Cavaliers School Knicks

By Lamar Battle

 

In what turned out to be one of the more exciting NBA games of the season so far the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the New York Knicks Monday in Madison Square Garden.

Cavaliers star Lebron James fanned the pre game flames by saying the Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. is the player the Knicks should have picked instead of the guy they got rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina.  Lebron raised the ire of Knick strong man Enes Kanter who came to the defense of his rookie.

The game itself provided a bevy of thrills as LeBron, Ntilikina and Kanter became involved in a shoving match that saw the rookie Ntilikina confronting LeBron directly.

The Garden erupted as the Knicks used emotion from the dust up to race to a 23 point lead over a Cavalier team that seemed dead in the water.

Ultimately the Cavaliers erased that huge lead to win the game and illustrate the difference between an experienced team hardened by winning and an up start just learning how good they can be.

So what are the take a ways:

LeBron is still a gun fighter,

An older one but a gun fighter nonetheless.  LeBron stoked the flames that knocked most of the Knick players off their square, guarded Kristaps Porzingas with six minutes left roughed him up and then dropped the three point dagger right in his grill.  All of that while serenading the City with possibilities of a free agent signing next season.  Not a bad days work.

Kristaps Porzingas  may not be a franchise player,

At least not yet, Porzingas allowed himself to be rough housed and thrown to the floor all game long.  He has added muscle for this year but apparently not enough as Jae Crowder, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James took turns treating young Kristaps (who had his worst outing of the young season) like a rag doll and the physical play affected his game  Kristaps will need to develop his legs as they are  key in holding offensive  position close to the basket. If he continues on his current trajectory he will get stronger and more experienced sooner rather than later. ( Good news for the Knicks)

 

Frank Ntilikina is a player,

The 19 year old last remnant of the Phil Jackson regime may have come one step closer to NBA legitimacy.  Everyone is aware of Franks defensive chops and how could he not be effective on defense with that 7 foot wing span.

In all fairness this player is a potential diamond in the rough with natural play making abilities and the gumption to take the big shot when the opportunity presents itself.

The Knicks are smart to bring him along slowly as this selection will start to pay dividends in year two.

Knicks Coach Hornacek needs to get up to speed,

In today’s game there are a handful of teams that play effective help defense and they are Boston, Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland (only in the playoffs).

Notice the Knicks like a lot of teams were not included.  One of the best indicators of an organizations viability is their teams ability to play help defense.

Why is that?

Because it is truly hard to teach and enforce.  The sacrifice, energy and rotations needed will expose teams that don’t listen to or respect their coach.  Of course it pays to select the right players as smarts and unselfishness are key.

The Knicks led by Kristaps Porzingas are starting to experience early season success but until they start playing real defense they won’t seriously challenge battle tested teams like the Cavaliers.

When the smoke cleared the old gunslinger sensed a young gun ( Porzingas) in town but like those before him ( most notably Micheal Jordan)  He dealt with the young challenger in a way that will probably leave a lasting impression.

 

 

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The Celtics Are Back ! The Celtics Are Back!

By Lamar Battle

 

Or are they ?  Speculation abounds after the blockbuster trade sending Kyrie Irving formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Boston Celtics for a package of Isiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, rookie Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets unprotected 2018 first round pick which will more than likely be a lottery selection.

With popularity already through the roof the NBA managed to hold our attention to just before the start of training camp for the 2017-18 season…..Wow.

Most observers were aware of Kyrie’s trade request with the Cavaliers and how if unacknowledged could have unhinged the Cavaliers locker room for the up coming season.

After winning an NBA championship along-side LeBron James at age 25 Kyrie Irving expressed a desire to be the main man on his own team.

The trade though now completed holds huge implications for the balance of NBA power in the Eastern conference and quite possibly the entire league.

Who were the winners and losers?

Winners:

Kyrie Irving, who is now position to along with a solid team and competent coach to take over in the Eastern Conference if not this year then the next.

Lebron James, amid speculation that he would leave after this season to join the LA Lakers the Cavaliers have  an opportunity to convince LeBron to stick around awhile.  Isiah Thomas brings great scoring ability (29.8ppg), Jae Crowder is an above average defender and capable three point shooter (39.8%) but the sweetener  is the Nets  pick in a draft that may boast a number of potential franchise players.

Danny Ainge, Celtics G.M. recently completed seminar on how to rebuild a pro basketball team.

Koby Altman, the new Cavaliers GM absolutely got the best return for Kyrie Irving and the CAVS are now a deeper team with future prospects.  According to sources the Cavaliers may not be done dealing.

Dan Griffin, the Cavaliers owner side-stepped a burgeoning fan revolt after a disastrous off season to this point.

Losers:

Jae Crowder, who may be tasked with guarding Kevin Durant providing the Cavaliers make it to the NBA Finals.

The Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and rest of the eastern teams that may have to wait 4-5 years for a shot to contend for the East.

Verdict:

Kyrie Irving got exactly what he wanted.  LeBron James may delay breaking the hearts of Ohio fans for a little while longer but to beat the Warriors LeBron will need one to two bonafide superstars.

NBA fans simply cannot wait for the start of the season.

The NBA’s Western Conference will be a bloodbath and the East won’t be far behind.  At the end of the day both teams won this deal and yes………The Celtics are back.

 

 

 

 

What’s All The Fuss About LaVar Ball ?

By Lamar Battle

Unless you have been living on an island for the last 4 to 5 months I’m fairly certain that you have heard of LaVar Ball father of 2016-17 second pick in the NBA draft Lonzo Ball.

To say LaVar is a proud dad is to the least an understatement as he has been described as arrogant, loud, bombastic and of course crazy.

Mr. Ball has taken the sport world by storm mostly due to the basketball skills of his three boys, Lonzo, Li Angelo and LeMelo all accomplished players with Li Angelo and LeMelo following their older brother to UCLA on full scholarship.

The sports world is rife with stories of stage mothers and fathers following the exploits of their progeny with a  zeal that may best resemble oh, say Black Friday shoppers at a local Best Buy.

LaVar has on occasion been accused of saying that his son would become the greatest basketball player of all time, that he (LaVar) could have beaten NBA legend Micheal Jordan in a game of one on one.

LaVar signaled that he would accept a one billion dollar shoe contract from one of the major companies ( Nike, Adidas and Under Armour) for his three boys.  Better yet he announced the formation of his families signature brand for shoes and apparel: The Big Baller Brand.

The major sports networks most notably ESPN and FOX Sports cannot get enough of LaVar and word has it that Facebook has inked his family for a reality series.

Son Lonzo was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers and new team president of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson who has since characterized Lonzo as the new face of the franchise.

LaVar predicted ( he says since Lonzo’s birth) that his son  would be picked by the Lakers.  So how did it happen ?  LaVar said he spoke it into existence.

The Law Of Attraction ?

Could LaVar Ball be practicing that metaphysical discipline based in quantum physics that illustrates  the influence of thought and words on our circumstances?

Last time I checked LaVar was the one who said he spoke Lonzo’s ascension into being. He also spoke on how he chose his wife and mother of his children because she was beautiful, tall, (6-1) confident and together they raised three sons two of which will be NBA players and since launched a shoe and apparel line that has at least a 50-50 chance of succeeding.

Lonzo Ball is a 6-6 point guard who shoots 55.1% from the floor and 41.2% from the 3 point line and wields an unusual knack for passing and unselfish team play.

Lonzo could not ask for a better mentor than Magic Johnson (one of the NBA’s all time great point guards) but his greatest potential as a pro may be in the impact he has on his teammates.

So LaVar Ball the man many feel is as polarizing as he is impressive ( And he deserves more credit than he gets for being a first class athletic trainer) may very well be on to something reminding any one within ear shot over and over and over that his boys will make history.

Stay tuned.

 

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com

 

 

 

NBA Finals Round table

By Lamar Battle

 

I had a planned  meeting of pod-cast contributors and ordinary gentlemen set for a later time but from the looks of things the NBA Finals series between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers  could be over in a heart-beat.

Joining me are Greg , Enrique, Mike and A.J.

Lamar:  With the Cleveland Cavaliers down 2-0 in the Finals does anyone feel that there is a chance for them?

A.J.:  I have a better question, who is the greatest of all time Micheal Jordan or Kevin Durant?

Lamar:  That was cold bro.

Greg:  Actually, that is not an unfair question in that Kevin Durant  up to this point is outplaying LeBron James and that’s after averaging 32 and 10 against LeBron in the regular season.

Enrique:  There may be a slight opening for Cleveland but I am surprised that LeBron has yet to make more of an offensive push in the 4th quarters.  We can all see how dominant he can be but when his team needs that extra push he always defers to his teammates.

Mike:  By the 4th quarter LeBron is probably tired from having to chase Kevin Durant around for most of the game.

Enrique:  Well someone should should tell him it’s the Finals for crying out loud.  If any series is where you lay it all down, it’s in this series.  I mean what good is going to the Finals seven straight times if you only have three titles to show for it.

Greg:  A lot of my readers are under the impression that the Warriors may lack heart and if the series tightens up that lack will show just like it did last year.

Lamar:  If the Cavs can take game 3 in such a way that changes the flow of the series then things can get interesting real quick.

A.J.  After you guys put down the kool-aid remember that the Warriors have won the first two games in convincing fashion.  One problem the Cavaliers face is that they have some older players that were more than satisfied to get one ring let alone two.

Greg:  One thing is  for sure and that is the Cavaliers will not beat the Warriors playing the Warriors style of ball.  One question is can the Cavaliers slow the game down and manufacture free throws?  Can Lebron and Kevin Love supply enough inside presence to open up their outside shooters?

Lamar:  What does a loss mean for Cleveland?

A.J.   For one, all of the LeBron as the G.O.A.T. talk will have to be put on hold.  As a matter of fact he may not win another title especially if he stays in Cleveland.

Lamar:  Where else could he go?

Mike:  The best fit if he wants to seriously contend for another  title  is probably the L.A. Clippers.  I say this because the Clippers have enough existing talent to contend in the west especially with LeBron James on the team.

Greg:   The Clippers are a possibility but if LeBron decides to stay home then the Cavaliers will have get some young studs in there.

Lamar:  You mean like Andrew Wiggins?

Greg:  Don’t get me started on that subject. (laughs all around)

Lamar:  A Fox Sports 1 commentator suggested that there are two teams in the NBA that are totally controlled by their star players, those would be the Cavaliers ( 16th in ppg allow and fg% allow) and the L.A. Clippers.( 11th in ppg allow and fg% allow) per Fox Sports.com,  If that’s the case then  LeBron may have to leave player acquisitions to experienced staff.  (providing he has not done so)

Also, one overlooked aspect of this series is that the Golden State Warriors put a lot of thought into the type of attack they wanted and then they (team management including consultant Jerry West) went out and got the players that formed the type of team that is seemingly revolutionizing the game.   The Warriors are long, athletic, smart and unselfish.

Essentially this highly coached and motivated team also boast the 3 best shooters in the game today and possibly of all time.

Come to think of it, we could have another dynasty in the making.

Mike:  That’s what I’ve been saying all along.

 

 

 

 

Dempsey Willard, A Coach Who Gives Back To The Community.

 

By Lamar Battle
Former Saint Paul College student Dempsey Willard (Class Of 76) Has made quite the name for himself in Chicago coaching circles.
The Whitney Young High School boys and girls head coach has achieved success on and off the tennis court by putting the needs of his students first and plain old fashioned hard work.
The Remnant Magazine caught up with Coach Willard and his wife Toni to talk about his career and the influences that have propelled him.
RM:  First off, It’s good to see you again.  How are things since your days playing basketball at SPC ?
DW:  Good to see you to my brother, I am doing well and I am eternally grateful for what Saint Paul’s College has done for me.
RM:  I remember you as a basketball player, how did you get started in tennis?
DW:  Well during my time teaching in Virginia (Elementary Education Major)  I made lasting friendships with some of the business leaders in Lawrenceville V.A.
After winning a bet with one of the business owners I decided to give tennis a try.
I spent time in Richmond V.A. playing and working with the tennis coach O.G.Walker, credited for working with and helping Arthur Ashe.
I also traveled to Maryland where I played against NBA star in the making John Lucas, who also  happened to be an outstanding tennis player.
After graduation I took a teaching position in Chesterfield V.A. while while coaching three teams and eventually I earned my certification as a tennis pro.
RM:  Do you have any coaching influences?
DW:  Moses Gollatt, James Price and Pernell Sims.
RM:  You mentioned Saint Paul’s College, What are some of your memories in terms of how Saint Paul’s prepared you?
DW:  Most all I learned how to get along with others, to be worldly but most importantly to view all of life as an opportunity to always grow and learn.
One thing I will always remember is the impact religion professor Father Easley had on me especially when as part of an assignment in his  class I completed a paper on Infinity which I learned later explains tennis to a degree as a sport that utilizes continuous motion.
RM:  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this year you coached teams that finished 2nd and 4th in the State.  You were also the 1st African American in State history to win Coach of the Year, keeping that in mind how do you prepare your teams to compete?
DW:  I would lead by example by always being prepared and on time.  I also utilized my captains to the fullest.
RM:  Would you say that during your time at Whitney Young High School here in Chicago that you have received the support you needed?
DW:  Yes, when I served as an assistant to head coach Ed Cruzat the tradition of winning was established.  Principle Joyce Kenner has always been there with support and assistance.  Parents like Will Hobert have never failed to provide support and I have to also credit people like Kamau Murray of the Excess Foundation for Inner City Youth.
 There have been many others but none more important than my lovely wife Toni who is always there for me. Toni has helped me through tough times with her love and affection.
RM:   Do you see tennis as a growing sport in the inner city?
DW:  I really hope so and I am doing all that I can to raise awareness and participation in the sport.
RM:   Can you provide an example?
DW:   Well, Ed Cruzat and I always made a practice to bring on any kid that was interested in tennis.  We never told a kid no and to a large degree we experienced a lot of success in developing our young people on and off the court.
I also strongly believe in education and growth so I take every opportunity to learn and develop myself as a coach and role model.
RM:  Any thoughts on the violence that impacts the lives of young people in Chicago and around the Nation?
DW:  The violence makes me sad and I wish that I could do more but we cannot overlook the impact of social media in the lives and choices of our children.
RM:   Let me ask a couple of closing questions?  Who was the best player you ever coached?
DW:  Gabby Moore.
RM:  Why ?
DW:  Because of her heart and desire.
RM:  Do you still play yourself?
DW:  I do, in a 40 and older league and I provide individual lessons.
RM:  Federer or Nedal?
DW:  Federer.
RM:   Why?
DW:  He plays the whole court and he has the heart of a champion.
RM:   As an individual who puts it all on the line for others I guess you would know.
DW:  Thank you.
Reprinted courtesy of the Remnant Magazine.

NBA 2016-17 Mid Season Rankings

By Lamar Battle

joel-embiid

Can we say without a doubt that Cleveland and Golden State will meet again for the NBA Title this year?
Well, probably not, but don’t bet the mortgage money against it happening for a 3rd straight year.
How are the challengers shaping up? Check out these rankings of the top ten teams in the NBA at this point of the season.
1. Golden State Warriors-41-7:
 Sporting the top record and win margin the Warriors are starting to look like the team to beat as they addressed size issues with the addition of Zaza Pachulia (brawn) and Javale McGee (length). The Warriors could be on track for some serious history making.
2. San Antonio Spurs-36-11:
With only four games in the lost column separating them just like last season the Spurs are hanging close to the Warriors. The Spurs are big but the Warriors are fast. Only time will tell.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers-32-14:
Don’t let that slight mid season swoon fool you. When the lights come on the Cavs will be ready. The addition of sharpshooter Kyle Korver(36.8-3pt%) will pay huge dividends. However, the size advantage that the Cavs enjoyed last is negated with the absence of Timofey Mozgov.  Tristan Thompson is an absolute beast on the offensive boards but at the end of the day he is still an undersized power forward.  And so is Kevin Love.
4. Houston Rockets-35-16:
Talk about a marriage made in Vegas? The pairing of an athletic three point shooting roster with the father of the pace and space offense is potentially a first round playoff nightmare for somebody.
5.Toronto Raptors-29-19:
Can the Raptors overthrow the Cavs? …Well no, but here are a couple of things they can do.
Develop a low post series of plays around underutilized center Jonas Valenciunas and Change their name to the Toronto Huskies.
Nothing like a identity and uniform change to get the juices flowing.
6. L.A. Clippers-30-18:
 
Many feel that the window has shut for this team that can’t seem to escape the injury bug. Just when star Power Forward Blake Griffin returns Star point guard Chris Paul goes out with an injury all while the Warriors may have assembled with the recent acquisition of Kevin Durant a dynasty for the next three to four years.
Clipper Nation, hope that the proposed deal for Knick’s forward Carmelo goes through to at least make things interesting.
7. Utah Jazz-30-19:
 
Steady improvement by building through the draft and timely free agent pickups have put the Jazz right in the middle of the Western Conference race.
First time All Star Gordon Haywood leads this young and defensively solid (95.5 OPPG) team.
8. OKC Thunder-28-20:
 The Thunder will go as far as team star/leader/cyborg Russell Westbrook will take them which will probably be as far as the second round of the playoffs.  One interesting side note will be Westbrook’s pursuit of history as he attempts to match Hall Of Famer Oscar Robertson’s feat of averaging a triple double for the season.
Memphis Grizzlies-28-21:
 
Everybody pretty much gave up on the Grizzlies for the usual reasons; Too old and plodding.  We should have known any team with a top shelf point guard and center would always be in the mix..The Grizzlies could be a dark horse in the west.
10. Atlanta Hawks-28-20:
 
After starting slowly the Hawks have rebounded to 4th place in the east. All Star Paul Milsap is the real deal and the no frills leader of this team. Look for a second round loss to the Cavaliers.
Photo courtesy of SI.com. and The new big thing aka  Joel “The Process” Embiid.