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Grand Rapids Drive trumps Raptors 905

MISSISSAUGA, ON --- The Raptors 905 got out to a quick 14-4 lead in the opening quarter but from then on it was all Grand Rapids Drive.

The Grand Rapids Drive  whether it was in the paint or on the perimeter, won in every facet of the game. They led 76-43 at halftime and went on win 128-99.

The Grand Rapids drive were led by Darrun Hilliard 31 points and a 21 point performance from Devin Ebanks. The contributions from other Drive players was also evident on the scoreboard as Lorenzo Brown, Ryan Boatright and Dahntay Jones scored 17, 16 and 13 respectively.  

The Raptors 905 drop to 2-6 on the season. After the game, Raptors 905 coach Jesse Mermuys said this on his teams play.

“There were a lot of disappointing things, I think the most disappointing things was that it was a losing effort and it was a team losing effort.”

That describes the whole game for the Raptors 905. The 905 were not only beat by the Grand Rapids drive on the scoreboard but also in the important statistical categories. They were beat in points in the paint 68-50, field goal percentage 50.5-47.4, and three-point percentage 39.1-29.2, when that happens a loss is inevitable. Also, giving up 128 points does not help either.

Scott Suggs, who had 19 points, had this to say about the team’s effort when asked what was disappointing about the game.

“…Not a real good defensive effort, we knew they were a team that like to push the ball and that was our big focus in practice this week and we just didn’t carry it over to the game today.”

Over the last couple games there has been some defensive issues. Against the Delaware 87ers the 905 gave up 125 points and the perimeter defense is mostly to blame. In the last 2 games the 905 have allowed 3 perimeter players to score 30+ points (Jordan McRea 31, Sean Kilpatrick 37 and Darrun Hilliard 31).

While that is a small sample size, it does cause concern. This is definitely coach Mermuys and his staff will be focusing on this week.

In addition to that it seems that rim protection might be a problem as well going forward. The 905 have 7’4 Sim Bhullar to their advantage but on their rotation, they tend to go to 6’8 Ronald Roberts. While Roberts is a strong basketball player on both sides of the floor, he is still only 6’8 and that does not necessarily scream intimidation in the d-league.

One bright spot going forward was the play of Keanau Post. The 6’11 forward dropped 14 points in the game. Look to see Keanau Post to see more playing time at the center position to give the 905 more size off the bench.  

One theme that we see from the 905, whether win or loss, is that the 905 can score.

Five 905 players scored double digits (Scott Suggs 19 points, Delon Wright 15 points, Keanau Post 14, Melvin Johnson III 10 and Jay Harris 10). This came in spite of their 23 turnovers in the game. While that was a negative for the game, the fact the 905 can score nearly 100 points and turn the ball over 23 times is a positive going forward. Turnovers is relatively easy thing to fix for a basketball team, which means if the 905 can keep the turnovers down then I can see the 905 be an offensive nightmare for opposing defenses.

The defense does need to be put back on the right track. They will have a change to fix that issue on December 9thagainst the Erie Bayhawks. Tip-off starts 7:30.

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Street Interviews: Bruno Caboclo

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Street Interviews: Bruno Caboclo

After the Rapors 905 suffered a tough loss to the Delaware 87ers, Michael Asiffo caught up with the Raptors' first round pick (20th overall) in the 2014 NBA Draft, Bruno Caboclo. I will never forget Fran Franchilla analysis on him saying, "he is two years away from being 2 years away".

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87ers edge out the Raptors 905 in a shootout

MISSISSAUGA, ON --- The Raptors 905 were looking to improve their record to 3-4 against the Delaware 87ers on Sunday.

Early on things were looking good for the 905. At the end of the first quarter, the Raptors 905 were up 37-23. The 905 were shooting nearly 52 percent from the field. In the second quarter the 905 looked poised to take this game, then the momentum suddenly switched.
 

Sean Kilpatrick and Jordan McRae caught fire to lead an offensive barrage for the 87ers. McRae finished with 31 points, while Kilpatrick had 37 points and 18 of Kilpatrick’s points where from the land beyond.  Those two lead the 87ers to a 125-109 victory of the Raptors 905.

Defense was a big issue  for the 905, giving up 73 points in the second half and a total of 102 points from quarters 2-4. Much of it was due to the perimeter offense that McRae and Kilpatrick brought for the Sevens (87ers).

McRae was responsible for getting the Sevens going as his ability to get the rim was key in opening up the floor.

“McRae going downhill on us and us not being able to force tough two and mid-range shots which got him in the paint," said Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Murmuys when asked about the play of McRae. "Then when we tried to put the pressure on McRae and have our big up and maybe trap [him], it opened up layups for their bigs, offensive rebounds for their bigs and open threes. It’s just a domino effect of things that happen when you can’t get control a guy.”

Murmuys also attributes much of the bad defense to mistakes on the offense end, “some bad offense resulting in easy baskets and runouts for them.”

A bright spot for the Raptors 905 was their play in the half-court offense. There was good ball movement that led to a lot of good looks. In spite of shooting 42.7 percent from the field, the 905 still netted 109 points. Also, despite having seemingly untimely turnovers, especially in the fast break, they only had 13 turnovers. 

Five Raptors 905 players scored in double figures. Two players who impressed me in particular were guard Delon Wright and power forward Ronald Roberts Jr. So far in their stints with the 905, Roberts and Wright have looked very good. Wright finished with 20 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds, while Ronald Roberts Jr. had 22 points, 9 boards.

 A theme that is becoming ever so apparent is the 905’s inability to play a solid 48 minutes. The Raptors 905 in this game looked like two completely teams between quarters. This was the case against the Idaho Stampede as well.

When I asked Delon Wright about the intensity he said “Yeah we do have an issue with intensity carrying over quarters, everybody just has to keep their intensity up and I think as a team it will carry over.”

It was a disappointing result but the 905 once again showed their talent and athleticism. Their next game will be December 5th as they host the Grand Rapids Drive.

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Hammon and the Summer Spurs

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Hammon and the Summer Spurs

Who said basketball was a man's game?

In one summer, Becky Hammon became the first woman to coach in the NBA Summer League and win the Summer League title. Hammon led the Spurs, who didn't have one lottery pick on the squad, to a 6-1 record and the Las Vegas Summer League Championship.

Spurs defeated the Phoenix Suns 93-90 in the championship game, Johnathan Simmons crowned the MVP, leading the Spurs with 23 points off the bench. Simmons is a product of the Spurs' D-League program, the Austin Spurs, averaging 15 points a game. His road to the NBA was not an easy one.

The 6'6 swing played his college ball at Houston but prior to that he was one of the best players coming out of JuCo.

Simmons is now apart of the San Antonio Spurs, signing a two-year deal just before the championship game.

We have some seen abysmal coaching jobs during the Summer League in the past, but coach Hammon did wonderful. Each game you can see here basketball IQ in her play calling. The motion plays she drew up during timeouts – then for the team to run them perfectly – I'm sure made coach Popovich smile from ear to ear, something that doesn't happen to often.

Kyle Anderson was named Summer League MVP, averaging 19 points, 6 boards, and 2 dimes in 10 games. Anderson teammates call him “Slo-Mo” because of his 1-speed style of play. Even though it may look slow, Anderson's game was deadly this summer. The 6'9 swingman was un-guardable during the summer league, showing all aspects of his scoring ability.

Anderson didn't get much playing time last season but after his performance during July, I'm sure he will see the court in the upcoming NBA season.

"I know we're going to have a great roster put together. I want to be out there on that floor. So I'm going to put [in] whatever work I need to. We have a great starting lineup already, great core guys. So I'm just going to do whatever it takes to get on the floor." via ESPN.com

Hammon will be an assistant for the Spurs this season but she got her first taste of being a head coach in the NBA. She got to feel what it's like to have so many different scenarios running through her brain during a commercial break. She got a chance to take a group of guys that never played together, and turn them into a cohesive unit within 16 days.

Seeing a woman inside the huddle was never weird for me, only because, at the end of the day, basketball is basketball. If you understand the game, and can command the respect of your players, then it doesn't matter what your gender is. Men are naturally more athletic, but the fundamentals of basketball makes it the perfect Unisex sport.

Hammon will be an NBA Head Coach a lot sooner than we think. 

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Winners and Losers of the 2015 NBA Free Agency

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Winners and Losers of the 2015 NBA Free Agency

This summer has been nothing less than interesting in the NBA. Starting with the Golden State Warriors winning their first title in 40 years, to the draft lottery back in June - which granted great franchises like the New York Knicks and LA Lakers top five picks - but the main focus recently has been that of free agency.

There has been huge lucrative deals being thrown around all over the league, as well as, surprise signings.

Like LaMarcus Aldridge deciding to take his talents to Texas to help beef up an already very competitive San Antonio team. However, the spurs aren’t the only team winning after grabbing a great signing. Here are a few of the main winners and losers of the NBA midway through the summer free agency frenzy. 

WINNERS: 

While Derrick Rose was nursing his back-to-back knee injuries, the versatile Jimmy Butler became the Bulls premier player. (Getty Images) 

While Derrick Rose was nursing his back-to-back knee injuries, the versatile Jimmy Butler became the Bulls premier player. (Getty Images) 

Jimmy Butler - The 26-year old 2-guard's hard work has finally paid off. Butler enjoyed a breakout season averaging a team high 20 ppg and 5 rpg. Jimmy locked in with the Bulls signing five-year $95 million deal after denying a seemingly lucrative offer of a four  year deal worth around $40 million. I guess in this case, patience is indeed a virtue. 

The Clippers - Gaining the talents of a future Hall of Famer in Paul Pierce, the long and athletic wing in Wesley Johnson, and the sometime beneficial play of Lance Stephenson for basically nothing was definitely a bright spot for the Clippers this summer. However, all eyes were on DeAndre Jordan who has no doubt increased his game to something that’s highly sought after in the league. After a crazy scare in LA land, Jordan was thought to have agreed to a deal that would’ve sent him to Dallas before abruptly changing his mind and staying wit Doc Rivers and the Clips for a little longer. 

DeMarre Carroll - Hard nose defense is not something that goes unnoticed, and apparently something that will get you paid in the league. Referred to as the Lebron stopper in this past years playoffs, Carroll made a name for himself as someone that you can depend on with and without the ball. Unfortunately, for the Hawks Carroll decided to join the like of young star DeMar DeRozan and up and comer Terrence Ross, across the border in Toronto; signing a 4-year $60 million. 

Kawahi Leonard and Danny Green are the transitioning to becoming the new faces of Spurs basketball, while the current faces get ready to walk into the sunset. (AP Photo) 

Kawahi Leonard and Danny Green are the transitioning to becoming the new faces of Spurs basketball, while the current faces get ready to walk into the sunset. (AP Photo) 

San Antonio Spurs - This has been one of the best summers the Spurs have seen in a very long time. Keeping a team that has great chemistry in tact and latching on to the young talent for a while, giving Kawhi Leonard a new deal, along with spot on shooter Danny Green. Plus their big three, that is arguably the best trio to ever touch a basketball in the NBA, is still around, the Spurs has only gotten better.

Adding the likes of the very solid big-man in David West, who took a nice pay cut to join the squad, and maybe one of the bigger surprises of the summer the former face of the Portland Trailblazers, LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs might find themselves playing in June next year with a squad like this and Coach Pop at the helm. 

LOSERS:

New York Knicks - The downward spiral the Knicks have created for themselves, looks as if it won’t get any better anytime soon. Despite locking in Carmelo Anthony long term, the New York team has nothing else that it can boast about. Allowing Tim Hardaway Jr. to go the Atlanta Hawks was, in my opinion, a huge mistake that will be regretted in the future. Also, the lack of free agent interest is nothing but another bad sign that this franchise isn’t very close to a resurgence. 

Mark Cuban - Losing DeAndre Jordan within days after having a verbal agreement with the big guy, was heartbreaking. Not to mention the public aftermath, of tweets and comments that took place was not a very good look for the Dallas Mavericks owner.

Losing the likes of Tyson Chandler made getting Jordan that much more important, and for Cuban to walk away with nothing has to hurt. But I’m sure he’ll get over it once he realizes his team should still be playoff bound and that he’s ridiculously wealthy. 

Portland Trailblazers - This west coast team is usually fairly competitive throughout the season; that’s until key players typically see injuries that hold the franchise back from advancing at key times in the year. And now the franchise have been dealt major blows before the season has even started.

Despite locking in superstar point guard Damian Lillard, they have lost a ton of talent in a very short amount of time.

The lost of talented big man LaMarcus Aldridge, is only one void the Blazers will have to fill. Along with the departure of LA, the Blazers had to wave good-bye to Nicholas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, and Arron Afflalo, who all inked deals with other respective ball clubs. It’s gotta be tough if you’re a Blazers fan. 

Atlanta Hawks - A franchise that saw great success last season prior to running into the  wall, which was Lebron James and the Cavs, seems like they never really can get over the hump.

Despite getting four guys into the All-Star game and having the best record in the east, they haven’t been able to gain any notable names in free agency to help the club get over the hump.

Losing DeMarre Carroll, who proved to be a great asset to the team, will indeed affect the teams ability to contain big athletic wing player, like Lebron James when the time comes. And not having a solid replacement will no doubt hurt the Hawks come playoff time assuming they get back next year.  

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DJ Fiasco

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DJ Fiasco

NBA Free Agency is coming to an end and things seem to get crazier. 

Deandre Jordan has become a very good player in the NBA. In his 7 year career, he has transformed from a “middle-of-the-road” role player off the bench, to one of the best defensive post players in the league.

Jordan's emergence has also put him as one of the best free agents in 2015, averaging 11 points, 15 boards, and 2 blocks, while shooting 71% from the field in 2014-15 season. Unfortunately, Jordan was apart of the circus that is the NBA Free Agency, and his act may have been the biggest of the summer. 

Up until Wednesday, Deandre Jordan was believed to be headed to his home state of Texas to play for the Mavericks. Jordan “verbally committed” (I will express my feelings about that term) to the Mavericks, agreeing to a 4-year $80 million offer. Mark Cuban even said that he will be their “best player for years to come” which is a strong statement for a player that only averages 11 points. 

The city of Dallas had the impression that finally snagged that premier free agent they have been longing for. After years of losing out on big stars, one was finally coming to Dallas..........sike, I lied. 

The Clippers, who were the loser in this situation, somehow manage to turn the tables and ultimately won the Deandre Jordan sweepstakes. Since Tuesday night, the Mavericks have not heard from Jordan but they know he will not be playing in a Mavericks uniform. 

The Clippers and Jordan found themselves in a room together, apparently laying everything out of the table. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Doc Rivers were apart of this meeting at Jordan's house in Houston. 

By the end of that meeting, Jordan was a Clipper again. I can't tell you exactly what happened in that meeting because I refuse to believe what “sources” say. All we know is Jordan has signed a 4-year $88 million contract with the other LA team. 

This is why I hate NBA Free Agency. 

This whole verbal commitment thing is new to me. Last time I checked, these were professionals, not high school kids. I expect 17-18 year old kids to change their minds because, for one, they're teenagers, and two, they have months to think about their decision, which sometimes leads to a change of heart. As a grown man, your word should be your word, simple as that. And I don't want people to think I'm judging Jordan but I'm not a supporter of how he conducted himself in this situation, especially when he has yet to speak with Mark Cuban and the Mavericks about reneging on his commitment

The Mavs are once again without a top free agent and Dirk is left wondering why top tier players are not running to play by his side. Some Maverick players have already thrown shots at Jordan, Chandlor Parsons being one of them, saying Jordan “was afraid to be a franchise player”. 

My question is, am I the only one who doesn't see Deandre Jordan as a franchise player? Don't get me wrong, he is a very good center but he can't score unless someone else sets him up; that is not a franchise player. He can effect a game with his rebounding and defense but without an offensive post game, I can't consider him a franchise player. 

I understand Mark Cuban's gripe, but I think he overvalued Deandre Jordan. I think losing Monta (agreed to terms with the Bucks) was more detrimental than losing out on Jordan. Monta and Wesley Matthews in the back-court could have been the perfect mix of offense and defense. 

Wesley will stay with the Mavs, even though acquiring Deandre Jordan was a main selling point. Cuban allowed Wesley to opt out of his verbal commitment, but Wesley being a real dude, stayed true to his word. 

Clippers and Mavericks will have some heated match-ups this upcoming season. Will we see a Clippers-Mavericks Christmas Day game, if the NBA is smart we will. 

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Fan-I Logo Criteria

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Fan-I Logo Criteria

Guess what NBA fans? Another logo came out. This time around it was the LA Clippers who unveiled the logo which was actually quite interesting. Rather than holding a formal press conference or release of the logo on their Twitter account, owner Steve Ballmer unveiled the logo while on Connan O'Brien's late night show. The unveiling was actually very clever marketing strategy. Every fan loves a very energetic owner, and although Ballmer is eccentric to the max, he is very energetic when it comes to his newly acquired franchise. Mix that with an eccentric environment and you have a very entertaining show on paper. Add in the fact that he's the guy who followed Donald Sterling and all these parts make for a very highly publicized unveiling.........If only the logo was any good, to say the logo isn't good is an understatement in my opinion. 

I really do not want to be offensive to the Clippers creative team because, to be honest, for a long time they were the only thing about the Clippers. Even though the team was considered the Lakers ugly sister for a long time, it must be said that a bad team has never looked so good in a Jersey. The Clippers Jerseys were some of the best Jerseys in the league. Even though their old logo was simply a basketball with "Los Angeles Clippers" written beside it, I found the logo quite nice in a simple way. However, the creative team, in my opinion, ruined the logo with the new unveiling. However, rather than tear the logo to shreds with long drawn paragraphs, the "Fan-I Logo Criteria" will tear the team logo to shreds. 

For anyone who has not read up the Fan-I Logo Criteria when it was introduced in a prior article about the Sixers new logo, here's how it goes. We analyze a logo on four categories. Each category is rated from 1-5, 5 being the best for a total number of 20. The higher the number, the better the logo. The categories are: 

The look: Is the logo aesthetically pleasing to the eye if the logo was without colour?

The incorporation of the city identity: How well the team incorporates the city's history into the logo?

The colour: Does the colour scheme compliment the look of the logo?

Sense of pride: Are the fans prideful of the logo?

The Los Angeles Clippers New logo

Look: This is me being nice about it. It looks like it was used off Microsoft Word and took 10 minutes. To be fair, I get what the Clippers Franchise was trying to do, and that was be simple. However, not only have they completely deviated from the old logo, it looks all wrong. The font looks out of place and the basketball with the letters in the middle lack any flash. The Clippers in this category get a 1. 

Incorporation of the city's identity: To be fair, all of L.A's logos save for the Angels do not even attempt to incorporate the logo. Instead, the logo becomes a part of the teams identity, thus only time will tell. My only problem is that this logo is such a huge change from the last logo despite being just as simple, that I doubt the city will accept it. The Clippers in this category gets a very hesitant 2. 

Colour scheme: My biggest problem with this new logo is the lack of colour. Lines of blue and red with Black coloured font is not colour. The thing is the Clippers have probably the best colour scheme. Sporting bright red lines forming a basketball and blue letters was simple but visually appealing and gave birth to probably one of the nicest looking jerseys in the league. Now the colour is minimal and the black font was not needed. This criteria gets a generous 2. 

Sense of pride: Right now the Clippers are a prideful team and I do not think they'll tone down on their pride. However, the jersey will follow the colour, which worries me because that means the end of good jersey is upon us, which could strip away the pride of the city. However its possible that the prior pride of the team could overcome the potential ugly jerseys. The Clippers in this category get a 3. 

Overall Clippers 8 out of 20

In other the logo was not good at all. 

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Last Team Standing

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Last Team Standing

In the Western Conference Semi-Finals, the Golden State Warriors were down 2-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies, eventually ending that series in 6 games. In the Finals, the Warriors seen another 2-1 series deficit after game 3, but once again, they won three game straight, this time to claim the Larry O'Brien trophy. 

After what I thought was a pretty entertaining series, the Warriors defeated the Cavs in game 6 105-97 to seal the deal and claim the franchise's first title since 1975. Warriors are truly the best team this season, going wire-to-wire, holding the best record with 67 wins and now the Larry O'Brien trophy. 

Andre Iguodala was crowned Finals MVP, which is well deserved. Iggy had the responsibility of keeping LeBron in check, holding him to a low shooting percentage, but also putting up some points, grabbing boards, and dropping dimes. In 6 games he averaged 16 points, 6 boards, and 4 dimes, while shooting 40% from the 3-point line. And to think Iggy didn't start the first two games of this season or any of the 82 games during the regular season. Coach Kerr said it was very fitting for their team to have Iggy as the Finals MVP, mainly because of his sacrifice all season. 

The regular season MVP, didn't receive any MVP votes, which I thought was bizarre since he averaged 26 points, 6 dimes, and 5 boards for the series. Steph became the 6th player to win a championship in their first MVP season, joining Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Bob Cousy, Shaquille O'Neal, and Larry Bird. This is probably the best season an individual player has had in recent memory, especially with him being a smaller point guard that shoots the ball. I think we all have become a fan of Steph over the years, but now I think it is safe to say that he has entered into the superstar level. 

The Warriors supporting cast was a big reason why this team is NBA champs. Steve Kerr had the luxury of being able to have a 10-man rotation this series, something the Cavs couldn't do. The leader of that rotation has to be Draymond Green, who dropped a triple-double in game 6, 16 points, 11 boards, 10 dimes, along with 3 steals. Green efforts in the front court was big for the Warriors because it allowed them to play small ball and speed up the tempo of the game, something they couldn't do in game 1 and 2. Green, 6'8 at best, battled with a 7'0 Timofey Mozgov and pretty much outplayed him. 

For the Cavaliers, you have to tip your hat to them. They fought through injuries, losing Kevin Love in the first round, then Kyrie Irving in game 1 of the Finals, and still made it a competitive series. Majority of the credit has to go to LeBron James, who almost averaged a triple double through out this series. People want to say that LBJ didn't have any help this series but they still were in it each game. They could have easily went up 2-0 or even 3-0 but a bad close out in game 1 from the Cavs, 1-10 in OT, prevented that. Situations like that, I have to put blame on LeBron just because he didn't close out, which is his responsibility. I don't think he deserve much blame but I don't think he should get a pass either. In game 6, LeBron should have been more aggressive in the second half. Too many times I thought he was passing the ball instead of attacking the basket, especially during times where the Cavs needed a bucket. Yes the numbers show that he had a great game, 32 points, 18 boards, 9 dimes, but watching I thought he was very passive and lacked that sense of urgency. Overall though, LeBron had an incredible series, one that will be talked about for ages because of the numbers.

Overall, I would grade this series a B-, only because it didn't end as exciting as I wanted it too. I didn't expect the series to go 7 games, but I thought the Cavs would fight harder than what they did in the final stretch. It seemed like they gave up towards the end which is never fun to watch. The Warriors' depth was a main factor why they won this series and got thru the entire playoffs. When you add the injuries to the teams they played, no one was deep enough to run with them and it showed. 

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NBA Finals: Curry With The Pot

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NBA Finals: Curry With The Pot

The 2015 NBA Finals has been nothing short of entertaining, and now that the Warriors are 1 game away from being crowned World champs, I expect a great ending to the Finals. 

Warriors win game 5, 104-91, thanks to a takeover performance by Steph "Chef" Curry. I'm not a Drake fan, but I have to admit he came up with one of the best lines for a athlete in recent memory. After his terrible Game 2 performance, where everyone thought Matt Dellevadova was the "Curry stopper", Steph has played at his MVP level. Game 5 he had his best performance of the series, dropping 37 points, shooting 7-13 from the behind arc. For all of you that thought Delly was the Curry Stopper, just know you were wrong. We've seen Curry take crazy shots from behind the arc all season, but tonight he seemed un-real. With the Finals coming to an end, the Finals MVP discussion has come up, depending on what happens in game 6, Curry gets my vote. 

Andre Iguadola has done a good job guarding LeBron, forcing him to take contested shots and ill-advised trey balls. Thanks to Iggy, the Warriors defense has been able to keep everyone else in check. (John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated)

Andre Iguadola has done a good job guarding LeBron, forcing him to take contested shots and ill-advised trey balls. Thanks to Iggy, the Warriors defense has been able to keep everyone else in check. (John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated)

Luckily for Curry, his supporting cast was also on point Sunday night. Iggy came up with 14 points, 8 boards, 7 dimes, and 3 steals. Harrison Barnes did a great job finishing at the rim, catching LeBron slipping on putback dunk, also dunking on Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson, both AND-1s. Draymond Green provided the energy the Warriors needed, dropping 16 points and 9 boards, and Leanardo Barbosa provided 13 points off the bench going 4-5 from the field. The Warriors depth has been a catalyst for them all season but today 3 of the 5 starters (Curry, Iggy, Thompson) played 40+ minutes. 

The Cavs missed on an opportunity to really put the pressure on the Warriors by stealing one in the Oracle but a lousy team performance kept them from going up 3-2 heading back to Cleveland. Looking at the boxscore, you would think LeBron was by himself out there and essentially he was. The only reason why I say that is because he was the only one that was aggressive all game. JR Smith had a good first half but disappeared in the second going 5-15 from the field. Tristan Thompson provided some big minutes, dropping 19 points and 10 boards (5 offensive) but his post partner in crime, Timofey Mozgov, didn't score a point, playing only 9 minutes. 

LeBron had another stellar performance, dropping 40 points, 14 boards, and 11 dimes, his second triple-double of the series. Of course everyone will say LeBron has no help but I think you have to blame that on David Blatt. Blatt only used a 8 man rotation, never once putting Shawn Marion in the game, who has Finals experience. Plus I think you can make an argument that LeBron dominated the ball too much, which he has to at this point. It's hard to say someone doesn't have help when he has 11 assist, while the rest of the team combines for 6. To me that is a sign of one player controlling the rock. 

If Steph Curry can continue his hot streak, I truly believes he should get the Bill Russell Award. Iggy is deserving for his efforts guarding LeBron, making it tough for him, but Bronny still averages 37 for the series. LeBron is also in consideration for Finals MVP, even if they lose the series, but he is shooting 39% for the series which is awful for a player like him, who usually shoots well above 50%. 

With next game being an elimination game, it will be interesting to see if the Warriors can close out in Cleveland. We've seen LeBron be down 3-2 before but the difference is, there is no Chris Bosh to grab an offensive rebound or Ray Allen to hit a game tying 3-pointer. He will have to, once again, ball out of his mind guide his team to victory. 

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NBA FINALS: Triple-DUB in DubTown

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NBA FINALS: Triple-DUB in DubTown

For the first time ever in NBA Finals history, games 1 & 2 end in overtime, but this time the Cavaliers walk away with the victory, defeating the Warriors 95-93. Due to me being in Washington DC, covering the Goodman League, I wasn't able to see this entire game. Luckily I got to a TV with 7 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, and the drama was just beginning.

LeBron had himself another classic game, dropping 39 points, 16 boards, and 11 dimes. Despite his great performance though, similar to Game 1, LeBron was shaky in the final stretch of the game

With 3:14 left in the 4th quarter, the Cavs were up 83-72 thanks to a big trey ball by Bronny. Of course an 11 point lead with 3 minutes left isn't much in the NBA, but it should give you confidence. Andre Iguodola answered with a 3 pointer of his own that cut the lead back to 8. From then on it was all Warriors.

Warriors would go on 12-4 run to end the quarter and send into overtime, All 4 Cavalier points coming at the free throw line. Similar to Game 1, LeBron seemed to fade, going 0-3 during that Warriors run, also missing the penitential game winning lay-up. 

In overtime, the Cavs had another opportunity to seal the deal and end it, going up 91-87 to start the period, but the Warriors would once again make a run, taking the lead, 93-92 with 29 seconds left. There were a few missed calls by the refs that didn't go LeBron's way, but what's new? We see missed calls every game, many of which that go into LeBron's favor. Luckily for the Cavs, they had their pesky point guard, Matthew Dellavedova, on the court in those final 29 seconds because he pretty much saved the game for them. 

Without Matthew Dellavedova offensive rebound, the Cavs could be looking at 0-2 deficit, and LeBron's spectacular performance could be just an afterthought. (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)

Without Matthew Dellavedova offensive rebound, the Cavs could be looking at 0-2 deficit, and LeBron's spectacular performance could be just an afterthought. (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)

Not only did Dellavedova attribute to Steph Curry's worst shooting game ever, but he also made the biggest play of the game with his offensive rebound and two free throws to give the Cavs the lead, 94-93, with 10 seconds remaining. Then on the ensuing play he played great defense on the MVP, forcing Steph to take a bad shot which resulted in an airball.

It's funny how after game 1, everybody discredited this group of role players for LeBron, and a role player is the reason why the Cavs won this game and are not down 0-2 in the series. After the game was over I said to myself, “Dellavedova made more plays in OT than Bronny”. I'm sure no one wants to hear that but it is the truth. 

LeBron is now 2nd for most triple-doubles in the NBA Finals with 5, behind Magic Johnson(8). With his style of play, and current hot streak in the postseason, it is very possible that he could catch Magic for most Triple-Dubs but if the Cavs lose, none of that will matter. 

LeBron is now 2nd for most triple-doubles in the NBA Finals with 5, behind Magic Johnson(8). With his style of play, and current hot streak in the postseason, it is very possible that he could catch Magic for most Triple-Dubs but if the Cavs lose, none of that will matter. 

Of course the Cavs would not be able to be in that situation if it wasn't for LeBron stellar performance, but even with is stellar performance, the Warriors still almost won the game. Why? Because he did not make plays down the stretch. I'm sure this will cause some of you to say I'm “hating” but it's the truth. In two overtime periods, LeBron has went 1-7 from the field with 2 turnovers. Not many big plays down the stretch from the World's Best Player, which I think is a problem. This game should have never went into overtime, luckily they found a way to win due to another star's mistakes. 

LeBron isn't the only one in the fire with me, Steph Curry had a horrific game, shooting 5-23 from the field and 2-14 from behind the arc. In the post game press conference, Steph said he “wasn't feeling it tonight” which I think had something to do with the agitator,  Dellavedova. In game 1, we didn't get to see much of the matchup I predicted in my preview, but we will see it for the rest of the series, and so far Dellavedova is winning the battle.

Steph also was careless with the ball on the final possession of the game when he attempted a bounce pass to Klay Thompson which resulted in a turnover. I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to say that Steph must play better in order for the Warriors to win, but even with his sorry performance, it still came down to the last possession. 

This is probably the best defensive team the Warriors has seen this postseason. We all know the motto, "Live by the jumper, Die by the jumper". Steph Curry will have to find ways to score other shooting the 3, because the Warriors can not afford for him to have this kind of shooting night again. (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)

This is probably the best defensive team the Warriors has seen this postseason. We all know the motto, "Live by the jumper, Die by the jumper". Steph Curry will have to find ways to score other shooting the 3, because the Warriors can not afford for him to have this kind of shooting night again. (Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)

Klay Thompson was the main scorer today for the Warriors, dropping 34 points and 0 turnovers. Everyone else on the Warriors squad had a decent game, it was just Steph who was missing from the show. Draymond Green finished with 10 rebounds, 4 steals, 5 blocks, one of which was on LeBron in the overtime period.

For the second game straight the Warriors have shot below their season average of 46% (44% gm1, 39% gm2), which I'm still curious on whether or not this will be continuing trend for the rest of the series, which is possible due to the Cavs size in the paint and perimeter defenders. Still I think the Warriors have yet to play their best basketball, while LeBron is playing his best basketball with a depleted Cavs roster. Game 3 is Tuesday 9pm at the Quicken Loans arena. 

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NBA Finals Preview

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NBA Finals Preview

Coming into the NBA postseason, the Warriors and Cavs were the two favorites to reach the championship, and honestly, I'm happy to see this is the match up for the Final series of the NBA season. While one team has the 2015 MVP, the other has this generation's best player, legacies are on the line. Even though the Cavs weren't the #1 seed, this is still a match-up with the two best teams from each conference. 

Cavs Road to The Finals 

Quarter Finals – Swept Boston Celtics 4-0 
Semi-Finals – Beat Chicago Bulls 4-2 
Eastern Conference Finals – Swept #1 seed Atlanta Hawks 4-0 

 

Warriors Road to The Finals 

Quarter Finals – Swept New Orleans Pelicans 4-0 
Semi-Finals – Beat Memphis Grizzlies 4-2 
Western Conference Finals – Beat Houston Rockets 4-1

Some say that the Cavs had an easy road to the Finals, and that isn't a bad assessment. The Cavs best challenge was the Bulls but when Pau Gasol had to sit out two games, the Bulls went into a long scoring droughts which made life easier for the Cavs, who was also without Kevin Love. The Hawks didn't have much of a chance in my opinion, even though they did beat the Cavs 3 times during the regular season. In the playoffs, you need a player that can takeover, something the Hawks didn't have. LeBron averaged a triple-double that series and the Hawks had no one to match him even a little bit. 

As you can see, the Warriors had the tougher road. The Grizzlies actually had a 2-1 lead over the Warriors, but GSW would win 3 games straight by an average margin of 16 points to advance the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors went up 3-0 on the Rockets before losing Game 4. Some say that the Warriors had a fairly easy road to the Finals, but this time, that is a bad assessment. 

Head-2-Head Match-ups 

January 9th, Oracle Arena, 112-94 Warriors

All 5 of the Warriors' starters scored in double figures. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry combined for 47 points, shooting 7-18 from behind the arc. They also outscored the Cavs 36-3 on fastbreaks, extending their win streak to 14. JR Smith, playing in his 2nd game as a Cavalier, led all scorers in scoring with 27 points, 11-23 from the field. Kyrie scored 23 points but had a bad night from the field, shooting 39%. It was one thing missing from this game though; LeBron James.  

February 26th, Quicken Loans Arena, 110-99 Cavaliers 

In an “MVP Race” game, LeBron proved why he is the best player in the world, dropping 42 points and 11 boards, scoring 24 points in the first half. Bronny outplayed Curry, who only scored 18 points and was 5-17 from the field. Not one player on the GSW roster scored over 20+, David Lee leading the team with 19 points off the bench. This was the Cavs 18th win in 20 games and 11th straight home victory. After this game, LeBron MVP buzz and the Cavs NBA Title buzz to a new level. 

Key Match-ups 

Steph Curry vs. Matt Delladova 
The reason why I think this is a key match-up is because, one, Kyrie health is in question so Delladova will see some big minutes, and two, the agitating guard has made a name for himself this postseason with his pesky play. Of course Curry is the more talented of the two, but can Delladova get the MVP out of sync with his antics? 

Lebron James vs. Warriors' Wings 
No one will be able to stop Bronny but the Warriors have a group that can contain him and maybe match his productivity. Andre Iguodola, Draymond Green, and Harrison Barnes will have the task of checking Lebron and a lot of the Warriors success depends on how well these three can contain LeBron. It will be interesting. 

Klay Thompson vs. JR & Shump
The former Knickerbockers have been balling in the postseason, and are big reasons why the Cavs are in the Finals. Klay “Money” Thompson offense took a decline (41% FG, 36% 3PT)  last series, forced to use majority of his energy checking James Harden on defense. Klay will have to find his offense this series but it could be tough with the Cavs being a good defensive team but with the long layoff, can Shump and JR stay consistent? 

Bench vs. Bench
The NBA Finals is all about the bench play. Warriors coach, Steve Kerr came off the bench for 5 Championship teams and made big shots for all 5. LeBron and the Heat lost to the Spurs last year thanks to the Spurs bench shooting. Which bench will come through for their superstar this year? 

Questions:
1. How Healthy will Kyrie be? 
2. How effective will Kevin Love be? 
3. Which rookie head coach will make the first mistake? 
4. Can LeBron stay hot? 
5. Which crowd will be the loudest? 

I'm really excited for this series, mainly because of the story lines. Of course LeBron's legacy is the biggest of them all. Despite only having two rings, people still want to compare LeBron to Michael Jordan, so a third will surely increase the comparisons. Currently 2-3 in the Finals, LeBron can not afford to lose another series if his fans want to keep the comparisons going. No matter what though, he is still a great player. 

The MVP, Steph Curry has an opportunity to become the 9th player to win a title in their first MVP season, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant are not apart of that group. Curry is definitely known to be a shooter, but he plays an all around game. He hits the boards, send out dimes, and has done a good job at playing defense this year. Currently in the playoffs he is averaging 29 points, 6 dimes, 5 boards, and 2 steals while shooting 43% from behind the arc. Some are already considering Curry as the greatest shooter ever, which I think is premature, but a title will make it hard for one to argue he's not. 

This will be the first time since the NBA's inaugural season that two rookie head coaches are in the NBA Finals, Coach Kerr isn't a rookie to the Finals though. He's been there with Jordan, and he's been there with Coach Pop and Timmy D, hitting game winners for both. I do think that former GSW head coach, Mark Jackson, built this team but I'm not sure if he would have been able to get them to the Finals. Steve Kerr has made this team better defensively, especially Steph Curry, which I think he deserves much credit for.

Blatt on the other hand, is playing the role of Erik Spolstra, trying to prove his worth on a star led team. I don't think David Blatt is a bad coach but I'm not sure how good of a coach he is yet. He hasn't been challenged much, mainly because the players have been playing well – something you could possibly give him credit for. 

Not sure if this series will go seven game, but I hope it will. Only two series this postseason went seven games and they both involved the Clippers. The story-lines are there for this to be a fun series, so hopefully the Warriors and Cavs can end the 2014-15 NBA season with a bang. 

 

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Cavs Bring Out Brooms, 118-88

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Cavs Bring Out Brooms, 118-88

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Cavaliers are only the third team to sweep the #1 seed in the Conference Finals. Kobe, Shaq, and the Lakers swept the Spurs in 2001, and the Nets swept the Pistons in 2003. You could say that the Nets and Lakers had the better team, but it wasn't by much. In this situation with the Cavs and Hawks, the Cavs were just too much for the Hawks, despite losing to them 1-3 in the season series. 

Not surprised at all by this sweep, the Hawks didn't have anyone to match LeBron who had a historical series averaging, 30 points, 11 boards, and 9 dimes. Only player to come close to that was Oscar Robertson back in 1963 where he average 33 points, 12 boards and 9 dimes against the Celtics. LeBron is headed into his 5th consecutive NBA Finals which has only been done by 8 Celtics players from the Bill Russell era (played in 10 consecutive). It's no question he is currently the best player on the planet but now he must bring a title back to the town he departed 5 years ago. 

LeBron is now 8-0 vs the Hawks in the postseason. Even though the Hawks were the #1 seed and won 60 games, they still weren't the better team. Even without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving (missed 2 games) the Cavs used their supporting cast to sweep the Hawks, Jr Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Tristan Thompson leading the way. Smith capped off a terrific series with his 18 points and 10 boards, averaging 18 and 7 in the series. Tristan Thompson capped off his series with 16 points and 11 boards, averaging a double-double and 4 offensive rebounds for series. 

The Hawks had an opportunity in game 2 to get a victory but fell short in overtime. They were without Al Horford who was ejected for his elbow to the head of Delladova in the 2nd quarter. Sharpshooter, Kyle Korver, was also out for the last two games of this series, after Delladova dived for the ball rolling over Korver's knee in Game 2. With Korver, I think they definitely could have won Game 2, because he could have hit a couple shots down the stretch, which the Hawks needed, but I don't think it would have been a difference. 

The Cavs will now await the winner of the Warriors/Rockets (Warriors up 3-1), which gives them time to heal up before June 4th, especially Kyrie Irving who is suffering from a couple injuries. Coming into the season, I didn't think the Cavs would make it to the Finals, but I also didn't see so many players being injured, which gave them a clear lane to the Finals. Now going up against two teams that has the weapons to match their firepower, we're going to see how great this team is. I think they have been tested by the Bulls, but without Pau Gasol, I knew the Bulls wouldn't be able to score with them.

The Cavs split with both Warriors and Rockets, 1-1, losing to both on the road. 

If I had to choose who I would like to see play them in the Finals, I will say the Warriors because they are the best team in the west, but the last time the Rockets and Cavs played it was very entertaining. In a seven game series, the Warriors have the best chance to beat the Cavs, not only because of their offense, but because they play defense and have depth. Steve Kerr has a few bodies he can throw at LeBron, not to stop him, but to make it difficult for him, like Draymond Green, Andre Igudola, Harrison Barnes, who all bring a different element defensively. Ultimately, I expect, and hope, for an entertaining NBA Finals. 

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Best Game Winner?

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Best Game Winner?

This has been a very entertaining postseason thanks to the few game winners. What I would like to know is, so far, who would you say had the best game winner, and so you won't have to worry about trying to remember all of them, we're going to list them all for you right here at Fan-i.com. 

Al Horford Game 5 Eastern Conference Semi-finals. 

Situation: The Hawks were trying to avoid going down 3-2 heading back to DC. John Wall who hasn't played the last two games of the series because of a wrist injury, finally made his return, and played very well. With 14 seconds left, the Hawks had an 80-78 lead, Wizards with the ball. After the Hawks used their foul, on the ensuing play, Bradley Beal found Paul Pierce in the corner for a go-ahead three, giving the Wizards an 81-80 lead with 8 remaining seconds in the game. 

My thoughts: I truly believe the Wizards gave this one away mainly because they didn't box out. Nene, who hasn't been much of a factor this series, did a horrible job of protecting the paint, getting bullied for the ball by Al Horford. Wizards coach, Randy Whitman replaced Marcin Gortat, who I think would have done a better job in that situation, with Nene right before the play. That may have been the most critical decision of the series. 

LeBron James Game 4 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. 

Situation: The Cavs were looking at potentially going down 3-1, heading back to Cleveland for Game 5. They gave up a 6 point lead with two minutes remaining with a some costly turnovers from star player LeBron James. LeBron had two questionable offensive fouls in the final minute of the game, one of which gave the Bulls and D-Rose the opportunity to tie the ballgame at 82 with 9 seconds remaining. 

My Thoughts: Of course anything with LeBron James involved in controversial, and this game winner was no different. Before Bronny's big shot, Nikola Mirotic blocked his layup attempt sending the ball out of bounds. The refs went to review the play which gave the Cavs time to settle in and come up with a play (Even though it wasn't the one drawn up by coach Blatt). Still, this was a great moment for Bronny and it saved the Cavs season. 

Paul Pierce Game 3 Eastern Conference Semi Finals 

Situation: In the beginning of the 4th quarter, the Wizards were up 85-66, but with less than a minute remaining, their lead was cut to 3 points, 99-96. The Hawks went on 22-7 run to cut that lead in the final 8 minutes of the game. The Hawks would tie the game at 101 when Mike Muscala hit 3 with 14 seconds remaining, capping off their 27-11 run. 

My Thoughts: The Truth never disappoints. He without question one of the most consistent players to ever step on an NBA court. 

Derrick Rose Game 3 Eastern Conference Semi Finals 

Situation: Both teams were looking to claim the series lead, the Cavs also looking to reclaim home-court. The 4th quarter was back-n-forth but the Cavs didn't claim a lead until there were 41 seconds left, thanks to some free throws by LeBron James making it 93-92. The Bulls would regain the lead on the ensuing possession with a Jimmy Butler layup, and two free throws from Taj Gibson made it 96-93 with 23 seconds left. Thirteen seconds later, JR Smith knocked down a three that tied the ball game with 10 seconds remaining. 

My Thoughts: It's good to see Rose have a big impact moment in the postseason. I don't want to jinx him and say “he's back” but he has had a great postseason individually and this shot made many people forget about those two lost seasons. 

Chris Paul Game 7 Western Conference First round

Situation: A total of 18 lead changes happened in the 4th quarter during this game. This was the only series in the first round that went 7 games and it involved two of the best teams in the Western Conference, one of which being the defending champs. With 8 seconds remaining, Tim Duncan knocked down two free throws to tie the ball game at 109, Clippers would use a 20 second time out. 

My Thoughts: As far as degree of difficulty, this is probably the best. Chris Paul landed a floater off the glass over 7ft Tim Duncan, not to mention jumping off the wrong foot (left), also not traveling. I don't know if you can find a tougher game-winner than that. 

Who had the best Game Winner?
Al Horford
LeBron James
Paul Pierce
Derrick Rose
Chris Paul
Poll Maker

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Scotty B Fired

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Scotty B Fired

The Thunder has decided to part ways with Scott Brooks after 7 years. You can't deny the fact that Scotty B had a good run, going 338-207 (62%), only missing the playoffs twice, this year being one of them. He also has led the Thunder to 3 Western Conference Finals, and a Finals apperence in 2012, losing to the Heat. With all that success, why would one want to get rid of their coach, well his resume is missing one thing; A championship. 

This is an extremely difficult decision on many levels. Scott helped establish the identity of the Thunder and has earned his rightful place in the history of our organization through his seven years as a valued leader and team member. As we all know, this past year we had unique and challenging circumstances and as I have conveyed, not many people could have accomplished what Scott and this team were able to. Therefore, it is very important to state that this decision is not a reflection of this past season, but rather an assessment of what we feel is necessary at this point in time in order to continually evolve, progress and sustain. We determined that, in order to stimulate progress and put ourselves in the best position next season and as we looked to the future, a transition of this kind was necessary for the program. We move forward with confidence in our foundation and embrace the persistence and responsibility that is required to construct an elite and enduring basketball organization capable of winning an NBA championship in Oklahoma City
— Thunder GM Sam Presti via NBA.com

I'm the least surprised that Scotty B was shown the door, in fact, I thought it should have happened last year after they lost to the Spurs. With the talent he has had since being in OKC, it's no reason why the Thunder should have had a couple Finals appearances and a title. Think about this, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are MVP candidates this year, and Kevin Durant won it last year. Brooks had all three of them on the same squad for three years. He did reach the Finals with them, but he couldn't make the right adjustments to win. Also James Harden played like trash which didn't help. 

I have always had an issue with how Brooks coached this offense. He had two of the best scorers in the league but would only run iso plays. Where was the creativity? I also don't think  he helped Russell grow as a point guard. Russell is a great player but decision making has been an issue for him, and after awhile you have to blame the coach, especially if he is a former PG himself. 

And just to get this out the way, this is not a post to bash Scotty B, he did a good job but he could never get this good group of ballers over the hump. I don't blame this season on him because he had to deal with difficult circumstances, he did what he could do in a very thick Western Conference, but similar to Doug Collins with Jordan, he couldn't get over the hump. 

Thank you Scotty!

A photo posted by Kevin Durant (@easymoneysniper) on

So who will replace Scotty B? Everyone seems to think Kevin Ollie and Billy Donovan are the 
top candidates. Ollie would be the best fit out of the two because he has personal experience with the team as a player, playing his final season with the Thunder in 2009-10. KD went on record saying that Ollie was a difference maker for the Thunder, helping change the culture of the team. I'm not sure if Ollie or Donavan is ready to leave the college ranks but if the money is right, I can see either one jetting to OKC.

In an ESPN article, Spurs assistant coach, Ettore Messina, was suggested as a “out-of-the-box” candidate but I think he should be the main candidate. He will be coming from a great coaching tree and he is regarded as one of the greatest Euroleague coaches ever, winning 4 Euroleague titles and 7 Italian Cups. Eurostyle basketball is very fundamental and I think that style of play could really help the Thunder, especially KD and Russell. I'm not saying Messina would take this team to the promise land but he has great resume along with being an assistant for the best coach in the NBA, he could definitely make something happen with them.  

 

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NBA Playoffs

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NBA Playoffs

Today the playoffs start and I think the entire nation is ready for some playoffs basketball. I would like to think this is a wide open year for the Finals but of course you have your favorites. 4 games are slated for Saturday but I'll give my prediction for each 1st round series.

EAST 

#1 Hawks vs #8 Nets 

The Hawks on paper are the natural favorites being the top seed in the East, but I don't think this will be an easy series for them. I think the Nets are underachievers, and if they played to their full potential, especially Deron Williams, they would be much higher than an 8th seed. Still, I see the Hawks winning this series in 6 games. 

#2 Cavaliers vs #7 Celtics

If it was the year 2009, this would be a premier matchup. In LeBron younger days, his team was the inexperience squad going against veteran led Celtics, but roles have changed. I don't think the young Celtics have enough to knock off the loaded Cavs. I can see them winning one game to avoid the sweep, but I'm picCavs in 5 games. Also pay attention to how Kyrie and K-Love play in their first postseason. 

#3 Bulls vs #6 Bucks 

I don't think it is far fetched to think this series will go 7 games. The Bucks really surprised me this year with their performance, going from 15 wins last season to 41 this year, even without Jabari Parker. The Bulls are more experienced, making it to the playoffs for the 7th straight season. This will also be Derrick Rose first postseason appearance since 2012 when he tore his ACL in the first round, so this is definitely a good series to keep an eye on. I'm going with the Bulls in 6 games, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah will dominate the paint. 

#4 Raptors vs #5 Wizards 

The 4-5 matchup is always the best in the first round, mainly because both teams are even. This series has a few intriguing individual matchups all over the court, Lowry vs Wall, DeRozan vs Pierce, Valanciunas vs Gortat. DeRozan and Pierce seen each other last year in the first round, when Pierce was with the Nets, and Pierce got the best of the Raptors that series. I'm not sure if he can have the same effect but I wouldn't be surprised if he did. I think this series will be long and entertaining with the Wizards winning in 7 games. 

WEST

#1 Warriors vs #8 Pelicans 

I really like this series. I don't think this will be an easy one for the Warriors mainly because of Anthony Davis. In the postseason, the pace of the game usually slow down and becomes half-court basketball, which I think helps the Pelicans. Pelicans will have to find a way to match the Warriors fire power in the backcourt, which I'm not sure they can do. Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday will have to play out of their minds to cancel out the Splash Brothers. I'm picking the Warriors in 5 games. 

#2 Rockets vs #7 Mavericks

For me, the Mavs winning this series will not be an upset. Matchup wise, I think the Mavs are the better team. Other than James Harden, the Rockets don't have a dangerous threat, unlike the Mavs who has 3 players that could go for 20, not to mention a strong bench. Plus, I don't trust the Rockets, mainly because of Dwight Howard. If he actually plays like a dominant big man should, then the Rockets will win this series, that's a big IF though. I'm going with the Mavs in 6 games. 

#3 Clippers vs #6 Spurs 

Doc Rivers vs Greg Popavich, Tony Parker vs Chris Paul, Blake Griffin vs Tim Duncan. This series has the potential to be the best in the first round. I think the Spurs are the only #6 seed to be favorites to reach the NBA Finals, also favorites to win it. Clippers lack of depth will haunt them this series. I would say they're less experienced but the main components like Paul, Griffin, Jordan, Davis, Reddick, Barnes, and Hawes have playoff experience. I think this will be an entertaining series, I'm picking the Spurs to win in 6 games. 

#4 Blazers vs #5 Grizzlies 

Last time we seen the Blazers in the playoffs, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge put on a show, knocking off the Rockets in the first round. They will be facing a different beast this year though. The Grizzlies have a very balanced team, which isn't nothing new. They can score, they play great defense, got size, and depth. I really like the Jeff Green acquisition for them too. Blazers will give the Grizzlies a good run but I think depth and defense will give the Grizzlies the series in 6 games. 

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Who's The Real MVP?

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Who's The Real MVP?

In my 25 years of living, I don't think there has been a closer MVP race than this year. You might go back to the couple of years where Jordan didn't win the title, but I'm not sure if there were 4-6 players with a legitimate chance of winning the award. Another thing that's very different about this MVP race is that the guards dominate the race, with only one BIG man in the bunch. I'm sure everyone has their own rankings on who should win it, but here is my list, in no specific order... 

Steph Curry, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden

Honorable mention: Chris Paul, Anthony Davis 

 I just asked myself 3 questions to figure out who should win the title. Why?, Why Not?, Who is the supporting cast?, and the head-to-head matchups. I haven't chosen a winner yet, but after researching and evaluating the scenarios, I came up with this analysis: 


(AP Photo) 

(AP Photo) 

Steph Curry - 24 points, 8 Dimes, 4 Boards, 49% FG, 44% 3PT 

Why?: Steph is the number one player on the best team in the NBA. Warriors have the best record and Steph is the main ingredient for that historical feat. This is the franchise's best season ever and Steph has the potential to be the franchise's first MVP winner since Wilt Chamberlain, back in 1962 for the Philadelphia Warriors (Franchised moved to California in 1962 as the San Francisco Warriors then became Golden State Warriors in 1971). 

Steph is 4th in 3-point percentage and leads the league in total trey balls made with 284, also setting a new season record and breaking his own 272 mark he set back in 2013. Curry now holds 3 of the 5 spots for most trey balls in a season, Ray Allen and Dennis Scott the other two. 

It's no surprise that Chef Curry is cooking from behind the arc; we've seen him do this since he entered the league. What we haven't seen is him exhibit much defense, except for now. With Steve Kerr, Curry had his best season defensively, covering the top guards in the league on a regular basis. His team is also one of the best defensive, holding teams to 42% FG. 

Why Not?: Curry has a very good supporting cast. One could argue that without Curry, this team would still be a playoff contender. When you compare what he has to work with to Russell and Harden, he doesn't have to face the same obstacles. 

Supporting Cast: Steph is lucky enough to have one of the best two guards in the backcourt with him...Klay Thompson. Klay averages 21 points game and has made 239 trey balls, 2nd behind Steph. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala are the perfect x-factors and Andrew Bogut has been fairly healthy this season. 

Head-to-Head: 4-0 vs James Harden, 0-1 vs. Lebron James, 1-1 vs Russell Westbrook 


(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

James Harden - 27.5 points, 7 dimes, 6 boards, 44%FG, 2 Stls

Why?: When Harden decided to leave the Thunder 3 years ago, I thought it was a bad decision. Now in retrospect, I was 95% wrong about him departing OKC; the remaining 5% is whether or not he wins championships. Harden has made himself into a MVP caliber player with his ability to score from anywhere on the court. He is 2nd in scoring, setting a new career high and dropping 30+ 34 times, 40+ 10 times, and 50 twice, most recently against the Kings. 

With the Rockets having injury troubles all season, it has given Harden the opportunity to showcase that he is a complete player. Only he and Trevor Ariza has started more than 70 games on the Rockets' roster. Harden has done almost everything, leading the team in points, assists, and steals. 

Efficiently, Steph may be the better scorer, but Harden is the purest scorer of the bunch. He never struggles to find a shot or to get get one off, plus he knows how to get to the line. Harden has gone on record saying he doesn't looked to get fouled, but I don't believe that one bit. Harden has mastered the ability to create contact, which is the reason why he leads the league in total free throw attempts with 816, 2nd place being Russell Westbrook with 637. 

Why Not?: Harden hasn't had much success against the other MVP candidate, Steph Curry. Against the Warriors, Harden shoots 41% from the field, 27% from the 3-point line and is 0-4 this season. 

Supporting Cast: Harden does't have a strong cast since the Rockets were plagued by injuries this season. Trevor Ariza has been the most consistent sidekick for Harden, starting in all 81 games he played in. Dwight Howard, who is supposed to be the main sidekick, or even star, has only played in 40 games this season. Starting point guard, Patrick Beverley, has only started in 55 games. 

Head-to-Head: 1-0 vs LeBron James, 0-4 vs Steph Curry, 2-0 vs Russell Westbrook 


(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

Russell Westbrook - 28 points, 9 dimes, 7 boards, 2 steals 

Why?: It's very unfortunate that Kevin Durant couldn't finish this season because I think if the Thunder got a few more wins and a higher seed in the playoffs, The Thunder would be the first team to have two different players as back-to-back MVPs. Russell's numbers are undeniable and if you just want to go by the numbers, he is the MVP. Not to mention, he has been doing this with limited help, with KD only playing in 27 games and Serge Ibaka ruled out for the season in early March after his knee injury. That didn't stop The Russell Show. 

Russell has dropped 11 triple-doubles this year, which is insane. What makes it even more crazy is that 9 of them came after All-Star Break. Some people still complain about Russ not passing the ball, but he has 22 games with 10+ dimes, 17 of which came after All-Star Break. 

Like I said, Russell's numbers are undeniable. In a point guard driven league, I think he has solidified himself as the top PG. I don't think there is another player at his position that can control the game from every aspect like him, and for that reason I would crown him MVP. 

Why Not?: One of the main criteria for MVP is team success. If the Thunder was in the Eastern conference, their 44-37 would have them 6th in the East, but in the West they are outside looking in on the playoffs. They need a win against the T-Wolves and a Pelican loss against the Spurs on the final day of the season. Some would also knock his shooting percentage and turnover numbers, but I think the teams lack of success is the main reason. 

Supporting Cast: No disrespect to the rest of the Thunder roster, but compared to everyone else team, Russell doesn't have any help. KD hasn't played since January and Ibaka is done for the season. The acquisition of Enes Kanter has helped, averaging 18 points and 11 boards since joining the Thunder but it is still an uphill battle for Russell. 

Head-to-head: 0-2 vs James Harden, 1-1 vs Steph Curry, 0-1 vs Lebron James 


(AP Photo) 

(AP Photo) 

LeBron James - 25 points, 7 dimes, 6 boards, 48% FG

Why?: Last season the Cavaliers won 33 games. 2014-15 they eclipsed that number by 19 games, LBJ being the main ingredient for that turnaround. It's hard not to put Bronny in the MVP conversations because right now this is his league. He is the best player in the NBA, and it will be blasphemous not to consider him as a candidate, especially with the Cavs new found success. 

Bronny has also made some individual accomplishments this season, working his way up on the scoring list, currently 25th with 24,913 points. He also dropped his 50th career triple-double against Pistons Monday (6th all-time), 2nd in the month of March. When it comes to numbers, Bronny got 'em all day. 

Jr Smith came out and said that his new teammate is the real MVP, which pretty much inspired this article. He also said that Bronny could win it every year and I agree with him to a certain extent. Like I said, Bronny will always be in that convo because no matter what, his numbers will show MVP. 

Why Not?: If Bronny were to win the MVP this year, it would be his worst MVP season. He is averaging less points, rebounds, and assist than his previous 4 MVP seasons. He is also shooting less than 50%, which is also a drop from his other 4 MVP seasons. While the others are having career years, he is having an average season for his standards. 

Supporting Cast: LeBron has the best supporting cast out of all of the candidates. He has a top PG in Kyrie Irving, who dropped 50+ twice this season, also shooting 41% from behind the arc. A great group of role players in JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov, and Kevin Love who is the third option. Can't forget about Tristan Thomas. Without Bronny, this team would still make the playoffs. 

Head-to-Head: 1-0 vs Steph Curry, 0-1 vs James Harden, 1-0 vs Russell Westbrook 

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