Who Is The NBA’s 2016-17 MVP ?

By Lamar Battle,
Note to all the purist out there, Lebron James will not be considered in what I believe is a two player race.
Like Micheal Jordan before him there is a school of thought suggesting that Cleveland’s James could win the award every year. However the contest takes into consideration the player most valuable to his particular team and not necessarily the best player in the league.
Who are they?
James Harden, Houston Rockets:
Already the best shooting guard in the league Harden has exploded under new coach Mike D’Antoni who installed a system that utilizes Harden’s natural abilities to the fullest.
Playing the point guard position Harden has powered the Rockets to 3rd best record in the NBA’s formidable Western Conference.
Harden averages 29.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg and a league leading 11.0 apg.
Those numbers combined with ten triple doubles and a recent victory   where Harden out dueled Cleveland’s LeBron James make him the odds on favorite to win the award.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder:
How can one vote against a man on the verge of breaking the supposed unbreakable record held by NBA demi-god Oscar Robertson who averaged a triple double ( double figures in any statistical category, in this case; points,rebounds and assist.) for an entire NBA season?
Westbrook is within eight more triple doubles of surpassing a record (41) that no one has even come close to, up to now.
His season averages up to this point are 31.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg and 10.4 apg.
The Thunder, ( currently 6th place in the Western Conference ) came within one game of beating the Golden State Warriors (winners themselves of 73 games ) in last seasons playoffs.
Since that time Thunder star Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the Warriors for this season and more or less left the Thunder in the hands of Westbrook who re-signed with the team.
The Verdict ?
James Harden headlines a team matched perfectly to his skill set, they run, spread the floor and shoot three point shots.
Harden is masterful as the maestro who orchestrates every thing including the odds of this team upsetting the entire apple cart and winning this seasons championship.
Russell Westbrook is UN-relenting in aggression and intensity.
He astounds even casual observers who marvel at his fearlessness and  refusal to take even a play off, let alone a game.
So who wins?
James Harden seems to at this point have a slight edge according to most observers but I would like to employ what I would like to call the (Hoiberg Metric).
Allow Chicago Bulls head basketball coach Fred Hoiberg (nothing personal) to coach the Rockets for a few games and then the Thunder for the same.
The player still thriving at the end of this episode would be the one truly able to adapt to any program and your 2016-17 NBA MVP. (See Photo)
Photo by Layne Murdock / Getty Images.

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.

The Dialectic Relativity

By Gregory Powell

 

In these last days, I got a praise

Now we shocked out malaise, that darken our days

I’m a resurrect-or so I raise, pulling my ass out the grave

Where I been a slave in a hopeful haze

But now the mask off the beast from the west to the east

That strong Black love provokes dogs off they leash

But I’m gonna reach and preach for my release

Gonna beseech and teach to get my people free

Seek God and pray and fight

when they come for me

Hopefully I don’t get hung up a tree

If I do my sons I did it for you

And all the people darker than blue

I’ll intrude into the multitude

Of the abused but not confused

Where all God’s children got shoes

Witnesses against devils, iron rebels

Of whips and chains and wicked brains

Police bullet rain, wet blood stain

I take the pain convert to gain

Strain to attain the freedom train

In these last days I got a praise

For my peoples we got to raise

We been played, justice delayed

Like Jesus flayed, lost souls strayed

The dead walking like a fucking parade

Distracted to destructed by toxic charade

Wake the fuck up, the prophetic tirade

Nation bleeds death under band aid

Over souls of saints who prayed

Forgive me, I’m saved, but I’m irate

The death of hope for united state

Idiot dictator primed to dictate

Dollar fascists perpetrate

Take the streets and demonstrate

Take your power agitate

Raise a nation and make it great

Like Muhammad a heavyweight

Float like butterfly sting like bee

Get the nigga’s off the tree

Snatch the blind and make them see

Save the souls and make them free

Raise the babies love your mate

Prison systems eradicate

Revolution orchestrate

We got to set this shit straight,

cause I can’t relate

I can’t relate

I can’t relate

In these last days I got a praise

Coming out complacent haze

Systems to raze, so my flow raves

Dead to raise from they graves

I blaze trails so I’m a trailblazer

Holy Ghost armor to repel the Taser

I’m a crazier praiser, a stepping razor

I serve Savior, I a demon slayer

Iron like Zion Lion; I don’t waver

Marinade your skull with liberation flavor

Time to refine the mind for the grind

Eat the meat of the melon not the rind

Spirit nourishment to unbind

Demand demons get thee behind

Illusions burn and loot

Kingdom of God on earth reboot

My lyrics are loaded: aim, shoot

Decapitate the hate down to the root

Bring in the harvest of strange fruit

Freedom fighter field negro recruits

Overcome the ruse that abuses

Polit-Pimps confuse the losers

The bible says Satan the accuser

Drive by sniper in  a blue cruiser

My drum beat is an automatic

Pop goes down the autocratic

Slap back the racist static

Tone to the bone to chill the erratic

Refuse to lose I keeps the battle at it

Djembe loaded aim fire rat ti tat it

Beat your soul into a zone of ecstatic

In these last days I got a praise

Molded clay, focusing my ways

Fighting for right is my delight

My soul is bright my flow skin tight

God my might, he is the light

I got no fright, I own the night

I bloom in blight, I strive to fight

Alive in stride, on air I glide

The wind I ride to turn the tide

Bomber said run but you can’t hide

Trying to save you from suicide

I am local not nation wide

I unleash souls who seek to hide

I rescue minds from demonic pride

I explode local but blast world wide

My fish is fried, got peace inside

I make the enemy petrified

I keeps my God glorified

I’m so high I stretch the sky

I never die, you wonder why?

Cause I got to praise these last days

I’m out the grave, the ex-slave

Lazarus stepping out slavers cave

Justice I crave, and so I rave

Down the hate,

cause I can’t relate

I can’t relate

I can’t relate

Gregory Powell is a free lance writer.

Photo courtesy of Time Magazine/ Getty Images.


Stephan Curry And The Warriors Prepare For A return To Glory

By  Lamar Battle

 

After the devastating loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in last seasons finals, one that saw the Golden State Warriors give up a 3 to 1 series lead  ( The first time in Finals history) before falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers the Warriors have made improvements in their quest to win their second NBA crown.
The most notable improvement comes in the form of first team all NBA player Kevin Durant who joins the team this season as a free agent.
In most circles Kevin Durant is considered to be the second or third best player in the world depending on who you are talking to.
The Warriors added Durant after winning an astounding 73 games the season to eclipse the Chicago Bulls all time winning record of 72-10.
Adding Kevin Durant to a lineup featuring Stephen Curry ( 45.2 on three pointers 2016-17) and sharpshooter Klay Thompson ( 42.5 on three pointers 2016-17) all but establishes the Warriors as contenders to win the NBA 2016-17 title.
More Than A Shooter:
One must admit that the Warriors are loaded for sure but when the smoke clears Steph Curry will still be the straw that stirs the drink and  LeBron James biggest rival.
As fate would have it mis-timed ankle and knee injuries as well as an auto-response ailment afflicting the foot of teammate Draymond Green prevented Steph and the Warriors from capping off a perfect season with a championship in 2015-16.
Stephen Curry, always underestimated due to his size 6′ 3″ and weight 190 pounds has added muscle to his frame over the summer and can now bench press 300 pounds ten times. ( The weight training may be a result of LeBron James manhandling him during the Finals).
The averages of 30.1 points pg, 5.4 assist pg and 6.9 rebounds pg (2016-17) are impressive enough but consider he was the  2x league MVP, 3x NBA All Star, 2x All NBA first team, 4x three point field goals leader, 2x free throw percentage leader and NBA steals leader (2015).
 However, taking into account this  list of achievements Stephan Curry still has the  ability to make his teammates better through example and humility.
We should recall that this is the same player who led tiny Davidson University to an Elite Eight birth in the NCAA tournament.
 Stephan has also made such an impact on the league that more and more teams are adjusting offensive approaches to address the growing trend of increased three point shooting.
The NBA boast players that are now more than ever speaking out on the behalf of the under-served while donating to charitable causes.
Stephen Curry is no different as he donates three insecticide treated mosquito nets to the United Nations Nothing but Nets program for every three point shot made.
Curry has met with President Obama and addressed dignitaries as part of the President’s Malaria initiative.
The married father of two daughters has left no room for doubt when it comes to his faith as evidenced during his MVP acceptance speech where he said:
” People should know who I represent and why I am who I am, and that’s because of my Lord and Savior”.
The Golden State Warriors are indeed blessed to have this player, a role model for young people and a great player who is evolving into an even greater leader.

2016-17 NBA Western Conference Outlook

1. San Antonio Spurs:
O.k., before you suggest that I check myself into a mental facility let me explain.
San Antonio won 67 games last season ( only six games short) of Golden States history making mark of 73-9.  And that was accomplished without the services of newly acquired center Pau Gasol.
With a front line comprised of Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kahwi Leonard the Spurs hands down sport the best front line in the league.
(a fact that just happens to be Golden States main weakness).
Pau is no spring chicken and is past his prime but if he had chosen the Spurs instead of the Bulls last season Tim Duncan would have gotten his sixth ring.
2. Golden State Warriors:
After winning 73 games the Warriors shocked the basketball world by acquiring prized free agent and All NBA Kevin Durant.
Most would just crown the Warriors right now but we would be remiss to discount the role that chemistry played in the success of last seasons team.
To make room for Durant the Warriors had to dismantle most of their bench (An extremely effective and unselfish group). The Warriors may have sacrificed some defense, rebounding and size to make room for more offense.
Not only will the team have to replicate to some degree the contributions of last years bench but they will have to form chemistry amongst the starters who will have to jell to accommodate a talent of Kevin Durant’s stature.
3. Los Angeles Clippers:
The Clippers finally got to the place last season where they felt they had a realistic shot to win the NBA title before they were beset by injuries to Blake Griffin and star guard Chris Paul.
Can the Clippers stay healthy enough to challenge for at least a second round playoff win?
4. Oklahoma City Thunder:
Star guard Russell Westbrook is poised and ready to take this Thunder team as far as he can in what could amount to an MVP type season.
He will get support from a veteran and experienced team that will be out to prove that they are a formidible group with or with out the services of All NBA performer Kevin Durant (who left the team as a free agent.) Key for the Thunder are new shooting guard Victor Oladipo, breakout Center Steven Adams and 6-11″ 245 backup center Enes Kanter.
5. Utah Jazz:
The Jazz failed last season to make the playoffs but that scenario will change this season.
Not the biggest free agent destination the Jazz have managed to build through the draft and nurture their young players while adding the occasional veteran mostly through trades.
Joining future All Star Gordon Haywood (19.7ppg) and sharp shooter Rodney Hood (14.5ppg 35.9 3pt%) are point guard George Hill from the Pacers and Joe Johnson from the Miami Heat.
Promising bigs Derrick Favors (8.1rpg) and Rudy Gobert (11.0rpg 2.2 bpg)
6.  Dallas Mavericks:
Pencil the Mavericks in for a 6th place finish and an opening round match up against the LA Clippers.
The Clippers would be a tough opponent for anyone but let’s give the Mavericks a punchers chance.
Why, you ask? The Mavericks added key free agents Harrison Barnes and  Andrew Bogut both from the Golden State Warriors.
Harrison and Andrew bring scoring and defense to a veteran team with the ultimate trump (no pun intended) card and that would be the most excellent coach  Rick Carlisle.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves:
The Timberwolves are “gonna be a nightmare to play” according to small forward Andrew Wiggins as told to NBA T.V.
Mr. Wiggins may just have a future career as a weatherman because the forecast for this team is sunny without a cloud in the sky.
Andrew Wiggins is joined by quite possibly the next big star in the game Karl Anthony Towns along with the uber-athletic Zach Levine and ROY candidate Kris Dunn and if this is not enough they have Tom Thibodeau as coach and President of Basketball operations.
Coach Thibs is spearheading a group that will play tough hard nosed defense and improved offense given coach’s reputation for making players (especially point guards) better.
8. Houston Rockets:
The Rockets are an example of a team in transition.  Just two seasons ago they finished second in the west but a combination of ill timed injuries and poor defense have left this team trying to reload on the fly.
Gone is center Dwight Howard who never really ever fit with this team and in his place is Clint Capella.
The heart and soul of the Rockets is All NBA two guard James Hardin
(29ppg, 35.9  three pt% and 7.5apg).  As good as Hardin is on offense he was as bad on defense.
The Rockets as a team will have to improve on defense and to address this need they went out and hired one of the top offensive minds in basketball, coach Mike D’Antoni.
Long story short; this is a near perfect marriage of a wide open loose three point shooting team with a mad scientist as coach.
It just might work.
When the smoke clears:
Expect to see San Antonio and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016-17 NBA Finals.

2016-17 NBA Eastern Conference Outlook

There was a point during NBA Finals game four that would be lost by the  Cleveland Cavaliers and their star player LeBron James.
The Cavs were about to go down 3 games to 1 to the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 NBA Finals.
No team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit and for most part that was the death knell for all NBA teams up to this point.
During a time out Le Bron sat motionless staring straight ahead seemingly oblivious to everything going on around him.
It was at this point that LeBron may have stared into the figurative abyss and his own soul to summon that which was needed to overcome an opponent with a 73-9 record, the expectations of a title starved city and a short tempered undersized power forward calling him every name in the book.
LeBron then executed  the systematic deconstruction of a proud championship team in this order:
1. He stepped over a fallen Draymond Green as slowly as he could and waited for the result.
2. He promptly explained to the media and (Commissioner Adam Silver)
of how offended he was by the verbal onslaught used by Draymond during the game that resulted in a subsequent game five suspension.
3. He finally orchestrated a tempo controlling pace utilizing the size advantage held by by the Cavaliers.
After it was over Cleveland got their Title, the Warriors, maybe their last shot and Lebron ? The vindication of a turbo-charged push through doubt and fear and possibly a challenge to Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the GreatestOf All Time.
Can LeBron repeat? To pull that off he will have to go through a much improved Eastern Conference so without further ado let’s look at the best of the  rest as we breakdown the Eastern Conference contenders in order of finish.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Please see the above.
Toronto Raptors: 56-26 Last season:
 Last seasons record 56-26 (franchise best).  This is the team that took the Cavs to six games in the conference finals and that was with ever improving center Jonas Valanciunas hampered with a bad ankle. Guards DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry are veteran All Stars providing big numbers and leadership.
The team lost backup center Bismack Biyombo to free agency but should rebound with the solid work of top shelf and underrated GM Masai Ujiri.
The Raptors are a gritty defensive minded team that will give Cleveland all they can handle for a second straight year.
3.  Boston Celtics: 48-34 Last season:
If there were ever a team that Nick Fury would be proud of it would be this one.  Top five head coach Brad Stevens has assembled a team of leathernecks reminiscent of some of the throwback teams of the 60’s and 70’s.  There used to be a term, I believe it was junkyard dog and most teams had one maybe two.
This Celtic team has at least six starting with Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Gerald Green (yeah, I said it) and rookie Jaylen Brown. The C’s have chemistry and toughness to augment an absolutely relentless defense.
The challenge in last years playoffs was scoring (11th in points per possession) and a key injury to guard Bradley that turned out to be devastating.
New for this year is Horford (15.2 ppg) and promising rookie Jaylen Brown ( for whom coach Brad Stevens said ” is going to be really good”)
No this Celtic team is not good enough to win the NBA title this year.  But they are good enough to win the east.
4. Indiana Pacers: 49-33 Last season:
Some are projecting this Pacers Team to win the eastern conference and they may well be in the conversation but first they will have to prove that they can pull together some newly acquired firepower.
Jeff Teague (15.7 ppg) joined the Pacers from the Hawks to help fulfill team president Larry Birds vision of a higher scoring offensive team.
Joining Jeff are Big Al Jefferson(10.1ppg), Thaddeus Young(15.1) and the return of promising second year center Myles Turner(10.3ppg)
NBA All Star and team leader Paul George (23.1ppg and 7.0 rpg) looks to seriously challenge his rival LeBron James for the conference title.
Paul just may have a point if the pacers can capitalize on upgrades at the point guard and back up center.
5.  New York Knicks  32-50 Last season:
Team president Phil Jackson has managed to finally put some realistic pieces around star forward Carmelo Anthony (21.8ppg) who with second year potential All Star Kristaps Porzingas (14.3 ppg) and new trade acquisitions have given Melo maybe the most talent he has had to work with yet.
The new teammates include Derrick Rose, healthy and in a contract year, Joakim Noah a former NBA defensive player of the year, Brandon Jennings and defensive stalwart Courtney Lee.
Noah and Lee give the Knicks starting lineup some sorely needed defensive balance and in Noah’s case mentoring for young star in the making Porzingas.
 New head coach Jeff Hornacek is faced with the task of melding this collection of players with his desired fast paced attack while attempting to utilize the triangle offense.
Oh yeah, the much maligned Triangle offense which seems to gain a new group of detractors weekly. Here’s the deal.
  Horace grant was on the money recently when he said the offense requires intelligence.  It’s not an easy offense to learn but the payoffs are worth it because when ran correctly the triple post offense can force defenses to keep up and identify match ups while offensive players are constantly moving based on the position of the ball.
Will the players buy in or will you have hold outs who for whatever reasons choose to lean on a more conventional pick and roll attack.
One thing is for certain and that is this shapes up as a truly interesting year for long suffering Knick fans and for this franchise who could very well face Indiana in the 1st round of the 2016-17 playoffs.
6. Milwaukee Bucks 33-49 last season:
The Milwaukee Bucks are in full rebuilding mode while developing their two cornerstones Gianianis Antetokounmpo (16.9 ppg 7.7 rpg) and forward Jabari Parker(14.1 ppg 5.2 rpg), both 21 years old.
Joining the Bucks is recent free agent signee Matthew Delavedova from the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Delavedova will back up Giannis at the point in light of the recent trade of Micheal Carter-Williams.
The 2016 NBA draft netted the Bucks 6-2″ point guard Malcolm Brogdon out of Virginia and 7-1″ forward Thon Maker out of the South Sudan.
The Bucks will make the playoffs this year on the strength of their young promising players.
7.  Detroit Pistons 44-38 last season
The Pistons look to build on last season which saw them making the NBA playoffs only to lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.
Coach and team president Stan Van Gundy has earned respect around the league for his ability to turn around franchises and he is pinning his hopes on key player Andre Drummond a 6-10″ center who last season averaged  (16.2 ppg and 14.8 rpg ).
Drummond is joined by promising point guard Reggie Jackson(18.8 ppg) who for this year will be backed up by lightning quick Ish Smith.
The Pistons are on the right track but until they develop their weak bench expect a 7th place finish and between 46 to 50 wins.
8. Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets tied for 8th:
After trading guard Derrick Rose the Chicago Bulls had to make a decision;  Do we rebuild or do we give the fans some semblance of hope that we can contend for the conference? The entire choice rested on the decision to keep or trade guard/forward Jimmy Butler.
Once the team decided to keep Jimmy the task became to put the most competitive team around him that you can
Guard Rajon Rondo was obtained for a year and to top it off future Hall of Fame guard Dwayne Wade was brought in to provide in equal parts credibility and leadership.
Can this team contend? Well, the 3pt shooting percentages for Jimmy Butler 31.2, Rajon Rondo 36.5 and Dwayne Wade 15.9%.
Pencil them in for 40 wins.
Who will win the East?
It’s hard to believe that this NBA season could surpass the last one in terms of excitement but  with a new influx of talent in the conference Cleveland will have their hands full.
However, at the end of the day don’t bet the mortgage money against the guy hellbent on re-writing history.
Welcome back LeBron.