Category Archives: NBA

What does tonight's game mean?

The hot takes will be burning up around Midnight EST tonight after the game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs.

Here’s what a win and loss means for each team.

Cavs
A win means the Cavs will improve to 28-9.
A loss means the Cavs will fall to 27-10.

Spurs
A win means the Spurs will improve to 35-6.
A loss means the Spurs will fall to 34-7.

That’s all it means. Look, we all love to make crazy predictions and declarations after these kinds of games. Everyone is going to do the same thing after the game against Golden State on Monday night. Sure, this game and the one against Golden State could be a measuring stick but more than likely that if the Cavs and Spurs/Warriors meet in the NBA Finals that the Cavs roster will look different. The Cavs are going to add a piece or two by the trade deadline.

The Cavs team is just starting to gel now. Kyrie Irving has been #KYRIDICULOUS since he came back including this massive three pointer against the Dallas Mavericks in overtime on Tuesday night:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3aRnG9mhew]

We all know how good Kyrie Irving is, there is no denying that. But Kyrie has the capability to take his game to the next level, MVP level. The only thing that can hold him back from getting there is staying upright and fighting away the injury bug.

Regular season games do have fun match-ups, so here are the three that I cannot wait to see tonight.

Kevin Love vs LaMarcus Aldridge

These two players are two of the best at power forward in the game. Both players can shoot from the outside. Both players can rebound the basketball. I cannot wait to see how they match-up tonight. The key for Kevin Love is his defense. We will have to wait and see if he can keep up with Aldridge all night long as the Spurs use creative ways to get him the basketball.

LeBron James vs Kawhi Leonard

Leonard is playing a high level of basketball this season. He is averaging over 20 points per game and if Steph Curry hasn’t been so ridiculous this season, Leonard would be one of the leading candidates for MVP. We all know how good of a player LeBron is on defense, but Leonard is a pretty good defender too. I am curious to see how well LeBron performs on offense tonight.

Cavs’ Bench vs Spurs’ Bench

Both of these teams have good benches. It has been a staple of the San Antonio Spurs for years. They have players such as Borris Diaw, Manu Ginobli, David West and Patty Mills that come off the bench and play high minutes. They all play at a high level. The Cavs’ bench will have their work cut out for them tonight as Delly, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mosgov try to keep those players in check. The most interesting match-up off the bench is Ginobli and Shumpert. There is no doubt that Shumpert can guard Ginobli so we shall see if he is a big factor.

Cavaliers face tough "Tour of Texas"

What a fun couple of weeks to be a Cavs fan!

The Cavaliers have won seven straight games dating back to 12/26 which means they are undefeated so far in 2016! We are quickly approaching the anniversary of last season’s turning point also.

Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat dribbles the ball during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Arena on December 5, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat dribbles the ball during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Arena on December 5, 2015 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Last January, our team was a disappointing 19-20 in mid January. The addition of Lebron James and Kevin Love was not paying dividends and the team looked average at best.

As soon as David Griffin made the deals that brought JR Smith and Iman Shumpert from the Knicks and unloaded Dion Waiters to OKC for Timofey Mozgov, the Cavaliers caught fire.

This year we have many more encouraging results and outcomes to show in the first two and a half months of the regular season. 26 wins and nine losses is a hell of an improvement in my book.

Now having said all of that, our next four games are maybe the most critical stretch of the whole season up to this point. The teams that we are facing over the next four have a combined record of 108-43.

During our “Tour of Texas”, as I have dubbed it, we are facing the 22-16 Dallas Mavericks, 32-6 San Antonio Spurs and the 19-19 Houston Rockets. Houston looks like easy pickings with that record but they ALWAYS play the Cavaliers tough.

Look at the tough game that the 4-35 Philadelphia 76ers gave the Cavaliers last night. Teams always seem to be at their best when playing the Cavs.

I expect all of those games to be extremely difficult and will go a long way to determining our progress in developing a championship attitude and resolve for this season. I would be pleased with one win out of those three games as long as we play hard and show heart.

No one is talking much about San Antonio even though they have only registered six losses this season. They have always been a dangerous team and this year is certainly no exception.

The Spurs remain in the shadow of Golden State in the Western Conference and I am certain they prefer it that way. Speaking of our arch nemesis, the Warriors will be waiting for us at home after out Texas road trip to see if there is anything left of us.

We only have one of our nine losses at home this year. After losing to the Warriors on Christmas Day, it sure would be satisfying to defend our home court successfully against them on 1/18.

In grammar news, Kyrie-diculous has officially entered the vocabulary of Cleveland fans and announcers alike. It is truly amazing how quickly he has returned to championship form when it comes to finishing.

The only piece of his game that I feel he is still trying to find is his three point shot. Otherwise, I truly believe that he is, even though he has only been back a few weeks, the best player in the league at the rim.

We cannot ignore the leadership and contributions of James either. He has averaged 26.6 points over the last five games and has also improved his finishing from earlier in the regular season.

He has most definitely been taking the ball to the hoop more consistently than even last season and seems to still be improving. This accomplishes two things from my perspective.

It not only puts teams on the defensive if they are expecting a physical drive but it also racks up personal fouls and creates opportunities from beyond the three point arc for his teammates.

This is a tried and true characteristic of ALL championship caliber teams. This week I am very interested to see if they can couple that with a “win at all costs” mentality and toughness while they visit the Lone Star state.

The Lakers’ Major League Collapse

Movie quotes are a form of friendship identification for me. If I spout off a line from “Tommy Boy” and you have no idea what I am talking about, we have to re-evaluate the grounds of our relationship. The sports movie that I most quote is a comedic classic with top-notch actors and great plot. “Major League” is the comedic sports movie EVERY person should watch when able. It has everything. Loveable losers, villainous owners and hijinks abound make this a great watch any time (only on channels allowing swearing, the PG version is lame). There is a team in the NBA that reminds me of the lovable Cleveland Indians of “Major League”, but without the winning. The LA Lakers are going nowhere fast and have a cast of characters worthy of a movie script. The line from “Major League” that pops into my mind when thinking of the Lakers this season is “a bunch of has-beens and never was.” This describes the Lakers roster minus a couple players. Let me break down this analysis cast member by cast member.

Kobe Bryant as Jake Taylor
Jake is the older, injured catcher leading a team with emotion and smarts. He solves problems in the clubhouse no coach or admin wants to touch. Kobe is the older, injured leader of the Lakers. Both Kobe and Jake’s bodies are falling apart and they are ready to walk away from the game. Kobe is trying to have fun with a young team and lead them while not wanting to kill everyone for not being better. The flaw in this comparison is everyone likes Jake.

Jordan Clarkson as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn
Ricky is a raw talent. He has control issues and doesn’t always fit in. His talent needs guidance and when he gets it he is a true star. Jordan Clarkson is a second round pick (by the Wizards) that flashed stardom last year and was named first team all-rookie. Despite his rookie year success Jordan doesn’t fit in with this team. The Indians featured Ricky the next year, the Lakers are pushing Kobe and Deangelo Russell combo. This could be a huge mistake for the Lakers moving forward.

Roy Hibbert as Roger Dorn
Roger Dorn is a veteran third baseman with an inflated sense of self. He is also deathly scared of using his body to make a play at third. A fear he conquers and becomes a valuable asset and cornerstone to winning. Roy Hibbert is a veteran big man with an inflated sense of self and fear of getting dirty in the post. He is the tallest player on the court most days and isn’t even the rebounding leader on his own team (Julius Randle has him beat by nearly 3.5 rebounds per game). Similar to Dorn, if Hibbert can learn to clang and bang on the inside he would be a valuable part of the Lakers and their rebuilding.

Julius Randle as Pedro Cerrano
Pedro Cerrano is the hot-headed power hitter with a hole in his swing. He can only hit the fastball and looks to everything from Jesus, voodoo and golf head covers to help. When he figures out the solution to his deficiency is in him he becomes the terror the Indians need. Julius Randle is not a one trick pony like Pedro is, but he hasn’t figured out pacing, team basketball or how to fit in quite yet. Julius was taken out of a game recently (after 16 minutes of total playing time) and was not a fan. This led his coach, Byron Scott to say, “He’s got to grow up. Simple as that. I think the main thing I don’t like is when you take him out of games, how he reacts sometimes. I chalk it up to immaturity and just being inexperienced in this level. It’s going to happen again. I’m going to take him out of other games that he’s not going to like.” Similar to Pedro, Julius can be the terror they need. He has the talent and the aggressiveness Hibbert is missing. He just needs to understand his role and the solution is in him.

Jim Buss as Rachel Phelps
Rachel Phelps is the owner of the Indians. She wants to move them to Florida and tries to sabotage the team so they lose value and must move. The team rallies around her plan and wins despite her. Jim Buss is in charge of basketball operations for the Lakers. He doesn’t want the Lakers to move, he isn’t purposely putting a poor product on the court and the team is definitely not rallying despite him. He is the person in charge of this group of has-beens and never-was and that is a good enough reason to cast him in this role. “Major League” is a great movie. It is funny, exciting and lively. The Lakers are…not any of these things and if they don’t land a free agent to pull them out of their current state the sequel will not be worth watching.

The Indiana Pacers and Crunch Time Failure

The Indiana Pacers have made progress this season, one could say significant progress from this time a year ago. One area where they are struggling this season, however, is coming out on top in close games. Indiana hasn’t won a game decided by three points or less since early November…that’s over two months and 29 games ago. In that same span, they have lost four such games – three of those coming in the last two weeks. One benchmark of good NBA teams is typically a good record in close games.

The theory here is that there are a lot of closely contested battles in professional basketball, and those teams with the most experience, heart and will to win tend to make plays in “crunch time” and find a way to win these nail-biters. The Pacers are not doing this so far in 2015-16, and it has been a particular thorn in their side recently. Indiana lost a game at home to Sacramento on December 23 (108-106) after leading very late.

A week later, Chicago continued the trend, holding the Pacers off 102-100 at the United Center…and earlier this week, the Pacers blew yet another late advantage, eventually falling to the Miami Heat 103-100. The specific reasons for these failures have varied. One game it was failing to make an offensive play as time expired. In another, it was failing to get a defensive stop as time expired…and poor fourth quarter free throw shooting was the culprit in yet another of these close defeats.

The thing that ties all this together is mental toughness, which is why true upper-tier teams come up with that key rebound, make that key steal or hit that game-winning shot more often than not. The Pacers still have a chance to get there, but their recent failure in these situations just further proves that despite heading in the right direction, Indiana is not displaying the qualities of a contending team at this juncture. It should be mentioned that coaching plays a role in this as well.

The Pacers have relied heavily on forward Paul George in these end-of-game situations, and that approach has been too predictable. A bit more creativity from head coach Frank Vogel would give his club a better chance to make plays late in games…”give Paul the ball and everybody else get out of the way” is not the work of a master strategist. Another interesting area of strength/weakness for the Blue and Gold has been the amount of rest between games.

On two or three days rest, the team has a .778 winning percentage so far this year. However, when they have to play back-to-back games, they’ve only won at a .286 clip after not having time off between contests. With the Pacers going to a more uptempo offense this season, those results are predictable…it takes a lot of energy to play fast on offense and also defend well on the other end of the court, so Indiana is finding it tough to keep up the pace if they haven’t had time to recover between games.

To a degree, players can try to push through that fatigue, but the Pacers have a deep roster, so a coaching adjustment should help. When Indiana has a back-to-back coming up, coach Vogel would be wise to use his bench more liberally in the first of those ballgames – the winning percentage in the second of those contests would likely increase. NBA basketball is a game of constant adjustments, both within games and during the course of a long 82-game season.

For the Indiana Pacers to move up a notch (or two) in the Eastern Conference, improvement in the areas discussed here – late-game strategy, execution and desire, as well as more adept management of players’ minutes – would go a long way toward that goal.

Cavs Show Their Double-edged Sword

The Cleveland Cavaliers have piled up three consecutive wins in the last five days and they have done it with both their offense and defense.

Offensive ‘Sword’

The Cavs put up three 100 point-plus wins against the Orlando Magic (104-79), the Toronto Raptors (122-100) and the Washington Wizards (121-115).

In those three games, LeBron James posted 29, 20 and 34 points respectively. His three point shot has been a work in progress this season so he has had to find other ways to attack the rim. So far this season, LeBron has scored 55.6% of his points in the paint, which would be the highest percentage in his career if he maintains this pace. In his last three games, he has scored 68.3% of his points in the paint, an astonishing number. Tonight against the Wizards, he was 4-9 from three-point range, hitting four of five in a three minute stretch.

But it isn’t only LeBron making an impact offensively. The Cavs’ bench has been a big impact as well.

Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

In the games against the Magic, Raptors and Wizards, you have seen these performances:
James Jones (Magic): 10 points
Mo Williams (Magic): 8 points
Timofey Mozgov (Magic): 7 points
Matthew Dellavedova (Raptors): 11 points

The lack of Cavs’ depth showed last season when they got to the NBA Finals. They were forced to start Delly and Thompson and players such as Mike Miller and James Jones were forced to play a high amount of minutes. They were put into spots where they weren’t used to playing.

This Cavs’ team is different. Because of injuries early in the season, other players have been forced to step up. When Irving returns, the Cavs’ rotation will be 11 deep, which is one less than the 13 needed for the active roster. Right now, they are the deepest team in the NBA and it has only gotten deeper now that Kyrie Irving has returned and is playing at a high level.

Defensive ‘Sword’

The Cavs’ defense shined against the Magic, in a game that was fueled with emotion, holding them to 79 points and shooting 38.2% from the field for the entire game. Their defense also had a strong two quarters against the Magic, which helped them build their lead. In those 1st and 2nd quarters, they held the Magic to only 32 points.

The player who had the biggest impact against the Magic? Kevin Love. Love’s defense is vastly underrated. Channing Frye, the Magic’s starting power forward went for 3 points on 1-4 shooting. We all know how good defensively LeBron and Iman Shumpert are, but Love hasn’t been exactly praised for his defense.

Cleveland is 3rd in the NBA in points allowed with 96 points per game. They also force other teams to hold the ball. The Cavs do not allow passes to open players. They rank 5th in the NBA in opponents assists.

Double-Edged Sword

The most complete game the Cavs played was against the Orlando Magic, blowing them out 104-79. The entire Cavs’ team put out a great effort against the Magic. They only had FOUR turnovers for the entire game.

It is awesome to see what Iman Shumpert’s return has done to this Cavs team. He is such a great defender coming off the bench and can guard multiple positions. In the game against the Magic, he had a +21 plus/minus for the 21 minutes he was on the court. That is outstanding.

The most interesting thing I saw during these games? It would have to been the line-up that the Cavs put out there tonight against the Wizards. They had Kyrie, Delly, JR, Shumpert and Thompson, four guards and a power-forward. It gave the Wizards problems, regardless of the fact that Irving went #KYRIDICULOUS on them, scoring 10 straight points to start the 4th Quarter.

Coming up, the Cavs continue their six-game road trip with stops in Minnesota, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. Then, they come back home for revenge against the Golden State Warriors

NBA Darwinism Must Live On

The political season is here and will last way too long. Bluster, accusations, inflammatory comments and life history of candidates will all be part of the year long agony. The debates and interviews will have topics the American people will stand behind or push away. Present laws will be chastised and proposed rules will be scrutinized. Topics will form people’s decision and nudge ballots being cast. The NBA has two “laws” receiving scrutiny. Two laws with hundreds of proposed changes and opinions. Laws begging for debate, analysis and action. The first is the intentional fouling for possession and stalling…otherwise known as “hack-a-______” The other is changing the draft lottery to prevent tanking. The changes discussed are pollution for what really needs to happen…nothing. Leave the rules as is and the league will be stronger for it. I will show you why and I will expect your “no change” ballot to be cast in 2017. The first issue on the ballot known as “Hack-a-_____” has been around for quite a while. Shaquille O’Neal was the most popular and recent example we all know. The decision seems simple. Option 1 is to foul the most dominant player and force him to shoot free throws where he shoots 50% from the free throw line. Option 2 is to allow him to catch the ball in the post and either try to score or pass out of double teams to open shooters. He shoots 60% from the field and 2.5 assists per game. I know what option I would choose. la-sp-nba-hack-jordan-howard-2015051 This issue has now moved to new players now that Shaq has moved on. Andre Drummond, Deandre Jordan and Dwight Howard are the most recent and popular recipients. These fouls are causing pundits and league executives to scream foul. Their main contention being it slows down the game and causes a boring brand. I would contend the bad brand of basketball comes from one simple source. Lack of ability or dedication to practice a simple skill. Children are taught and forced to shoot free throws throughout their basketball life. I had to run suicides and then shoot free throws. If you made both, you were done running, if you missed one…one suicide, if you missed two…two suicides. The league wanting to change rules so lazy players can stay on the floor is ridiculous.Shaq was a renowned lazy worker off the court. His weight gain, inability to add any shooting to his repertoire and improved free throw shooting points to this. Not to mention Phil Jackson has pointed to it in his book, “The Last Season.” The league has even gone as far as to say a foul must take place in the pace of play in order to keep the hacking from happening at egregious times. Coddling players is causing intentional fouls to look like this:

I don’t think this is what the NBA was hoping for. The promoting of “fake fouling” or nudging players while they set screens is not better than just bear-hugging the intended player. Improvements can be made. Role models are available for today’s player. See Blake Griffin and Karl Malone. Blake Griffin has gone from a 52% free throw shooter in year two to a 72% free throw shooter last year and this year. Karl Malone improved from 48% to 75%. If the league wants to mandate changes to keep “hacking” maybe they should try required suicides and free throw practice. The second issue on the ballot is tanking for high draft picks. There is one “model” franchise taking tanking to a whole new level. The Philadelphia 76ers are the tanking role model. They have announced their plan to build through the draft and even titled it “the process.” The Sixers stockpile of talent from this process consists of three centers (one who hasn’t played a second of basketball for two years), one player over 30, a bunch of role players, foreign players competing across the pond and…nothing else. They traded the poor shooting, pass first Michael Carter Williams after he won rookie of the year and signed the poor shooting, pass first Kendall Marshall as a free agent. They have draft picks abound coming the next two years but when you look at Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Guillermo Hernangomez, Richuan Homes, Arturas Gudaitis, JP Tokoto, Luka Mitrovic, KJ Daniels, Jerami Grant, Russ Smith, Vasilije Micic and Nemanja Dangubic confidence is not high for Sixers fans. The NBA is evaluating rule changes to prevent tanking. My question is…why? The Sixers made this decision. They have NEVER received the first pick during “ the process” (which would have garnered Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Victor Oladipo) and they are not going to be good any time soon. Proof that the system is working. Why change a system to keep AN organization from making “let’s lose on purpose” decisions that doom them for a decade? Don’t keep natural selection from happening. If the owners of the Sixers keep Sam Hinkie on as the decision maker they are earning every second of what comes. The NBA needs to let this happen so other organizations will not even think about following suit. Sacrifice the Sixers for the better good of the league. This concludes my campaign and I look forward to your vote in 2016

Cavs Remain Average On The Road

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 29:  Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers grabs a rebound against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 29, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Cavaliers defeated the Nuggets 93-87.   (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Tristan Thompson
DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 29: Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers grabs a rebound against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 29, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Cavaliers defeated the Nuggets 93-87. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Tristan Thompson

Two wins and two losses. That is how the Cavaliers finished their four-game road trip out west during the holidays.

Even though the team was unable to be home for Christmas, Cleveland was most certainly with them when they faced Golden State on Friday. We were unable to defeat the Warriors on their home court, but there were other small victories to be celebrated.

Most notably was the final score of 89-83. The Cavs were on the short end of that score but the big news is that not one opponent has held Golden State to 89 points in a game this season.

Personally, I think that Steph Curry and company were reminded of the level of defense that our team brings to the table and they were intimidated by it. They have felt invincible this year with the one exception being their loss to Milwaukee.

Every time I have seen the Warriors play, they seem to hit shots whenever they feel like it. This was not the case on Christmas as the Cavaliers disrupted their shots and dove into their passing lanes.

Cleveland’s downfall in the game was their poor offensive performance. Golden State has good defense but we were the ones who caused most of our own misses.

We did not look like an elite offense at all. Iman Shumpert scored zero points in 29 minutes of play while Kevin Love was only able to contribute 10 (but 18 rebounds) in 39 minutes.

So there were some results from that night that were cause for hope. Then they stunk up the court the next night against the Portland Trailblazers.

The Cavs were only able to score 34 points in the first half of play and went on to lose 105-76 to drop their second straight game in as many nights. The thing that bothers me the most is that Portland seemed vulnerable as their star, Damian Lillard, was ruled out for the game, but Cleveland could not capitalize on it.

This is exactly the type of game that championship teams need to be able to win. It doesn’t matter that it was a back to back because they will not be able to use that excuse in May and June so why should it be allowed now?

After a day of rest, the Cavs arrived in Phoenix to battle the Suns. This was the opportunity for the Cavaliers to redeem themselves and they took advantage of it.

Kyrie Irving started to look like the old Kyrie putting up 22 points in 24 minutes and he was helped by 17 points from JR Smith and 14 from Love. Irving’s shooting, especially down the stretch in the fourth quarter resulted in a 101-97 Cavs win.

The final stop, and second back to back in five days, for the Cavaliers landed them in Denver to face the Nuggets. Which version of the Cavs would show up in the Mile High city?

It turns out that the matchup against the Nuggets would be the best performance of the road trip. Lebron scored 34 points on the eve of his 31st birthday to lead the Cavs past the Nuggets 93-87.

I think that it is fitting that the team went 2-2 on the road trip as about half of what they did was great and half was a let down. I, for one, hope that the shortcomings are being worked out of their system in anticipation of a stellar January.

That is what we need to get the city excited and ready. I just don’t feel that way with the performances we have seen lately.

Are the Cavs ready for their January 18th rematch with the Warriors? Will our home court advantage be enough to swing the momentum in their favor?

Obviously, we are back where we started with more questions than answers.

NBA Darwinism Must Live On

The political season is here and will last way too long. Bluster, accusations, inflammatory comments and life history of candidates will all be part of the year long agony. The debates and interviews will have topics the American people will stand behind or push away. Present laws will be chastised and proposed rules will be scrutinized. Topics will form people’s decision and nudge ballots being cast.

The NBA has two “laws” receiving scrutiny. Two laws with hundreds of proposed changes and opinions. Laws begging for debate, analysis and action.

The first is the intentional fouling for possession and stalling…otherwise known as “hack-a-______” The other is changing the draft lottery to prevent tanking.

The changes discussed are pollution for what really needs to happen…nothing. Leave the rules as is and the league will be stronger for it. I will show you why and I will expect your “no change” ballot to be cast in 2017.

The first issue on the ballot known as “Hack-a-_____” has been around for quite a while. Shaquille O’Neal was the most popular and recent example we all know. The decision seems simple. Option 1 is to foul the most dominant player and force him to shoot free throws where he shoots 50% from the free throw line. Option 2 is to allow him to catch the ball in the post and either try to score or pass out of double teams to open shooters. He shoots 60% from the field and 2.5 assists per game. I know what option I would choose.

This issue has now moved to new players now that Shaq has moved on. Andre Drummond, Deandre Jordan and Dwight Howard are the most recent and popular recipients. These fouls are causing pundits and league executives to scream foul. Their main contention being it slows down the game and causes a boring brand.

I would contend the bad brand of basketball comes from one simple source. Lack of ability or dedication to practice a simple skill. Children are taught and forced to shoot free throws throughout their basketball life. I had to run suicides and then shoot free throws. If you made both, you were done running, if you missed one…one suicide, if you missed two…two suicides. The league wanting to change rules so lazy players can stay on the floor is ridiculous.Shaq was a renowned lazy worker off the court. His weight gain, inability to add any shooting to his repertoire  and improved free throw shooting points to this. Not to mention Phil Jackson has pointed to it in his book, “The Last Season.”

The league has even gone as far as to say a foul must take place in the pace of play in order to keep the hacking from happening at egregious times. Coddling players is causing intentional fouls to look like this:

https://youtu.be/Fuk2poi-Vns

I don’t think this is what the NBA was hoping for. The promoting of “fake fouling” or nudging players while they set screens is not better than just bear-hugging the intended player. Improvements can be made. Role models are available for today’s player. See Blake Griffin and Karl Malone. Blake Griffin has gone from a 52% free throw shooter in year two to a 72% free throw shooter last year and this year. Karl Malone improved from 48% to 75%. If the league wants to mandate changes to keep “hacking” maybe they should try required suicides and free throw practice.

The second issue on the ballot is tanking for high draft picks. There is one “model” franchise taking tanking to a whole new level. The Philadelphia 76ers are the tanking role model. They have announced their plan to build through the draft and even titled it “the process.” The Sixers stockpile of talent from this process consists of three centers (one who hasn’t played a second of basketball for two years), one player over 30, a bunch of role players, foreign players competing across the pond and…nothing else. They traded the poor shooting, pass first Michael Carter Williams after he won rookie of the year and signed the poor shooting, pass first Kendall Marshall as a free agent. They have draft picks abound coming the next two years but when you look at Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Guillermo Hernangomez, Richuan Homes, Arturas Gudaitis, JP Tokoto, Luka Mitrovic, KJ Daniels, Jerami Grant, Russ Smith, Vasilije Micic and Nemanja Dangubic confidence is not high for Sixers fans.

The NBA is evaluating rule changes to prevent tanking. My question is…why? The Sixers made this decision. They have NEVER received the first pick during “ the process” (which would have garnered Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Victor Oladipo) and they are not going to be good any time soon. Proof that the system is working. Why change a system to keep AN organization from making “let’s lose on purpose” decisions that doom them for a decade?  Don’t keep natural selection from happening. If the owners of the Sixers keep Sam Hinkie on as the decision maker they are earning every second of what comes. The NBA needs to let this happen so other organizations will not even think about following suit. Sacrifice the Sixers for the better good of the league.

This concludes my campaign and I look forward to your vote in 2016!

How Far Have Paul George and the Pacers Come?

The Indiana Pacers’ 2014-15 season got off to a horrendous start long before a regular season game was ever played. All-Star forward Paul George broke his leg while practicing with Team USA that August, and knowing he would likely be out for the year, the hopes of challenging for an Eastern Conference Championship seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye.

Indiana held it together as best they could, but without a force like George and the impact he makes on both ends of the court, the Pacers finished the year 38-44 and missed the playoffs.

During the offseason, power forward David West decided to opt out of his contract to sign with a team he felt had a chance to compete for a championship (San Antonio). Once West was gone, President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird decided that the team should go to a more uptempo offensive attack. Roster moves were made to accommodate this change in philosophy: slow-footed center Roy Hibbert was dealt, and fleet guard Monta Ellis was signed. Other role players were added to the roster that fit Bird’s vision of how he wanted his team to play.

As the 2015-16 season approached, no one knew how long it would take for the Pacers to adapt to this new style, assuming they ever did. And with Paul George coming back, would he ever be the player he was before the injury? 28 games into the season, we now have answers to these key questions.

Indiana got off to a slow start, losing their first three games. Even so, there were signs that playing at a faster pace had promise. The offensive execution came along more quickly than expected, but the vital element was finding a way to play sound defense while “running and gunning” on the offensive end.

The Pacers had been known as one of the best defensive teams in the NBA in recent seasons, and they needed to balance that with an increased emphasis on scoring. Things started coming together a few games into the season, and the results have shown up in the win column.

Even on the heels of a three-game losing streak, Indiana stands at 16-12, good for 7th in the Eastern Conference. Many pundits saw this as a rebuilding year for the Pacers, and the expectations were frankly pretty low. However, the coaching staff and players have really embraced the new style of play, and it’s been effective thus far.

So, just how much progress has the Blue and Gold made since last season? The improvement has been significant, but this team is not ready to contend in the East. There is still too much inconsistency on the defensive end – when the Pacers are on point defensively, they are very good. When they have lapses in concentration and allow other teams to score too easily, they’re average at best. They’ve found a winning formula, but keeping it up game by game is a work in progress.

The Indiana Pacers have made great strides and show potential to be a threat down the road, but what about the face of the franchise, Paul George?

George was an All-Star and seemed on the cusp of even bigger things when he went down with that gruesome injury in the summer of 2014. George’s comeback has been even more dramatic than the improvement of the team…he’s not only back, he’s better than ever. He is still playing defense at an elite level, but his impact on the offensive end has actually increased since his return.

George is averaging career-highs in points (25.0) and rebounds (7.9) per game, and his assist totals (4.1 per contest) are as high as they’ve ever been as well. This would qualify as a step forward and a “career year” under normal circumstances, but for this level of performance to come after a serious injury like the one he suffered? This is the stuff inspirational Hollywood films are made of, almost too good to be true.

The Pacers aren’t quite at an elite level as a team, but their star player seems to have reached that height individually. Paul George’s reemergence this season has been extremely important to the fortunes of the Indiana Pacers not only in the present, but in their hopes for the future as well.

It should be a fun and interesting ride over the next few months…stay tuned.

Christmas in Cleveland – Cavaliers Style

I know that there is a Cavaliers game tonight against the Knicks at The Q but I am not going to discuss that matchup. I would like to delve into the Cavs most important game of the year so far which occurs on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors.

Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images
Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images

On Friday, it will have been 92 days since the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers in Game six of the 2015 NBA Finals. This will be the first meeting of the teams since June 16th.

A lot of things have transpired on each respective team in that time span. Some were good and some were bad.

Let us catch up with the Golden State Warriors. They are currently touting the best record in the NBA at 26-1 going into their Wednesday matchup against the Utah Jazz.  It is a good bet that their record will be 27-1 when they host our Cavs on Christmas afternoon.

They had a 28-game winning streak dating back to last year’s regular season that was spoiled by the Milwaukee Bucks a couple of weeks ago.

Stephen Curry has played like an MVP again this year, leading the league in points scored per game. It is amazing to me how many shots that kid can make, seemingly, whenever he decides to.

The Warriors have overcome some adversity though this season as well. Klay Thompson has not been 100% healthy, but the largest obstacle for them was losing head coach Steve Kerr. Kerr is rehabilitating some back injuries and has taken a leave of absence to heal more efficiently. Luke Walton (son of NBA great Bill Walton) has taken over as interim coach and obviously has done quite a good job of it.

Meanwhile, back in Cleveland, Lebron James and the Cavaliers have been eyeing Christmas Day as their day for redemption. To be honest, I think that in terms of basketball, this entire city has had December 25th circled for months and it has nothing to do with Santa Claus.

Kyrie Irving returned to the Cavaliers lineup last Sunday and played 17 minutes. He contributed 12 points, one rebound and four assists. This was not a representation of what Irving is capable of, nor was it intended to be.

He is being eased into his return, and for good reason, as the Cavs will need his skill set immensely come playoff time. I know that he has had Christmas on his mind since the NBA schedule was announced. After all, his knee injury occurred in Game one of the Finals against Golden State.

On Friday, Irving returns to the “scene of the crime” in California and is eager to replace the memory of the injury with SportsCenter highlights of the Cavaliers handing the Warrior their second defeat of the season.

Millions of families celebrating the holiday will be sitting together watching this game. What a stage for a story of redemption!

I expect our team to remind, not only Curry and company, but the whole NBA, the level of defense you can expect from the Cavs. As it was in the Finals, I believe that the Cavs need to hold Golden State under 100 points in order to win.

This is no easy task against the most prolific offense in the NBA but I feel that we are up to the challenge. My team has always played better when they are a clear underdog.

That is what needs to be tapped into in this city we call home. There is no greater feeling than accomplishing something that no one thinks you are capable of accomplishing.

After all of the Christmas music is replaced with Auld Lang Syne, and the trash bags sit on the curb stuffed with shredded wrapping paper, Cleveland will know where we stand amongst the NBA elite. Cleveland may just get one of the best gifts it has received in years.
I predict a Cavaliers 98-93 victory which would light a flame in this city that shines just as bright as the one on the first Christmas.