Thursday, 24 October 2013


The Untouchables.


Somewhere in Chicago last year all eyes are on the man in the corner of the gym. Injured but not bed ridden, down but not out, pushing weight after weight, sweat after sweat, burn after burn. Maybe hometown legends like Kanye West, Common or the fast paced raps of Twista are playing on the sound system to inspire this Lupe Fiasco, kick, push, but it's what's on the gyms T.V. that's taking this guys eyes and mind. A highlight reel of the greatest of all time like a Nike commercial, some of the best plays ever, dunking and fading away to an epic soundtrack and the quote, "I've failed time and time again". The man looks back down and pushes the weights harder. Later that night gym bag on, he walks up to the United Centre and see's that iconic statue before the grey clouds of a Michigan Winter's fall night. He looks at it again and walks in. Now on the Chicago Bulls floor this man looks up to the rafters like those searching for standing space up in the nose bleeds. He sees all those championship banners and then the number 23. In that moment Derrick Rose looks back down to the court, channels Michael Jordan and plays ball.

This writer lined up for hours to meet Derrick Rose in London, late 2009 but he was the nervous one (is it the moustache?). Still even if this guarded point is soft spoken, his game speaks volumes and its about to play again this year like Mike in the 90's. Guards are supposed to be small but just look at dudes weight-room 'Don Jon' honed arms. Baby Bulls are supposed to gallop but he stampedes like a lion king. You better watch out LeBron, this young simba's about to take ovet the game like J. Cole. He can't wait to be king. To begin Rose bloomed from Game 1 and took the defending champs Boston to seven games in his rookie year. Rooks and eight seeds don't do that. After a great second term Rose was a sophomore no more, no slump. Today even after the injury he's part of the Point Guard and league elite showing in limited (well for a franchise player) minutes he can go 30 for 30 like an ESPN documentary. Along with Carlos Boozer he's formed a Malone and Stockton of the new millennium, with the scoring and top player talents of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah as an added bonus which should add more points than the blue and red money ball. Brad Pitt couldn't script it better.

He passes, boards, scores, bangs and dunks (remember the signature two hander?). With Rose Chi-town are contenders, not pretenders to the throne. This shy and retiring guard is going to inspire confidence to the day he hangs 'em up now he's back on the floor not the sidelines. Not just a former MVP and best player, but arguably the best Point Guard in the league right now...not to mention top 5 of all least. With his all-round game Derrick evened the score with Rajon Rondo and showed that the league wasn't just about Chris Paul and Deron Williams, or Kobe Bryant and LeBron James for that matter. Without him sure the impressive Chicago Bulls made a charge at the playoffs, but with him dishing, dunking and duking it out they could roll-over the whole thing now. His value could be weighed in gold...championship gold. That's how much he's worth. Chicago's first MVP since Mike and the NBA's youngest ever. You best believe history is being made again in this forthcoming season. All that's came before has and is past, this is the future. Even Michael Jordan can see it too, it's Derrick Rose's time now.

He's the leader now, but who will show him the way? There are a lot of great coaches in this league but there is one former 'Coach Of The Year' who is still vastly underrated in his craft. The master of the dry erase is Tom Thibodeau, as the Chicago Bulls coach wipes the floor with the competition as he wipes out their marker pen plays. I guess the legendary teaching of Rivers was just what the Doc' ordered. Still Doc Rivers may regret this as his former student and assistant may just beat his master one day no matter how much the Clippers are taking over L.A. and the NBA. Thibodeau has shown he can harness the worth of his MVP Derrick Rose, the enthusiasm and passion of Joakim Noah, the rolling post deliveries of shrewd free-agent pickup, Carlos Boozer, the scoring of Luol Deng and the dynamics of the rest of the team and tie it all together to give the team it's first contention pull since a man named Mike Jeffrey took the air out of the United Centre. Now whose better then that? Next rounds on Thibs.

With Derrick Rose serving the ball up to his squad, the Chicago Bulls are the untouchables. The star gangs of the East may make the headlines like Al Capone, but the by the book-like Elliott Ness-Chicago Bulls are looking to capture their bounty. These former contention refugees are our sleeper pick for future championship glory. Chicago are cooking, having established the balance in the central division pole position over the years. This team is stone cold and that's the bottom line. Other Eastern Conference teams may be wrestling with storied reputations and superstar status symbols, but the charging Chicago Bulls look to lasso the championship belt out of South Beach with their talents. Its time for the rest of the best to smarten up. Sure Miami may have the talents of LeBron, Wade and Bosh to go along with Larry O'Brien and New York and Amar'e may have been Carmelo's final decision, but in this 'who wants to buy a millionaire' league the only that's going to be touching these Chi-town Bulls team wise outside of Miami is the Boston Celtics...sorry I mean the Brooklyn Nets. The other complete, team based unit of stars. With these two popular and most recognisable franchises looking to rule the roost it feels like somewhere between the 90's and the future right now in the second decade of the new millennium.

Sure, everything goes through the reigning Eastern Conference champs in South Beach but these Baby Bulls are all grown up but still have the youth and the speed to keep up with Miami's three tiers or the Rondo led point looking to be made in the wrote off but underrated Boston. Speaking of Rajon, Chicago have their own 'move- aside D-Will and CP3', association best point in Rose. Sure the one time underrated Rajon Rondo may now be the critics pick, but that doesn't mean that the mild-mannered Rose is right there with him in everybody's conscience and confidence. Besides Rose is in bloom and can shoot, score, muscle, bench-press and eat Rondo under the table on his best night. Or any player for that matter, as the MVP is always the best, right? This former Windy City number one draft pick is number one in the NBA, point proved. Just check D-Rose's thorn in Boston's side, two-handed emphatic flush that left many Celtic defenders in the toilet on any of Derrick's highlight package. Or look for it on that Adidas Katy Perry commercial. That two points was as passionate as any Kevin Garnett jersey tug or chest thump, with all it's elastic breaking heart.

When Rose brings the ball up court he's got more then his own shot to deal with however and this is why the multi-talented, versatile Chicago Bulls are leading the charge in an Eastern Conference full of promise. If you want to talk about heart then leading the stampede is Joakim Noah, the teams most vital organ and vocal leader. This guy has more heart then anybody, but as Jesus is my witness, believe me, he's got game like Ray Allen. A mental and physical presence, Joakim gifts the Bulls with size, hustle and hard-work. Noah's arc of talent also extends to the range on his shot. Still however, it's his energy plays, born from his impenetrable passion that gives his team the x-factor of heart that can only be matched by the B.K.'s Garnett. Chicago's other two co-captains anchor this ship too. Luol Deng, the former franchise man and top jersey seller is still on top of his game, Rose's or injury pricks aside. Deng is a pure scorer and prototype basketball player. The kind of guy that would have complimented Mike and Scottie like free peanuts. This guy could still see championships and plays still go through him however. He's that good, don't forget the Chicago Bulls version of Paul Pierce is the truth too. Get your facts straight, there's no need for debate.

In the biggest, most ludicrous Summer of free-agent signings (otherwise known as the decision year) the Bulls big acquisition seemed as a minor statistic, but in reality the move was just as important as the Knicks acquisition of Amar'e Stoudemire. Sure Carlos' contract may not have made news like that of fellow ex-Cavalier-turned villain LeBron James. Still, it was still a chess move that gave the Bulls that extra space on the board, putting them ahead of their opponents. Checkmate. Game, set and match, Boozer is serving up the fundamentals. Now everyone outside the state of Illinois will have to deal with the hangover like Bradley Cooper, Booze's skill set with the pill is limitless and NBA approved. You seeing clearly? The rest of the Bulls flock are more than just something for the birds Twitter feeds. These Chicago Bulls are deep. How deep? Deep enough to send their opponents to the abyss. Deep as Dunleavy, Hinrich, Gibson, Mike who, Mike James and more. Deep enough that if you don't know them by their second names, then you dont know basketball. Deep enough for a long playoff run. Just like Scottie, the next time this franchise unveils a statue they may have to immortalise the whole team in bronze. Just ask iron Mike Jordan, he see's six more titles in the works for these new hard-mettle, next generation Bulls.

Sure the Miami Heat are the best team in the league right now but still in the Eastern Conference it's wide open like Central Park. No longer least, this beast of a conference has the green like the storied Celtics and the trees to best the West. Still amongst all the movers and shakers the Chicago Bulls are still here once again, as unified as their typical, trademark jerseys. Sure New Jersey are only going to get better in Brooklyn, New York's 'other' team are right there and nothing looks as good as the Heat right now, but the Bulls have substance and that's always worth more then style, shine or gloss. These Windy City storm troopers have the ability to breeze past opponents not just this year, but for seasons to come. No matter if the Orlando Magic learn new tricks. No matter how more fresher and more mature those former raw, young Atlanta Hawks get. From the ATL to the heaven and hell of the playoffs the Bulls will be clawing away with their hooves firmly in the game. The end of their playoff curse will begin with the starting of Rose. Remember 'belief, hope, focus, push, drive', hash-tag 'The Return'. The man waiting in the wing tipped wings of Air Jordan is about to put the atmosphere back into the United part of Chicagoland.

It may be time to play Alan Parson's 'Sirius' again during player introductions as this 'Coach Of The Year' certified Tom Thibodea project sound like championship contenders more and more each day and game. Look for the Heat and Knicks rivalries to reboil and more as this team look to make their opponents see green when they play them and I'm not just talking on St. Patrick's Day. This team could assimilate the Boston Irish, just ask former player Brian Scalabrine. This hot team is seeing red, ready to put Miami away and have smelt the blood of their rivals, it's time to dead the competition no matter where the talents lie. Now which matador dares to take this herd by the horns? You have been warned. This bulls-eye is targeting a championship. As this contender takes aim and charges, you better run for cover. This city expects a great deal, from Common's raps to Kanye's ego, 'E.R'. to 'Chicago Hope' and 'The Chicago Code' to the rest of their legacy of legendary primetime shows. The revolution will be televised like Theus' 'Hang Time', dunk for dunk, play for play. Everyone will be tuning into the one man who can make this town not yearn for the days of Jordan and Pippen so much. There may never be anyone like Mike, but even with number 23 upstairs in the rafters and the bored boardrooms of Charlotte, it's time for Chicago to look out for number one.



Thursday, 10 October 2013


Wagging The Finger.


Imagine for a second one of your favourite swingmen of all time driving the lane for one of the NBA's greatest moments in the golden era of the mid-90's to early new milleniuum. It doesn't matter about the name on the back of his jersey, but the play that's about to happen. Imagine how many people will leave their seat and jump into the air for an 'ooh's' and 'ahh's' devastaing dunk. Then imagine for a second what could top that in perfect plays in Baksetball. How about another hand meeting the dunkers outstretched ball, blocking and denying it ferociously to the tune of even more 'ooh's' and 'aah's' and a slap to not only the ball and dunker, but opposing team and fans. Sure from the greatest defender to ever do it Bill Russell, to the leagues latest and last centre star Dwight Howard and every Ben Wallace in between there has been a lot of brilliant shot blockers who have slapped the high socks and tucked in tails off their marked man, but no one has done it quite like the finger-wagging of legend Dikembe Mutombo. Sure in the Shaq, Hakeem, Ewing and Mouring big-man dominating era of the 90's, Deke's offense wasn't as potent, but the mount was a mountain of defensive strength in his own right able to best any opponent-including them-on the 'other' and arguablly first and foremost end of the court. Leading with one of the best and most underrated exciting plays in all of Basketball and it's importance.

This defensive specialist, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo (put that on the back of a jersey) was just that big and just that brilliant. An All-Star on defence and with more, underrated shooting skills than given credit for you can put this man in the Hall Of Fame for what he's done on and off the court. Like a true professional and hero of the game, this man took it beyond Basketball. It was fitting this week-during the NBA's first ever preseason trip to Manchester that Dikembe was sitting next to England's national hoops treasure John Amaechi, who broke down ignorance and inequality barriers by announcing he was gay and giving strength and support to Jason Collins amongst others. Mutombo himself has broke down borders himself and lead the way for others including 'Baby Deke' Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who is showing one of the leauges greatest teams that they didn't lose their big three when James Harden took his beard to the Rockets. Africa's Ibaka is flying the flag for his country and with an offensive, sublime skill-set and a forward thinking Mutombo presence on the block of the defensive end you are looking at one of the best all-round players today in the association. Sure he's underrated but Dikembe knows all about things like that. Besides Mount Mutombo couldn't be prouder and Serge couldn't be more inspired. The man who's finger-wagging, dismissing demeanour on court was off set, by a warm, award-winning smile off it understands real play and real life. The man with the gravely Louis Armstrong voice had all the time in the world for everybody and that's why everyone has it for him too.

With mere seconds on the shot-clock this was the guy you wanted to clutch plays for when the other team had the ball. Those big hands owned it in the key as he locked up offensive players and repainted plays that looked ran for game-winning success. he blocked everyboy, even avenging the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan's own finger-wagging in his own right. The Congolese/American gave the great Georgetown university a holy trinity of defining post players alongside Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mouring for a tremendous tradition which will probably never be topped today. Standing at 7 feet 2, the man stood above the rest, 260 pound for pound. His outstretched legs courtside at this weeks Manchester game could trip a referee or even Shaq like Larry David in that episode of 'Curb'. He even managed to take away some of Shaq and the Lakers enthusiam (fouling the Lakers most dominant out and proclaiming the freinds where "in a war" when Shaq claimed he was flopping in their epic bout) alongside his offensive other-half Allen Iverson in the 2001 NBA Finals which proved the most difficult for the storied Shaq/Kobe three-peat Lakers. The four time 'Defensive Player Of The Year' has even surpassed all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the all-time block record books, all whilst developing his own little nice, effective sky-hook late in his career.

Behind the only better international centre than him in league history Hakeem Olajuwon in all-time blocks, Deke was an eight time All-Star in his amazing career. Now in his humanitarian work that he started in his career and continues relentlessly to this day, Mutombo can expect all sorts of honours to go along with a certain enshrinment one day. Now who's ready to carve a 7 plus feet statue, because believe me Mutombo was towered bigger heights than that. If the NBA cares, than Dikembe is the most considerate. Big-men mountains in the NBA weren't the only thing this man has moved, every hard task to this guy is treated like a mole-hill. The only thing that this guy ever caused controversy about was his age, but you'd have to count the rings in this guy who cut down trees in the forest of the 1990's big Basketball world. The 4th pick of '91 draft played for the Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets but the somewhat journeyman meant much more to each of his teams than just another big body. Like fellow dominant centre Shaq, who played for six franchise, arguably four of these could lay some claim or rafters to retiring his number 55 jersey, as he cut down first and second five's and their banner years.

Even an eventual career-ending knee injury couldn't slow down the 2 time rebounding and 3 time blocks leader that much. It was age that saged this legends playing time really and truly. The beginnings of his Basketball career at college as a Hoya saw him speak little English, but translate perfect play. Originally wanting to be a doctor, a record-setting 12 blocks in one game was for sure the right Basketball prescription. The 'Rejection Row' silhouetted section loved the partnership of Alonzo Mourning and D, just imagine if these double 5 and double 3 two towers got it together in the league in their prime and not just in the revolving lockers of their twilighting careers in the retirement suburb of New Jersey (credit to Deke for heading back to the city of New York to defy critics and age). During the halls of his classic collge career, the mount interned for the United States Congress, eventually graduating with bachelor's degrees in linguistics and diplomacy as he took his on and off court career from Washington to the world. More success was mined for the Nuggets in Denver as Deke's D could take the wind out of his opponents like the cities high-altitude and playing conditions.

The immediate impact of 16.6 points, (told you about his offensive skill, sometimes plays just have to be run for you) 12.3 rebounds and a rookie All-Star selection confirmed this guy was a worldwide star for this league. In his third year the eight seeded Denver team even upset the first seed Seattle Supersonics, causing devestation and drama like they where the Oklahoma City Thunder. The image of Mutombo lying on court, wearing THAT smile that masked his exhaustion and holding the ball proudly in the air like it was Simba in the Lion King is one of the most enduring and evoking images of the past 20 years of NBA Basketball history and playoff golden moments of all-time. The joy of being the first 8th placed team to do this (and Mutombo's record 31 blocks in the five game series that truly won everything and everyone over) defined the first half of the first decade of this mans career like the Nuggets did. Still, when he became a free agent after his 'Defensive Player of the Year' award, Georgia was on his mind and Atlanta and their five years at the mount Mutombo top defined the second half of the first decaded of his career and his prime time in the NBA. He was about to breakaway like his two handed dunk finishes that his block breaks often started.

As the Hawks spread their wings across those classic jerseys so did Deke, gripping his denfensive talons to anyone who dared enter the paint, holding up his denying palm, followed by that finger. The confident but humble man was a true professional and his finger-wagging trademark was just a playful hallmark for the carefully, technically selected crowd. Any other arrogant player would have turned it into a middle finger to the oppositiona and league, but the respectable but deserving defensive player earned his right to wag as he proved his point with his play. The ultimate guard, standing tall at the central position the floor owned the hardwood and would have been an even bigger star and name if his Hawks team like his Denver one could just find that success that they are still soaring for today. Still, these singature years where then benchmark of his bold brilliance. A couple more defensive honours came before IBM (yep, that's how long ago that was) devised a formula in the lockout season to prove he was the leagues most effective player, shutting down everybody on court like the owners where doing on the sidelines.

Block for block, Mutombo was then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2001 for the only guy that could match him on the offensive fly swatting end. As Theo Ratliff took his ATL wings, the only thing Deke took offence at was other players and teams trying to score. Being the perfect defensive compliment and mild-mannered to the wild and wonderful, cultural icon and offensive court jester Allen Iverson, Deke formed a one, two punch with the answer that was the question raising anti-Shaq and Kobe. With Mutombo's hook, line and two point sinker offensive game being as underrated as A.I's defensive one, the complete pair where the closest thing to taking it all from the almost unbeatable dynasty making Los Angeles Lakers. Sure it was only one game and Robert Horry-amongst others-helped shoot down any Philadelphia hope, but the team with so much heart did more than just scratch and tarnish the Lakers almost clean sweep to the legends of Larry. As Allen Iverson put an injured and depleted team on his back and took them almost all-the way to the promised land, many forget the backbone of the team that was the mountain top of Mutombo. Maybe it was this unfair disregard and doubt that led to more trades that saw Dikembe riddled with injury in New Jersey and inconsistent playing time in New York, before being traded to the Chicago Bulls, where he never got the chance to don the Bulls horns. Anyone who wrote off the big, friendly giant and brought the age question to the arena again wasn't counting on his career resurgance for the recharged Houston Rockets in reply.

Backing up, the next big, world opening centre in more ways than one, Mutombo helped propel the Houston Rockets and the career of the great Yao Ming who he helped mentor and mind when Ming's dynasty took it's own unexpected injury turn and blow. As the underrated Yao showed in a brief career how great he truly was, Deke showed those fans just how good a Mouring he could have had in the league with Alonzo, as the centre combo of these two international greats became one of the most effective in recent history. His production became even more potent, spelling the injured Yao and meeting that familiar foe, the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs, where he put the cap on Kareem's block record. Kobe-all on his own-had much more to deal with, as the defence of the Rockets (including his future teammate Ron Artest), stalled the Lakers playoff take-off. Deke's 15 minutes of playing fame average, resulted in 5.3 rebounds and 4 points per that meant so much more than the box-score or critical newspaper headlines read. At 41 years of age, the centre proved he was still worthy of NBA attention like Kelvin Cato, becoming the only man in his age group to record 22 amazing rebounds in a game. A knee injurty put the cap on his career, but going reluctantly into retirement the great still posted nine rebounds, two blocks, and a steal in his last 18 minutes of healthy Basketball.

Still Mt Mutombo left the league with an inspired and influential impression of 2.8 blocks and 10.3 rebounds per game that was anything but average. His long but strong arms whipped anyones wingspan into shape, showing his dwarfed opponents he was anything but the next Manute Bol, his maximised game was anything but minute. Now he may only be blocking cereal boxes from kids shopping carts in commercials when it comes to Basketball, but he's doing so much off the court in his quote on quote retirement. His humanitarian work in Africa is truly inspired and has given him the honour of the Doctor of Humane Letters. His groundbreaking foundation helps improve the lives of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the 'Sporting News' 'good guy in sports' continues his countless charity work at home and abroad. The spokesman for CARE and one of the foremost contributors to 'Basketball Without Borders' wont stop until his work is done and everyone has the same hope and chance he had. The man has gone just beyond his financial means, helping inspire and influence and even help build hospitals. What is greater than that? Sure this mans playing career was made by what he took away from opponents, but now his life is defined by how much he gives to others. The finger now points to a man that deserves our hand in more ways than one. When it comes to one of the greatest blockers in the NBA ever, you just can't deny that.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

COURTSIDE COLUMN-Manchester Giants

Thunder Strikes England.

Last night the NBA made history in England. Not only for being the first NBA game to be played in the city of Manchester (after the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA debuted here in 2011 and the Olympic Team USA warmed up against Great Britain ahead of last years Olympics in London), but for also being the first Basketball game my girlfriend got to see before her epic trip to America which may feature some classic college games in Kentucky and the Mecca of Basketball in New York, whether Nets or Knicks. Last night's exhibition was more than another game to add to the ticket stub collection photo album for me. As the amount of games I've seen is pushing 30 quicker than I am, (I'm one lucky, old man) this one held so much more meaning as I got to share one of my passions with the love of my life...the love of my life being my girlfriend not basketball people. Yeah I said it! Sharing this game together meant so much to me and here's hoping it leads to more, because we all know it won't be the same until we see Kobe and the Lakers do their thing together. Still, what a great way to start a new tradition.

In the same Manchester arena we saw the brilliant Bon Iver in last fall, it was great to share the fun and entertaining spectacle that an NBA game brings. From the t-shirts fired into the crowds (our outstretched arms really wanted one) and the exciting cheerleading (where's the pom, pom's) to the trampoline dunks between timeouts which raised the hands of our free Foot Locker foam fingers (we got 'em). Still, the most entertaining and hairy thing courtside (no, not me) had to be Rumble the Bison of the Oklahoma Thunder, (this is one bisont hat's leading the charge for mascot of the year), funny and family orientated this silly and sincere, behind the cameras enterainment is what the friendly feel of the NBA scene is all about. As is the hype and build up that helps bring Basketball's biggest stage to a worldwide audience. With two previous big game experience, Manchester did it right in their rookie NBA game. Even besting seasoned veteran London in their pregame rituals. Next door in the perfect evenings 'Printworks' venue (which Will Smith visited once for his record three premieres in one day promoting his classic comedy 'Hitch'), the cinemas, bars and restaurants took a back-seat to a quarter of an NBA court and every team in the leagues offical jerseys, which had fans touching the hems of their Basketball God's garments, wishing they could whip them off and wear them themselves.

On court all-day generous competitions of shooting and skill offered free tickets and perfect prizes for die-hard fans. Photographs and autographs where also on hand from some very cool and kind NBA legends who also offered their services as guest coaches to the Special Olympics athlete games. British legend and ambassador for hoops in this country John Amaechi, yet again showed how much he's breaking down borders after being the first, brave NBA player to announce he was gay and lead the way for those living in the shadows of ignorance and inequality. The legend was joined by the greatest of the greats including the finger-wagging of the greatest defensive player on the block, Dikembe Mutombo and that award winning smile. What would a hand of NBA legends be without a pair of Kings however? Sacramento great and one of the purest three-point shooters Peja Stojaković who won over eveyone-including my girlfriend (as a Lakers fan especially, I should be jealous, but you can't deny that smile...oh dear)-was joined by his teammate and former Lakers great Vlade Divac who towered above everybody and with his Jean Reno likeness next to his model teammate the pair looked suited and booted to be actors.

Two of the best centres, one of the best shooters and international players showed todays proceedings how far they and Basketball have come and how much the NBA cares about brining it's basketball brand across borders. With all that's going on you could almost forget there was a game going on...and a great one this exhibition was too. The NBA even offered some generous 2 for 1 offers to combat the criticism of their costly tickets and to fill out the remaining nose-bleeds. The league selected one of it's best (the top-tier Oklahoma City Thunder) and brightest (the raw and rising Philadelphia 76ers) to do battle in a game to precurse the start of the regular season in November. Sure these travel and Summer holiday weary players sported some rust almost like those Space Jam aliens took their power (you can thank my girlfriend for that real, classy isn't she?), but as scrappy and sloppy this game was in parts, it meant more than just being a nothing friendly. With some competitivness, dunks, behind-the-back skill, sweet shots and a final 10 seconds that was tenser than a rocket launch, the Thunder stormed to victory against a Philly team that raised the stakes.

This was one for all the ages and the Manchester evening news all about it. The city and the sport gave us extra, extra like a billboard event worthy of the broadsheets. OKC's spring dunk dynamo Russell Westbrook, first-team favourite Kendrick Perkins and clutch king Derek Fisher (who wins the award for best dressed courtside, suited and booted with black frames in this spectacle) may have joined Philly's dunk-champ Jason Richardson, former number one lottery pick Kwame Brown and promising Royce White on the missing in action milk carton. Still, present and correct the Sixer's promising talents of Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Michael Carter-Williams joined OK-City's world wonder Sege Ibaka, longtime loyal Nick Collison (he's been down since the Supersonic Seattle days), rising talent Reggie Jackson and of course one of the best in the association Kevin Durant (whose star shine led had 21 points) kept everyone and my girlfriend entertained foremost in this first game. The former Giants hosting city of Manchester was united with America's finest sport once again like L.A. and David Beckham, but in this galaxy of stars it was the game itself that shined the brightest under the blinding northern lights. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Monday, 7 October 2013


The others fell as Derrick Rose.


Nothing is stronger than the passion of the Rose...OK, it's over! You can can all that 'whose the best Point Guard in the L right now' off. Sure the Deron Williams/Chris Paul debate will rage on, even for years after they unlace and unstrap their ankles and sure in this new generation Rajon Rondo is the truer, purer point. Still, as of right now with his return to the NBA after his seasons absence, no point is better than D, like the fact that no one in the league was better then Derrick Rose in 2011. No Kobe, no LeBron, nobody. Sure today is a different, new preseason day and tomorrow may tell a different story but right now the National Basketball Association's 'Most Valuable Player' wearing a Chicago Bulls jersey that doesn't carry the 3, or the 2 want's his belt back and to be number one again. First things first though the only one that matters is the game standing between him, LeBron and Larry O'Brien. It's time for this guard to prove his point again? In his M-V-P year D-Rose was better then everybody in the league. Today he wants to be better than the critics writing him off and show he still is.


This Rose may not have grown from the concrete of a playground like other P.G. legends but you best believe you are watching a lasting legacy bloom in this league. Sure talent-wise Rose is only a thorn in the sides of Bryant, Durant and King James, but still who out of the beast east even has the strong arms to throw rocks at 'Bron's throne, let alone have the court vision to watch it? OK, in 2011 unquestionable 'Rookie Of The Year', Blake Griffin may have garnered more eyes, wows, league passes and replays, but don't say that Derrick's breakaway plays and two-handed flushes that you've missed weren't entertaining...'aint that right Boston? Talking green, their guard Rajon Rondo may posses more basketball quarterback skills but Derrick's grid-iron play more then makes up for this, plus D's got the buckets of water wet jumpers that Rondo often can't find in the drought. Sure Rajon's Celtics, James' Heat and even more talent in the West effect things championship wise for the stampeding Chicago Bulls, but don't be surprised if this grown team ends up making the competition look like matadors with Derrick leading the charge seeing red and championship gold. You can almost here another Chicago legend from another game, Kanye West exclaiming, 'can we get much higher', he's bound too.


MVP numbers of 25.1 points per game, 4.10 rebounds, 7.8 assists to go with 1.10 steals and even higher playoff averages are incredible for any player (let alone a Point Guard) but know this, Derrick's worth is more then numbers. Even the 13 points and 6 assists in 20 exhibition minutes that showed doubting critics and hopeful fans that he's back to his slashing, passing and dunking self keeping pace with the Pacers and the preseason this week. So over the years and lack of champagne tears these 'Baby Bulls' have had some teething problems but their all grown now. A taste of Curry and the Ron Artest and Jalen Rose eras birthed potential, but now Chi-town has planted the one Rose that refuses to let this franchise wilt. The Jordan years are over no matter how much this franchise or this league misses the G.O.A.T. but still these Bulls have a new animal now. A lion-hearted, shy cat, (dude looked scared when I went to shake his hand years ago at an autograph signing...but then again I do look a little strange) courageous but humble. A Point Guard wizard outside of Washington (word to the one that outruns cheetah's) who leaves opponents looking like scarecrow and tin men, taking his team up the NBA's yellow brick road. Like Frank Sinatra sang there's no place like Chicago. There's nobody like Rose. The Windy Cities first MVP and real franchise guy since Jordan is putting the air back into the United Centre building. It could be a banner year for the ballclub. Now nobody can doubt his worth.


Luol Deng may have been the catalyst, top scorer and Chicago's worldwide appealing player of the future, and Joakim Noah brought his enthusiasm and cut down nets to be the most passionate player in the league. While back in THE season, Carlos Boozer was the top free-agent, Rasheed Wallace to Detroit Pistons esque, team completing steal but everything starts, ends and goes through Derrick Rose. No matter how good reserves like Mike Dunleavy, Nazr Mohammed, Mike James, Dahntay Jones, Taj Gibson and longtime Bull Kirk Hinrich are, when it comes to their floor leader there is no substitute, coach Thibs knows that. With all overdue respect to these other top-tier, big three talents this franchise face is Derrick. He's more then the glue of this team, he's the sealant. Word is bond. he's about to tie it all together in a perfect Bull bow and blow to the opponents when he laces his sneakers back up. When the best all-round player in the league Kobe Bryant was named MVP a couple of 82's Back rapper Lil' Wayne honoured him in a song and just like the Lakers mamba, Chicago's Rose never "takes a day or a J off"... or even a play off for that matter guiding the leagues most diversely talented and underrated team to the big leagues. Even when he was in a permanent Timberlake and Carter suit and tie last season he still worked and worked until he came back for the return and what will be the redemption of his career and the revolution of his team. About to be televised to everyone who's ready to hear.


From music stars to movie ones Rose is gaining an entourage of high profile fans, remember actor and basketball aficionado Jeremy Piven's MVP Tweet; 'A Rose by any other name is NOT MVP! Go my brother, now take flight....' All sorts of ballers love this b-baller and from the rap sheets to the broadsheets this one-time publicity shy guy is the headline. Check any magazine, (the latest black and white SLAM for example) front-cover to the back Adidas adverts, Derrick is in and published. Bookending the fact that right now-from the fans to the competition-Derrick Rose's grand return owns everything. Kevin Durant and critics can believe what they like, until they beat the former best one and one, this top 3 player won't be done. Not until he's proved he's the one like whats sewn underneath the letters of the team he carries. To those who don't believe it's not all it seems. Just ask anyone from Penny to Grant Hill, injury can take a lot from you but only by a player beating you fair and square on the floor do we determin who's court it really is. Ali knew he wasn't the real champion until he beat Frazier staright up. The NBA's most-high and valuable commodity not wearing the crown is back off the shelf after his own gold, dusting off and polishing his trophy bound game. You can see the shadow of his reflection gleam in the real trophy he wants to engrave. He's just that close, now it's time for the M.J. cigar. Jordan knows with no Pippen, there's no player that's taken the Windy City by storm that close to breezing a shiver down his legendary spine.


The new generations history books are only just beginning to get wrote. A Point Guard of past, current and the next generation to come. One hell of a player. The youngest MVP in NBA history is about to be one of the greatest. Envy he, because once again it's his time. Critics may have called it (Time Of Career Death: May 12, 2012) and dropped the ball on Derrick but he's about to pick it up along with the spirits of everyone in his city of Chicago. The team that's tired of seeing clouds and grey skies behind that iconic Jordan statue are ready for 'reign' from the next influential, inspiration ready to run this town like 'ye's verse on that Jay-Z classic. About to rise like Willis and bring the noise like those L trains over the city, this guys has got more in Common with Chicago's best rapper than being the fire and code of the town. He's the 'E.R' hand on the pulse that's about to beat the heart and soul of Chicagoland from the playgrounds to the reunited Centre. The second coming has returned to cast his own concrete statue next to Michael's outside his house in Chi-city. You saw the public tears at that Adidas press conference last year, and this week you heard the cheers on his return to the worlds stage. Everyone is elated to have Derrick back and coming through the emotional and physical pain, Rose is ready to rise again. The world is watching as he puts on his jersey for his city. Here is the Chicago hope.



Friday, 4 October 2013


The Second Coming.


Kevin Durant is tired of being in second place. MVP's, championships, the whole, damn thing. Do you hear that LeBron? I know he's been talking tweet trash with your buddy Wade recently but his assassins eye is on the creed of your Miami jerseys blood red? Do you hear that Kobe? He's obviously believes he's that much better. Right now, yes, but we all know how it stacks up in the G.O.A.T rankings. Do you hear that fans? Do you believe in David and Goliath stories and legends? You know the kind where a big, strong force is moved by something much smaller? Where a skinny man, shows what's buried deeper inside? The ability to develop and stand next to the big boys of the nation a-la Captain America? Sure in the league of the NBA there are two perennial stars of stars to marvel at; Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Still, however as the debate between who is better rages on, these two corners of the association have had to make room for one more like 'Bron's teammates in South Beach in this avenging season.

Over the years not much touches the NBA's puppets, except the man who'll be pulling the strings in years time as the next Godfather of the association; Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant is the future. Now, just like rap's greatest Jay-Z and the late, great Notorious B.I.G. we 'aint saying Durant's better then the leagues big, but he's the closest one. LeBron may be the MVP with a valuable team, weighed in championship gold two times for the scales, but Kevin can outscore the King and he and the Thunder may just be able to get to his throne quicker with his lightening, fast play. Kobe may have the rings and the legend, but Kevin's next in line for a championship as he lays the path of his own, unique legacy. Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder caught the Lakers multiple playoffs ago now and Kobe can't keep up with Durant's youth much longer. It's all about to get fine like wine as Vino's prime keeps pouring away and this storm rider keeps soaring.

They are arguably the best team outside of the new beast east, even with a clicking championship contender in the Spurs of San Antonio. As they age and sage, the west will be Durant's like his athletic teammate Russell. Just wait until he returns from injury, with franchise partner and one of the strongest points in the league; Russell Westbrook and a great team of players, from former Celtic Perkins to Africa's Ibaka, Lakers and clutch legend Derek Fisher and a host of names stepping it up to the household. In addition to the silver linings of a playbook of coaches and fans behind him behind him there really is a storm coming, with a forecast of 'reign' and we aren't talking about Seattle's Storm. This is Oklahoma's team and time now. Kevin has taken this former Seattle team from the bargain basements of sale to the top of peoples 'League Pass' expense accounts at super Sonic speed. Motoring this Oklahoma, 'Ford Centre' inhabitants forward with his keys in the ignition. Affecting change like he had shares in Starbucks (they still did the Sonics and the city of Seattle wrong by the way).

Waking up a city that missed it's one-year rental Hornets like strong coffee, stinging the notion of a one and done year. This amazing 'Durantula' has climbed up the leagues web, keeping his smooth as silk team right with him as his spindly arms string together all sorts of powerful, hammer-of-Thor dunks for his Thunder team when he runs the break like a gazelle and no one else in the NBA kingdom. The points, wins and newspaper headlines keep on pouring out for Oklahoma City. Special K is more then a basketball serial killer, or scoring machine. He's the complete, franchise player and leader like fellow, former scoring champ Allen Iverson before him. Unquestionably this guy is answering the critics and showing fellow top scorers that 30 points per game is the new 20. Once, twice Commodore times a scoring leader and champion. Put that in your box-score as he smokes the opposition.

Durant shares more with Kevin Love then a first name. He's part of an exciting breed of next generation players who are going to take the worldwide league to more Magic/Bird, Kobe/LeBron popular heights. He's already proven his global worth, leading the charge in the World Championships, before carrying the flag for Team USA in the golden Olympic Games in London in 2012. The globe is listening to more then just his brand of headphones. We don't even know this guys ceiling yet, but right now it's looking as beautiful as the Sistine Chapel. The sum of Kevin's part add up to something huge. With some Kob' and 'Bron in him, and the scoring and competitive killer instinct of Mike, this guy really is an heir apparent. Still, however with the addition of a cool, calm, but fire-inside, Tim Duncan demeanour in him and a body and versatility type of a young Kevin Garnett this guys multiplying talents can he'll divide double teams and subtract the opposition.

On the whole however-despite the influences-Durant is his own man and a one-of-a-kind player. He is an establishing legend, who is already being the benchmark that younger, drafted players are being compared to and this guys only 24. He could even be so much more. This do it all, all-star guy is the kind of player that on his best day could win the 'Slam Dunk', three-point and skills contest at the All-Star weekend. He's already won the quickly defunct game of 'H.O.R.S.E.' showing this top scorer can do more then just outscore everybody, he can shoot from anywhere too. Just check his top ten plays and add some miracle, made to look easy shots to the memory bank off the glass. Still Kevin Durant's not concerned with February like jilted lovers and broken hearts. He's already married a WNBA player now he wants the ring. This lone man wants to still be in the heart of NBA partners come late Spring and right now him and his Thunder are in matrimony with the best of the leagues best.

Really all that will be left is the king and his men and although LeBron James really is the best, Durant will have no problem taking his talents to South Beach and seeing what he can leave with. Blood? Sweat? Champagne burnt championship tears? It may take a few more years for this man to show the league that the real heat belongs in Oklahoma, but right now one thing is clear, Kevin Durant is here and his legend is here too. To stay as his legacy continues to the legend of banners and rafter jerseys making their way to the hall of hoops immortality. We are witnessing someone before his time, take the league by storm. The opposition better stay in doors, K.D.'s got more then a foot in, he's kicking it in like the Notorious one and everyone knows his name. The Thunder's top man has hit the league with a lightening bolt and he's about to strike once again. He's tired of being in second place, so you better keep up pace in this race. If your eyes are shaded by the Miami heat you better look outside...there's a storm coming.