Saturday, 28 April 2012
With the NBA Playoffs starting today me and '24/48/82's newest addition Quett Walker are pleased to give you 'The Bracket' our new feature looking in depth at the playoff matchups. You ready? Take it away Q!
Well it’s that time of the year again. THE NBA PLAYOFFS are due to commence on Saturday April 28, 2012 after the shortened season of 66 games.
We are going to start by previewing the four Eastern Conference match ups in the first round.
Chicago Bulls vs Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers
THE GOOD: Not only does the Chicago Bulls finish the season with the best overall record in the league, but they have managed to achieve this amazing accomplishment while having last year’s reigning MVP in Derrick Rose miss 27 out of 66 games. That’s 41% of the season! However the Bulls have managed to go 18-9 without Rose in the lineup. No doubt his absence has led the way for bench players such as CJ Watson and John Lucas III to step up at the point guard position and exhibit their skills. And boy have they not disappointed! This should come as no surprise as the Bulls have one of the deepest benches in the NBA with Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Mike James and Jimmy Butler just to name a few. With being the number one rebounding team in the league (boasting a frontline of Boozer, Noah and Gibson), having one of the best records against winning teams in the NBA, the genius defensive minded coach in Tom Thibodeau and oh yeah…having a guy by the name of Derrick Rose, its definitely easy to see why the Bulls are one of the most favoured teams to take the chip this year.
THE BAD: The main concern for the Bulls definitely has to be the health of Chicago’s Big Three, Derrick Rose (groin, ankle, shoulder), Richard Hamilton (shoulder) and Luol Deng (wrist). The injury bug has been very bad to the Chicago Bulls even though they have somehow managed to maintain a level of excellent play through the bad times. However one cannot overlook the notion of exactly how easy it would be to incorporate Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton back into the lineup. Obviously with the return of Rose and Hamilton for the playoffs there would be less shots to go around for the bench players that carried the Bulls during his absence. One has to take into consideration what this will do to the confidence level of the bench when faced with less shots. Finally even though the Bulls have definitely gotten deeper, have they’re acquired the type of players that can take pressure off of Derrick Rose? The biggest downfall and the reason for their playoff exit last year was due to the fact that Derrick Rose had to expend so much energy by doing everything to carry the team, he had nothing left in the tank by Game 5. Let’s hope for the Bulls’ sake that when those bright lights come on in the playoffs, the supporting cast is ready to perform.
THE GOOD: The Sixers have a good cast of talent that has definitely exceed everyone’s expectation over the last couple of years. Doug Collins has done a good job of instilling the necessary ingredients into this core of young players to not only play at a high level but to also make the playoffs for the second time in the last 3 years. With a back court of Jrue Holiday and Jodie Meeks, the dangerous front court of Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young and a talented Lou Williams and Evan Turner coming off the bench, the Sixers have good core to keep Philly entertained for years to come. Let’s not forget the explosiveness of Andre Iguodala which will keep crowds entertained. Overall this Philly team play hard and seem to complement each other and do show stretches of brilliance in their play.
It seems as if the excitement has been put back into the city of Philly which desperately needed it as it has been searching for some glimmer of hope since the days of Allen Iverson.
THE BAD: Now the question is, has any other team fallen so far from grace than the Sixers? Their season has sunk faster than the Titantic! After starting off the season with so much promise (20-9 within the first 2 months), which explains the reason why Andre Iguodala became an All Star this year, there have had an abysmal end to their season finishing it up on a 15-22 slide.Maybe their coach Doug Collins voice is beginning to wear thin on the players. Also Collins’ inability to develop a consistent starting lineup does not bode well for their playoff chances since players need to get into a flow to contribute their maximum effort to the team. This has created a problem regarding the lack of a go-to-guy that can take over the game in the clutch and this seriously hampers their hopes of beating the Bulls. They have been exposed as there have been moments where their waning confidence has gotten the best of them in the finally seconds of games. Unfortunately this is exactly what the playoffs are about. Weeding out the weaker teams that cannot finish when the time presents itself.This inexperience to finish games highlights the reason why the Sixers are not ready to be considered a contender and thus compete with the elite in the east for a NBA championship.
THE SKINNY: Given the Bulls depth, their tenacious defense, their experience and increased confidence playing (and winning!) without Derrick Rose/Richard Hamilton and being probably the best team in the east, I cannot see the Sixers posing much of a threat to the top seeded Bulls. The Sixers’ inexperience and disappointing end to the season doesn’t help their case either as this series will probably be a rather quick and painless one for the banged up Bulls.
Bulls win 4-0
Miami Heat vs New York Knicks
THE GOOD: When Lebron James shocked the world by announcing that he was leaving his home state of Ohio to team up with buddies Dwayne Wade And Chris Bosh in Miami, that threw the global sports world into a tail spin. Not only did James help to create one of the biggest ‘super’ teams in sports, but he damn aimed the spotlight on the Heat’s back. However his gambled has paid off so far with Miami having taken a trip to the NBA Finals last year and them being only 2 games away from winning it all. Now in their sophomore year, the big three have not only had a year of experience playing together, but they now even have a better idea of what it takes to get to the promise land. Given Lebron’s explosive ability to charge to the basket at any given time he wants and Dwyane Wade’s quick and flashy moves and capabilities of changing direction at the drop of a hat, the Miami Heat definitely have a chance to win the East and perhaps the NBA championship.
THE BAD: Injuries come into play here for the Heat’s Big Three of Lebron James (finger), Wade (finger, ankle, knee) and Bosh (hamstring). Let’s face it this is of grave concern given the fact that the rest of the starting line-up (Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony) seems to be missing in action and the bench being atrocious. Shane Battier was brought in as a defensive specialist (still waiting on him to performance), James Jones and Mike Miller to provide sharpshooting skills (shooting very poorly) and Norris Cole’s performance has diminished significantly from the start of the season. We also have to factor in that Miami lacks serious size in the front court and are ranked in the bottom third (21stout of 30) of worst rebounding teams in the league. Furthermore their record in other teams arenas is only 18-15 and we have seen them lose very important games to elite teams such as Thunder, Bulls, Celtics and the Lakers all on the road. However we are yet to address the Miami Heat’s biggest problem. If you had a chance to watch any of the NBA Finals last year, you may have seen a certain Heat player come up short in the closing moments of the final 4 games. It seems as if Lebron James has a penchant for disappearing in the final minutes of pivotal games. This has led to constant ridicule and mocking of James’ ability to have any sort of impact on a game in the Final 2 minutes. Let’s be honest, James possesses too much talent not to be a factor in any games period! Let’s hope James has channelled all of the energy and learned from last year as he is definitely the key as to how far Miami will good into the playoffs.
NEW YORK KNICKS
THE GOOD: No story has been bigger than the emergence of Jeremy Lin in the basketball Mecca that is New York. That fact that a relatively unknown player has been able to step up when the injury riddled Knicks needed a saviour seems as if it was scripted out of a movie. The Knicks were relevant again after struggling with the marriage of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire all due to outstanding play of Jeremy Lin. However after injuries to Lin (for the rest of the season and the first round of the playoffs) and Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony has taken over as the sole leader of the Knicks and has been on a tear towards the end of the season by putting up a series of 30+ point games. Not only has he been scoring but his leadership and unselfish play has enabled other players to gain confidence that was severely lacking in the earlier part of the season. Players such as Steve Novak and JR Smith have been playing very well, especially Novak as he led the NBA in 3 point shooting percentage this season at 47%. Also the additions of Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis and the great defensive play of Iman Shumpert have the Knicks looking like a contender in the east for years to come. This outstanding performance has transcended everyone’s expectations as to how good the Knicks would actually be without Lin.
THE BAD: NO LINSANITY!! The very same player in Lin that led the Knicks into a media storm this year will be absent from the first round of the playoffs. Although the Knicks have been playing very well without Lin for the last few weeks, we all know the playoffs are a different beast. The concern is definitely at the point guard position as Mike Bibby has definitely lost a step or 5 and Baron Davis has never been the same since coming back from his injury. In addition how will Stoudemire’s presence back in the starting line-up affect the team’s new found cohesiveness developed during his absence?
THE SKINNY: Given the fact that the Heat have 2 of the top 5 players in the league in Lebron James and Dwyane Wade (arguably the best players at their respective positions) I see the Miami Heat beating the Knicks in this series. Yes the Miami Heat have a lot of weaknesses they need to overcome but they match up very well with the Knicks. Lebron James will dominate the Knicks as there is no one that can stop him as the Knicks’ best defender Iman Shumpert will have his hands full with Wade. Amare Stoudemire will need to play very big and dominate Chris Bosh in this series for the Knicks to even have a chance. This will probably be the most exciting series in the first round of the East with Carmelo battling against his buddies in Lebron and Dwyane but they will get the best of him.
Heat win 4 -2
Indiana Pacers vs Orlando Magic
THE GOOD: The Pacers have been a nice surprise in the Eastern conference this year. Frank Vogel is shouting for the Coach of the Year trophy after following up what others would say was a good year. The Pacers are a nice young core of players with Roy Hibbert making strides in improving his play in the post, Roy George an athletic swingman and Danny Granger shooting at a decent percentage. Adding David West this season provided this young team with a veteran who possesses playoff experience from his days of playing with Chris Paul in New Orleans. Darren Collison, Leandro Barbosa, George Hill, Dahntey Jones and Tyler Hansbrough round off a nice deep team that is definitely in a position to surely make a playoff run in the years to come.
THE BAD: As deep as this team is, they are in a similar position as the Philadelphia 76ers in lacking a go-to-guy. With the game on the line, who exactly will be the player to take the last shot? This coupled with the lack of playoff experience are really the only bad things with this team.
THE GOOD: Throughout all of the Dwight Howard drama, the Magic have actually played well considering all of the distractions that have been presented to them. There were 4th in the league in 3 point shooting percentage (37%) and actually ended up in the 6th spot in the eastern conference standings.
THE BAD: Ahhhh how about Howard’s absence from the playoffs? This creates a big hole in the middle as Orlando doesn’t have a backup shot blocker or a decent rebounder. In addition the drama with Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard is not going to help the situation. Orlando Magic takes too many 3 pointers and as the playoffs is all about a half court, grind it out of environment, with them having no inside-outside game, Orlando will more likely die by the 3 in this scenario.
THE SKINNY:Without Howard in the middle for Orlando, Roy Hibbert is going to have a field day down in the post. Look for Hibbert to be aggressive against the Magic and have high number in points and rebounds. In addition the athleticism of the Indiana Pacers winger defenders will be able to run Orlando’s perimeter players off of the three point line as the threat of inside scoring for Orlando will be absent. Look for the Pacers to dominate this match up and move into the second round of the playoffs.
Pacers win 4 -1
Atlanta Hawks vs Boston Celtics
THE GOOD:The Hawks have been a very consistent team in the East have made gradually improvements for the last 5 years now. They have an athletic power forward in Josh Smith, a lights out shooting guard in Joe Johnson and decent backup reserves in Tracey McGrady, Jeff Teague, Jerry Stackhouse and Ivan Johnson.
THE BAD: Although the Hawks have improved marginally year on year for the last 5 years now, the improvements haven’t been significant enough and thus have seen other teams leapfrog them into becoming contenders. Teams such as Chicago, Miami and now even Indiana seem to have not only invested more financially, but almost more intelligently to enable their teams to make vertical moves rather than horizontal as Atlanta has. The lost of Al Horford hurts them in the middle and the inconsistencies shown on the defense end and droughts in scoring puts doubt into whether this ball club has what it takes to compete with contenders in the eastern conference.
THE GOOD: Championship Swagger, tenacious defense and the best passing point guard in the league are just a few of the reasons why the Celtics can make one more run at the championship. Kevin Garnett has been playing like a slight vintage ‘Big Ticket’ since moving to the center position and Ray Allen coming off the bench means that his legs will be fresher come playoff time. After a rough start to the season, Paul Pierce has gotten back to his usual self, making clutch shots and playing at a high level. Additions of Avery Bradley, who has played very well on the defensive end, a swingman in Mickael Pietrus and a body up front in Brandon Bass has allowed the C’s to still play a at dangerous level. However the performance of the Celtics is in Rondo’s hands. The Celtics will only go as far as their elite point guard takes them. As Rondo is the engine that drives this Celtics team, it needs to be in tip top condition to reach its destination of securing another NBA championship.
THE BAD: The main concern with the Celtics is their age. With Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett all in their mid – late thirties, it begs the question does this team have enough left in the tank to grind its way to another ring? Ultimately if Boston wants to win another championship, it will have to go through the Heat and the Bulls and frankly there has been too many miles on this Boston trio to keep up with the more athletic and younger legs of Miami and Chicago. Pierce, Allen and Garnett were brought together with the sole purpose of winning a championship, which they have done and have completely very well in the last few years but now it maybe time to actually honour the expiry date on this package and look to secure a new product.
THE SKINNY:This is a rematch of the infamous 2008 Eastern conference first round matchup where Boston was the number 1 seed and Atlanta was the 8 seed and the Hawks pushed the Celts to 7 games in the series. However that was then and this is now. As mentioned earlier, Atlanta hasn’t really made giant steps in becoming a better team, however Boston has become a bit older and aren’t quite the same defensively having lost Tony Allen and James Posey from that championship team. Josh Smith will pose quite a problem for the older KG while Atlanta doesn’t really have anyone to match up with Brandon Bass. Rajon Rondo wins out in the point guard category against Jeff Teague and Jannero Pargo and with Zaza Pachulia out indefinitely, this makes life a bit easier in the middle for the C’s. The bench of the Hawks (with Tracey McGrady, Kirk Hinrichand Jerry Stackhouse) is better than Boston so this will definitely be a problem for players like Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling and Sasha Pavlovic to match that level of productivity. Nevertheless the Boston Celtics have too many weapons, an elite point guard, 3 of the most productive players in the league and too much championship savvy to allow the Hawks to defeat them in a 7 game series.
Celtics win 4-2
Overall the First round of the eastern conference playoffs should be very entertaining with the Knicks – Heat the most exciting series. QUETT WALKER.
Now let's head out West.
San Antonio Spurs vs Utah Jazz
San Antonio Spurs
THE GOOD:The San Antonio Spurs are almost as old as the Wild West references they evoke. Still these rangers with true grit are dominating this young mans game even if they are the kind of timers that make the Celtics look like infants. Following last years league leading record resulting in a sweep to the claws of the Memphis Grizzlies, the Texan titans have growled back with another record season atop the Western Conference.
The Spurs are really clicking. Even when they're a walking wounded team guys like Ginoboli and Parker can still perform at their trademark high-level when they hop back on court. Boris Diaw and the return of the 'Whoo' of Stepehn Jackson certainly injects an underrated younger and more exuberant star power but until someone finally shuts him down, nothing is going to stop the robot of Tim Duncan from functioning at the highest level on the biggest stage. He must be bionic.
THE BAD:The Spurs surely can't lose another opening playoff series to a last seed. If they do you can sweep away the idea of them being this good again. Sure San An still belong with the big boys but its been a long time since they where the only other team aside from the Lakers to win anything. From injuries to age their window is closing. They can't afford to be put on a ledge in the first round. The tipping point of the doubt and reputation they garnered last year will haunt them until they exorcise something.
THE GOOD:The Jazz still sound good beyond the roster sheets. Sure their Malone/Stockton next generation days of Boozer and Deron Williams have gone with what would of been a great legacy but Al Jefferson, Josh Howard et al are still her. With big guys like Paul Milsap and points like Devin Harris this team has the kind of unsung talent that looks to get on the same song sheet. If that happens then the team will hit all the high notes, but you can't do that without everything being in perfect harmony.
THE BAD:Things aren't quite flat but its certainly salty in Salt Lake City after last years departure of Williams and the legendary long tenured coach Jerry Sloan. If losing the most loyal leader ever was bad enough D-Will's way out left the team even more gutted. The team just isn't the same or what it used to be. Its the potential not turning into promise blow that really knocks a team for six...or the eight seed in this case. Its a knock this team has not recovered from and therefore we can't see this team making six games.
THE SKINNY: The clicking Spurs look to silence the Jazz and all the doubters and critics from last years first in the league to first round loss.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Dallas Mavericks
Oklahoma City Thunder
THE GOOD:When LeBron James assembled his superhero, Voltron Avengers in South Beach he thought he was taking his talents to the best unit in America's National Basketball Association. It may always be sunny in Miami but the superfriends forgot about the penchant for Thunder. Oklahoma City is pouring with talent and here comes the reign. Last year they lost to eventual champs Dallas, this one they get to show the reigning winners who the real Mavericks are. From scoring leader Kevin Durant to star follower Russell Westbrook these team aren't just the favourites. Their formidable and ready for a celebration.
THE BAD:Still until the Thunder actually remove Dallas' umbrellas they're not winning anything. To take the crown you have to go through the king and before the Thunder can even begin about facing LeBron's men they have to beat the current champs in the first round. After a recent big loss to the Lakers they look vulnerable and they're still young. Sure the Thunder aren't wet behind the ears, but if they don't listen carefully they could be heading for a drought.
THE GOOD:The Mavericks are the current Larry O'Brien holder and that's the gold. The silver lining is some of the best players are still here with their feet on the ground and their heads out the champion clouds. Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion still bring the hotness of their Phoenix days while Jason Terry can shoot down anybody on his day. Of course Dirk Nowitzki is the top gunner from the box score to the clutch hits. This could be another one of Dirk's greatest runs if he can just keep up pace with the changing weather in the NBA heading towards Oklahoma.
THE BAD:Then again from the inside champion experience of centre Tyson Chandler to the off the bench 'couldn't do it without him' heroics of J.J. Barea the Mavs have lost a lot of their championship alumni, especially the guys that helped them become winners. Even the Lamar Odom experience didn't work. In reality its best Lamar and Dallas broke up like Khloe's sister and Kris Humpries but if Odom shook off his problems he could have really opened things up in the playoffs. The versatile guy spreads the floor well like nobody. Now closed off and constricted Dallas have lost an extra element that could size up with Durant and co. It could all go to seven games but even so that doesn't matter. Its almost a formidable conclusion. The playoffs are a new season and Dallas aren't the champions anymore.
THE SKINNY: There is now way Oklahoma can meet Larry O'Brien without going through the champs and that's exactly what they're going to do.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Denver Nuggets
Los Angeles Lakers
THE GOOD:Just when everyone thought the L.A. Lakers where down and out they upped the ante. To begin this lockout shortened campaign a trade for Chris Paul and the best purple and gold point guard since Magic was nixed by the NBA powers that be and after almost half a year and season of trying to lure Dwight Howard away from the magic kingdom the Lakers ended up looking like a mickey mouse outfit. Still Andrew Bynum showed everybody in the league that the Lake Show are more than alright without Dwight, whilst a mid-season trade brought in Ramon Sessions and the future of the Lakers point play. This young inside and out tandem can hurt other teams and that's still with the dynamic duo of Kobe and Pau Gasol and glue guys like Matt Barnes in reserve. No wonder they won a morale boosting double overtime game over West and league favourites Oklahoma.
THE BAD:With all that going to war however the Lakers don't have World Peace. Metta has received a 10 game suspension by the NBA for elbowing James Harden in said Thunder game. Many Laker fans hope to have him back. Some doubters think he's done for the season and possibly his Laker career. Either way if the Lakers make it past 10 games they'll need to the artist formerly known as Artest to take them further. Plus apart from players like Troy Murphy, Steve Blake and the potential of Jordan Hill, Josh McRoberts and Devin Ebanks the bench is wafer thin. Can the Lakers survive another potential breaking point?
THE GOOD:The Nuggets know all too well about indecision situations like Dwight Howard. Or should we say the LeBron James syndrome. Carmelo Anthony left them hanging for a year before heading to the Knicks for a New York and an empire state of mind. Now purgatory isn't a great place to be, especially with a bitter taste in your mouth but the Nuggets have still managed to mine themselves some success. Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov all came over from the Melo trade and add that to the underrated star power of Al Harrington and Andre Miller to go along with good guys like Corey Brewer, JaVale McGee and Rudy Fernandez and you really have a good team here. Plus the birdman Chris Anderson is still here. What more do you want?
THE BAD:A franchise player perhaps. This really would make this franchise a top team again. The loss of Carmelo has calmed down the Nuggets competitive advantage and taken the air out of the team. Without Anthony how can a team like this go toe-to-toe with the Kobe's and the Durant's of the West, let alone the LeBron's. Even the famous rocky mountain thin air won't be as much as an advantage as it used to be. The Nuggets will have to get used to the fact that there are hills to climb and the road is going to be rocky and tough. Sure they secured a solid playoff spot but its trades like the 'Melo one that make the 'West best/East least' days a thing of the past. The Nuggets are going to find it real hard to get past Kobe and his Lakers.
THE SKINNY: The Nuggets have a chance of surprising the streaking Lakers like they did the top seeded Sonics back in the day, but Kobe's ready for war without World Peace looking to prove every critic wrong making the Lakers right for the second round.
Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Clippers
THE GOOD:This is THE matchup of the first round. Last year the eight seeded Memphis Grizzlies clawed the San Antonio Spurs and their league best record out of the first round and shocked the league. This year they're surprising nobody, but they're still going bringing awe to arenas and some shock value to those who still don't know. There's the big and bold Zach Randolph who really is one of the leagues top interior talents and then there's his even more underrated wingman Rudy Gay. Then there's the younger Gasol brother March who is showing one day he could be just as good as his elder. I bet the Lakers wish they didn't use him in the trade to get Pau now. Add a potential garnish of O.J. Mayo, the pronise of Mike Conley and the eccentric enthusiasm of Gilbert Arenas and you have one crazy mix.
THE BAD:A mix however that isn't a surprise anymore as said or as deep as it used to be despite guys like Tony Allen and Jeremy Pargo. One their day Memphis can rock and roll far but they're still a few elements or consistent years away from being a true West power house. Time or this series and playoffs will tell us just how good this team can get. Especially against an evenly matched opponent who has rose to prominence even quicker.
Los Angeles Clippers
THE GOOD:The Los Angeles Clippers are no longer the laughing stock of the association. They're barely even Los Angeles sister or secondary team anymore either. After taking the Lakers nixed Chris Paul and adding him to the dunking revolution that is Blake Griffin, the lay up line opened for even more top talents like Caron Butler, Kenyon Martin and Mo Williams. With DeAndre Jordan and Randy Foye also welcome in Lob Angeles this LAX team have been cleared for takeoff...and they're soaring. Just how sky high is this teams ceiling? It looks like Blake Griffin could jump out the gym most nights.
THE BAD:Still perhaps its time for this young and hungry team to keep their feet on the ground before they get taught a Grizzlie lesson that even the precision perfect Tim Duncan and his San Antonio Spurs had to learn. The exciting Hollywood basketball highlight show in Clipperland is even taking some of the showtime away from the purple and gold of the Lake Show but that doesn't mean the Clippers are going to always entertain. They need to get more fundamentally sound before they can look up to big brother and the second round of the playoffs. They can certainly go seven game but could they go round for round?
THE SKINNY: Sure the Clippers are only a piece or season away but this is why they really need the veteran experience and big clutch shots of injured former champion and Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. Its almost like it wasn't meant to be...yet.
Now let's play ball. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Call Them Up.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
The purple and gold Los Angeles basketball team have secured their place in the Finals! OK Laker Nation don't get your hopes up (just yet), you haven't slept through two months of basketball to the best awakening ever, instead the Lakers development team the D-Fenders are taking their really evolving squad to the Finals of the NBADL (the 'NCIS' to the NBA's 'CSI').
Not bad for a team that took last year off. Now you can call that a comeback. This year the experienced and great Eric Musselman led D-Fenders have had a record amount of players called up to the big leagues of the NBA and also have helped home and hone impressive Laker Devin Ebanks and currently newly signed Christian Eyenga become even better players.
The team this year has also featured NBA All-Star dunk participant Jamario Moon (recently singed by the Charlotte Bobcats), former dunk champ Gerald Green (now headed to Brooklyn with New Jersey) former NBA Indiana starting Point Guard Jaamal Tinsley and former Pacers guard Brandon Rush's older brother Kareem, who was a real sharp-shooter for the Lakers in the Shaq and Kobe days (wouldn't it be great to see him back in a Lakers uniform) and recently quite nicely had a foray into R&B During some of his R&R with the nice single 'Hold You Down'.
Its clear to see that the development league (which is also giving former All-Star Antoine Walker a second chance) is no shortage of talent. Especially on this team which once had both former Lakers Jordan Farmer and Coby Karl play for both them and the Lakers on the same day.
This D-League is definitely the place where raw talent gets whipped into shape. The National Basketball Association's Development League has really helped the league and players previously hurt by untapped potential. It shows just how much basketball potential is out there and just how expanse the wealth of talent is. A talent the D-League promises to turn into A students.
Now Mardy Collins, Zach Andrews, Elijah Milisap (brother of Utah Jazz top forward Paul) and the rest of this hard working, impressive bunch hope to show just how good this league and they are in an exciting finals with the top tier Austin Toros team. One that features NBA talents like D'Andre Blair and Ronald Murray, ready to show the big time of this league why they belong in the above one.
What a finals its set to be too. A matchup that promises great battle and grand games. Even though the D-Fenders have lost more players then New Jersey this year they could just do it against Austin after their inspiring and impressive season following a one year lay over. This could give the city of L.A. a winning basketball franchise before their parent team the Lakers try to make it a family affair.
Even if neither Los Angeles ballclub took home the gold this year they still show us just how an integral part of each other they are. After the final buzzer sounds after the final finals game, one outcome will be certain. That this great influential and developing league and its D-Fender team are here to stay. No matter who come and goes.
Kobe's new Jordan.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Who would of thought that one day Jordan would play alongside Kobe?
Well that eventually happened when Laker coach Mike Brown finally gave Jordan Hill some burn during L.A.'s massive, double overtime win against West and league favorites the Oklahoma City Thunder and burn did he. Hot like fire Jordan shone so brightly, hustling hard with an aggressive double double of 14 points and 15 rebounds and showing along with young stud Devin Ebanks just how good he is no matter the time or team. The kind of big numbers that show that this kid could be another weapon for the versatile loaded Lake Show is he performs like this most nights.
These numbers where just in the spare change of bench minutes. can you imagine how much more he could afford with more time? This former Houston Rocket raw talent could soar and propel further. From the fresh locks to the high socks, he could give the Lakers a Renaldo Balkman type dirty work, garbage rim collecting, enthusiastic energy player. A guy this team has sorely missed since Rony Turiaf danced away from the STAPLES bench. Like his second namesake Jordan could be another Tyrone Hill type Power Forward. Slight in build but strong in heart and basketball smarts.
From being another big body off the bench to joining Josh McRoberts lay up line spark of plugging some dunks to energise and pick up his team and fans while Bynum and Gasol take a seat. Jordan Hill could soon get a standing ovation as a fan favourite. Not only that, he could also be an off the bench and surprise X-factor for those opponents who play Mike Brown and fail to realise at first just how good he is.
Let's just hope the Lakers utilise him the right way and right away too come next week after breaking him into the big time this weekend gone. If not it'll be Los Angeles not Houston with a problem. We have a different, outstanding option and power player here primed for the playoffs. One that could really tie some of the squads weakest links together before stronger teams wink them goodbye.
After all what did they trade Derek Fisher for?
Sunday, 22 April 2012
Bound For Brooklyn.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
It was just another night in Newark, New Jersey. It was March 7Th 2012 and the Nets where playing and counting down the games in their temporary home of the Prudential Centre before they made their Barclay's move across town. All eyes would be on the no sleep to Brooklyn Nets if it wasn't for what was happening across town in the heart of Manhattan.
Jeremy Lin was causing and effecting a New York Knick and basketball revolution in Madison Square Garden, truly making the worlds most famous arena that again and a mecca. From the banners to the t-shirts and jersey sales more attention was being turned away from the Knicks New York neighbours in Jersey. Even the last year of an NBA team couldn't over shine a banner month for the city of N.Y.C in Knicktown.
Still on this mid-month day Blake Griffin and his L.A. Clippers marched into town to the beat and rhythm of Chris Paul's Lob Angeles renaissance. See Clippertown was having a little revolution themselves, led by the biggest free agent signing of the offseason and the biggest sophomore (sort of) sensation ever, leading the lay-up line and dunking the NBA back into post-lockout prominence. Years ago a Clipper/Nets game would be an empty seated, cross off the calender event but trains from the city where full as the fans flooded in the gates led by owner and hip-hop legend Jay-Z and almost a whole offensive line of Superbowl winning New York Giants.
Most came to see the Blake Griffin show and he duked and dunked his way through 48 minutes. Everyone however got one of the last and best games from the New Jersey Nets. The greatest today point guard battle of Chris Paul and N.J.'s Deron Williams was merely a side story to the excitement and enthusiasm that punctuated the night. From Gerald Green's jersey tugging dunking that raised cheers from the crowd all the way to the rafters of Julius Erving's retired jersey, to the buzzer, Clipper beating, 0.2 second winning shot from L.A. boy and former Laker Jordan Farmer, this was clearly the Jersey Boys night. The Nets may have worn the classic blue and red, starred New York throwbacks in preparation that night, but it was all Jersey after the game horn echoed out.
The players made their town proud like Springsteen or Jon Stewart and the fans themselves showed just how behind their team they truly are. The current team motto is 'Jersey Strong/Brooklyn Ready' but it's clear these great Newark people aren't ready to give up on their team just yet. From the good Doctor J, to the tragically short era of Drazen Petrovic (rest peacefully) this team has had some great players and great years. Although currently this team is a far cry from the back to back, Eastern champion, new millennium days of Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin (now a Clipper and on that night greeted by proud cheers) and Richard Jefferson in their last year despite their cellar status there is potential for prominence once they make it to Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn hip status of owner Jay-Z and the fortune of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov will be enough pull to land all sorts of All-Star talent and money in the beautiful borough of Brooklyn, bringing sports related excitement to the city for the first time since before the baseball Dodgers relocated to L.A. Still it's top point guard Deron Williams that will lead the charge, becoming the pied piper of Brooklyn. Except many stars to flock to the great city of N.Y. for a franchise that has lured greats like Kidd and Vince Carter. New York loves a classic Point Guard from Kenny Anderson to Stephon Marbury (they've all played here) and just like Jason Kidd in the early 2000's there is a D-Will and a way bringing the city game to B.K.
With Farmer behind him and young talent like the big and bold Brook Lopez and the dunking dynamics of Gerald Green this team has plenty to keep their new fanbase interested aside from the glimpses of Shawn Carter courtside. Shelden and a whole host of Williams', DeShawn Stevenson and Kris Humpries help round out this team, but really this team need a couple of wing players to complement Williams passes like Jefferson and Martin did Kidd or even a big man and big talent to take this team out of the graveyards and into contention.
Dwight Howard would help and so would a decent free-agent market and draft class. Some kids who recently cut nets down in Kentucky could help repair the Nets in New Jersey too. From rumors to college champions the future somewhere in Brooklyn could help write a storied chapter in this franchises basketball legacy and one that could really reinvigorate and intensify the Knicks rivalry and the New York game. That's next season though. Sure the Nets season is all about over now as they head deeper into the worlds most popular tourist destination. Now New York, New York may take some shine off Jersey like the Knicks but in reality, New Jersey is a great place that still-even for just under a week-holds a team that has produced some great basketball memories.
35 years of play from the battlegrounds to the Meadowlands. From favourites like Kendall Gill and Kerry Kittles, greats like Buck Williams and Derrick Coleman to Hall of Famers like Rick Barry and Nate Archibald. They won big in the ABA and from the high socks to the Julius Erving Afro they helped define it. Sure the closest they came to National Basketball championship accreditation in the association was being swept back to back by the Lakers twice but they still stood proud and prominent with strength in a weak East which has since changed the tide and coast of basketball dominance.
So before a wrecking ball tears through the New Jersey Nets and local boy Bruce Springsteen sends them off we should spare a thought of support for a basketball city that will soon join the Seattle Supersonics and maybe the Sacramento Kings in the past and purgatory. Brooklyn is going to be a big and brilliant new direction for the Nets, but even when the good times roll we shouldn't forget that it's the heart and soul of New Jersey that will get them there.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Andrew Bynum is the Los Angeles Lakers next great centre and right now is creating a lasting legacy that will go down in history of purple and gold big men legend down the same line as Laker greats George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal. Standing on the stilts and running on the diesel of giants Andrew Bynum is carrying the tall torch of the next post presence of this storied franchise.
The paint punctuater is just that good at the young age of 24, standing next to number 24 Kobe Bryant with pride and power. Minus some Dwight Howard trade rumors and knee and growing pains 'Drew looks like being not only the Lakers but the greatest centre in the National Basketball Association for at the very least the next decade. He's just that good and the last (alongside the oft-compared and contrasted Howard) of a dying breed, keeping one of the most pivotal positions on the basketball floor alive and fighting...dominating in fact.
Sure there is still some maturing years before this kid reaches his prime but the fact that he's looking this good now is just crazy. Sure one week he was jacking up threes and getting tossed from games like he was acting his jersey size not his age but the next 7 days saw the number 17 join the exclusive company of Mikan, Wilt, Kareem and Elgin Baylor by taking 30 rebounds away from Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. The big legendary Shaquille O'Neal didn't even do that. Now do you think the young baby Shaq, Bynum is ready for the playoffs, the big time and another championship? You bet!
This week gone Andrew Bynum led his Los Angeles Lakers sans Bryant (while Kobe showed he was 'The Zen Mamba' of sideline coaching), just like he led the Western All-Star team this year. Standing next to fellow February star Bean Bryant, the former 'Western Conference Player of the Week' Bynum has shown the league it's best, one-two punch, inside and out not called Kobe and Pau. Minus a few years of experience and a youthful, more Afro sporting Kobe this post and perimeter dominance is almost reminiscent of the dynamic duo that was Shaq and Kobe...minus the arguments. O'Neal and Bryant where arguably the NBA's greatest partnership ever but on this new versatile Laker squad Bynum forms more than one great couple on this complete team.
There's the unstoppable force meets the immovable object frontcourt tandem with Spanish fighter Pau Gasol and then there's the future of this Showtime ballclub that is Andrew and the Lakers new point Ramon Sessions. Long when Pau heads back to Spain for retirement and Kobe lands somewhere in Italy for a post-sneaker unlacing trip back down memory lane, number 17 will still be in L.A. with the teams new number 7, showing the Buss family and the rest of the league that trading for Dwight Howard would have been an unnecessary move.
Still that's a long time from now. As Bynum dukes it out with Dwight going elbow for elbow with the new Superman like he did Shaq in his rookie year. He'll be Kryptonite to this generations man of steel and whatever else the league of superheroes has to throw at him over the next few years. People can expect more golden years for the purple hearted Lake Show. From Kobe to Pau, Sessions and more the Lakers have double team threats everywhere, like their renaissance men and defensive duo of Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace causing war and hell to pay for the oppositions offence. Still point for paint point, pound for muscle pound, standing at the centre of it all will be Andrew.
Team USA will sure miss him this Summer, but if this knee issue is finally cleared up in Germany like Kobe's was then this young man can finally show us just how good he can really get. From the zen of Phil Jackson's mastering to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's legendary teaching and tutoring the torch will well and truly be passed. Sure not carrying the Olympic flame for the U.S. may singe his status a little bit but once Bynum shows us more of the fire inside he will look to burn brighter than most of the illuminating, hot star talents in the league.
From being the youngest player to ever play in an NBA game to rounding out to being a solid 20 and 10 threat this young man has achieved so much but still has so much more to do. Once he stops flagrantly ripping off his jersey you can count on that number 17 one day being raised in respect next to the 13 of Chamberlain and the 33 of 'Cap. Right now he's just that good. Give it a few years and he could be truly one of the greats.
Friday, 20 April 2012
Watching the throne.
By Tim David Harvey
Defence wins championships. Sure it's a boring notion but it's an accurate one as well. That's why the Boston Celtics have so many banners. That's why Ron Artest won Game 7 in the 2010 NBA Finals and that's why Bill Russell remains the real lord of the rings.
The Lakers three-peat run was brought to an abrupt end in Texas last year, but before that they where back to back champions and you can't spell 'double' without 'D'. Historically they are known for their 'Showtime' offence and Kobe Bryant is one of the associations greatest ever players and offensive threats, but the Lakers are much more than prolific scorers. In defending the throne that now crowns the Dallas Mavericks, L.A. are stepping up their defensive play once again. You can't spell 'dominance' or 'dynasty' without a lot of 'D' either, first and foremost. The Lakers have become a great defensive team and have learned from their 2008 Finals loss to Boston and their 2004 heartbreak in Detroit, now it is time to learn from last years disappointment. They have learned that you can score on someone all you like, but if you can't stop them, it's all Dirk and it's all over.
Now the Lake Show is stocked full of great stoppers. Gasol and Bynum are good defenders in the post and as for the backcourts ability the Ramon season is in session. The Lakers bench may often be overlooked in favour for the Hollywood elite that sits behind them but these players certainly can take offence too, from the points made by experienced veteran Steve Blake or the youthful exuberance of sophomore Devin Ebanks.
To win big games though you need difference makers. The Lakers have that on both ends of the floor but when it comes to defence the Lakers have a three pronged attack that can lock down even the best in the league. Why do they have this? They have this because they've got three of the best perimeter defenders in the league, one of the first lines of defence in basketball. They've 2010 acquired free agent Matt Barnes. They've got former 'Defensive Player of the Year' and former Ron Artest, Metta World Peace and they've got Kobe Bryant, a basketball legend on both ends of the floor.
So when you've got three of your best defenders in the L guarding your best player (or best two players for that matter), you've got trouble. The Lakers could play two of these guys at a time, with one guy tagging in off the bench or all three at once. Either way it's about to become real hard for any team to match up with the Lakers as their best athletes wrestle with the competition, especially now Barnes has pinned down a solid position and Metta has taken his career off the ropes with some new moves. Even Dallas' three balls may call shenanigans on a healthy defensive big three, Miami or anybody will find it hard to beat. It doesn't matter who you are. Even if you think you've got the luck of the Boston Irish. Even if your names Tim Duncan or Dwight Howard. Any dream team will suffer a nightmare playing this three headed monster.
It all begins with Kobe. The franchise player, the' go to guy'. He makes all the big plays, not every time (we see you Pau, Andrew and Sessions) but nine times out of ten. The clutch shots may be remembered and rotated on youtube for decades but his key steals and blocks ice games just as well. See Kobe suffers from the same thing all star players do. People focus on all the exciting things too much that the intangibles get overlooked. Lets take basketball back to the basics. Kobe is a 'guard' after all, even if he is a 'shooting guard' and guard does he.
Kobe may have made the NBA All-Defensive team year after year but his work on the 'other' end of the floor is still very much underrated. Put it this way, who do people talk about more, the 'Defensive Player Of The Year' or the league MVP? Sure highlights are highlights but the 'little' things that are done and that don't show up on the stat sheet are just as important. As a matter of fact these aren't 'little' things anyway. Everything in basketball is a big thing and the difference between achieving the 'W' or being left games behind.
Kobe doesn't just go at the opposing teams best player, he guards them too. Bryant has good wingspan, he's strong, he holds his own and most importantly, he's fearless. Kobe is so competitive and has a killer instinct that is matched by nobody in this league...nobody. Number 24 doesn't just want to beat you...he wants to stop you too. A Black Mamba can kill you in more ways than one and the self dubbed 'Doberman' of the Beijing Olympics doesn't bark, he bites. Just like when he won a gold medal Bryant showed that he is just as dedicated to hounding someone on defence as he is at being chased on offence, even if it was his teammate and friend Pau on the Spanish side. It's all about no mercy. Still, not only do the Lakers have one of the best all-round players guarding their house, they've also let two more hungry dogs off the leash.
The Lakers may have lost some 'Showtime', when they gave up Trevor Ariza in the free agent period of 2009 but they picked up a real 'show stopper' when they acquired Metta World Peace back off Houston. Ariza was a big reason the Lakers won in 2009 but Peace was an even bigger reason why the Lakers repeated in 2010. Sure when the Lakers lost Ariza's athleticism they lost a lot of speed but having Metta's calm slowing things down on defence isn't exactly a bad thing. The small forward formerly known as Ron can see the game like Magic and blind his opponents outputs with his tricks. See a player who can see the game developing in a much slower way can master the court and therefore the game itself. A player like this sees plays before they happen. A player like this wins championships and becomes legendary. A player like this sees the game like Earvin Johnson. This is no illusion, great minds think alike and great players move in time.
Now Metta Worlf may not move with the quickness but what he doesn't have in speed he makes up for 100 times over in strength. He may not look like he could run track but he's built like he could play football. Imagine trying to get round a pick set by this guy. Or imagine the exhaustion of managing to elude Kobe after being chased around the court only to be hit and bounced by World. Now even the strong body of LeBron James couldn't put up with much of this punishment. There's no peace from World, on the war of the court, Metta lays it down with authority like a gavel. When it comes to legendary defence, he's as guilty as charged. Metta World Peace got his Pat Riley on again to begin this campaign, promising another championship like when he took the blame for 2010, the one time Artest may have not had the form or the fitness to back this statement up to begin this season, but now his conditioning and predictions seem to be working their way into shape.
Any team in this league can throw anything they want at the Lakers because they have the players to counter. When the Lakers picked up Pau Gasol in 2008 Kobe remarked that he wasn't going to war with 'butter knives' anymore, well now he and his Lakers aren't lying in trenches either. Their standing in a fort. Let's take nothing away from this brilliant Miami team crafted last Summer but with the same offseason pick up of Matt Barnes in 2010, the Lakers can match them, outlast them and even challenge and defeat them. Think about it they match up piece for piece. Chris Bosh has the unstoppable force of Gasol and the immovable object of Bynum to deal with in the post while Kobe and LeBron will face off. This leaves Dwyane Wade, not open but closed off by both Barnes and Peace. Checkmate. Denzel sitting courtside knows this. This is chess not checkers.
Barnes can burn his opponents with his play, with his defensive smarts inked in to him like his tattoo's ingrained. Built with a slashers body, sure he can score but he can take more stabs out of his opponents final box score. Plus with the Ariza like replacement of Devin Ebanks in the potential bank, the Lakers perimeter power looks to go forth. Still with all three defenders on the court at the same time the Lakers become arguably both the most powerful offensive and the most powerful defensive team in the league. Then, even when Kobe takes five (or more like two) on the bench, the Lakers still have two of the best perimeter preventing players in the league disarming the opposing teams primary weapon. When Kobe is back on the court during crunch time he can focus more on the offence when he knows his first and second line of defence has his back.
The reason these guys excel in the lost art of defence is attributed to much more than 'just' their strength, their positioning or their undeniable, proven talent. The reason these guys are three of the top ten defenders in the league is because they share the same three attributes that every player needs to become a premier defender in this league. These attributes are courage, passion and competitiveness. Bryant, World Peace and Barnes have the die hard bravery to risk anything and everything to win and they have the passion that goes beyond the 'I Love This Game' slogan. This is because they want to win and rule this game that they love. It's one thing loving something, it's another thing to actually 'want' the thing you love. Now as far as competitiveness is concerned we needn’t get into it...but we will.
How competitive are these guys? Well look at it this way these guys may be team-mates now but before as opponents, there was no love lost. These guys where far from friends. We remember World in Kobe's face all series long as Houston and LA sparred in the 2009 Playoffs. Also how can we forget Barnes and Bryant getting into it in 2010 during a Magic, Lakers game? Things got so heated that Barnes even faked throwing an inbounds pass right at Kobe's face! Bryant even one-upped Barnes however by coolly not even flinching at this. Kobe just stared right through the ball and right through Matt owning the moment. Chris Rock knows this kind of humiliation. These friends are anything but when it comes to the competitive nature of the game. Cold as the ice in their veins and cold blooded with a Rick James slap.
Kobe is without a doubt the most competitive player in this league. When Barnes and Peace showed they weren't fazed by this legend they garnered more than just Kobe's frustration and attention. They earned his respect. It's almost like it was all written, just like K.B. was testing these two guys, but the fact is Kobe plays like this against everyone. The thing that separates World Peace and Barnes from the rest was their willingness to see Kobe's competitiveness and up the ante. Now as team-mates what separates these two from the rest is their willingness to put this old rivalry aside in order to come together with the same passion for the same goal. That's what separates a Metta and a Matt from say a Raja Bell. This is what separates ordinary players from champions.
With three of the most competitive, passionate and aggressive players on the same page defensively the Lakers become as strong as any defensive minded team they've tried to overcome over the last ten years. Adding this element to an already championship calibre team gives the Lakers that extra dimension, that Championship x-factor. Los Angeles now-on both ends of the floor-has a team like no other. A team that is both dominant in the paint and on the perimeter. They may not have a 'Dream' team like in Miami and Dallas may have given them a year off but what they do have is a potential new dynasty in the making. Now that's real. Don't sleep. The giant has woken up. The champ is here. Case in point, the defence rests...until the next competitor.
Thursday, 19 April 2012
The Zen Mamba.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Who would have thought that a Kobe-less Lakers would have been greeted with a winning record and such favour from the Lakers fanbase?
Well it has...the Lakers shot off to a 4-1 record, looked solid and ready for the playoffs. Pau Gasol has played like the star some doubt he is. Andrew Bynum and Ramon Sessions have been given more room to 'wow' further and show the present just how much they are the future of this ballclub. Defensive maestro's Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace have brought their 'A' games back to league scouting reports and Trevor Ariza look and play alike Devin Ebanks has been called up for more minutes and exposure.
Still everyone wants Kobe Bryant and his league leading 28.1 points per game back for the playoffs. From the players on the court to the fans in the stands, they can't do it without him. Despite recent wins San Antonio, Dallas and especially the titan Thunder in Oklahoma will be too much to bear without the leagues reigning iron man.
Still Kobe's recent suit and tie role has made for an interesting side-story and a gaze into the looking glass of the legacy of the legends future. From the phantom masked Mamba to shrugging off the ESPN 7th best player in the league credit, Kobe Bryant's 2011/2012 season has had a lot of intriguing side-stories but none as lucrative as this. Back in the day before the dress code, NBA players would don all sorts of fashion courtside while on the chilling list, but since the commissioners stern Sunday best policy, players are looking more like assistants. Still, Kobe (who has been known to sport some of the finest designer wear courtside while on the injured lists of seasons past) is taking it to the Coach K, Cap, or even Phil Jackson extreme looking the part of player coach.
Plus with some Laker fans disappointments with Mike Brown (to be fair he's doing a real decent job) the suit and tie and Italian loafers seem to fit. Phil Jackson knew this would happen. The Zen master would often pass the dry-erase to the Mamba in critical playoff and Finals runs during the championship years ad this is no different. The player some call selfish has not passed on the opportunity to mentor and lead his purple and gold army. He even took to Phil's old seat recently and it all looked so comfortable.
Refusing to talk about his injury to press and even without the precious Spalding in his hand, Kob' has been all about the game and his team. People can stop that selfish talk now. Kobe Bryant sure is making the case of being a good coach one day...but it doesn't end there. When Kobe's diminishing years come in his later thirties, his playbook mind and basketball I.Q. might just make him the perfect Point Guard. Like the man whose career he's followed, or the co-best player in the league and his tries Kobe could look to quarterback his team in the future.
Especially with the development of Andrew Bynum and his paint dominance. Sure Kobe already passes more than most think and Sessions is clearly making a point for the Lakers future guard position but Kobe could potentially switch it up later in his career as the legs get tired and the numbers edge off a little. Kobe's always been off-guard and a double team drawing playmaker and like Jordan in D.C., Kobe will probably still be able to drop 25 plus at almost 40 on any given night.
Still switching from scoring to point guard play during games could give him and the Lakers that extra element and rotation in the Bynum/Sessions new era coming soon that could give them and Kobe more years on the top. Until Kobe permanently takes his place on the bench, leading his team with his drawn up plays it's something the team could run. Either way it looks like Kobe Bryant is going to have an influence on the Los Angeles Lakers for a long time to come.
Friday, 13 April 2012
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
There's more at stake in Philly right now than cheese. If you walk the streets of Philadelphia like Bruce Springsteen you'll see plenty of great things in the city of brotherly love. From the classic city hall, to the iconic Liberty Bell this historical city is full of landmarks, all whilst having a beautiful, friendly small town feel. There's even a statue of Sylvester Stallone and the epic 'Rocky' steps he ran up. That's not the only thing ascending in the Philadelphia, where the Fresh Prince was born and raised...and its the hardwood not the playground where these climbers are spending most of their days. Basketball is the roots of Philly like Questlove and the rest of Jimmy Fallon's 'Late Night' house band and in the middle of the epic South Philadelphia sports complex that houses an electric hotbed of stadiums, including the homes of the Phillies and the Flyers is the Wells Fargo Centre, the home of the Philadelphia 76ers.
In this epic arena of sport coliseums, the Sixers once again are drawing attention like the vivid view from the stadium of downtown Philly in the distance. The legendary legacy of the Philadelphia 76ers makes this team almost as storied in this history of the National Basketball Association like the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks. From Wilt Chamberlains 100 point game 50 years ago to Moses Malone parting defenders in the paint before the deliverance of his second namesake (the mailman known as Karl), this city has sent this heavenly game of hoops some of its greatest Titans. From Hal Greer to Billy Cunningham, Bobby Jones to Maurice Cheeks. The revolutionary, game and league changing dunks of the good Doctor, Julius Erving to the mound of rebounding talent that is the unique and unorthodox Charles Barkley and many more has helped the state of Pennsylvania see some scary basketball talent.
Still this city hasn't seen victory for a long time. They haven't come close for over a decade now. 2001 almost saw them taste champagne, but despite their best efforts it was Shaq and his Lakers who where bouncing round in a shower of Champagne singing DMX's 'Party Up' up in the visitors locker room in Philly's house. It made the home crowd lose their minds. They where so close, but so far. While bottles where being sipped a door away, the home lockers where just left with a bitter taste in their mouths.
Despite this generations Philly legend Allen Iverson and all his crossover, culture, game and mainstream changing play and little man with the biggest heart syndrome the team came up short. Even when Allen Iverson answered the call and returned to redemption to revolutionise this team a few 82's back, his kiss of the logo on the hardwood floor was more of a kiss goodbye to this incredible partnership rather than a second coming. Just like the Pointer Sisters it was a shame, but just like hometown girl Jill Scott for Michael Jordan its all love. Now after rebounding from all the troubles like Barkley this streaking team is rolling with the punches like Rocky Balboa. Right now they may not be in the Academy of contenders but these playoff seeds are most definitely in the hunt, looking to win in Philadelphia like Tom Hanks in 1993.
'Passionate, Intense, Proud' reads the rally towel intense motto as basketball is looking for Philadelphia freedom from the freeways to the open lanes dominated by Andre Igudola's dynamic dunks. There really is a spectrum of players here led by the underrate All-Star and new A.I. and answer of Igudola. He leads an all studded unit of players perfect for their roles. Not convinced? How about Elton Brand? One of the leagues best and most underrated big men for over a decade. Quietly going about his job as deadly as an assassin like Tim Duncan but with more weight in the paint, he is the big man that pivots this small ball club.
Then there's the young, big three of Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday and Louis Williams running the floor and the future of this history rich franchise. They all look like they're barely out of college but routinely take the veterans of this league to school on a night in, night out basis. Add like named talents like Sam Young, valuable veterans like the well travelled journeyman Tony Battie and developing names like Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Jodie Meeks than you really have a ballclub. One that can rotate and still be great all while running up the Atlantic as high as their geographical location. From a great, tried and tested Head Coach in Doug Collins to a Mark Cuban esque CEO in Adam Aron who's taken everything from personal e-mails to back pages of SLAM out to show personally how much he cares for this team. How can one of the best defensive teams in the L not be in everyone's consideration.
Sure not much is beating Miami in the East, unless its more experienced teams like Boston...and as for the West and the rest, nothing looks to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder as they look to storm their way to the gold of early July. Still with this unit and youthful movement out in Sixer territory you may just be looking at the future of the league, which right now is already appearing great, present and correct. Soon it may always be sunny in Philadelphia, with a chance (albeit an outside one) of overcoming the Heat and Thunder. Sure that may be a forecast that we may not see for seasons, but believe that the tide and times of this league are changing. Until then why not enjoy some great Basketball in the city of brotherly love, where this family-tight squad of gallant 76ers with all respect are showing plenty of heart.
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Larry O'Brien. That's the name you may just associate NBA favourites the Oklahoma City Thunder with soon. That's because of names like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and many more. Soon the city of Oklahoma that's only housed a pro-basketball team for four years could soon be home to a champion like Nicki Minaj featuring Drake, Young Jeezy and Nas. Like the hammer of Thor, these NBA avengers look to assemble and start their reign over the league and that is really something to marvel at. Its all looking stormy in the city of Thunder now with a forecast of championships but with all that there is no reign in Seattle these days.
Can you believe it? These fans have remained sleepless like Tom Hanks without their basketball for almost half a decade and the feelings are still raw. Switched off like no more classic 'Frasier' on the tube, tuned out like no more Nirvana on the frequency. They say heaven is a playground and that's pretty much all they've got basketball wise in Seattle now.
Then again if you step into the relic that is the beautiful Key Arena then you'll still see players in white and green, but that pure shooter draining three's isn't Ray Allen. It's the incredible Sue Bird and her former champion WNBA Seattle Storm side. Still forecasting some great basketball in the state of Washington despite recent reports.
Even so however the Sonic pulse that charged this basketball city is still missing. Apart from the ladies of the court and hometown band Pearl Jam"s original ties to number 10, nighties, Atlanta guard Mookie Blaylock that's it. One of the most popular and recognisable franchises of the golden age of the nighties is gone, moved to Oklahoma, stripped of its colours and its name. Where's the justice for the Seattle Supersonics?
Save our Sonics was the plea but nobody heeded the call. As the chairman of Starbucks brought the team and woke them up to the beautiful aroma of the city of Oklahoma, but didn't give two cups about the coffee town and Seattle's best. Sure the move was good in a few respects, (new fan base, great town etc) but why not just an expansion franchise? The whole change of the team identity, from the colour to the name, made it just look like the Sonics had their players (led by an impressive young Durant) stolen.
OK so the Sonics name, logo and colours will be available to any subsequent Seattle NBA team that is created...but when will that be? David Stern is just "considering". All Seattle is left with is the critical acclaim of 'Sonicsgate-Requiem For A Team'. Then again with all this being said, K.D. and co may have gone elsewhere even if the Thunder stayed as the Supersonics in Seattle, but we never know what might have happened in this unpredictable NBA league.
It could have all been for better or worse or you never know just the same. The second coming of success for the new generation of Seattle ballers, a basketball city that Gary built.
No matter how great the fans, the Ford Centre and the city of Oklahoma is at motoring the Thunder forward are. The argument that Seattle wasn't a good place for a basketball franchise fell on the deaf ears left by the protesting Sonics fans who went all 'Battle Seattle' like Woody Harrelson and Andre 3000 and ended up being out casted like a semi-pro team...cheers hey? Such is the fate of American franchise teams moving cities in this business first sports world, an issue that still needs to be addressed today before the Kings and everyone else lose their thrones.
Put it this way New Orleans, Minneapolis and Vancouver, there's no Jazz in Utah or historical lakes in L.A. (apart from that ocean) and have you ever seen a Grizzly bear in Memphis? It's almost like finding bigfoot or looking for Sonic mascot Squatch in Seattle. Sure when Charlotte lost the Hornets to New Orleans, having a basketball team in Louisiana helped unite the city of New Orleans in troubled times like Lil' Wayne. But even Charlotte got the Bobcats in the end. So what about Seattle? What about the 41 years? What about the fans?
What about the good ole days? The classic arena, logo and jerseys. Spencer Haywood in the seventies taking on the whole Association. Hall of Famers Lenny Wilkens and Dennis Johnson (rest in peace). The X-Men Xavier McDaniel, Wolverine slashing dunking days and the real superstars. The Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp duet days. The new more, exciting, alley-ooping Malone and Stockton tandem days. The trash talk meeting the high top fade. The glove fitting defensive days wrapped around Jordan. The reign of one of the most exciting big men, monster dunkers, sky rocketing high like the Space Needle. Before Blake Griffin. Before the weight, before the hate. Before the Lakers.
Now even Ice Cube can't reminisce about his Lakers beating the Supersonics, I guess it really was a good day...past tense. Yesterday Seattle was heating up like coffee houses in the nighties. New like extra cream but classic like Americano. From Sam Perkins to Hersey Hawkins. Detlef Schrempf to Nate McMillan. Even in Patrick Ewing's sole season or the twilight years of Vin Baker, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, the dunking Desmond Mason and the beginning of the age of Durant, it was all Seattle. It was all good.
This was a franchise that should have been celebrated, not cremated to the ashes like perhaps Phoenix if the Suns don't rise again over the next few seasons. Sure we couldn't be happier for the new legend of the super Oklahoma City Thunder, but its a legacy the Sonics and the city of Seattle helped create. All change may be on the Western front but sometimes nostalgia can't help us look at times gone by and all that they've done. With credit due to the championship promising Oklahoma City Thunder, let us not forget who helped them become what they are today. After all don't they say 'you never know where your truly going, until you know where you came from'. The storming Thunder are going places...at Supersonic speed.
Sunday, 8 April 2012
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Jaamal 'Silk' Wilkes was so smooth sometimes his great, legendary play went unnoticed in the golden eighties years of his purple Laker reign. I guess that's what happens when you play in front of a Hollywood celebrity crowd in the Forum of Los Angeles playing 'Showtime' basketball with the greatest scorer of all time Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the greatest passer of all time...a guy we all know simply as Magic.
The tricks of Silkes trade where celebrated, but he's still remained an unsung and underrated player. A massive black and white portrait of him hangs in Tom Cruise's characters office in nighties hit rom-com 'Jerry Maguire', yet today his Wikipedia page isn't complete with a photo. Legendary Lakers announcer Chick Hearn coined the 'Silk' nickname along with his 'Slam Dunk' and refrigerator cool phrases, yet some Lakers fans mind will run cold when Wilkes name is mentioned. This lack of knowledge needs to change. The light is on, the jello is cooling...but is anyone home.
Things really look to open up and change now however. The corridors of the Naismith Hall Of Fame look to get even smoother this year as the squeaks of Silkes Wilkes sneaks look to step in and join last years inductee Tex Winter and a whole host of other Lakers alumni in the prestigious class of basketball greats. You know John Wooden will be so proud but not surprised. You'd think there would be no better honour, but in the very same "whirlwind" (as Jaamal put it) week the Lakers organisation announced they'll be raising Jaamal Smooth's number 52 jersey to join Wilt, Jerry, Elgin, Gail, Kareem's 33, Magic's 32 and James Worthy's 42 in the rafters. This jersey retirement announcement coming off the heels of the Hall, couldn't be any better for Wilkes...unless they made his honoured jersey out of woven silk.
Weaving between defenders like he switched between the 2 and 3 spots. Wilkes was that smooth to his basketball touch and that butter jumper was so money it afforded the Hearn nickname and the dubbing of being a '20 foot lay up' (it was that 'good', word to Marv Albert). From a big body and long arms, this Shooting Guard/Small Forward was a wingspan nightmare on defence. While just like Byron Scott and A.C. Green his 'Oop' dunks that finished off Magic Johnson's 'Alleys' really put the 'Show' in 'Showtime'. It was wow time when Jaamal amazed everyone from the players to the fans with his on court skill set. His versatile, tall, do it all presence really opened up the Forum floor for Pat Riley's slick smooth Lakers. Laker nation you thinking Lamar Odom? Plus all the disappointment that came with his departure from LAX, Los Angeles? Well then just think what a shame it was that Wilkes has been under appreciated and somewhat disregarded...that is at least until now.
Jaamal won't have to reside in the unsung ranks of 1980's Lake Show greats that where just as much a part of the legendary legacy like Norm Nixon and Bob McAdoo for long. This pillar really helped the Forum become a coliseum of gladiatorial basketball. Now his place in the hall and the rafters is guaranteed by the Los Angeles Lakers and National Basketball Association powers that be...and will. The Berkley born California bred, UCLA grad, really epitomised L.A. and the city of dreams (3 times an All-Star, 6 times a champion (2 in the NCAA)) and its about time the town of stars and angles and the basketball world woke up and saw the light shining on this sleeper star that deserved more illumination. This ABA team president really is a Los Angeles Star. This smooth operator is finally going to be heard like Sade. The polite, courteous, motivational speaker will finally have someone taking to the microphone for him. At almost 60 years of age the former Golden State Warriors 'Rookie of the Year's' steady play has finally produced the individual rewards he finally deserves. Its all silky smooth now.
Saturday, 7 April 2012
The Art Of Stepping Up.
"And the Lakers are the 2000 World Champions", Laker fans remember those commentators words like it was all yesterday. It is hard to believe its been more than a decade in the making though. As an Afro sporting Kobe complete with a boyish grin, leapt into the big arms of a tearful Shaquille O'Neal the Phil Jackson led Lakers beat Reggie Miller and Larry Bird's Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of the first NBA Finals of the new millennium, christening the new STAPLES Centre and new uniformed Lake Show with their first championship and dynasty since Earvin Johnson brought, Magic, Showtime and a Forum of championships to Los Angeles in the Eighties.
The dynamic and dominant duo of Shaq and Kobe went on to win two more trophies even with the twin towers of David Robinson and Tim Duncan and a double dose of problems and troubles standing in their way. Throughout these championships they had their fair share of help however from former champion A.C. Green to serious shooter Glen Rice and former assistant Brian Shaw to Kobe's mentor Ron Harper. Even Hall of Famers Gary Payton and Karl Malone joined on board to help carry on tradition. Still however three was the magic number like De La does. Before LeBron took his trois talents to South Beach and even before L.A. bred Paul Pierce reignited a historic rivalry with his own trio the Lakers had a mini big three of their own (and we're not talking about the great Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum yet) in the form of three big time role players who stepped it up while sitting behind their two stars.
You see when Derek Fisher was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder recently for as little as a seldom used but seriously talented Jordan Hill this was more than just another fan disappointing, Lamar Odom front office decision. It was truly the end of an era and we're not just talking about the class of 96 career ending, backcourt partnership with fellow 1996 draftee and close friend Kobe Bryant. Derek was the last active purple and gold wearing member of the role playing big three of Rick Fox, Robert Horry and he.
Shaq and Kobe may have been all the Lakers needed in some armchair fans minds but the critics and the purists know that the champion L.A. team needed Fisher, Fox and Horry at the Point Guard and two forward spots respectively. From their tough play on both ends of the floor to they're clutch plays that saved the day these guys where big hitters masquerading as regular Joe's. From 0.4 to Sacramento seconds, as the buzzer sounded everyone knew who number 5, 2 and 17 belonged to. Arguably these jersey numbers should be raised to the rafters along with Shaq and Kobe when their jerseys are retired but just like other greats like Byron Scott, Michael Cooper and more sometimes they're just isn't any more room or justice.
Sure it was ultimately Shaq and Kobe that brought Larry O'Brien home to California but we all know this game is really more than the power of one...or two. The video game and youtube, iphone highlight generation sometimes need to go beyond the style and look into the substance of success. O'Neal and Bryant did the dirty work and little things too. They're more than deserving of their grand scale but from every loose ball to charge Rick, Derek and Robert deserve to be celebrated with first name status too for all their super hard work that really did do more than just help win games. Rewriting the script and game conclusions these guys directed things for the big names. Even in the vast Hollywood make or break world these guys are stars.
Now let's look at why.
First there was Rick. Straight from the Foxhole this guy was a sly talent. Trapping people defensively off ball, unseen and underrated. It really was the intangible and blue collar dirty work which turned the little things into big moments for this Small Forward and his Lakers. Beyond his massive 2000 Finals, Game 6, Reggie Miller dared three, Fox hounded every teams best player with or without the rock. It was the kind of play that made Lakers like Glen Rice want to pick him up and hug him and make Kings like Doug Christie and Peja Stojakovic want to pick him up and shake him.
These days from 'The Big Bang Theory' cameos to movie roles Rick Fox is a Hollywood star in his own right. Different to his Laker days Fox is making silver screen headlines and dating 'Doll House' star Elizah Duskhu. This man was always built for the bright light and the big time. Shaq and others used to clown Rick about spending too much time in the mirror, but the real reflections of this guys career sees celebration and championships. Victory has belonged to his versatile talent, locker room presence and grit on determination. Whether offensively or defensively, on the ball or off Rick Fox knew how to play this game and that's why he's where he is today, courtside with rings watching a legacy he helped create.
Fox was joined in the frontcourt by another force aside of Shaquille O'Neal. Powering the Lakers off the bench was Power Forward Robert Horry. Sure from Horace Grant to Samaki Walker, Robert didn't start but that's because he finished games...literally. Mr. Clutch, 4th Quarter owned the last few seconds and teams that dared stand in the way of his hand, the three point line, the Spalding and the twine. From helping Houston with their problems, to clicking with the Spurs in San Antonio Robert won championships with everyone, almost going 'Four For Texas' like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Still with his Rat Pack of Fisher and Fox in Los Angeles, Horry's most memorable and iconic time belonged as a Laker.
Robert could D up, go inside, rebound and do things that go unnoticed in today's game. Still it was his behind the arc ownership that illuminated newspaper headlines as the backboard lit up. From Philadelphia to Sacramento everyone was part of the story. Vlade Divac better read a newspaper or something. Horry made headlines like Drake, taking care of the competition. They said he looked like Will Smith, but this Fresh Prince of L.A. was his own legend and helped in the Lakers pursuit of happiness and history. He barely missed...OK there was that one bucket in San Antonio but even that one went in before it popped out. Robert Horry may have ultimately decided more winning games for the Lakers than Kobe Bryant. He was so money with the final ball he even makes Larry Bird and Michael Jordan jealous. He affords his name to that company. Robert Horry may just be the greatest clutch hitter of all time.
But then again there's Derek Fisher. The only member of this threesome and original post millennium dynasty unit to last with Kobe to the second set of championship years with Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and others but now Fish is gone to Laker history with Lamar Odom and legacy lasting, legendary coach Phil Jackson. Before he brought his thunder shot to Oklahoma, Derek was still lighting it up off Pico, downtown in the city of angels. His heaven sent, hail mary plays quarterbacked the Lakers from the Point Guard spot. This marvellous clutch player even avenged the Lakers playoff loss to the Dallas Mavericks by hitting a game winner against the reigning champions to dust last years sweep with a new broom. The hammer down celebration from the new Thunder player let out all the frustration of him and his cities fall from championship consideration. That shot made people look the Lakers way again.
The guy may be old but he's still that clutch. The Lakers have made a big mistake losing one of their primary weapons and it may come back to haunt them if Fisher guns them down in the postseason with Wild West favourites Oklahoma City. Derek's most recent greatest hits and his clutch championship contributions against Boston and Orlando dis-respectively may put him one or two plays over Robert Horry as one of the Lakers and NBA's greatest performer through twine throughout the winding down seconds. Put it this way if you put up a list of greatest clutch shots in Los Angeles Lakers and basketball history these guys would be duking it out down the charts with more top hits than Lil' Wayne on the Billboard. From saving L.A. in a record 0.4 seconds (like he saved the locked out league just in time as Player Association President this year) to putting his finger to his lips after silencing the Philadelphia Sixers Derek has rivalled Horry and everyone before to own a lot of the basketball successes from the last decade.
Taking charges and diving for loose balls with his gladiator chiseled frame this 37 year old warrior still looks and plays like a young man. Years gone he overcame season and potentially career ending stress fractures to strap on a headband and tape and shoot down teams with a barrage of net swishing buckets. From clicking the lights off for San Antonio in playoff quarters to doing the same to too many other teams to mention whatever the game, this go to guy is deadly with three point purity and he's still alive in the league today. Until the final buzzer sounds, the ball is his..and he's going to take it. No one should and should ever have bet against him.
These guys where all a sure thing. A supporting cast worthy of awards from the small things to the big buckets and from the tears to the champagne. Three times a Laker these guys are part of a legacy that will last longer than the arguments that they where riding the coattails of Shaq and Kobe's success. They suited up just like everybody and else and earned and owned their purple and gold stripes. When it comes to the rings on their fingers they where part of the championship change which engaged them in a matrimony of victory. Till retirement do part, for better or worse these guys took the Lakers down the aisle. Even without the fame they belong in a hall or class of their own. One that commemorates effort, teamwork, unselfishness and most importantly...success. After its all said and done, they've won.
Friday, 6 April 2012
Real Tuff Juice.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Caron Butler has come a long way in his young 32 years. From working at Burger King as a teen to now owning a whopping 6 set of franchise stores throughout the United States its safe to say Caron is eating good. Butler has ushered in a lot of success in his life, overcoming 15 stints in jail as a youth to now coming in to a couple of 82's away from 15 years playing time in the NBA.
The man who goes by the Twitter handle @realtuffjuice has given thirsty teams the true grit from the Wild West, to East with the genuine toughness that comes with a raw and real player. It seems the underrated Caron Butler is one of those players who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty doing the tough jobs no one else wants to, even if that results in less shine then some stars that may or may not deserve the limelight.
He could be a star for sure with his above the rim, clutch and perimeter play. He's a prototype darling, but in possesseing the fundamentals on both ends of the floor Butler would rather be a more complete team player, giving everything he's got with his wide skill set. From scorching hot days in Miami, to a Laker trade that saw him form a nice three with Kobe and Lamar Odom Butler has been at many great teams service.
He was worth more than Kwame Brown when he was traded to the Washington Wizards from the Lake Show (but then again the Lakers ended up getting Pau Gasol for Brown so perhaps it all works out) and he gave some capital worthy performances, initialling his time in D.C. The number 3, aka 'Tough Juice' formed another 'grande trois' with Antwan Jamison and Gilbert Arenas under Eddie Jordan. Now after a deserved championship with Dallas (he was a good contributor although he was injured, missing the entire postseason) Caron is back in L.A. and STAPLES, but just like Chris Paul its not for the Lakers (like some purple and gold fans would have hoped) its for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Caron's huge 28 points in his current building/old floor against the Lakers in a recent loss this week shows this guys a key player in this 'Battle: Los Angeles' NBA script. It shows more than that he's still a big player who can put up the numbers and one who can become another option for the scoring load. It shows he knows how to play the Lakers...and more importantly Kobe on each end of the floor.
He really knows Kobe, the close friends and former teammates used to play side by side and one on one in practice, Butler really has got his practice in against the games greatest. This element could be crucial in the shift of power in Los Angeles, the Western Conference and the Association as a whole. If these guys met in the playoffs, sure MVP talent Kobe would dominate like everyone else were the puppets and he was holding the strings, but over a seven game battle of Los Angeles the defensive minded Butler would handle his and get his on the offensive end too.
As good as the doberman, Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace are the Lakers should never have traded Butler (who now can aggressively go toe to toe with all three in this heated L.A. rivalry), maybe that's why they lost the other fight in L.A. this offseason to sign him. He's not just a defensive asset either. Offence should almost be taken at how underrated Caron's point play is. He is more than a slasher or a spotty shooter. He's a penetrator who should never be left open, we haven't even began to give an assist to his nice passing play too. No one should pass on this guy, he's all round.
This All-Star is an all-time guy and the player who once had the good nature and heart to surprise a 16 year old D.C. boy at his birthday as per the kids parents request could really gift the Clippers with a great surprise too this calender year. Don't cross him out or write him off. Right now after some early struggles coming back from injury and fitting in Broderick Turner of the LA Times reports that Caron is more comfortable in Clippernation. This should leave the rest of the NBA restless and uneasy.
The Clippers have gone from the laughing stock of the National Basketball Association to one of Hollywood's greatest stories. Sure its been young man-child Blake Griffin and his dunking revolution that's opened everything up and as everyone from top point Chris Paul and Championship MVP Chauncey Billups (unfortunately out for this campaign) has joined this monster talent on the lay up line things are looking up and up for this team cleared for above the rim takeoff from LAX to all ports of basketball call in the United States.
Still even with all this and the brute rim rocking strength of DeAndre Jordan and latest Clipper convertor Kenyon Martin, there are few tougher or more resilient than Caron Butler. His newly established, at home presence could be the X-Factor for these Clips in Los Angeles, like a Rasheed Wallace signing in Detroit (Chauncey knows) or clutching for Derek Fisher in Oklahoma (Kobe knows all too well). With his all-round game spreading the floor and opening things up much like former Laker teammate and young Clipper Lamar Odom (again, Kobe knows all too well) who has now taken his place in Dallas, Butler can offer these L.A. Clippers whatever they want.
From a strong mental presence that will solidify the locker room and crumble opponents, Butler has the big time experience for this former small fries ballclub. Need an upgrade? Caron can guard an opponents best player, all whilst finding his teams own, and getting his if the time or play calls for it. That's the kind of team player, he is and with all his unselfishness the Clippers themselves now really do have a team.
As their missing piece is coming together, the puzzle is almost complete and what a picture this is. This supporting actor can help bring the awards to the other side of Hollywood. Sure its not time to say 'and the winner is', but this man and his script flipping Clippers are worth a nomination. Now that's the gold.