Warriors Lead NBA Finals 1-0

By Lamar Battle

 

Now we get to see just how great he really is.  Am I talking about Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors who defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in game one of the 2017-18 NBA Finals ?

No.

I am speaking of Cleveland Cavalier and future Hall Of Famer LeBron James.  After delivering one of the all time great Finals performances where he scored 51 points his teammates seemingly no, actually let him down.  With the score tied and four seconds left in the game  Cavalier guard George Hill missed the second of two free throws and teammate J.R. Smith grabbed  the rebound and instead of taking the potential game winning shot or passing to LeBron James standing alone and waiting to shoot ?

J.R. elected to keep the ball and run out the clock. Countless T.V. replays and internet memes have shown LeBron’s incredulous response and frustration over the way the game went to overtime ultimately resulting in a Warrior victory.

Let’s get one thing straight,

LeBron James is a bad man!  Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times  ( A great newspaper that has fallen on hard times.)  Said that just before LeBron left the Cavaliers the first time to join the Miami Heat the CAVS had just won 61 games.  The season after LeBron left the team won 19 games.

In comparison when Chicago Bulls great and G.O.A.T ( in the eyes of some) Micheal Jordan retired for the first time and left the Bulls the team had just won 57 games.  The next season with teammate Scottie Pippin at the helm they won 55 games.

While judging all time greats most should consider that Kareem Abdul Jabbar had the most unstoppable shot, Bill Russell was the best at sacrifice and leadership, Micheal Jordan was the most spectacular and LeBron James is the best all around player (hands down)  and quite possibly the smartest ( just ask Celtics coach Brad Stevens ) player in the history of the game.

The Golden State Warriors are the better team in the Finals (with quite possibly the best shooter ever in Steph Curry)  but if LeBron James is to have any chance to beat them it will flow directly from how he handles the events as they unfolded in game one.

Will LeBron remind his teammates of just how much they let him down or….will he find a way to re-assure them that there are no hard feelings and the team will find a way to overcome together? Can he inspire limited players to rise to the occasion?

Can he control the pace of the game again like he did in game one, (a tactic used with some success by the Houston Rockets.)  Better yet,  can LeBron drop another 50 or 60 points?

The answer to these scenarios will go a long ways toward revealing the make-up of a player who could very well be the best ever to lace them up.

If anyone can pull it off he can.

 

 

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The Rockets Tie The Series Vs The Warriors

 

By Lamar Battle

 

The Houston Rockets force a best two of three series (currently tied at 2-2) versus the vaunted Golden State Warriors in the NBA 2017-18 Western Conference Finals.

Can the Rockets seriously De-Rail the dynastic mega-team known as the Warriors ?  Only time will tell but Tuesday nights victory 95 – 92 certainly enlivens the debate and after three prior lackluster efforts gives fans a series worthy of the combatants regular season records.

The Rockets weathered an early 12-0  Warriors run and a third quarter flurry punctuated by some incredible shooting by Steph Curry.

James Harden had 30 points and Chris Paul dispelling some opinions about him coming up short  in big games had 27 points

Steph Curry and Kevin Durant had 28 and 27 points respectively for the Warriors who surprisingly came up short down the stretch.  Writer Tony Powers suggested that the Warriors are like a late model top of the line Jaguar.

What Does that mean?

The Warriors bring an almost unbeatable combination of talent, smarts, unselfishness and toughness that when  fully engaged transform them into some combination of the 71 Miami Dolphins and Cirque Du Solei.  When moving and grooving in their zone they can be a sight to behold.

So How Did The Rockets Do It ?

A clue could be in Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s press conference.  Coach Mike said ” I thought this is the highest level we’ve ever played defensively,  without a doubt because we’re talking about the best offensive team ever.”

The further a franchise progresses into the playoffs the more they come to realize the importance of posturing and gamesmanship so it seems in one session Mike D’Antoni motivated his own team while firing a shot across the bow at the Warriors.  This is the same guy who refused to acknowledge a style change (publicly) after a game one loss.

In game four the Rockets played a more physical brand of defense forcing the Warriors into a high number of turnovers.

In a series that seems destined to go seven games will the Warriors regain their high flying guns blazing style or will the Rockets prevail with a combination of isolation ball and hands on defense ?

Grab some popcorn because this will be quite a race to the finish.

 

 

 

Will Kahwi Leonard Get Traded

By Lamar Battle

 

 

The answer for all of those San Antonio Spurs fans worldwide the answer is….Yes, it is quite possible !  Now the notion seems far fetched given the fact that Kahwi Leonard is a top three player in the NBA.

However over the course of the season the relationship between the Spurs and Kahwi may have deteriorated beyond the point of no return.  The Spurs drafted Kahwi developed him and won with him as possibly the top two way (offensive and defensive) player in the game today.

A quad injury kept Kahwi out for the majority of the 2017-18 NBA season.  Kahwi took longer to return from his injury than his own teammates thought was needed which culminated in a team meeting centered on Kahwi and his willingness to return to the team.

The press asked Coach Greg Popovich about Kahwi’s status and the coach’s response was to ask Kahwi’s group.  The response suggested a possible chasm  between the coach and his star player who left the team during  the playoffs and went to New York supposedly for rehab.

ESPN reporter Ramona Shelborne talked about how there appears to be a misconception regarding the severity of Kahwi’s injury between him and the Spurs.  Kahwi is eligible for the NBA’s super Max contract paying him 219 million over five years.  The question is, will the Spurs pay the max to a player who may be injury prone?

Fox Sports One T.V. host Chris Carter mentioned that his brother works with the group currently advising Kahwi and alluded to the possibility that Kahwi will not return to the Spurs unless LeBron James signs there as a free agent.  Some are speculating that Kahwi may be jockeying to force a trade.

If That’s The Case:

I believe the Los Angeles Lakers would be the best landing spot for Kahwi.  Why?  Most teams like the Celtics and Sixers may just wait until Kahwi becomes a free agent and get him for nothing.( Kahwi has one more season left on his current deal).  That way they can hang on to their young assets.

Lakers President Magic Johnson has been known to say that he is not interested in any rebuilding efforts and would like to return to contention as soon as possible and Magic has a lot of chips.

The Lakers could trade Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Loul Deng (for salary considerations) to the Spurs for Kahwi.  learning of this development LeBron may well jump on a plane in full uniform ( in the middle of the playoffs) and report to Los Angeles. (Wife and Kids to come later).

The Lakers would become contenders over-night and the Spurs would have the young players to get them back on track.  Lonzo Ball could change the teams culture on the court and Brandon Ingram would be just the prize that the Spurs always manage to find and convert into a star.

There’s no sense in delaying the one deal that would make everyone involved happy  with the exception being  the Golden State Warriors.

Dwayne Wade And The Wild Bunch

By Lamar Battle

 

 

It was the look that gave it away.  At first I thought it was fear but upon further scrutiny it seemed to be some thing else.

The Miami Heat tied their first round 2018 playoff series with the Philadelphia 76ers at one game each. This was against the 76er team that is projected in a lot of circles to make it all the way to the NBA Eastern Conference finals.

The Sixers have two that’s right two potentially great players in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. They  won 17 straight games prior to Monday nights game and Simmons is seen by a growing list of admirers as a generational player….You know, like Kareem, Russell, Robertson and M.J.

However, just prior to the game the players stood facing one another during a tribute to recently deceased 76er legend Hal Greer and the camera swung to D.Wade.

Wade had a curious look on his face probably not unlike the one a man has (and you know who you are) when there is a leak in his living room with water coming down in a bucket and the wife and kids  looking to him and he is afraid of heights.

I saw his face and I thought of Bill Russell who used to throw up prior to games. No, D.Wade is no Russell but it seemed as if he were trying to summon something deep within himself..Maybe the greatness that he as a player on the other side of his prime hasn’t experienced in years.

Long story short the Heat won the game and tied the series up against a superior team with  Wade scoring 28 points and hitting the game clinching shot down the stretch.

Blog contributor Tony Powers said the Heat have a lot of bastards on the team.

What?

Bastards the  millennial term for the junk yard dogs of yester-year. These are the guys that will sacrifice their bodies and morals for a win.  Most teams cannot win a title without at least one bastard… The Celtics have 3-4.  The Heat have about 9 not including their coach (who was quoted as saying they like mother fuckers on their team) and the team president ( Yes, Pat Riley).

The Heat won game two by going old school and playing physical so now we will see if the kid (Simmons) is ready for greatness or will good old fashion grit win out ?

Loyola, The Toast Of The Town

By Lamar Battle

 

Who would have thunk it?  Loyola  Chicago’s Men’s basketball team would take the nation by storm.

The Ramblers, who last won an NCAA title 55 years ago Surprised everybody by making it all the way to the NCAA’s Final Four.  The 11th seed made the big dance by winning their conference (The Missouri Valley).  The proverbial little sister of the poor did it by playing team ball on offense and defense.

To make it Loyola had to beat Miami, Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State but unfortunately the Ramblers fell to the University of Michigan in the  NCAA’s coveted Final Four.

How Did Loyola do it?

Well to start small schools always have a chance to make the big dance if they accomplish just one thing,  Win their conference.  The Ramblers play in the Missouri Valley Conference who with the departure of Wichita State is winnable.

Having a good coach doesn’t hurt either.  Loyola’s Porter Moser is a coach  given the time by the University to develop his type of players and program.  A writer asked him how would he deal with big ego type players?  The coach’s response was basically they don’t recruit those players.  The reporter followed up with how about if one of your existing players became that way?  The coach then added that the culture of the team would take care of that.

Those points are key in evaluating a program that understands the impact of having self sacrificing and coach-able kids who also just happen to hail from winning high school programs.  The Ramblers played the type of switching rotating defense that requires both conditioning and genuine commitment to your teammates.

Fortunately for the Ramblers that same commitment works on offense too as they passed up good shots for better ones as and anyone who knows anything about basketball will attest  defenders hate chasing offensive teams through a series of five to six passes. (normally how long it takes to break a defense down).

Most good things do occasionally come to an end and that axiom held true as the Michigan Wolverines ( who had better players and coaching) ended the Ramblers Cinderella season.

What does this mean for Chicago?

The entire city got behind Loyola and if the University can find the cash to keep it’s coach then this could be the start of a fruitful relationship.

Other states have raided Chicago’s top basketball talent for years but maybe just maybe Loyola’s success will motivate Chicago area kids to stay home.

One thing is for sure,   U of I and Depaul sure could use some of them.

 

 

 

Listen NBA, No More Locker room Brawls.

 

By Lamar Battle

 

I think it’s time for the NBA to go Retro !  Regarding  fights.  No more following each other to the hallways, locker rooms or team buses.

What’s a pissed off player to do?

Here’s what,  don’t fight but if you must,  settle your scores on the court like in the old days when men were men.  Currently the penalty’s for fighting are severe so as to discourage players from possibly dragging fans into their skirmishes.

So consequently players now try to settle most disagreements after the game is done.  Consider the most recent example when Houston Rocket players (Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza and providing mis-direction Clint Capela ) got into the Los Angeles Clipper locker room via a secret passage way to confront Clipper Players directly.

This was not the first instance of delayed conflict resolution as who could forget Carmelo Anthony approaching the post game team bus of Kevin Garnett who during the game allegedly engaged in a verbal exchange that disrespected Carmelo’s wife.  Then there was Jerry Stackhouse who apparently changed into a sweat suit prior to his sojourn to the visitors locker room to beat down a peer.

Who started this ?

Rumor has it that in an effort to protect his image and bottom line Micheal Jordan would tune cats up on the regular away from the court and cameras.

Why Change?

Sporting competitions are supposed to be settled between the lines period.  Youth basketball players are always taught that any and all conflicts are over once the buzzer sounds and you line up to shake your rivals hands.

Any conflict so serious as to call for the throwing of hands should be dealt with immediately or not at all besides rolling up on a locker room with your boys has the paltry feel of a street gang action.  Aren’t these players supposed to be models for our communities and youth?  Any player concerned about a suspension should probably go to his bench and cool down.

Frame of reference?

Who could forget the dance between Lonnie Shelton and Buck Williams that started on one end of the court and finished on the other  throwing hay maker after hay maker and of course New York Knick center Willis Reed who took the cake when he knocked out the entire Lakers bench. (You Tube it).

The point is after it was over they all probably went out for beers.

Top Five 2017-18 NBA Rookie Leaders

By Lamar Battle

 

Most predicted that the 2017-18 NBA rookie class would be one of the best and from the looks of things they were right.

Who are the Leaders in the race for Rookie Of The Year and team contributions?

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers:

At the quarter mark the leader in the race for ROY is 3rd in rookie scoring 16.6 ppg, first in rookie rebounds at 8.6 rpg and first in rookie assist with 7.5 apg.  At 6′ 10″ and with natural point guard skills Simmons is probably the closest thing to Magic Johnson that we have seen in a while. Along with center Joel Embiid the 76ers are looking like a team of the future in the Eastern Conference.

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz:

The rookie scoring leader at 18.2 ppg Donovan came on late as a spectacular athlete who routinely gets the fans out of their seats (You did see that stupendous dunk against the Cavs right? ).  He has the talent and ambition to be one of the best players in the league.

Kyle Kuzma L.A. Lakers:

Quite possibly the steal of the draft and 2nd leading rookie scorer at 17.9 ppg and 5th leading rebounder at 6.7 rpg.   A  6′ 10″ slasher and quality shooter (39% 3 pointers) from Flint Michigan who gives Laker fans a reason to hope for a better future.

Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls:

4th in rookie scoring, 14.6 ppg and 2nd in rebounding at 7.4 rpg and 2nd in free throw percentage at 83.3%.  All of a sudden the Jimmy Butler trade is not looking so stupid.  Lauri surprised everybody with his confidence and surprising athleticism.  This kid has All Star written all over him as evidenced in a recent game against the Knicks where he took on the challenge to play the Knicks vaunted Kristaps Porzingas to a standstill and did just that.

Markkanen joins 2nd year players Kris Dunn (a sleeper for sure) and Zach Lavine (two time winner of the slam dunk contest) in what will become a solid nucleus on the Bulls for years to come.

Jason Tatum, Boston Celtics:

Boy did Boston G.M. Danny Ainge pull off a heist with this guy.  Tatum 6′ 8″ with what may be an 8 ft wing span will be barring injury the starting Celtic small forward for a long time.  Jason is 5th in scoring at 14.1 ppg and is shooting an incredible 47.1 percent from the 3 point line…That is correct 47.1 percent !  Boston penciled him in as a starter at 19 years old and they knew what they were doing.

Honorable mention:

Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers:

People who know me will say there he goes again drinking that purple kool aid and giving props to a player ESPN’s Steven A. Smith called a bust.

Lonzo started slow but is now starting to shoot better from the outside ( 10 ppg 34.9 fg%) even though you never hear as much conversation about the outside shooting regarding Rajon Rondo, Ben Simmons, Andre Miller or Jason Kidd.

The metric for Lonzo who among rookies is 2nd in assist, 4th in rebounds, 2nd in minutes and 3rd in blocks will be his impact on the culture of the team.  Can he through the force of his unselfish nature transform the Lakers into a respectable team with a promising future ?

And the winner is:

Stay tuned to what will be one impressive race to the finish.

Stats courtesy of NBA.com