After all the goodwill the Raptors have made on their City with their hard playing, never-say-die attitude for most of the past 12 months, they laid down a lack-of-heart effort during Game 4 vs. Washington. It was to the point where some Wizards players were laughing, taunting, & trolling the Raps both on or off the court. They also let Paul Pierce’s “It” statement seem prophetic, which was only worsened by Paul’s continuous dagger 3s throughout the series. Don’t forget, Bradley Beal not only played some of his best basketball, but he turned Kyle Lowry into the little stepbrother than he hates, cussing him out every chance their parents turned their backs. Getting swept is never good obviously, but going out the way they did is way worse. When Boston and New Orleans got swept, you could tell they gave it everything they had, but they just weren’t as good or talented enough to beat Cleveland and Golden St. respectively. This was bad. A really bad series for the Raptors. It opened your eyes as to who this team really is.
Now, I let a few days breeze by before I offered this response. I know everyone is disgusted with the Raps, from the biggest basketball lover to the most inconsistent casual fan. Believe me, every Raptor fan has that right. Personally, I stopped watching the series with any consistency after halftime of Game 2, where the Wizards were up 11 at halftime. I pretty much knew at that moment, that the Wizards were going to go up 2-0, and unless Toronto did a 180-degree on their performance, they were not going to win four out of the next five games to win the series. In my mind, the series was already decided. I initially picked the Raps to win in seven, mostly because I was hoping that the team that started the season 24-8, would reappear, instead of the team that ended the season 25-25, & has consistently been mediocre since Jan. 1st. Basically, it was the equivalent of thinking with your heart, and not your head…. and I got played. I would like to be like everyone else & start the movement of blowing up the team, but I won’t do that. Honestly, it’s going to be a very interesting off-season for the Raps, but I don’t think blowing it up completely is the way to go. Here are some reasons why:
You can’t blow up a team that won the division handily in back-to-back seasons. Even if the division is as shitty as the Atlantic division is right now. It’s hard to go into rebuilding mode after the team has won 48 & 49 games the past two years. If anything, you retool. After the way the team collapsed in the playoffs, I think you definitely have to explore the option of finding another coach. Dwayne Casey is one of those coaches that you build with when you’re at the bottom, but I’m not 100% sure he can take you over the top. We can look at Scott Brooks as an available candidate, but I always felt he’s in that Casey mold: good, but not great. His players at OKC were unreal & that pushed his career further along than anyone expected. Plus, I can see him in contention for the intriguing Orlando coaching vacancy (OKC familiarity/ties with GM Rob Hennigan + young solid assets). Someone who I would be looking at is Mark Jackson. Jackson of course has history with the organization (albeit a short one) playing for the Raps in the 2000-01 season before he got traded to the New York Knicks. Moreover, Jackson provides that confidence boost in his stars (ie. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson) & adds that overall mental toughness that this team lacked during the last three plus months. Maybe they can throw extra money at him to rest his head, after he spends two weeks in June announcing the NBA Finals, where his former team that just fired him 12 months prior, wins it all right in front of his face…. potentially.
Raps can’t rebuild, not with this #WeTheNorth movement growing faster by the day. It may sound dumb, but man…… there was a lot of time, money, promoting, marketing, and merch spent, sold, and invested on this #WeTheNorth movement thing. You can say, “Who cares?! Scrap the whole thing!” if you want to, but the fact remains, this is the best promotional branding push in the history of this franchise. The #WeTheNorth idea is cool, unique, it reps the city, and allows for the rest of the country to get in on the fun. The younger generation has engulfed themselves in it, to the point of wearing the merch like a flag. It’s one of the best trend-setting things the Raps have done, period. The new path of branding is real, but harder to sell if the team is going back to winning 30 games a season. Now, are some people looking at their #WeTheNorth Tees and fitteds sideways after what they saw these last four games? Certainly, but as long as they continue to play hard, improve, and present a quality product each and every night on the floor, they will still stay with the movement.
Toronto is hosting the All Star Game in less than 10 months. We want the rest of the basketball world to take us seriously, right? Do you really want them looking at a losing, starting-from-the-bottom franchise again, while they are stealing every available groupie walking in the downtown core in February 2016? The moves that have been made (including a new practice facility currently being built) is showing that the franchise are ready to take the steps to change the perception that they aren’t anything but a world class organization, especially regarding future free agents. It’s a process, and it will take time, but showing another era of a rebuild is not the way to go, and they won’t go that route.
With everything being said, “the sweep” did take the shine off this season somewhat, and left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, including Raps management, that’s for sure. However, there were some good things that did happen throughout the season. They officially have an All-star backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, a developing big man in Jonas Valencuinas (who is still waiting to get major minutes), and Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams as a solid scorer off the bench (IF he resigns). They also won a franchise record 49 wins, which was one game better that their record last year (shoulder shrug?). However, they need to get a big man that can score around the basket consistently in a serious way (like a David West type), and some veterans that can make a real impact on and off the floor. As much as not resigning fan favorite Amir Johnson would hurt, Toronto will get over it if it meant challenging for the conference Finals &/or the Finals each season with a tough, scoring big. Easier said than done for sure, but somehow, some way, Raps GM Masai Ujiri has to figure out a way to improve the team. This playoff disappointment put the team at a bit of a crossroads, but it is not dire. One thing we know for sure, they cannot come back with this same roster intact. Not only will Atlanta, Cleveland, and Chicago still be around, Washington will also be there ready to slap the Raps down again. Milwaukee will be improved with Jabari Parker back in the fold and Giannis Antetokounmpo will be another year improved; Indiana will have Paul George at 100% optimal health (and was looking pretty good in limited minutes when he came back); Miami will be rested, healthy, and loaded once they resign Goran Dragic; depending on who the Knicks get in Free Agency + their top lottery pick (ie. Jahlil Okafor possibly), they could get right back into the swing of things. Even young teams like Orlando (with the right coaching hire) and Philly (depending on how you feel about Joel Embiid) could be much improved from this season. The East isn’t good right now, but it will get better as quickly as next year. The Raps management will have to figure out what has to be done, or else the momentum they have built since that Rudy Gay trade will cease, and they go back to fighting the Maple Leafs, FC, and Blue Jays for the crown to be the Kings of Mediocrity all over again.
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
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We here at South Shore Ave are gassing up the DeLorean & taking you back to 1995 where we bore witness to one of the best comedic movies of that era. Twenty years ago this week Ice Cube, DJ Pooh, director F. Gary Gray, and New Line Cinemas released Friday, a movie based on an adventurous day in the lives of two friends. What was expected to be a modest, underground type of movie based on the budget, turned into one of the most popular movies of its generation, and has given Friday a cult-like status that has lasted to this day. We will break down the best secondary characters of the classic flick, the mind of O’Shea Jackson (better known as Ice Cube), and the genius of Chris Tucker. I would love for you to continue reading this. Because it’s Friday. You’re either at work, or you’re on the couch, and you know you ain’t got shit to do…..
The Mind of Ice Cube
Ice Cube is known at this point as one of the most respected individuals in hip hop history. Someone that helped usher the genre to new places, especially when you look at his whole career. However, one of the most underrated aspects of his talents is his mindset. Think about how far Cube has come. From the streets of Compton, he became a skilled songwriter and joined with N.W.A., one of the most feared rap (& music) groups in music history. After writing the lyrics to approximately 1/2 of the group’s “Straight Outta Compton“ classic album as well as Eazy E’s “Eazy-Duz-It“ debut, at the young age of 19, he understood his worth enough to leave the group at the height of their success. Way before hip hop artists (as well as his own group members) understood the importance of publishing, Cube not only took up legal action against NWA’s manager Jerry Heller, but embarked on a solo career that his group members…. well, let’s just say they didn’t think he would succeed without them at the time.
Within three years, Cube went on to become a successful rapper post-N.W.A., by releasing some classic albums such as “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted“, “Death Certificate“, and “Predator” (there’s some good songs off that album, and then there’s, “It Was A Good Day”). He also responded to NWA’s shots with, “No Vaseline“, which became less “diss track” and more a “Hammer on the nail in the coffin” blow, seeing as the group disbanded shortly afterwards. He also put out “It Was A Good Day”, and yes I’m completely aware I mentioned it two sentences ago. It just bears mentioning again. If that wasn’t enough, he created his own record label and produced Yo-Yo’s debut album, “Make Way for the Motherlode“. If THAT wasn’t enough, he played the role of Doughboy in “Boyz In The Hood”, that was as legendary as some of the songs he released. Even though his career was rooted in gangsterism, it was also built off of intelligence & outside-of-the-box thinking, which was different from the average rapper.
Which leads us to Friday. To take this analysis further, sitting down and writing the script (along with DJ Pooh) for this movie further proved that Cube wasn’t afraid to expand himself. This was a movie that shifted away from his persona. It wasn’t violent or aggressive, it was a comedy based in South Central, Los Angeles. Cube wasn’t angry, pissed off, or going against the man, he was just…… a regular, laid back dude. His character (“Craig”) may have owned a gun, but that was a product of living in a rough area, not him being in any gangs or worse. The script was written densely with jokes, it was incredibly casted, the characters were realistically portrayed no matter how crazy they all seemed to be at times, to the point that you almost felt like you knew them (or people like them). More importantly, it didn’t view the hood as a war zone everyone imagined it to be, but a working class neighborhood with everyday people, involved in their daily routines. It’s part of the reason why it resonated so much with my generation, regardless of race or even class. You didn’t have to be from the hood to love and appreciate Friday. Cube was able to pull you into his world regardless of who you were. It was unexpected, but judging from his fearless ability to create, I don’t think we should have been surprised.
The Rise of Chris Tucker
Chris Tucker’s impact from this movie is quite honestly pretty consistent with what my generation was witnessing, if you compare Tucker’s start to what we were seeing in hip hop during that time. Between 1992 – 1996, we were not only listening to some of the next new stars of Hip Hop dropping debut albums, but these new stars helped to forever change the landscape of the genre altogether. Think about some of the groups that came out during this period, I can go on & on about a bunch of artists that came out during this period including some of the acts I’ve previously written about like: Nas, Snoop, A Tribe Called Quest, The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, etc. The one common denominator aside from all of those artists releasing classic albums, or classic debut albums during this time, was that they were all so very young. Now, with Chris Tucker, I wouldn’t say his career turned out as legendary as the other musical acts I just mentioned, but he shared some of the same traits that they did at the beginning of their careers. He was a young (age 23 at the time of film release), but extremely gifted artist, whose talents may have superseded his much older peers in his profession. He was on Def Comedy Jam back in the early nineties, but he landed the perfect role, at the perfect time of his life.
While playing the role forever known as Smokey, he turned that character into a generational icon. Tucker was such a forceful personality, that even with all the talent that was in the movie, his talents still dominated over everyone else. You couldn’t wait for him to come back on screen. The first time I saw this movie in theatres (it was the day after my Grad night with some friends), I never even heard of Tucker. I caught episodes of Def Comedy Jam (via the VHS express from my friend’s sister), but never seen him on any episodes. In Friday, he acted like it was his 100th movie, not his second (he had a role in House Party 3, the one no one watches ever in life). He was a wave of sharp wit, straight up ignorance, quirky, with comical facial expressions and mannerisms, and a high pitched voice that was just hilarious every time he opened his mouth….. and it was all mixed up in a big haze of weed clouds. If you want to compare this role to any of those classic hip hop albums during that time, feel free and go ahead. Smokey is as timeless as Illmatic, Doggystyle, etc. Watch this movie again, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Tucker never ceases to make you laugh even 20 years later, all his jokes still hold up. It’s also part of the reason why legions of fans are still praying for Tucker to come back and do one more Friday. Even if the premise of watching two forty-something year old weed heads running through the hood might not work out so well, the more thought you put into it.
I’ll add two more points here:
1) If you watched this movie & didn’t laugh at Tucker right away, I don’t know how you don’t laugh through the Angel Dust scene. That might be the perfect example of all his talents in that one scene alone.
2) Apparently Chris Rock and Tommy Davidson were also thought of to play the role of Smokey at the time. I love both of those guys, but no one — & I mean NO ONE– could have pulled that role off quite like Tucker.
The Best Friday Characters
While I won’t include Craig and Smokey for obvious reasons (they’re the main players of the movie), you can’t have a team without the supporting role players. While all of them make the movie as cohesive as they do, some are more important than others. So let’s rank the best characters from Friday, down to the #1 spot.
“Can I borrow your VCR right quick?”
For the social media participants, the whole “Bye Felicia” movement is overrated. However, because it seems to have taken on a life of its own on the internet in the past 12 months, I’ll throw her on here as an honorable mention for the sake of the movement. As long as everyone knows that the “Bye Felicia” phrase is actually more memorable than Felicia herself.
Best Friday Role Players
“Ahhhhh! Quit Playing! Quit Playing! Ahhhhh!”
Do you have any little cousins that would get on your nerves? The one that would make you hide your toys and anything you valued if they came over to your house? To me, that’s Lil Chris. Those annoying cousins I had would kick over people’s trash cans too when they was young, just like him. If my parents, Aunts, or Uncles would catch them doing that in the act, they would have whupped their behinds just like Craig & Smokey did to Lil’ Chris. One of the funnier & real moments of the movie.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, he know what I want!”
Very short role for the late Bernie Mac, but very memorable. He plays the pastor who’s willing to preach the good word and/or backslide at a moment’s notice. He goes from trying to share the faith to asking for a hit of some weed to adultery in a span of five minutes. Yup, pretty much on point with a crooked pastor’s portfolio.
“Hi, you guys.”
The girl next door. The dime piece. The one Craig would shut it all down for. In the 90s, Nia Long mastered the short hair look, to the point that she and Halle Berry needed to get that look trademarked and copyrighted. Between her stint on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and this movie, Nia’s probably one of the reasons why I was weak-kneed for any sweet looking sistas with short hair in high school and college that came my way. Not everyone can pull that look off, but the ones that do, it’s a thing of beauty. Outside of that, she doesn’t have any memorable lines or anything, but her beauty speaks volumes.
Joi (Craig’s Girlfriend)
“You ain’t got to lie Craig! You ain’t got to liiiiie!”
Joi is THE definition of a hoodrat chick. Can’t you see her picture in Webster’s or Urban’s dictionary on the phone with her long ass nails, blonde extensions, chewing on some gum all obnoxiously, ripping into her man like he violated her trust even though there’s a man sleeping right behind her? She nailed all the characteristics of a crazy chick. She flies off the handle at the drop of a hat (ie. “Who is that bitch?!?!”), she calls and hangs up the phone for no reason a million times at least; she flips out if her man is in the vicinity of another woman; much less talking to one. She is also one of a few people to have their own theme music in Friday. That should probably count for something.
The Hot older woman. The former “Cougar” of the block that still shows her goodies off even past the age where other women would start covering it up by now. The “Milf” before the term “Milf” was coined, which is ironic seeing that she didn’t have any kids. Basically, she’s bad as mawfu**in’ shit! Some of the best lines of the movie came from her watering her lawn with her daisy dukes on. My favorite part with Mrs. Parker (other than her watering the grass of course) has nothing to do her getting caught with Pastor Clever, and having her husband (played in stark contrast to her physical specifications by Tony Cox) toss out all of her clothes. It has everything to do with the short “Fake B.S. Woman Convo” that women all around the world have with each other from time to time. Ladies, you know…. the one where you talk bad about the woman only to treat her like your sister 5 seconds later? Craig’s Mom (Mrs. Jones) is so disgusted by what Mrs. Parker is wearing, but then hails her up like their best friends. Which then leads to this exchange….
Mrs. Jones: “Hey girl!”
Mrs. Parker: “How you doing?”
Mrs. Jones: “Good, I’m on my way to work.”
Mrs: Parker: “Call when you get home.”
Mrs. Jones: (Long Pause)….. “Oh-kaaaaay.”
You know Mrs. Jones wants absolutely nothing to do with her, but still has to engage in a fake conversation. You just have to love “Fake B.S. Woman Convos”.
Sidenote: Here’s a situation where “Fake B.S. Woman Convos” goes too far. When I was in college years ago, I went to a wedding. I was actually invited by one of the bridesmaids who I was pretty close with at the time. I got seated with about 3-4 of the bride’s girlfriends. Sitting at the table with a bunch of single females at a wedding? That couldn’t be bad for me, right? Well, from the time the appetizers got served until the dancing started, they ripped this poor girl’s wedding apart. They shitted on her dress, the decorations, the layout of the hall, the floral arrangements, the balloons, why the sun was so bright, EVERYTHING. It was astonishing how far they were going in on their friend, considering this was supposed to be one of the most important days of her life. When she was making the rounds and came by the table to see how everyone was doing, of course they told her they were having a great time & that they loved her dress. It’s was like they all had a split personality that each flicked on and off like a light switch at the same damn time. As soon as she left, they went right back to taking shots. Man, if these were the type of friends that were invited to this wedding, I want to see just who the hell wasn’t invited. These ladies had their Fake B.S. Convo fundamental skills down to a science, to the point that I’ll forever believe they could have hosted seminars on the subject. Okay, let’s keep it going…..
“Ah Man, that’s fu**ed up….”
Deebo’s official whipping boy. Can’t catch a break in the movie. One of the most popular scenes is the story Smokey tells Craig when Red gets knocked out by Deebo for wanting to get his bike back. Otherwise known as the “You got knocked the fu** out!” scene. Red’s an understated, but underrated character. Not entirely sure who’s idea it was for him to run back to his car while sobbing with his hands down, but I salute you, because that was comedic genius. Bonus points for giving him a car alarm that he disarms on his jalopy that further adds to the hilarity.
“My neck! My back! My neck and my back!”
Everybody’s favorite crackhead. He steals anything not nailed down, and will do anything for a buck. He’s also annoying as hell and pops up around Craig & especially Smokey at the worst possible times. His funniest moments are a tie between: 1) finding Smokey at the side of his house taking a shit; and 2) him jumping in the alley after Smokey’s car backfires when they’re all leaving the convenient store. There is never a time in life when I don’t laugh out loud at that part.
“It’s the principle of the whole thing. It’s principalities in this.”
Big Worm is a accurate representation of what we would think a dope dealer in Los Angeles would be like. And when I say that, I mean just like any other dope dealer in the world, but with a perm. He sets the tone about how the rest of the day is going to go for Craig and Smokey, considering his monies is being messed with. Outside of Smokey and Red, Big Worm is one of my favorite characters. Even though he is a big time drug dealer and the potential for violence is always looming, he would still get personally insulted and disappointed by Smokey’s empty promises. Factor in the scene where he rolls up in front of Craig’s house in an Ice Cream truck as the Ice cream man, threatens Smokey & Craig’s life (being guilty by association) & yet still manages to give the little kids no treats of any kind (even taking one kid’s change while calling him “Fatboy”). The level of disrespect they show the kids is funny, including Smokey who treats them like annoying props (including a young Meagan Good), but that scene would probably not work so well in today’s climate. In 2015, there would probably be low-level protests & twitter hashtag campaigns against how the kids were being treated (including Lil’ Chris), but twenty years ago, we held our stomachs and laughed our asses off.
“Every tiiime I come in the kitchen, you in the kitchen…. in the goddamn refrigerator, eating all the food. All the chicken, all the pigs feet, all the collard greens, all the hog maws. I wanna eat some chit’lins. I love pig feet!!”
At one point and time, John Witherspoon was considered one of the funniest older black comedic actors. Since his star turn as the nosy neighbor in House Party, and as David Alan Grier’s Dad in Boomerang, the rest of the 90s was set for him to be type-casted as that crazy-ass Pops. Playing the role as Mr. Jones only added to the resume. The ignorant, feisty, set-in-his-ways, yet lovable old man, is something he’s perfected very well. The only difference is that he was able to provide fatherly guidance to Craig from time to time in this movie, as opposed to just being 100% belligerent in all the other roles he plays. From the time he enters the kitchen sucking on his fingers and his teeth; to when he’s chastising Craig for losing his job while he’s taking a shit; to the very end when he’s rooting for Craig to beat up Deebo, his personality carries as presence as large as anyone in Friday with the exception of Smokey. Just seeing his face alone is comic relief enough.
“That’s my bike punk!”
*** Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form do I support bullying. ****
Listen, once you get your own theme music every time you enter a scene, and the theme music is from Jaws, isn’t it automatic that you get the #1 spot? Deebo is the movie’s villian, the ultimate bully. The one person the whole neighborhood is afraid of. He’ll knock you out, your boy, your woman, your mother, your father, your grandparents, basically anyone that doesn’t give him what he wants, when he wants it. He played that role so well, you could almost replace the word “Bully” with the word “Deebo”.
For example, in the NBA, Zach Randolph’s nickname is Z-Bo, because on the court & sometimes off the court (just ask Kendrick Perkins), he’ll bully his opponents. Another example: I have a friend who I won’t mention by name, but let’s just say he has a reputation of causing extensive trauma to bathrooms and toilet bowls. Whenever friends of mine have a get together at their house and there’s food involved, people get nervous because they know their bathroom’s in trouble. It’s something he’s weirdly proud of actually. He almost wears the reputation like a purple heart. For that reason, I call him Shit Deebo because, well, he’s a toilet bully. He may as well ride a BMX to your powder room with a plaid shirt on. You see how this Deebo nickname works? Also, if you’re thinking I made this last segment longer than the others just to share that story & shit-shame my friend subliminally, you are getting to know me very well. But that’s the impact Deebo’s had on the movie. He was the scary guy that had the Jaws theme as his own music, in a classic movie that you could barely stop laughing through. Like most bullies, he also got what was coming to him in the end. For the purposes of this segment, he watches over all at the top spot.
Now the normal way to wrap up a blog like this, is to do a little wrap up on the greatness of Friday, mention all the stars that had a part in the movie (including Meagan Good and the late Michael Clarke Duncan who was shooting dice with Deebo, Smokey & Lil Chris when Red got knocked out), throw in the fact that the movie made about $28M in the box office against a $3.5M budget; that it only took 20 days to make; that it was shot in a Crip-infested gang neighborhood; & that no one on set could wear red if they valued their lives. Then tie everything into a nice bow and end off the post saying, “….. and you know this….. MAN!” Ideally, yes, that would work and normally, I would have done that. However, with all the lines and moments in the movie, let’s wrap things off by running off some of the funniest lines from in the movie. Cool? Ok, it’s over…. Biiiiii**h! #IceCubevoice
“Boy, bring yo ass in here, what chu mean ‘you’ll wait ’till I get out?’ I smelled your shit for 22 years, you can’t smell mine for 5 minutes?”
– Mr. Jones brings Craig into his bathroom confessional.
“I don’t wanna have to fu** you up Smokey. Playing with my money is like playing with my emotions.”
– Big Worm, giving Smokey his 1st warning for the day.
“Her mama got ass too. Just give me 3 1/2 minutes, maybe even 4. She’ll be wanting to marry a ni**er.”
“Who? Her Mama?”
“Yeah. Older the berry, the sweeter the juice.”
“It’s the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”
“Yeah, well… yeah. She blacker than a mawfu**a too.”
– Smoke and Craig’s commentary after Debbie’s morning jog.
“Mrs. Parker finer than a motherfu**er. I’ll knock the dust off that pu***!”
– Smokey, his views on Mrs. Parker while tending to her lawn.
“Don’t nobody go in the bathroom for about 35, 45 minutes. Somebody open a window.”
– Mr. Jones, self explanatory.
“Don’t you ever…. ever….. everevereverevereverever….come back here! Okay?!”
– Smokey, talking to Rita the Janet Jackson impersonator.
“I got mind control over Deebo. He be like, ‘Shut the fu** up,’ I be quiet… but when he leaves, I be talkin’ again.”
– Smokey, venting after a Deebo shakedown attempt.
“You know he gon’ cry in the car.”
– Smokey, after Red’s infamous sob-n-run.
“Excuse me brother. What we call drugs at 74th Street Baptist Church, we call a sinny-sin-sin.”
“Well, around here, between Normandie and Western, we call this here a little twenty-twen-twen (Well)… NI**AH!
– Pastor Clever and Smokey, debating weed and sins.
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
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Before we answer some NBA playoff questions, let’s get to some house duties first. Mainly…
Who is the 2014-15 NBA MVP?
I’m going to rank the candidates:
Anthony Davis: Probably has been my favorite player to watch this season outside of Steph Curry, but he’s missed just enough games (14) and had to leave others due to injuries to offset his production (24.2 PPG / 10.2 RPG /2.9 BPG). He’s been great, and I would have ranked him higher if he missed less games, or had less injuries. He will win the MVP within the next two years. Mark it down as my semi-bold prediction of the week.
LeBron James: His stats are status quo for him (25.3 PPG / 6 RPG / 7.3 ASG) & overall he’s still the best basketball player in the world. If I had to start a franchise right now, I would still choose LeBron. However, I would have to automatically disqualify him once he takes a two-week vacation during the middle of the season. Until the trades the Cavs pulled right before he returned from his “vacay”, he was being passive-aggressive on the floor, and appeared a step slow. Ever since his return, he led Cleveland back to the 2nd spot in the East, they still ended the season 7 games behind Atlanta. I can’t give the MVP to someone who’s that far behind the #1 seed, unless they’re having a truly historic season, and his season doesn’t qualify.
Russell Westbrook: Westbrook is having a historic season (28.1 / 7.3 / 8.6). He’s only the 3rd player to have this many triple doubles (11) in one season. Not even Magic Johnson himself did anything like that. In any other year, he would win the award. However, I’ll take you back to 2006. Remember when Kobe Bryant was dropping 50 point games as easy as it was to breath air? When he would drop 63, in three quarters on the Mavericks; or 81 against the Raptors on his way to averaging 35 points a game??? The Laker squad he had to carry that year to the playoffs consisted of Lamar Odom and a bunch of carcasses. He was clearly the best player in basketball. You know what place he finished in the MVP voting? Fourth. Fourth!!! You can argue that Westbrook is having a season just as impressive, especially when you throw in all the triple doubles…… but you can also argue that Westbrook’s teammates are much better than that Laker team, even with Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka on the shelf. If Kobe couldn’t win MVP for carrying his team to the 8th seed during his historic season, then why should Russ?
James Harden: I won’t go into all the superlatives with Harden (27.4 / 5.7 / 7), we all know what he’s been doing. I was debating with one of my friends about the whole Curry vs. Harden MVP battle, & I was arguing against Harden’s merits. Then he dropped 51/8/7 on the Kings later that night, & I was actually surprised I didn’t get an asshole-ish text immediately afterwards. But I feel like my argument holds up here. The difference between Curry and Harden is minuscule. The only thing that will separate them is the win totals. If you look at it that way, it’s hard to give the MVP to someone who’s 11 games behind his competitor, when both are the main reasons for their team’s success………
Steph Curry: ………… and when you’re throwing up stats that are just as impactful as your MVP competitors (23.8 / 4.7 / 7.7; 286 3’s made, making 44%) and your team has one of the best regular season records in NBA history, how can you not get the nod? Here’s one of my favorite Curry stats this year: Curry’s putting up those statistics over the season while sitting 17 fourth quarters due to blowouts. 17. His team is better than Harden’s, no question. However, he IS the reason why they are as great as they are. Zack Lowe of Grantland, also has a great article mentioning that Curry’s style of play is the reason why teams completely scrap their defenses against the Warriors, because they have to play so much attention to him at all times. I mentioned this earlier in the year as well, there is nothing in the NBA like Curry getting hot. If just lifts his whole team. Couple that jumper with his ball handling & his wizardry creating passes, he’s making a mockery of the defenders guarding him. Drake had it right a year ago, Steph’s been cooking with the sauce. Now, if Harden does win the MVP, I won’t be totally upset, but just understand it may not have been the right choice.
What will Constitute a Successful Season for the Toronto Raptors?
At this stage, if they can get just out of the 1st round, I think Raps nation will accept it. I’m actually disappointed about how the season has turned out for them in this regard. After building momentum from last year’s playoffs, and the first two months of the season where the Raps have the best record in the East, they have been 25-25 since Jan 1st. Now some of it was injuries (especially to their two best players, All Star Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan), but some of it was indifference and questionable coaching. They had a chance to win around 55 games this season (which would have blown away their franchise high) but their play left a lot to be desired. A couple of nights ago, they still had a shot at 50 wins against Boston & squandered that victory at the buzzer. As much as I want to believe the Raps are the team that we saw in November and December, I kinda have to lean towards the mediocre team I’ve been watching the last four months, don’t I? Now they will face the Wizards team, that not a lot of people even believe they’ll get past. Potentially, if they can get to the 2nd round and push Atlanta to 6 or 7 games before losing, I think you should tip your hat off to the Raptors, and you look forward to next season. Anything less than that, I think the Duane Casey coaching seat is going to start getting warmer. Speaking of the Wizards….
Will Deron Williams and Joe Johnson do a basketball version of “Super Ugly” on Paul Pierce’s “Ether” comments?
Well, hopefully they will on the court, because they didn’t really say much off it. The bad part about Pierce’s comments about Williams, is he’s 100% correct. Don’t forget, about 4-5- years ago, Williams was a Top-3 PG at worst, & it was considered a blessing when the Nets traded for him right before he went to Brooklyn. It’s like that Jay-Z line about Nas back in 2001, he went from Top 10 to not mentioned at all. One of my theories in sports is that teams take on the personality of their best player(s) the longer that “elite” player is there. With Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez leading the way, right now this Brooklyn team is as exciting as being served a Wonder bread sandwich with a piece of cheese. Considering who they were competing with to get to the 8th spot — Indiana whose franchise player was on a 15-min restriction limit, and Miami who was a complete M.A.S.H. unit all season long — I guess we’ll have to just dig in. I’m almost positive the Nets have killed about 30% of basketball spirit coach Lionel Hollins had for the game, making him wish he was back in Atlanta guest-analyzing games with Rick Kamla on NBA TV. Now we have to watch this depressing Nets team battle against a 60-win Atlanta squad, that will literally be returning to the scene of the crime — get well soon Thabo — and playing with a chip on their shoulders after losing one of their best defensive players on their team. As basketball fans, let’s pray this series doesn’t go past four games.
Sidenote: I don’t think enough credit goes to how bad Mikhail Prokorov and Billy King put this team together. I’d say King is fully responsible, but the pressure that Prokorov put on his shoulders to build a champion by 2015, forced him to make trades and moves that mortgaged their future until at least 2019. However, because it’s Billy King, I’m almost positive he will bring Brook Lopez back for even more money than ever before. I’m telling you, he overspends other people’s money like few people that I have ever seen.
Who is my Darkhorse team for the playoffs?
Am I allowed to say Atlanta? It may sound stupid to think of a 60-win team as a darkhorse, but I can’t honestly remember the last time a team dominated a conference like they did all season being disregarded quite like this. I think I might be the only person I know that feels that Atlanta has a real shot to make the NBA Finals. I wrote about this in January but Atlanta is anything but a fluke. This team is put together like the Spurs were last season, but the difference is, people keep thinking that the Spurs has three future Hall of Famers (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobbli) on it, which they do. Still, even last year, those guys were not playing at superstar levels individually. It was more based on a collective effort and team play that we as fans haven’t seen in decades. Atlanta plays the exact same way, it has four all stars in their primes (Al Horford, Paul Milsap, Kyle Korver) or just entering it (Jeff Teague), and proved it to everyone this year, just how successful they could be on both ends of the floor.
There are rumors that even that Raptors were angling for that 4th seed so that if they beat Washington in Round 1, they’ll have a better shot of beating Atlanta than they would of Cleveland and Chicago. I can’t say that I blame them because both the Cavs & Bulls beat the Raps like a drum all season, but we’re acting as if Atlanta can’t do the same damage. Everyone is penciling in Cleveland as the Eastern Conference representative, but most of the players on the roster (not including LeBron) as well as their coach David Blatt are playoff rookies who haven’t played in high-pressure situations of these playoff games. They’re supposed to just walk into the Finals unscathed? I still would love a healthy Chicago team to make it out, but outside of Atlanta Hawks fans, I may be the only one that wouldn’t be completely stunned if the Hawks played well into June.
Does it make sense to even discuss the Bucks – Bulls and Celtics – Cavs series?
No. I would have liked to see Giannis Antetokounmpo make some noise in Round 1, but against Chicago & their focus to get to the Finals, he may look mediocre. Outside of the Raps-Wizards series, I’m probably boycotting the rest of the East until Round 2.
Even as a 6th seed, does anyone else feel like San Antonio is a Finals favorite?
Actually, seeing that they’re playing the Clippers in Round 1, let’s ask a better question…..
Will this 1st Round series expose Doc Rivers?
It won’t expose Doc Rivers the coach, but Doc Rivers the GM. I will say this might be the best series of the 1st Round. It could very well be a slugfest. Contract Year DeAndre Jordan** will continue to man the paint as he has all season long; Chris Paul will be Chris Paul; and Blake Griffin should have a better showing than he did two years ago vs. San Antonio. That core, plus J.J. Reddick, Matt Barnes, and Jamal Crawford against the right matchup, is more than enough. Against San Antonio, I don’t feel like this is enough. This team isn’t deep enough, even though Matt Barnes has been playing better of late, they don’t really have a solid Small Forward (please don’t talk to me about Hedo “Ball” Turkoglu), if Blake or Contract Year DeAndre gets in foul trouble, you’re then asking Big Baby and Spencer Hawes to play big minutes. Worse, if CP3 starts running wild, the Spurs can thrown Kawhi Leonard on him to make his life miserable during major moments of games, and then Pops can lean on the ol’ Hack-A-Jordan routine that frazzles Contract Year DeAndre’s brain. It was great getting the homecourt edge and providing Steve Ballmer with extra playoff money to his bank account that I’m sure he doesn’t need, but I think Doc’s next order of business is to hire a solid GM in the offseason to help him make better personnel moves.
**Yes, I’m adding “Contract Year” to DeAndre’s name. Being in your Contract Year as a professional athlete is like Popeye eating his spinach or Mario getting the star in Mario Bros (cot damn did I date myself). It gives you 12 months worth of super powers, unless your name is JR Smith circa Playoffs 2013 or Kevin Love circa All Season 2015.
What are the chances that Dallas can upset Houston in Round 1?
Bigger than one might think. I would give Dallas a 45% chance. You can never underestimate playing against a rival or in-state team in the playoffs. Doesn’t matter where your seeded. It’s always intense and always close. Also, Rick Carlisle has the Rockets forwards Dwight Howard & Josh Smith to routinely put on the foul line for them to brick free throws and ruin continuity. On second thought, Kevin McHale can do the same with Rajon Rondo. I expect this series to be as chippy as the TOR – WAS series, and even more so. It also has the potential to be pretty ugly due to my previous Hack-A-Player statements. I also guarantee out of all the Western Conference series, I’ll be watching this series the least.
Does Portland have a shot vs. The Grizzlies?
Not with all the injuries they’ve sustained in the last two months that will cut into their depth. What’s more important however, will be the impact the results of this series will have on the Free Agency decisions of both LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol. Now, I don’t think either player will leave their current situations, but if either team gets dismissed quickly out of this round, you will start to hear those rumblings that one or the other may leave. In this case, that will be Aldridge, because I can’t imagine Portland getting to a Game 6. If that happens, he’s going to have to look at his team’s landscape (Wesley Matthews is an Unrestricted Free Agent coming off a torn achilles, and Robin Lopez is also a UFA) because it could change pretty drastically this summer.
Will the Warriors and Pelicans series the most excitingly short series of all time?
Lemme say this. I haven’t pitched my loyalty flag to an NBA team in decades. Not since Magic retired from the Lakers. Since then, I threw it up with the mid-90s Warriors until Tim Hardaway tore his knee up, then Chris Webber bolted after his rookie season to the Washington Bullets. Then I jumped on the Raptors bandwagon right during the VC/T-Mac era. I swore up and down during Vince’s 2nd season, we were getting the next Michael Jordan. After T-Mac left, and VC started to shows his um, “tendancies”, and he missed that shot against Philly, then beating me to Meow nightclub hours later, I jumped off the bandwagon so fast, I sprained both my ankles in the process. I fell in love with Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns team, but between management screwing that situation up by being so cheap and not being able to get over the hump of surpassing the Spurs, Mavs, and Lakers, that ride ended for me as well. Since Blake Griffin started playing for the Clippers, I’ve been sitting pretty in the VIP section of the bandwagon…. but the way they play ball now (all the flopping and arguing after every call, plus Blake’s semi-refusal to use his physical gifts to annihilate his competition on a nightly basis) has me eyeing this Warriors squad these last two years. Hard. It didn’t help after watching how the Warriors pretty much manhandled the Clippers this season, with Curry trying to literally embarrass CP3 with every crossover, and shot fake he makes. We know they’re the best team in the NBA this season, but they are by far the most exciting. I don’t care who they play, I’m watching at least a half. If Curry or Thompson starts to heat up, and my phone starts blowing up, I’m pretty much locked in.
Which takes me to this series. Part of the reason why I didn’t want OKC to make it is, outside of Westbrook, no one else can offer any type of resistance against the Warriors. Now, let’s be clear, the Warriors will win this series in about 4 or 5 games…. but with the way Anthony Davis plays basketball right now (especially on defense), I can’t imagine him not winning one game in this series by himself, unless he gets into a deer-in-the-headlights trance that he can’t snap out of. Outside of his offense, he plays basketball with such reckless defensive abandon, that I just can’t see how he stays nervous for an entire series. Even in his young career, he’s already been on some major basketball platforms. He won an NCAA title in his only season, and has been on Team USA for their last two gold medal runs during international competition (even if he’s was sitting the bench during the 2012 Olympics, he was around that pressure firsthand). Also, the way he played against San Antonio on Wednesday night (31/13/3 blocks), carrying the Pelicans to victory in a game that the Spurs absolutely had to have, tells me he won’t back down vs. Golden St., no matter how much better they are than his team. I won’t be missing a game of this series, and trust me, you shouldn’t either.
1st Round results
Golden St. over New Orleans 4-1
Memphis over Portland 4-1
Houston over Dallas 4-3
San Antonio over L.A. Clippers 4-2
Atlanta over Brooklyn 4-0
Toronto over Washington 4-3
Cleveland over Boston 4-1
Chicago over Milwaukee 4-0
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
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Each and every last Friday of each month, we here at South Shore Ave will be releasing #FlashbackFridayVideos, a segment focusing on classic music videos, classic sports games and general signature moments from back in the day…..except this month, there will be two of them. We’ll have quick rundown and explore all the angles that comes to our minds.
In the spirit of this basketball season that we call March Madness; my friend Headley Bent & I take you back to the 1991 Final Four, where one of the biggest upsets by one of the most hated teams happens. We chop it up here….. & yes, we’re still bitter 24 years later.
Cee: Before we jump into this game, let me paint the picture first….
1990, National Championship Game. On one side, you had the Duke Blue Devils, who had a prep-boy/great white hype persona to their team, & was led by its poster boy Christian Laettner, its prized freshman Bobby Hurley, Brian Davis and Alaa Abdelnaby. On the other side, you had the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, who had a swagged out/very athletic/very urban/very black team, & was led by Larry Johnson (complete with gold tooth), Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, and Anderson Hunt. One team looked like they listened to Bryan Adams & wore their sweaters around their waists, while the other team looked like they could have been extras in one of Ice Cube’s videos. Even though I was still a pre-teen, it really didn’t take long for me to see how this game was being perceived. It went past being about the two schools. It was Preppies vs. Hip Hop, Suburbs vs. Inner City, Whites vs. Blacks. Pick a side. Based on their style of play, the fact that they looked like me, & who I wanted to look like (based on their swagger levels), naturally, I chose to ride with UNLV. Long story short, UNLV beat the blue out of the Blue Devils 103-73, & I’m not even sure the game was that close. It was a complete domination which was only enhanced by the fact that you got to watch Laettner sit there with his dumbfounded smug look on his face while UNLV was running a never ending layup line. It remains to be the most lopsided margin of victory for a National Championship game in NCAA history.
Flash forward a year later. UNLV returned their core players, & ran roughshod over the nation. It was almost like watching an NBA team secretly play D-I basketball. Larry Johnson (who won the John Wooden Award and Naismith College Player of the Year in ’91) demoralized everyone in his path like a dark-skinned Charles Barkley. Stacey Augmon was so athletic with his hops and length (he was called “Plastic Man” after all) he border-lined abused his opponents defensively and in the open court. Greg Anthony & Anderson Hunt, not only provided the team with steadiness, the team fed off their leadership and swagger. The team went 27-0 during the season, averaging a 27 point scoring margin per game. Read that again. It remains to this day, one of the greatest NCAA teams I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Predictably, the March Madness tourney came along and they ran through everyone on their way to the Final Four. Waiting for them in the Semi’s? Duke, a team they just finished molly-whopping 12 months prior, where both Hunt and Anthony treated Hurley like he was Superhead. These f***in’ Devil bastards wanna do this again? Bring that shit on!!
At the time, I would have bet my Nintendo, and my Double Dribble game, that another blowout was coming. It’s still hard for me to believe what transpired after that ball was tipped.
Headley: Where do I start? Duke vs. UNLV was almost like a race war. Or at the very least, similar to an episode of Games of Thrones, where the Houses of Lannister and Stark were at battle. They just didn’t mix. Let’s be real folks, if a brother back then said they favored Duke over UNLV, you were putting your jacket over the seat next to you in the cafeteria when you saw him exit the lunch line. The Running Rebels were the first team I actually had a hard-on for that wasn’t my home team. I was naturally a Montreal Canadians and Montreal Expos fan because that represented home. I don’t even know back then if I knew where Nevada was, let alone what the acronym meant. On my measly paper route job that I had, I scavenged up enough money to buy a UNLV hat, long sleeved Tee, and my prize possession… a UNLV letterman jacket!! Putting on that letterman jacket was my official flag. I didn’t even rock Expos & Habs gear like this. They were a team you were forced to notice even if you didn’t like them. And let’s be honest, I liked their deceitfulness even though it was only basketball.
Duke was the polar opposite. They were my generation of Hoosiers. Straight-laced. Played basketball “the right way”, textbook like… just straight proper. One of my best friends Adam (whom I’ve known since we were 6yrs old, and with whom I still communicate with weekly) was the team captain of our high school b-ball team, was voted “most likable” by my senior class year, and could have starred in Saved by The Bell. Well, he was a Duke fan, and it just made sense. So when UNLV big-boy’d them in the Championship Finals the year before, it almost felt like Reparations. And it’s not like they didn’t have brothers on the team either. I mean there was no argument that after Laettner & Hurley, their core guys were black and ran from 3 – 6….. but they also looked like they wore their polo sweaters around their shoulders. To this day, I don’t think I’ve seem a Duke player with a tatted sleeve. I remember being so surprised when Jay Williams signed to Duke. A “one-and-done” type of player going to Duke?!?!? It seemed anti-Blue Devil. Then came along Loul Deng, Kyrie Irving, Jabari Parker, and now Jahlil Okafor in recent years, who have seemed to officially joined the pack. They even had their first release for disciplinary reason this season with the sex scandal respecting Rasheed Sulaimon. Now let be clear: Sex Scandal has nothing to do with race, in case of the event that some wacko reads this & tries to relate the two. Just saying, Duke basketball is not expunged from college controversy like they had been in the past years it seems.
Duke in years past, had always symbolized the Spurs with their play and conduct: professional, somewhat boring, nothing flashy, and always productive. So when UNLV, (the “Fab Five before the Fab Five”) came with their somewhat destructive/bravado/cocky but always productive style, an exact counterpart was formed. It made the perfect Ying vs. Yang, Day vs. Night, Fast vs. Slow parity. And I was eating it all up.
FYI: For the record, I grew up more Antonio Lang than Stacey Augmon. For those who get it, get it, those that don’t… forget it.
Cee: Let me be the first person to raise my hand for the “I don’t get it” group. Matter of fact, I want to be the leader of this movement, similar to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. I want to walk the streets and lead protests & rail against anyone who chooses to be an Antonio Lang fan over Stacey Augmon. Once I’m too old and weary to carry the fight on, I’ll pass the mantle along to my kids & they can lead the next generation. If you said you chose Grant Hill over Stacey Augmon even during this time, I can be okay with that. I’d more than understand. But Antonio Lang?? He was a decent/good role player, got some nice putback dunks, some blocks, but outside of that, he’s kind of forgettable. What the hell did Antonio do that would even warrant this kind of favoring over Augmon? Is he your cousin? You swear you weren’t secretly a fan of Duke?
There’s only a handful of Duke players that I was a fan of in all my years of watching basketball. I loved Elton Brand. I was also a fan of Carlos Boozer, and him somehow falling to the 2nd Round of the 2002 NBA Draft is still a travesty. Out of the one-and-done Dookies, I think Jahlil Okafor might be my favorite right now. Jay Williams made me not miss Duke games when they were on TV (even though I loathed Duke), especially from his sophomore season on. He remains one of the best Duke players I ever saw that I liked. The other one is Grant Hill. Before all the ankle injuries that came after he left Detroit, Hill was one of my favorite players in 90’s. Hill’s all-around game & smooth style was to be awed. I didn’t fully appreciate him until his senior at Duke to be honest. So around this time, my pre-teen self was hating on Grant strictly because he wore Blue and White. But looking back at that game now, even as a Freshman, you can see the talent. He may have been trying to figure it all out still, but you can already see the world-class athleticism, the attacking, slashing (and smooth) skillset on display. He took it to UNLV right away. Duke didn’t have anyone like that the year before to throw at the Rebels, and that was a big difference. Unlike 1990, they weren’t backing down this time. Especially Christian.
I’ll say this about Christian: I may have hated him as much or more than Remy in Higher Learning, but I respected his talents……now. A 6’11 big man that could take you off the dribble with each hand, can shoot out to the 3-pt line, can bang in the post, and rebound, and he exhibited all of those talents in this game. He was so tough to guard and deal with, period. If he went to Syracuse, North Carolina, UCLA, or any other school outside of Duke, he probably may not have been hated on so much.
Man…… who am I kidding? F*** Laettner.
Headley: You don’t get it. I grew up not a Lang fan but with a Lang upbringing. Meaning I had grass on my front lawn. You’d think because of that I’d be more a Duke fan, but hell naw! It was all about the UNLV swag. But to be honest, Lang had one of the more memorable dunks I can remember in that era. Do you remember Acie Earl?!?! Iowa big man that was a 1st round draft pick by the Celtics? Actually ended his NBA career (albeit short one) on the Raptors bench. Well in college he was the block party. Earl was swatting basketballs like they were mosquitoes. So when Lang was leading a break and cut for a driving lane, I naturally thought he was going to try to lay it off glass, and out of nowhere he rose like the falcon and banged all over Acie Earl!! Does a tree make noise if no one is around? Well that was me in my parent’s basement going ballistic. I can’t find any clips of that play but it had to be the single-most impressive play I ever saw him do. Now, this is about 10 lines more than I thought I’d ever write about Lang. Back to the topic at hand.
The Kentucky Wildcats are trying to do what the Running Rebels didn’t do in 1991, and that’s go undefeated for an entire season in Division-1 basketball. I don’t think people realize how difficult a task this is and how wonderful you need to play to get this done. A staggering stat is that UNLV’s average age was 22.5 years, which would be ancient in college now… which makes it even more impressive that the young Wildcats are on the cusp of going undefeated. But like the Running Rebels were a shoe-in to repeat, it takes only 40 minutes for that to be dashed away in a one-game elimination format which makes it so entertaining. A friend told me Vegas pulled in their highest winnings in the first weekend of March Madness this year. Only the New York Giants’ improbable Super Bowl win against the undefeated New England Patriots back in 2008, was a bigger heist. As the saying goes, “the game isn’t played on paper”. Duke had other plans, and it started unfortunately with Christian Laettner.
It was easy to hate on him, and I did. Clearly I wasn’t alone going with ESPN’s latest 30 in 30 installment which was cheeky entitled, “I Hate Christian Laettner”. He was naturally gifted and never looked like his hair came out of place. Although Shaq would later become a top five all-time NBA scorer, and the no. 1 pick of the NBA draft in front of Laettner, you couldn’t argue his selection to the original Dream Team of the 1992 Summer Olympics. In my opinion, he probably had the most impressive D-1 college basketball careers of all-time. Especially in an era where top players leave early to the pros, it’s a lock that he’ll keep that title. Shocking, his 13-year NBA career resulted in only one single All-Star appearance. Did you know Laettner grew up in Buffalo, New York, and his mother is born in Toronto?!?!? This dude could have played for the Canadian teams during Summer Olympics! I guess the Dream Team does have more caveat. Lol. To this day, he holds The Christian Laettner Basketball Academy in Muskoka, Ontario annually. Maybe I shouldn’t hate on him so much anymore. However of all the Duke players, Grant Hill by far had the most successful NBA career (and he won off the court with Canadian girl Tamia) of either team. That’s a tall tale considering his career (3rd overall in ’94) ran short and seeing the other high profile players in the game like Johnson (1st overall in ’91), Laettner (3rd, ’92), Hurley (7th, ’93), Augmon (9th, ’91) and Anthony (12th, ’91). That’s incredible! Laettner and Hurley were the first pair of consensus All Americans to play on the same team since Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins. Over half of the starting lineups of either side would end up being lottery picks. What a preview. And it was the least acclaimed NBA Analyst Greg Anthony who was the key to UNLV losing this match. When he fouled out with four minutes left, the curtains were closing on UNLV.
Cee: It’s funny you brought up the Giants shocking the Patriots, because that game, as well as this one, was one of the few times in life when I thought that the favorites were still going to win the game, no matter how close it looked. It shocked me back then just how close that game was, even in the second half. Johnson and Augmon weren’t having their greatest games at that point, but Anthony was still controlling things in the 2nd half (even dropping an And-1 on Hurley & stared him down while Hurley was still on his ass at the 49:30 min mark). Even at that point, you just knew UNLV will still take it. However, here’s the under-rated secret about that Rebel team: they weren’t that deep. Losing someone like Anthony at that point of the game was huge. Hunt could take over the PG duties if he had to, but it took away from his abilities to be unleashed as a scorer, & now he had the added responsibility of running the offense. If it happened at any point of time in the season, you could deal with it. But with the pressure of this game building, this damn Duke team going shot for shot with them, & trying to be the first team to repeat as champs since the UCLA teams of the 70s, you want all your weapons at your disposal at that moment.
Having that full arsenal is what got you there in the first place. Maybe you can win a close game with one of your core players still sitting on the bench, but with everything on the line, you don’t really want to find out that answer if you had to. With less than a minute to go, game tied at 77-77, and Duke milking it down on the last possession, was the official moment when I got that “pit in the bottom of my stomach” feeling. Once Laettner got fouled & was heading to the line, that feeling became way, way worse. Watching that “I’m better than you, & I’m going to shatter your dreams everybody” look on his face (you know, the same look he has in those crappy AT&T commercials he’s in with Shaq, Clyde Drexler and Dr. J, that won’t stop airing these days) while he walked to the line, was disheartening because above all else…… you knew he was making both.
Headley: I have to digress a bit and mention that guys like Johnson and Hurley’s careers were derailed by injuries too. Who knows what their professional careers would have looked like. Hurley was involved in a major car accident his rookie season, and never fully recovered. And as great an athlete Grandmama was, he’s known as much or more for his improbable four point play against the Indiana Pacers, in the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, than a bruising frontcourt player that would yoke all over your chin. And that’s a shame. A two-time all-star, by the time he left the Charlotte Hornets, was a shell of his old self because of deliberating back problems. Who knows what Johnson and Alonzo Mourning could have been if they stayed together. That frontcourt should have been as great as any. I just had to mention those two key factors, seeing it wasn’t only Hill that lost years to injury at the next level.
As for the game, to say Augmon wasn’t having his best game is an understatement. He was Mr. Butterfingers. I don’t know how many turnovers he committed, but he mangled so many nice passes and assists that I swear I was watching a skinnier version of Kendrick Perkins’ sorry ass in that game.
It was hard to believe the game was even close with how Johnson was gathering up rebounds like he was picking grapes. They must have ruled the 2nd chance points in the first half. It was like a prize fighter giving it all they got in the early rounds. Duke played it like a cagey boxer, just picking its moments and using the ring. It was a brilliant but gutsy move with Duke not covering center George Eckles early on. He was an All-American honorable mention and they treated him like Ben Wallace on offence. Duke basically played five-on-four on defense daring Eckles to shoot, but it more than worked out for them.
To me, Duke did enough trickery to keep the game close and when it came to crunch time, UNLV weren’t use to playing these crucial kinds of minutes in a close game. Not only did they have the pressure to repeat, but also no team had gone undefeated since the ’76 Indiana Hoosiers. More than anything else, the poise of Duke took over. What’s even crazier is that their average age was 19.5yrs?!?! But with the steadiness of Anthony out of the game to monitor the tempo for UNLV, it became too much. It hurt my heart and crushed my spirit that the Blue Devils were the ones that deserved to win this game.
Cee: I think more than anything, the last possession of UNLV spoke volumes about how much they missed Anthony. They couldn’t even get a good shot off, & looked mired in confusion. After the whole season of success, it was weird watching how the story ended for UNLV. As the saying goes, everything ends badly, otherwise it would never end….and watching Duke beat Kansas two days later in a championship game that no one remembers (outside of Hill’s alley-oop) was as bad as it got. It set off a mini-dynasty that ended off with Duke repeating as champions in ’92, by beating the Fab Five (my other favorite college team). It capped off a four year run for Duke where they played in four straight final fours & anointed Laettner as one of the greatest college players of all time. It still annoys me to this day………. yeah….I’m done here…..
*** pushed out chair from laptop and storms off. ***
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
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