Tag Archives: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee – The NBA Contender Landscape

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 2: The NBA Contender Landscape.

This is the second official podcast launched from South Shore Ave Radio, which focuses on sports, music, some pop culture, and everything else in between. In other words, this is an extension of the blog that I have been running for the past three years. There will be more projects in the future, so definitely stay tuned for those, as well as the regular blog articles & postings.

For Episode 2, we welcome our guest Jan-Michael Nation (Ryerson Ram alumnist) to The Ave as we break down the last Warriors/Spurs matchup, if Golden St. should really push for 73 wins, if the Toronto Raptors have enough to be considered a serious threat to Cleveland, and discuss the hottest ladies from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Plus, I share my condolences to ATCQ’s Phife Dawg. #RIPPhifeDawg #ATCQForever

As always, thanks for tuning in. For you newcomers, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below.

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 2


Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to The Baseline Blog, click onto the Follow button or by entering your email address. Very special thanks to Jan-Michael Nation for his guest appearance on this podcast.

South Shore Ave’s NBA Season Preview: The West

Welcome to South Shore Ave’s NBA Season Preview. Today on Part 1 we are going to tackle the Western Conference, while tomorrow we’ll discuss the Eastern Conference. Simple enough right? Well, let’s get  into it then…

Can The Spurs 3-Peat this season?

I know, I know, they didn’t repeat last year, but if not for Ray Allen at the end of Game 6 in 2013, you wouldn’t have been looking at this question like it had a typo in it. Honestly though, we should be talking about a 3-Peat scenario & not a repeat one. This has been the best team in the NBA the last two years regardless of Miami basically stealing a title from them two seasons ago, & nothing has changed now. The Spurs came into the season with the best chance to repeat in comparison to the other four titles. In Gregg Popovich, they have the best culture in the NBA (& possibly team sports in North America) that gets the very best out of its young players & veterans. Like Manu Ginobli & Tony Parker before him, I expect Kawhi Leonard to officially take the mantle as the best player on the Spurs. After the performance he put on during the last three Finals games last season which ended with him being one of the youngest players in NBA history to win Finals MVP, you can say he’s ready. Let’s hope he can bring it on a consistent basis every night, because if he does, it’ll be even harder to bring the Spurs down. Add rookie Kyle Anderson to the mix with his skill level & IQ (as well as his young legs), I can see the Spurs winning yet another 60+ games in the regular season. It almost isn’t fair.

As far as Tim Duncan is concerned, I can actually see him playing for two more seasons. The fire that he played with in the playoffs the last two years is one reason, but here’s another. He has never won back-to-back titles in his career. I mean, who’s he to complain? He’s got 5! Between 2003 – 2007 he won 3 of those titles, but Derek Fisher’s “0.4 jumper” in the 2nd round of the 2004 playoffs & Dirk Nowitzi’s “And-1” in the same round two years later, halted a legitimate chance for him & the Spurs to 3-peat. It would be sweet to close the chapter on his career with a chance to repeat or possibly 3-peat by 2016; and the way the team is set up barring injuries, he has a real chance. We haven’t seen the last of Duncan yet.

“Pass It to Russ”

No one loves that classic episode of Will Smith leading Bel Air Prep to glory more than me, especially when the coach keeps telling the players, “Pass it to Smith. You know what to do” & doling out laps & push ups to any of his players questioning his method of said success. I can’t even say that this offense without Kevin Durant is going to be in the same scenario with Russell Westbrook, because who’s going to pass the ball to Westbrook when he’s the point guard handling the ball 80% of the time anyway??? He’ll only be passing to the basket. Potentially, Westbrook could be the first 6’3″ & under guard to lead the league in field goal attempts since Allen Iverson. My only question is at what point in the season will Serge Ibaka pull a Carlton & literally rip the ball out of Westbrook’s hands to get off his own shot? Nov 8th? 15th?

Seriously though, without Durant, it’s gonna be some bumpy times on Oklahoma City trusting Westbrook to make others better until KD gets back. I still expect them to get around the neighborhood of 55 wins but in the West, that could result in a 4th or 5th seed. I’m actually on the side that they will not win a title before Durant becomes a free agent for two reasons:

  1. The Thunder has not done a good enough job developing the young talent surrounding Durant & Westbrook since they traded James Harden. The pieces that they have picked up in Perry Jones III & Jeremy Lamb haven’t done anything up to par. Yeah, they might be young, but watching them in the pre-season thus far, it still looks like not much has changed. On the flip side, Steven Adams needs to start immediately. Kendrick Perkins got brought in for his veteran presence & championship know-how at a time that OKC needed it, but that was almost 4 years ago. That KD/Russ/Ibaka core are becoming vets now, it’s not as needed. He can still provide guidance without, you know, actually being on the floor. Outside of his size, he’s starting to hold the team back. Give him 10-15 mins/night, let him use his 6 fouls, and teach Adams how to be more asshole-y in practice. Enough already!
  1. The Thunder can’t win a title with Scott Brooks coaching any more. I don’t think he sucks, in fact, I feel he is a good coach. But my complaint with the Thunder is that against the elite teams, they work too hard to score baskets. It gets masked a lot of times by Durant’s scoring talents but they do most of their damage on the perimeter. They don’t have plays to get them easier baskets or have anyone with a post up game that can either collapse the paint (by drawing double teams or getting fouled) or get an easy basket. The playoffs is all about controlling the paint on both sides of the ball. Because of Ibaka, they do a wonderful job of doing that on the defensive end, but on offense at the end of games, it always bogs down to tough 20-footers. That can work against Sacramento in February, but that’s a small margin for error to work with in June. Three years after losing to the Heat in the Finals, Scott Brooks still hasn’t quite worked that out yet. I’d keep someone like George Karl on speed dial if Brooks can’t get over that hump. Too much at stake with Durant being a UFA in 2016, you can’t keep waiting for him to figure that out past this season.

Are James Harden & Dwight Howard the new Stockton and Malone?

If that means that they are destined to be ringless, then yes. I’m sorry, I will never be sold on this duo contending for titles as long as they don’t have a proper point guard that gets them into their sweet spots to take advantage of teams. I’ve said this before about Dwight, offensively he is what he is at this point. He’s a physical specimen, an athletic freak, someone who’s built to dominate on defense, but also one who’s game isn’t built to dominate the paint offensively. He’s strong as hell, can & will bully other bigs at times, but he doesn’t have that extra gear to go nuts scoring-wise like LaMarcus Aldridge did to his team last spring, dropping 40 pts at will. He doesn’t have that kind of feel or scoring touch, & he’s now in Year 12. That ship has sailed.

As far as Harden goes, he is one of the best one-on-one players in the NBA, & he’s young enough where he can still make his teammates better, but there’s something about when a player gets the green light to score or to shoot three’s, they just follow the glow of the basket. No different than a Moth to a porch light. You start leaving things behind (like defense). For example, I used to love Dan Marjele back in the day, tough two-guard with an all around game. Once he started getting the knack for shooting threes, the three point line might as well have became a cliff because he rarely went past it. Even when Tracy McGrady was with the Raptors, he was becoming a really good all-around player who took pride in locking dudes up on defense. Once he left the T-dot & started winning scoring titles, the defensive intensity dropped considerably. A similar thing has happened to Harden, where he was actually one of the better defenders in OKC, & now in Houston he plays defense like he’s intentionally point shaving. Apparently, he played better on defense in the World Championships this summer so let’s see if it translates over now. Something tells me he’s going to need Rosetta Stone to re-learn this concept.

As far as the offseason moves, I know having three superstars to play on a team is supposed to give you a better chance to win. I agree…..but it has to be the right three superstars/stars, it can’t just be any collection. Chasing down Carmelo Anthony was a foolish move because he doesn’t share the ball, it’ll be three players jacking shots & mostly likely Dwight Howard would be the one bitching & complaining because he’s getting the least out of the pie. As my friend Luugi would say, it’s a trainwreck waiting to happen. The big move that makes the most sense is acquiring Rajon Rondo. He’s a star guard who plays on both ends of the ball, has championship pedigree, & unlike most stars, he lives to make others better with his passing. Someone will have to sacrifice or be  the one to share the basketball. If he ends up on the Rockets somehow, then they’ll truly be a threat to win it all. Until then, they’ll have to keep playing the field.

Did Steve Ballmer overpay to purchase the Clippers?

I will say yes and no. Yes, obviously because paying TWO BILLION dollars in a league where maybe one team was worth $1B is ridiculous. But then you start to think of all the opportunities you get when you wipe the slate clean from the Donald T. Sterling era if you’re Ballmer. You can come in on a horse like a hero and provide stability to a franchise that never had it before. You have Doc Rivers here for the next 5+ years on the bench and running your front office. You have exciting assets in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin that are not only among the best players in the league, but also among the most marketable, especially Griffin who’s on TV way more these days than any player with maybe the exception of LeBron James. The Clippers lost some sponsors during the Sterling/V.Stiviano fiasco, not only will you get those ones back, but with the new energy that’s provided, you’ll get even more sponsors. I’m not just talking locally, but nationally & possibly globally. With the new TV Deal the NBA signed with Turner Sports & ESPN/ABC, which almost tripled the current deal, you just guaranteed a rapid increase in profits, while your team hasn’t even played a real NBA game yet.

Looking at the decline of the Lakers with management that’s losing credibility points with every major free agent that shoots them down; Kobe Bryant on his last legs & no one in sight to take the mantle of being the next great Laker; the Clippers can make a real dent as the kings of L.A. sports scene for the foreseeable future. It’ll never truly be a Clippers town just like New York can never truly be a Mets town as long as the Yankees reside in the Bronx. But in the 2nd largest TV market in America, making a dent in popularity here holds real value and weight. Now, say you continue to make deep playoff runs (which the team is currently built to do for the short and long term) that ends in the conference finals, or better yet a championship or two, & you look over at the Lakers situation which is floundering in comparison to yours but have their own lucrative local TV deal…..well……. then why can’t you get your own television network? There’s a reason why there was a crazy bidding war for this franchise, because the wealth groups & bidders like Ballmer see the same things I just laid out for you, plus other scenarios down the line that we don’t even see coming. So for now, yes, Ballmer did overpay, but considering what the possibilities are, the franchise will be worth that $2B price tag much sooner than you & I think.

As far as basketball side of things, the Clippers will be the Western Conference’s best answer this season to stop the Spurs from getting back to the Finals for a third straight season. I don’t think it will happen, as long as the Spurs stay healthy. If not, the Clippers will head to their first NBA Finals ever with great chance to win it, whoever they meet on the other side of the bracket.

Biggest Sleeper

Hard to predict any of the playoff teams creeping up on anyone, as all of them are determined to beat their brains in every night, so I’ll pick a non-playoff team…..and it’s not Phoenix. I can see the Denver Nuggets flirting with 50 wins this season & fighting for that 8th seed all season long. This team was deep last year, but also unhealthy. Getting back Danilo Gallinari to fill that SF spot is beyond huge. They basically stole Aaron Afflalo from the Orlando Magic. Getting back Nate Robinson & JaVale McGee from their injuries, & having Kenneth Faried fresh off his impact he had on Team USA during the World Championships this summer (& his freshly-minted 4 year/$50M deal), don’t be surprised if by January you see all the “Nuggets on the Rise!” & “Where did this team come from?!?!” stories popping out from everywhere.

Regular Season Power Rankings

1. San Antonio – Best team in the NBA, signed all their free agents back, & is working on Kawhi Leonard’s extension. Best chance to repeat out of all their title defenses.

2. L.A Clippers – It feels like it was so long ago that V. Stiviano was a part of our lives, huh?

3. Oklahoma City – “That’ll be 20 laps chowderhead! Pass it to Will Russ!”

4. Portland – I feel a monster season from Damian Lillard coming. And a mixtape.

5. Dallas – Quietly had a solid off-season. Getting back Tyson Chandler & grabbing Chandler Parsons and Jameer Nelson from free agency.

6. Golden St. – If Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green can step their games up this offseason, this team will be really dangerous.

7. Houston – Will feel the loss of “that role player” Parsons more than they think. When I say “they”, I meant James Harden & Dwight Howard. Smh.

8. Memphis – Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I like the signing of Vincent Lamar Carter to the team. Gonna go take a shower now, I felt really dirty typing that.

9. Denver – Will be the best non-playoff team in the NBA this season. Will probably win 50 games too.

10. Phoenix – Like that they resigned Eric Bledsoe. Don’t understand why they have four PGs on the roster (Blesdoe, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas & Tyler Ennis). I smell a trade package coming.

11. New Orleans – The Unibrow will take one step further to superstardom. It won’t mean anything in the West, but still.

12. Sacramento – DeMarcus Cousins wanted to limit his technicals this season. He has 4 techs in the preseason so far. Sigh. Another long season coming.

13. L.A. Lakers – Remember when Kobe carried that shitty Laker team in 2006 & 2007 to playoff seeds? Well that Kobe was in his prime & he had Phil Jackson on the bench. Old Kobe & Byron Scott? 30 wins max.

14. Minnesota – Potentially the most exciting team in the NBA. Will lose plenty. Also, I predict Andrew Wiggins & Zach LaVine will combine to own the dunk contest this year like VC & TMac did in 2000. Without the earth-shattering impact of course.

15. Utah – The Western Conference version of a dumpster fire.



Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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South Shore Ave’s NBA Playoff Preview: The West

Welcome to South Shore Ave’s NBA Playoff Preview #SaturdayMorningSpecial. With the help of my friend Headley Bent, we’ll provide you with a quick and efficient breakdown of the Western Conference Playoffs to get your morning started before we get to the first set of today’s playoff games. So get your popcorn coffee ready, we got you covered….

What player can make himself a star in the Western Conference Playoffs?

Cee: Damian Lillard. Especially in the 1st round vs. Houston. He’ll have a pest guarding him in Patrick Beverley that will do everything in his power to get under his skin, but Lillard is not only a great talent, but he has that icy calm demeanor that’s almost built for the playoffs. I can see him exploding on the Rockets (no pun intended) for some big numbers this series (prediction: 25/5/6; 45% FG/88%FT/43% 3FG, at least 5-7 backbreaking 3s). This will be Lillard’s official coming out party, he’s a beast ready to be unleashed from the cage, & the Beverley/Lin combo won’t be able to match.

Does part of me want to see the Rockets lose in the 1st round just to see the possible train wreck capabilities? Sure. But the reason I think Portland will beat Houston in this round is because I think you can score points on Houston. A lot! Especially in the last half of the season. Plus Houston depends on too many 3s which I think could bite them in the ass against Portland if they are not shooting well. More than James Harden, this series depends on how well Dwight Howard controls the paint on both ends of the floor. If he flashes that 2009 D12 version who put Orlando on his back all the way to the Finals, then my prediction will be wrong. But I think that version of him is diminished now. This version I can see getting frustrated with Robin Lopez on offense, being annoyed that he’s not getting enough touches to match what LaMarcus Aldridge is doing to his team. I’m calling the Blazers in 6 with numerous Lillard stories popping out the woodwork.

Headley: To be a star, you need to play a couple rounds at least. So that automatically drops Golden St., Memphis, and Dallas. But I will say this, with Memphis getting the #7 seed, let’s just say I’ll be watching that series against OKC closely. It hurts because Steph Curry could be that guy if his team went deep. San Antonio and OKC have their megastars solidified and have been to the finals, so to me, that leaves LAC, Houston, or Portland to have somebody step out of the shadows. LAC and Houston have “programmed stars” so a run won’t develop a star. That to me leaves Portland. And I do like them edging out Houston, so I think it’s time for LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard to up the ante. Both are All-Stars with no post season glamour. It would be fitting for Lillard after his first All-Star (doing all five events during All Star Weekend) and him freshly inking a $100M Adidas contract to go H.A.M. What’s Weber State school colors again? I’m rooting for him, especially since Aldridge, just a year ago, was leaking stories he wanted out… and he did want out.

Who is the Darkhorse Favorite?

Cee: I would have said Golden State if Andrew Bogut didn’t get sidelined with fractured ribs. Now the Clippers will abuse the paint in what will still be an incredible series. However, after seeing what we saw in last year’s playoffs, I won’t count out another Steph Curry shooting rampage from occurring. Curry much like LeBron & Durant, has the ability to carry you for an entire series if possible, but we’ll rule them out as I think the Clippers are too deep for them, & will have no answer whatsoever for Chris Paul, & especially Blake Griffin.

You know what? I’m gonna say the Clippers. I don’t care if they are the 3rd seed, considering the only time they made the NBA Finals was when I used them in season mode on NBA 2K12, they get the nod here. Right now as it stands, Oklahoma City has had their number the last few years whenever they’ve been fully healthy; and San Antonio is, well, San Antonio. They love to take away what you do best during the playoffs, be it pick-and-rolls, duck-ins, drives and kicks, etc. However, for the Clippers to get to the Finals, Griffin has to continue to be dominant and if possible, take his game to a higher level and attack the Spurs’ bigs relentlessly. In fact, both he and DeAndre Jordan (only the 3rd player in NBA history to lead the league in Rebounds and Field Goal percentage) have to own the paint these playoffs, it doesn’t matter how great Chris Paul plays. Their playoff success depends on those two guys. We’ll see if they learned anything from the beat down they took from Gasol & Z-Bo in last year’s playoffs vs. Memphis.

Headley: Isn’t the LA Clippers as a #3 seed a darkhorse? If not… I like Portland to cause noise because if they sneak by Houston, their legs will be hard for San Antonio to handle. I’m not ready to count the Spurs out (they’re too resilient),  but I really think the Portland matchup against Houston is harder than the Spurs matchup. So there. I said it…kinda…sorta….

Between Houston, Golden State and Los Angeles Clippers, Who Would be Devastated the Most by a 1st Round Upset?

Cee: I think the Clippers would be hurt the most by this. The Clippers owner Donald Sterling, as we all know, has been notoriously cheap with his money when it comes to spending on talent (among other things). In the past few years, due to the additions of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, he has opened his wallet up. This past offseason, they added to their bench, signed J.J. Reddick, & most importantly, gave free reign and power to Doc Rivers, and the head coach and VP of basketball operations. The last thing they want to do is follow up last season’s 1st round flameout (with 55 wins in the regular season) with the most wins in franchise history (57) and another first round flameout. It’s not going to mash the team up this offseason or anything to that affect, but with the Lakers down right now, this is the perfect time to go on a lengthy playoff run & really solidify themselves with the city of Los Angeles. If they go down in the 1st round yet again & the Lakers happen to reload this offseason, they would have wasted yet another opportunity and they’ll continue to be the little brothers of Staples Center and the City until they get over the hump.

Headley: Let’s drop Golden St. out of this competition because they are going to lose. And as sixth seed… you can’t be that devastated can you?!??! Yes they had higher hopes when the season began but between the assistant coach carousal and injuries, it is what it is. I don’t see the G-State bringing out the towels. It has to be between the two teams with home court advantage. I see the Clippers learning from their early exit from Memphis last year to not repeat that scenario…. but if it did happen, they would be demoralized. However, seeing that I have them in the finals, I see the probability of it happening to Houston. To recap, G-State shouldn’t be that upset. When an acne-faced girl doesn’t get asked to the prom, you’re disappointed but not surprised. With the Clippers just recording the best season in franchise history, they would take the loss the worse, but I think Houston has the best chance of being devastated with a matchup against Portland. Portland is playing well to end the season and ending with identical records. Momentum might be the difference with Portland getting the edge. And Portland seems fresher right now. I see Houston with the higher probability of being disappointed. After the exhausting experience of finally landing Howard and hosting a playoff series in years, they didn’t do all this positioning for the last three off seasons to lose in May.

Who Will Come Out the West?

Cee: Playoffs is as much about avoiding certain matchups than anything else. TNT’s Kenny Smith always claims that his Houston team won those back-to-back titles, but happily avoided the Seattle Sonic teams with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp along the way because that team without question had their number. They lost to them in the 1993 playoffs, avoided them when the Sonics were upset by both the Denver Nuggets in ’94 & the Lakers in ’95 in the 1st round. When they met them in the ’96 playoffs, the Sonics ran through them like bad taco meat. I feel like San Antonio feels the same way about Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Two years ago, they lost the last four games of a six-game series and it looked like the future in the West belonged to the Thunder. Then last season, Harden gets traded, Westbrook goes down with a knee injury in Round one, and OKC goes down to Memphis in Round two, leaving the door open for the Spurs to capitalize (which they did). With OKC fully healthy and going into the playoffs, they, more than the Spurs, are the favorite to get out of the West, unless Westbrook’s knee gives out again. The Durant/Westbrook combo has given the Spurs a lot of problems in the past, and the way Durant has improved from even last season will only be harder for the Spurs to deal with.  If OKC makes it to the conference Finals, they will go to the NBA Finals. If they don’t, it will be the Spurs that will go in their place.

Headley: The way San Antonio is playing, it’s hard to count them out. Although each year I expect them to bow out and they never do, like they on that HGH and keep turning the clock back. I, however, don’t see OKC being their foe in the finals. KD is money, but Westbrook doesn’t have any sense. With Perkins deteriorating like paper under a sunny window sill, and G-State, Houston, LAC, Memphis, and Portland all getting stronger in the paint…..I see the team to beat SA (yes beat) is the LA Clippers. Had they not lost their starting backcourt to a combined +60 games… they would probably have the best record in the NBA. Plus, I’m a fan of their mid-season pickups (Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Danny Granger), which will help them with any depth issues too.

Western Conference Playoff Predictions

Cal Cee

1st Round

1. Spurs over 8. Mavericks

5. Trailblazers over 4. Rockets

2. Thunder over 7. Memphis

3. Clippers over 6. Warriors

Western Semis

1. Spurs over 5. Trailblazers

2. Thunder over 3. Clippers

Conference Finals

2. Thunder over 1. San Antonio


1st Round

1. Spurs over 8. Mavericks

5. Trailblazers over 4. Rockets

2. Thunder over 7. Grizzlies

3. Clippers over 6. Warriors

Western Semis

3. Clippers over 2. Thunder

1. Spurs over 5. Trailblazers

Conference Finals

3. Clippers over Spurs


Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

Follow me on Twitter or email me at southshoreave@gmail.com

Special thanks to Headley Bent for contributing to this article/posting.