Kyrie Irving’s Trade Demand

Cleveland? More like LEAVE-land.

In the case that you’ve been living under a rock, Cleveland Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving demanded a trade last week. Word is that Kyrie is tired of being under LeBron James’ shadow, as he has the “Mamba Mentality” and wants to be the focal point of a team. It has also been reported that LeBron James is upset with Kyrie Irving for mentioning his name in this topic, so upset to the point that LeBron is “Tempted to beat his (Kyrie’s) ass” should the two come into contact with each other.

With all of the rumors swirling around LeBron James that he is bolting the Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers next off-season, one can hardly blame Kyrie Irving for wanting to be two steps ahead of the game. When LeBron James left the Cavaliers in 2010, they suffered 4 straight losing seasons, 3 of which Irving was present for. Ever since LeBron James left the Miami Heat to return back home to Cleveland in 2014, the Heat have missed the postseason 2 out of the last 3 seasons, and now have to settle for signing Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk to big contracts. Kyrie sees a pattern here. That pattern? Whenever LeBron leaves, the team he leaves is decimated. Kyrie Irving does not want to be the next victim in LeBron’s pattern.

However, it has not been confirmed LeBron is leaving Cleveland  for LA LA land (*he hasn’t denied it either, but that’s another argument for a different day*). As of right now, LeBron James is a Cleveland Cavalier. As evidenced by the previous 7 years, if LeBron James plays on your team, you will play in the NBA Finals. Evidence from 3 of those 7 years also indicates you might actually win a title. One of those years indicates you might be the player to hit the game winning shot to defeat the greatest NBA regular season team ever. Oh wait, was the player who hit that shot LeBron James? No, it was Kyrie Irving.

Irving’s desire to be traded can only be described as a petulant, spoiled brat who complains about the line at Starbucks being too long. Kyrie Irving, a man who took 74 more 2-point shots and 99 more 3-point shots than LeBron James last year, is complaining about not getting as much attention as the greatest player on the planet. And by the way, this isn’t Kevin Durant in free agency in the summer of 2016 having all of the power in the world. When you demand a trade, you’re still under contract. You don’t get to choose your destination. The Cavaliers could trade Irving anywhere they’d like or tell him to go kick rocks. Irving has no leverage.

Irving is of the belief he can be a franchise cornerstone. That a team can be built around him to be “The Man” and compete for a championship. Going by Irving’s preferred destinations, one must ask what on earth he is thinking? He wants to be traded from the Cavaliers, a team essentially guaranteed to be the representative of the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, to New York to become a nothing with the woeful Knicks? To be the fourth best player for the Minnesota Timberwolves? To compete for more shots with Dion Waiters for the Miami Heat? To be the second option like he is now with the Cavaliers for the San Antonio Spurs? Irving doesn’t realize how good he currently has it. Kyrie Irving is demanding a trade from a team in which he is an all-star and regarded as the team’s closer? Talk about first world problems.

What makes Irving believe he can utilize his “Mamba Mentality” like his idol, Kobe Bryant, and be “The Man” elsewhere when he could be described as a supremely talented, but oft-injured ball hog? Prior to the arrival of Cleveland’s lord and savior, LeBron James, Irving was already “The Man”. He was the number one overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. As “The Man”, the Cavaliers won 21 games in the lockout shortened 2011-12 NBA season, 24 games in 2012-13, and 33 games in 2013-14. While Irving was “The Man”, he was also chronically injured, as he missed 49 games in his first 3 seasons. Even when LeBron came back, Irving has still been injury-prone, missing 46 games over the last three seasons, and that doesn’t even include the 5 NBA Finals games he missed in the 2015 NBA Finals.

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Also, let’s pretend LeBron James does in fact leave the Cavaliers for the Lakers next summer. Should Kyrie stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he becomes the sympathetic figure, as LeBron James would once again be painted as a man abandoning his hometown for a more glitzy, glamorous destination. Irving would regain his “rightful” place as “The Man” in Cleveland with two years remaining on his contract. Sure, he’s stuck with an aging roster riddled with bad guaranteed contracts, but in an Eastern Conference without LeBron James, that team could compete for a lower seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Kyrie Irving’s trade demand is understandable if you’re looking through the prism of not wanting to bite the dust should LeBron James ditch the Cavaliers in the summer of 2018. Every other prism you look through, however, cannot justify Irving’s immature stance of wanting to be “The Man”. His first three years in the league suggest he not only cannot carry the load as a team’s first option in terms of winning, but also cannot be on the court to help see that vision trough. Even in his three seasons with LeBron James, Irving hasn’t proven he can stay healthy. Why would any team risk placing their future in a guard who is unable to stay on the court? Why would you want to forgo competing for a championship when you would be nowhere closer to building towards this goal should you be traded to one of your preferred destinations, which you may not even be granted? Kyrie Irving needs to wake up before it’s too late, and realize he has been given an NBA player’s dream career: being the number one pick, being an all-star who is treated like a superstar, and playing alongside and winning championships with the greatest player ever, LeBron James. With Kyrie Irving’s trade demand and rumors circling LeBron James regarding his future plans, Cleveland might as well re-name themselves Leave-land.

 

 

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Western Conference Finals Warriors Spurs Game 1: Kawhi Injured by Zaza Pachulia

The Warriors stole game 1 of the Western Conference finals against the Spurs, but controversy arose after Spurs forward Kawhi Leornard left the game after landing on Warriors center Zaza Pachulia’s foot.

 

NBA Western Conference Finals Prediction

The wild, wild west gets a wild, wild conference final.

The Western Conference finals have arrived, and we have a dream match-up on our hands with the 1st seeded Golden State Warriors facing the 2nd seeded San Antonio Spurs. The team that has risen so quickly to the top of the NBA faces the quiet dynasty, but will the match-up live up to the hype?

Although the Spurs took two out of three games during the regular season against the Warriors, including an opening night beat-down and star-lacking prime time showdown, the Warriors won the most important of these games back on March 29th. The Warriors, without F Kevin Durant, went into San Antonio and fell behind by as many as 22 points in the first quarter, but stormed back to win by 12 in a 110 to 98 victory. The Spurs were at full strength that game, something they won’t be in this series, as PG Tony Parker is out for the remainder of the post-season after tearing his quad in game 2 of the western conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets. To make matters worse, Spurs F and MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard is also fighting knee and ankle issues.

Obviously, the Warriors are the better team. Their average margin of victory thus far in the post-season is 16.5 points per game, and they are a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Spurs struggled against an offensively challenged Memphis Grizzlies team in the first round and showed signs of weakness against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semi-finals. However, Spurs PF LaMarcus Aldridge may have finally woken up, PG Patty Mills has filled-in well for Tony Parker, and F Jonathan Simmons has emerged as a defensive stopper for the Spurs.

The one aspect of this series that could swing in the Spurs’ favor the most, however, is coaching. Mike Brown has done an admirable job filling in for Steve Kerr for the Warriors thus far this postseason. But when you have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson (*who has struggled this postseason*), Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant, anyone will look like a coaching genius. Gregg Popovich has been a coaching genius since the end of the 1990s, and showcased his coaching prowess in Game 6 of the semi-finals by beating the Houston Rockets by 39 in Houston without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. And let us not forget Gregg Popovich’s Spurs sweeping the Mike Brown coached Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals. Popovich can coach circles around Mike Brown, and eventually you have to believe the absence of Steve Kerr will hinder the Warriors.

That’s not enough, however, for anyone to believe the Spurs will defeat the Warriors.

Prediction: Warriors in 6

NBA Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Preview

Now it gets interesting.

The first round of the NBA playoffs came and went. Some teams and players shined under the spotlight and are moving on, while others perished and will now watch the rest of the playoffs from the couch. The conference semifinals got underway today, and it’s time to predict which teams will advance to the conference finals.

Eastern Conference:

1. Celtics V. 4. Wizards, Celtics lead series 1-0.

The Celtics fumbled around with the Bulls in the first round but managed to finish them off in six games due to Bulls PG Rajon Rondo suffering a thumb injury that sidelined him games three through six. The Wizards also showed signs of being unfocused in their series against the Hawks, but still managed to win the series in six games. These two teams were evenly matched in the regular season, as each team won two out of the four games they played against each other. While the Wizards’ two guard tandem of PG John Wall and SG Bradley Beal will cause headaches for the Celtics, PG Isaiah Thomas and company should be favored to advance. The Wizards are flashy, fun to watch, and have a more experienced coach in Scott Brooks. However, they are also a collection of stooges led by PF Markieff Morris, and are prone to mental lapses. The Celtics are the better, more focused team, and they will squeak by the Wizards to advance to the eastern conference finals.

Prediction: Celtics in 7

2. Cavaliers V. 3. Raptors

The Raptors are the biggest conundrum of a team we’ve ever seen in the NBA. They have all the pieces in place: a strong backcourt led by PG Kyle Lowery and SG DeMar DeRozen, a physically imposing frontcourt led by trade deadline acquisition PF Serge Ibaka and C Jonas Valanciunas, and a solid head coach in Dwane Casey. Yet when they arrive to the NBA playoffs, they can’t seem to get out of their own way. PG Kyle Lowery laid a monster of an egg in a game 1 loss against the Bucks, and the team gave us a blast from the past by scoring only 77 points in a game 3 loss. They managed to rebound and win the series in six games, but it was against a relatively inexperienced Bucks team. Sure, the Cavaliers beat the lowly Pacers by an average margin of only four points per game, but the Cavs did what the best teams in the NBA are supposed to do and swept the Pacers. And once again, this series can be summarized like so: the Cavaliers have LeBron James. The Raptors do not.

Prediction: Cavs in 5

Western Conference:

1. Warriors V. 5. Jazz

The seemingly unstoppable Warriors are going through a period of adversity in the playoffs. Sure, they swept the Trailblazers (*again, as the best teams in the NBA are supposed to do*), but head coach Steve Kerr may not coach the rest of the NBA playoffs due to chronic back pain. Assistant head coach Mike Brown will now coach the team. Mike Brown may have coached the Cavaliers to an NBA Finals appearance in 2007 and spent time as coach of the Lakers, it would be foolish to think he’s as good of a coach as Kerr and that the Warriors won’t be affected by his absence eventually. F Kevin Durant missed games 2 and 3 of the first round due to a left calf injury, the same leg he hurt earlier this season that caused him to miss twenty games. None of that really matters in the semifinals, as they will advance to their third straight western conference finals despite these hardships. The Jazz are a youthful team that’ll challenge the Warriors every game, but there’s no reason to believe they can win four out of seven against them even with all of the adversity facing the Warriors.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

2. Spurs V. 3. Rockets

Rockets F James Harden may not walk away with MVP honors this year, but his team clowned soon to be MVP Russell Westbrook and the Thunder in five games. The Rockets showcased that they are a more complete team and are still loaded offensively. The Spurs, on the other hand, took six games to dispatch an offensively challenged Grizzlies team. While everyone will praise SF Kawhi Leonard as the best two-way player remaining in the playoffs (*What about that guy LeBron James? Isn’t he pretty good?*), the Spurs are missing a key component to their formula that has led to their successful twenty year run: a dominant big man. While it would have been naive to believe PF LaMarcus Aldrige could fill the big shoes left by legendary PF Tim Duncan or even resemble hall of fame C David Robinson, he hasn’t come close to matching the production he had during his time as a Trailblazer. While the Spurs have the edge in this series due to coach Gregg Popovich’s success against Mike D’Antoni in the playoffs (*he’s 4-0 in playoff series against Mike D’Antoni coached teams*), the Spurs will need more from their max-deal big man if they want to win an NBA championship.

Prediction: Spurs in 6.

 

 

 

Bro Commentary: The NBA Season is Over

NBA All Star Weekend, in other words, the end of the season, is finally here.

President’s Day weekend has typically been reserved for the NBA’s star-studded event where the top players of the league come together to showcase their lack of competitiveness against each other on a much broader scale. That star studded event? The NBA All Star Game/ All Star Weekend. It is also the time to make an official declaration on the NBA season: THE SEASON IS FINISHED.

Yes, there are more regular season games left to play. Playoff seeding is not set. And while you might hear the complaints of Celtics fans crying foul over PG Marcus Smart’s phantom foul on Chicago Bulls F Jimmy Butler as a deciding factor on who may get home court advantage in the playoffs, it literally doesn’t matter. The Celtics should be happy they’re even getting mentioned here. That’s not an indication of how bad I think the Celtics are, it’s an indication of just how predictable the NBA has become in recent years. There are really only 4 teams that I believe have a chance of winning the title, 75% of which hail from the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Oh, and that other team that could win that’s from the Eastern Conference? It sure as hell ain’t the Boston Celtics.

The four teams that can win the NBA title this year are as follows:

Cleveland Cavaliers: 39-16, 1st Place in the East

Why They’ll Win It All: LeBron James. ‘Nuff said. Alright, I’ll talk about the defending champions a little more here.  They’re in first place despite not having SG J.R. Smith over an extended period of time, PF Kevin Love set to miss 6 weeks due to a knee injury, and not having another play-maker as their coach, GM and franchise savior LeBron James said. All LeBron meant there was that he needs a backup point guard. Even if his wish isn’t granted, the Cavs are in prime position to not only represent the Eastern Conference again, but win the title as well. They’re the 3rd best offense in the league scoring 111 points per game, they shoot 39% from the 3 point line behind only the San Antonio Spurs (and ahead of the Golden State Warriors by the way), and they’re 10th in the league with an average of 44 rebounds per game (as legendary coach Pat Riley once eloquently stated, “No rebounds, no rings.”). Did I mention they have the greatest basketball player of our generation in LeBron James? Did I mention that?

Why They Won’t Win It All: The obvious factor to point out here is that the Cavaliers have faced numerous injury issues. Starting SG J.R. Smith hasn’t played since December 20th after breaking his wrist, and according to his twitter account, he still has “a ways to go” before he makes his return to the court. Starting PF Kevin Love is also set to miss 6 weeks due to knee surgery, a big loss since he is having his best season since joining the Cavaliers, averaging 20 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.

Now while everything I just mentioned is true, this would be glossing over the fact that the Cavs haven’t played defense since their Christmas day victory over the Warriors. They rank 15th in the league in opponents points per game, allowing them to score 106 points night in and night out. Teams are also shooting an average of 45.5% per game against them, ranking 16th in the NBA. Even more troubling is the fact that teams are also shooting from behind the arc well against them, with an average of 36.2% per game, ranking 19th in the NBA. I know we’ve just made it through what are the dog days of the NBA season, but c’mon man. You gotta stop somebody if you want to win.

Bottom Line: The Cavs will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Once they get all of their players back healthy and actually start to play defense, there’s no one that can stop them. Oh yeah, they have LeBron. He’s the difference between you being in the NBA finals or picking in the NBA Draft lottery. Can you name another player that has ever had that kind of impact on a team? Didn’t think so.

Golden State Warriors: 47-9, 1st Place in the West

Why They’ll Win It All: The Warriors are out for vengeance after blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals last year to the aforementioned Cavs, forever going down in meme history (it never gets old) and bringing no ring to the greatest regular season ever. They went out and got Benedict Arnold… I mean F Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder, who has fit nicely with the squad averaging 25.8 points per game. They also have a healthy Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who continue to electrify the league with their three-point shooting. And of course, they have the best offense in the league once again, averaging 118.2 points per game, shooting 50.1% from the field every game, and 38.8% from behind the arc. (*Ok, that last one I mentioned is only 3rd best in the league, but you get the point.*)

Why They Won’t Win it All: Noted punk and loud mouth F Draymond Green has continued to show he hasn’t learned a damn thing since getting suspended for game 5 of the NBA Finals last year, as he has accumulated 10 technical fouls this season. If he continues his antics, he could cost the Warriors another championship.

Some will also be quick to note that the Warriors are a top defensive team in the NBA. If you look at the numbers, this is true. Opponents shoot only 43.6% per game from the field, and that number goes down to just 32.5% per game from behind the 3-point line, the best in the league. However, I believe these numbers are misleading. Teams get in trouble with the Warriors when the try to play the Warriors’ style of Basketball, leading to them hoisting shots in order to keep up with them. When you try to play Warriors basketball, you lose. If you slow the game down, play halfcourt offense and tough hard-nosed defense (*like the Cavs did last year in the Finals*), you win. It also important to note that as of now, the Warriors are only 3-5 against the Cavs, Grizzlies, Rockets, and Spurs (*1-5 against the Cavs in their last 6 if we’re getting technical*). These are all teams they could potentially face in the postseason, and they’re proven they can hang with the Warriors.

Bottom Line: The Warriors should be the favorite to make it out of the Western Conference. However, it won’t be nearly as easy for them as it has been the past 2 seasons. And if they get to the Finals, while they should be favored, LeBron James is lurking.

San Antonio Spurs: 43-13 2nd Place in the West

Why They’ll Win It All: As they do every year, the Spurs are having a great season. They are led by MVP candidate and reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner Kawhi Leonard, who is averaging a career best 25.9 points per game. And let’s not forget the best coach in the game, Greg Popovich, who is perhaps doing his best coaching job ever without his partner in crime, former Spurs PF Tim Duncan. He’s has successfully taken the younger players such as PF LaMarcus Aldrich (17.5 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game) and PG Patty Mills (9.7 points per game) and blended them seamlessly with old veterans PG Tony Parker (10.6 ppg), SG Manu Ginobili (7.7 ppg), and PF Pau Gasol (11.7 ppg and 7.9 rpg). They also are 1st in the NBA in 3 point field goal percentage at 40%, and 2nd in the NBA in opponents points per game at 98.4. While the offensive fire power is a new wrinkle in Popovich’s game plan, he still has the suffocating defense that can stop anyone.

Why They Won’t Win It All: They’re old. Tony Parker is 34 years old, and doesn’t have the quickness he once had. Manu Ginobili is 39 Years old. Pau Gasol is 36 years old. While Greg Popovich has done a great job in blending the old with the young on his team, the old players may not have anything left come post-season time. This may not be a measurable stat, but if you want an example of an old team that ran out of gas, look no further than last years’ Spurs. They got to the Conference Semi-Finals against a younger Oklahoma City Thunder team and had no answer for their youthfulness. While experience should be valued, it should also be seen as a hindrance as well.

Bottom Line: The Spurs are the New England Patriots of the NBA. They’re always great. They’re always around. They probably have the best shot at knocking off the Warriors atop the Western Conference, but it’s no guarantee they’ll make it that far.

Houston Rockets: 40-18, 3rd Place in the West

Why They’ll Win It All: Houston has the leading MVP candidate this season, SG James Harden. With him running the offense, he’s averaging a career best 29.2 points per game and a career best 8.3 rebounds per game. He also has the 2nd most triple-doubles in the league with 15. Head coach Mike D’Antoni, a questionable hire for the Rockets at the start of the season, has this offense firing on all cylinders, as they rank 2nd in the league in points per game at 114.4. Add in a reborn SG Eric Gordon, who is 4th in the NBA with 184 3-point field-goals made, and you’ve got an offense that can run with the Warriors.

Why They Won’t Win It All: You know when you hire Mike D’Antoni as your head coach, you’re going to get a potent offense. You should also be prepared to have an impotent defense. Houston ranks 24th in opponents points per game, allowing opponents to score 108 points every night. Teams also shoot an astounding 46.1% per game against Houston as well. There’s an old adage that says defense wins championships. Houston needs to step it up in this department, or they fall in danger of not being included in this article.

Yes, there are 26 other teams in the NBA, but none of them have a chance of winning the title this year. These are the 4 that could win. The NBA has become so calculable it has rendered its regular season meaningless. It may only be the middle of February, and the NBA season officially ends in June, but make no mistake about it. With the arrival of All Star Weekend, the NBA season is over.