The end of the Thunder as we know it

July 4 2016: This is a day that will live in infamy. While much of the country was devouring burgers, chugging beer and shooting fireworks, Kevin Durant made more noise than them all.

During a post penned to The Players Tribune, Durant announced his decision to leave Oklahoma City and join a super team in the bay area. He’s inked a 2-year, 54.3 million-dollar deal with a player-option after next season. The internet went bananas, Twitter users lost their minds and NBA chatter ran rampant.

We know what this means for the Warriors: they’ve become even more deadly, they have the last three MVP award winners on their roster, they have perhaps the deadliest (and most versatile) lineup in NBA history (Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Green and Durant) and are set up nicely, barring a hitch in the Wheel of Fortune style game show that has become NBA free agency, to embark on a dynastic pursuit like the world has never seen.

But where does this leave the Oklahoma City Thunder?

The Thunder have lost their identity. Kevin Durant was the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was their leader. He was their franchise player. He was the first star player for a city and a franchise that never had one. But now he’s gone to be a part of something we’ve never foreseen and in the process, has left an irreparable hole in the hearts of millions.

The future looks grim for Oklahoma City.

They have Russell Westbrook for just one more season. The hope is that he will channel this loss of Durant into even more fuel for a player who appears to never need it. While Westbrook looked like the best player in the world in spurts without Durant two years ago, the Thunder also endured some nasty loses without the 7-foot sharpshooter.

There are a number of options for OKC to consider, but none of them look like good ones.

Thunder GM Sam Presti has to consider trading Westbrook, if not for anything but out of fear. OKC can’t dare lose Westbrook for nothing, like they did with Durant. The 2017 NBA Draft is shaping up to be a mega-class and the Thunder could try to ship Westbrook for a package of picks and begin to start over.

They could trade Westbrook for young players already, perhaps Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and a 1st round pick from the Lakers. Still, I’m not sure that either is going to keep them in the championship hunt out West.

There’s always the option of trying to manufacturer a star for a star type trade, but at this point, it looks tough to manage.

With Durant bolting for greener pastures, it’s safe to assume Westbrook might have the same thing on his mind next summer.

Perhaps Presti was prepared for this. That draft night trade, the one that sent Serge Ibaka to Orlando for former No.2 overall pick Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilysaova and the rights to Domantis Sabonis, might have been more doomsday prepping than preparation for another title chase next year.

Shipping Westbrook immediately might allow OKC to begin to regroup immediately. Perhaps they should hold on to him, try to work on a new deal and make him the face of the franchise. Regardless, there is no easy route to take for Presti and the Thunder.

Presti — widely regarded as one of the most methodical and sharpest GMs in the business — is now facing the toughest task he will ever face: How do the Thunder move on from Kevin Durant?

The Thunder have lost their everything and its to fair to ask the question if whether or not we’ve seen the last of the Oklahoma City Thunder in a contending role for the foreseeable future.

LeBron James is the Daenerys Targaryen of the NBA

If you don’t watch or follow Game of Thrones, I’m sorry. If you don’t watch or follow the NBA, I’m sorrier. Both are fantastic, make people wait days and weeks on end to see opponents clash and both sort of remind me of that 50 Cent movie Get Rich or Die Trying, because in both, all that really matters is that you have lots and lots of sex (relevant), have more money than everyone else (relevant) and most importantly, are the most powerful person in your kingdom (very relevant).

In case any of you reading this are hermits, live under a rock or choose to watch re-runs of CSI Miami instead of watch GoT on Sunday nights, here’s a quick synopsis of what Game of Thrones is all about: GoT a medieval-based world where everyone is trying to conquer land, have sex with people they aren’t supposed to have sex with and take over the seven respective kingdoms and in turn, become the all-powerful ruler. It’s filled with weapons, war, incest, power-moves, mortals, half-mortals and people who are immune to fire and own dragons (which is pretty damn cool). The series is perhaps HBO’s best work (and that’s saying something). If you don’t remember anything else about the series, remember this: Everyone is going for the throne (actually, multiple thrones), so until you get there, you kill, pillage and destroy anyone in your way. Once you get there, everyone will come after you until they get what is yours. Thus, it’s a never-ending, bloody cycle that is fantastic to watch. (This also sounds like the NBA if you think about it). Okay, enough about what GoT is. I’m here to tell you how LeBron James, the most powerful NBA player in history and the most influential athlete in sports is eerily similar to one of Game of Throne’s best characters – Daenerys Targaryen.

Who is Daenerys Targaryen?

Daenerys Targaryen is the daughter of someone referred to as “The Mad King” and was born at a place called Dragonstone, which is very relevant. After growing up in someone else’s kingdom after both of her parents died, she was arranged to marry this guy named “Kal Drogo”, who is the leader of the Dothraki. The Dothraki are these long-haired, bearded people who ride horses, rape and pillage villages and think they are all powerful. Eventually, Daenerys realizes that she is super-powerful (spoiler, she is immune to fire and can control dragons) and after Kal Drogo dies, plans to take over the seven kingdoms. Long story short…she falls off her path and ends up in this nunnery-type convent where the widows of Dothraki leaders and destined to sulk and rot forever. After announcing she wants to be a leader, she is laughed at by Dothraki leaders (aka all the men). To get back at them, she burns down a building filled with the leaders (aka men) and emerges naked to the rest of the village of men, soldiers and women bowing at her feet as a sign of their allegiance.

That particular scene, which appears in season 6 episode 4, reminded me of LeBron James’ performance in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. If you think about it, LeBron James and Daenerys Targaryen are pretty similar and I’ll tell you why.

Much like Daenerys, LeBron was disrespected by the NBA and the league’s fans when basketball fans started anointing Steph Curry as the new best player in the world. While the sample size is small (just the NBA Finals series) and while some may say I have fallen victim of the moment…LeBron is still and always has been, the best player in the NBA. Similarly, Daenerys is (IMO) the single most powerful character in GoT.


Here are the ways LeBron and Daenerys are similar:

Physical gifts:

LeBron is a physical specimen at 6’8’’ 250 lbs. I’m also convinced he’s an alien, because when he dunked that alley-oop from Kyrie Irving earlier in the NBA Finals I’m pretty sure he caused a 37 on the Richter scale. Daenerys is also a physical specimen, seeing as how she is immune to fire and can control dragons.

Cool nicknames:

LeBron is dubbed ‘King James’, much like Daenerys, who is often referred to as “queen” or “mother of dragons”. King or Queen, I don’t think you can get much better than that as far as nicknames go.

Followers:

LeBron has a loyal following across the planet, but also at the same time, has people that think he is a chump (which, I mean, get out of here). Daenerys has a kingdom of people willing to eat out of her hand…sort of like LeBron. Huh, weird.

Naked capabilities:

LeBron has a chiseled physique and Daenarys is a dream (sorry, Daenerys seems to get naked quite a bit and it’s pretty great).

They have really big teams, with really big rings:

LeBron, much like Daenerys, needed help to begin to take over the NBA aka the Seven Kingdoms. LeBron tried to win a ring on his own in Cleveland with a cast of beggars and imps, but after joining in forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he truly hit his peak winning ways and won a few rings. Like LeBron, Deanerys, too, needed help. So, she decided to join up with The Imp (aka the second best character in GoT) and they’re bound to take over some kingdoms and cause destruction in the process.

Dragons:

The next part is just creepy: Both LeBron James and Daenerys Targaryon have dragons that they can use at their disposal to destroy empires. Daenerys has these three dragons that we have seen grow into fire-breathing, reptiles of death that are by far the scariest aspect of GoT. So too, has LeBron. If you aren’t aware, LeBron’s three dragons are Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith. I mean, have you seen them? One game Kyrie goes and gets 41 points, puts Steph Curry in a skate-able body bag and put on one of the most memorable NBA Finals shows in history…all because LeBron James told him to do it. The very next game, Game 6, Tristan Thompson had 15 points, hauled in 16 rebounds and Tasmanian-deviled his way through the Golden State Warriors lineups, all while earning that 82 million dollar contract he signed last offseason. And J.R. Smith, where do I start? He reminds me of Sylvester Stallone in the first Rambo movie. Rambo always had AK-47s and was shooting them at people, so too, is J.R. Smith always firing crazy three pointers and teetering on utter madness on a basketball court. Oh yeah, he also had this no-look alley oop to LeBron late in the game that somehow perfectly sums up J.R. Smith in one play.

So, yeah, LeBron just calls on these guys and they burn shit down, just like Daenerys’ dragons. And, just like Daenerys did in Season 6 Episode 4, LeBron burned down the Golden State Warriors’ game plan/fan base and emerged, once again, the most powerful, best, unworldly, God-like player in the NBA.

Ultimately, I think Daenerys will end up on top in the Game of Thrones world-domination saga. I also happen to think – before it’s all said and done – LeBron will be known as the best basketball player the world has ever seen.

The 2016 NBA Finals: A rematch that isn’t quite a rematch

“I’m going going, back back, to Cali Cali.”

The infamous chorus from the late, great Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 anthem “Going back to Cali” immediately came to mind once the 2016 Finals showdown was set. Cavs vs. Warriors. LeBron vs. Steph. A rematch from 2015. There are storylines galore with this series, but I have a big problem with a certain narrative that is being pushed regarding this series: rematch.

Is this series truly a rematch? I would argue not so much.

41-12-7. This is the amount of points, rebounds and assists that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love logged this year — and the amount of points, rebounds and assists that the Cavaliers didn’t have last year against Golden State.

The absence of Irving and Love couldn’t be overstated regarding the 2015 Finals. Aside from a numbers standpoint, Irving and Love do things on the court that simply make the Cavaliers go. Irving’s ability to create off the dribble and shoot from outside is a legitimate threat, while Love’s ability to help space the floor and knock down shots is a must if the Cavs want a chance to knock off the defending champs.

Last year, LeBron put on an unworldly, Herculean-type performance. 36 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. Timofey Mozgov, Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson had big moments and they still couldn’t come away with a victory.

This season, Mozgov rarely sees the court, Thompson hasn’t played quite as much in the postseason and Dellavedova is a little more spotty when it comes to consistent minutes (but will play big minutes this series). So where do the Cavs go this time around?

I think the Cavs will do what they do best: Let it fly.

Who would’ve thought the Cavaliers saving grace — in a sense — would come in the form of Channing Frye? The stretch forward has played valuable minutes down the stretch for Cleveland (sometimes to their detriment) and has been a big asset from behind the three-point line. Plus, when Frye is on the court it really allows the Cavs to spread the floor, which allows them to shoot a ridiculous amount of three-pointers, but also clears up the line for LeBron to drive the lane.

I expect Frye to play a lot of minutes and could pose some potential match up problems for Golden State. The next burning question: What will Cleveland do with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving on the defensive end?

This seems to be the potential fatal flaw for the Cavaliers in this series (other than the fact that Steph Curry can go bazooka mode from three-point range and nothing can stop him). Love is pretty awful on defense, specifically in pick-and-roll situations, which I expect Golden State to try and exploit. While Kyrie is great on offensive, he’s a big time liability on the defensive end.

Folks around the league seem to think you can’t truly hide players while trying to defend the Warriors, but I expect Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers to try. I expect Cleveland to put Love on Iguodala and Barnes, which aren’t going to kill you from three-point range.

As far as Irving goes, I’m not sure what’ll they’ll do. Dellavedova will guard Curry as long as he’s on the court, but at some point, we might have to see Irving try and guard either Curry or Thompson which won’t end well. Shumpert will play big minutes and he will be key, along with Dellavedova, on the defensive end for the Cavaliers.

The big thing with Irving and Love — they’re going to have to make it worth the Cavs while to be on the court together for extended periods of time. They’re either going to have to ratchet it up on the defensive end (which, as far as we’ve seen, probably won’t be the case) or they’re going to have to pour it in on offense and hope to outshoot the Warriors.

Both teams pose unique mismatches against each other and I think this has the potential to be a very good series. Watch out for Cleveland’s “Let It Fly” lineup of Irving, J.R. Smith, Shumpert, James and Frye. This lineup has the ability to space the floor and jack up lots of three-pointers.

The Warriors are big time favorites, but I won’t count out a healthy Cleveland team with (for now) the greatest player in the world in LeBron James.

Again, this isn’t the same Cavs or Warriors teams, so as far as I’m concerned, this is a new series. I’m taking Cleveland in six games, but The Oracle will be rocking tonight and I think Golden State will take Game 1.

 

 

The implications of Game 7

Tonight’s Game 7 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors has the makings to perhaps be the most important game in the NBA in recent history.

This game has storylines galore — the 73-win Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry’s injury riddled playoff run, Klay Thompson’s historic shooting array, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s unbelievable playoff run, the clutch gene, Billy Donovan’s reputation, etc. But far beyond the fact that tonight is Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals and the winner will advance to take on Cleveland, the fact still remains — there is so much more at stake.

Legacy 

Legacy is impacted every year in the playoffs and even more in Game 7 scenarios, but tonight, more than ever, has the potential to have a shattering impact on the foreseeable future of the NBA.

Golden State

After winning 73-games in the regular season, it’s hard to imagine the Warriors being doubted in just about any scenario. But that’s just where the defending champions found themselves after four games of this series. The Warriors were starring down the barrel of a 3-1 deficit after watching both Durant and Westbrook go super-sayan mode through four games.

But in history defying fashion, the Warriors regrouped. They’ve taken two straight, one at home and one in Oklahoma City, and are big favorites to win Game 7 tonight. If the Warriors win tonight, they will have done something that only nine other NBA teams have ever done — overcome a 3-1 series deficit.

A second aspect from Golden State’s perspective: Do the Warriors have to win the championship to validate their 73-win regular season? This question has been discussed for months, but for the third time in three games — we might have the chance to find out. Old school ideology says yes. Others say winning 73 games is enough to crown them the greatest team of all-time. Just know that the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, much like the rest of us, will be eagerly watching tonight.

Oklahoma City

I can’t emphasize how much is at stake tonight for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder have the chance to bury the winningest regular season team in NBA History on the road. They have a chance to advance to the NBA Finals with two of the top five players on the planet in their primes. They have a chance to silence the doubters and do the impossible.

But more than that, and it pains me to even consider it — tonight, however likely or unlikely you believe it to be: This could be the last time we ever watch Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant play alongside each other. It’s hard to fathom how two of the top five players in the world could part ways on purpose, but that’s a distinct possibility if the Thunder lose tonight.

Going up 3-1 seemed like a God-send for Thunder, but if they finish the collapse tonight, I find it at the very least possible that Durant would consider going elsewhere. Thus would be the end of perhaps the most interesting teammate to teammate, contrasting personality to contrasting personality NBA tandem of our generation.

Aside from the theoretical Durant-Westbrook break-up on the horizon, Durant has a chance to etch his name in the stone of NBA greats.

Every NBA legend had a defining moment in their career where skeptics became believers and fans knew they had just watched something special. Tonight, Durant has the chance to do just that.

LeBron James had one of his defining moments in 2012 (against Durant and Westbrook) when he went for 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists to clinch his first title. Curry cemented his place in history after becoming the first unanimous MVP selection. Tonight, Durant has the chance to prove the skeptics wrong. He has a chance to do the unthinkable — defeat the 73-win Golden State Warriors on the road in The Oracle. He has a chance to become immortal.


I can’t believe that I’m actually typing this…

I think Oklahoma City will win. I don’t know why. Maybe the one-two punch of Westbrook and Durant will be too much for Golden State. Maybe OKC will out-scrap and out-physical the defending champs. Or maybe, just maybe, Durant will bury those fourth quarter/clutch-game demons, like LeBron once did, once and for all and ascend into NBA glory.

Tonight should be a rollercoaster. Let’s enjoy the ride.

 

 

The 2015-16 NBA “Stay Ready” All Stars

While watching Game 6 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors, I stopped watching so much of the game and let my mind wander. Between looking up to check the score and shuffling through Chance the Rapper’s new tape, an idea hit me: If I had to assemble an NBA team of players purely for fighting, who would/should I select?

Now, I can’t take total credit for this idea. My favorite ESPN personality, Bomani Jones, has coined the term *”Stay Ready” All Stars* quite a few times, and I found it hilarious every single time. The concept of “staying ready”, being that the players are constantly prepared for an altercation.

So, back to the original idea. I figured before I do this somewhat idiotic thing I should probably set some criteria for my team:

  • To be on this team, you must have been on an NBA roster during the 2015-16 season. Also, you must always be ready for a fight, thus the name “Stay Ready”.
  • Secondly, you must have gotten in a “fight”, “altercation”, “shoving match” or threatened to “kick someone’s a–” during an NBA game. (Or, you could just act like you always want to fight people during games…because I appreciate that, too.)
  • Thirdly and most importantly, if I was in a hypothetical scenario (whether we were teammates, outside a bar a few drinks deep, or perhaps I was in a bare-knuckle, highly-illegal boxing operation in Tijuana) I have to trust you in said fight. So, what I mean is, I’ve got to want you on my side of said fight.
  • Fourthly (official/unofficial rule), I may or may not have included someone (or a pair of brothers) on this list because they pulled up on someone away from the court and tried to throw hands. I find that amusing. So, if you did something like that and I thought it was funny, I probably included you on this list.

Okay, here it is.

2015-16 Stay Ready All Stars


Player/Coach: Stephen Jackson

I mean, this was a pretty easy choice. Stephen Jackson is the epitome of what the Stay Ready All Stars set out to embody. These particular list of NBA marksmen set out to be legends at the bank and legends with their hands. But seriously, I mean, Stephen Jackson squared up on the entire Detroit Pistons team, anyone within a 13-mile radius of Auburn Hills on November 19, 2004 and if you ask me, was probably prepared to fight a full factory of automobile workers on that particular night. He even went so far to carry out this legacy after this playing days. While being a correspondent on ESPN’s NBA show “The Jump”,  regarding the D’Angelo Russell cell phone leak, he went so far to say “snitches get stitches”. He’s bout that action, boss.

THE ENTIRE 2015-16 MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES ROSTER

Tony Allen. Chris “Birdman” Andersen. Matt Barnes (Which, whooo…I’ll get to later). Zach Randolph. Lance Stephenson.

Need I say more? Never before has there been a better assembled collection of heavy hitters ready to go to fisticuffs at the drop of a hat. This is hands down the grimiest and most physical team in the NBA. Hell, they play in a building called THE GRINDHOUSE. That should carry some weight here. I’d be willing to bet the 2015-16 Grizzlies could beat up the Justice League in a street fight. Plus, they used to be coached by Lionel Hollins. That guy is the scariest coach in the league. Also, they play in the city of Memphis. Which — if you’ve never been to Memphis — is the embodiment of staying ready.

Team Captain: Matt Barnes

Where do you even start with this guy? How about here: Before writing this, I wanted to see how many fights involving Matt Barnes I could find on YouTube. I found eight instances during an NBA game where Matt Barnes either: a) repeatedly cursed at the guy he was guarding or who was guarding him (wait, he does that every game…) b) pushed some guy after a play c) attempted to punch or successfully punched someone  d) pretended to throw the ball at someone’s head during an inbound play. Matt Barnes is as much guerrilla henchman as he is basketball player.

Important side note: While on this Matt Barnes fight YouTube quest, I found a video of Matt Barnes fighting an amateur street baller during a San Francisco Pro-Am game in 2011. Apparently, the guy elbowed and pushed Barnes, which in retrospect, seems like a very bad idea. Barnes was quoted as saying, “People just think they can talk any way or do anything to … me. You can’t. You can’t do that, ’cause you know people are men out here. So if you think you’re going to come out here and punk someone, that s— ain’t happening.”

I’m all in favor of Matt Barnes being a menace on the court. Oh yeah, let’s not forget about how he also drove 40 miles and ran up on then Knicks head coach Derrick Fisher because Fisher was playing house with Barnes’ ex-wife and kids. What I wouldn’t give to have been a fly on that wall.

Caron Butler

Caron Butler has an autobiography out titled: TUFF JUICE: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA. Yep, that’s about all I need to know about Butler. Butler was a successful player for a number of years, but even while his game has deteriorated…he’s always ready to act TUFF.

Udonis Haslem

Udonis Haslem — (damn, I just realized to have the name Udonis and not be eternally given swirlies and/or nicknamed Captain Underpants, you had better be a bad a–) —  has been THE Dwyane Wade and LeBron James bodyguard for as long as I can remember. Udonis aka the Cornrow Disciple is a classic NBA enforcer who never backs down from a fight. I used to love watching him mouth “Imma whoop your a–” to opponents from the bench. I want Haslem to be my personal bodyguard. Here is the time he and one of the other OG’s, (and fellow Stay Ready All Star member) David West, almost threw hands.

Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace aka the dude who drank Henny at halftime of games

The artist formerly known as Ron Artest once climbed in the stands and beat up someone for hitting him with a beer during a basketball game.

Oh yeah, a little known detail about that particular instance of staying ready, he actually beat up the wrong guy. An even lesser known detail about the Malice at the Palace, immediately following the chaos, while in the locker room, Artest asked a teammate whether he thought they might get fined for what transpired that night.

Artest uttered the following statement out loud: ‘Hey, do you think we are going to get fined?’…his teammate, Anthony Johnson said, [Expletive] a fine, Ron. They are going to suspend us.’ Arrest responded saying, ‘Oh man, you think they’re going to suspend us? I don’t want to be suspended.’

He got suspended 86 games, which is the largest suspension in NBA history. This gives him eternal status as a member of the Stay Ready All Stars.

Ironically, the same guy who fought a fan is now named Metta World Peace. So, do with that what you will.

Tony Allen

First and foremost, his nickname is The Grindfather. I’ll be damned if that isn’t one of the best nicknames I’ve ever heard. I think Don Corleone would pay his respects to Allen if he could. Aside from that, once during a game against the Warriors, Allen stole the ball and yelled, “First Team All Defense”. His display of authoritative and demonstrative confidence was amazing to watch.  The only thing that he could’ve said there that would’ve been better than that would be, “First Team Stay Ready”.

Perhaps the best part of Tony Allen (regarding his stay ready-ness) is that he once reportedly punched his own teammate over gambling debt from a card game called “Boo-Yah”. Man, if that isn’t staying ready I don’t know what is. Allen reportedly punched O.J. Mayo on a flight back from L.A. and left Mayo with a significantly swollen face. He also broke someone’s eye socket outside a restaurant in Chicago. Yeah, Allen is nice with the hands.

David West

David West is another one of those enforcers I became familiar with during my adolescence. When it pertains to keeping people in check on the court, West is a don. As I linked in the Haslem blurb, West doesn’t back down from anyone…not even a guy with cornrows named Udonis. West appears to be a very quiet guy, but never backs down from a fight.

Perhaps the funniest thing I read about David West: David West loves boxing. He loves watching and analyzing fights. He also stays in shape by boxing. Which, I don’t know about you, but someone that large that can box — watch out. Also, while playing in New Orleans, he told a reporter that his best off-court attribute was his left hook. Yep, he stays ready.

Marcus and Markieff Morris aka the Morris Twins

I know what you’re wondering…why did I include the Morris twins? I know, they don’t have the on-court credibility that the rest of the guys have. To that, I say you’re right. But the Morris twins did reportedly pull up on a guy they thought was sexting their mother. In fact, they beat the “mother lover” (for lack of a better term) two different times. As a matter of fact, they fled the scene in their own Rolls Royce Phantom. Come on guys, it doesn’t take a genius to know that you shouldn’t pull up a guy in your own car. Especially when it’s a Rolls Royce Phantom. If pulling up on a sexting culprit doesn’t scream say ready, I’m not sure what does.

Steven Adams aka The Toof

I’ll be honest, I have this weird obsession with Steven Adams. I’m not sure exactly what it is. Perhaps it’s his mustache that would make Tom Selleck jealous. Perhaps it’s his long, flowing hair. Perhaps it’s his tribal tattoo or the fact that he’s actually good at basketball. OR, perhaps it’s the fact that can’t feel pain. Seriously, one time Zach Randolph punched him in the head and it didn’t phase him. Plus, he gets under every single opposing big man’s head. I love it. He’s a New Zealand icon and last night, he dunked on Draymond Green’s entire bloodline.

The nickname The TOOF, which again, originated from Bomani Jones, is because he has a gold tooth. Steven Adams is a Mongolian warlord and menacing marauder all rolled into one. In fact, he’s the one NBA player I would select if I needed an ally in a fight.

Zach Randolph

Randolph is perhaps the craftiest player in the NBA. He has an irregular body shape, he can’t jump, he has small hands, yet, he’s become a force in the league. And for a while, he was a force off the court, too. He played with the notorious “Jailblazers” and was a part of a less than ideal culture while in Portland. In fact, he even punched then teammate Ruben Patterson during a 2003 practice. It is even rumored that he threatened to beat a guy with a pool stick over some gambling debt during his early days in Memphis.

All in all, I love Randolph. Randolph is a fun player to watch and he’s always ready to play. He’s also always ready for a fight.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett is the old head of the group. Garnett is by far the most intimidating player in the NBA. I mean, come on. The guy head butts the basketball hoop stand before games. He’s crazy. Speaking of crazy, he was once forced to sit out of a practice in Minnesota for rest purposes, but instead of resting, he practiced in place on the sidelines for the entirety of practice. That’s dedication.

Garnett head butted Dwight Howard once and it was awesome.Seriously, Garnett would’ve destroyed Howard. For all of KG’s antics and intimidation, he has earned a spot on the Stay Ready All Stars.

Kobe Bryant

This selection might cause a bit of controversy. I realize that a lot of people don’t think fighting when they think of Kobe Bryant, but hear me out. Bryant is crazy enough to go after anyone. Actually, he did go after just about anyone.

Here is a montage of Bryant beefing with guys over the years. I have two favorites from this group. The first — when he didn’t flinch from Matt Barnes pretending to throw the ball at his face. The second — man, he fought Reggie Miller at the end of the game and ended up pinning him against the score’s table. That’s epic. It’ll be weird not seeing The Mamba next year, but at least we have all of his stay ready moments.

Well, I just now realized that I wrote over 2,000 words about people in the NBA that I think are good at fighting. This is really what life has come to. Anyways, I’ll leave you with this:

Like the “Godfather of Soul”, James Brown, once said, “If you stay ready, then you aint gotta get ready.”

 

 

 

The Boston Celtics draft lottery curse is real, but may be over soon

The Boston Celtics draft lottery curse is real. There’s really no denying it.

After defeating the Houston Rockets in six games during the 1986 NBA Finals, the Celtics were on top of the world. Finals MVP Larry Bird nearly averaged a triple double in the series (24.0, 9.7, 9.5) and had outgunned a Hakeem Olajuwon led Rockets team to capture the 16th championship in franchise history.

Following their championship season —  and a trade that sent Gerald Henderson Sr. to the Seattle SuperSonics — the Celtics held the second pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. That draft, which is now widely regarded as the most troubled draft of all-time, featured a nice crop of talent at the top.

Names like Brad Daugherty (No. 1 overall to Cleveland), Chuck “The Rifleman” Person (No. 4 to Indiana) and John Salley (No. 11 to Detroit), highlighted that draft class. But the most infamous name of the group, to this day, is Len Bias.

Len Bias, a 6-foot-8 perimeter player from the University of Maryland, was pegged to be a superstar, but died from a cocaine overdose just two days later after being drafted second overall by the Celtics.

His death shook the country, and was the first installment of the Celtics’ draft woes.

The second installment came eleven years later in 1997. During the 1996-97 season, the Celtics amassed the second worst record at 15-67, behind only the league’s newest expansion team, the Vancouver Grizzlies.

The ping-pong balls didn’t bounce the Celtics way, once again, and they were saddled with the third pick in the draft. This was normally considered a pretty good position, but not this year…not when Tim Duncan was at the top of every draft board.

Both the Celtics and their fans dreamed of acquiring Duncan, who is now considered the best power forward to ever play the game, during the 1997 draft. But as luck would have it, the Spurs landed the top spot.

After learning of their fate, the Celtics attempted to offer a king’s ransom for the rights to draft Duncan, but it was to no avail. Former Celtics coach M.L. Carr was asked about the trade proposal for Duncan and said, “Popovich wouldn’t give up Time Duncan for those two picks, your next five picks, the revenue for the Mass. Pike for the next 50 years, the John Hancock Building, and half of the city of Boston.”

The Celtics went on to draft Chauncey Billups at no. 3. Billups played just 51 games for the C’s after clashing with Rick Pitino and was quickly traded.

But tonight, there’s hope. There’s hope that the Celtics can reverse the one major blemish on a storied franchise — lottery luck.

Fans are clamoring for the team’s chance to land the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft. There’s two players at the top of the big boards — Ben Simmons of LSU and Brandon Ingram of Duke — who could be poised to take the league by storm.

These two fabulous freshman have showed glimpses of star power. Simmons’ passing ability has drawn comparisons to Magic Johnson’s ability to distribute, while Ingram’s lengthy frame and offensive ability has teams dreaming of Kevin Durant 2.0.

There is a debate on which should go No. 1, but the once consensus is that they should go one-two in this year’s draft. Therefore, if the Celtics hope to snag Simmons or Ingram, they’ll need to be at the top of the board.

The Celtics have a 15.6% chance to pick first and a 31.3% chance to pick second. While the C’s made the playoff this season, this year’s picks came courtesy of a 2013 trade with the Brooklyn Nets. That trade, which is absolutely dreadful in retrospect, sent Celtics legends Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (along with Jason Terry and D.J. White) to Brooklyn, while the C’s received five players, three first round picks (2014, 2016, 2018) and the right to swap picks in 2017.

15.6% and 31.3% —  those odds are good. But as history has shown, it’s never a guarantee. Boston has young, up-start roster, a bounty of picks in the future and a rising star of a head coach in Brad Stevens.

Boston is poised for a big offseason, regardless of where the ping-pong balls land tonight. But for Boston’s sake, I’m sure Danny Ainge hopes the luck of the Irish will come out tonight.

Kevin Sumlin made his bed, now he must lie in it

Now that the dust of Christmas Day has settled and bowl season is approaching over-drive mode, its time to examine something that I’ve been particularly interested in for the past week and a half: the state of the Texas A&M football program and what that means for Head Coach Kevin Sumlin.

The Aggies have made national news the in recent weeks, despite not playing a game since Nov. 28. On Dec. 10 sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen, a former five-star recruit, announced his plans to transfer from Texas A&M. Just days later, freshman quarterback Kyler Murray, a former four-star recruit, announced his intentions to leave College Station. Both players split at time the quarterback position throughout the season, with Allen starting nine of twelve games.

Allen’s announcement to transfer, however surprising, came without drama and was perhaps thought to be a blessing, allowing Murray to presumptively taking the reigns at quarterback permanently. But Murray’s transfer announcement, which left A&M with just one quarterback for their upcoming bowl game against Louisville, brought on a barrage of confusion, rumors and outrage throughout message boards and the Twitter-sphere.

The bizarre and startling transfer announcement from Allen accompanied a story about Allen and his father, Kevin Murray, a former standout quarterback for the Aggies during the mid-80’s, having a sit down meeting with Coach Sumlin, which culminated in Murray deciding to follow through with the transfer.

Now, you might be asking: What’s the big deal? A couple of kids decide to transfer, that happens all the time. If A&M can recruit these four and five star guys, they’ll just get a few more, right?

This may be true. Since Sumlin’s arrival at Texas A&M the Aggies have shown they have the ability to recruit. Not only recruit, but also recruit elite quarterback talent. That’s never been the issue. The issue? Keeping that talent.

The Aggies have officially lost three four/five-star quarterbacks in the past two seasons due to transfer. Kenny Hill, also known as “Kenny Trill”, decided to transfer after the 2014 season and will compete for the staring job at TCU after sitting out the 2015 season. With the departures of Allen and Murray, this leaves Texas A&M with a full-blown quarterback crisis.

A few questions remain, though. Why did this happen? Is this a mere coincidence, or is this a deeper-rooted issue with the A&M football program as a whole? Or, is this a Kevin Sumlin issue?

I believe it s a little bit of both.

What happened?

There are three specific reasons that A&M is in this predicament.

First off, Texas A&M shouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. Kevin Sumlin should have struck while the iron is hot and taken a better job after the 2013 season. I think Texas A&M has peaked, as far as their ability to succeed and grow as a national brand. Sumlin has helped propel A&M to heights most never thought they’d reach after making the move to the SEC, but after a decline in wins the past couple of years I think its fair to say they might have hit their ceiling.

Secondly, Kevin Sumlin simply over-recruited. I understand that with the ever-changing tides of college football, that it’s necessary to keep a pantry full of able players. With that being said, quarterbacks have egos. Especially the highly touted four and five star quarterbacks that have been told they’re special their entire life.

The surplus of four/five-star quarterbacks at A&M divided the locker room and made it difficult for Sumlin and the rest of the Aggies to settle on one guy. Ultimately, this led to both players being unhappy and deciding to transfer.

Perhaps the most damning part of this situation is the alleged broken promises on Kevin Sumlin’s end. These broken promises in-part led to both Allen and Murray being unhappy. Look, I’m not naïve. I realize that college coaches promise all sorts of things, all the time. But here’s the thing, you can’t promise that two quarterbacks are going to be “the guy”. The quarterback position is unique in that only one guy can be “the guy”. Sumlin promised to hand both guys the keys to the proverbial “car” and they both wrecked that car. Now Sumlin is left to pick up the pieces.

What now?

This decline in victories, accompanied with the transfers of top-tier talent has cast Kevin Sumlin in a negative light and now, apparently, has him in hot water.

According to Chip Brown of Horns Digest, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp “is unhappy with the direction of the program and is working to terminate (Sumlin’s) contract.”

Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reported Sharp refuted a report by Horns Digest claiming he was exploring the possibility of firing Sumlin. Sharp called the claims a “fairy tale” and “completely false”, saying they could be “out of imagination” of the reporter.

Regardless of whether Sharp has seriously explored the possibility of firing Sumlin, its clear that the Sumlin’s seat has gotten hotter in College Station.

Aside from the difficulty of relieving any head coach of their duties, Sumlin’s case is sure to be especially difficult. Sumlin signed a six-year, 30 million-dollar contract in 2013 (effective Jan. 1, 2014) and his contract in particular contains unique stipulations.

Sumlin’s deal includes buyout provisions that would result in Sumlin being paid all of the money remaining on his contract if he was fired without cause at any point in the deal. As soon as Chip Brown reported the news about Sharp being unhappy with Sumlin and the direction of the program, new reports from Sumlin’s camp surfaced about the potential legal battle that would ensue if Sumlin were fired without cause.

This all means it would be extremely difficult (and likely messy) to fire Sumlin.

So, what does this all mean?

Well, Aggie faithful can look at their current situation with a glass half-full or glass half-empty approach.

The first being that A&M just cleansed themselves of two quarterbacks that never seemed truly comfortable and failed to flourish in their second and first year, respectfully. This newfound hole at the quarterback position opens the door for a potential graduate transfer, like former Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight. Knight is already rumored to be interested in A&M and would be eligible to play right away next season. This could be a nice stepping-stone before verbal-commit No. 1 ranked QB Tate Martell can arrive in College Station and hopefully be the quarterback for the future.

The second way to look at their current situation: Texas A&M just lost two highly touted quarterbacks that in a way, be-smirched the program and the validity of the head coach in the process. A&M also has a head coach with a fairly new deal that seems near impossible to navigate around. Oh yeah, let’s not forget that the Aggies still play in the SEC and the SEC West. To top it all off, for the time being, Texas A&M will be rolling into the Music City Bowl against Louisville with one quarterback that has little to no experience.

Without a doubt, this will be a situation to keep an eye on in both the coming months and years. A lot of eyes will be on the Aggies and Kevin Sumlin during the 2016 season.