D'Angelo Russell Future Star

D’Angelo Russell Future Star?

When young players enter the NBA, fans expect them to become stars immediately. If at 19,20 or 21 years old they aren’t dominating the game, many people start to think of them as busts. The fact is they need time to gain experience in the professional game. It requires patience that many fans don’t have.

Players must go through the long, draining NBA regular seasons that last from October to April. These players are still kids barely out of college and usually aren’t ready for full NBA seasons until they have experienced a few.

One of the players often mentioned as not living up to his potential has only been in the NBA two seasons. That player is Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell.

Laker Nation

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org)

The Lakers’ fanbase is one of the most impatient in all of sports, but for good reason. The Lakers franchise was founded back in 1947 in Minneapolis and moved to Los Angeles in 1960. In their franchise’s illustrious history, the Lakers have played in 31 NBA Finals and captured 16 championships, which is second most all-time.

Los Angeles is used to great players and winning teams. The team has had some of the most legendary players in the history of the game like Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Winning is all the Lakers have ever known, which is why they have such an impatient fanbase. From the 1948-1949 season until the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers had only missed the playoffs five times. It is absolutely incredible to think about that level of consistency over six decades.

The recent Laker seasons have had nothing to do with winning. Over the past four seasons, including this one, the Lakers have gone 84-225. L.A. will miss the playoffs four consecutive seasons after this one. In their first 65 years, they missed the playoffs five times and are now about to miss the playoffs four straight. It is understandable that Laker fans are frustrated.

The departure of Kobe Bryant has left the Lakers searching for a star to carry the franchise. They do not have to look far for that star because they have already drafted him.

star Point Guards in their early years

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Photo Credit: http://sportige.com)

D’Angelo Russell, also known as D-Lo, is already off to a great start to his young career. Russell is going to be constantly overshadowed by Karl Anthony-Towns, who was the first overall pick in the same draft class.

Towns has gotten most of the attention due to his unbelievable play so far. However, Russell’s first two seasons in the NBA are right on par with some of the NBA’s star point guards.

To really understand the projection Russell’s career should take, we must look at how he compares to these star guards in their first two seasons in the NBA.

The first comparison will be to Damian Lillard. Lillard averaged 19.9 points, 6.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 37.2 minutes per game in his first two seasons . Lillard is one of the best guards in the league now and was off to a great start due to the high minutes he was playing.

The next comparison is MVP candidate Russell Westbrook. After two seasons in the league, Westbrook averaged 15.7 points, 6.7 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Just as Lillard averaged high minutes, so did Westbrook with 33.4 minutes per game.

The last guard for comparison will be Wizards star John Wall. Wall averaged 16.4 points, 8.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Wall’s minutes were right on par with Lillard’s as he averaged 37 minutes per game.

These three guards are all considered top guards and leaders of their respective teams. How close is D’Angelo Russell to following in their footsteps?

D’Angelo Russell: The Future Star

The first thing noticeable about how Russell stacks up with these other guards is in minutes played. D’Angelo Russell is playing far fewer minutes than the other guards mentioned above. Russell has averaged just under 28 minutes a game (27.8) in his first two seasons. Compared to Wall and Lillard, that is 10 minutes less per game.

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Gif Credit: http://thedoublescreen.com)

Considering he is playing far fewer minutes, his stats are still pretty similar to theirs.

This season, Russell is averaging 14.9 points, 4.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Per 36 minutes, those numbers jump to 19.7 points, 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds. If Russell was playing more, he would be averaging around the same numbers as these stars were in their second seasons.

Along with the solid numbers, Russell has proven he can hit big shots. He has made the saying “ice in my veins” famous all because he pointed to his arm when he hit a clutch 3-pointer as you can see in the gif to the left.

Russell not only has the pressure of living up to the hype of the second overall pick in the draft, but also has to follow the legendary Kobe Bryant. He is taking over a franchise that for the last 20 seasons was led by a man who won five NBA Championships.

There is a long list of stars to live up to in Hollywood, but Russell just needs more time. He is just 21 years old, but the future looks bright. The current star point guards in the NBA were once doing exactly what he is doing now so be patient and don’t worry Lake Show. D’Angelo is on his way to becoming the next Laker star.

 

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Matthew!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

It’s on the Haus: Dirk Nowitzki Scores 30K, Gonzaga Basketball Wins, Bruce Chen’s Shoes and an Unruly Gorilla

It’s on the Haus is a daily installment of sports and esports news from the past day. Rather than waiting an entire hour to see the big news on a television program, or going to multiple stories on multiple websites to get your sports fix, It’s on the Haus gives you the biggest sports and esports happenings, all in one place. You may feel guilty for reading this concise article that gives you everything you need to know, but don’t worry, It’s on the Haus.

It’s been a while. If you want a feel for how this series works, take in the last article in the wonderful world of sports news.

Dunking Deutschman Reaches 30K

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki scored his 30,000th career point in the most Dirk way possible in the Mavs’ 122-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers last night. Nowitzki becomes the sixth player in NBA history to reach the landmark and the first since Kobe Bryant did it in 2012.

Good for the Dunking Deutschman. He seems to be one of the more well-liked players in the association, even with a detrimental photoshoot to start his career.

LeBron James stopped his dinner to take a video congratulating Nowitzki. In my house, pulling out your phone during dinner is a cardinal sin, but apparently things work differently when your the most famous Sprite endorser in America.

Dirk has just one NBA Finals championship, which is criminal. It’s not fair for someone who changed the game, and maybe if Mark Cuban spent less time ridiculing potential entrepreneurs on television and more time not wasting one of the GOATs in NBA history, Dirk would have more rings.

I scored 21 points in a jayvee basketball game one time, so who’s the real basketball expert here, Mark? No further questions.

Zags Clinch Tourney Spot

The Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team was already going to make the NCAA Tournament, but just for good measure, they won their conference tournament. The Bulldogs beat the St. Mary’s Gaels 74-56 last night, marking the third time the Zags have beaten St. Mary’s by double-digits this season.

Gonzaga is now 32-1 and in prime position to pursue its first ever national title. However, I’m not here to talk about basketball.

Now, what exactly is a Gael? Well, it’s hard to say. Even though I have the almighty power of Google at my disposal, I’m not going to look it up. Rather, brainstorm with me.

I know there’s such a thing called gale force winds. That has something to do with the bodies of water, and also isn’t spelled correctly. Gazelle sounds sort of like gael, but I figure it’s not the same thing.

I’ll have my intern look into interviewing all athletes on St. Mary’s various sports teams to see if they even know what it means, but I doubt they do. But hey, not knowing is all the fun, right?

What Are Those?

Dirk Nowitzki Gonzaga Basketball Bruce Chen's Shoes Phoenix Suns Mascot

Bruce Chen’s kicks, courtesy of Cespedes Family BBQ’s Twitter account.

Remember the year 2015, when the phrase “what are those” was made into a annoying teen’s favorite meme? Neither do I. That’s not the point. The point is that Bruce Chen, an MLB pitcher and member of China’s World Baseball Classic team, wore some killer shoes in his appearance yesterday in the WBC.

I commend Chen for making this bold fashion statement. When you’re 39 years old and you don’t need traction, you choose to wear comfortable shoes. Who are we as common nonathletic citizens to judge?

Chen tossed 2 and 2/3 innings in the game, but China lost the game 6-0. Maybe if the entire roster chose to wear business casual footwear to the game, the Chinese would’ve earned the dub.

 

Gorilla Makes a Scene, Avenges Harambe’s Death

The Phoenix Suns’ matchup with the Washington Wizards was full of fireworks, most notably being the Suns’ mascot’s shenanigans during the fourth quarter.

My apologies on the terrible cheesy music that was coupled with the video. The piece of media comes from CBS Sports, so please direct your complaints to them.

At first glance, it seems as though the man inside the gorilla is high as a kite. However, upon further review, it appears as though the gorilla actually saved a player from potential injury, as the friendly animal picked up some kind of object off the floor.

All I’m saying is this guy better watch his back. Remember the last time a gorilla tried to save an innocent person from certain implosion? Yeah, that gorilla, known as Harambe by locals, is deader than Jokim Noah’s jumper.

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’. I see symbolism here, and I see the world getting this gorilla situation right.

 

You can Like The Game Haus on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports content written by other great TGH writers like Tim!

How Social Issues are Becoming Entrenched in the NBA

Recently, social issues and politics have become especially prominent in the NBA. Basketball has always found itself intrenched in cultural issues, but over the past year it has become increasingly noticeable.

One prominent social issue that came to light earlier this year was regarding the use of marijuana in the NBA. Frequently outspoken coach and former player Steve Kerr made headlines when he admitted to using marijuana to help with his back pain. Kerr, 51 years old, also mentioned that hopes the NBA will soften its stance on marijuana. Interestingly, the NBA already refrains from testing for marijuana during the offseason.

The NBA has a much more lenient position on pot usage than the MLB and NFL. The NFL is notoriously strict on players who test positive for marijuana and bans players for a full season after testing positive three times.

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Kerr specifically spoke out against the NFL’s policies.

“If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you got lot of pain, I don’t think there’s any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin,” Kerr said.

Former NBA player Jay Williams said that he believes 80% of NBA players use marijuana. He also expressed his support for leniency on marijuana also citing the benefits of marijuana over painkillers.

Marijuana has proven to be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of NBA personalities expressing their beliefs. This became especially clear in the months surrounding the 2016 election.

On November 6th, in Cleveland, LeBron James spoke out at a rally for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Rather than spark a controversy, his endorsement brought support from his peers on both sides of the aisle.

Milwaukee Bucks center Spencer Hawes, a known conservative, spoke out on James’ endorsements in October. Hawes was asked whether James’ comments regarding Clinton made him uncomfortable in an interview with Sporting News, eliciting this response:

No, I like it. Obviously, I don’t agree with LeBron there. And that’s fine. But the ability to not agree and put that in one compartment and not judge someone’s entire character based on how they view the world or what their political beliefs are, that’s what makes us great. So yeah, I disagree with LeBron. I would love to have a discussion with him or anybody that wants to talk about it. But at the end of the day, there’s two parties, there’s two ways of doing things. Each one has been in power many times over again, and we’re still where we are.

The political statements from big NBA stars only continued after the election. Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr and Stan van Gundy all made huge political statements in the days following the 2016 election.

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of Rolling Stone)

The NBA’s social involvement does not end with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In 2014, across the league, players showed their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Led by stars Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose, many players wore shirts that said “I can’t breathe” during warmups. The NBA broke their protocol and decided not to fine the players who wore the shirts.

In another politically charged act, the NBA pulled the All-Star game from Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this year. This came in response to the “bathroom bill” that had been passed in the state. The NBA also became the first professional American sports league with an active openly gay athlete when Jason Collins came out in 2013.

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of USA Today)

This article from Bleacher Report explains how Donald Trump was causing turmoil in NFL locker rooms because of political divides. Similarly, the NFL was the focus of a huge nationwide media controversy as a result of Colin Kapernick kneeling during the national anthem earlier this year. The political statements that come out of the NFL have simply not been received kindly by fans and the media alike.

As we can see from the comments from Hawes and those three coaches, the NBA has clearly had a much better reaction to the social issues that have become so deeply entrenched in this sport.

Additionally, while some more mediocre players in other sports leagues have spoken up, marquee players in other leagues have been mostly silent about social issues. Meanwhile, some of the biggest stars in the NBA have been politically outspoken.

Kobe Bryant and Lebron James are undoubtedly the two biggest 21st century basketball stars and both have been remarkably outspoken about social issues. Additionally, stars such as Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and many others have let their voice be heard. And, as mentioned, three of the top coaches in the league spoke very strongly about their political beliefs this year.

So, what allows the NBA to foster so much more activism than other American sports leagues?

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of NBA Lead)

One of the key factors is commissioner Adam Silver. Silver has fostered an environment in the NBA that has allowed players to be comfortable expressing their beliefs politically and on social issues.

Since becoming the commissioner of the NBA, Silver has set the tone for creating a welcoming environment and has hastily stood up for the things he believes in.

Silver delivered a lifetime ban to former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist comments. He instituted the removal of the All-Star Game from Charlotte earlier this year. And earlier this year, Silver expressed outright that NBA players were free to use their celebrity to express their political views.

Silver has emphasized the importance of sports bringing people together and he has certainly not been afraid to put his beliefs to action. Silver also remains an incredibly liked commissioner, proving a sharp contrast to the commissioners of other sports leagues such as Gary Bettman and Roger Goodell.

The NBA’s ability to intertwine relevant social issues and sports has proved successful so far. With one of the most liked and respected commissioners in sports at the moment, it seems likely that they will continue to succeed. And as long as it’s working, why not?

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Arjun!

The Dichotomy Of The NBA Player

As fans of the NBA, we’re constantly taking in the product via commercials, ads, and video games. The players and their faces are inescapable. Their faces, however are not all we see.

We also want to see ourselves in them. We want them to be like us and eat the same things eat and wear the same shoes we do. We want them to be decent people who walk the straight and narrow. Mothers and fathers allow these athletes to raise their children.

But we so often overlook the human aspect of the NBA star. Before they were omnipresent multi-millionaires, they were people just as inflicted with the human condition as the next man. Greed, anger, happiness, and depression affects them the same way as the consumer. This doesn’t excuse any level of indiscretion, it only masks it and presents it in a more palatable package.

The transgressions of NBA athletes often go unnoticed to fans because of the overwhelming suspension of disbelief. We allow ourselves to build up an unconditional affection for them and in doing so we grant them a pardon and overlook the mistakes.

Take Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba. NBA champion, MVP. The many adjectives that are used to describe Bryant do not involve charged with sexual assault. We find ourselves in awe of his 81 point performance or his perceived clutch gene. The Black Mamba was a killer on the court who saw everyone as enemy that needed to be vanquished. We applauded this and held it in reverence. We used Mamba in the same way that Bryant did: to separate real life from basketball. We refused to clutter our minds with the actions of Bryant and those of The Mamba.

USA Today

USA Today

In NBA life things may become cluttered with both sides of their respective worlds. And with this cluttering may come a diminished performance on the court. This would not stand well with the fans and God forbid that the fans are unhappy. Players feel that they have to separate the various aspects of their lives often citing the court as a “sanctuary”.  The fans only judge what they feel is appropriate. The on court performance. Anything beyond that feels taboo and invasive.

And there lies the irony. We allow them into our homes every night and we want them to know that we appreciate and care for them, yet we almost instinctively turn our eyes and interests away the minute the idol becomes one of us.

Yet, the reverence that we hold these athletes is very selective. We choose who is allowed to do what and whether we accept it or not. We want the clean cut athlete not because we want to protect the sport that we care so much about, but to insure that we don’t have to stop and defend against their actions.

The perfect example of this selective reverence exists in how we view Steph Curry and conversely J.R. Smith. It’s a classic case of winning cures all. We forget and overlook all of the bumps in the road a player may face if he holds the hardware. If Smith had been successful earlier in career maybe we see his antics differently. Curry, while well earned, has curried the favor of all who witness his success. If Curry wasn’t a champion and MVP twice over, would we see him as just a more accurate Smith? An elite walking heat check?

J.R. Smith vs. Steph Curry is a comparison that shows how we subconsciously choose who we allow to be the so called face of the league. Smith was always a supremely talented, athletic player but his choices and lack of discipline kept him from reaching his true potential. This has led us to judge J.R. as a player who you wouldn’t want on your team because he could never help a true contender. He could never contribute anything positive.

USA Today

USA Today

In 2015-16 season, Smith shot 40% from 3 in the regular season for the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers. In the NBA Finals, Smith played to his strengths, mostly shooting, and overall in the playoffs averaging 12.4 ppg.

The year earlier Smith played a pivotal role in defeating the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. After the winning in the finals, Smith, in his post-game press conference, let us inside a little bit. He showed us emotion that moved some of us to tears. In that moment he stopped being the underachieving riff raff and became someone that it’s OK to support.

Two years of Smith playing on his sports biggest stages and we came out with a different felling about him each time. Was it because of his honesty and sincerity or was it because he had just reached the pinnacle of his career with a championship?

On the other side we have Curry, a player who reached his peak potential by becoming arguably the best shooter that we have ever seen. He has built a brand that has him as a christian family man who plays the right way and doesn’t let any outside factors affect him on the court. His brand admittedly has protected him from any mass ridicule, particularly in this past NBA Finals where he didn’t play to his usual superhuman standards.

Curry has become the face of the league because we see him as relatable. We feel that we can relate to the smaller guard who lacks the superhuman athleticism if his peers. His baby-faced persona and choir boy countenance coupled with immense success makes for a perfect marketing tool.

He and Smith now have the same amount of championships, albeit they were achieved in differing ways. And obviously Smith could never be the face of the league, but do we now harp on Curry’s missteps on or off the court now that he has had his mortal NBA player moment? Probably not but that’s OK.

USA Today

USA Today

But what about the money the players make? This is a part of the game we focus on greatly. This past NBA free agency was one that was unprecedented. Not only in the enormity of the salary cap spike and the space it gave teams to pay for the players they wanted but also for the ridicule players received for the amount of money they were being paid.

National writers would rain down countering ridicule to the fans with the hackneyed analogy of a common worker getting a raise for his job. The fallacy of that argument is saying that we wouldn’t care about the fireman getting a 100% pay raise if we knew about it, when in reality we would. We would care because it be out in the open leaving it vulnerable to our judgement.

That again is a part of the plight of the NBA player and fan. We are a part of their world so much so that we know exactly how much each player makes and when they make it. We as fans then debate whether it’s too much or too little. Once again we are basing these opinions on their on-court performance and brand rather than the individual himself.

USA Today. Mike Conley's five-year $153 million dollar contract caused an uproar for the fans.

USA Today. Mike Conley’s five-year $153 million dollar contract caused an uproar in the NBA fanbase.

Most of the players didn’t grow up with very much at all. And when the time comes for the player to finally be able to quantify his worth we tell him that’s he’s overpaid. Who are we to tell someone who went from nothing to something almost overnight that he shouldn’t that much but can have this much?

Turning away from the person who is getting paid and focusing solely on the player is the very essence of Mamba VS. Kobe. There are two sides to every player. We aren’t obligated to center our attention to the “Kobe” side of things but it’s worth taking a look at from time to time.

The way we behave as fans isn’t wrong. We are the ones who pay to watch the games live on television or in the arena. We buy the products they endorse. We also buy their narrative. We accept them into our lives wearing the jersey that we love so dearly. The jersey, however, does come off. The lights do go down and all that is left is a person who we haven’t actually met, or paid any attention to.

Death of Competition Part II

(Photo: Robert Reiners, Stringer)

(Photo: Robert Reiners, Stringer)

I have been a fan of the NBA for all my life. There is a trend that has been happening over the last five to seven years that is starting to make me sick. That trend is the death of true competition.

Wait…Does this sound familar? It should, because that introduction is word for word how I opened up my first “Death of Competiton” article at the end of March. I was angered at the time because rumors were swirling around about the possibility of LeBron James teaming up with Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. The thought of all these players teaming up was unfathomable to me. It was sickening. I knew that if they teamed up the NBA would be a cakewalk. At the time those were just rumors that had me boiling. Today the NBA changed and the result is competition left gasping for air.

Kevin Durant decided to take a knife and continue to stab the idea of competition- now leaving competition in the NBA in shambles. Kevin Durant decided to become the NBA’s biggest villain. Durant decided to join the Golden State Warriors. This is the most detrimental move a superstar has ever made to their reputation.

Naturally, people are going to try and compare Durant’s decision to LeBron’s decision in 2010 when he left the Cavaliers for the Heat. It is not the same. This is much worse. Although LeBron left his hometown team and by doing it on national television, he didn’t go to the Celtics. I only mention the Celtics because that was the team LeBron struggled to beat. It was the team that had eliminated him in the playoffs. LeBron received so much backlash because he left home when he had promised his city so much. He formed a super team in Miami that was deemed impossible to win against.

It was a move that many people believed was the easy way out. If you need proof about how easy it was here it is. He joined up to form a team that had three players taken in the top five of the 2003 draft. With LeBron, the starting five of the Miami Heat had three all-star players.

This was bad and destroyed LeBron in the eyes of NBA fans. Again, what Kevin Durant did is worse. Kevin Durant was 48 minutes away from reaching his second NBA finals, not once, not twice, but three times. He, along with the rest of the Thunder, blew a 3-1 lead against the Warriors. He had three games in a row to get the job done and failed. Failure is okay. Failure is necessary for growth. We all fail at some point at some capacity.

You don’t join a team who beat you when you were up 3-1 on them. You don’t join them when they went to back to back finals after they eliminated you. You don’t join the team who just won a record 73 games in one season. That is the definition of being weak. But if you can’t beat them you join them right? WRONG.

Michael Jordan struggled mightily against the Pistons over and over. He didn’t join them. He got in the gym and trained harder. He studied harder. He made it his mission to beat the team that kept giving him the pain of losing.

Reggie Miller is a legend who never won a ring. But we can respect him more for playing hard and fighting rather than running and joining the Bulls.

Carmelo gets heat for not having won a ring. The thing is, Carmelo can be respected because he doesn’t go running to loaded teams coming off of a finals loss.

It truly feels that Durant is trying to buy his way into the club. He is trying to buy a championship. He could have gone back to Oklahoma City and fought through the adversity. It is so much sweeter when you work for something rather than have it handed to you. If he wins a championship it will be tainted. Everybody will remember what he did to get it. Nobody will forget his fear of adversity, or competition. Now teams will have to assemble All-Star rosters to try and compete with the Warriors. There may be only two or three teams capable of winning a championship. The league created free agency to give more teams a chance at a championship. It was to create more parity throughout.

That is gone. Teams will play hard and try to compete but won’t have the talent to compete with the Warriors. Teams will beat them on nights they aren’t completely focused because nobody can go 82-0. Competition is dying. It pains me to know that the days of players like Magic, Bird, Jordan and Kobe are gone. Players would rather run and “buy” a championship in this day and age than work through the adversity.

Congratulations Kevin Durant, you made a business decision that will ruin your reputation. It will make fans all over the country curse your name. Never did I think someone could do something worse than LeBron did. Never did I think a player would become as big as a villain as LeBron was. I was wrong. You will become a bigger villain than LeBron. If you don’t win the championship NBA fans all over the world will celebrate like it’s their Independence Day.

Why Not the Knicks? Well…

Does Anyone Want to Play for the Knicks?

 

It has been over three seasons since Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks won their last playoff series against the Boston Celtics in the 2013 playoffs. It has been closing in on 20 years since the Knicks’ last NBA Finals appearance. And it has been over 40 years since their last championship with, as many Knicks’ fan will affectionately swoon at the mention of, the likes of Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe. New York is considered by some to still be the Mecca of basketball and Madison Square Garden is the hallowed ground on which it stands. 13-time champion (two as a player, 11 as a coach), Phil Jackson has been the president and head of all basketball operations for the last two years and yet, no free agent seems to want to come to the Big Apple. Why? In a city that doesn’t seem to have the time for the slow process that is rebuilding a team, expectations are astronomical and, let’s face it, downright stupid. The reasons for Knicks fans’ suffering could take a long time to add up, but I will just talk about the four reasons I’ve compiled that have attributed to the last couple years to save some time.

Courtesy of Sporting News.

The Owner is Too Involved and Under Too Much Pressure

Leading up to the arrival of Phil Jackson as head of basketball operations and President, owner James Dolan has often had a hand in some of the big trades and acquisitions of players and coaches throughout his reign, most notably the deals that brought Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony from their respective Western Conference teams to the Knicks; deals in which the Knicks gave up draft picks and a handful of players. Since Melo and Amare came to the Knicks, they made the playoffs 3 times with Stoudemire battling injury in 2013; Dolan’s Knicks would have to eat most of Stoudemire’s contract due to injury during his time there. It was clear that these moves did not pay off as the duo of Stoudemire and Anthony just weren’t meshing well and the head coach for half of their partnership, Mike d’Antoni, wasn’t getting the job done with the pieces that the team had. After firing d’Antoni, keeping Mike Woodson on as head coach and being somewhat competitive in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Dolan decided to fire the defensive-minded coach at the beginning of the Phil Jackson era. However, prior to Jackson’s hire, Dolan made decisions on which free agents or trades to go after and sign to help Carmelo bring a championship back to the Garden, and let’s just say they weren’t exactly what the Knicks needed, as they were without draft picks as a result of these failed trades and acquisitions.

Courtesy of USA Today.

Phil Jackson is the President of the Knicks… Not the Coach

One of Jackson’s first moves as President was the hiring of recently retired NBA veteran and former Los Angeles Laker Derek Fisher as the new head coach of the Knicks. This being Fisher’s first coaching job ever and not having a .500 season or better after his first season, it should surprise many that he only lasted about a season and a half (40-96 record over that span). This off-season, Jackson seemed hell-bent on keeping interim head coach Kurt Rambis, another ex-Laker, on as the permanent head coach. This didn’t seem like a wise move to anyone in the basketball community, so Dolan, being an active owner, insisted Jackson look elsewhere and Jackson then hired former Suns coach, Jeff Hornacek. I am not sure what to expect from the new hire, but the feeling remains the same; the feeling that Phil Jackson should come down from the front office and coach this team himself. Whatever health concerns there may be about Phil traveling around the country, the belief is that only Phil Jackson can properly teach and execute the triangle offense, which he has consistently preached that these Knicks can employ. Phil Jackson as a coach, would make the Knicks a more attractive destination for the more attractive free agent. When a man has coached teams to 11 championships, there is not a player in the league that wouldn’t at least consider New York an option if that man is coaching.

Courtesy of Huffington Post.

Melo Isn’t the Superstar Player He’s Paid to Be

The Knicks’ star came into the league with the likes of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh (those 3 would later team up and win two championships together), with Anthony being the player without a ring. Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, going into that draft, were often compared to each other, both being around 6’8” and the ability to take over games in a multitude of ways. Since then, the two players’ paths have vastly differed and their true abilities shown. LeBron has won Rookie of the Year, three titles, four MVPs, and a scoring title. Melo, on the other hand, has won one scoring title and has only made one conference final; in fact he’s only made it past the first round of the playoffs once and is now being paid upwards of $122 million dollars over five years. Anthony’s game is much different from the two superstars who have dominated the league during his time; those two superstars being LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. While critics of James have said he doesn’t have the scorer’s mentality or killer instinct that the Mamba and even Melo appear to have, he has had a greater effect on the game with his passing and vision that Carmelo has only dreamed of having by scoring. Speaking of scoring, it seems that the majority of Anthony’s efforts are put towards scoring rather than playing defense; LeBron nearly won Defensive Player of the Year a couple of years and even Kobe, who’s been touted as “selfish” on the offensive end, and who I would liken Anthony’s game more than LeBron, wasn’t a blow by on the defensive end.

I look at Carmelo Anthony’s game, at age 32, as a wanna-be Kobe; He has to have the ball in his hands to affect the game and he believes he can score on every possession no matter how cold of a night he is having, which is all well and fine if the team can pick up the slack, but Anthony’s teams usually haven’t been able to. Carmelo Anthony (41% FG, 21.4 FGA, 32% 3FG, 7.3 reb, 2.8 assists, and 25.7 pts for his playoff career) seems to have needed an all-star point guard that knew how to run an offense and play defense whenever his teams have been successful in the postseason; Chauncey Billups (Nuggets in ’08) and Jason Kidd (Knicks in ’13) both played with Anthony whenever he made it past the first round of the playoffs. And for some reason, the Knicks felt that this player, whose numbers don’t backup the talent, was a guy who could be built around to win a championship, a guy who they signed to a $122-129 million dollar five year contract and locking themselves down for any cash to offer quality free agents. Melo needs to adjust his game in order to draw free agents like LeBron has done in the latter portion of his career. Kobe, who’s offensive game and mindset I liken Carmelo’s to, could no longer draw free agents to LA because Phil Jackson was no longer the coach (discount injured and soft Dwight Howard), which attributes to Phil’s ability to draw players as a coach, not a GM (see above). In my opinion, the type of contract Anthony is under is reserved for younger MVPs and champions like LeBron or Kobe, none of which Anthony is or, the way it’s heading, will ever be.

Was New York Ever the “Mecca”?

In the sports world, a Mecca of a particular sport would have a rich history filled with banners, titles, MVPs and housed some of the greatest sports moments ever. Madison Square Garden may be in the most famous city in the world, but it doesn’t house the historic franchise a sports fan would revere as one of the greatest ever. The Knicks have two NBA titles (1970 and 1973). That’s better than none, but when other franchises like Boston, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Chicago have at least twice as many (almost nine times as many if you’re Boston, eight if you’re LA), it begins to look like a foot note on the history of the game. One moment that the Garden did play host to and that all Knick fans will point out was the Finals game in which Willis Reed came out of the tunnel, bum ankle and all, to lead the Knicks to their title victory. Okay, so that’s one moment. Where are the other highlights on the NBA finals reel? I can count only one moment that is engraved in Knicks lore and, I believe, has made fans delusional about the idea that New York is the Mecca of basketball. The team has also not produced one league MVP in its history; not Walt Frazier, not Willis Reed, not Patrick Ewing. No one in the history of the New York Knicks has ever earned the title of MVP, so why should Madison Square Garden and the Knicks be considered the Mecca of basketball? Sure, the city has a history of producing some of the game’s greats and has the famous Rucker Park, but the franchise that represents the city has done nothing that says to the world, “This is the franchise people come to see”. The minute the city and Knick fans stop calling themselves “The Mecca” will be the moment when they begin to turn things around for the better; a “nothing is given, everything is earned” mentality has to set in. Prove to the world that New York is “The Mecca” and the allure and aura will return to the Garden once more.

Courtesy Slamonline.

What Now?

With all the dysfunction within the organization, here’s what the Knicks have going for them: The Knickerbockers drafted the Latvian phenom, Kristaps Porzingis, with the 4th pick in the 2015 draft last year. The 7’3” 19 year old stretch center finished second in the Rookie of the Year race to Karl Anthony-Towns; not bad for an unproven European import. In stretches during the season, the young player showed passion and energy for the game by blocking shots, throwing down putback dunks and draining perimeter shots. Hopefully, his role on the team will grow rather than shrink with the newly acquired point guard, Derrick Rose.

Speaking of the new Knick, Rose is reaching the end of his contract he signed originally with the Bulls before blowing out both of his knees, so he will be coming into the 2016-17 season with something to prove and a new deal to earn; if not with the Knicks, then elsewhere. I am sure Anthony is excited to play with the former All-Star and MVP, even if he hasn’t been the same since achieving those awards. Carmelo Anthony will, however, have to learn how to move without the ball to get a good portion of his points since Rose, being the point guard, has to make the decisions on the court and Rose may not always pass to Anthony as often as Anthony is used to being given the ball. And with Porzingis’ frame still relatively thin, it’s reasonable to expect 3 point and mid-range shooting to be a key component of his game; a lot of pick and pop with Rose, dishing to Melo on the wings whenever the mismatch is in Kristaps’ favor in the post, and vice versa.

Courtesy CBS Sports.

The Knicks are also interested in signing Chicago Bull Joakim Noah, who played with Rose in Chicago. This move probably won’t sit well with the New York media considering Noah has had injury problems in the last couple seasons with his feet and knees; at this point he might as well be as fragile as Rose. Depending on if the Knicks do sign Noah and what kind of contract they sign him to, Noah, when healthy, can offer the Knicks a defensive backbone, smart passer and an emotional leader. Removing health from the equation, signing Noah would be a good move.

With a new big three and a new coach in place at “the Mecca”, hopefully, for New Yorkers and Knick fans everywhere, they can begin to make strides towards playoff and eventually title contention. But the team needs a couple of things to happen to earn the title of “Mecca” back: Jackson needs to seem a little more invested in the franchise if he isn’t going to coach. Carmelo needs to look to pass more, raise his basketball IQ and play more consistent and better defense (play like the player he is being paid to be). Dolan needs to let Phil do his job. The fans need to stay behind their team no matter how bad they look, while at the same time putting pressure on the organization to be competitive, not just sign free agents, but to go out and perform to the best of their ability. Everything else will fall into place should those things happen and the Knicks will become relevant again, this time for a longer spell and, who knows, they may even win a championship along the way.

Why I’m Finally Admitting LeBron Is Better Than Kobe

Courtesy of Gettyimages.com

Courtesy of Gettyimages.com

I can’t believe I’m writing about this. But I think I need to. To be finally at peace. For so long I’ve been fighting and arguing that Kobe Bryant has been better than LeBron James. However, I can’t lie to myself anymore. After what James did in the playoffs this year, I will whole-heartedly admit that LeBron James is better than Kobe, I think I’m sick.

It seemed like the Kobe-LeBron rivalry was something that they both knew about, but always pretended there really wasn’t one. They would always act buddy-buddy when they saw each other.  Always laughing and talking it up after a game. Their smiles seemed real. And if you think that it was real then you’re crazy. It was faker than a teenage-girl friendship. They both didn’t like each other. They probably still don’t. No one competing to be the best likes the person they’re going up against. That’s just a fact.  And don’t give me the, “Well on the court they hated each other, but off the court they were friends” line.  That’s garbage.

Now, some will say that LeBron has always been better than Kobe even before the 2016 NBA Playoffs. Mostly Cavs fans–yes I know. But what LeBron did in the past month–Kobe could have never done. I apologize Lakers fans. It’s sad but extremely true. James led all players in the Finals in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Excuse me? That’s absurd. He’s the first to ever do so in a playoff series (Cavs fans thinking, “Where’s MJ on that list”.)

I could rattle off more statistics that will prove why LeBron is better, but we all watched the Finals. We know what happened. And quite frankly, I don’t want to get more nauseous than I am right now.

I remember always arguing that Kobe has more rings than LeBron. So obviously Kobe was better. DUH! It’s a childish argument. It also happened to be my only one. It’s like saying Eli Manning is better than Aaron Rodgers. The only people that actually believe that are Giants fans. It’s the same situation here. The only people who think Kobe is better than LeBron are Lakers fans. And I think that’s the cool part about sports. How you can have so much passion for a team that you’d defend the players like they were your family.

And for so long I did that for Kobe. Day after day. Argument after argument. But I can’t anymore. It’s not because I don’t want to. I just don’t have the numbers to back it up. People lie, numbers don’t.

It got to the point where I started betting on LeBron because I rather lose money than see him do well. And if he did well, then at least my wallet was happy. I think being a LeBron-hater was just a product of the love I have for Kobe. I rooted so hard against LeBron. I didn’t want anyone getting on Kobe’s level.

It sucked to write this. In fact, after I’m done writing this I’ll try to convince myself that Kobe is still better than LeBron. “Kobe won a dunk contest and LeBron didn’t.” Ha!

Unless the NBA legalizes the use of steroids then we probably won’t see another player like LeBron ever again. And we probably won’t see another player do so much for a city like he did. You kept your promise and I have to respect that. Congrats, King.

The Second Season

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) fouls Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) fouls Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Has there ever been a better final day of the the regular season in NBA history? The Warriors broke the Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season. The Warriors beat the Grizzlies by a score of 125-104 to finish the season 73-9. Steph Curry finished with 402 made three pointers this season which is also an NBA record. He also scored 46 points to make sure the Warriors broke the win record. Impressive isn’t even enough to describe what the Warriors were able to do. It is truly an amazing feature but it doesn’t even hold a candle to what happened in Los Angeles for Kobe’s final game.

Hollywood couldn’t write a script as great as Kobe wrote for his final performance in Staples Center. The show that Kobe put on reminded us of Kobe in his prime while chasing championships. It was magical. It was mesmerizing. He poured his heart and his soul into his final game in the same way he did for his entire career. It was poetic.

60 points in his final game; it is the most ever for a player in their final game. It was the most points in the NBA scored the entire season. It was the 25th 50 point game of his career. He never ran. Not when times got hard instead he fought through. When the injuries tried to stop him he fought back to make sure he went out on his own terms. There is only one quote to sum up up Kobe and his performance, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

It was a perfect way to end the regular season and get us all ready for the NBA’s second season. Now that the regular season is over let’s take a look at all the first round playoff matches and who will win.

Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons: Do not sleep on the Pistons. They are a well coached team with lots of talent. Andre Drummond will get his first action in the playoffs and Reggie Jackson has some experience with the Thunder. LeBron James does not want to be one of the few players to lose to an eight seed but it is possible. The Pistons won three of the four matchups in the regular season which will give them the confidence in the playoffs to pull a possible upset. Although it is possible, I don’t see the Pistons beating the Cavaliers in a seven game series.

Cleveland wins series 4-2

(2) Toronto Raptors vs (7) Indiana Pacers: The Raptors are in the perfect position heading into the playoffs. They are a quiet two seed who nobody is talking about or picking to do much in the playoffs. They had 56 wins which is a franchise record. The Pacers are a surprise team in the playoffs this year. Paul George is a star and Myles Turner is an up and coming star as well but the Pacers are not equipped to make a run this year. The Raptors had much success against the Pacers this year and this series will be no different.

Toronto wins series 4-1

(3) Miami Heat vs (6) Charolette Hornets: The Heat are one of the teams perceived to have the capability to dethrone the Cavaliers as the Eastern Conference Champions. They have the talent to do so but the Hornets will be no easy out. The teams split in the regular season and I believe this series has a chance to be one of the most competitive first round series. I see this series going seven games but Dwayne Wade will lead the Heat to a series win.

Miami wins series 4-3

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs (5) Boston Celtics: The young Celtics are scrappy and play with a certain toughness that leads to success. Atlanta has a lot of playoff experience but they usually don’t go far into the playoffs. This Hawks are one of the best passing teams in the league as they were second in the NBA in team assists with an average of 25.6 per game. The Celtics are one of the best teams at forcing turnovers so it will be a clash of styles and strengths. This will be a highly competitive series and the regular season was won by the Hawks. This time will be different.

Boston wins series 4-2

Western Conference

(1) Golden State Warriors vs (8) Houston Rockets: The Golden State Warriors just broke the record for most wins in a season. The need 16 wins to go back to back. This is the chance to defend their title which is always harder than getting the first championship. They will play against James Harden which will be no easy task but the Warriors play a true team game. James Harden is good enough to possibly steal a game and it will be in Houston if it happens but the Warriors are determined to win. They will.

Golden State wins series 4-1

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs (7) Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies remarkably made the playoffs through an up and down season filled with injuries. Memphis would barely have a chance to beat the Spurs with Mike Conley Jr. playing but with him out the chances are even more slim. The Spurs are a well oiled machine that has no chance of breaking down against the Grizzlies.

San Antonio wins series 4-0

(3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (6) Dallas Mavericks: The Thunder are the third best team in the West and an afterthought to contend for the title. The stigma is that its going to be Spurs vs Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder have to prove to themselves they can win the West and it starts with beating the Mavericks. The Thunder swept the Mavericks in the regular season and I don’t see the Mavericks upsetting the Thunder in this series.

Oklahoma City wins series 4-1

(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs (5) Portland Trailblazers: The Clippers are a great team with great talent but talent can only take you so far. The Trailblazers surprised the entire league with how good they have been. Damian Lillard is probably the most underrated player in the NBA and the fact that the Trailblazers made the playoffs should attest to that. The Clippers are going to be the clear favorite in this series but I won’t count out the Trailblazers completely. We have seen in the past that Lillard can hit game winners in the post season. The Rockets have experienced this. The Clippers should pull this series out but I am not totally confident in their ability to beat Portland in a seven game series.

Los Angeles wins series 4-3

Thank You, Kobe

As I sit on my couch to watch Kobe Bryant play for the last time in a Lakers uniform, I can’t help but feel emotional. I don’t want it to end. It can’t end. I’ve been bleeding purple and yellow ever since I was a little kid. From the late nights yelling at the television, to the euphoria after winning a title, you gave me the best childhood a basketball fan could ever ask for. I’ll never forget sitting up in the nosebleeds at Madison Square Garden to watch you play for the first time, wearing my Lakers jersey while getting cursed and booed by Knicks fans.

I remember being so frustrated after the Lakers lost game 5 of the 2010 NBA Finals to the Celtics that I started punching my bed. A couple minutes later my mom walked in the room. She thought I was crazy. I was crazy. I couldn’t imagine another Finals loss, especially to Boston of all teams.  But you didn’t let up. You posted 20+ points and 10+ rebounds in each of games 6 and  7 to win the NBA Finals. You saved the season. You saved my health.

You see, you changed the way I played the game. The late nights in the gym mimicking your every move. The shake and bake, step back three, as I shout, “3, 2, 1”. Pump faking three times pretending like there was a defender guarding me. Wanting to take the last shot of the game. Buying your newest pair of shoes. Picking the number 8 or 24 for every uniform I would get. It didn’t matter the sport, it was 8 or 24.

I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m not ready for you to leave and I’m sure many people feel the same. Except you. You’re ready. Your body is ready. Injury after injury, loss after loss, these past couple of seasons have been too hard. I can’t deal with the heartbreak. I know you can’t too. Enough is enough.

And so for the last time I’ll be able to watch the fade-away jumpers, the no-look passes, and chant “MVP” at every free throw attempt. I’ll always remember the buzzer-beaters, the one-handed dunks, and the championships.

However, the thing that I’ll remember the most is your mentality. The never give up mentality. The never satisfied mentality. You always saw room for improvement even during the best of times. Always learning. Always studying the game. Always wanting more. You were in the gym while everyone was partying.

I admired your passion and love for the game, but now that it’s gone my feelings too fade. So here’s to you, the final goodbye, and hoping you can turn back the clock just one final time.

Thank you, Kobe Bean Bryant.

Top 3 Things to Watch as NBA Season Closes

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

There are many storylines heading into the final three days of the NBA season that will captivate the NBA fans. Here are some of the biggest things to watch for in these final three days of the season.

First off, Kobe Bryant has just two games remaining in his storied career. He has accomplished a great deal in his career. Kobe sits at 33,535 career points which is third all-time and that is where he will sit after these last two games. It would be impossible to get to second all time.

He has been to seven NBA finals and has won five of them. He is a three time olympic gold medalist for the United States of America.

He is a two time finals MVP and a one time league MVP. He is an 18 time All-Star, 15 time all-NBA team selection, and a 12 time All-Defensive team selection. He also won a dunk contest in 1997.

Kobe holds 30 NBA records, many of which were because he did things younger than anyone else had. Kobe has hit countless game winners to go along with the rest of his amazing accolades.

He will be remembered as one of the greatest players in NBA history and as a champion but what he may be remembered the most for is his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006. It was an epic performance that we may never see anything like it again. The greatest players are remembered by one name. Kobe is no exception. It was an amazing career and there will never be another like the Black Mamba.

One of the biggest questions in the Eastern conference is who will beat the Cavaliers or can someone beat the Cavaliers? The Hawks will get to play the Cavaliers on April 11 to prove they are capable and a win would give the Hawks confidence as they are three seed.

On the final day of the regular season the Pistons will be heading to Cleveland to prove to themselves they could upset the Cavaliers if the Pistons stay as the eighth seed.

This may be the hardest playoff run in LeBron’s career because the Raptors are a great team and the possibility of facing the Heat in the playoffs would also be a huge hurdle to overcome. The Celtics would also be a tough team to play against for the Cavaliers. I am not sure who will upset the Cavaliers but someone will and this will be the year LeBron is dethroned in the east.

The biggest storyline of the final three days is whether the Warriors break the Bulls record of wins in a season with only one game to go. It is going to be a historic game in the bay at Oracle Arena against Memphis on the final day of the regular season on April 13th. The Warriors either finish tied with the Bulls or they will surpass them and win their 73rd game. It always was a record that seemed untouchable.

The Warriors just came off their biggest win of the year. They gave San Antonio their first loss of the year at home. It ended the Warriors streak of 33 straight losses in a row in San Antonio. Steph Curry scored 37 points and looked like the best player on the court bar none. The Warriors will have enormous pressure on them to break the record.

All eyes will be on them on the last day of the regular season. This team has proven they can handle the spotlight as the defending champions and have remained calm during the entire year through the talk of the record. The only thing standing in their way of this record is Monday and Tuesday. They are just waiting for the game to start because when it does, the record will fall and the Warriors will stand as the team with the most wins ever in a NBA regular season.

The regular season is coming to an end. There is still so much excitement to look forward to and it is almost Christmas time for NBA fans as the second seasons approaches in just three days. Hang on and get ready for the last shots as Kobe puts up his last shots and maybe we see him beat the buzzer one last time.

Page 1 of 212