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Oklahoma City Trades Serge Ibaka

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Doug Pensinger/Getty Images/AFP

Sam Presti is not afraid to shake things up. He traded James Harden to Houston. He moved Reggie Jackson to Detroit. And now he has sent versatile big man Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis.

Also on draft night, somewhere in the depths of the Twittersphere, Oladipo became an All-Star and Ibaka became last week’s leftovers. Analysts are labeling this some sort of coup for Oklahoma City, praising their ability to be rid of their aging twenty-six year old big man for an up-and-coming twenty-four year old shooting guard. Now, in contract terms, the two are vastly different in age since Ibaka is set for a huge raise after next season. But is this really a home run deal like they say?

Victor Oladipo is really good. He’s supremely athletic, a quick defender, and his shooting percentages have increased in each of his three seasons in the league. His move to a secondary option on offense in OKC should be a big help to his efficiency numbers, and his ability to contribute on both ends of the floor will be a welcome sight for Thunder fans.

There is no doubt this is an upgrade on the wing for the Thunder. But is it enough? Oklahoma City just cashed in its biggest realistic trade chip for a player who has similar weaknesses as their current roster: inconsistent shooter (Roberson), too small to move down and play small forward (Waiters), and needs the ball in his hands to make his biggest impact on the game (Westbrook). They didn’t fix any of their biggest holes. Everyone saw what Oklahoma City was capable of in the playoffs when they got competent production from their wings; they almost ran through two of the best regular season NBA teams of all-time. But the ironic part of this is that Serge Ibaka was actually their best 3-and-D role player. His ability to hit open jumpers on one end and then switch all pick and rolls on the other end embodies today’s NBA role player. Add in his ability to protect the rim and you have one of the most versatile players in the league, and a very good fit with your two cornerstone stars.

Yes, Ibaka’s block numbers are down. He’s being asked to play further away from the basket, of course his block numbers are down. Yes, his three-point shooting numbers were down last year, but his “bad” shooting year was just 2% lower than Oladipo’s career high. In fact, Oladipo has never hit 35% of his threes, a number that Ibaka has surpassed three of the last four seasons. There are reasons to consider trading Ibaka, but it has to be for the right upgrade because he is still an extremely valuable player on this OKC roster. His move to center during the Golden State series unlocked a small-ball lineup even Golden State couldn’t contain. A lot of the things Ibaka does for this team don’t show up in the box score, but they’ll show up during the playoffs next year.

Oklahoma City was one game away from the NBA Finals and the future of their two stars is very murky. They should be in win-now mode, not “sustain” mode. In 2016, you just can’t give up Ibaka’s combination of shooting, rim protection, and switchability. There are simply more Oladipo’s than Ibaka’s.

 

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Cavs vs. Warriors: Most Talked About NBA Finals Ever on Facebook

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Jun 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebratew with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after beating the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It seems as thought the already historic NBA Finals clash between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors extends past the feats Cleveland achieved.

According to social media statistics, more than 43 million people joined the conversation on Facebook throughout the seven game NBA Finals, as the Cleveland Cavaliers dethroned the Golden State Warriors in the best of seven series, 4-3, after a hard-fought win on the road at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.

With more than 269 million posts, likes, shares and comments about the Finals since Game 1, this is the most talked about NBA Finals on Facebook, ever!

The Cavaliers also took to Facebook Live from the locker room celebration in a video that has amassed more than 5M+ views, 367K+ reactions, 99K+ shares and 53K+ comments!

Lebron James also stirred up quite the reaction on Instagram when he posted the following:

The Warriors are still feeling the pain of their loss.

“Nah, I didn’t turn my TV on last night,” Stephen Curry said in Monday’s exit interview. “I won’t watch the film of the bad because it’ll bring up too many bad memories. … But understanding how I can control the game better and whether or not I’ll be in that position again, I know I’ll be better.”

“It was not a good feeling waking up this morning,” Klay Thompson said. “Obviously you wish the day was different, but you kind of just deal with it and try to take your mind off things.”

“To sit and dwell on it, that’s not going to do anything for me. I’m not going to sit and throw a pity party for myself or my teammates or anybody else,” Draymond Green said. “We were a minute away from winning a championship. We had a 3-1 lead. We had all the opportunities in the world we needed. Got to take your hat off to them.”

Meanwhile, the party in Cleveland is going as strong as ever.

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Are the Cavaliers Finished After Blowout Loss to Warriors?

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Game 2 was nothing short of a nightmare for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They didn’t just lose to the Golden State Warriors, they were embarrassed. Going into the NBA Finals, Cleveland’s gameplan was to focus their defensive attention on Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, nicknamed the ‘Splash Brothers’, and while the strategy was somewhat effective in their Game 1 loss, it was disastrous in Game 2.

Golden State’s Draymond Green stepped up, scoring 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists to lead the way in the Warriors’ 110-77 romp over Cleveland. The Warriors bludgeoned the Cavs throughout Game 2, which saw the defending NBA Champions’ lead grow to as many as 34 points.

“We’re doing it by committee, and everybody’s playing their role,” Curry said. “The crazy thing is we can still play better.”

It’s not easy to conclude what is missing from Cleveland’s approach, but they need a solution soon or the NBA Finals will be over quicker than anyone, myself included, could have expected.

“It’s hard for me to kind of pinpoint what’s not working and what could work right now,” Cleveland’s LeBron James said. “Obviously, not much is working, especially offensively.”

During the postgame press conference a question was posed to James, asking if he needed to be more “selfish” to get this NBA Finals series back on track and propelling the Cavs back into series contention.

” ‘Selfish’ is probably the wrong term,” James said. “I got myself in a lot of trouble tonight personally. Turned the ball over way too much. And I said after Game 1 we just can’t turn the ball over against a great team and expect to win, and I had basically half of the turnovers … when I came out, and it resulted in them getting some easy baskets.

“So I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to be better with the ball. You know, trying to play-make for myself and play-make for my teammates at the same time, I’ve just got to be more solid.”

“We can’t have as many mental lapses,” James said. “More than the physical, it’s a lot of mental as well. These guys put you in so many mental positions where you have to figure it out, and they make you pay for it when you don’t.”

The Cavs can spread blame evenly throughout the roster, especially their ‘Big 3′; James finished with 19 points on 7-17 shooting, Kyrie Irving scored 10 points on 5-14 shooting and Kevin Love scored 5 points before exiting the game after receiving an elbow from Golden State’s Harrison Barnes.

“The next couple days will be … I won’t be reflecting,” James said. “I’ll figure out ways I can be better, starting as soon as I leave this podium. Probably go back to the room and watch the game, re-watch for ways I could have been better. I had a lot of uncharacteristic unforced turnovers which resulted in those guys getting 26 points. … So I’m one of the guys who kind of always wants to shoulder the blame and take the blame when we don’t play as well as we should.

“It’s just who I am, and I’ve got to be better.”

History is not on the Cavs’ side. Throughout NBA Finals’ history 31 teams have fallen into a 0-2 hole, only 3 of them, the 2006 Miami Heat, the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers and the 1969 Boston Celtics were able to climb out and win the championship.

Simply put, history does not favor the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Still, it doesn’t seem like this series is over just yet. But Cleveland can ill-afford dropping a game on their home court, otherwise there will be another ticker tape parade being planned in the Warriors’ honor.

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2016 Finals Preview

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(SportingNews.com)

It’s the rematch everyone wanted to see. Well, maybe not Cavs and Thunder fans who were holding onto hope that Oklahoma City could somehow knock off the best regular season team of all time with Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson playing big minutes on the wing. In the end, though, the Thunder simply didn’t have enough to combat Golden State’s relentless attack, and we are back where we were at the end of last season: Cavs vs. Warriors for the crown.

Except it’s a bit different this time. The Cavaliers are healthy and have coasted through the Eastern Conference. It’s the Warriors who are a bit banged up and seem tired. Cleveland’s entire game plan last year was to dirty up the game, slow it down and hope LeBron could make superhuman plays – which he did for most of the series. This year, though, the Cavs boast a team who will look to match the pace and scoring of the vaunted Warriors offense.

That should make games remarkably fun to watch for the rest of us.

Kyrie will have to guard Curry. Cleveland will attempt to hide him on Barnes or Iguodala at points, but the cross matching there is simply too complicated. Getting back on defense quick enough to stop Golden St. in transition is hard enough as it is, adding in scampering across the court to find the guy you’re “supposed” to be guarding adds too much time and confusion to the process. The Warriors will kill you in those moments. Besides, JR Smith did a phenomenal job following Kyle Korver through the dizzying myriad of screens in Atlanta’s offense, and Cleveland will hope he can do the same with Klay Thompson. Kyrie can be a good defender when he gives effort; he proved that in Game 1 last year before his injury. The problem is, he has to be locked in on every possession of every game against Curry and he hasn’t shown the ability to do that yet. He’ll need to in the Finals.

On the flip side, Golden State could look to match up Thompson on Irving and Curry on Smith. Kyrie has been rolling in the playoffs. Klay is the superior defender and will give Irving more problems with his length and ability to stay close to the body to prevent Kyrie’s quick pull ups. Steph can capably follow JR around the perimeter. These are all good reasons to match up this way, but the chess move here is that this will force the cross matching we were just talking about. Kyrie cannot guard Klay Thompson. He’s not tall or strong enough. As Thompson showed in the Western Conference Finals, if you give him one inch of space he will rise up and drill a three pointer. But if he’s guarding Kyrie on defense, there will be possessions where Kyrie will be forced to guard him on offense because there just isn’t enough time to switch in transition, creating an advantage for the Warriors.

That being said, in the half-court offense, who you’re “supposed” to be guarding won’t really matter. There will be numerous switches off screens, and I promise you that Golden State will find Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving and put them in the pick and roll, just like they did with Enes Kanter in the previous series. If Cleveland attempts to hide Love on Barnes, GSW will simply use Barnes as the screener. Cleveland’s rotations will have to be crisp and precise; they’ll have to know exactly who they can help off of and who they need to stay with. One adjustment they could make is to have Love and Thompson switch before the screener even sets up. Basically, Thompson guards whichever big man starts moving to the top of the key to set the screen while Love hangs back by the rim and guards the other big man. This puts Thompson at the point of attack and keeps Love closer to the basket where he’s less exposed. This maneuver would have to be executed flawlessly in order to be effective because if Thompson is one moment late, Curry will be knocking down an open three. If Curry gets around Thompson, that leaves Love as the only rim protector, not exactly his strong suit. And if GSW is having problems with this, they could swing the ball and set up another pick and roll aimed at Love where Cleveland is not in position to switch out of it.

Cleveland will have a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love this time around (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)

Because of that, there’s a good chance Love won’t play much at the end of the fourth quarters. Thompson offers Cleveland more defensive versatility and you know he will be ferocious on the glass. Switchability is the key vs the Warriors, and playing two traditional big men just doesn’t give you that. Ibaka was so crucially important to the Thunder because he was able to switch onto guards when needed but also able to hold up as the last line of defense when the Warriors put Adams or Kanter in the pick and roll. Kevin Love can’t move laterally well enough to contain guards and is a major problem as your last line of defense. At the end of the game when every possession is vitally important, you can’t afford to give up easy looks; Thompson will be the big man on the floor.

If Love can be effective offensively, that will really stretch the floor and hamper Draymond Green’s usual help-defense prowess, opening a lot of doors for the Cavaliers. However, Love shot just 6-21 from the field, including 1-8 from deep, in the two regular season matchups. That’s not good enough to make up for his lackluster defense. If Love isn’t shooting well, he’ll have to find other ways to contribute in order to stay on the floor. That means making the glass his property–on both ends of the floor. He will give up easy buckets when Steph puts him in the pick and roll so he must get some of those possessions back for his team by creating second chances for the Cleveland shooters on offensive rebounds. Defensively he must finish possessions by corralling the rebound; don’t give Golden State any more chances to attack. These are the ways he can provide enough net value to remain an asset and, to his credit, he has been doing those extra things during the playoffs.

Not playing two big men will mean LeBron will have to spend more time at power forward and guarding Draymond Green – both good things for the Cavs. It will allow them to easily switch any pick and roll involving Green, a staple of the Warriors attack. This will be very taxing on LeBron, working hard on both ends and having to be a major rebounder as well, but this is why you let him coast in the regular season and why you work to get those sweeps in the first two rounds. LeBron is the freshest he’s ever been entering the Finals, it’s time to go to work.

More time for LeBron should also mean more time for Andre Iguodala. Steve Kerr moved him into the starting lineup in last year’s Finals because he was far-and-away Golden State’s best deterrent to LeBron. Kerr also moved him into the starting lineup for the crucial Game 7 Monday night against Oklahoma City. The more minutes Iguodala is out there to deal with James, the better for Golden State.

There is a ripple effect to this move, though, and it almost surfaced in that Game 7. Iguodala serves as the playmaker on the Warriors’ bench unit. If he starts, that means he will be replaced on that unit by Harrison Barnes, a player who isn’t nearly the creator Iggy is and is known to play much better with the starters. This is a dangerous time for Golden State because the Cavaliers’ oddball Delly-Shumpert-Jefferson-LeBron-Frye lineup that starts the second quarter has been CRUSHING fools. This is not a time for a weak lineup from Golden State. That means changing up your rotations again in order to combat this, and the Warriors machine runs on continuity amongst its players. Zipping the ball all over the court is much more difficult when you’re playing with guys you don’t normally play with.

As a side note, Richard Jefferson has been playing so well in the playoffs that Cleveland should give a Kyrie-Smith-Shumpert-Jefferson-LeBron unit a chance when GSW goes small. Trying to beat the opponent at their own game isn’t usually a good strategy, but in this case the Cavaliers might have the fire power to do match them.

Limiting turnovers and preventing second chances will be huge. You have to limit the number of shots you give either one of these potent offenses. If the Cavaliers can do the little things, and keep up their hot shooting, this will be Cleveland’s first major sports title since before the Super Bowl was the Super Bowl. If not, they’ll have to update that Believeland documentary much sooner than they anticipated.

Either way, you know LeBron will give you a spectacular series and Irving has been playing beautifully efficient offensive basketball for the last few months. Steph seems to be regaining his touch just in time for the Finals and Klay is in big head mode right now. Channing Frye is shooting 70% from deep and Draymond Green just earned his black belt in Jujutsu. This series is going to be so much fun.

 

 

 

Follow David on Twitter @dmcgowan24

 

Vintage Wade Silenced By Toronto

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INDIANAPOLIS, IND - MAY 20: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat during the game against the Indiana Pacers in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 20, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: 2014 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

THE RESULTS

 

This week, the Toronto Raptors demolished the Miami Heat in game seven of the Eastern conference semi-finals 116-89. In this series, many thought the Miami Heat would end up winning due to their superstar guards catching fire during their playoff run.

Coming in, everyone knew that the guard match ups were going to be the highlight of the series. Dwyane Wade was vintage in the playoffs thus far, shooting over 46% percent from the field while averaging 21 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game.

He topped off this amazing post season performance by shooting 52% from behind the arc. Those of you who know D-Wade know that we don’t see him hit threes consistently ever.

In the 2015-16 regular season, he shot a dreadful 16% from downtown. Goran Dragic also played like a superstar during this run. He was putting up a consistent 16 points while shooting 44% from the field.

The two Miami superstars were heating up at just the right time. This in my opinion seemed to serve as a rally cry to the rest of the team, saying that their time for a championship run was now.

 

THE HEAT

 

This consistency from both these players spiked the deep playoff run for the Heat.If this is true, then why didnt Miami win the series then?

The answer to that is injuries. Usually an injury here and there will not effect a team. The loss of three key players for Miami hurt their chances.

Chris Bosh experienced blood clotting issues toward the end of this regular season. Though uncontrollable, blood clotting is extremely serious and some analysts worry that Chris Bosh may never be cleared to play basketball ever again.

Putting his health first, the organization shut him down for the series. Bosh accounted for nearly 20 points and 8 rebounds per game this regular season which was a major loss for them.

Whiteside also got injured during the series twisting his knee early on. He was another huge factor during the playoffs, controlling the paint consistently. Whiteside notched 10 rebounds and nearly 3 blocks per game which caused a huge gap in their defense.

He was also shooting 68% from the floor. Not shown on the stat sheet, he altered many shots. Deng was also greatly missed at points in the series. He provided solid scoring while shooting over 47% from the floor.

This depleted most of the offensive and defensive game plan for the Heat for a large portion of the series. These key losses throughout the series shattered their hopes of continuing their run.

 

RAPTORS STRUGGLES

 

Another reason the Heat were favored in this series was because of poor shooting from Toronto’s guards during the playoffs thus far. Together, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen shot around 35% which is extremely low for the two stars.

DeRozan shot a career low 18% from the three point line. Lowry was shooting so bad, he stayed after in the practice facility until as late as 1AM shooting shot after shot. On top of the poor shooting, the Raptors best big man Valanciunas went down injured for most of the series.

Averaging a double double in the postseason, this proved to be a vital loss for them. Together, the problems for the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors boiled down to produce an amazing, closely contested game 7 on paper.

 

PREDICTIONS

 

Originally, I said that the Heat would take the series in 7. Before watching the game, I predicted the Heat to beat the Raptors 94-81. I thought that the poor shooting from DeRozen and Lowry on top of the loss of Valanciunas would cause the Raptors to lose by a substantial amount.

Based on their play in recent games, I wrongfully thought Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic would be too much for Lowry and DeRozan to compete with. Since both Miami stars were playing at their best at the time and Toronto’s’ were playing at their worst, it would make sense for them to lose the biggest game in the series.

Not only were the stars playing better, but the Heat were statistically performing better than the Raptors in most aspects. They overall were shooting better, scoring more, and were playing better on the defensive end of the floor in the playoffs.

When I made my prediction, I did not account for the key injuries in the series because some of them did not happen yet.

My prediction overall was far from right. I was correct about the game 7, but truly never expected the Raptors to win the series. D-Wade and Dragic had a good game, combining for 32 points.

The rest of the Heat’s starting lineup stepped up, including Joe Johnson, Justise Winslow and Luol Deng who all put up double digits in the scoring category. The only spark that was provided from the bench was from Josh McRoberts who put up a solid 10 points.
The rest of their bench only put up 8 points. Deng and Winslow stepped up on defense, recording five blocks total in an attempt to fill the hole left by the injured Hassan Whiteside. Winslow and Dragic also recorded 4 steals that evened out due to 4 turnovers provided by Dwyane Wade. Though they worked hard and fought to the end, it would not be enough.

 

GAME  REFLECTION

 

What I remember most about the game were the performances by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen. They combined for a total of 63 points, just shy of doubling that of Wade and Dragic. Lowry had 7 rebounds, 3 of those being offensive.

He was also shooting lights out in Air Canada Centre, shooting 5-7 from downtown. This was extremely surprising because of his recent struggles from the field. DeRozan reeled in 8 rebounds and was keeping many offensive possessions alive snagging 4 offensive rebounds.

I was most impressed by the performances of Biyombo and Patterson. Biyombo shot 6-8 from the floor while grabbing 16 rebounds while he sent back 2 shots. He filled the shoes of Valanciunas and then some which could result in an increase of minutes coming in the near future.

Patterson shot perfect from the line while snagging 11 rebounds. He also jumped a pass to get a steal and sent back a shot in someone’s face. These two players unexpectedly stepped up which resulted in the blow out. The bench didn’t perform as well as they should have, losing the battle to Miami’s bench.

Overall, I thought this was a very interesting series that went back and forth constantly. It was very exciting to watch the amazing guard match up even though they were not at their peak.

I would have liked to see both teams compete uninjured. I think Miami had the better team and would have won at full strength. I am extremely happy to see Toronto advance to their FIRST conference finals in franchise history.

This is not only great for the franchise, but it is also great for the NBA to see a new team in the conference finals. The Toronto Raptors will take on the Eastern Conference Juggernaut known as the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

CAVS RAPTORS PREDICTION

My prediction for that series is 4-2 Cleveland. Cleveland has way too much star power on their team and are currently steamrolling teams in the playoffs.

I was going to predict 4-1, but I feel Toronto will definitely take one game and am optimistic that they might be able to get another.

I am giving them the benefit of the doubt. The series will be determined by the guard play of Toronto and if their roleplayers show up to play.

If they win more than two games, I will be shocked. This is a series that I believe Cleveland has won before it has even started. For a further breakdown, see my Cleveland vs Raptors breakdown.

 

Works Cited

 

http://espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400875896

http://www.nba.com/heat/stats?season=2015-16&season_type=playoffs

http://www.nba.com/raptors/stats?season=2015-16&season_type=playoffs

 

Websites were used for statistical values only. All thoughts and ideas expressed in this writing were my own.

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LeBron James Says That ‘Valuable’ In MVP Is Open To Debate, Interpretation

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If you are looking for expertise on the NBA MVP Award then you couldn’t do much better than Cleveland Cavaliers’ star LeBron James, a 4-time winner. A few short days after the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry captured his 2nd straight MVP award while also becoming the first player in NBA history to win the award unanimously, James shared his thoughts on the award:

“I think sometimes the word ‘valuable’ or best player of the year you can have different results,” said James. “You know, that’s not taking anything from anyone that’s ever won the award.”

James certainly isn’t discrediting Steph Curry and has a somewhat valid point. The MVP award has a lot of room for interpretation with many people defining a specific play has to his team in different ways, often times these metrics aren’t available on a stat sheet or box score.

James, like everyone else in the sports world, marveled at the season Curry had.

“Look at Steph’s numbers,” James said. “He averaged 30, he led the league in steals, he was 90-50-40 [shooting percentages from the free throw line, field and beyond the 3-point line], and they won 73 [games]. So, I don’t — do you have any debate over that, really, when it comes to that award? But when you talk about most ‘valuable,’ then you can have a different conversation. So take nothing away from him. He’s definitely deserving of that award, for sure.”

Curry is the 11th player in league history to be voted the NBA MVP in consecutive seasons and the first player to do so since James did it back in 2012 and 2013.

So should a name change take place? Hard to imagine thwarts of disgruntled fans rallying behind a movement to have the award changed, but James’ point does make sense and touches on a number of fans who echo the same sentiment.

The NBA MVP award selection results always seem to be open to that sort of debate, perhaps more so than any other sport.

While the NFL’s Pro Bowl roster always generates a fevered debate, the NFL’s MVP award mostly seems to be a clear cut decision. Similar cases can be made for hockey and baseball as well. The NBA seems to stand alone as far as the debate surrounding the legitimacy of their NBA MVP award recipient and the true meaning of the award.

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Steph Curry To Be Named NBA MVP For 2nd Straight Season

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This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one; Golden State Warrior’s superstar Steph Curry will be named the NBA Most Valuable Player for the 2nd season in a row.

According to a report from ESPN, Sources told ESPN.com that the MVP award for Curry is scheduled to be announced in the next few days.

It’s likely that Curry could become the first unanimously chosen MVP in NBA history due to the historic season that Golden State has had. The Warriors posted a 73-9 record that bested the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ 72-10 record as the winningest single season in league history.

Curry also is the first player in league history at any position to average 30 ‎points per game in less than 35 minutes per game over the course of a full season, breaking his single-season NBA record for made 3-pointers with 40 along the way.

Curry, 28, also joined Steve Nash and Steve Kerr as the only players in NBA history to shoot at least 50 percent from the floor, 45 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the line in a single season.

When Curry is named MVP he will become the 11th player to win back-to-back MVP awards in NBA history. Curry is the first player in team history to win multiple MVP awards. Wilt Chamberlain (1959-60) is the only other player in Golden State Warriors’ history to win the MVP award.

ESPN put out the following statistical graphic to further demonstrate the dominant season that Curry had, perhaps the most statistically dominant in NBA history:

i

 

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Frank Vogel’s Future With Indiana Pacers In Limbo

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The Indiana Pacers were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs over the weekend and while the bitter taste of defeat still lingers in the mouths of the team, organization and fans, there is an uncertainty hanging over the immediate future of coach Frank Vogel.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Pacers president Larry Bird told The Indianapolis Star on Monday.

“We need to score more points,” he told the Star. “If Frank comes back, what can we do to get better offense? It’s on all of us.

“Frank’s a great guy. He’s going to be fine no matter what happens. If he’s back, he’ll be fine here. If he’s not, he’s not. We’ll see.”

Bird gave no timeline for a decision on Vogel’s fate and said he needs to first speak with Pacers owner Herb Simon.

“What I don’t want to do is leave Frank hanging. There’s other jobs out there he could get,” Bird told the Star.

The comments elude to a cold potential, and increasingly likely, reality that Vogel and the Pacers are parting ways. Why else would Bird make any reference to other jobs available for Vogel if Vogel’s job was truly safe? And why would Bird want to afford Vogel time to get those jobs at all?

It seems like the blame is going to be heaped on Vogel and he is a soon-to-be coaching free agent.

Bird called for more offense and referenced Game 7 while doing so:

“I thought we were going to win that game last night,” he told the Star. “If you’d told me we’d score 84 points. … You can’t go very far in the playoffs if you don’t score. When I tell people this, it’s not because I think I know it all — it’s because I experienced it as a player.”

Vogel would be an attractive coaching option on the open market but maybe Bird should take some accountability. Afterall, he is the one that allowed players such as Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson and others depart Indiana and despite the public opinion of their careers since leaving Indiana those players were key players in Indiana’s successful runs before Paul George’s injury.

Maybe Bird would be wise to keep Vogel on board and give him a true compliment to George, maybe a force in the paint who can take some of the offensive burden off George’s plate. Sure, they have Monta Ellis, but he posted career lows in PPG and his worst FG% in almost 4 seasons this year. George Hill is a nice compliment but George still needs more.

So, maybe Larry Legend needs to take his finger off the red button and put the axe down and start figuring out how to bring in some real potent offensive fire power for George to play off of.

That, ladies and gentleman, seems like the smarter course of action.

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Officials Admit Missed Call(s) In Spurs Thunder, Spurs Game

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Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) shoots over San Antonio's Manu Ginobili (20) and Tim Duncan (21) during Game 2 of the second-round series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA playoffs at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Monday, May 2, 2016. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

NBA officials have admitted that they should have called an offensive foul during a controversial late-game sequence in Oklahoma City Thunder’s Monday night victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

The non-call of topic occurred with Oklahoma City’s Dion Waiters on an inbounds play with 13.5 seconds remaining and the Thunder clinging to a 1-point lead. Video replays clearly show that Waiters used an elbow on San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili to clear the space he needed to pass the ball to Kevin Durant. The play, according to the officials, should have been an offensive foul.

“On the floor, we did not see a foul on the play,” lead referee Ken Mauer said. “However, upon review we realize and we agree we should have had an offensive foul on the play. It’s a play we’ve never seen before, ever. We should have had an offensive foul on the play.”

What about the fact that Ginobili’s foot was on the line during the play in question? Did the refs gloss over missing that call?

From this writer’s perspective I find it rather funny that officials are so quick to admit an error in officiating in relation to Ginobili, who has a long history of offensive fouls that were rarely called on him. The NBA fan in me asks what about the countless times Ginobili has lowered his head, using it as a battering ram to clear space? What about Ginobili’s push offs to creat more space for shots? And while I’m at it the bitter-Suns fan in me asks; what about the playoff series years ago when Ginobili and company got away with murder when disposing of the Steve Nash-led Suns?

Sure, like everyone else, I can gripe and grab at straws to make a counter-point regarding Ginobili and the officials missed calls, but it’s counterproductive. The bottom line is, officiating in the playoffs needs to be better.

I credit the NBA officials, who are the most scrutinized in sports, and they are entitled to human error, but does anyone else see the humor in this particular story? Especially that it includes Ginobili who, in my opinion, has been one of the worst offenders, and least punished players for years?

Ginobili spoke about the play after the game.

“Did you see it?” he said. “I was trying to pressure the ball, and he kind of created room with his elbow. It’s a very awkward play. It doesn’t happen very often. So I guess they didn’t see it. With all that, we complain about that, but what can we do? We had the ball. We had a great shot. We had a few other opportunities. So things happened.”

(courtesy of ESPN)
(courtesy of ESPN)

Spurs coach Greg Popovich complained to officials after the game and admitted it wouldn’t mean anything when the NBA calls to inform him the refs made a mistake on the call:

“No, it won’t mean anything if they do that. The game’s over.”

“I don’t know what it is, to tell you the truth, what type of a violation it is,” Ginobili said. “It’s got to be something. But again, it’s not that play that decided anything because we got the steal, we got a shot, we got an offensive rebound. I really don’t know. I’ve never seen a play like that. I don’t know what should have been called or if it should have been called anything. It doesn’t matter. It’s over. We’re not gonna be able to change it. Nobody’s gonna change it. It’s 1-1. We’ve got to go to OKC and try to win a game.”

“I really don’t know what happened, to be honest,” Waiters said.

While replays showed Waiters using his elbow to clear space, they also appeared to show Ginobili’s foot on the line.

“Hopefully, they’re going to look at it and see he stepped out,” Waiters said. “Should have been a tech, too. When they look at it, they’ll see the truth. We played on. They got the ball back. We got a hell of a stop.”

Spurs forward Lamarcus Aldridge eluded to more curious conduct from Oklahoma City:

“A bunch of scrambling,” he said of the final seconds of the game. “I thought I had the ball. I thought [Serge Ibaka] had a good chunk of my jersey. I thought there were some things happening that maybe shouldn’t have happened. But it’s over now. You can’t keep harping on it.”

It’s clear that the NBA officials have their hands full but it’s become a far too common theme for them to “look the other way” when it comes to teams like the Spurs and others who have “superstars” on the roster.

Although San Antonio is on the opposite side of the equation this time and I light-heartedly made a reference to their past, it’s clear the NBA may need to polish up their officiating a bit more.

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A Sort-Of Eulogy for the 2015-16 Houston Rockets

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Rest in peace, 2015-16 Houston Rockets.

(via houseofhouston.com)

Eulogies are designed to praise someone recently lost. But what if you are simply remembering them without the whole “praise” part? Is there a term for that? Let’s just call this a “sort-of eulogy”.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered today to pay our final tribute of respect to that which was mortal of our deceased kind of loved one and team, the 2015-16 Houston Rockets.  To you members of Red Nation who maybe/ almost/not really mourn your loss, we offer our shallowest of sympathies.”

The most praise that can be given to this team is the promise they showed on paper heading into the season following an appearance in last year’s Western Conference Finals. Sure, they lost in resounding fashion to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors- but it felt like progress. At worst, it could be something to build off of in some fashion. With essentially the same line-up, being a top five team in the West seemed a realistic goal.

Instead, it was a mere fluke. It was just a mirage in the desert that gave Houston fans false hope and even falser visions of grandeur. If the high of this iteration of the Rockets was coming back from a 3-1 deficit to the Clippers, last night’s blowout loss in a series full of blowout losses to the Warriors is the rock bottom. It wasn’t just a team exiting the playoffs. It was being tossed out forcefully, eviscerated by a team missing its best player for the better part of the series (losing by an average of almost 24 points per game). It was being thrown onto the curb with the stark realization that almost everything with this team has to be blown up and reset again. The Rockets are the NBA version of Will Ferrell in Anchorman walking the streets drinking out of a milk carton on a hot summer’s day.

Initially thought of as a potential championship caliber pairing, this rock bottom sees James and Dwight as only a punchline. This rock bottom saw the Rockets perpetually talk a big game, but never back it up. Case in point: Jason Terry. Terry guaranteed a game five win, but went scoreless on 0-7 shooting. Not that I can fault him for trying to motivate his team since they had to win- but even Terry admitted “it didn’t hit home with this group.” Forget lighting a fire under their butts- this Houston squad couldn’t light a fire with an actual rocket engine. They had a misplaced sense of entitlement all season, seemingly in disbelief and denial at their record which often times was under .500.

Forget lighting a fire under their butts- this Houston squad couldn’t light a fire with an actual rocket engine. They are the NBA version of Will Ferrell walking the streets drinking out of a milk carton on a hot summer’s day.

It wasn’t only Terry who failed to shoot well from the field, either on Wednesday night. The Rockets shot an anemic 32.6% from the field and an even less impressive 18.8% from three-point land. Outside of Harden’s 12-23, the other four starters shot a combined 8-33. The first field goal not scored by Harden came on a Beverley floater at 11:26 in the second quarter, breaking a 0-16 streak from the other four.

 

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

That may be the old adage, yet interim head coach JB Bickerstaff’s seemed to be “when it’s broken, don’t fix it.” I use the term “interim” as strongly as possible, because in at no point during Bickerstaff’s time running the team did I feel he was ever equipped to be the actual head coach. Bickerstaff seemed married to certain line-ups despite whether they worked or not, and either failed to adjust to the current situation or did so too late once the game was out of hand.

General manager Daryl Morey and owner Les Alexander failed to trust the process with Kevin McHale, and instead they chose to try and send a message to a team that seemed comatose to any sort of provocation. And while I can fault Bickerstaff for certain actions he took or lack thereof, you can only do so much with a team that has zero fight and crumbles at the first sign of adversity.

Heading into this series, I outlined my ideas of how to put this Rockets team in the best position to win the series. No matter the odds, a coach and his team must look for the smallest of opportunities to poke holes in their opposition’s armor.

I use the term “interim” as strongly as possible, because in at no point during Bickerstaff’s time running the team did I feel he was ever equipped to be the actual head coach. Even a cardboard cutout of Rudy Tomjanovich would be a better option.

I stand by them, aside from admitting Howard deserved more touches on offense to help collapse the Warrior’s defense. Yet the one thing I was most off about was assuming this team would show up mentally ready in the first place. To even be in the realm of thinking you can beat this Warriors team, egos need to be set aside and statistics and shot counts come second to the overall goal: winning.  That’s why Golden State has been so successful. Curry might have averaged 30 points per game, but never did so as to cost his team games or take away from his teammate’s opportunities. And when interviewed, his teammates would only express their support and excitement of watching Curry work his magic.

Either this team psyched themselves out or they just didn’t care. Watching them over the course of five games, I’ll go with the latter. They got punched in the mouth, and instead of squaring up and fighting back, they continued to take the punishment (aside from six quarters in games 3 and 4) until they were knocked out.

At halftime of Game 1, Andre Iguodala described the intensity of the game similar to a scrimmage. TNT even had an image indicating games 5-7 would not be necessary. Before Game 5, Draymond Green stated the Warriors “didn’t want to let the series linger.”

None of these slights seemed to anger the Rockets. No amount of passion from fans or coaches could spring this team into another gear like last year.

Instead of limiting turnovers, they only increased (19 per game). The ball movement was scarce, and for a team predicated on the three-point shot- shooting 27% for the series was downright shameful. On defense, they didn’t go around screens- instead choosing to try and go through them. There was no help on defense. The Warriors had their choice of whatever shot they desired, and didn’t waste their chances (48% FG/40% 3PFG).

 

Back to the Drawing Board

The first part of hitting that reset button begins with Dwight Howard. He’s the elephant in the locker room, and it was never more evident than last night following the Rocket’s 114-81 loss. The media cared not to delve into why an underachieving 41-41 team lost handily to a historic 73-9 team (and rightfully so). The reporters wasted no time in stirring the pot, the first asking about the team’s bumpy season.

“We just need to go back and reflect on how we can better ourselves.”

“What about the team’s chemistry?” asked another.

“Like I said, that’s something we all need to sit down and think about.”

Then one member of the media went straight for the jugular: asking Howard about his impending free agency.

“I’m not going to talk about that today.”

How did a team that seemed poised to make a splash with Harden and Howard get to this point? At first, rumors of discord between the duo seemed like just that- rumors. But it all came to a head at the trade deadline this season when Howard was dangled like a carrot among multiple suitors. It wasn’t just management making the moves- but Harden trying to pull strings as well. Rockets CEO Tad Brown denied the ordeal.

Regardless of personal animosity, the two were never destined to work. I’m a firm believer in being optimistic and giving benefit of the doubt, but Harden is incredibly ball-dominant, so much so that a center like Howard who demands touches similar to an NFL wide receiver cannot be successful offensively. Pick and rolls were where they saw their most success- but inexplicably rarely capitalized on that advantage.  If one vine could sum up the Harden/Howard era in Houston, it would be this failed lob against Golden State.

The vine came straight from LeBron James, sarcastically declaring the two “the best duo in the NBA.”

Rumored teams interested in acquiring the big man are the Blazers and Hornets. It’s still early, but after watching a somber Howard with the media last night, I’d bet my life he won’t be in Houston come next season. It’s his decision and not the team’s- but he’ll likely look for a better fit system-wise.

On the flip side, a culture change is needed and the tone must be set by none other than James Harden, according to Marc Stein:

 

 

On the coaching front, Houston has been linked to Jeff Van Gundy and as of last night, Luke Walton. Either in my opinion would be a better option than Bickerstaff. Even a cardboard cutout of Rudy Tomjanovich would be a better option.

Player wise, outside of Howard moving on- Houston needs to hold on to Michael Beasley. Amidst such a team full of issues, Beasley was a bright spot following his stint in China. He was able to create his own shot (on a team that lacks such capabilities from everyone outside of Harden). He seemed to play well alongside Harden, and has little to no ego to boot.

Corey Brewer and Trevor Ariza took some of the most noticeable steps back this season. Once prided on being defensive stalwarts, the two struggled at times- and looked even worse shooting the ball. Even the “junkyard dog” style of Patrick Beverley was more bark than bite- failing to get in the heads of the Warriors even once this season. While endearing to Red Nation at times, Beverley is in no way the answer as point guard with his minimal offensive skillset.

Energy needs to be rewarded, and added playing time next season for young gems like Montrezl Harrell and Clint Capela will give the Rockets that added boost.

The history books will show 2015-16 Houston Rockets were 41-41 and made the playoffs. What they won’t show is the team failed to turn that ever elusive corner into giving their fanbase and basketball pundits a true reason to believe in them. “Pursuit” has been their rallying cry, chasing a third title for Les Alexander- but the pursuit for a new culture will be this offseason’s mission statement instead. Houston might be regarded as a massive disappointment drawing the ire and frustration of fans- but now that their season is over, there seems to be a sense of relief that they can begin to wipe the slate and start anew.

Rest in peace, 2015-2016 Houston Rockets.

 

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