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Rowan’s Rankings | NBA Week 25

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As the last two weeks of the regular season unfold, we’ve still got seeding battles galore to figure out. The league’s best continue to shine, but below them a whole lot is still left to figure out, as several teams need to decide whether to play to win, or play for a desired playoff matchup.

1. Golden State Warriors last week 1

Things have been pretty good for the Warriors lately. The team has won 11 straight games and they have some Durant guy’s return pending. Your 2017 title favorites, ladies and gentleman.

2. San Antonio Spurs last week 2

Winners of seven of their last eight games, things have been pretty good for the Spurs. The team has been dominant on both ends of the floor. With the top seed likely out of reach and no risk of the Rockets catching them, it’ll be interesting to see how frequently they rest down the stretch.

3. Boston Celtics last week 4

The top seed in the East belongs to the Celtics. The team is finishing strong down the stretch and have put themselves in a good position to keep their place. Boston now has two days of rest before playing the Cavs on Wednesday, who will be playing their third game in four nights. The top seed is on a platter, they just have to take it.

4. Toronto Raptors last week 6

The Raptors have won eight of their last nine games and are climbing up the East standings. Only two of their remaining five games come against current playoff teams, one of which being a likely-to-rest Cavs on the last night of the season. So Toronto should manage to hold on to their current seeding.

5. Houston Rockets last week 3

Victims of their schedule, the Rockets had lost three straight games before getting a win over the Suns. Playing the Warriors and a hungry Blazers squad over that losing stretch was a tall order. With their seeding guaranteed, the Rockets are another candidate to rest over the last couple weeks.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers last week 5

The Cavaliers have bounced back from their three game losing streak with a blowout win over the Sixers and a double overtime win against the Pacers. While the defense has looked better over the past few games, it’s now their offense that has been laboring. There’s still much to figure out, with not much time left.

7. Portland Trail Blazers last week 8

The red hot Blazers have won six straight games, even with Jusuf Nurkic going down with a fractured leg. With each win, they inch closer to clinching a playoff spot.

8. Milwaukee Bucks last week 9

One of the biggest surprises of the second half of the season has been the Milwaukee Bucks. The team is 7-3 over it’s last ten games and are a game up on the Hawks for fifth in the East. They could be dangerous come the playoffs.

9. L.A. Clippers last week 13

The Clippers have won three straight, and are 7-3 in their last ten games. Having Chris Paul and Blake Griffin healthy has helped the team beat up some weaker competition lately. On the one hand, the recent winning has likely helped the team clinch a top five seed. But it’s been a long time since the Clippers have come up with a quality win.

10. Utah Jazz last week 10

The Jazz have been holding off the Clippers for home-court in the first round. The first round match-up between Jazz and Clippers seems inevitable at this point, so it’ll just come down to which team has home court.

11. Washington Wizards last week 7

Losers of three straight games, the Wizards recent slide has allowed the Raptors to overtake them in the standings. Washington has been struggling recently, beyond their recent slide. They only have a .500 record over their last ten games. This is far from ideal with the playoffs looming.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder last week 11

A disappointing home loss to the Hornets gave the Thunder it’s first pair of back to back losses in over a month. The Thunder have overachieved this season, but their place in the standings may come down to Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies. Win, and they’d all but be assured of a series against the Rockets. Lose, and they risk playing the Spurs.

13. Chicago Bulls last week 18

The Bulls have won four straight games and have the easiest remaining schedule in the league. Sitting pretty in seventh place, the Bulls look like a playoff lock — something that didn’t seem so clear a week ago.

14. Miami Heat last week 16

Miami has lost its last two games and are grasping to a tiebreaker over the Pacers to keep them in the playoffs. Miami’s season has been one of the best stories in the league, but they will need to earn their playoff spot down the stretch.

15. Memphis Grizzlies last week 12

Memphis appears to have righted the ship after a four game losing streak, though the pair of wins were followed by a disappointing loss to the Lakers. Memphis has a tough game in San Antonio, followed by a showdown against the Thunder.

16. Atlanta Hawks last week 20

The Hawks are limping towards the playoffs, but they got some good news as Paul Millsap has returned from injury. Even with Millsap, the Hawks lost to the lowly Nets. Unless the team can turn things around in a hurry, whoever plays them essentially will have a first round bye.

17. Denver Nuggets last week 14

The Nuggets are hanging on for dear life onto their slight playoff hopes. Their loss to the Blazers may prove to be the final nail in the coffin, but the fight the team has shown this season bodes well for their future.

18. Indiana Pacers last week 15

The recent play of the Pacers has put them on the outside of the playoffs looking in. The team has lost four straight games, including a double overtime heartbreaker against the Cavs. Outside of George, the Pacers simply haven’t been receiving enough help.

19. Dallas Mavericks last week 17

Dallas has been eliminated from the playoffs after showing a surprising amount of life down the stretch. The coaching job of Rick Carlisle has been one of the finest this season, it just unfortunately was not enough.

20. Detroit Pistons last week 19

The Pistons have lost six of their last seven games, and now sit two games out of the final playoff spot. The Pistons are one of the biggest disappointments this season, and have gone from a promising young playoff team to a lottery team.

From the heart of continent, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Justin is a life-long hoops head with a love of the team from Northeast Ohio. He’s written for Fear the Sword as well as Hoops Habit. And he’s never blown a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. "It's kind of boring when you take open shots." - J.R. Smith. Checkout Justin’s weekly NBA Power Play called Rowan’s Rankings.

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Year 15 | A Mini Documentary

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What’s to come for the man on top, and what got him here?

It’s Year 15 of a man’s career, but it’s also Year 15 of a legacy…

Created by Tristan Laughton | Twitter: @Ctrice

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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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