Tag Archives: San Antonio Spurs

The Ave Podcast – The Warriors, The Cavs, & the Future…

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 25: The Warriors, The Cavs, & the Future…

Today on The Ave Podcast, we share our thoughts on the 2017 NBA Finals. We discuss where the Warriors, the Cavs, and the rest of the NBA go from here, if we should embrace the Superteam era, if there are any serious contenders for the throne, if there can be an effective way to stop the Smallball era, plus more.

*** Thanks for tuning in to the podcast as always. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast below. Today’s podcast is available for streaming and download. Please enjoy. ***

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 25

 

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https://app.box.com/s/t7wzkxy4sxs4ynx19axjm0mqg76akxcj

 

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to South Shore Ave, click onto the Follow button, and enter your email address, or click onto the RSS Feed. Very special thanks to Julian R “Jules Da Commish” for his guest appearance on this podcast.

 

The Ave Podcast – The NBA Western Conference Preview

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 10: The NBA Western Conference Preview

Welcome to The Ave Podcast. Today, we break down the Western Conference with 1st time guest Julian aka Jules Da Commish, as we rank each team in the West from the bottom to the top during the NBA’s Opening Week.

*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below, and also, the podcasts are now available for download. ***

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 10

Part 1: The Lottery Teams

Part 2: The Playoff Teams

 

To download the podcast, feel free to click the link below:

Part 1: https://app.box.com/s/nzmtmvyz1tu3k2ekb7mjb0gck4yp5wqs

Part 2: https://app.box.com/s/q5tl68ulgtqy6jwmwcqx938n0dn471rb

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to South Shore Ave, click onto the Follow button, and enter your email address, or click onto the RSS Feed. Very special thanks to Julian for his guest appearance on this podcast.

 

#TheStoop: A Mini(Podcast)-Series.

#TheStoop: A Mini(Podcast)-Series.

South Shore Ave presents…… #TheStoop: A Mini(Podcast)-Series. This is the third podcast show launched from South Shore Ave Radio. This will be a series of mini pods, usually lasting within 15-20 minutes, that will be released throughout the rest of the summer. It will focus on one topic, which myself & my guest(s) will break down and discuss. The reason for the name is #TheStoop during every summer has always been one of the best foundations for great conversation, and this podcast concept was created to follow in the spirit of those insightful, and sometimes hilarious discussions you may have with your friends on those staircases.

On the first episode of #TheStoop, I bring back Big Brotha Curtis to sit down and discuss if Tim Duncan is the greatest player of his generation, and give you an alternative & unique point of view on who’s career would you rather have: Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant.

*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below, and also, the podcasts are now available for download. ***

#TheStoop // The Great Tim Duncan

 

To download the podcast, feel free to click the link below:

https://app.box.com/s/8avnbsok3nfi1753xr02q6szwg2ftdkg

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to South Shore Ave, click onto the Follow button or by entering your email address. Very special thanks to Big Brotha Curtis for his guest appearance on this podcast.

 

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.

CLICK HERE TO SEE PART TWO: THE EASTERN CONFERENCE

 

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

Headley

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.

NBA’s 1st Half Rundown

With the second half of the NBA underway, teams all around the league will be jockeying for positioning in two categories: Playoff positioning & lottery positioning. Before we look down the road for that situation, as well as future player movement and the end of season awards and accolades, let’s take a look at some of the questions regarding the first half of the season.

WHO’S THE 1ST HALF MVP?

The first month of the season, Paul George threw his name into the MVP ring, and it’s slightly debatable that he was the MVP of November. However, since then, it looks like Kevin Durant has pulled away from the pack….so far. I still believe that LeBron James is the best player in the game but that gap is starting to close now. With Russell Westbrook injured for most of the season so far, Durant has singlehandedly kept OKC at the top of the Western conference with his efficiently explosive scoring (31.5 PPG; 51 FG%, 41 3P%, 88 FT%), while putting up the best all around season he’s ever had (7.8 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.5 SPG). He’s increased the value of Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, kept Serge Ibaka happy, given the team a swagger and attitude that used to be provided primarily by Westbrook.  & has stayed out of Kendrick Perkins’ way so that he can be MVP of Shaqtin’ The Fool, removing JaVale McGee from the top spot. The scary part of Durant’s game right now? I still don’t believe he’s hit his ceiling just yet. He has the athleticism & the body type to still be a devastating one-on-one defender with his freakishly long arms. He gave us a glimpse of that by taking apart Carmelo Anthony on both ends of the floor during last week’s win versus the Knicks. As crazy as this sounds, I think he can score even better too once he fully masters his post game (one will be coming within the next two years).

With Westbrook set to come back on Thursday vs. Miami, he might go back to watching Russell dominate the ball again, & I know people might feel like that’s coming, but it won’t be enough to derail the train Durant’s been driving this season. With that said, LeBron is starting to turn it up in the last few weeks with his play & the whole “Mt. Rushmore” discussion that’s been leading sports conversations the past two weeks. Just know that this is the best “Who’s the best?” rivalry brewing in the league since Bird & Magic in the 80s. It’s been a long time that we’ve had the best player in his prime have another player in his prime nipping at his heels. I’ve mentioned this before, but no one in the NBA has won 3 MVP’s in a row since Bird in 1986. Not Michael, not Magic, not Duncan, not Shaq, not Nash, no one. Usually it’s because of voters fatigue when this happens, but for some reason, it’s really hard to win 3 MVP’ s in a row. If OKC maintains the best record in the West while Miami ends up with the 2nd seed in the East, there is no way LeBron will break this trend unless he starts doing some historical-type things in the next two months. 

On a side note, even though it is a better cast, does anyone else feel like the Heat team is starting to have a 2009-2010 Cavalier feel to them or is it just me? LeBron has to do EVERYTHING for this team to win most nights, especially since Wade has been hurt for most of the season. I know we’re dealing with a new dynamic on this Heat team with this constructed Big 3 (depending on how you feel about Bosh), but should we actually even be calling this team The Big 3 anymore? With injuries the last two years, Wade has become a full fledged Robin to LeBron’s Batman, but now it seems like most nights he’s in the Bat Cave guiding/directing Batman of any trouble on the GPS monitors. He’s barely beating up the bad guys anymore. When Durant asked Wade to “Show Me, don’t Tweet me” earlier this fall, I didn’t think he meant to show him this. What’s worst, it looks like Chris Bosh, both health and production-wise is the second best player behind LeBron this season. Who saw that coming two years ago? Do I have to scrap the costume analogy & have Bosh rocking the Robin outfit now? What outfit does Wade wear now? Alfred’s? This is all so confusing. 

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BOROUGH?

Yes, what happened to the New York teams? Both the New York Knicks & The Brooklyn Nets are the most overrated teams in the NBA so far. The Nets are paying $80M+ in luxury taxes to dethrone the Heat, yet are under .500, currently 7th in the East; and are fighting to catch the Toronto Raptors (yes, I had to say the name in full) for first place in the Atlantic? A team that gave up on Rudy Gay to fulfill the lease they had in #TankCity and are now about to print playoff tickets. The only factor that they can hold on is that they have been fighting through the injury bug & haven’t had a full squad together this season, including training camp. At the same time, this is what happens to older teams, their bodies break down more frequently than before. 

Two things that made it worse:

1) They sustained lingering and major injuries to their two best players the team was being built around: Brook Lopez and Deron Williams (I’m not even including Joe Johnson in that one. I don’t give a shit if he’s an “All Star” this season). Now their older players like Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce, who were only supposed to play a supporting role (& were struggling to play that role as I’m sure it may have been the first time in their lives they’ve been in that position), are asked to do more heavy lifting. However, they’re too old to do the heavy lifting now & Joe Johnson who’s still in his prime is playing like the 3rd best player on the roster most nights, when he should be playing like a franchise player. He gets paid like one, he even gets the All Star nods like one, but why doesn’t he play like one? 

2) Making Jason Kidd the coach of the Nets when they were hell bent on getting to the Finals this year was the wrong move. I didn’t like the move initially, but came around when the KG/Pierce/Terry trade went through and I figured they would stand behind Kidd in the locker room. However, that went out the window when those same guys were publicly questioning Kidd’s philosophies from earlier this season. So it goes back to what I originally thought: After all the money they spent on the roster, why didn’t they just go after George Karl or Lionel Hollins, experienced coaches that have been successful coaching veterans & teams close to a title already? Again they’re spending $80M+ in luxury taxes alone. Why not spend a little extra on a proven coach instead of a novice like Kidd? If the goal was to go all in, then they shouldn’t have hired Kidd. That is a lot of pressure to put on a first time coach with no coaching experience who just finished taking his uniform off as a player a month before that.

As far as the Knicks go……actually, let’s ask a more important question….

WILL CARMELO LEAVE THE KNICKS?

Oh boy, here we go again with the “Will Melo stay or go?” rumors, only this time, I actually don’t blame Melo for this. The team is poorly constructed, they have a lot of the same parts on the team; no one shares the ball; outside of Chandler, none of their big men play defense; & like Brooklyn, were looking to depend on guys like Metta World Peace & Kenyon Martin to do the defensive dirty work, but they’ve both been shipping out DNP-CDs like an unsigned artist. I blame the Knicks management for this season, and I do for this reason. I’ve said this before about Melo, he is who he is at this point. He’s a great scorer who doesn’t make his teammates better, and this is not changing after 10 years in the league. I still don’t believe you can win a title with Carmelo being your best player……..BUT if you really want to make him your franchise gem, here’s what needs to be done.

You have to have a PG that will keep Melo & everyone else happy with their amounts of touches, someone in the locker room who can assume vocal leadership on the team until Melo takes over that role, & bigs that will play physical defense & clean everything up on the boards. You can’t trade for Bigs like Andrea Bargnani who basically plays soft, you can’t continue to resign guys like JR Smith & pick up guys like old World Peace, & you can’t have PGs like Ray Felton who’s not gonna distribute the ball to make everyone else happy. Pablo Prigioni is more of a pass-first PG but he’s close to the end of his career & he just got into the league last season.

It’s no surprise that they were going to fall back from last year’s pace, but 12 games under .500 by the All Star game? I didn’t see that one coming. With that said, I feel like Melo should stay where he is. Not every star in the NBA is destined to win a title. History is littered with Hall of Famers who have no rings. Plus there’s only a few places where you can be a star in a major market and get paid the big bucks; the cap space frees up after next season; your wife gets to be a star in the same city where you live (she probably doesn’t get in the roster for the Think Like a Man movie living out in Denver); if you leave for the Lakers, the pressure will be waaay worse than it’ll be in New York. You may as well take the money, stay famous, and run.

Between the Knicks and the Nets, the New York basketball scene right now resembles the New York hip hop scene. Most of their biggest stars (while still good) have hit their prime and peaks during the last decade, there’s no new young stars coming into the horizon anytime soon, and their biggest competition from the South, the Midwest, the West Coast, and Toronto have all surpassed them. Where’s that Funkmaster Flex bomb drop when you need it? 

CAN PORTLAND KEEP THIS UP?

To put it in simple terms: Yes! They failed consistently in trying to build a winner with the Jailblazer era, then fell on bad luck with Brandon Roy & Greg Oden’s health, but now they are at a good place. In LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lilliard, & Nicolas Batum, the Trailblazers have finally found a foundation that they can build the future on & have the right pieces so far around them to be around for a good while. The only issues with this team is how will they get points consistently in the paint when the game slows down & they are playing in a 7-game series against San Antonio for example. Aldridge is a top 3 Power Forward at worst in the game right now, but his strength is facing the basket & hitting fading turnaround jumpers. In the playoffs, you got to get baskets & create fouls in the paint. Aldridge does have solid moves in the post, so you have to hope he alters his game a little more at that point to mix it up a little bit more in the paint. He’s the only big on the roster that can get points down low. The other factor is Lilliard’s legs. Will they be fatigued after playing in all 5 events for Star weekend? After being selected as an all star, he should have automatically been removed from having to play in the Rising Stars Game. I’m not sure why it’s still mandatory for him to suit up All star Friday for, no fan will be insulted if he skips out. More importantly, the Blazers are going to need him for their playoff push, & seeing that this will be his first go-around in the playoffs in years, it’ll be a shame if he’s shot physically in April . 

IS SAN ANTONIO THE NBA’S VERSION OF GROUNDHOG DAY?

Look at it this way: every year we expect them to fall off the cliff. In 2011, when they lost in Round 1 to Memphis, we poured the dirt over them. What did they do the next year? Made it to the conference Finals before losing in six to Oklahoma City, which included losing the last four games of the series. We looked at OKC’s roster, realized their age & that none of their core guys were in their prime yet, and then we poured dirt over the Spurs again. After some trades & injuries to the Thunder, the Spurs were still not expected to win the West. They met up on Memphis again in the Conference Finals and you legitimately wondered if they had enough to beat the Grizzlies front line. One week later, they swept up Memphis. Two weeks after that, they were within a Ray Allen three in Game 6 or winning the Finals & putting serious doubt on LeBron’s legacy & that of Miami’s Big 3. Now everyone’s talking about the Thunder again, the Clippers, Blazers, Rockets, Warriors, etc., & the Spurs have been depleted by injuries. OKC leads the West by 4 games. Well, after the dust settled on the first half of the season, guess who’s second? I’m not going to doubt them anymore. I believe the Thunder is the best team in the West, especially when Westbrook gets back, but still, I’m putting away the shovel.

IS INDIANA THE NBA’S VERSION OF THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS?

When I look at this team, I can kinda see where the comparison might come from actually, especially pertaining to defence. However, I’ll take you back right now, they more remind me of the 1993 Knicks team. 

Back in 1991, the Knicks got taken apart by the Bulls in the playoffs on the way to the Bulls first NBA title. In 1992, they took Jordan’s Bulls to 7 games before getting blown out during the last game. Chicago then went on to repeat as the champions. The next season, New York got the number one seed in the East, finishing 2nd overall in the NBA to the Phoenix Suns in Charles Barkley’s first year as a Sun (they had one of the all-time underrated brawls ever). They had the best defence in the league; a deep and stacked roster (picking up PG Doc Rivers in the off-season trade for PG Mark Jackson); Coach Pat Riley had given the team a tough swagger that Ewing, Oakley, and the rest of the team followed; they developed John Starks into a highly confident starter (that could have made the All Star Game that year) who wasn’t afraid of Jordan, Pippen or anyone else in the NBA. 

In 2012, the Pacers got taken apart by the Heat in the playoffs on their way to their first NBA in the Big 3 Era. Last season, Indiana took Miami to 7 games before getting blown out during the last game. This season, the Pacers are doing everything short of selling their first born children to get the number one seed in the East, and are currently fighting Oklahoma City for the best record in the NBA. They have the best defence in the league; they have a deep and stacked roster (trading for PF Luis Scola in the off-season while recently picking up Andrew Bynum); Coach Frank Vogel has given the team a tough swagger that Roy Hibbert, Paul George, David West, and the rest of the team follows. They developed Lance Stephenson into a highly confident starter (that could have made the All Star game this season) that isn’t afraid of LeBron, Wade, or anyone else in the NBA. 

With the Knicks, they took a 2-0 lead in the ’93 Eastern Conference Finals before losing the next 4 games to Chicago in a series that had classic moments (ie. Starks dunk on the Bulls, MJ’s 54, Charles Smith sequence). We’re only at the all star break so far, so we don’t know if history will continue to repeat itself. However, the one thing that history has taught us, is that as important as home court advantage is in the playoffs, if you are to be a championship team, you have to be able to win on the road. Home court is important because if a game goes to the limit, you want that last game to be on your floor, but it won’t mean anything if you can’t win on the road. Unfortunately for them, Miami has proven in the last few years that they can win playoff road games too, including at Conseco Fieldhouse. So for their sake, they better hope they can get to a seventh game, or as the Knicks learned back in 1993, the fight to get to the the #1 seed won’t mean anything.

MOST SURPRISING TEAM?

A few teams are in the mix for this one this season. I personally didn’t see Toronto being over .500 at this stage of the season. They are looking to leave #TankCity & we’ll get into that in the revised #TankCity Edition after the trade deadline. Portland gets consideration as well as currently being in a 3-way tie for 3rd place in the West, when the expectation was that they would be fighting for the 8th seed with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Dallas Mavericks. A spot that Golden St. currently resides in, which is a little shocking to me at the moment too. I think we’d have to pick the Phoenix Suns hands down. Going into the pre-season, looking at the their roster, you were unsure how much D-League games they’d be able to win, much less NBA games. However, with the emergence of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, coupled with the improvement of players like Gerald Green & Miles Plumblee, this team has taken flight. However, the most important factor is that the team has completely bought into 1st year coach Jeff Hornacek’s philosophies. He has to be in the running for coach of the year at the very least, if not the sole frontrunner. This team was supposed to be building for the future. Instead, they have surpassed Golden State in the West, swept the Pacers, defeated Golden St twice, beat down the Clippers, Houston, & has stepped up in the playoff race. The 2nd half of the year will be a lot tougher (including April where 6 of their 8 opponents are playoff contenders), so it remains to be seen if they will come back down to earth. With that said, they will be a tough out for the last playoff seed, especially once Bledsoe comes back.

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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