While the playoff picture is coming into focus in the Western Conference, there is still much to be decided in the East. There are many possible suitors for the eighth seed, and not much separating fifth from eighth. With ten or fewer games left for most teams, the marathon of the NBA season is coming down to one last sprint.
1. Golden State Warriors last week 4
Andre Iguodala has been one of the biggest keys to the Warriors’ recent success. The veteran wing is showing he still has gas in the tank, while Steph Curry is reminding doubters just how good he is. The Warriors have won seven straight games.
2. San Antonio Spurs last week 1
The Spurs have won narrowly against the Wolves, Grizzlies, and Knicks in order to maintain their position in the West. At this point, it seems unlikely that the team will be able to catch the Warriors for the top seed, given the roll Golden State is on.
3. Houston Rockets last week 2
James Harden is the MVP. He combines the jaw-dropping numbers of Russell Westbrook with efficiency, team success, and yes… even some defense. Unless you have an unhealthy obsession with whole numbers, the decision is fairly obvious.
4. Boston Celtics last week 5
The Celtics have won four straight games and have tied the Cavaliers for the first seed in the East. Home court seems to matter more to Boston, given the Cavs’ tendency to continue resting players. This means the April 5 showdown between the conference leaders could wind up deciding who gets the first seed.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers last week 3
How much stock do you put in the struggles of a team that has shown they can flip a switch in the past? Well, while the effort isn’t there yet, a banged up Tristan Thompson could be a massive problem come playoffs. While others can flip the switch, a wounded defensive anchor would make the path much more difficult for the Cavs.
6. Toronto Raptors last week 7
Their newly found defensive identity has suited the Raptors well, as they’ve won five straight games without the services of Kyle Lowry. DeMar DeRozan has stepped up his play-making and defense lately, showing a willingness to put the team first.
7. Washington Wizards last week 8
The Wizards have won three straight games, including a win over the Cavaliers on a second night of a back to back. Washington’s defensive play has been uneven lately, but John Wall has the offense clicking at a very high level.
8. Portland Trail Blazers last week 13
The Blazers have won three straight games and are officially back in a playoff position. Their remaining schedule is fairly weak in comparison to Denver, so expect Damian Lillard and company to once again return to the playoff stage.
9. Milwaukee Bucks last week 12
The Bucks have won five of their last seven games and are currently tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The prospect of facing Antetokounmpo and Middleton in the first round should be extra incentive for the Toronto Raptors to get out of the fourth seed.
10. Utah Jazz last week 6
Why must the Jazz make everything so difficult? They are getting all the help they could possibly ask for from the Clippers in order to get the fourth seed, yet they can’t come up with consistent play. Utah has lost three of its last four, including a loss to the Clippers. They still have a one game lead over L.A. for fourth, but they continue to make things difficult for themselves.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder last week 9
The Thunder have been on a roll recently. Sure they were dismantled by the Warriors and Rockets, but they’ve gone 6-2 over their last eight games. The team has routinely taken care of business against lesser opponents, and are tied with the Clippers in the loss column at 31.
12. Memphis Grizzlies last week 10
Three straight losses for the Grizzlies have put them a game and a half back of the Thunder for sixth in the West. Outside of games against the Spurs and Thunder, their remaining schedule is fairly easy. When they host the Thunder on April 5, it’s likely that playoff seeding will be on the line.
13. L.A. Clippers last week 11
After beating the Jazz, the Clippers came up with a massive choke-job against the Sacramento Kings. They blew an 18-point lead with only five minutes left in the game. No matter how good the roster is, the Clippers seem to find a way to disappoint. Can’t help but feel this is the last year that this team is together.
14. Denver Nuggets last week 14
The Nuggets got good wins over the Cavaliers and Pacers before getting man-handled by Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Denver plays seven of their last nine games on the road to close the season. If they’re going to make playoffs, they will have to earn it.
15. Indiana Pacers last week 17
The Pacers finally broke their pattern of alternating between wins and losses as the Nuggets handed them their second loss in a row. Indiana rebounded from that with a win over the Sixers, but the recent play from the team remains uninspiring.
16. Miami Heat last week 15
The Heat have lost two straight games to the Celtics and Raptors. Miami is still in a playoff position, but they finish their season against the Cavs, Raptors, and Wizards twice in a four game span. The Heat will need to take care of business now, in order to take pressure off that stretch.
17. Dallas Mavericks last week 16
Playing the Warriors, Clippers, and Raptors in a row was a tough week for the Mavericks. While they got a win to show for it, at three-and-a-half games back of the playoffs, their hopes for an extended season seem all but faded.
18. Chicago Bulls last week 20
Somehow there is still hope for the Bulls making the playoffs. They are just a half game back of the Heat for eighth after their recent slide. The Bulls have actually played fairly well recently, showing you just how good Jimmy Butler is.
19. Detroit Pistons last week 18
Losers of three straight games, the Pistons are one of the biggest disappointments of the season. Their playoff hopes aren’t dead yet, but their inability to take care of business against lesser opponents doesn’t inspire hope.
20. Atlanta Hawks last week 19
The nosedive continues as the Hawks have lost seven straight games. If the Cavaliers fall to the second seed, the Hawks may wind up with a nightmare scenario of facing the Cavs for a third straight year and serving as the first round slump buster.
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.
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.
New York has agreed to a deal to send Carmelo Anthony to OKC for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a draft pick, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 23, 2017
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.
An Ode to the 2007-2008 Warriors
USA VS EVERYBODY | The Break | Episode 17
February Fouls | The Break | Episode 18
February Fouls | The Break | Episode 16
Hardwood Battles | The Break | Episode 15
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
Something Out of Nothing
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Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers
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Jamal Murray: Maestro in the Making
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