Not All Heroes Play On the Perimeter

We are about a week into this year’s NBA season and all we have heard leading up to opening day was the birth of “positionless basketball”, how the big man is obsolete and small ball is the only way. If there is anything these first few weeks have made abundantly clear it’s that big men are far from out of style in today’s league and when you’ve got the right one there will always be a place on the roster for a big body.

Rockets vs Pelicans
Anthony Davis doesn’t get much airtime given the market that he is in but this week he made sure to take full advantage while he had the spotlight. This offseason Davis made it known that he plans to do what he has to so that he can make sure his name is in the conversation when talking about the top players in the league. Davis has always been a great player and a versatile one as well and it showed as they silenced the crowd very early in the Toyota Center. Houston is a prime example of a team that is leaning towards the positionless/small ball approach to the game. After not retaining players like Luc Mbah a Moute as well as Trevor Ariza Houston was clearly shifting to a style of play that more readily matches up with teams that will run lineups on the smaller side. For a player as well versed on the low block as Anthony Davis that aint gonna cut it. Being without a true post defender allowed for Davis to score 32 points and grab 16 rebounds to go along with his career high 8 assists. The Clint Capela and PJ Tuckers of the world didn’t prove enough to stop AD from getting his even though they are what Houston will rely on as their “post” defenders. Now after watching the game or even if you know just how much Davis works to have a truly all around game you might be asking of that 32 how many were outside shots which in turn would somewhat kill the argument. The answer to that question is less than you think. Davis didn’t take any threes against Houston and only 6 of his points came from the free throw line. And while anyone could be susceptible to giving up 30 to AD another red flag that post defense was an issue was the fact that Julius Randle scored 20+ points as well. Generally speaking Randle will probably average around 12 or 18 points on the year and for an undersized forward he does a great job playing bigger than he is; this does however go to show how a post player with solid feetwork and moves around the basket can cause problems for a team that isn’t equipped to defend against it.

Suns vs Mavs
For the Dallas/Phoenix opener we got our first look at the Suns top pick Deandre Ayton and he did anything but disappoint. Over the course of 36 minutes Ayton must have thought he was on an episode of Shark Tank because he was giving Dallas the business. 18 points 10 rebounds and 6 assists was the stat line for him as he recorded a double double in his first ever NBA game. Dallas has their own 7 footer of sorts in Deandre Jordan (no relation) but as a big man who has made a career on nothing more than blocking shots at the rim and catching alley oops, running into a big man with a mid range game nullified that defensive capability relatively quickly. Dallas had more height that on paper should have been able to stifle some of Ayton’s abilities but in just one game he has shown that he is going to be one of the top and dominant big men in the near future. Offensively he played a very efficient game shooting 72% as well as having the capacity to find open teammates on the floor. With the ease he was able to score when he had the ball in the post and around the elbow it won’t be long before he starts to see double teams regularly; having the ability to pass out of doubles to guys on the perimeter like Booker and Ariza will only add to just how integral he is going to become to this Phoenix team. Right now it still is heavily centered around Booker and while that will never change as he finds a rhythm it will allow for some of the workload to be taken off of Booker and give some of the shine to Ayton as well. The Phoenix offense could easily go through Ayton in the post as he scores and finds his shooters for a one-two punch that could be pretty scary.

Sixers vs Bulls
Now this game was more of an example of two teams who generally are going to have big men on the floor. Philly has Embiid while Chicago will have Markkanen when he is healthy both 7 footers and both major pieces to how these teams play. However Markkanen was out this game and Chicago was forced to run a slightly smaller lineup that what they normally would. Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker were the big men on the floor with Parker doing his best attempt at a Ben Simmons impersonation running point forward. Yes it was by design and yes it was as gross as that virgin couple that got married and kissed for the first time on TLC (I dare you not to google it). Embiid had a field day and did what he does to most teams with 30 points and 12 rebounds. The Celtics are one team that with the eye test seem to have his number but the box score says differently as he had 23 pts and 10 reb in the season opener but they are able to do even that because they have big men like Aron Baynes and undersized bigs who play taller than they are like Al Horford. Even with as great of a job as they do when push comes to shove its hard to stop the 7 footer from getting what he wants offensively.

Blazers vs Lakers
This matchup was a unique one, it is well known that the Lakers are slimmer than an iPhone when it comes to their depth at center. McGee is their only true big man and his asthma has put him on minute restrictions which limits the length of time he can be on the floor (especially with the fast pace that the Lakers are dead set on running at). The gimmick the Laker coaching staff has decided to go with is using Kuzma and LeBron as that low defender which was exposed against Portland on their opening night. Portland is a unique situation compared to the other teams and their big men that we have discussed. The reason being that the Blazers don’t have any true dominant post player, they were able to dominate in the paint through throwing average to above average post players at their opponent. Seeing Zach Collins come in and be able to record points, rebound and blocks against a team so much his senior was testament to the notion that big men are necessary on every roster. If I’m a Laker fan my hope is the Mo Wagner can come back and help lighten the load for James and Kuzma down low because at the moment the frontcourt defense is not going according to plan.

One thing that is going to come to light this year is that the teams that are lacking a solid post player or at a minimum true post defender are going suffer. While the Jokic and Davis’ of the world might bring down the overall speed of how a team plays they bring an invaluable asset to their team. Even Detroit who has Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond in their lineup is currently undefeated as they have been able to use their size (and their opponent’s lack of it) to their advantage. Small ball and the new craze with positionless basketball will have its place in the NBA from here on there is no questioning that, but it will not overtake how the entire game is played. Think of it as running a wishbone offense or the wildcat in football; there are a few teams that run it and you gameplan accordingly but it is not a style that every team is going to adopt. Right now we are seeing the emergence of the next wave of dominant big men which don’t come along as frequently as great guards do so there can be down years. So while every team may not have a 7 foot big man to protect the rim and score around the basket every team better account for their opponent having one. Any team with a Anthony Davis or a Deandre Ayton would be foolish to not take full advantage of what they can do with their back to the basket as well as everything else. The game may speed up as time goes on but it will always slow down to pay homage to those big men who are skilled in the post.

Week 8: 5 Games to Watch

Rundown for week 8 features some great match ups to plan your day around.

Make sure you listen to Carress’ Corner to get your locks this weekend.

Five Games at five different time slots:

1.  (6) Michigan -7 at (24) Michigan state                                        12:00 FOX

Michigan State is coming off a huge win over Penn State, while Michigan has been rolling since their home opener, this game doesn’t just have implications for the BIG 10 but for the greater college football playoff picture. Early games do not get much better than this match up as an exciting Michigan offense sees if it can keep momentum in East Lansing.

2. (16) NC State at (3) Clemson -17.5                                                   3:30 ESPN

Clemson looks to keep punishing ACC opponents and this game looks to be no different. Enjoying a bye week last week, Clemson watched as 4 top 8 teams suffered losses. The Tigers should be rejuvenated against a likely draft pick at quarterback in Ryan Finley. He has been efficient this year and looks to continue his impressive campaign today at Clemson.

3. (22) Mississippi State at (5) LSU -6.5                                                7:00 ESPN

The Tigers were crushed by the bulldogs last year 37-7. LSU will be looking for revenge, but more importantly to keep momentum. Coming off a great win against Georgia last week the Tigers are playing their 8th straight game and will look to overcome fatigue in this prime-time pairing.

4.  (12) Oregon at (25) Washington State -3                                         7:30 FOX

A home game for Washington State and making them a favorite against the best team in the PAC-12, Oregon. The Cougars have an impressive 5-1 record but with wins coming against Wyoming, San Jose State, Eastern Washington, Utah and Oregon State. Nothing to write home about. Look for Oregon to put up big points in a high scoring game out West.

5. Arizona at UCLA  -8                                                                                 10:30 ESPN 2 

Arizona has been disappointing, as Khalil Tate has been injured from the first game of the season. UCLA finally won a game last week and Chip Kelly hopes he can get this team going in the right direction. Rich Rodriguez’s son, Rhett Rodriguez, will get his first collegiate start at quarterback this weekend. Both defenses in this game are lackluster as both teams have struggled. This game doesn’t feature the best teams, but never sleep on #PAC12afterdark

Wet Like I’m Book

Drake’s prophetic shout out to Devin Booker on the track Sicko Mode seemingly put the league on notice this summer. Yes, he signed a max rookie extension this off-season, yes he won the three point shooting contest last year, but the combination of a hand injury and poor play from the Phoenix Suns lately may have casual NBA fans sleeping on Devin Booker and his potential All-Star campaign this year. Deductions made from opening night may seem hasty, but with Igor Kokoškov putting the ball in Devin Bookers hands during the last 5 minutes of the game, Booker caught fire and closed the 4th quarter scoring 19 points. Booker’s scoring has never been questioned it has been his intensity and defense. While the verdict is still out on Booker’s defense, his intensity and scoring cannot be questioned.

September 10th the Suns announced Booker needed hand surgery with an estimated recovery time of 6 weeks. September 10th seems like years ago based on Booker’s performance tonight. Devin Booker made a statement on the ESPN late game, on a night that was meant for Doncic vs Ayton (Ayton outplayed Doncic who needs a consistent three-point shot). For the first time in 4 years the Suns look poised to improve and have a leader in Igor who knows how to put his best players in positions to succeed. Coach Kokoškov has built an offense with screens at the top of the key, on the blocks and wheel motions allowing players like Josh Jackson to come down hill off hand-offs or screens and creating open shots for shooters like Trevor Ariza and Devin Booker with flares to the corner for threes. To put things in perspective the Suns have already eclipsed last years mark of three-pointers in a single game with 19. The Suns won’t win a championship any time soon, but they have an identity now that starts with Devin Booker controlling the keys to the offense and wings that can shoot and play defense.

Booker finished with 35 points and 7 assists, an impressive line for someone who had been limited in practice coming into the week. During the summer some argued that Devin Booker was a good stat on a bad team guy. Rationalizing that someone had to score on abysmal Suns teams; moreover, a 70-point outburst against the Celtics gave naysayers ammunition. His teammates were actively looking to get him points at the sacrifice of the Suns winning the game. The Suns haven’t been playing for much since Booker was drafted unless you count tanking for the lottery, with win totals hovering in the 20s: 2015-2016 23 wins, 2016-2017 24 wins and 2017-2018 21 wins. Things seem to be coming together for a Suns team: a new coach, a reliable center drafted with the number one pick and Devin Booker leading 3-point barrages.

booker playmake.PNG

Booker finding space for a three pointer off a pick from Ayton in Igors offense consistently worked.

Booker made 6/10 from the three-point line and finished 12/19 from the field. He didn’t force threes and consistently found the open shooter, highlighted by his passes to Ariza and Josh Jackson late in the fourth quarter. A lineup featuring Booker at the point, Jackson at the two, Ariza, Warren and Ayton has the length and ability to switch in any situation as all the players are over 6’6”. With shooters flanking his sides and devastating finishing ability of DeAndre Ayton, Devin Booker has room to create his own shot, dish it to Ayton on the block or find the open shooter. This newfound freedom highlights Bookers 3-point shooting and displayed his play-making prowess. If TJ Warren has truly found his 3-point stroke and Josh Jackson can consistently hit jumpers, Bookers ability to be a play-maker should burgeon during the season.

Bookers night was not flawless as his got into foul trouble in the third quarter; however, this break may have been the reason for his 4th quarter scoring. A consistent effort on defense will be paramount for Devin Booker continued progression. Starting Isiah Canaan worked well tonight, but ideally the Suns can add a bigger more defensive minded guard in the future to help augment Devin Booker’s defensive shortfalls. Keep in mind Devin Booker is doing all of this at the age of 21.  For now we can enjoy the impressive shooting of Devin Booker.

One game into the NBA season makes it easy to scoff at Devin Booker’s performance against an undermanned and seemingly lackadaisical Mavericks team. But the Suns are above .500 for the first time since Nov. 23 2015.

Drake sported a Devin Booker high school jersey at a concert earlier this year.  Drake is aboard the Devin Booker hype train and you should be too.

Instant Reaction: Celtics and Sixers

Instant over-reactions from Celtics (105) – Sixers (87).

Jayson Tatum led the way for the Celtics with 23 points and nine rebounds, and the Celtics beat the 76ers 105-87.  The Celtics dominated the Sixers on opening night.  Embiid is right, it’s not a rivalry – the Celtics are way better than the Sixers.

A couple of quick notes:

Celtics:  The Celtics are going to lead the league in wins this year.  The Celtics are DEEP – they they have nine guys that can give them quality minutes.  They dominated last night’s game even with off nights from Kyrie and Hayward.  This team is going to be a ton of fun to watch this year.  My biggest question for them is who gets the ball in crunch time?  It’s going to be Kyrie.  He’s proven it on the biggest stage but are we sure it shouldn’t he Tatum?  Must be nice.

Sixers:  Who do the Sixers go to when they need a basket?  Embiid is obviously their guy but what about on nights he’s not feeling it?  Horford did an excellent job on Embiid last night (he always does).  They don’t have a single guy on that team, besides Embiid, that can create his own shot.  That worries me, especially come playoff time.  The Sixers bench is going to be awful this year (Reddick needs to start over Fultz).  Hopefully Wilson Chandler can provide some quality minutes when he returns from injury.

Markelle Fultz:  What the hell is wrong with him? It was painful to watch him out there last night.  It’s so obvious that he’s only comfortable shooting from one spot on the floor -the top of the key.  The Sixers can’t play Simmons and Fultz together; neither can shoot and it’s obvious the Sixers struggle with the two of them together on the court.  Fultz finished the night with a +/- of -16 last night, the worst on the team.  I’m officially worried about Markelle Fultz.

Kyrie Irving:  Kyrie finished with only 7 points last night, shooting 2-14 from the floor.  You can tell Kyrie was going through the motions last night.  We didn’t see his typical dribble – crossover finish at the cup once last night.  To be honest,  I didn’t even notice Kyrie out there last night.   I know that he’s played in big time games but its opening night.  He should be up for opening night, especially after a six month layoff.  It’s obviously an overreaction but Kyrie looked disinterested for most of the night.  Are we sure Kyrie is going to stay in Boston?

Jayson Tatum:  Mfer is a  superstar.  I’m going to say it, Tatum has a CHANCE to be a top three player in the league.

Jaylen Brown:  He didn’t dunk on Embiid – everyone calm down.

Instant Reaction: Thunder and Warriors

Russell Westbrook slowly put his sunglasses on after a Schroder 3 pointer airballed in the 4th quarter and with it went the chances of OKC upsetting the Warriors at home. A dose of reality that OKC is not a complete team right now. A competitive game and heroic effort by PG13 in the second half couldn’t overcome Steph and the Warriors.

PG13 and Schroder combined for 48 points while KD and Steph went for 59 points.  PG13 needed more help.

Turnovers plagued the Warriors especially in a sloppy third quarter where everything seemingly went right for the surging Thunder. However, with only Paul George having the ability to create his own shot at the end, the Thunder could not muster up enough points to win. The Warriors had a slight hangover from their Championship ceremony. OKC and Golden State will meet again in March.

Quick Notes

Damian Jones looks like a serviceable starter for Golden State filling the role of McGee of setting screens and playing solid defense, with some impressive put backs in this game. In 27 minutes he had 12 points and made 6/7 field goals.

Klay Thompson shot an abysmal 1-8 from 3 which won’t happen consistently. Some of the misses can be attributed to OKC defense, but it was really an off night for the all-star guard.

OKC defensive intensity was noteworthy down the stretch especially their ability to switch on screens and draw charges. Moreover Schroder looks like an underrated trade piece acquired this off-season.

While OKC lost the game their fans can find solace in the fact that their best offensive player Russell Westbrook and best defensive player Andre Roberson were not on the court tonight.


The Man Who’s About to Jump Start Detroit

Of all the coaching changes that took place this off season few were as big of a head scratcher as Toronto’s decision to get rid of Dwane Casey. We are talking a guy who had just won coach of the year and made it to the Eastern Conference Semi Finals where his team lost to LeBron. The general consensus is you don’t hold it against someone who loses in the playoffs to LeBron but Toronto felt it was time to go against common practice and take a new direction. Casey landed on his feet but some people might be thinking he landed barefoot into an underground fecal fountain with his new job being the head coach of the Detroit Pistons. I’d say they don’t know Dwane.

The situation in Detroit going into the season isn’t what most coaches would call ideal. The roster is a unique one as the center pieces are Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. To the new age basketball hipsters who say “you can’t play basketball with pieces like these anymore” to those knuckleheads I say there is plenty of room for a little Lord of the Rings offense a.k.a. Two Towers. Now, while there is a place for this style of play, Detroit’s ride to this genre of basketball seems to have two flats and a bad transmission but it is a misdiagnosis. The possibilities with Griffin and Drummond are well known but there is a need for the right pieces to be around them to make that lineup work. Generally speaking the supporting roster looks a lot like the Island of Misfit Toys but the only thing that is missing is their own personal Rudolph. The Pistons picked up a couple of guards in the 2nd round of the draft from Creighton and Miami but this team needs free agent help to make the immediate splash they are looking for. Bad news is it ain’t gonna happen. The Pistons currently have all but 6.2% of their cap tied up in contracts with Griffin, Drummond, Jackson and wait for it…Jon Leuer taking up the majority of the cap space. All of that to say that the team Detroit currently has is the team Detroit is going to have.

Casey is coming into a roster that hasn’t changed and went 39-43 last season. The record should make anyone cringe but let’s not forget we are talking about the Eastern Conference. Comparing East records to those in the West is like comparing dollars to rupees, one is worth more than the other. That particular win total had the Pistons right outside the playoffs in the 9th spot in the East and this luckily for Piston fans is familiar territory for Coach Casey. When Casey took over the Raptors in 2011 their previous year’s record was 22-60. Two years later Casey had them in the playoffs with a young Demar DeRozan, Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani. The good news is things aren’t that bleak in Motor City. Having not missed the playoffs since 2013 there is no reason to think that the Pistons won’t continue on his trend in April as the pieces are there. Griffin is still a top ten power forward in the league and having him for a full season this year (barring any injury) as opposed to just 25 games after the trade will help the win total greatly. Blake proved in L.A. that he can stretch the floor and post up when necessary making him a versatile scorer and defender. Drummond is also a top ten player at his position and he can control the paint on both ends of the floor just as well as some of the more well-known centers like Demarcus Cousins. When both are in the lineup it is hard not to argue that these two are one of the more dominant frontcourts in the NBA. Not being the biggest fan of Reggie Jackson this is the one area of concern in my analysis. It is a struggle to imagine him running an offense because I am pretty sure the pass button is broken on his controller. Somehow he was able to weasel his way into a 5 assist average this past season but I am not ruling out him hacking into NBA records to make that so. Reggie Jackson comes off as an above average backup point guard but Casey has been in situations similar to this in his Minnesota days. Casey was spoiled in Toronto with guards like Kyle Lowry and DeRozan but he made a backcourt full of reserves look serviceable while coaching the Timberwolves so he has the background necessary to lay out a plan to get his current guards to play on the level he has needed from his playoff caliber teams. One thing this Detroit team does have is a handful of young guards with potential to be major contributors. Luke Kennard and Stanley Johnson are two who will definitely see a boost in their play under Casey’s system. Adopting the style we have seen in Toronto for so many years is going to put them into more positions to succeed as they both thrive scoring from the perimeter through shooting and attacking the basket. Reggie Bullock is another player who will play a big role as we see Detroit extend their range this year, he was their most consistent shooter from 3 percentage wise and will be featured a great deal in Casey’s offense. Detroit was a little behind the eight ball the past couple of years finding themselves towards the bottom of the rankings in shots taken behind the arc. All signs are pointing to a complete 180 after the pre-season as well as what we know Casey historically likes to do on offense. For this team offense has been the issue in regards to getting over the hump and taking the next step as a constant playoff participant and Coach Casey has the track record that would lead us to believe he will be able to lift a team that finished 9th into one of the top 8 spots in the East.

We in part should be onboard with this coming to fruition because the new look Eastern Conference has seen the last of the banes of Dwane Casey’s existence. That’s right I’m talking about LeBron James. There are two things all the teams that have ever knocked Casey out of the playoffs have in common; they either had LeBron James or Paul Pierce on their roster. As of today Pierce is on The Jump and LeBron is two Southwest flights away in the Western Conference. No individual player with a history of sending him home is impeding his path to the Finals anymore. This is not to say the Pistons still don’t have their hands full. They are in the Central Division with the Pacers and Bucks and they still will have to see Boston, Philly and his old stomping grounds in Canada. Sure Casey is known for dominating in the regular season and teams like Boston and Philly aren’t going to scare him any because he spent the last six years in that division. His issues, and what probably played a role in his ousting in Toronto, is his playoff shortcomings. As many people know comparing a regular season gameplan and a playoff gameplan is like comparing times tables to quantum physics. Come playoff time your opponent has more time to find and exploit weaknesses as well as tweak their gameplan to put you at a disadvantage. Coaching in the playoffs is truly a chess match and a key component of these chess matches are adjustments, especially in game. This is one area where Casey has been suspected to have come up short in the past. With his new staff  that consists of a member of the Championship Dallas team and a veteran NBA assistant along with the numerous playoff games (both wins and losses) under his belt we are due to see some growth in his playoff acumen in the coming seasons.

The board is set for Casey and the Pistons to surprise the league with a jump in not only wins but also the Casey legacy with playoff success. Several coaches in the East are going to be looking to prove themselves this season and none more than Casey as he looks to justify his selection for Coach of the Year and instill regret in the Raptors Franchise  that let him go.

Basketball is Baaaaaaack

The NBA regular season is finally upon us. We made it.

Another exciting off-season comes to an end in dramatic fashion as four playoff teams meet tonight. Every team has hope. Some fans hope their team lose every game and get the first pick in the draft (R.J. Barrett whatup?) while other fans hope their team is a legit contender, how can an NBA fan not be happy today?

Opening night features two intriguing match-ups

First up is Philadelphia at Boston on TNT at 8 pm

This is a rematch from the second round playoff series that the 76ers improbably lost to the undermanned Celtics. A healthy Celtics team should strike fear in the heart of any Eastern Conference team. The 76ers stayed relatively pat this off-season and we will get to see if the new found confidence of Markelle Fultz translates to a live basketball game. Two things to watch for:

Will the Celtics be able to neutralize the elite passing ability of Ben Simmons like in the playoffs? 

Can Kyrie get everyone involved on a stacked Celtics roster? 

The Nightcap is Oklahoma City at Golden State on TNT at 1030pm 

The last time OKC took the court they were bounced by a less talented but more cohesive Jazz team. Golden State can’t be stopped unless they stop themselves. Until Roberson returns healthy, it will be hard for OKC to have the players to be an elite team in the West. The addition of Shroder is timely considering they will likely be without Russ on opening night. Golden State is favored in this early season match up, but don’t be surprised if these two team square off in the playoffs.                                                                   Two things to watch for:

Can Paul George keep this game close and go for his own triple double?

Will Golden State score 130 points tonight?


The first game is a better match-up on paper, but does anyone really care?


NBA Roundtable: 2019 Season Preview Edition

The NBA season is finally here!  Who will exceed expectations?  Who will fall short?  Who will win this years Finals?

Our “NBA experts” answer the big questions.

1. What are you looking forward to most this NBA season?


Killian: Drama: Is drama not the best part to every NBA season? There is no team sport in which we believe we actually know the players more than the NBA. LeBron is in LA, Jimmy Butler is bullying his teammates, Golden State is trying to make a permanent stamp in history, and that is just surface level. The NBA has the greatest grasp on its fans, of course the NFL has more viewers but the engagement NBA twitter is second to none. It is the easiest to follow each storyline, with fans being the content generators.

Arnold: The trade deadline/blow it up teams.  Does Jimmy Butler make it to the trade deadline ( I hope so)?  Where does he end up?  Does Portland finally blow it up and break up their Lillard – CJ backcourt?  What about Washington?  Do they breakup their Wall – Beal backcourt?  Does Charlotte finally trade Kemba Walker?  Do the Lakers say “eff it” and trade their young pieces for a star at the deadline (Hello Lillard)?  What about Detroit?  They can’t ride with a Blake – Drummond duo right?  You know what’s fun?  A Blake Griffin for CJ or Lillard trade.  Or what about a Beal for Blake trade?  SO MANY FUN POSSIBILITIES.

Tom: This season will be dominated by the chaos in LA with Lebron and dynastic talks of Golden State, but what we all should be focusing on is the Eastern conference. The 76ers stayed pat this off-season while the Celtics got stronger with two starters from injury. The burgeoning rivalry in theEast between the Celtics and 76ers but sprinkling in the Raptors who just need to go all in and trade for another star. Will Kyrie stay with the Celtics? Did the 76ers mess up by not adding another star? Can Kawhi still play at an elite level?

Coach Red: Without question a Post LeBron Eastern Conference is what I can’t wait to see. There are so many grown men who have had their lives ruined or caveated due to LeBron and now that he is no longer in the Eastern Conference coaches like Dwane Casey, Brad Stevens and Tyron Lue have no excuse. Dwane Casey was for years stifled at the hands of LeBron led teams and while his situation has changed as he is no longer in Toronto there should be a quick turn around in the next few years up in Detroit. Brad Stevens now has the ability to out basketball opposing teams now that the best in the league is no longer impeding his path to the Finals. If the Celtics don’t make it to the Finals there will definitely be dissention in the Stevens fan boy section as to whether he is the chosen one who will bring balance to the league. And Lue, Lue like every other coach who started with LeBron James on his roster will have this year to prove whether or not he can actually be considered a good coach. Brown and Blatt failed miserably but Spoelstra proved he was legit and now it is time for Lue to do the same. Is he truly a savant with in game adjustments and X’s and O’s or was it all just a façade with LeBron doing all the work behind a little red curtain? We gon see!!

2. Which team will exceed expectations?


Killian: I know I always sound like a homer, I will not say that they will make the playoffs but I believe the Cavs will beat their over/under by more games than  any team in the O/U range of 32-40. Not a smoking hot take in my opinion. They have experienced guys, that that experience winning. Of course, Bron not being there makes a massive difference (last time he left, they ended up with the #1 pick). I just believe that the shambles he left behind this time would kill the previous shambles.

Arnold: Toronto Raptors: Lebron is finally out of the Eastern Conference and no team is happier than the Raptors.  Toronto has won 50 plus games in three straight seasons and they just replaced Demar Derozan with Kawhi Leonard.  People  (including me) forget that Kawhi Leonard was a top-three player TWO years ago.  Toronto is DEEP, they have 10 guys that can give them quality minutes in the playoffs.  Most people are predicting a Sixers – Celtics ECF matchup.  I’m riding with the 6 and predicting a Celtics vs Raptors match-up  (Celtics in 7).  But don’t be surprised if you see Drake sitting court side at the 2019 NBA finals yelling at Kevin Durant.

Tom: The team most likely to exceed expectations will be the Washington Wiz… joking. The team will be the Thunder. Russ, PG13, Shroder, Roberson and Adams. OKC has the talent to play with anyone in the league. If Russ can keep himself from pounding the ball all game long OKC can make a jump. With a competent PG in Shroder playing beside him, Russ needs to play off of the ball. If Russ can control himself OKC can beat the Rockets and end the Golden State dynasty.

Coach Red: The Dallas Mavericks are going to be the team that catches everyone off guard. I think Vegas has them around 35 wins for the season and I think there is significant underestimation of their roster. Everyone is on board that the team will be fun to watch with Doncic and DSJ along with it being Dirk’s final year (most likely), but I believe with the versatility that we are going to be seeing from the way Carlisle uses Doncic at multiple positions to DSJ being used more off the ball as opposed to dribbling the leather off of it like last season they could easily finish in the top half of the Southwest.

3. Which team will fall short?


Killian: Sixers: Health will always be a question with this group of guys. Who is Fultz? There are too many questions with this team. I think that the Sixers fans believe this to be a 60 win team, but with health concerns, the loss of free agents, and the lack of additions, I can see things being delayed ANOTHER year.

Arnold: Philadelphia 76ers:  I just don’t trust that medical team.  Three (if you count Fultz) of their best players have suffered season ending injuries.  Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz all sat out their rookie year due to injury/who knows what.  And guess what, they just added another player in Zahier Smith to that list.  I just don’t trust or see Embiid/Simmons staying healthy enough.  Injures suck, hopefully Embiid and Simmons can stay healthy this year because I am officially done trusting the process.

Tom: By mid-season the Lakers will be floating around 20-18 and this is when Lebron will start having back-issues. He didn’t come to the Lakers to compete this season, but to see which young players were worth keeping until the Lakers go all in next season. Lebron will return to help salvage the Lakers season, but they will get bounced in the first round by OKC or the Rockets.

Coach Red: When looking at who isn’t going to live up to expectations I am definitely going with the Bucks. I am not sold on Giannis having the offensive tools to be a true superstar this year as it is till pretty clear that he does not have a jumper. Budenholzer can make the offense as pretty and up tempo as he wants but that isn’t going to change the fact that The Greek Freak is not a threat outside the paint, this man couldn’t hit the side of a house if he was in the family room. It is not hard to gameplan for a team whose biggest offensive threat needs to be inside the paint to be effective. The front office has done a weak sauce attempt to surround him with a collective perimeter threat to compliment his deficiencies and we will have another year in the books where we are saying “once he gets a jumpshot he will be unstoppable”. This is the year that more people jump off the Giannis MVP train and get a ticket on the Giannis Is a Solid #2 train.

4. One bold prediction:


Killian: Trae Young will be ROY. He by no means has the most talent in the class, and we can probably say that he has the lowest floor of anyone in the lottery. He will be able to shoot whatever he wants (this may end up being a weapon against his campaign) and he will be the primary ball-handler, so he will get all of the counting stats. I would imagine he will have low efficiency, but he will put up numbers

Arnold: This will be the last year of the Golden State Warriors dynasty.  More to come in a future column….

Tom: Deandre Ayton will easily be a top 5 center this year and the unanimous rookie of the year. Follow me here name 5 better centers…. Ill give you Embiid, Towns, Jokic.. who is next? (Davis is a PF) Ayton doesn’t even have to have a good game and he is consistently getting double-doubles. Booker and Ayton are already the best Guard/Center combo in the league.


Deandre Ayton tearing up Pre-Season

Coach Red: This is a little far out on the calendar but I believe the Laker roster we see at the start of this season is going to be almost identical to the one we see at the start of next season. I think after a year in LA and making the playoffs as an 8th seed (best case scenario). LA falls short of many of the top free agents that they are hoping to sign in the offseason. LeBron is still the best player in the NBA but the appeal to play with him is a currency that has shown to be progressively diminishing. The guys around LeBron will get better over the course of the year but LeBron is going to find himself stuck in a legitimate rebuild as opposed to the “just wait till my homies get here” phase everyone believes them to be in.

5. You’re 2019 NBA Champions….


Killian:  Golden State: Do I want it? No. Am I rooting for it? No. But there is no one that believes they are remotely knowledgeable on the workings of the NBA can make any other pick. There is a world in which someone else wins the title, but please lead me to the person that is willing to bet a significant amount of money so I can drag the clown to the poor house.

Arnold: Golden State Warriors.  I know, it’s a boring pick but does anyone expect anything else?  They’ll sleep walk through the regular season/first round, coast through the second round, and wake up for the WCF vs Lebron and the Lakers.  The Finals will be close between the Warriors and Celtics but the Warriors experience will be too much for the young Celtics.    I’m going with the Warriors in six.  If it wasn’t for Draymond’s technical in 2016 the Warriors would be shooting for a five-peat…….a five–peat.  What the hell.  I can’t even spell my name right five times in a row.

Tom: OKC will win it all this year. Add Roberson, subtract Melo and a competent guard (Shroder). OKC and Russ will find a way to down his usage, make open shots off the ball and improve those around him. The Golden State dynasty will end when Boogie messes up the Warriors juju and Durant will go to the New York Knicks.

Coach Red: Golden State without question is going to win this year, the only real question is will they do it in 16 games. The Warriors have cultivated a system within their system which involves getting stars of varying levels to join their roster to keep things fresh as they roll to another championship. Warriors players have said it themselves, they’ve been there before and the feeling (while great) isn’t the same level of excitement and euphoria as it was the first time they won the title. Now what gets them going and prevents them from having a year where they look to be dreading the regular season like they have in the past is by living vicariously through the ringless stars that join their team. This year it is Cousins and while he brings a scary presence in the paint he also oddly enough gives the Warriors something to work towards as they have won so much the only way they can stay locked in is through the possibility of watching someone on their team get their first ring.

Week 7: 5 Games to Watch

We are back with a rundown for what to watch this weekend.  Don’t forget to listen to the pod and line-up your bets

Five Games at five different time slots:

1.  Tennessee at (21) Auburn -16.5                                               12:00 SEC

Both of these teams are desperate. Tennessee to stay relevant and Auburn to stay in the SEC title picture. Auburn’s offense is averaging a middling 29 points per game. Is it still warm enough for southern girls to wear sun dresses?

2. (2) Georgia -7.5 at (12) LSU                                                         3:30 CBS

LSU got steamrolled by Florida last weekend, getting embarrassed on defense. This one comes down to LSU’s pass rush on Georgia QB Jake Fromm and his 72% completion percentage. Like most SEC battles this game will be won by linemen.

3. (7) Washington -3.5 at (17) Oregon                                          4:30 FOX

Could be the best PAC-12 game of the year, as the two best teams go at it in Oregon. Justin Herbert has looked much better than Jake Browning and can really solidify his status as the best QB in the PAC-12 with a pivotal win this week. Oregon is coming off a bye-week and should be ready to go at home.

4.  (15) Wisconsin at (12) Michigan -10                                          7:00 ABC

The is Harbaugh good talk? will continue to percolate until he gets Michigan into the CFP. Wisconsin suffered an embarrassing loss to BYU and has rebounded since, crushing both Nebraska and Iowa. College Gameday will be there.

5. (19) Colorado at USC -7                                                                10:30 FS1 

Last game of the night features an undefeated Colorado vs USC. USC still has athletes, but is not the daunting power of past. Colorado is improbably undefeated, granted they haven’t really played anyone noteworthy. Somehow this game will go into overtime and 3/4 of the country will be asleep. Laviska Shenault, just remember that name when you watch this game.


Space Jam Tryouts

So word is out around town that the Space Jam sequel is actually happening, and it is being directed by Ryan Coogler who is responsible for Black Panther. He is going to attempt to do the impossible and recreate the Sistine Chapel and if anyone can do it, it’s probably him. This film is going to have to pull in today’s youth while passing the eye test of the crusty 90’s kids who are going to be waiting to pounce on any scintilla of a plot hole. Luckily for Ryan and everyone else involved in the process they have Coach Red here to help guide them through this rigorous process.

The one thing that is for certain is the free agent signing that the Tune Squad will be making and that is LeBron James, the star of this film. This is a good choice for obvious reasons in regards to where he stands in the sport of basketball but also because James might very well be the best actor out of all NBA players who have ever been in a movie. He stole the show in Trainwreck and has even began to diversify into voice roles with the new movie Small Foot. While this choice was a no brainer the real job starts with the selection of the rest of the roles that need to be filled for this long awaited sequel. That being said my hope is that as many NBA players as possible are in this movie to maximize this movie’s potential but we need to make sure just like in game, we put the right players in the right spot. For the sake of this piece I am going to make a few assumptions, I am going to assume that some form of a Monstars squad is going to make a return. Five players are going to get their talent stolen and the NBA is flipped upside down as the best player and a handful of other superstars are missing either literally (in LeBron’s case) or figuratively. Coogler will most definitely put a different spin on the movie but it’s going to be hard to divert from this plot point of the now series.

The first matter of business is picking the five players who will have their talent stolen and be the players on the Monstars squad. This is an area where many people go down a selection path that is ill advised by thinking the best players or the most popular players should make up the Monstars. I’m sorry but no, so let’s go ahead and cross out the “wrong obvious choices” I know many people are putting on their Monstar big board. First, the Golden State Warriors back court, the Bay Area and everyone under the age of 14 doesn’t want to hear that but it’s the truth. Next, Giannis Antetokounmpo, I will do my best to keep the Greek Freak rant to minimum but no promises. We can go ahead and add James Harden to the list as well, as great as he is his talents are needed elsewhere in this project. Finally anyone on the Lakers, it’s just not going to work with him playing against teammates and if you truly thought anyone on the Lakers roster was worthy of a Monstar slot we have bigger issues. Those are some of the obvious names that are always going to be thrown into the mix that shouldn’t. The reason being that the Monstars are bullies, they are a team that is going to use physicality and intimidation to help them win the game. The original Monstars were about as physical as the early 90’s Pistons and did nothing but monkey dunk the basketball like they were Phi Slamma Jamma Alumni. And if you’re not familiar with a monkey dunk please refer to exhibits A, B and C shown below…

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These are going to be guys in the league who know how to instigate and who have a solid base of anti-fans. Steph, Klay and Durant are great but their style of play isn’t one that screams physicality or intimidation on the court, also the general consensus is (at least in Steph and Klay’s case) that everyone loves these guys. People are going to have a hard time rooting against the Splash Brothers and their Splash Cousin once removed. The same can be said for James Harden, while he isn’t as universally loved as the boys in Golden State his play style is one that doesn’t necessarily fit what is needed to make the cut for a Monstar. And that leaves us with none other than Giannis, does he have talent? Yes. Is he a freak of nature with his athletic ability and size? Yes. My issues with Giannis stem from the fact that I am not ready to get or die on the Giannis Is Greatness Hill. I need to see something other than great defense and the ability to dunk from outside the lane. If he doesn’t have a proven jumper by the All-Star break this year I will be entirely on the train of Giannis being an elite defender and nothing more. He does check most of the boxes aside from him being a player people generally like but I just can’t bring myself to elevate him to Monstar status with there being such a huge part of his game (shooting the freaking ball) that is still sub-pedestrian.

Now while those are the “wrong obvious” answers, there are some that I didn’t mention that you might be wondering about. There was a select few that almost made the cut and for whatever reason went from on the bubble to on the outside. The first one is Anthony Davis, I don’t have to go into just how amazing he is and the fact that he is a top five player in the NBA. Davis missed the cut purely because at his position there was someone else who just fit the Monstar persona way too well to not be on the list. Next was Kawhi Leonard, he checks all the boxes as well but up until recently we had only heard him talk twice and smile once. We can now add a laugh to the four minutes of documented audio we have on him but there should be a certain level of boisterousness which Kawhi (and this is definitely no knock on him) doesn’t have. Lastly, and I was really torn on this one, is the Morris twins. There is nothing more Monstar than the Morris brothers, they talk trash, they get techs, they play physical, everything you want in a Monstar recruit. The only catch is neither of them really meet the unwritten accolade requirement to even be in the Monstar discussion so I had no choice but to nix them from the big board. These guys were all close but didn’t fully have what Ryan and the gang need to be looking for when they get their squad together. There are only five real choices for the Monstars and that’s Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green and Demarcus Cousins. And if you’re wondering what makes these guys so qualified don’t worry I have the whole scouting report ready.


Considered as competitive as Jordan, ridiculously athletic and short fused with just about all media, there is a great deal of creative liberty you can take with a tiny alien gaining his on the court abilities. Also when his talent gets stolen who wouldn’t want to see his fashion sense go as well? Russ wearing something from the half price rack at Ross to a game would be entertaining.

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One of the few people in the league with an actual Napoleon Complex, Paul gave enough fits to the Warriors this past playoffs and was extremely physical with Steph to a point that he earned a spot on the Monstar squad through tenacity alone. Paul is also quietly one of the more polarizing players in the NBA, there are a good number of Chris Paul haters who would love a new avenue to cheer against him. On an off the court note, given that Paul is about as tall as Drew Brees it would be hilarious to see him living life for a few days not as an NBA star but instead as just another dude who is a questionable six feet tall.

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Over the past few seasons Jimmy Butler has proven to be a great two-way wing and a top 15 player in the league (yes I said it) but that’s not the main reason I want him to be a Monstar. This might be the only choice that has more to do with off the court than on it. I want Jimmy to be a Monstar purely so we can have a scene where he is playing against the Timberwolves when his talent gets stolen. I feel like that would be basketball cinema gold and I don’t want that opportunity missed. So in regards to Butler making the list…deal with it.

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Green & Cousins

If I have to explain why these to have to be Monstars then we have bigger issues. Both of them since they were in high school were the epitome of the Monstar style of basketball. Quite frankly I’m not sure that the two of them don’t model their entire game from scenes from the original Space Jam. These two are ones that without question or debate have to be Monstars otherwise the movie doesn’t work. And one of them needs to get similar scenes to the ones Charles had where they are out in the world trying to find themselves and get man handled by some teenage kid on the streets in a pickup game.

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While we have the players set one thing I would add to the mix is a coach. The Tune Squad has their player coach in LeBron as they did MJ in the past but the Monstars were without a coach. All they had to work with was a green Danny DeVito who was more of a greasy general manager than anything else. What the Monstars need is a coach to have his talent stolen as well so the aliens can do more than play prison street ball. Not that I was ever against the Michael Irvin style of basketball they played we could all just stand to see it expanded upon. I think it comes down to Steve Kerr or Brad Stevens for this one. Initially I had Dwane Casey in the running as well given that 80% of his failures in the NBA can be accredited to LeBron. There would be that aspect of an alien inheriting his talent and knowledge and taking it upon himself to exact revenge in Casey’s name but that was a bit much. Also nobody is more of a Brad Stevens fan than myself but I am leaning towards Kerr being the guy who loses his talent and coaches the Monstars. This is because we still don’t know with complete certainty that Brad Stevens isn’t a T-1000 Terminator so using him for something like this could make things more complicated. Kerr I think could play up the coach losing his knowledge  a little better and would be more into the role, he has multiple rings as a player and coach so he can laugh at himself with a bit more ease than the ringless Stevens and Casey.

The next role that needs to be filled is actually a set of two which I refer to as The Golf Boys, Larry Bird and Bill Murray. These two were an amazing comic relief and side story in the movie and their roles have to be reprised in some shape or fashion and I have come up with the ultimate solution. My thoughts went immediately to LeBron’s charity work that he has done over the years and more specifically the original LeBron James Player Scholarship. Most of you are probably wondering what this scholarship is and why you haven’t heard of it before. Well that’s because this wasn’t one that was publicized almost at all; back during LeBron’s time at Miami he started a program where he took troubled and underprivileged NBA “culture guys” and provided them with the shelter of a title contender with a chance at being gifted an NBA championship ring. The two repeat winners of this particular scholarship were James Jones and Mike Miller, hopefully you didn’t think those two were on Heat and Cav teams for legitimate basketball reasons. When they appeared on LeBron sanctioned rosters I can assure you it was for future tax write offs. James Jones could definitely be the one to fill the Larry Bird role. Enjoying life after basketball and basking in the care free lifestyle that comes with being the general manager to a circus of a franchise like the Phoenix Suns. Mike Miller could be the updated version of Bill Murray, a friend of LeBron who desperately thinks he should still be playing in the NBA who ultimately gets his chance again when he finds his way into the Looney Toon arena during the middle of the game. Plus when Miller shows up it would be great for one of the aliens to mistake him for Mike Dunleavy or Kyle Korver like they did with Murray and Aykroyd. Having seen several interviews with these two I feel they would be up to the task of having some fun with these roles and come on it’s the least they could do to show their thanks to the guy who personally extended their careers and got them rings.

It is not lost on me that some of these asks are simply rehashing what was done in the original. There is a certain outline that Coogler is going to have to follow to get everyone onboard. This is no different than when directors take on Star Wars spin offs, you are dealing with a fan base that has a mix of excitement and skepticism and a set of standards they expect to be met all while being surprised with something new. Nearly impossible I know but he knew what the deal was when he took it. I think even following this skeleton of an outline leaves enormous amounts of room to add  his own creative style to the movie. That’s where all the other NBA players and coaches come in. I want to see as many players and NBA personalities in this movie as  humanly possible. Just because they aren’t a Monstar doesn’t mean they can’t and shouldn’t be in the movie. There is no way they can make this movie and not have Steph, Klay, Durant, Kyrie, Blake Griffin, Joel Embiid even Porzingis and Harden just to name a few. Karl-Anthony Towns and Wiggins have to be present when and if Jimmy Butler loses his talent; The hosts of ESPN’s The Jump (Rachel Nichols, Stephen Jackson, Amin Elhassan and Paul Pierce) have to make an appearance; And of course at some point Michael Jordan has to have a cameo and just like Green and Cousins this isn’t debatable.

After the ungodly amount of time spent contemplating how this sequel should be presented to the world it is safe to say I have laid out a rough outline of a formula for success. And while I have all the faith in the world that LeBron and Coogler will put  together a great product it wouldn’t hurt to take some of my recommendations under advisement.