Tag Archives: Sports

The Ave Podcast – Confessions of A Fan…

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 23: Confessions of a Fan…

Today on The Ave Podcast, I invite friend of the podcast Kevin W. (past contributor to South Shore Ave), as we discuss the life of being a die-hard sports fan. We break down the trials and tribulations of following a team through adversity, inept decisions, bad management, bad performances, self-inflicted controversies, and why they still stay loyal to their team. If you guessed that the team we’ll be discussing is the New York Knicks, gold stars for you. Sadly, at this point, it’s more interesting than the NBA Conference Finals right now. You know it’s true. We wrap up the podcast discussing Lonzo Ball’s sneakers, and the 2017 NBA Draft lottery.

*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below. Today’s podcast is available for streaming and download. Please enjoy. ***

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 23

 

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

https://app.box.com/s/8k7yjadr9t1ey8amxkc04yb5d4h2ht3g

 

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 Kevin W. for his guest appearance on this podcast.

The Ave Podcast – The NFL Playoffs + Obama’s Farewell

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 15: The NFL Playoffs + Obama’s Farewell

Happy New Year everyone! Today on the first episode of The Ave Podcast for 2017, I break down the NFL’s Divisional Playoff round with my friend and football fanatic Roger Callender, as we comb through each playoff game this week. Also, we discuss Barack Obama’s last days in office as President of the United States. We discuss his farewell speech, the impact he had, and the future of America in the hands of Donald T. Trump.

*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below. Also, the podcast is available for download. *** 

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 15

 

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

https://app.box.com/s/rcdi45w4cha39gdpguerh98enxfr3iad 

 

 

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 Roger Callender for his guest appearance on this podcast.

#TheStoop: The Socially Responsible Athlete Discussion

#TheStoop: A Mini(Podcast) Series

Today on #TheStoop, I invite Vidal Chavannes (Author & Educational Consultant) & DJ Chris Nice (Grooves & Rhythms Mixshow, Fridays from 2-4PM on MyLime Radio), as we sit down & have the discussion on the importance of athletes and entertainers speaking up on social issues. Plus, we share our thoughts on Colin Kaepernick and his stance against standing up for the US National Anthem.

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

#TheStoop: A Mini(Podcast)-Series // The Socially Responsible Athlete Discussion

Getty Images/Michael Zagaris

 

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

https://app.box.com/s/sb20tmr3xa499cxevtbc8o9f5aygjwik

 

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 DJ Chris Nice & Vidal Chavannes for their guest appearances on this podcast.

South Shore Ave Radio presents…. The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee

South Shore Ave presents…. The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. This is the first podcast launched from South Shore Ave Radio, which will focus 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.

In the spirit of Flashback Friday, on the first episode of The Ave Podcast, my first guest will be my brother Curtis (Marist Red Rox alumnist), as we have an honest discussion on the legacy of Vince Carter in Toronto, his true influence on this generation of Toronto ballers, and if he really should be considered for the Hall of Fame. I hope you enjoy. Thanks for tuning in, and for you newcomers, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below. Seriously….. do it.

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 1

Getty Images

 

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 Big Brother Curtis for his guest appearance on this podcast.

The Revenge of Steph Curry

I know what you’re thinking, “That’s a weird title for this article”, right? I mean, why of all people, would Stephen Curry want any sort of revenge? He may have had one of the greatest seasons a professional athlete could have had last season. He was the MVP of the NBA. He was the most popular player (in jersey sales and all-star votes), his team had one of the greatest seasons in NBA history (83 wins regular season + playoffs) that was capped off by winning the NBA Finals, and he turned his family into celebrities (especially his daughter Riley…… & his hot Momma). What more can you ask for? You’d be right to ask that question. He should be happier than anyone can imagine coming into this season, & I’m sure he was. But then a funny thing happened in the NBA right after Curry & his teammates popped champagne in Cleveland’s visiting locker room….. 

…… July happened.

Outside of the playoffs, the free agency period in July is the most exciting time of the NBA season, and this past off-season didn’t fail to bring the excitement and the drama. The Spurs reloaded with LaMarcus Aldridge & scooped up David West for the cost of a Wendy’s Value Meal (at least that’s what it felt like). The rival Clippers got back DeAndre Jordan, & picked up Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, & maybe more importantly, Paul Pierce. OKC retained their free agents (Enes Kanter) + got their superstar back in Kevin Durant. Across the country, the LeBronvaliers restocked the entire kitchen cupboard & the basement with groceries like one of those old Supermarket Sweep shows resigning all their free agents, plus Mo Williams and a rejuvenated Richard Jefferson. Even Houston stole Ty Lawson from the Denver Nuggets for peanuts (depending on if you think adding Lawson was an incredible deal for Houston, which I wasn’t crazy about this summer). Once free agency settled down, the rumbles of doubt started vibrating about the Warriors chances to repeat. Adding to that, the NBA Players Association launched their first ever Players Awards show (on BET of all channels) in July. When they gave out their MVP awards, it went out to the official NBA MVP runner-up James Harden, which I guess was fine. What wasn’t fine was the general comments from all the players who attended the awards show, “this is the real MVP award”, trying to more or less devalue the MVP award that Curry just recently won. An award that’s been around for about 50 years. Now if you’re Curry, heading into your training for the summer, how exactly are you supposed to feel about this? 

A large part of how an athlete drives themselves is based on challenges and slights. Having to prove you can achieve your goals athletically to yourself first, then to everyone else afterwards. Your peers, your coaches starting from as far back as high school, your region, & the proving net that you cast starts to get wider and wider the more that you grow into your craft. Steph Curry is no different. A son of one of the best shooters in NBA history (Dell), Steph not only had to prove that he was good enough to escape his father’s shadow, but because of his slight build, he had to escape the stigma of not being athletic, or big enough to make something out of himself in the basketball world. With only one scholarship offer coming out of high school, he ended up at Davidson, a small, mid-major college program. Within 3 years he became one of the best players in the nation, leading his mid major college to a magical Elite 8 journey in the 2008 March Madness tournament. Once he got drafted in the lottery by Golden State in 2009, he had to prove that what he did in college as well as his size could correlate to the NBA, especially when he was paired in the backcourt with a similarly built Monta Ellis. He fought off the challenges of those stigmas (including from his own teammate), fought of the ankle injuries that plagued him his 1st few seasons & became an all-star level player. By the end of the Warriors 2013 playoff run, Steph had officially arrived under the brightest lights. Whatever doubts he had earlier in his career was erased by coach Mark Jackson, who boosted his confidence like Bhundini Brown used to do for Muhammad Ali. Once the coaching change occurred last year & Steve Kerr took over, Steph’s game, as well as his teammates escalated to an even higher level, which resulted not only with all the accolades they could achieve, but also becoming by far the most exciting team to watch in the league.

Now after getting to the level that Steph did last season, how does he continue to get better when he’s reached the mountaintop? If you’re a self motivator & care deeply about your craft at that level, you will get better. But how do you reach “generational” status? In some case, perceived slights and challenges can account for something. Curry trained to the point that his handles are somehow even tighter, his shot has somehow improved from last season, and he now finishes better around the basket than ever before. When Curry and the rest of his teammates had to hear the comments again in the pre-season that they were lucky to win, & have Harden still talking about how he still feels snubbed for the MVP award five months later, they didn’t respond back in the politically correct way, which I loved. Their responses were sarcastic, annoyed, & in some cases “Shots Fired” worthy. You could see the level of disrespect felt in full view, and they made it a point to exact their “It’s like that? Ok, well F*** YOU THEN!” Revenge world tour on the league right from opening night. And it hasn’t stopped since.

We’ve seen a great example of this before in this sport. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player the world has ever seen in almost all arguments that you want to make, right? In 1995, when he played in the Eastern Conference semis vs. Orlando right after his 1st comeback, Nick Anderson stole the ball from him during the end of Game 1, that helped them lose the game & became a foreshadowing example for the Bulls ultimately losing the series. That summer, after hearing people start to question if Jordan would ever be dominant again, MJ trained maniacally to the point that by August, people who played in the now infamous pick-up runs on the Warner Brothers parking lot (where MJ was filming Space Jam) all swore that he was “back, back”. That revenge factor & the playoff failures fueled him to his second 3-peat of the 1990’s. I remember that ’95 – ’96 season when they won 72 games, they treated the contenders & the lottery bound teams with the exact same disdain. They wanted to cut their hearts out as fast and as ruthless as possible, & Jordan was their ringleader in all ways. That ruthless, relentless approach defined that particular season for them. No better example was shown in a loss to the expansion Raptors team. 1st year team from Toronto led by their rookie Damon Stoudemire beating one of the greatest teams ever assembled by one point was an amazing feat. It’s a game that still shows on NBA TV Canada every now & again. However, the best part of that game is when Jordan shot a fadeway just after the buzzer, that banked in off the side corner of the glass, a shot that’s basically impossible to replicate. Even back then I remember celebrating with my family. Then the shot went in & we all basically yelled out, “Oh f***!”, & shaking our heads way after the game was over. It was like in the movies when you jump in the getaway car & start laughing as you drive away from the bad guys, and while you’re laughing they still manage to shoot out the back window. No one gets hurt, but it still scares the shit out of you the rest of the drive to safety.

Until this year, I haven’t seen a championship level team come into a season with that kind of mindset since the fall of ’95. Twenty years later, we have the Warriors getting off to the greatest start in NBA history with no signs of slowing down, and are being led by the reigning MVP who’s entering a legendary level that has rarely been seen. Watching Curry play right now makes you feel like he can do anything on the basketball court & it feeds into the mentality of his entire team. He has become the best basketball on the planet at the moment, the most dangerous player to be fearful of at all times, and the most exciting player to watch. Like Bird, Magic, Jordan, Duncan, Shaq, Kobe, and LeBron, Curry has reached a level to watch that’s a mixture of awe & inspiration for everyone involved (fans, opponents, teammates, peers). He’s also entering the prime of his career, which means barring any injury or unforeseen circumstance, there’s a good chance he may even get better than this. He’s a point guard who’s unselfish but yet is averaging 32 a night, almost 3.5 point per game higher than the 2nd place leader (Harden, 28.7 PPG). Throw in his other stats (6 assist, 5 boards, 2.6 steals, just under 5 three’s made a night, 33.76 PER, 51% FG/43 % 3P/94% FT), and his level of play is becoming artistic. After every game, you almost want to hang his performance on a wall & just stare at it with your head tilted to the side.

While its still too early to say they will win 70+ games, I do think this will be the first team to actively try for that record, no matter what they say publicly. Their core is still so young that they can throw caution to the wind, go after every record, & not worry about sacrificing wins to rest their guys. More importantly, they know how to win games in any situation, & are playing free without any limits of fear because they can lean on their championship experience. They are not taking their defense of their championship lightly, & healthy permitting, whoever takes that trophy from them will have to pry it from their hands. But so far, they are well on their way to bringing a 2nd title back to the Bay if this revenged intensity keeps up. As a sports fan, no matter how many wins they get, we need to enjoy the journey that Curry and this team is on right now, because it’s rare that you see a vengeful journey look this sweet.

 

Sideline Notes

At this time, I’d like to send a shout out to my friend Luugi. Out of all my friends, he’s the one that gets his rocks off on watching teams implode, crash, and burn internally. This past summer after watching some of the off-season moves go by, I decided to buy into his Trainwreck watching way of life. I think we can all agree that going into the season, Sacramento would have qualified for the #1 seed. DeMarcus Cousins + Coach George Karl are bad enough, but then you add Rajon Rondo to the mix? This team is so talented and volatile, can grab the 8th seed in the West, or they can win 25 games & daily fist fights could go down in the locker room & I wouldn’t bat an eye either way. Then I started watching the Lakers situation. They have some young talent but added a weird mix of vets that don’t gel together (you really thought adding 6th man gunner Lou Williams with Nick Young was a good idea when you have rookies who needs minutes & shots Lakers management???), plus, you know….Kobe. Mix that up with coach Byron Scott who’s still clinging to his old school coaching ways (surprised he doesn’t have Roy Hibbert laying guys out who try to make a layup), I had to upgrade them to Trainwreck status. You know that story will be more disastrous with each passing day, especially when D’Angelo Russell keeps getting nailed to the bench during 4th quarters………

You know who’s my underdog Trainwreck squad to look out for? The Houston Rockets. Not only did they get their coach Kevin McHale fired with their dog-shit effort since the season started, but I truly don’t believe in James Harden & Dwight Howard as leaders on your team. Now some veterans in the locker room (i.e. Jason Terry) may have a strong voice in the locker room, but in basketball, you only go as far as your best players take you. At least it’s better that way. While I’ve voiced my opinions of D12 in the past, I think Harden is a great, great talent. However, the whole, “move out of my way while I play Iso ball for 1/2 the shot clock, put it between my legs 4 times before I shoot this step back J” offense doesn’t lend itself to any kind of real continuity between the players. Regardless of how I feel about Dwight’s offense & the fact that he genuinely seems broken down, he’s got to shoot the ball more that 8-10 times in a game. It doesn’t matter that McHale is gone, the philosophies (especially on offense) are still the same under the interim coach, J.B. Bickerstaff. Personally, I don’t see this downward spiral changing anytime soon………

I’ll say this: you know when Houston takes over the #1 spot on my personal Trainwreck rankings? When they lose tonight vs. the 76ers. #BoldPredictionoftheWeek………

By the way, if that prediction comes true, I think my friend Luugi will be happier than the men who find out they are not the fathers……… 

R.I.P Kobe Bryant’s career. It was a great ride, & he will go down as one of the 10 greatest players I’ve ever seen in person. One thing about great players in any sport is the struggle of knowing when to say when, especially before anyone one else sees your demise. The confidence in their own abilities that gets them to unbelievable heights as an athlete is viewed as their biggest strength. Once you get older, all of a sudden, that same stubborn belief becomes their greatest weakness when their body officially fails them & they still believe that they can get the job done. Forget the stats (averaging 15.2 PPG on 16.4 shots, shooting 31% from the field), Kobe can’t get by ANYONE anymore on drives or create any space on his jumpers. That’s only going to get worse unless he gets on the HGH workout cycle in the next week or so. Remember when Mariano Rivera played his last game & before he can get the save, Derek Jeter & Andy Pettite walked out to the mound & gave him the pat on the back? & then Mariano started bawling on their chest? I’d like Magic Johnson to walk onto the middle of the court during the 3rd quarter of some game in March, hold Kobe by his shoulders & tell him, “It’s time. Time to come on home son,” while Kobe starts sobbing into his suit jacket. It’s time Kobe. Let’s remember you in a good light, & please let this be your last season & not find you next season wearing # 24 for the Grizzlies or something. Please end this Kobe……please……. 

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to The Baseline Blog, click onto the Follow button or by entering your email address.

South Shore Ave’s NBA Season Preview: The East

Welcome to Part Deux of our South Shore Ave’s NBA Preview where we tackle the improving Eastern conference. Click here if you missed Part 1. Please enjoy…..

Does Derrick Rose need to drink Holy Water before the season officially starts?

Not only do I think he needs to guzzle it by the litre, but I would nominate Rose for a Holy Water Bucket Challenge if said challenge existed. I won’t even rehash the knee troubles that Rose has gone endured.  You already know he’s missed the last two seasons due to his injuries. It’s robbed him of some of his prime years, & as a basketball fan, it’s disheartening. As it stands, coming off his participation at the World Championships this summer, this is the healthiest that Rose has been in a few years. With that said, it once again vaults Chicago to championship contending status, which for Bulls fans must scare you enough to stunt your breathing. I think Chicago management knows that the future isn’t promised because between Rose’s injury history, and with LeBron heading back to Cleveland with Kevin Love & company in tow, boy did it load this summer to win. They added Paul Gasol, along with rookies Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, to last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, and 6th Man runner up Taj Gibson to form the best frontcourt in the NBA. Between Gasol & Noah, they also have the two best passing big men in the league, and honestly, the offensive sets need to go through those two guys as much, or even a little more so than through Rose.

Chicago’s biggest problem since 2011, is they don’t score easily. Having two big men that can pass from both the low block and high post, and you can run screens & cuts off of them open things up for a team more than people think. They need to score easier, & for now, they have to lessen the load for Rose & get his legs ready for the second half of the season. If they can do this on offense, coupled with the defensive intensity they usually bring every night, they will be the best team in the East, no matter what Cleveland has in store. They have to take advantage now because in 2016, Cleveland may also be ready to take over the East once Kyrie Irving & Kevin Love pop their playoff cherries. The Bulls can’t wait for the future.  They have to go for it all now.  Sometimes ‘later’ can become ‘never’.

LeCavs

For the second time in four years, LeBron James completely dominated the offseason like no NBA player ever. His move to Cleveland not only shocked the NBA, and all its fans alike, but its ripple effect set off change across the league. Except for San Antonio who probably looked at LeBron’s move and laughed amongst themselves.

Let’s break it down in a few ways:

By returning to Cleveland, LeBron gained as much control as any NBA player has wielded since Michael Jordan during his 1st retirement comeback. The way his contract is laid out, he will be receiving max money for the foreseeable future. By signing a 2-year deal, he not only gave himself flexibility, with the new TV deal set to begin in 2016, but he ensured that he is no longer leaving any money on the table. Quite frankly, he shouldn’t due to the salary cap almost tripling in two years, LeBron can, & will make much more per year than the $21M he’ll be making in the next two years. Going into his 12th season, this will only be the 4th time he is actually the highest paid player on his own team, which quite frankly is ridiculous considering he is only the 4th player in NBA history (Russell, Abdul-Jabbar, & Jordan) to win 4 MVPs. Let’s face it, LeBron is still far and away the best player in the world.  He is still in his prime, and will probably win at least one more MVP if not two. The value of the Cavalier franchise in itself has been raised at least by $100M with his return & the regular season camp hasn’t started yet. He probably sees that he’s sacrificed enough financially given what he is worth for the NBA as a whole, & will get his Carmelo on* from here on out. He reaped the benefits of coming home by appearing humbled, & more endearing than ever before. Now everyone will root for Cleveland if and when they finally get to have a championship. Taking Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, along with incumbent Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varajeo, the likelihood of that happening will be very high. Basically, LeBron left the wife he was with (“Heat”) for the younger, hotter version of her (“Cavs”). Speaking of which…..

Was the Miami move really THAT successful? It’s not a crazy question to ask, right? Yes, LeBron joining Dwyane Wade & Chris Bosh four years ago at the peak of their prime was viewed as almost unfair in some eyes. No matter how people looked at LeBron with disdain for leaving his home and joining a super team, he wanted to be in a position to win titles every single year, and he had a chance to do that in Miami. He went against the conventional ways, took over the power of player free agency, in ways that had never been done before or experienced by the NBA, & set his destiny. And for that, I give him a lot of respect…… but here’s the thing: With that move, the Big 3 set the bar extremely high for themselves, the organization & everyone watching (& I’m not talking about their infamous “Not one, not two, not three…” rally). After four years, didn’t you expect them to win more than two titles? Weren’t you expecting at least three by 2014? In the annals of the NBA’s greatest champions, would you even put this Heat run in the Top 5? Think about this for a second: If Ray Allen clangs his three off the rim instead of swishing it at the end of Game 6, the Heat literally walk away with ONE title after everything’s said and done. I mean, it’s literally that close. They don’t come close to the MJ Bulls run, Magic’s Lakers or Bird’s Celtics. Shit, they don’t even reach the Shaq/Kobe Lakers (3-peated, 4 Finals in 5 years). This run, in retrospect, falls in the tier with the Bad Boy Pistons of the late 80s (Back-To-Back titles, 3 straight Finals appearances) which isn’t fine when you put together three Hall of Famers (yes, Bosh is one too. Face the facts people!) entering their prime years together. This was something that was supposed to last until the latter part of the decade, not end before Year 5. We will remember the run as probably the most polarizing sports team of the digital/social media era. LeBron/Wade/Bosh all became more popular (especially Bosh), made more money, & raised their brand profiles higher than it would have reached if they remained carrying a team by themselves, but the collaboration wasn’t fully completed. The run was similar to the Watch The Throne collaboration from Kanye & Hova: Good, but not great.

* The term “Carmelo On” means that under no circumstances do you leave any money on the table when signing an NBA contract, no matter how much it might hurt your team from being able to afford to build a championship team around you.  Unless of course you leave $4M short of the $129M contract you sign to show everyone publicly that you can in actuality sacrifice money for the good of the team.

Who should be the happiest player in the NBA right now?

Who else can it be but Chris Bosh? Think of where he was as a player four months ago. He was perfecting his role as the 3rd option of the Miami Heat. Once the Heat got demolished by the Spurs in the Finals, and the Big 3 all opted out of their contracts, Bosh was hoping that the ride would continue as normal. Once LeBron decided he was heading back home, Bosh figured he would head back to his home state of Texas, fall into the 3rd option role behind James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston, while getting paid max money of course. At the last minute, Pat Riley rides the waves on his desperation surfboard and throws the max contract for Bosh to stay. Now he gets to wear the real superhero costume? He can now sit in the cabin of the Bat-mobile and not hop in the trunk like he’s been used to doing since 2010? I mean, how can he not sign that deal?? He got a max deal to be at worst the #2 option most nights, and didn’t even have to leave his beachfront mansion. He should have been sending LeBron roses, boxes of After Eight chocolate mints, and Twerk-a-grams on a weekly basis as an appropriate thank you this summer.

Instead, we find out that he didn’t even talk to LeBron this whole summer outside of Wade’s wedding. He’s giving advice to Kevin Love stating that he’s going to have trouble sacrificing his game to LeBron & more or less sticking his chest out. Is that the way you say thank you??? LeBron saved him from 3rd wheel status forever with this move, and with Wade’s health over the last couple of years, he gets to be the man on South Beach! Does he not understand this?!?! And now he seem like he don’t even care if LeBron is gone. The audacity….

With that said, the Heat are still a playoff team, scooping up Luol Deng in free agency this summer, adding Josh McRoberts, and signing Danny Granger (ok, pretend I didn’t type that last name) to a team that has championship pride and pedigree. In addition, Wade looks pretty loose and limber this preseason, cutting his weight down from last year, we’ll get to see how good of a coach Erik Spoelstra is, which was taken for granted these last few years, and we also really can’t count out a team led by Riley, can we? They will still play hard, tenacious, and efficient every night. If there’s one thing we can count on, those fairweather Heat fans will be showing up by halftime to these games if at all now. If they showed up late when LeBron was there, what are they gonna do when he only comes once a year?

We The North!! (Hollup Hollup Hollup) #WizKhalifavoice

I have to say, I have been wrong about the direction of where the Raptors needed to be in. About this time last year, I had them pegged to win around 35 games, not make the playoffs & secure a high draft pick. After they traded off Rudy Gay, I celebrated like they won the championship, figuring that they were headed to #TankCity for Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, or Jabari Parker. However, the way the Raps played from that point on was what basketball fans want to see: hard working, intelligent, efficient play where the team leaves everything they have out on the floor. This is exactly what they accomplished right until the last second of their Game 7 loss vs. Brooklyn. Going forward, I believe that not only can they get better this season, but I feel most people are sleeping on Toronto.

It all starts with the resigning of Kyle Lowry. With him coming back & teaming up with DeMar DeRozan to form one of the best backcourts in the NBA, they give the Raps stability at both spots that they haven’t had since Alvin Williams and Vince Carter were on the floor together 10+ years ago. DeRozan is the team’s best player and their hardest worker, but Lowry is the heart and soul. My only concern that I have is that last year was a contract year, & you hope that he doesn’t start the process of shutting things down now that he’s got his money. While I don’t believe that this will happen, I thought the same thing when Antonio Davis signed his $60M deal after making the All-Star team & helping the Raps come within one win of the Eastern Conference Finals back in 2001. He was the team’s heart and soul too. By 2003, he was falling into the “Thanks guys, it’s been fun…but I’m gonna shut this things down….nnnnnnow” mode & was never the same player. Contract year runs are funny to predict with players sometimes. It can wake a player up, & help him reach his potential from that point on, or that player can rest on his laurels once he gets his cash. Again, I don’t think that will be Lowry in this case, but stranger things has happened, especially with this franchise.  Which leads me to my next point….

We know Toronto is a hockey town, and most likely will never change. But the way Tim Lieweke came in bringing energy and light to this franchise as part of running MLSE is so important. This is why I feel losing him, is a huge & underrated story moving forward this season. He made basketball a priority for the corporation and even for this city in 2014, and with him scheduled to leave at the end of the season (or possibly before that), I’m afraid that his successor will be a hockey guy that will throw the Raps on the backburner again like in years past. Lieweke is a basketball guy at heart, and having him run MLSE I felt gave the feeling like the Raptors won’t be ignored anymore. They can start setting championship goals and not be laughed out of the room for saying it. From getting the All-Star game here next season (finally!!), getting Drake as the Global Ambassador (& let’s face it, secret recruiter), upgrading its practice facility, getting Masai Ujiri as a GM, the possibility of an MLSE nightclub, he’s put steps in place to be recognized as a prominent franchise in the sports world. Will the next person that steps in keep that train moving and take things further? It remains to be seen. Another year of improvement from Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, a deep bench (resiging Grevis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson, trading for Lou Williams, picking up former Raptor James Johnson from the Grizzlies), another year under the belt for Dwayne Casey, the confidence that both DeMar and Jonas bring back from their respective World Championship teams is all very important going into this season. In fact, I believe they will win 50+ games for the first time in the franchise’s history. The short term views look promising to show everyone in the NBA that last season was not a fluke. But the long term vision of where this franchise will be headed post-Lieweke & if the goals will remain high, is what worries me more than anything else. I’ll tell you one thing: if the new MLSE head honcho doesn’t get along with Ujiri and forces him to explore his options (which happens sometimes when the new guy wants to bring in his own people), I think the “We The North” mantra will change to “We Be Done” in Raps Nation. Stay tuned…

Biggest Sleeper

I’m very tempted to say Charlotte will make some moves up the standings (and they will), but don’t sleep on the Atlanta Hawks. Even if there’s a possibility that Hawks GM Danny Ferry has a little passive-aggressive racism in him, getting back Al Horford from injury, picking up Thabo Sefolosha, and drafting rookie Adreian Payne to this team will hopefully continue to mask the uncertainty in the front office. For Ferry’s sake, he better hope I’m right and that the on-court production masks his unresolved problems. This team has a chance to still make some noise in what will be the toughest division in the conference. With Washington finally tasting some playoff success, Charlotte adding Lance Stephenson, and having a great draft in grabbing Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston, and all the chipped shoulders residing in Miami, this division will be really tough to deal with most nights. With that said, Atlanta can possibly be that team people don’t want to deal with come playoff time.

Regular Season Standings

  1. Chicago – As long as Rose, Gasol, and Noah (offseason knee surgery this summer) stay healthy, this is the best team in the conference. Built to win now.
  2. Cleveland – If the Bulls falter in any way, Team LeBron will take advantage in what will be a two-team race all season.
  3. Toronto – Surprised??? You shouldn’t be. I’m going to predict 53 wins this season. #WeTheNorth
  4. Charlotte – Surprised??? Hornets coach Steve Clifford had them playing hard last season, now Stephenson brings more attitude to a team that needs it.
  5. Atlanta – Sefelosha signing is underrated.  What he brings on defense will be needed for the SGs he’ll have to go against in the division (Wade, Beal, Stephenson….Oladipo???)
  6. Washington – Beat a depleted Bulls roster in Round 1, then got wiped out by a Pacer team who decided to flick it’s “On” switch halfway through Round 2. With Nene and Bradley Beal’s health, Randy Wittman on the sidelines, old Paul Pierce….I need to see more.
  7. Brooklyn – I love the signing of Lionel Hollins. Don’t love that Nets GM Billy King is still making decisions in the front office. Also, I like my franchise center Brook Lopez to average more than 7 boards for his career. Is that too much to ask?
  8. Miami – Too much pride for them to miss the playoffs. Would be great if they can meet Team LeBron in Round 1.
  9. Detroit – Stan Van Gundy will have to move a couple of contracts around before this team gets better. Which players (Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith) will remain to be seen. Will have them playing better.
  10. New York – Carmelo Anthony will have the most efficient season he’ll ever have in this offense. But still, no playoffs here.
  11. Milwaukee – Now THIS is the kind of team Jason Kidd should be coaching to start off his career. Let him have fun and experiment with Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  12. Indiana – “We take any and all applications here at #TankCity. Fill out these forms please…”
  13. Boston – Just counting down the days until Rajon Rondo is traded. The question is, “Where”?
  14. Orlando – Still 2 years away from making any kind of noise. Good thing they have Nikola Vucevic locked up for the next four years.
  15. Philadelphia – I won’t watch a game of theirs until Embiid steps on the court. See you in 2016.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to The Baseline Blog, click onto the Follow button.

 

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

To subscribe to The Baseline Blog, click onto the Follow button.