We are a month into the NBA year and the decisions of a long off-season are formulating for players and teams alike. We watched with open jaws as a former MVP jumped ship to join a super team, we sulked as a generation of legends walked away, we were weary as our favorite teams threw hundreds of millions at salivating players, and lastly we saw desperation from contenders getting that last gasp from their windows of opportunity.
These are the most interesting and surprising stories analysts, sports stations, or even scribes at Press Basketball could not predict.
Dwight Howard and the Atlanta Hawks (9-3)
Why are you lying? Absolutely everyone and their mother believed we’d seen the last of an active, competitive and (sometimes) dominant Dwight Howard. The man once considered the best big man in the league, had the BIGGEST drop off in performance after leaving the Orlando Magic back in 2012. He once boasted gaudy career high averages of 22 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks a game. He was called a teddy bear by former teammate Kobe Bryant, told he doesn’t possess the drive or killer instinct to win. After a nasty divorce from LA, many thought pairing him with Harden in Houston would have brought back the old Dwight. Yet his numbers dropped dramatically to near career lows of 13/11/1.6. To be fair, he was consistently injured the past four seasons which affected his performance and his mental state.
So a move back to his native Atlanta has served him and the team well to start. The Hawks are first in the Eastern conference through the first 11 games, owning a road victory over the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. A large part of this has been through Howard’s resurgence. He looks more attentive, shows flashes of the Orlando Howard and the numbers have jumped back up to 14.8/12.3/2.5. The Hawks were in dire need of a rebounder and Dwight has filled that need admirably. Atlanta lost a lot when Jeff Teague was shipped to Indiana and Al Horford left to Boston. However, the core foundation remains with the likes of Dennis Schroder (16.1 pts & 6.2 ast), the always reliable workhorse Paul Millsap, plus Bazemore, Korver and a stream of options off the bench like Sefolosha and Hardaway Jr. Did anyone foresee this Hawks team leading the East elite? Stop your lying.
DeMar DeRozan – 33.3 PPG/ 5.0 RPG / 3.4 APG
After signing a $139 million-5 year deal, the Raptors guard faced scrutiny from onlookers who pondered whether they spent too much on the two time all-star. Some asked if they should have looked elsewhere. Sports Illustrated released their top 100 NBA Player rankings listing him at #46. DeMar responded with this tweet:
— DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) September 16, 2016
From opening night, Deebo has silenced his critics with franchise numbers not seen since Vince Carter. He currently leads the NBA in scoring–a league that houses Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. He’s reeled off 30+ points in 10 of 12 games played so far,, a feat not done by any other player since Michael Jordan in 86-87. How has DeMar been doing this? He’s become a mid-range phenom, beating his man off the dribble and spotting up, using his body to drive to the net and force fouls.
The most impressive part is how efficient he’s been; DeRozan is taking more shots but he’s also has a career high .506 field goal percentage. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the week for only the second time his career, and is on pace for his first Player of the Month. His performance so far deserves the recognition he’s been craving. Had you told me DeRozan would be leading the league in points four months ago, I would have definitely hit you with a “Wait, WHAT?”
Los Angeles Clippers (11-2)
I like to compare the Clippers to a roller coaster at your nearest theme park. So many highs and lows. Last year, Blake Griffin found himself in trouble both on and off the court; while dealing with a thigh injury, Blake engaged in a fist fight with now relieved clippers equipment manager which resulted in a 4 game suspension and a banged up hand. Overall, he was limited to a career low 35 game campaign. In result, the Clippers were short handed (no pun intended) and ousted early in the 16’ playoffs.
Griffin began this season by acknowledging his mistakes in the Players Tribune and vowing for a better year.The Clippers now boast the best record in the NBA at 11-2. How? Blake is on a redemption tour and playing arguably the best basketball of his career. They aren’t just winning games, they are creaming quality playoff teams. The Clippers have a stretch where they defeated the Spurs by 24, Pistons by 32 and the Blazers by 31. They currently lead the league in point differential at 14.1+ points per game. They are tied for first in points allowed with 93.8 points and fourth in points against with 108.7 points per game. The team is playing with an intensity that has yet to be matched by their opposition.
You can see their mentality is different. They know the window on this core is closing. Griffin said it best, “We’ve adopted the philosophy of: F— it. Let’s just go out and play basketball”.
Los Angeles Lakers (7-6)
The days of Kobe wearing purple and gold are over. So, the Lakers are supposed to just fade to the bottom of the league, right? Probably face a few seasons of obscurity, right?
The young Lakers are one of the most fascinating teams to watch. They show up, compete, and will give your best team a run for their money. The Lake Show owns victories over the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and aforementioned Hawks.
How have they been doing this? Ball movement. There is no alpha on this team anymore, no one to call for the ball or stop momentum in a half court offense. All of this is being orchestrated by first year head coach Luke Walton, whom under tutelage of Steve Kerr, brought that Warrior spacing and movement. This offense was stagnant with Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott, and this team can finally find its own identity and play to the strengths of each other. They aren’t going to win championships anytime soon, but they are heading in the right direction. Interestingly, there could be a different hero each night. Swaggy P, Jordan Clarkson, Lou Will and D’Angelo Russell have taken reign of the team for victories in close games. It’s refreshing to watch and hopefully they can keep it going.
Boston Celtics (6-6)
This is a disappointing kind of surprise, the Celtics were supposed to be an elite eastern conference team and have come out of the gate slow. They have had some injuries, but the defense has taken a big blow; Boston is currently in the bottom half of the league with a Defensive Rating of 109.1 (25th of 30) and 105.8 points allowed. The rebounding situation isn’t pretty either as they sit 22nd. Once Al Horford and Jae Crowder return, they should rise, but for now it’s an eye opener to see the Cs struggling.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
Something Out of Nothing
It’s March 2016, and I’m driving with Alan Shane Lewis to Montreal to meet with Marc Griffin and Phil Boileau. We’re meeting to speak about this exciting new idea I pitched to them. We were tired of spinning the wheels on our own individual internet shows, and I told them that it was time we stopped waiting for a network and became the network.
We spoke that weekend about creating a community of content creators that all loved ball and came together to make unique content with unique voices – voices we felt were never heard in the mainstream. This community was the base of Press and we’d continue to push forward from that spot. We spoke about some amazing show ideas, article ideas, social media plan. It was truly an exciting time, and still one of the best weekends of my life.
Two years later and that group is a lot smaller, and that idea is Press Basketball.
It caught fire at the beginning and we had people joining our bright shiny new plaything left, right, and center. It was exciting, but now I kind of realize that a lot of it was just that we were that “bright shiny new thing”.
We ended up with a lot of Press Basketball “members” but when I stepped back and looked at what was happening… it wasn’t what I’d imagined. The fire burned out. The idea was gone. We had just become another thing trying to stay alive, waiting for some deus ex machina to show up with money and make everything okay.
I’ve gone through most of my life making something out of nothing. It’s never easy, but when it happens it’s always worth it… ALWAYS. Press made me feel alive at a point. It was literally all I could think about, and while it still is on my mind, it doesn’t make me feel alive. This hurts more than I can ever explain.
Changes are coming my friends. We’re not laying down and dying, and if we do it’s not going to be like this.
The core of Press will be setting fire to a lot over the next few weeks and I personally can’t wait for this to start. From the ashes something new will rise (I watched a lot of XMEN growing up).
Stay tuned, because it’s not over.
Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers
Lonzo Ball is the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. The new savior. The Big Baller Brand is now here to stay and LaVar Ball’s family’s future is set. But is that enough?
Lonzo Ball is a great kid and athlete who knows his talent will take him to another level. The major question mark that remains is whether or not he will take the Lakers there as well. He has the platform and skillset to do so, but with that comes the added pressure from the city and league to basically become part of the next version of Kobe and Shaq. It’s too strainful for a young kid—a rookie—to achieve.
Magic Johnson, the recently named President of Basketball of Operations for the Lakers, is taking an aggressive approach to get this team back into playoff contention his first year in. One of his first moves was sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. Brook Lopez is definitely an upgrade at center, but has a couple of years already under his belt.
Lopez will provide a much needed veteran presence with a great IQ for the game at his position. The only downfall is that a couple of years under his belt doesn’t really transfer to great experience, but simply wasted miles on his body. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and doesn’t even rank in the top 10 centers in the league. In fact, Bleacher Report had him last season at exactly 15 out of the top 30 centers in the NBA. While he is has improved by adding the three-point range to his arsenal, there is no doubt that he is nearly past his prime, and although he can still contribute on a nightly basis, who knows how much and what effect it will have with Lonzo Ball running the point.
Ball has great court vision that has been often compared to that of LeBron James. Combined with his passing skills, he is a true PG with tremendous upside in the backcourt. With that being said, he will only reach a certain extent. His full potential is years from being maximized and people are buying into it early on. In fact, the pressure for him to lift a sub .500 team to the playoffs for the first time in five years is daunting.
These are Lonzo Ball’s stats during his rookie—and only—year at UCLA:
- 14.6 Points
- 7.6 Assists
- 6.0 Rebounds
- 1.8 Steals
- 0.8 Blocks
- 55.1 FG%
- 41.2 3P%
He did a tremendous job maintaining that statline and even added a triple-double in the NBA Summer League, earning him the Summer League MVP.
Don’t get me wrong, Ball seems ready for the challenge and is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent mirroring that of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but he is not an All-Star or MVP—at least, not yet. These way-too-early predictions that he is the Lakers’ new savior are farfetched. He has yet to face the elite NBA offensive threats and superstars that have been at it for 10-plus years. Defensively speaking he will not be able to keep up. Not in his first year. He still needs NBA experience and a more rounded roster to be able to reach the playoffs.
He is off to a good start, but being named NBA Summer League MVP doesn’t necessarily mean a spectacular season is coming as some think it does. Especially if you consider the previous Summer League MVP winners.
|2012||Damian Lillard (co-MVPs)||PG||Portland Trail Blazers|
|Josh Selby (co-MVPs)||PG||Memphis Grizzlies|
|2013||Jonas Valančiūnas||C||Toronto Raptors|
|2014||Glen Rice Jr.||SG||Washington Wizards|
|2015||Kyle Anderson||SF||San Antonio Spurs|
|2016||Tyus Jones||PG||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|2017||Lonzo Ball||PG||Los Angeles Lakers|
With the exceptions of Damian Lillard in 2012 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2013, the past five Summer League MVP winners have gone on to produce very mediocre NBA careers. All I’m saying is, don’t read too much into NBA Summer League. It’s the pre-preseason that no one really watches or cares about.
The NBA season is nearing—exactly a month away—and my somewhat harsh criticism of Lonzo Ball isn’t too cruel. I am just not ready to jump on the Ball bandwagon following LaVar’s prophecies of his son being the Lakers prodigal son. He won’t be. Again, at least not yet. He needs to earn his spot and the transition will surprise him his first year in. It will hit him hard, but, despite my concerns, eventually Lonzo Ball will become a future NBA All-Star and a daring NBA point guard.
Not yet though, and until then all we can do is prepare for his official NBA debut. Until then, we can enjoy and bask in his newly released rap single paying tribute to his little brother LaMelo Ball.
If the NBA doesn’t end up being his calling in life, at least he has a back up career in mind.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
An Ode to the 2007-2008 Warriors
USA VS EVERYBODY | The Break | Episode 17
Trading Places | The Break | Episode 18
February Fouls | The Break | Episode 16
Christmas Day Showdowns | The Break | Episode 10
Western Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 1
Eastern Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 2
NBA & More Mailbag with Josh Howe — TWT 102
Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview with Keith Parish — TWT 101
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