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The Open Run | You Against The World

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Riding the subway in Toronto not long ago, a young Asian kid offered to buy the shoes off of my feet.

Mind you, these were not your average everyday kicks!

These were limited edition (1 of 400 in the world at the time) 35th Anniversary Adidas Superstars or “shelltoes” to the uninitiated.

“I will take you to FootLocker, buy you ANY shoes in there you want, plus give you $500 for the joints you are rockin’ now!”

Sounds like a sweet deal, right? Almost too good to pass up… but, I did…

“Thanks!”

“Why”, you ask?

This particular sneaker also held significant value to me.

One of my very best friends in the world, and I don’t have many, collaborated with Adolph Dassler’s company to help design them.

Bobbito Garcia’s friendship, love and effort to be bought off for $500 and a pair of Air Jordan-somethings?

Miguel, if you would, please and thank you?

I doubt it!  Not my thing.

The friendship/relationship, to me, is priceless.

I helped this same very good friend put together what I consider (Read: BIASED!!!) the most comprehensive, important and influential sneaker book ever written called Where’d You Get Those? New York City Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987.

This book discussed what it was like to hunt, collect and sport exclusive kicks before it became a globally commodified and commercially viable phenomenon.

Trail Blazin’… Never Path Findin’!

Our story as friends began almost thirty years ago when a younger Bobbito Garcia was the College Radio Rep at the legendary Def Jam Records in Nueva York and I was a student-ath-o-lete (word to Eric Cartman /DJ and host of my seminal rap radio show at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Requisite communication between us was generally rooted in what records were his priorities for charting any particular week and seeing if I liked any of them enough to report my playlist to the industry trade magazines.

Cordial.

Professional.

Clinical.

And then I saw it!

Spying that article in The Source Magazine about someone who loved similar music, hooping and coveted rare kicks like I did in a world where I felt alone was epiphanous.

If Man was meant to have three soulmates in Life, then mine might be sneakers, basketball and Bobbito Garcia.

Don’t get outta bounds!

My love for Kool Bob Love has nothing to do with my orientation nor should it matter.

I neither feel nor exhibit any hesitance or apprehension in telling a grown ass man that I love him.

Neither does he.

The love is rooted in respect and mutual admiration.

The NBA’s Conference Finals finally began.

The Last Four Standing… Barely.

Roughly twenty-eight minutes into the Western Conference Final Game One between the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, did a grown man named Zaza destroy any possibility of a potential all time classic, instead likely turning the series into a mere road bump en route to the NBA Finals?

The greatest drama and intrigue in the series, where the Warriors lead 2-0 heading deep into the heart of Texas, is Gregg Popovich’s ire over his best player’s injury at the feet of Zaza Pachulia, his convenient amnesia regarding the Master of the Questionable Defensive Closeout, former Spur Bruce Bowen, and the Warriors’ ailing bench boss Steve Kerr traveling with the team.

Kerr knows what lay ahead if Kawhi is questionable for Game Three.

Shutting the door on San Antonio in four straight, while unseemly, may be in sight, especially if Leonard doesn’t play and another high visibility star shrinks under the glare.

Out east, all kinds of hand wringing about Rest vs. Rust with the Cleveland Cavaliers seems to be unfounded at the moment, as The King and his court cruised to a relatively easy road Game One victory over the emotionally drained Boston Celtics.

The Cavs, much like the Warriors, are basically doing whatever they want and if the Celts don’t make the necessary adjustments and go down 0-2 on their own floor, they most certainly will be reminded that Cleveland is not Chicago, Rajon Rondo injury or not.

Though anything can happen in either of these conferences final matchups, #TackleBoxSeason for two teams is imminent.

The All-NBA Teams were announced and congratulations should go to Houston Rockets James Harden who was the lone unanimous pick on the first team.

Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans Pelican Anthony Davis got first team love, but perhaps a bit of pettiness is likely to have been on the menu during the selection process.

Regular season MVP favorites Russell Westbrook and perennial MVP candidate LeBron James received 99 of 100 potential first team votes.

Not necessarily implausible, but…

The sickest guy in the Association might be Paul George.

Not sick as in his game is great. It is, but… here, the meaning of sick could be literally as he didn’t make the All-NBA Top 15 cut.

While the exclusion doesn’t diminish PG-13 as a player, it might do so for his bank account… slightly.

Had George been selected for one of the three All-NBA teams, the Pacers’ star forward would have been eligible for the designated player exception supermax contract, afforded an extra year and $75 million more from the team for a contract package of five years and about $210 million.

$75 million is no small change lost in the cushions, but what’s the REAL difference once you start making video game math that requires several accountants to handle it?

Speaking of young men with visions of Balmain and Murcialagos dancing in their heads, the NBA Draft Lottery made a couple teams’ futures almost immediately brighter, including the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, who are not only the number one seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but earned the right to choose first in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Boston’s front office guru Danny Ainge should send a fruit basket to former Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King for the old Dukie’s deft ability to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic with his short term thinking, trading away all of those future picks.

Thanks, Billy!

The rest of my hoops diet this week was filled out with the obligatory clickbait columns where LeBron is named the best at something and #EmbraceDebate lame hot take sessions where assclowny pundits spew wanton venom and explicate their empty calorie theories into the atmosphere.

Looking forward to what I hope are slightly more compelling conference finals games before the long anticipated and third consecutive clash between the Golden State Warriors and the reigning, defending champeen Cleveland Cavaliers.

No teams in NBA history have ever met thrice in the NBA Finals.

Strong brotherhood, collective toughness and an “Us Against The World” mentality will be necessary to overcome a fearsome foe in pursuit of achieving a daunting and rewarding task.

History may be in the making and all signs seem to point to it.

Champs Sports

It is in that spirit of unity and foresight that I am proud to introduce another collab.

It gives me great joy to announce #TheOpenRun and PressBasketball.com as Official Media Supporters at the launch of Full Court 21 Canada for 2017 this week, with the national touring tournament starting July 8 in Vancouver and ending August 5 in Edmonton.

As Full Court 21 enters its third year in Canada while celebrating the country’s sesquicentennial, a new “SuperTeam” is formed with the addition of my crew at Press to the already devastating duo of Kool Bob Love and Wall $t.

It’s never cyclops; it’s never I, alone.

Steel Sharpens Steel.

Teamwork Makes The Dream Work.

Until next we meet and I’m prepping to take all of your lunch money on a court near you during a game of H-O-R-S-E, you know the rest!

#DoWork

Will, the former Division-1 student athlete and professional b-baller internationally, is a longtime sports multimedia broadcast content creator & personality from that sleepy burg of New York City. His guest/co-hosting appearances and contributions to such networks as HBO, CNN, ESPN, NBA TV Canada, Sirius/XM, The Score/SportsNet, TSN and more will pale in comparison to what he does here at PressBasketball.com.

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Editorial

Something Out of Nothing

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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.

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Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers

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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.

Year Nat. Player Pos. Team
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.

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Content

MELO-dy Cool

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Carmelo Anthony has been traded away from the New York Knickerbockers to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

You probably knew this before you laid eyes on these words.

It honestly doesn’t matter much who the Thunder traded away for “Melo” and who the Knicks received, because they weren’t anywhere near Melo’s overall value. But, it matters that Melo himself is gone and away from New York City, and for all his accolades, he honestly had a major part to play in his exodus.

Melo altogether is a player that both outplayed and underplayed his own potential. No one that saw him at Oak Hill Academy as a high schooler could for-sure say that he’d be a superstar, and everyone that saw him at Syracuse University might say he was a can’t-miss by then.

And he didn’t miss on most of what he’s teased, he’s delivered in a lot of ways; but, the reason why he didn’t work out in New York was because he was selfish to a fault in the key places that required compromise.

Do you remember how he got to Kings County in the first place? He forced a trade to the Knicks from his then-Denver Nuggets, a team that was teasing with talent abundant, but not unlike today, stuck in the mighty Western Conference. With title contenders like the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers at that time of the NBA, the 2010–2011 season, the Nuggets just weren’t going to make the noise they wanted to make. Melo was a free agent-to-be at the completion of that season, and it was likely that he’d leave. His time with the Nuggets, a very successful time, had run its course. The change was coming, and he was catalyst to the change he wanted to see in his world. Nothing wrong with that.

The problem was that Melo didn’t want to wait for New York. He wanted New York then and there, and it didn’t matter how it was going to happen.

It didn’t matter that the Knicks weren’t in a position to compete for a title during that season, something he long wanted to bring to New York upon his eventual arrival.

It didn’t matter that the Knicks would have to gut their team’s best assets in a trade for the Brooklyn-born, Baltimore-raised native. It didn’t matter that if he waited until the season was over, he could be playing with a young and promising Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov (a revelation upon his arrival to the States from Russia), amongst others.

It didn’t matter that the Knicks would have to sacrifice draft picks for him, instead of keeping them upon signing later.

It didn’t matter to Melo.

And so, when he arrived in New York, in early 2011, he received the adulation and praise of a prodigal son. Sure, the team lost some valuable talent and depth, but surely Melo would will the Knicks into wild success — just like he did in Denver, right?

And sure enough, after he rebuked the Linsanity of 2012 when Jeremy Lin became an overnight NBA superstar and balked at the prospect of Lin’s resigning, he gained some success.

The 2012–2013 season saw Melo as the closest thing to being an MVP candidate that anyone had ever seen from him as a professional in an 82-game season, but not before being totally indifferent to former head coach Mike D’Antoni’s wishes for him to play more at power forward to stretch the offensive side of the ball for the Knicks and the defenses of the opposing league teams. D’Antoni quit before the end of the 2011–2012 season, because of Melo’s loathsome resistance to D’Antoni and the coach’s embrace of Lin.

A big aspect of Melo’s failure to bring glory to Manhattan was his resistance to doing what has made him a legend in USA Basketball. Having won multiple gold medals as a stretch-four shooter, that he refused to embrace that positioning as an NBA pro limited the ability of his teams to win.

As a four, Melo, who had gained grown-man weight from natural maturity and strength and conditioning, didn’t have to be the cavity in his team’s defense as he struggled as a man-to-man defender. Moving from his formerly-natural small forward slot could allow him to defend more ably and allow someone more fleet of foot to stop the dominant wings that Melo often matched up against. Becoming something different and better in a new place would’ve allowed him the opportunity to be greater than anyone had known him to be in an NBA uniform.

But, he refused and rebuked such a change.

And one last thing: Injuries and front office politics aside, Melo was loyal to the Knicks organization through and through. But, he had a choice to go.

So, to recap, Melo forced a trade to New York that gutted the talent of the roster, and then he refused to change to a position that would behoove him and the team in the journey to championship gain.

Well, he also had a chance to leave for greener pastures and become a Chicago Bull, where he could experience more success with a front office committed to his development and surrounding talent. He didn’t want to do that, and that’s fair. New York was home, but if he was going to win in New York, seeing as to how being the way that he’d always been wasn’t helping — that is shoot-first, ask questions and defend later — why return to The Big Apple if you aren’t going to change?

He saw what being a score-only wing was giving his teams — it gave his teams very little success for the vast majority of 14 years. Sure, his Nuggets and Knicks made the playoffs (not so much New York) much of the time, but he said he wasn’t playing for that.

In the end, Melo and the Knicks not working out could be seen before he even became a Knick, when Melo stomped his way out of Denver to play immediately for New York when it would’ve behooved him to stay put for two more months.

Championship or bust, they say.

He couldn’t really compromise too well for the chip, it appears.

In the end, Carmelo Anthony — despite years of league-leading jersey sales, runway appearances, and bright lights on the New York City streets with LaLa — was a big, fat, shining, New York bust.

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