To keep the ball rolling, let’s jump into the Atlantic Division with all of the changes. We have five teams with different paths. Two teams certified playoff contenders, two on the cusp for the postseason and one with a vague sense of direction. This post will focus on the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors. If you missed the Southeast Division, here is part one and part two.
A similar theme that occurs throughout the Southeast Division involve a hopeful push through the NBA Playoffs, and although some teams have better probabilities than others, all five teams have a high amount of optimism invested. The fans behind NBA’s two stories Florida teams are no strangers to this type of confidence; with the latest offseason moves that the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat involves themselves in to stay competitive, the month of October can be draining for those who invest in pure speculation. However, there are silver linings for both storied franchises that can keep them on the better end of this ambitious division.
The wait is finally over for basketball fans. The three arduous months of the offseason, retirements, trade talks, draft picks, and free agency signings have come to a halt. Training camp is upon us, NBA 2K is here for gamers thirsty for early basketball, and the actual preseason games are underway. Here at Cove Alpa we’ll be bringing a preview of all NBA Teams throughout the month of October in preparation to tip-off. To begin, I will look into the Southeast Division’s regional success stories that still find a way to break a Virginian’s heart like mine.
We’ve reached the point in the NBA calendar where there isn’t anymore chaos. Where’s the fun in that? I like my NBA in November. Everyone, even the terrible teams still seem hopeful and there’s enough activity and rumors for an admittedly millennial ADHD hoops fan. But just when I think I’ll be bored to death by conversations about Steph Curry, Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (because not even Drake wants to talk about the Raptors anymore) I remember something even more chaotic is on the horizon. FREE AGENCY!
I don’t think I feared for any team more at the beginning of their 2015-16 campaign than the Portland Trail Blazers. When it became apparent that Lamarcus Aldridge wanted to finish his career elsewhere it made sense to break up a core that was largely put together to emphasize his strengths and cover his weaknesses. They got rid of their starting key role players, trading Nicolas Batum to Charlotte for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh, let Wes Matthews sign a four year contract with Dallas in free agency and let Robin Lopez sign a four year contract with the Knicks. Left was Damian Lillard, one of the best offensive players running the point in the NBA. The Blazers organization had faith in Lillard not just because of his stats but his intangibles as a player, as he is an intelligent and capable game manager, and the heart and soul of the playoff Trail Blazers of the recent years, citing his ability to motivate the team in huddles despite being one the least experienced players professionally. While CJ McCollum showed signs of transcendence in limited minutes, it wasn’t clear if he would be able to play with the same intensity and efficiency as a starter. McCollum won the Most Improved Player award, averaging 20.8 points on 44% shooting from the field, and played well in the playoffs. With a dominant backcourt, secondary players acquired largely for their known work ethic and hustle, and some excellent in game coaching decisions by Terry Stotts the Blazers were able to exceed their own expectations. In 2014-2015 Portland posted a record of 51-31, and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Grizzlies. In 2015-2016 they went 44-38 and made it to the second round of the Playoffs where they lost to the Warriors. I’m sure their style of play and heart helped them gain attention from NBA insiders and fans. But in the (historically) competitive Western Conference, standing still is moving backwards, and teams that overachieve have been known to come back down to earth (*coughSUNScough*). This makes this summer especially key for the organization, and the moves they make or don’t make will surely be scrutinized for years to come. If the Blazers want to shock the world again, they should start this summer. With FREE AGENCY.
I’m of the opinion that if you’re a free agent looking to start at any non guard position, you should be looking to join the Trail Blazers based on front office, coaching, style of play and star players who have personalities that are known to be easygoing but are also competitive and serious. Currently the only unrestricted free agents in Portland are Chris Kaman, Brian Roberts, and Gerald Henderson. Assuming they decide to use the money in a different way (I would) they are left with a good amount of cap room to work with. If they don’t pick up qualifying offers for all of their restricted free agents, (Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe, Mo Harkless) they stand to have enough to offer a max contract to a number of free agents…so let’s look at some of their options.
The addition of the former MVP immediately makes this team a contender. In an offense already built on spacing and weak side action an elite isolation, catch and shoot, and finishing threat like Kevin Durant would be an ideal fit. If they were able to let Mo Harkless go they’d be able to keep Meyers Leonard and Crabbe, and with Al-farouq Aminu’s length and activity at the 4 have one of the best starting units in the league.
If I was Mr. Whiteside I’d be looking for an opportunity to not only be the defensive dynamo I am, but get some touches on the other end of the floor. Whiteside’s post game has some promise and his jumpshot and free throw shooting are already respectable. Portland’s offense could use a big man scoring threat for balance, and Whiteside could see minutes with Ed Davis and Aminu on the floor, that’s a lineup I can’t see anyone in the NBA making 5 layups on.
Dwight Howard just wants us to think he’s a nice guy. We just want him to make better basketball decisions on and off court. Signing with Portland is a good basketball decision. Some decoy post touches and great defense will be all he needs to worry about on the court, and maybe Lillard and McCollum’s quiet confidence will rub off on him. Or he could just be the worst team cancer of all time.
If Al Horford doesn’t want to stay in Atlanta, Portland is a great landing spot for him. Quietly efficient, his scoring would add some balance to the Blazers’ guard based attack and his range as a shooter and willingness to slide on defense make him a capable uptempo big man. In the quicker Western Conference Al Horford gives you options to play fast while also not giving up any rebounding advantage. Al is also known to be a generally nice guy and would probably develop some great chemistry with the young team in Portland.
Despite trading him for younger players last offseason, I could see Portland making an attempt to get Batum back. His versatility and defense were definitely a big part of the Hornets postseason push and in the quicker style Portland plays now he could be a really successful player. His ability to pass is very underrated and with a deadeye shooting backcourt and quick athletic bigs a secondary playmaker on the wing is a luxury. Batum is already familiar with how Lillard plays and how Terry Stotts coaches, and would probably make both better.
Those are my top 5 picks for players the Trailblazers should target. It’s hard to imagine Lebron leaving Cleveland again and most of the skilled bigs are too old to fit into the Blazers youth movement strategy. I think the Blazers could be on the cusp of putting together something really special, and it is critical that they make a move this summer to achieve their potential.
A few days ago Luke Walton has been announced as the new coach for the Los Angeles Lakers. We have two of our writers (DJ and Malcolm) expressing their thoughts on the new signing. Let’s take a look inside the mind of two Laker fans and the course of the future for the Lakers.
Hope by DJ
It seems really comical to think a team with the second most championships in NBA history behind the Boston Celtics (16), who’s also the second most valuable team in the entire league (behind the New York Knicks) can be relying on this little thing called hope. This is a crazy world, isn’t it? A thing called arrogance has melted away like ice cubes stacked together on Wilshire Blvd. on a hot July day and has turned into a small, quickly evaporating puddle of hope after the humbling the Los Angeles Lakers have been handed on their silver plate since December of 2011, just 18 months after their fifth championship of the century. That little thing called hope seems to be required right now for a team seemingly down on its luck the last few years and for a fan base that isn’t accustomed to it, but here we are—purple and gold hope sparkles shining bright enough over the past 11 months to make us think all the egotism dished out to other NBA fans maybe wasn’t the basketball Gods pulling the karma card and biting us back for our own conceit bark for our Lakers fandom.
Three moments over the last 11 months shine the brightest over the wasteland of muck that is the last few seasons that represent that little thing us Lakers fans didn’t think we’d be giving any time of day towards in between being stuck in horrendously tedious traffic and conserving water, and that thing is hope. The first was defying the odds and the 17% chance of losing the win-or-go-home draft pick in last year’s Draft Lottery to jump the now most valuable franchise to take no. 2 and eventually drafting D’Angelo Russell a month later. The second was a few weeks ago when the often ugly and even more depressing Farewell Tour of Kobe Bryant culminated in the 60-point explosion heard around the world I’m still having difficultly believing transpired. And the third and final, arriving last week, when former Laker Luke Walton agreed to become the next head coach of the Lakers once his work with the winningest regular-season team in NBA history hopefully puts the final touches on becoming the greatest team ever this spring.
We’re all on cloud 9 after learning the magical news, because it means hope is really here after few years of despair and disappointment for a deathly spoiled fan base looking to finally turn it around and cease being the league’s cash cow laughing stock but more importantly getting on the correct path to a shot at no. 17. It makes you believe good things are on the horizon one way or another. There’s a tiny shred of light at the end of this dark tunnel, and I have no problem admitting it feels damn good after the things I’ve seen with this team the last few years. These three moments embody the past, the present, and the future in quick glimmers of light. Hope is here and us fans won’t have to continue to ponder if this strange Freaky Friday team-swap with the Clippers is a permanent thing anymore. There’s still a lot to be done, starting with the next Draft Lottery on May 17th (there goes that number again), where hopefully sparkle no. 4 occurs. But regardless of what happens on that May evening in New York, because of this most recent sparkle of hope, this little thing us Lakers fans weren’t used to flickered once again in our direction. Hopefully there’s more to come.
Return of the Jedi by Suprchnk
The last eleven days have proven to be the best in recent Lakers history, arguably since 2010.
Not only did Byron Scott get dumped, but we flipped him for our old friend Cool Hand Luke, now the youngest coach in the league.
It’s like you get really good news and decide to throw a party, then at that party you get more good news. We were still celebrating Byron’s dismissal when we even found out his interview had happened, and for it to get done that same day. Leads me to believe that they knew all along he’s who they wanted, and that they for the first time in a while had a good chance against Golden State.
An underrated element of this hire is that Luke (pronounced LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUKE) is now the face of the franchise. Not Kobe, not Byron, not any of the Buss family, not the young core who still has to earn it. Not even Mitch who just looks so drained by it all 100% of the time. This is wonderful because unlike Byron who simply played for those Showtime teams, Luke is adored here. He’ll probably get the loudest cheer during player introductions, even if they do sound like boos. He’d be our rep at the lottery but he belongs to the Warriors for the rest of their season, and honestly no one blames him.
There’s obviously some risk, and some of my friends have already mentioned how pretty much anyone not named Byron could’ve coached that Warriors team to a good record while Steve Kerr was out. This is a fair concern to have though, as Luke’s own head coaching experience consists of 43 games with a pretty decent team and Steph Curry, you may have heard of that guy. In that time though, he won 39 games, one more than Byron managed to win in two whole seasons. This could prove to be a positive. A coach willing to work around the players he has and their individual skill sets, not tied down to any one system because of years of experience seeing it work. He’s seen it as a player with these same Lakers and Phil in his triangle, then with Kerr, a knowledge hybrid of Phil and Pop, in his now proven system, as an assistant on what is widely expected to be a repeating championship team.
It should be established early that the expectation is not that Luke will make it all happen immediately. D’Angelo Russell is no Steph, Julius Randle is no Draymond Green, and the Lakers haven’t sniffed the playoffs since Dwight was here. Like with Julius and D’Angelo, we have to be patient with him. I think it should be accepted by the front office that unless our team looks drastically different between now and the beginning of the season, depending on the draft and free agency, the Western Conference Finals isn’t a very realistic goal. I would love to be there, but it just isn’t happening. That said, a drastically improved team that at least threatens to make the playoffs ought to be enough for Jim Buss to keep his job (and most importantly not have to hand it off to triangle happy Phil Jackson). Luke running competent, modern day offensive and defensive sets will help tremendously with this, as will a young core that has survived their rookie season (not an exaggeration at all) and is now beginning to address their individual weaknesses.
It almost feels like a disservice to Julius, Jordan, Larry, and even Tarik to emphasize D’Angelo so much, but the fact of the matter is that as far as players go, this is now his team, until a big free agent signing dictates otherwise. Plays will mostly be run through him, and with Luke on the sidelines, he can truly be unleashed without the fear of being benched by a fake hardass coach for “not manning up” or whatever he would say.
Though it won’t begin to happen until Luke finishes the season with the Warriors, which everyone expects will be some time around June, it will be interesting to see who Luke brings with him to fill up the staff. One of the cons of Luke is his relatively blank slate as far as experience goes, so adding pieces that fill those holes, possibly with some of the names that the Lakers meant to interview for the main job before being sold on Luke so quickly, is that much more important. Maybe they’ll keep a theme going and bring in other members of those 09-10 teams. Metta’s already on the bench so there’s a start.
Even now he’s already saying the right things, praising the young core individually and disregarding the looming threat of Phil’s triangle for a system similar to the one guiding Golden State currently, which is music to our ears.
This hire was a sizeable step in the right direction. It was clear that Byron needed to go, but a week ago we weren’t even sure that was gonna happen. Now that it has and has led Luke back home, we anxiously await May 17, when the draft lottery comes and another piece of the puzzle falls into place. Even if we don’t get to keep our pick this year, we’re already looking more and more like a competent organization that a higher tier free agent may not mind coming to play for.
We’re entering unknown territory here, but for the first time in what seems like a fairly long time, there’s genuine optimism behind the Laker name.
We are a few weeks removed from the last game in the Kobe Bean Bryant story on the hardwood. Now that Kobe is retired what possible options does he have left to keep the competitive nature burning? Let’s look at the best possible options and the chances of him doing each one.
Bryant is often quoted as one of the best basketball minds in the game. With his insight and creativity, he has the experience and fortitude to be a coach for any level. The question is would Bryant like to collect rings for his other hand from a head coach’s position? I am voting against this option because of Kobe’s competitive nature. Yes, Bryant loves to win. However. I don’t envision him having the patience to deal with 12-15 players with their incompetence on the court for an entire season. Let alone, multiple seasons of it. He also stated in the past he has the passion to play the game, not coach the game. This reaffirms Bryant and coaching will not go together anytime soon.
While Bryant has said no to coaching, he has given an open door to possible owning a team. He was linked to becoming a part owner to an Italian soccer team (Bologna FC 1909) back in 2014. Kobe also feels if he wants to stay close to the game of basketball, it would probably be in an ownership capacity. I feel this makes the ownership route a 50/50 chance. Maybe even less to be honest.
During Bryant’s rehab period after his achilles tear, he announced Kobe, Inc. I have to say when it comes to Bryant and his moves, I am always impressed. The concept is to invest in companies and assist in building their profile. His first investment is with Body Armor which is an alternative to Gatorade. Bryant is building his portfolio as well as using his connections because of his superstar standing to elevate his projects. He will still have cashflow based on endorsements from a range of corporations so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bryant more now that he has free time.
Bryant has also started Kobe Studios which is a sub-division of Kobe Inc. From Michael Pina’s article earlier this year, we see Bryant has a dedication to storytelling intertwined with the sports world. To use a quote from Bryant in a conversation with The Orange County Register:
“Some stories will be created. Some stories will be fantasy in nature, others reality-based,” he said. “But we will look for content that inspires a generation of people.”
Bryant has thought about his post career days since he was 21 which displays the foresight he has for his personal objectives. It is also a good thing to have Walt Disney, J.K. Rowling, and Steve Jobs as muses for his companies direction in the framework of longevity. Those three individuals have created lasting brands based on thinking way outside of the box. For Kobe to decide these individuals were who he wanted as the template, we can only expect big things from Kobe Studios.
Since Bryant started Kobe Inc and Kobe Studios, I know he is going to center his future moves around these two entities. Clearly, this is the only 100% we will get in this article. Or is it?
It has been reported that Bryant will tutor Kawhi Leonard and I let out a weak yelp on the future of the NBA. This is important because Kawhi has progressed at a phenomenal rate under Popovich. Now we are going to have Bryant who is one of the most prolific players in the entire NBA lifespan to tutor him? Amazing. This leads to the label of Sage Kobe aka Black Mamba Yoda. Hakeem Olajuwon has made money from short training sessions with players in the league. I can see Bryant in a similar mold working with players to pass on his techniques. Depending on how his training regimen with Kawhi goes, we can either get Bryant working with some players every summer or never hearing Kobe training anyone again.
I doubt it will be the latter to be frank. I will say this has a passing grade of a chance to be a consistent thing for years to come.
A Combination of the others
I know Kobe loves a challenge. It has become his MO for years since he labeled a started in the NBA. I can see him attempting to manage all (or at least most) of these previous stated options. To count against Bryant is a thing he craves. It fuels him and I can see nothing but success for the next thing(s) he dedicates his time too.
I have to say no matter what choice Kobe chooses, I expect his post career life to be just as successful as his playing career. I used to root against Bryant in my younger years and I think I learned my lesson on counting him out. He will always find a way.
On March 19, 2014, the New York Knicks announced Phil Jackson would become the President of Basketball Operations of the franchise. That was a very happy day for most Knicks fans, as Phil Jackson has been nothing but a winner on the NBA level as a player and as a coach. Coming to town with a total of 13 championships (two as a player with the Knicks, six as the coach of the 90s Bulls, and five as the coach of the Lakers), it was easy to see why fans were ecstatic. Phil Jackson came here with the mandate of changing what was a toxic culture and to build a system that would create longterm stability and a winning environment. Considering that the Knicks have been one of the league’s worst ran teams since the turn of the century, what Phil Jackson was sent to do was a much needed job. Like all other things Knicks Basketball, however, Phil Jackson is proving to be like all the other incompetent GMs before him.
At the end of the 2013-2014 season, Phil Jackson installed a lot of faith in Knicks fans by firing the entire coaching staff headed up by Mike Woodson, including longtime Knicks’ Assistant Coach Herb Williams. Getting rid of those coaches, and more importantly Herb Williams who was a known Dolan favorite, showed that Phil Jackson was cleaning house and would no longer tolerate the underachieving. He would eventually replace them with rookie head coach Derek Fisher and a bunch of his old triangle coaching assistants like Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons. He lost out on his first coaching choice to the Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr (who since being a head coach has gone an astounding 140-24 in the regular season and 21-6 in the playoffs so far). Despite missing on Kerr, who also had zero coaching experience, Derek Fisher was seen as a respected veteran, a five time NBA champion, and a level-headed leader with the aptitude to eventually be a great coach in a demanding market like New York City. It was a risky move, but for a change it seemed to be a risk worth taking. Phil Jackson won eleven championships, so we were not afraid to give him the benefit of the doubt.
In his first big personnel move, Phil Jackson traded Ray Felton and Tyson Chandler to the Dallas Mavericks. Felton had a pending gun charge at the time and Tyson Chandler was a divisive figure in the locker room as he was pointing fingers (mostly at Carmelo Anthony) during the Knicks’ semi-final loss to the Indiana Pacers the previous season. The trade was right in line with his narrative of cleaning house and getting rid of the toxic elements that made the Knicks a poorly run organization. Not to mention, the trade looked great on the face of the deal. The Knicks received Jose Calderon, Sam Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, and two 2014 2nd round picks. Jose Calderon is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, and had played great basketball for every team he’d been on, Dalembert was a great role player for a long time, and the young pieces like Larkin and the two 2014 draft picks made the trade look that much better. On the face, the Knicks gave up guys that overstayed their welcome in New York for two rotation players on a Dallas Mavericks team that was fresh off a playoff berth. We all knew the age of Calderon and Dalembert, but they were both coming off relatively productive seasons for the minutes and roles they played. Adding Shane Larkin (a 2014 1st round pick) and two 2nd round picks was a breath of fresh air for Knicks fans who had time and time again seen their team trade away draft picks and young players. A summer before we hired Phil Jackson, the Knicks traded an unprotected 2016 1st round pick for Andrea Bargnani, and he has consistently been one of the 3 least productive basketball players in the NBA. Getting two players with productive track records and three young assets felt like a win at the time.
Before the season would start, the Knicks spent their training camp up at West Point; the US military school in upstate New York. Again, it was another move to get the Knicks to realize what hard work truly is and how they needed to carry themselves as professional basketball players. Everything seemed to be headed up, and then the bottom fell out in Phil Jackson’s first full season as an executive. The Knicks would go 5-35 through their first 40 games, and then Phil Jackson was forced into a half-hearted rebuilding effort. But before we get there, I’d like to talk about the Carmelo Anthony contract.
In the summer of 2014, Carmelo Anthony would forego the final year of his contract to enter free agency. The Knicks were always viewed as frontrunners as they were able to offer him the most money of anybody; $129 million over five years. However, it was believed that Carmelo would take a pay cut in order for the Knicks to add talent around him. While he entertained offers from the Lakers, Mavericks, Bulls, and Rockets, he would ultimately sign a contract for 5 years worth $122 million dollars. Considering the fact that the cap would be expanding in coming years, the deal was not looked at as an overpayment and is not an unmovable deal for the team. What made the contract so idiotic and inexcusable were three letters attached to the deal: NTC. The Knicks would give Carmelo Anthony a No-Trade Clause. Now that does not mean that he cannot be traded. It means that Carmelo Anthony would have all the power in determining if/when he would be traded and that he would decide who we trade him to. The no-trade clause took away the Knicks ability to press the reset button at their will, and it was an unnecessary part of the contract. You were already offering him at least $20 million more than anyone else could have offered him and there were no signs pointing to the fact that the Knicks would not have been able to sign him without it. That very unnecessary part of the contract would come back to bite the Knicks today. Now let’s go back to the time the Knicks decided to rebuild for 42 games.
After the Knicks got out to a franchise worst start, Phil Jackson would trade Iman Shumpert and JR Smith to the Cleveland Cavaliers for what amounted to a whole bunch of nothing and Lance Thomas. The Knicks decided they would be better off tanking the season by trading their two valuable role players, shutting Carmelo Anthony down after the All Star Break, and buying Amar’e Stoudemire out of his contract. It was a sound plan, and if it weren’t for a winning streak in April that season, the Knicks probably would have ended up with Karl Anthony Towns instead of Kristaps Porzingis (either way we ended up with a future stud so I will not complain about the results). On draft day, after the Knicks selected Kristaps Porzingis, we would then trade Tim Hardaway Jr for the 1st round pick that turned into Jerian Grant. On draft night, it appeared the Knicks were ready to rebuild and that it would have made the most sense to trade Carmelo Anthony. The 2014-2015 Knicks, and events in the prior off season, season put the team in an awkward position. The team so obviously needed to retool and rebuild, but with no draft pick in either round for the 2016 NBA draft and Carmelo Anthony’s max contract on the payroll, the Knicks had no real incentive to lose basketball games. Even if they wanted to trade their franchise player, they forfeited that right when they gave him that No Trade Clause.
Let’s fast forward to today. It’s Spring 2016 and the Knicks are in a similar position to the one they were in when Phil Jackson got here. The Knicks are currently a team with a win total in the 30s with no head coach and a two or three major pieces away from title contention. However, I would be a liar if I did not point out that the Knicks are in a much better position than they were in 2014. The Knicks are headed into the off season with a projected $36 million in cap space, a potential franchise player in Kristaps Porzingis, and a great role player in Robin Lopez to add to their current star player Carmelo Anthony. Between those three, the Knicks have a great starting front court, and that is more than I could say about what the team had two years ago. Despite the ups, downs, and everything in between it took to get here, the Knicks are in position to improve and Phil Jackson is a big reason for all of that. However, there is one big issue that appears to be in the way of all of that process in this rebuild, and that is Phil Jackson’s apparent marriage to the triangle offense.
Now please, do not misunderstand me. I believe the triangle is an offense that can work in today’s NBA as many successful offenses use its core principles, and Tom Thibodeau actually ran the triangle offense in Chicago when his Bulls were a powerhouse team. The Knicks were running the triangle offense for the first half of the season, and they looked really good running it before players like Lance Thomas and Langston Galloway eventually regressed and stopped hitting shots. Any offense that is predicated on ball movement can and will be successful in the NBA. The big issue with the triangle offense is the quality of coaches who appear to be willing to run that offense. Phil Jackson is seriously considering making Kurt Rambis the official head coach despite the fact that he owns the fifth worse win loss record in NBA history just because he will run the triangle offense. That’s ridiculously difficult to defend when you consider the Knicks were objectively a worse team under Rambis than they were under Fisher. Phil would not even speak with Tom Thibodeau or Scott Brooks, and David Blatt (who is actually one of the greatest coaches in world basketball history) is considered an outside candidate to land the job. The only NBA coaches who are known triangle aficionados are Kurt Rambis and Brian Shaw. Neither coach inspires any faith, and we’ve seen how bad a coach Kurt Rambis has been first hand. He outright refused to play the young players, which meant too many meaningless minutes for Melo, even after the Knicks were out of playoff contention. He benched Arron Afflalo and the communication on that issue was bad (Afflalo said there was no communication at al). Phil Jackson offered to coach half of the games next year if he kept Rambis on as coach, and Melo has been vocal in the media about having a real coaching search, and not the cronyism we see going on at the moment.
What Phil Jackson is showing us right now is that the Knicks have not changed as an organization. Before, it was James Dolan who was pulling the strings and hiring his friends. That turned out terrible, and then CAA took over. That brought in Carmelo Anthony, who has been an excellent Knick, but it also netted the disastrous Andrea Bargnani trade and the Chris Smith contract. Now Phil Jackson is in charge, and he’s about to give his buddy Kurt Rambis a job. He gave his buddy Fisher a job, too, and then he took that job away because he wouldn’t run the triangle as much as Phil would have liked. Phil Jackson, like James Dolan did when he was heavily involved in the decision making, is only interested in looking smarter than everyone else. There is no reason to live and die by the triangle, but it appears that is what Phil Jackson is about to do. The Knicks of old were a team that made dumb decisions for no apparent reason beside the overvaluing of a certain principle. That principle was essentially “let’s try to grab all of the 20 point scorers we can and trade all of our draft picks in the process.” The Phil Jackson era Knicks seem to overvalue a system of basketball over competent coaching and valuable NBA skills.
As a Knicks fan, I’m scared but optimistic that my team will get it right. Maybe Phil Jackson does hire David Blatt, or any other legitimate NBA head coaching candidate, and gets rid of Rambis. Maybe Phil Jackson signs some good players this off season to put around Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and Robin Lopez. Maybe Phil Jackson continues to build a good basketball team because the pieces are definitely there. There’s always that looming and probable doom that the Knicks get it wrong, though. The chances appear that Phil Jackson is going to extend Rambis, over pay for a player Evan Turner, and ruin an opportunity to build upon the 15 game improvement the Knicks made last season. It’s a sad story, but it’s one I’ve seen before. It’s the way of the Knicks organization under James Dolan’s ownership, and it’s the same old stuff. The only difference is Phil Jackson is the guy pulling the strings.
Following the off season after the NBA Finals, there was a word floating around that the Warriors didn’t want to hear. This word was like Lord Voldermort in the Harry Potter series. It was something that haunted the Warriors. They would soon have to embrace it. The Dubs had to challenge the word and nip it the bud. This word was lucky. They (whoever that may apply to) were saying that the Warriors won the title by luck. They were lucky not having to face any healthy point guards during every series in the Western Conference Playoffs. They were very lucky that Kyrie Irving was injured during overtime in game one of the NBA finals. They were very lucky that Kevin Love was injured otherwise they wouldn’t have stood any chance against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals. They were just so darn lucky. That word undermined everything they accomplished last season and they set out to prove themselves beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Warriors began the 2015-2016 season with a 24-0 start. Not only was that the greatest start in NBA History, it was the greatest start to a season for all major sports in USA. Then, the Warriors set a new record by winning 54 straight regular season home games beating the record of 44 straight set by the 95-96 Bulls. Following that, the Warriors ended the season with 34 road wins which surpassed the record set by the 95-96 Bulls. The Warriors are the only team in NBA history without back to back losses or losing to the same team twice in a season. To close, the Dubs also hit the most threes in NBA history currently totaling 1,057 surpassing the record the Rockets had last season with 933. We can’t talk about breaking records without mentioning the reigning MVP Mr. Curry.
This season, calling Steph Curry remarkable would be a little insulting. Curry broke his own NBA record for threes made by currently hitting 392. The man is on pace to probably hit 400 threes which is something that no human being would even contemplate of ever happening in an NBA season! The previous record was 286. Curry also tied most threes made in a NBA game (set by Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall).
Tonight, the Dubs have a chance to break the record of all records, to win the most games ever in a NBA season (73 games). I’m not a betting man but I wouldn’t bet against the Warriors to lose on their home floor against the Memphis Grizzlies. If I learned anything from watching the Warriors historic season and researching all of these ridiculous stats is one thing. Don’t ever call the Warriors lucky.
Today marks the last day we will see Kobe Bean Bryant in an NBA jersey. We decided that it would be best to get a paragraph from everyone to express what Kobe means to the game. Salute a once in a lifetime player when you see one.
Mensa Smith: If there is one thing I learned from Kobe Bryant, it’s that we must learn to love appreciate people while they are still here. We often get caught up in our own emotions agendas and that makes us judge people unfairly. It’s also true of human nature that we make resentful comparisons. My journey with Kobe Bryant has been one of love then hate, and now ultimately respect. I’m glad we had a Kobe Bryant, and there will never be another player like him. Now, as a young man trying to eventually be widely recognized as great, I respect and admire Kobe for what he is and what he will always be; an all time great basketball player who was an imperfect man. Kobe Bryant isn’t Michael Jordan or LeBron James, and that’s okay. He’s a five time NBA championship, one of the world’s all time great cold blooded competitors, and one of the greatest scorers of all time. Kobe Bryant has fans across the world, and even with his character flaws, one can argue that his individual greatness and his work ethic combined to change the negative perception on black people. Love him or hate him, you have to acknowledge that what he accomplished was extremely difficult. He’s a hero to many, a father to a couple, and a legend to all. If there is one thing I learned from Kobe Bryant, it’s that we must learn to love appreciate people while they are still here. We often get caught up in our own emotions agendas and that makes us judge people unfairly. It’s also true of human nature that we make resentful comparisons. My journey with Kobe Bryant has been one of love then hate, and now ultimately respect. I’m glad we had a Kobe Bryant, and there will never be another player like him.
Howard Nedrick: Looking back, Kobe Bryant was my favorite player to hate back when his team destroyed Iverson in the 2001 NBA Finals (4-1 Lakers). His demeanor on and off the court made me the biggest hater for anything Kobe related. I have to admit, this guy was nice. The kind of shots he would make felt like I was watching 2K in living form (way before Steph Curry leveled up into the new 2K). As he evolved over the years, I have to admit his journey from young fiery Kobe to composed sage Kobe has garnered admiration and respect from me towards his legacy. I truly believe he is the closest we are ever going to get to another Michael Jordan. Black Mamba has set the league up perfectly for the next generation of stars and I am thankful for everything he did for the game of basketball (regardless of the hate). He is one of the greatest to ever grace this game. I am proud to say I was able to see this man play, dominate, succeed, and thrive.
Chris McManus: What more can I say about the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant? He was one of the reasons why I patterned my competitiveness throughout my time as an athlete in high school as he desired to win. It was like it was the only thing that important to him at one point aside from his family and that tunnel vision is what is necessary to reach success. It’s one of the main reasons he is a 5-time NBA Champion and until recently, performed at a high level despite the amount of injuries that piled up to his frame. When he announced his retirement this season, it just happened to fall on the same week the Lakers were playing the Wizards in DC. It didn’t take long for the ticket prices to surge and I was short on time to go watch him one last time. It will be something I would surely regret as that game was one of the few where he was in prime form at my team’s expense. But looking and hearing the crowd at the Verizon Center, the Wizards fans didn’t care much about the loss as they were seeing a legend perform one more time.
Marc Cameron: Over the past few years in my basketball fandom, I’ve never enjoyed myself more than showing my disdain for a player like Kobe Bryant. It is difficult to use the word “like” at this moment, due to having issues with even fathoming a future star that will mirror his dedication. Imagine going into a position at the age of sixteen with the mindset of becoming a legend, all while completing the goal in a twenty-year commitment. The high and low moments in the career of Kobe have all assisted in making him one of the NBA’s most polarizing players, but the accolades attached to his name will guarantee his story does not live in infamy. We are currently at a point in the NBA where rookie guards were either a year old, or not conceived at all around the time of Bryant’s rookie season. Although viewing his final moment against Utah this Wednesday may be a very emotional experience for those who watched him since his beginning, it is thrilling to know fans will not have to seek far to view his influence on today’s players and future stars to come.
Jasmine Hardy: With only one story left for Kobe to tell on the hardwood, the Black Mamba has undoubtedly become one of the greatest players of our generation. Over the past 20 years, Kobe has led the Lakers to 5 NBA Championships, 18 All-Star games and 33,570 points—Scoring more than 40 points against every team in the NBA for career highs on opponents (if you can tell me who else has done that, drop them in the comments section.) Kobe has paved the road for young players today, being amongst the few who have played against legends like Jordan, James and even both Curry’s, he sets the tone every time he walks on the court. With his final days soon approaching, I can confidently say the game will never be the same. Sad to see him go, but happy to have been able to see the legend from beginning to end.
Oluwatosin Makinde: Kobe Bryant. As an 11 year old, the name rang bells, but as an immigrant to America, football (soccer) was always my thing; eventually I enjoyed basketball. One random day, in my teenage years, I was watching ESPN and saw that Kobe is a huge football fan, I perked up with excitement, that’s when I made a connection with who Kobe is and began to watch more of his game and was taken aback. Seeing Kobe retire is surreal, you grow up watching these athletes and when they start breaking down, losing athleticism, stop doing superhuman acts in the court, it reminds you that life short and you should strive to be the best at whatever it is you’re doing. Twenty years in LA, Kobe has given us a lifetime of ranging emotions, lasting memories and quotes. Thank you Kobe, for being you.
“I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, ‘My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.’ We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”
– Kobe Bryant
Jeffrey Esperance: One paragraph will never suffice how I really feel about Kobe Bean Bryant but I will try it anyways. Kobe Bryant is more than just the youngest player in NBA history to score 30,000 career points (my hate for Lebron won’t acknowledge his achievement). More than just the player who is an 18 time all star, made the All NBA Team 15 times, and a 5 time NBA Champion. More than just the guy who scored 81 points in a game. Like him or not, he’s this generations Michael Jordan. He’s the personification of hard work. I’ve never seen anyone in my 25 years of life, work so diligently and continue to improve themselves year after year. He embodied every aspect of the words true grit. I’ve witnessed this man play with injuries that I couldn’t imagine doing any activity besides sleeping. You’ve dazzled us, left our jaws on the floor, and made me cry several times being that I’m a lifelong Spurs fan. Clearly it’s time for you to go but thank you for all of the amazing memories that’ll last a life time.
Dondre Joseph: I have been here for two days trying to come up with something, anything I could write about Kobe’s retirement. How do you succinctly sum up the career of someone as mercurial as Kobe? It is impossible. Kobe has given us too many iconic moments (good and bad) that I could wax poetic about for days. It’s why I’ve decided that now is the best time to say thank you. I know it’s incredibly cliché, but I didn’t have a platform to say thank you when Jeter retired, and it still bothers me. With that being said, I have to give back to the man to gave me so much. Thank you Kobe, for getting me into basketball. Tuning in to the NBA on NBC every Saturday afternoon, I would sit through disappointing Knicks games and boring filler games to see you, Shaq, Fish, Fox and the crew take on the best of the West. Thank you Kobe, for the 00-02 three- peat. I saw some of the best basketball ever played by such great playoff teams and so many emotions were felt. Thank you Kobe, for the 2004 NBA Finals. As good as those Lakers teams were, learning that sometimes it just doesn’t go your way was something I came to realize was overwhelmingly invaluable. Thank you Kobe, for the 2005-2007 years. They were incredibly dark times for everyone, but your drive and determination to “put da team on ya back doe” provided us with unforgettable shooting performances (81!) and gave rise to the pop culture “Kobe!” shot. Thank you Kobe, for another three straight finals. You should have had six championships but life would have preferred Paul Pierce to pretend he was the second coming of Willis Reed. You got your revenge in 2010 which 1A of “Greatest NBA Finals of the 21st Century” (1B being 2013). That was the best summer ever. Finally, thank you Kobe, for these last four years. It’s been incredible to follow you on your journey from budding young superstar to certified top ten NBA great, but the Kobe we know now isn’t the Kobe we once knew and speaks to the duality of man. It’s been increasingly refreshing to see you let your guard down and become incredibly introspective. You (and by extension us) couldn’t afford to be anything but an intense psychopath, but behind the façade is an unusually relatable Kobe, imparting wisdoms for everyone and genuinely being a fun conversationalist. I’m looking forward to post- NBA Kobe and my wish is that we get him sooner rather than later. I would go on but I was told to keep it short and simple and I fear I may have gone on too long. If there’s anything I’ve realized over the course of writing this, it’s that I’m not afraid to call you my favorite basketball player anymore. I can’t say I’ll always go to bat for you because some things are indefensible (See: Chris Childs two piece, no biscuit & no bev), but I won’t let your legend die. Thank you Kobe Bean Bryant, for everything.
Arthur Jones: As Kobe Bryant’s Career comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on just how legendary “The Black Mamba” truly was. To some he was the greatest to ever wear the illustrious purple & gold uniform. To others, Bryant was a one of a kind shooting guard whom you loved to hate; especially when he came into your hometown and grabbed the living soul out of the home team with a clutch game winning play. One thing that can be agreed on that will never be refuted in any sports forum is that Kobe Bryant is a true warrior in every sense of the word; the Absolute last of a dying breed in any sport. Night in and night out, Kobe left it all on the court. Whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying the man’s inhuman pain threshold, which he has showed nightly throughout his legendary career. Kobe has played through numerous knee injuries, broken fingers, ankle sprains, and even completed free throws after rupturing his Achilles, just so he’d still be potentially eligible to still compete in the game. According to doctors, Kobe’s index fingers are the equivalent to an arthritic 83 year old man due to him delaying so many surgeries. Obstacles that would break a normal player’s spirit only motivated Bryant to come back harder than ever. What we see on the outside is a wounded warrior. But those wounds tell a greater story: the story of a champion. April 13, 2016 will be a day that will be remembered throughout all of sports. A day which we knew was coming, but was truly never ready for. While I was one of those few aforementioned that loved to hate Kobe Bryant while he played, there is no denying that I revered the man as one of basketball’s all-time greats. Kobe Bryant taught me that there is no obstacle that you can’t overcome, as long as you have the will to succeed. With 5 rings, 18 all-star selections, 11 all NBA 1st team selections, and the franchise scoring leader for the Los Angeles Lakers, I doubt anyone would disagree with that assessment. Rest well Kobe Bryant. Time to ride into the sunset.
Derrick Sholes: Confession, I’m not the biggest fan of the Black Mamba moniker, so regardless of what the Swoosh has christened today, it’s Kobe Day, hell, Kobe Week. And because using one of the many (ridiculous) nicknames he possesses to help celebrate his incredible career on his final day on the job doesn’t do it for me as simply as “Kobe Day” does. Kobe’s name alone is personal for me growing up in Southern California during his ascendance to superstardom. It means more than just the guy I tried to imitate on and off the court, more than a guy who’s considered a selfish asshole and relentlessly chucks, even more than those five rings we will proudly remind others of. The name Kobe, for me, on this day represents that scrawny 17-year-old kid who was also growing up in Southern California twenty years ago but grew into an idol for this scrawny kid to look up to when there wasn’t anyone else. Kobe, instead of Mamba, humanizes a complicated individual, but properly represents the childhood hero I’ve been blessed to see every night and will deeply miss once he disappears into the tunnel one final time. For someone I’ve seen play in person only a handful of times, on TV thousands of times and who’s given me millions of memories, it’s sad today is his last game but I look at it as the first day of cherishing his career for the rest of my life. I’m counting down the days of being able to tell my grandchildren about him just like I counted down the seconds on the imaginary clock in my backyard preparing to take the final shot as he did. I’m grateful I had the pleasure of growing up with him on my TV every night. Thank you, Kob’.
Malcolm Wyley: For me, Kobe has been there since the beginning. My first NBA game was in 1998, a playoff game at the Forum. I was six and therefore not the astute basketball observer that I would like to think I am now, but I had foresight enough even then to know that what I was watching from #8 was something special, and would prove to be even more so over time. At halftime as they headed through the tunnel toward the locker room, I reached over the railing to high five Shaq, Eddie Jones, and Kobe, then five years younger than my current 24, two years away from his first of five championship parades down Figueroa. It’s the only time I got to see him play live. An NBA without his presence seems unfathomable, even now, knowing for an entire season that this very day was indeed just over the horizon. So many times, you knew, your grandma knew, everyone knew who was taking that last shot. Everyone. And even still, the ball would somehow get to him, and he’d find the space, dance his way around defenses in a way only he and the best footballers on the planet can, pull up a shot that any other player would be benched for even thinking about taking, and drill it. As much as the possibility of him leaving presented itself, I will always appreciate, to the best of my ability, his twenty years of service in his beloved golden armor. He knew all of this would happen before his name was even called. It’s as if his career had already happened, and he was simply there to recreate the highlight reel, which he did, over and over and over again. And to think twelve players were drafted before him.
Jay Adams: Basketball is a game that had been passed down to me by the elder statesmen in my life (read: my uncles and their friends). They taught me how to appreciate each moving part of an offense as gears that have a specific job to keep the machine moving in unison. I learned the intricacies of the game from them, which often lead to arguments between my mentors because they were usually drunk and had varying opinions on what made a great team; however, the one thing that they could agree on was the greatness of his Air-ness himself, Michael (B.) Jordan. I began to form my own opinions of the game after sitting through many drunken tirades filled with enough colorful curse words to recreate the ’96 All-Star jersey. I didn’t know much, but I could feel that there was one player outside of Michael who was special to me. My introduction to this player would be during the 1998 All-Star game in New York, where he wore the number 8 on the chest of his forum blue and gold jersey, right below the iconic Lakers logo, with the name Bryant across his shoulder blades. Kobe would become my favorite athlete across all sports for the next 18 years of my life, but this was the first time that I had actually gotten to see him play— a moment that I will never forget.
When Skip tapped me to write a small paragraph for #MambaDay, I couldn’t figure out a way to accurately summarize how much Kobe has meant to my life over the past 18 years. One paragraph can’t properly tell the story of all of the lunch table arguments, turned into barstool debates, that would come as a result of being a Kobe Bryant fan. I can’t summarize in one paragraph the disappointment that I felt from not seeing an 81 point scoring effort from my idol and having to defend why he wasn’t a ball hog at school the next morning. It also doesn’t paint the picture of the ambivalence that I felt surrounding my hometown Pistons’ championship in ’04 over my beloved Lakers. One paragraph just isn’t enough. Today is the last game of a career that has captured 5 championships, 2 Finals MVP honors, 18 All-Star game nominations, and a trophy room full of other awards and records that Kobe (read: I) wouldn’t hesitate to remind you of if you have a doubt about what he’s done over 20 seasons. This doesn’t feel real to me. Will tonight’s matchup versus the Utah Jazz actually be Kobe’s last game or will he pull off some machiavellian stunt to revive his career as only he could? As much as I’d like to believe in the latter, I know that it’s time for him to hang up his sneakers and move on with the rest of his life. With that in mind, I can’t say much more than the following: Thank you.
Eric B: There’s no specific time in my life where I remember becoming a fan of Kobe Bryant. It always felt as if I just was. There’s no intended cheesiness when I say that just as he was born to play basketball, I was here to be the biggest fan of his that I could. When our culture was obsessed with oversized jerseys, I had four of Kobe in various Laker color schemes. I was the kid arguing for Kobe over T-Mac on the school bus, which turned into arguing for Kobe over Tim Duncan in college, which turned into arguing for Kobe over LeBron in the work breakroom. As I write this at the age of 27, Kobe represents the entirety of my youth, and that’s what it is. To me, he WAS basketball. I grew up barely catching the end of Jordan, so Kobe was my Mike. He was the player who inspired me as a person, the player that made me feel as if I could do what I wanted if I worked hard enough. That talent wasn’t enough, but it was what you did after the talent that counts. There will never be a player that’ll capture my heart like Bean. When people say he represents the last of a dying breed of NBA player’s they’re exactly right. Plus, what other player’s name sounds as good out loud when you shoot a crumpled piece of paper into a trashcan from across the room?
Twenty years of the greatest work ethic to ever sprint the hardwoods of the
NBA entire world. Kobe Bean Bryant on April 13th aka Mamba Day, we pay our respects to you. One of the greats. Forever8&24 in the Purple and Gold.
I remember the first time I fell in love with basketball. It was sometime in 1996 and I saw Shaquille O’Neal dunk over at least three men. It was dominating, embarrassing and amazing at the same time. I was immediately hooked. There was something magical about being a NBA center. As a kid I thought it was phenomenal to watch these big men effect the game with their scoring, rebounding and blocking. You could just pass the ball to them in the post and be fairly certain that something good was coming. I knew at the age of six that without a solid big man your chances of winning it all was impossible.
Fast forward twenty years to February 14, 2016. I’m watching the 65th annual NBA All Star Game with my older brother. We are both excited and a little depressed because it’s Kobe’s last all star game. When the game began it was Kobe representing the West and Lebron representing the East for the tip-off. At first, I thought this was dope two of the best ever going at it to see who gets the ball but then it occurred to me why aren’t centers doing this? Better yet where are the centers?! When did this happen? I began to go on my rant on how the post game is a lost art in the NBA and this actually isn’t surprising and it was bound to happen. My brother counters with his usual spiel about how I’m just overreacting and the quality of centers are just as good as they’ve been in any era.
Not only do I believe the quality of centers have decreased astronomically I beg the question is it even necessary to have a dominant center to win it all in the NBA?
If I could pinpoint a specific moment where everything changed would be the rise of Mike D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns offense. The philosophy of the Phoenix offense was pretty simple it was to get a shot up within seven seconds or less. The job of the point guard was to penetrate as quickly as possible to either get a layup or kick the ball out to a shooter for a three. The shooting guard and the small forward would race to opposing corners outside of the three point line. The power forward would be sprinting on the opposite side of the ball going towards the lane. Your center would become the post trailer. The other key part of the Phoenix Offense was the spacing. When attempting the score within seven seconds or less and creating such dynamic spacing makes it painfully difficult for defenses to recover in time.
The Suns were mesmerizing and so much much fun to watch whether you were a avid or casual fan. They were also virtually impossible to stop in NBA 2K. They ran so many different types of offensive schemes that made most defenses look foolish. By having Shawn Marion as their stretch four with the ability to knockdown the outside shot, penetrate when needed and having the ability to guard the opposing team’s four was the beginning of a NBA revolution. When playing the Suns you had to respect their ability to hit the outside shot so efficiently so traditional fours and fives would be placed out of their natural defensive elements which was being inside the paint. That would cause Amar’e Stoudemire to feast in the paint. Despite having several fifty plus win seasons and Steve Nash winning the MVP for back to back seasons(2004-2005, 2005-2006) the Suns never won a NBA title because their overall team defense was pretty much non existent. If somehow a team could play like the Suns and actually play defense they would be virtually unstoppable. The Suns began a trend whether intentional or not. More teams started implementing that seven seconds or less philosophy and started looking for more fours who can be that perimeter threat. Something else happened it as well. Teams stopped focusing on throwing the ball into the paint and letting that five go to work. The five was no longer needed to be a scorer. The five position now became limited to rebounding, defense and the occasional alley or put back dunk.
Here comes the rise of Tyson Chandler type centers. Don’t get me wrong Tyson Chandler is a solid player and champion. He’s a great rebounder, solid rim protector, and very good off of pick and rolls. The problem is if I were to give Tyson Chandler the basketball twelve feet away from the hoop he would probably look like a deer in headlights. But with the NBA trending towards small ball and a greater focused on three point shooting, more big men have become focused on shooting rather than playing in the post. Tyson Chandler has become the new prototype of what it is to be a center in the league now. Just as long as you can solidly rebound and play defense. Players have thrived in this new definition of what it is to be a center. Roy Hibbert was a two times all star.
It’s quite obvious that the necessity for a dominant big man has decreased significantly over the past decade due to takeover of small ball. The rise of the small ball style of basketball minimizes the need for for your traditional post up big. Nothing encapsulates that more to me than the rise of Draymond Green. You would think at the beginning of the 2014-2015 season with the injury of David Lee the Warriors would be deeply in trouble without their 20 and 10 guy, but no. Draymond Green as the stretch four was indeed a mismatch, but a mismatch that impeded their opponents and enhanced the Warriors last season. Not only did they win the title that year they would go on to have the greatest NBA season in history by winning seventy three games.
Don’t get me wrong I truly enjoy watching high octane offenses, threes flying in left and right, and impeccable ball movement. This isn’t an article attacking small ball or making fun of what the center position has become. Nostalgia kicked in when I saw the nominees for this year’s hall of fame inductees including the likes of Allen Iverson, Yao Ming and Shaquille O’Neal. I asked myself what’s the likelihood of seeing players like this in our the league again? We might see another Allen Iverson but we might not see another Shaquille O’Neal again.