Tag Archives: Sports

The Ave Podcast – 2018 State of the Raptors Address

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 39: 2018 State of the Raptors Address

Today on The Ave Podcast, I invite Randall Walter (Head Coach of Team Breakdown’s AAU  Basketball Program) & Julian aka Jules Da Commish to discuss the first half of the Toronto Raptors. We discuss Kyle, DeMar, Jonas, Serge, and the high value of the bench mob, if Masai Ujiri should get Executive of the Year, share our thoughts on Norman Powell’s struggles, just how far the Raptors can actually go, plus much more.

*** 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. You can also check out the podcasts on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, & Stitcher on your IOS or Android devices. ***

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 39

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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 Randall Walter and Julian aka Jules Da Commish for their guest appearance on this podcast. To check out last year’s  State of the Raptors Address, click right here.

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


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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


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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

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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

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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

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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’.


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

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