit under his name against NBA owners which challenged, among other things, to do away with the option clause which bound a player to one team.  Though the suit was eventually dismissed as part of a collective bargaining agreement, it was an important piece of leverage that led to the free agency today enjoyed by players like KD.

With this important piece of historical context and the larger issue of LABOR RIGHTS, I am at a loss for why all this shade is being thrown at KD for joining the Warriors?

Whatever happened to “if you can’t beat them join them”?

That’s what Deion Sanders did when he left the Falcons to join the division rival 49ers to win a Super Bowl ring.  That’s what Greg Maddox did in leaving the Cubs to join the Braves to win the World Series.  What KD did is not new in sports.

Ok, if KD tweeted criticism of LeBron for going to Miami, he set himself up for some of this.

Furthermore, admittedly there is a competitive romantic side of me that would have admired KD even more as a champion had he done it from Oklahoma City.  There was an additional gratification when seeing the long-suffering likes of Andy Murray in tennis and Phil Mickelson in golf finally win major titles after multiple heart-breaking disappointments.  The same feeling came watching the Cubs in baseball and of course the great Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler with the Houston Rockets.

But that romanticism will always be trumped by the necessity to appreciate the struggle, yes even among professional athletes, for labor rights.  The fact that most of us in our lifetime will not have the leverage to impact our compensation and place of labor the way professional athletes do is not a basis to begrudge them.  After all, the simple reality is that millions of people have no interest or willingness to pay to watch you nor I do our jobs.   It should be an incentive to improve our own collective 99% lot and not hate on them, be it John Elway or Eli Manning maneuvering out of Baltimore and San Diego, or KD leaving Oklahoma City.

I suspect that the common sports myth of loyalty is a factor of the KD hate.

Weather we as fans want to continue to deny getting the memo or not, sports loyalty has always been at best the exception and not the rule.  Don’t let the final chapters for Kobe Bryant and Derek Jeter fool you.  The more common finality between a player and a team is that of Babe Ruth who ended his career with the Boston Braves when he could no longer hit homers for the Yankees.  Or Johnny Unitas who ended with the San Diego Chargers when he could not throw enough TD passes for the Colts.  The reality is under capitalism, even the all-time greats are mere commodities for the enrichment of the owners.  And yet you can find more needles in a haystack than you can fans that hold never-ending grudges against teams for their lack of loyalty to players.

Chris Rock once declared that men are only as loyal as our opportunities.  That bit of truth is not restricted by gender or other aspects of life to include sports.   So, I urge you KD haters; chill, get your favorite mind-altering substance, plug in some Toni Braxton, and LET IT GO!

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

NBA: Players to Watch in 2016-2017

Monday, October 31st, 2016

by Josh Fletcher

JF

 

 

 

 

 

 

JE

With the NBA season now officially underway, it is time to start looking for the most interesting players to watch this season. Of course, everyone is excited to see how Durant meshes into Golden State’s squad or how LeBron James will perform in defense of Cleveland’s first title. However, it is even more interesting to keep your eyes on the lesser-known players who are due to breakout this year. Here is a look at some of the most interesting players to track this season in the NBA.

 

Clint Capela

Dwight Howard is gone in Houston, and that means that it is Capela’s show now on defense. He has the unenviable task of trying to be the biggest eraser in the league behind Houston’s porous defense. With the up-tempo nature of new coach Mike D’Antoni’s style, Capela will need to play up to his enormous skill level on defense to keep opponents’ scoring down. On offense, Capela will be a perfect pick-and-roll partner for Harden and should score in bunches in his third season in the league.

 

Doug McDermott

Another third-year player who might have a breakout season this year is McDermott. He had a terrible, injury-plagued rookie season where he only shot 31.7 percent from three-point range. Last year, he stepped it up with a 42.5 percent three-point percentage, and he also averaged 9.4 points in 23 minutes per game.

 

Jabari Parker

When Parker came out of Duke two years ago, everyone figured the second overall pick would start right away. Fate cruelly blew out his ACL early in his rookie season, and his development ground to a halt. Coming back from injury last season, Parker averaged 14.1 points per game. He only shot 35 threes all last season, and he only made nine of those. The word is that he has been working on his outside shooting with a passion during the offseason, and adding a three-point stroke to his game this year could turn him into the superstar everyone expected.

 

D’Angelo Russell

Russell had a good rookie season last year under difficult circumstances. Now that Kobe Bryant is finally gone, the Lakers are Russell’s team. Lakers fans accustomed to excellence could be ready to see it finally return now that Bryant is retired. Russell is the kind of electric young talent with a passion for the game that could bring back the excitement of the Showtime era to Los Angeles. In his first game of the season, Russell went four of ten from behind the arc to lead the Lakers to a 120-114 victory over the Rockets. It should be an exciting year to watch Russell lead a storied franchise back to relevance.

 

Joel Embiid

Embiid was selected third overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2014 draft, and everyone thought he was going to make an instant impact on the league. Well, he did make an instant impact in his first game, scoring 20 points in his debut. Unfortunately, that debut just happened in the 76ers opening game of this season. After two surgeries and a long wait, Embiid could become one of the premier big men in the league if he can just stay healthy.

 

Josh Fletcher, for War Room Sports

Mommy’s Son: Effeminate Sons and Whom to Blame

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

by Maggie Mangiel

Maggie Blog

 

 

 

MOther & Son

Who can forget that heart felt, tear-jerking, deep speech that had most of us staring at the ceiling a couple of months back? I’m talking about that Kevin Durant MVP speech in which he thanked his mother and called her “the real MVP”.  In many Black households, the mother is the alpha and the omega.  The father and the mother.  She is the first to wake and the last to go to bed.  A strong mother who does all is nothing new in the Black community.  She is celebrated and in some instances, unappreciated.  Yes, unappreciated and even blamed for the misfortunes of her offsprings.  One of the worst cases is this despicable video being circulated on Facebook (Video at the bottom of the page). I came across the video a few weeks back and it left me outraged, but thought to let it go.  Then it showed up a few more times on my newsfeed, and I decided to say something about it.  In summary, the 7:02 minutes long video entitled, “Black Mother and Effeminate Black Sons”, stated that most black gay men become so due to the influence of a strong “masculine and overweight” single mother.  If a black man was present in the household the result would be a heterosexual son.  In The video we see a woman talking to her son about rape and the videographer says, “R-A-P-E…WTF?!!… As a result, some of them reject their masculinity altogether and embrace femininity”.  Really?!!!  Raping women makes one a straight man?  How is teaching a son how to respect women emasculating? The video doesn’t stop there, as it continues to showcase many youngsters dancing and singing along to Beyonce and Rihanna, as further proof of the numerous gay youngsters, in an effort to add credibility to the point. In summation, the video states that homosexuality is a learned behaviour taught by the single and over-weight black mothers, with overbearing attitudes.

This whole topic had me thinking about this other related notion that I keep seeing and reading about.  The notion that the media is emasculating the black man by putting black actors in dresses, with that movement being led by none other than Tyler Perry and Madea.  Does seeing RuPaul in drag make a straight black man turn gay?  Research has shown that homosexuality in males is partly genetic, with environmental and social factors playing part in determining sexuality; meaning a person can be born with a gay gene. However, who they are sexually attracted to is a whole different story.  In other words, biological male homosexuals’ choice of mates is largely influenced by their surroundings.  So in some ways, the maker of the video is right; nurture does play a role, but what about all of those strong successful heterosexual black males who come from a single parent home (usually a mother since she is always the one left to take care of the child when a deadbeat father vanishes without a trace).  What about those gay sons like Magic Johnson’s and Cookie’s son “EJ”, who comes from a two-parent household? How does one explain their existence? The research on the issue of nature vs. nurture is unclear, and the author’s claim about single black mothers is even more equivocal, but since the research shows that social factors are definitely in play, isn’t the absence of a father more problematic than having a strong, over-bearing mother?

BLACK-MOTHER-AND-BABY-ON-COMPUTER-facebook

So in making this the fault of the over-weight, single black mother, why aren’t we addressing the elephant in the room?  Where is the black father?  Why let this woman birth these children, carry the burden of caring and providing for them, and then expect her to turn around and also teach them how to be men?  How does a woman teach her son how to be a man?  Why isn’t the absent black man taking responsibility for his duty as a father?  These, the same men, who can’t be bothered to be fathers, are the same ones making such videos and denouncing the Single Black Mother.  Why doesn’t the maker of the video call for a strong black household and family unit?  Why blame the person who is doing the best they can against all odds?  Are some black men so mad at black women for birthing them that instead of lending them a hand, they kick them while they are down? The problem is not the strong no nonsense black mother; the problem is the absence of a FATHER!!!!! Don’t want a dysfunctional son, don’t be an absent father.

 

Maggie Mangiel of Body on Track, for War Room Sports

The Future of Team USA

Friday, August 8th, 2014

by Jon Carroll

DrJonCarroll.final2

 

 

 

Is doubt creeping in for NBA players regarding USA Basketball? (Image via 8points9seconds.com)

Is doubt creeping in for NBA players regarding USA Basketball?
(Image via 8points9seconds.com)

Even before seeing Paul George’s gruesome injury during last Saturday’s Team USA scrimmage in preparation for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, I was thinking of writing something about the future of NBA players and their involvement in the Olympic process.  It started with NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, Kawhi Leonard, deciding not to play, followed by LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and then Kevin Love.  Just as I was about to send this in, a big shoe dropped as Kevin Durant withdrew from the team.  LeBron James, the most notable player in the game, is not playing in 2014, and I would be surprised if he returned to Team USA for a fourth Olympics in 2016.  Ever since the 2004 Olympics, when a then nineteen year-old LeBron earned a Bronze medal, the National team, directed by Jerry Colangelo has developed a program where players make a three-year commitment so that when the players take the floor at an Olympics or World Cup, they will have had more than a three-week training camp as preparation.  It is because of this program that I am confident that Team USA can continue to excel in international competition moving forward without having to tap the superstars of the league for service over and over again.

While it was somewhat eye-opening to see Kawhi Leonard turn down the opportunity to increase his stardom by being a key member of this World Cup team, it is not all that surprising given whom he plays for and who his teammates are.  The San Antonio Spurs make it clear through their actions that they are all about the playoffs and championships.  Coach Gregg Popovich rests players during the regular season with no real concern of the opponent, occasion, or potential consequences he may face from the league office.  It is clear that Leonard has gotten the message and sees international play as a hindrance to that goal.  If you look at the output of his teammates, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli in the 2012-13 season after both played in the Olympics, it is hard to argue that the extra games in the Olympic tournament did not take a toll after playing another 90+ games before losing in the Finals to the Heat.  This was particularly true for Ginobli who posted career-low numbers.  Kevin Durant noted in his statement about not playing, “I need to take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”  As an NBA fan, I would much rather see players with this mindset and in peak condition for NBA playoff competition than summer international tournaments.  The NBA has enough depth of talent that if you tweak the current program slightly, you still have enough talent to field a quality team without putting the top stars at risk when they are already playing nearly 100 games per season.  International play is also a chance for young NBA talent to develop and get a running start into their young NBA careers.

The main suggestion I put forth is to limit the number of Olympic cycles that players can make on the National team to two.  In this way, by the time a player makes his second team, he is just entering his prime and can focus on his NBA career without the extra wear and tear of summer competition.  This would save someone like Stephen Curry, who has been injury-prone, from having to shoulder the offensive burden in this upcoming World Cup in favor of younger stars like Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and Anthony Drummond, all of whom are 21 or younger.  Speaking of age, I would suggest bringing the age limit back down to 22.  Yes, having a younger team puts the USA in a position like 2004 where a young nucleus of James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade were outplayed by more experienced teams.  However, with the global popularity of the NBA, it serves their purposes better to send emerging talent to international tourneys and risk losing than to put extra wear and tear on the bodies of the most marketable superstars.  Here’s what a 22 and under squad could look like for the World Cup:

Guards
Kyrie Irving
Trey Burke
Victor Oladipo
Elfrid Payton
Tim Hardaway, Jr
Bradley Beal
Forwards
Jabari Parker
Doug McDermott
Aaron Gordon
Centers
Anthony Davis
Mitch McGary
Andre Drummond

We are quickly moving out of the era where international stars are comfortable playing at home in other leagues and then representing their countries in international play, which has been the biggest threat to American teams over the years.  There are very few Arvydas Sabonis’ running around these days who wait to come to the NBA.  International stars now come to the NBA as quickly as possible so over time, the idea of a team that has played together for years being able to beat USA all-stars has quickly eroded.  I hope that a change comes before we reach a situation like we had in 2004 where thirty players were invited to the team before a full roster could be assembled.

 

Jon Carroll, for War Room Sports

2012-2013 NBA Preview

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

by Brandon Pemberton

 

 

Well it’s that time of the year again, the NBA regular season kicks off tonight and I’m here to give you my official NBA season preview and Predictions.  There has been a off-season full of moves and there have been some recent moves that have shaken up the NBA as well.  Make sure you listen to Sports Trap Radio every Saturday morning from 10am-12pm on http://ueradiolive.com, as Daniel Trawick and I give you the best two hours of Sports Radio possible on a weekly basis.

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic

Celtics 52-30 *

Sixers 51-31 *

Nets 48-34 *

Knicks 44-38*

Raptors 32-50

 Outlook: The Atlantic division could arguably be the best in the NBA this season.  The Celtics took the Heat to the brink last season and even though they lost Allen to the Heat, they get the return of Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, to go along with the additions of Courtney Lee, Jason Terry through free agency, and Jared Sullinger through the draft.  They still are lead by Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.  This team is deeper than last year and barring injuries, they should be good.

The Philadelphia 76ers are clearly a different team than the one who beat the Bulls in the first round and took the Boston Celtics to seven games in the 2nd round of the playoffs.  Out is Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, and Elton Brand and in comes Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright, and Nick Young.  I’ve watched the Sixers play during the preseason and it’s a big difference offensively this year.  This team, even though Bynum hasn’t played yet and won’t be ready for the regular season, can score it much better than last year.  They are talented and deep, but having a healthy Bynum is key to the team’s long term success this year.

The Nets made some moves to better their team, bringing in Joe Johnson, resigning Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, giving them a solid nucleus of players.  I see them making the playoffs this season, possibly a 5-6 seed.

The New York Knicks lose Jeremy Lin, but replace him with Raymond Felton, who when playing for the Knicks before, has had his best success.  When he is in shape and motivated, he is really good.  Carmelo Anthony, we all know he can score, but can he make his teammates better and lead them to a title.  Tyson Chandler is the team’s leader, tough, good defender and championship pedigree.  This team can score, but can they defend?

The Raptors enter into the 2nd year under Dwayne Casey and have made some good additions, but not good enough to contend just yet.  Philly native Kyle Lowry will run the point and Landry Fields will start at the 3 spot, giving the Raptors instant upgrades defensively and in the toughness category.  The Raptors drafted Terrence Ross in the first round, and he is just as athletic ad Dermar Derozen, but a much more polished shooter from distance and off of curls.  Don’t be surprised if Derozen is traded before the season is out to give Ross all the time at the 2.

 

Central

Pacers 54-28 *

Bulls 45-37 *

Pistons 36-46

Bucks 32-50

Cavaliers 29-53

Outlook: The Pacers return the nucleus of their players from last season, with the additions of Gerald Green and D.J. Augustin via free agency and big man Miles Plumlee through the draft.  They are battle tested, went through a tough series with the Heat and are good enough to get a 2nd seed, avoiding Miami.

The Bulls will play the majority of the season without star point guard Derrick Rose and in a 82 game season, it’s going to hurt them.  My question is who will be the go to guy down the stretch of games when they need a bucket?  We all know they will defend, but they are going to have a tough time getting baskets at times.

I like the Pistons’ drafting of Andre Drummond.  He has high potential, off the charts athleticism, and has gotten better as a player from draft day through the preseason.  He along with Greg Monroe gives the Pistons a solid frontline, and I like Rodney Stuckey and the improvement of Brandon Knight that I’ve seen during the summer.  I think they are a year away from being a playoff team.

The Cavs drafted combo guard Dion Waiters with the 4th pick overall and he will team with franchise guard Kyree Irving hopefully for the next 4-6 years.  This team also received the rights to Tyler Zeller on draft night as well.  Tristan Thompson showed some flashes at times last year playing the four spot, and Alonzo Gee has worked himself into a serviceable NBA player as a wing player.  The franchise is slowly working it’s way out of the hole Lebron James left them in when he left via free agency.

The Milwaukee Bucks are a team with a lot of similar pieces.  Their two best players (Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis) both like to play with the ball in their hands.  They drafted John Henson out of UNC, but drafted Larry Sanders two years ago, and got Ekpe Udoh in the Andrew Bogut trade.  I could be wrong, but this team is headed nowhere fast.

 

Southeast

Heat 62-20 *

Wizards 40-42 *

Hawks 37-45

Magic 33-49

Bobcats 27-52

Outlook: The Heat are the defending champs and have added more pieces to fit in around Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh.  In comes shooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to spot up and make the open shots that are always there with the attention that Lebron James and D-Wade get nightly.  This team will still be one of the league’s best defensively, and even with a glaring weakness at center, they are still my favorite to win it all again.  Lebron James is that damn good…Bottom Line.

I really like what the Wizards did during the offseason.  Brad Beal is a talented prospect and will be a future All-Star in this league.  I think the Wizards make the playoffs as a eight seed this season, if John Wall can return soon from his stress related injury healthy and ready to go.  The additions of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza bring defenders and veterans that the team lacked in prior years.

The Hawks hired Danny Ferry as general manager and he did wonders getting out of the contracts and Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams.  Josh Smith is in the last year of his contract as well.  I see this year as a semi-rebuilding job.  They still have Al Horford who is an All Star when healthy.  But I seriously don’t see them being any factor this season.

The Orlando Magic are finally moving on after trading Dwight Howard to the Lakers, and I know most think that they didn’t get enough in return for him.  But when you trade a player of his caliber, you never get the same value in return.  The Magic are in full rebuilding mode.  Honestly, does a team with Glen Davis as its best offensive weapon have a shot at winning?  They will play hard and be coached well under Jacque Vaughn on a nightly basis.

The Charlotte Bobcats are a long way from being a winning basketball team.  They drafted Kemba Walker in 2011, along with Bismack Biyombo, and drafted Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffrey Taylor in 2012.  They will look towards Ben Gordon to be their go to guy, after he had a few mediocre seasons in Detroit.

 

Eastern Conference Finals

Heat over Celtics in 7 games

 

 

Western Conference

 Pacific

L.A. Clippers 55-27 *

L.A. Lakers 53-29 *

Warriors 41-41

Kings 38-44

Suns 30-52

Outlook: The Lakers added Nash and Howard over the offseason, but expect the Lakers to struggle early while getting used to playing together, similar to the Heat when they put their “Big 3” together a few years ago.  If they get it together and can avoid injuries, they could face OKC in the conference finals.  They must defend pick and roll better this year.  Howard is a big upgrade and should mask some of the Lakers deficiencies, especially Nash’s.

I really like what the Clippers did during the offseason, adding veterans to the young talent that they already have.  Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, and Ronny Turiaf bring toughness, defense, rebounding and scoring off of the bench for the Clippers.  I think they have one of the deepest rosters in the league easily.  They really have a shot to make a deep playoff run, especially if Blake Griffin has improved his game with his back to the basket and from mid-range, and if he stays healthy all season.

I think the Warriors could possibly make the playoffs as an eight seed.  The additions of Andrew Bogut and Richard Jefferson gives their young team the much needed veteran presence that they lacked.  I like Stephen Curry a lot, but he must stay healthy.  Klay Thompson is already one of the league’s best shooters, and they also drafted Harrison Barnes as well, who’s game is more fit for the NBA.  I really think he has a chance to be a 17-20 point scorer in this league.  If this team listens to head coach Mark Jackson and defends, they could take that next step.

The Sacramento Kings have a talented roster.  DeMarcus Cousins, if he brings it nightly, could be an All Star and unstoppable.  The Kings need to decide what they are going to do with Tyreke Evans.  Is he going to play 2-3 or is he going to play the one.  Isaiah Thomas really played well last year at the one and I think the team would benefit as a whole with Evans playing the three spot.  He has the height and length to get it done defensively and would be a mismatch nightmare for the majority of the league’s threes.  I love the drafting of Thomas Robinson.  He is undersized, but he is strong, athletic, tough, and plays hard nightly.  The Kings needed a glue type guy.  This team could be battling down the stretch for a playoff seed.

The Phoenix Suns have a roster full of mediocre players, role players, no go-to guys.  I love Goran Dragic’s game, but I don’t expect him to be an All Star and carry a team.  Micheal Beasley has all the talent in the world, but he’s been a “me” guy and an underachiever from day one.  He can’t be trusted to carry or lead a team.  Luis Scola, I like him but he’s a role player as well.  Don’t expect much from this team, they will win 30-33 games at the most.  The post Steve Nash era, they should have ended 3 years ago, finally begins.

 

Northwest

Thunder 60-22 *

Nuggets 46-36 *

Jazz 44-38 *

T’Wolves  35-47

Trail Blazers 31-41

Outlook: The OKC Thunder shocked the whole NBA community by trading reigning 6th man of the year James Harden to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two 1st round picks, while also sending Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Heyward to the Rockets.  Harden was in the last year of his rookie deal and recently turned down OKC’s 4-year, 55 million dollar deal, and reportedly will sign a max deal with the Rockets for 4-years, 60 million dollars.  Kevin Martin has been a legit scorer during his time in the NBA, who also excels at drawing fouls and getting to the line.  Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook may be upset about Harden’s departure, but K-Mart is no slouch and they should be right back in the Western Conference Finals barring a freak injury.

The Denver Nuggets have added lockdown defender Andre Iguodala to the mix.  He fits right in with George Karl’s system and he had the best season of his career when he played with Andre Miller, who is the Nuggets’ backup point guard.  Wilson Chandler is back after spending last season in China, and is a another key addition.  Denver signed JaVale McGee to a 4-year 44 million dollar extension, but he is having trouble beating out Kosta Koufus during the preseason.  This team is deep, at least two deep at each position, but they don’t have that one go-to guy who wins big games down the stretch in the playoffs.  The biggest problem is Iguodala believes he is that guy and will take those shots down the stretch, as he did in Philly.

The Utah Jazz made the playoffs as an eight seed in the 11-12 season, a huge surprise.  Ty Corbin did an excellent job coaching this young group of players.  There are going to be some big decisions for this team, especially at the trade deadline, as Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson are both in the last years of their deals and will be heavily coveted.  I think the Jazz will be a playoff team again, but not a title contender and will look to move one of those vets.

The Timberwolves were playing great last season before the unfortunate knee injury that rookie phenom Ricky Rubio suffered.  Kevin Love is out for the first 6-8 weeks with a broken right hand and the team will start the season shorthanded.  Brandon Roy has made a comeback after sitting out 2011-12 with knee problems, and has started all the preseason games and has looked good in limited minutes.  This team is going to struggle without their best players for at least the first two months and will miss the playoffs.

The Blazers have been bitten by the injury bug more than any team I remember recently.  They drafted well, had a nice young nucleus of players (Roy, Aldridge, Oden) but obviously we all know what has transpired with Roy and Oden.  They are officially in rebuild and reform mode and they drafted two players that I love as prospects, Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard.  Lillard was the co-MVP of the NBA Summer League in Vegas and will come in from day one and be effective and a game changer.  Leonard is still young and raw, but he has the size, athleticism and potential to be very good.  Nicholas Batum and Wes Matthews are very underrated wing players in this league and will provide scoring, toughness and defense.  This team is a season or two from being a legit factor in the west.  Mark my words.

 

Southwest

Grizzlies 53-29 *

Spurs 48-34 *

Mavericks 46-36 *

Rockets 40-42

Hornets 28-54

Outlook: The Memphis Grizzlies are the favorite to win this division in my opinion.  They have all the tools to make a possible run to the Western Conference Finals.  Not saying that they do, but they are a really good team.  They have arguably one of the NBA’s best front lines with Marc Gasol , Zach Randolph, and Rudy Gay.  They all can give you 20 points on any given night.  I know most don’t think much of PG Mike Conley, but I think he’s underrated as a player, especially as a shooter and defender.  He does an excellent job feeding his players and keeping them all happy.  Tony Allen is tough as nails, defends and is the leader of this team.

The Spurs come back another year older, but every time I count them out and say they are done, they prove me wrong.  Can Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker stay healthy during the season and going into the playoffs?  They have won an NBA record 50 plus games in 12 straight seasons, a streak I believe stops this year.  I’m looking forward to seeing how Kawhi Leonard’s offensive game has developed during the offseason.  The Spurs are going to need points from another source consistently this year.

The Mavericks lose Jason Terry and Jason Kidd from last season’s roster and replace them with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo.  Dirk Nowitzki will miss the beginning of the season after having a procedure to clean his knee out.  The addition of Chris Kaman gives Dallas a legit go-to guy in the post.  I actually like this year’s roster more than last year’s.  O.J. Mayo finally has the chance to be a starter again, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays.

The Houston Rockets landed James Harden via trade with OKC and signed him to a 4-year, 60 million dollar max deal.  Do the additions of Harden and Jeremy Lin make the Rockets instant contenders?  No, but they will be a little bit better.  Harden has a whole franchise on his shoulders now.  He’s not the third best player anymore, he’s getting paid to be the guy.  Let’s see how good he really is without Durant and Westbrook on the court.

The New Orleans Hornets had the first pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and obviously took Anthony Davis and then later on they drafted Austin Rivers.  They re-signed combo guard Eric Gordon to a max deal after he played in 9 games last season and hasn’t played in a preseason game this year.  When healthy, he is really good, but he simply can’t stay on the court.  Davis has shown the star potential during the preseason and barring any freak injuries, he will be an All Star, and one of the league’s more versatile defenders.  His game will really flourish with the NBA’s open style of play.

Western Conference Finals

Thunder over Clippers in 7 games

NBA Finals: Heat over OKC in 7 games

Awards Predictions:

MVP:  Lebron James (Heat)

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard (Lakers)

Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard (Blazers) / Anthony Davis (Hornets) (Co-MVP’s)

Sixth Man of the Year: Nick Young (Sixers)

Coach of the Year: Mark Jackson

 

* – Indicates playoff team

 

Brandon Pemberton of Brandon on Sports & Sports Trap Radio, for War Room Sports

 

 

LeBron………It’s TIME!

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

By LeRoy McConnell III

Hey “Chosen One” it’s me again, your Conscience.  I am here to remind you of what day it is.  It’s a significant day in our short history as a Miami Heat.  I know, I know, today is game one of the 2012 NBA FINALS, against our new foe of the future, #35.  But hold up, not so fast, we will discuss game one in a moment.  Before we are able to move on, we must attack the past head on.  June 12, 2011, exactly one year ago, was game six of the NBA FINALS, where Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks celebrated an NBA Championship on our home floor.  LeBron, do you recall that series, where everyone was wondering where the hell we went?  I know it didn’t feel right when Dirk was the MVP of the Finals, holding our Larry O’Brien trophy in our house. We finally made it through a strike, a shortened season, and playoff battles against both Indiana and Boston.  Once again we come back to the promised land.

 

IT’S TIME, this whole series is about us.  It’s time to shine and carry the Miami Heat organization on our back.  We didn’t come to Miami for second place.  If so, we could have stayed in Cleveland.  Remember 5,6,7?  “I know we ran off our mouth, but that’s partly my fault because I wanted some of the spotlight as well!  There is nothing wrong with a little pressure on us.  Our nucleus is better than last year.  Heck, we aren’t even favored to win.

IT’S TIME, OKC is ready, ready to take what is ours.  #35 on the Thunder is the foe that has the potential to take everything from us.  The question is, who is hungrier?  #35 can’t get enough on his plate.  In fact, he and his squad have been going for seconds!  After we joined forces with D-Wade and Bosh, who would have thought there would be a team more talented than us?  OKC is younger, they play exciting team ball, and they believe it’s their time.

IT’S TIME, LeBron, I want that ring!  Do you know how sick and tired I am of the “Conscience of Kobe Bryant”?  It’s getting old, all that damn laughing and snickering in my face, with his bling, bling!  I wish I could knock the %^&* out of him!  This is for all the marbles.  Kobe AIN’T even the issue anymore.  What I am trying to tell you is, #35 is our adversary.  We are very similar to him.  We both are freakish by nature, no one on the court can stop us, and we both want the same thing, a championship.  #35 is a three-time NBA scoring leader who is going after our, our fame and our 5,6, and 7 championships!  The three-time scoring leader for the Thunder is trying to write our history.  Starting tonight, we put an end to his premature thoughts.  We waited all year for this.  We will go out there and play our game and who knows, celebrating in Oklahoma City won’t be so bad.  Last I checked, LeBron, we are the three time MVP!

LeRoy McConnell III of “A Fan’s Point of View”, for War Room Sports

Is Michael Jordan Really a Sellout?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

By Devin McMillan

Charlotte Bobcats majority owner Michael Jordan walking into a labor meeting last week.

 

Last week, before the news of child sexual abuse at Penn State University rocked the sports world, the newswire was abuzz with another story.  It had been rumored that certain circumstances in the NBA labor negotiations were causing current NBA players to see their childhood idol and proverbial hero, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, in an entirely different and negative light.  Much of the subsequent conversation surrounding  this topic was sparked by a column written by Jason Whitlock for Fox Sports, labeling “His Airness” as a “sellout” for being the “hard-line front man” for NBA ownership’s eagerness to roll back the amount of revenue shared with the players on a yearly basis. 

Jason Whitlock calls “MJ’s” stance the “ultimate betrayal” due to the fact that the league is now filled with young, Black players who grew up worshipping Jordan and purchasing his overpriced shoes and apparel, ultimately helping to make him and his brand the financial titans they are today.  He thinks Michael Jordan is betraying the same players’ union that went to bat for him and forced the Bulls to pay him $30 million per, in his final two seasons in Chicago.

Though all the aforementioned information is indeed fact, there is one huge flaw in this overall line of thinking.  Michael Jordan is no longer an NBA player.  He is the owner of an NBA franchise.  On behalf of that franchise, Jordan has recently been engaged in negotiations where he’s sat on the other side of the table from the players.  Michael Jordan is no longer obligated, nor would it be intelligent for him to think along the lines of, or fight for the wants/needs of NBA players.  He is majority owner of the small-market Charlotte Bobcats; a team that has struggled in the standings as well as in the stands.  The team’s average attendance last season was 15,846, leaving 16.9% of Time Warner Cable Arena’s seats empty on a nightly basis.  The team does not have a transcendent superstar, nor could they afford to keep one succeeding the years of a rookie contract, if they were lucky enough to acquire one in the draft in the first place.  His team also resides in a city that has once already failed as an NBA market, losing its first NBA franchise to New Orleans.  The franchise has been losing money since the moment Jordan purchased it from BET founder Bob Johnson in February of 2010.

So why is it again that Jason Whitlock, NBA players, or anyone else with interest in this story, thinks that Michael Jordan should go out of his way to be the voice of the NBA player in these negotiations, to the detriment of his business?  I don’t think anyone should be labeled a sellout for giving a damn about their bottom-line as a business owner.  The current economic landscape of the NBA is not beneficial for many owners of small market franchises.  So why shouldn’t they fight to change it?  Why is there a growing sentiment that Michael Jordan owes the current crop of NBA players anything?

This isn’t the first time Michael Jordan’s name has been synonymous with the term “sellout”.  Jordan has never been of similar pedigree of socially-conscious superstar athletes of the past, such as Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Jackie Robinson, etc.  He has always garnered criticism for never lending his name or using his power, influence, or iconic status to get on the front lines of any pressing social issues.  So, if social activism is what you look for in your influential, superstar athletes, call him a sellout for that.  You’d still probably be toeing that fine line of ignorance, but at least the sentiment would be somewhat understandable to at least a certain rational portion of the population.  But to imply…or to flat out say that a business owner is a sellout for looking out for the best interest of his business, is absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion.

I attribute this line of thinking to the overwhelming “employee mentality” prevalent in our society.  Everyone wants to walk around calling themselves “bosses” but think in a manner opposing everything a boss stands for.  I often hear fans sing cries of empathy for athletes while lauding the position of ownership in sports.  No one (obviously Jason Whitlock included) puts themselves into the shoes of the men who invest hundreds of millions of dollars into sports franchises.  People who live lives content with working for comfortable pay while making the next man rich do not seem to understand the risks involved with investments on this level…or any other level for that matter.  They’ve been brainwashed to believe that the person who could potentially get injured on the next play takes all the risks in a labor relationship.  But none of the “employee-minded” realize the risk of leveraging a fortune to run a sports franchise.  When your biggest work-related investment is a full gas tank or a functional bus pass, I expect you to think this way. 

For Jason Whitlock or anyone else to hold these types of expectations of Michael Jordan just because he was once a player is reminiscent of how struggling Black people expected their struggles to be eradicated because Barack Obama got elected president.  Michael Jordan is a team owner now and Barack Obama is president of America, not Black America.  He would have had to have been elected the president of Zamunda to remotely have a shot at fulfilling those silly expectations. 

In actuality, I wish this story wasn’t even about Michael Jordan.  I say this because I’m certain that many people will agree with my sentiments, albeit for the wrong reasons.  People will agree, not due to any profound business-related points I may have think I’ve made regarding this topic; but simply because negative-speak about “MJ” has been deemed as blasphemy in many circles.  Well, this isn’t one of those circles.  Michael Jordan has personality flaws, just like the next man.  If you’ve ever met your hero in person, outside of a camera-filled setting, then you probably know exactly what I mean.  It is also trendy in many circles (especially Black ones) to vehemently oppose anything written by Jason Whitlock.  I don’t subscribe to that methodology either.  As with any sportswriter or writer in general, each piece is met with the same high level of objectivity and my opinion of that particular piece will be formed as I read it.  I don’t allow myself to form an overall opinion of the man based on each of his individual writings.  Whitlock has written plenty of material that I have absolutely agreed with, but he has also written plenty that I’ve thought to be utter malarkey (to borrow a term from my sports media colleague, Brandon Pemberton).

So yes, Michael Jordan has made a fortune selling overpriced shoes, sugarless juice, and horsemeat burgers to idol-worshipping, Black, inner city youth.  Feel what you will about that fact, but keep in mind that we all had a choice.  Yes, Michael could have been more active in the plight of “his people”, but I guess that just wasn’t his thing.  Yes, MJ’s “brand” has always been more important to the man than anything that you and I have tried to deem important for him.  However, Michael Jordan’s example taught today’s players how to be “brands” in the first place.  Without the path that he laid, the Lebrons, the Kobes, the Wades, and the Durants of the world would have never even begun to realize their full earning potential in this league.  “MJ” has done more than enough for these players.  He doesn’t owe them anything more.

Devin McMillan of The War Room, for War Room Sports

Donovan McNabb Hits Mark with Anti-Twitter Rant

Monday, June 27th, 2011

By Roy Burton

Former Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb is like that crazy ex-girlfriend who’ll never go away.

He’s like the kid who interrupts the spades game at the family reunion just to tell you that he made honor roll in the third marking period.

But during his latest plea for attention last week – a week in which he worked out with the Philadelphia Eagles and appeared in a video telling his doubters that he’ll no longer throw bounce passes like Bob Cousy – McNabb actually had a moment of clarity. 

On Thursday, McNabb appeared on ESPN Chicago’s “Waddle and Silvy” radio show and offered the following:  “First of all, I’m not a fan of tweeting; I’m not a fan of Twitter.  Nothing against their program or what they have, but as an athlete I think you need to get off of Twitter.”

In response to players who criticize their fellow athletes on the social networking site, McNabb said:  “I don’t believe that that’s the right deal… So I think for an athlete to be twittering is the wrong move. It’s one that leads to the fans and let them comment on certain things, but athletes need to get off Twitter.”

He’s absolutely right.

For most athletes, Twitter is a no-win situation.

Milwaukee Bucks’ forward Chris Douglas-Roberts (@cdouglasroberts) gains nothing by telling his followers about the linen shorts that he wears while relaxing on the Cayman Islands (shorts that happen to be embroidered with the self-granted nickname “Flyonel Ritchie”).  Sixers’ center Marreese Speights won’t gain any fans with his jokes about overweight women who frequent IHOP, nor with his repeated pleas of “Free Lil’ Boosie.”

No one will deny that the service gives athletes an unprecedented way to reach out to their fans.  Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) is only a laptop or a cell phone away from connecting with his 770,000-plus followers, whether it is to ask them for advice, or to promote one of his off-court initiatives.

The flip side is that Twitter also allows fans to communicate directly with their favorite (or not-so-favorite) players like never before.  Previously, if someone wanted to rip an athlete, they would have to either call their local sports talk radio station, scream unpleasantries from their seat at the game, or sit down and compose a letter which wouldn’t likely be read.

Now, fans can tag their player of choice and fire off 140 characters of vitriol, a rant almost guaranteed to be viewed by its intended target the next time he (or she) logs into the social networking site.

New York Mets’ catcher Josh Thole (@josh_thole) shut down his Twitter account in May (calling it a “lose-lose situation”) after he was hammered with criticism during a hitting slump.  Sixers’ swingman Andre Iguodala closed his account (@AI9) early last season – either he didn’t see the value in having it, or he wasn’t able to withstand the heat from Sixers’ fans that undoubtedly ripped him during the team’s 3-13 start.

It’s not all one-sided, however.  Athletes have been known to start the fire themselves. The NFL lockout probably saved Steelers’ RB Rashard Mendenhall (@R_Mendenhall) from a suspension after his Osama bin Laden-related Twitter screed.  LeBron James (@KingJames) caught heat for his infamous “Karma is a b****” tweet, and then was utterly destroyed after posting “Now or Never” prior to Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and then going out and scoring as many points that night as J.J. Barea.

For those in the public eye, social media can potentially be very dangerous, as former House Rep. Anthony Weiner (@RepWeiner) can personally attest to. But when understood and used correctly, it can also be a perfect way to engage with tens of thousands of people easily and effectively. In the sports world, however, we’ve seen far too many cases where athletes would have been better off if there was some sort of filter between them and their followers.

So while it may pain some Eagles fans to agree with him, McNabb is probably right.  Unfortunately, the majority of players will likely dismiss his advice and continue posting as they always have.  Hopefully, unlike former Rep. Weiner, they don’t get caught with their pants down.

Roy Burton of The Broad Street Line, for War Room Sports