“Tank City Bit**/Tank Tank City Bit**/50-60 something losses equals
Joel Embiiiiiiiiiiiid Wiggins Biiiit**…..”
With the season starting to come down the end of the tunnel, teams are either jockeying for playoff positioning or showing us all the inventive ways to gut out their team like a fish so they can get the most ping-pong balls in this year’s much publicized draft. We are officially at the “veterans on the lottery bound teams shutting down their seasons for real &/or phantom injuries” phase of the #TankCity programming that most lottery bound teams employ. After the first edition of #TankCity, we give you Volume 2. Is this a nod to the old Jay-Z albums back when he was kicking chicks out of his place at 6:15 AM? No, it isn’t. It’s just a coincidence though that I typed out this post in an IceBerg sweater, black Enyce jeans with a matching doo-rag, and mustard colored Timberlands. Ya heard?
Before we follow up on the residents of #TankCity, we have to first say goodbye to a few tenants first…..
Let’s face it, Chicago plays like Jason from those Friday the 13th horror movies. You can shoot Jason, try to blow him up, start a fire & escape from the cabin…… but as soon as the smoke clears and the girl that’s running with you sprains her ankle, Jason always emerges to slit your throat. With the Bulls, it doesn’t matter if Derrick Rose’s knees keep exploding on him, or if they trade Luol Deng, or if Carlos Boozer finds new ways to underachieve, the Bulls keep coming. Even with all those things that happened, they continue to move forward with a murderous intensity. They picked up DJ Augustine off the street & he’s been one of their best players, turned Taj Gibson into a 6th man of the year Candidate (as well as someone who’s making Boozer expendable going forward), & replaced Deng production with Jimmy Butler’s game. However, nothing moves forward without Joakim Noah stepping up his game immensely. He is having his best season of his career (12.2 PPG/11.3 RPG/4.9 APG, 0 games missed), contributing at a high level all-star pace on defence while the offense is being worked around his high post set up and passing abilities. He’s looking like a one-man Princeton offense in some games. As I wrote in the first edition of #TankCity, I thought the best thing to do after Rose went down was to take a dive, stockpile a lottery pick (hopefully a Dante Exum or Andrew Wiggins type) to go beside Rose when he comes back next season. Instead, they turned their slow start to the season to battling neck-and-neck with Toronto for the 3rd seed in the East.
I’m sure Chicago must cut eyes at Tom Thibideau every time they see him in the hallways, but Coach Thibs, I’m sure, doesn’t give a shit. He wants to win every game he coaches & will push his players to the brink of their abilities. He is a great coach & if Chicago lets him go in the near future, he will be the hottest coach on the market in years. Unfortunately though, much like those Jason movies, we all know how this movie ends. Miami or Indiana will end their season after a long knockdown/drag out series in May. Chicago still go through lulls of scoring droughts that will catch up to them the further into the playoffs they go. As it stands, for Chicago to be flying out of #TankCity post-Rose injury & Deng trade is ridiculous.
You remember that Chris Rock joke from one of his stand up concert specials, where he makes the joke about men who want credit for the things they’re supposed to do? Like, “yeah well, I take care of my kids! Well, you’re supposed to take care of your kids, you low expectation having muthafu**a!!!!”. That’s kind of how I feel about Brooklyn this season. When you’re spending over $80M in luxury taxes, you’re supposed to make the playoffs. Especially when it takes you until March to be over .500. It’s not something to be proud of. Honestly, I don’t even want to mention them really, but I must mention this one point. We’re now in March, & this team still has no real identity. Are they an offensive team? A defensive-mind squad? Do they share the ball? Do they like to play big? Small? Who are their leaders? Isn’t it a little late to be still trying to figure this out? Yet, they’ve beaten Miami three times this season. Go figure.
I’d like to say that they would be dangerous when they get into the playoffs, but unfortunately for them, we can’t set up the playoffs series to a Best-of-1 format like we can in our settings for NBA 2K. It’s a mediocre team, even with all their stars. On another quick note, what exactly happened to Deron Williams? I know he’s been hurt this season, but wasn’t it just 3 years ago him & Chris Paul were the PG standards of the league? Even when he’s healthy, his game never jumped to the next level that Paul’s did. It’s almost at an “he is what he is” point of his career. He’s still an all star caliber PG when he’s healthy, but before you can believe that there was a higher ceiling to reach. However, now you’re starting to realize that there isn’t another flight of stairs to take you there. To think the Nets have to still fork over another $60M over the next 3 years is a pretty sobering thought.
What a strange season this has been for Toronto. Coming into the season, the players were all-in for the playoff push with Rudy Gay being their leader and best player. While GM Masai Ujiri & head honcho of MLSE Tim Lieweke, taking a wait-and-see approach, they were more leaning towards blowing up the roster. After the first month or so when the Raps were struggling and Gay was ignoring stat sheets to not focus on his horrendous shooting numbers, they traded him to Sacramento (which was brought home in that episode of Open Gym). We figured they were headed to the lottery, which would have been clinched once they traded Kyle Lowry. Since that trade with Gay went through, the Raps have gone on a serious run. They share the ball on offense, play stingy defence, gotten solid play from their bench, Demar DeRozan has elevated himself to become an All-Star this season, Terrence Ross has also been able to spread his wings playing more assertive & confident with the extended minutes available to him, & Kyle Lowry has turned himself into the best PG in the East this season…….although it still has a faint odor of a contract year run to me.
Combined all of these factors up, they have a stranglehold on the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. The scary thing about it? I don’t see them relinquishing that spot either. Every team below them is either being decimated with injuries & have already started free-falling (i.e. Atlanta & Washington), have under achieved to being with (i.e. Brooklyn, New York), are too far back to make a run for that seed (i.e. Charlotte), or were over-rated to begin with (i.e. Detroit). For the City of Toronto, making the playoffs is a necessity. They have the most under-rated playoff crowd in the NBA when they’re actually in the playoffs. Basketball fans haven’t had much to celebrate since last making the playoffs in 2008, when the Chris Bosh-led squad fell in five games to Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic.
Still, I believe that deep down inside, Lieweke and Ujiri have to feel a little bittersweet about the whole experience. This team, especially after Gay was traded, was destined for the lottery & to solidify a high level talent from this year’s draft which is the deepest in 11 years. As nice as it is to grab a 3 seed & get an excellent chance of reaching the second round for the first time since 2001, it’s almost built on a mirage. The East has been atrocious this season, & unless they meet the Bulls in Round 1, Toronto will most likely make the second round. There, they’ll either meet Miami or Indiana & will at most win a game in that series. As players, having that playoff experience will be great, but as management, it might have been nicer to build for the long term. You almost have to commit to this roster for the time being, which has some good assets to it, but it’s not what the new management necessarily envisioned in December. I think they would have been happier getting rid of some of the contracts, clearing up cap space, keeping Jonas, DeRozan, Ross, & having marquee draft pick to build around instead of wondering if they need to resign Lowry to a long term deal this summer.
CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO OF #TANKCITY VOL.2
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave