No Fly Zone: Blake Griffin

The No Fly Zone, where texting and driving is considered being a good driver.

So, you guys know Blake Griffin? That guy who is the face of the Clippers?

Oh, you mean that guy who punched the equipment manager and is ow distracting the entire team. Yeah, that’s the guy. I cannot even begin to tell you how dumb of a move that was. He punched the equipment manager! I mean what is this?! I don’t care what the situation? You’re the star player of a team trying to contend for an NBA championship and you go out and pull something like this. Yeah, it was only the equipment guy, but it doesn’t matter. You’re an injured superstar, so maybe you could focus a little more on getting healthy so you can help your team rather than punching out a team employee. Well guess what Blake, now you’re the subject of trade rumors and you’re team is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. It was irresponsible, stupid, and the last thing the team needs at this point in the season.

Let this be known now. Blake Griffin should be kicked out of LA. Not only has he blown it in the playoffs, but he has also plateaued in his skill development. His jump shot is still inconsistent and he has a one-dimensional post game, only using one move. Sorry Blake, but not even someone at your level can escape the mystical realm known as the No Fly Zone.

Pat Riley’s Knicks

So yesterday I was got to school early and decided to watch the 30 for 30 documentary titled “Winning Time: Reggie Miller versus the New York Knicks”. I’ll talk about those Pacers another time, but today, I want to talk about the Knicks of the 90’s. Many people don’t remember, but those were some very good teams. If not for Michael Jordan and of course Reggie Miller, they may have won a championship or two. There are a number of reasons why they were so good, so I will highlight each of those.

First thing’s first, it was the players. Looking at those guys, you would have thought they were linebackers or boxers because of how big and muscular they were. They looked like a bunch of bodybuilders. Besides their physical stature, they had a ton of talent and a perfect mixture of rugged tough guys. You had Derek Harper running the point. Harper was a consistent role player at this point in his career, but he was still a big strong guard who could overpower his opponents. At shooting guard was John Starks, who may have been one of the most aggressive defenders in NBA history (you couldn’t blame him when you saw who he was matched up with). At the small forward was Charles Smith, whose massive shoulders and powerful mid-range game made him a handful. At the four was Charles Oakley, who was the enforcer of this team (not that they needed a specialist in that category). And finally at the center was their superstar Patrick Ewing, one of the greatest big men of all time. Their bench was not too shabby either, featuring future all-star Anthony Mason, Greg Anthony, Herb Williams, Anthony Bonner, and even Doc Rivers was with them for a time.

Next was their coach, the Godfather himself, Pat Riley. I have always been a fan of Pat Riley. He just displays so much confidence, and evidence is provided when he guaranteed another championship while coaching the Lakers in the 80’s. Everyone saw Riley as this nice guy who wanted everyone to like him, and it seemed like it too while he was coaching in LA. When he got to New York, however, the real Pat Riley came out. He was now coaching probably one of the meanest, nastiest, and most aggressive teams in NBA history. If anyone came down the lane, they were mauled and probably fouled more than once. They were an unbelievable defensive team, regularly holding teams to under 90 and sometimes under 80 points. It was spectacular to watch. This style of play can be seen in the late 90’s and early 2000’s when Riley was coaching and managing the Miami Heat.

Unfortunately, those Knicks would probably not do well in the league today. With all of the rules regarding hand checks on the perimeter and flagrant fouls, all of these guys would have fouled out within minutes. I would like to see how defenses today would fare against the style of offense the Knicks used. They didn’t shoot a lot of 3’s, but instead pounded the ball down low and tried to beat opponents up on the inside with their size and strength.

Top 5 Point Guards All Time

So now that I have gone through my top 5 at each position today, I will go into who I think is top 5 all time. These guys here excelled at the point guard spot and are or will be in the Hall of Fame.

  1. John Stockton

– When I think point guard, John Stockton is always the first name that comes to mind. He was the epitome of a ‘team-first’ mentality. He wasn’t super athletic, but he was extremely intelligent and strong as an ox. He did not wow with flashy passes, but he was very accurate and always seemed to know where the open man one, which is why he the NBA’s all-time leader in assists. On the defensive end, he was consistent and knew how to pick his spots and then beat the offensive player there, leading to him also being the all-time leader in steals.

  1. Magic Johnson

– Mr. Showtime. Nicknamed “Magic” for his unbelievable passing ability, Magic was the floor general for the Showtime Lakers of the 1980’s and brought home 5 titles in the process. As the all-time leader in triple-doubles, Magic was one of the best ever at getting the rebound, leading the break, and then either scoring the ball or dumping to Byron Scott or James Worthy. Being able to command a team with that many big names takes a lot of intelligence and skill, and Magic had no shortage of that.

  1. Oscar Robertson

– I’ll start with this fun fact: He is the only player to ever average a triple double in a season. He is also the only point guard to ever average over 10 rebounds per game in a season, doing so three times. Before Bird, Magic, and even Jason Kidd were considered the great triple threat players, the “Big O” was doing things that had never before been seen on a basketball court. Michael may have been king of the post fadeaway, but Oscar invented it, as he also invented the head fake, which is the signature move of Dwyane Wade today

4. Jason Kidd

– Here is another triple-double machine that made a Nets team much better than they really were in the early 2000’s, leading them to the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals. I have always been impressed by Kidd’s ability to command the floor. He just had a presence that commanded respect. He was a scrappy defender, which is why he among the career leaders in steals. On offense, he could do it all. If he wanted to shoot, he could do it anytime, or he could dish it to any one of his teammates no matter where they were on the court.

 

  1. Steve Nash

– Yes, he is Canadian, so you would think hockey right? Wrong. Steve Nash is right up there with Stockton as the “King of the pick & roll”. No matter who he was playing with, Nash made them better. If you watch the Suns from 2004-2010, you’ll see that he was the motor that made those teams go. He wasn’t the most athletic guy, but his understanding of floor spacing and player tendencies allowed him to see plays develop before they even happened. It was unreal to see this guy in his prime!

Did you not see someone in your top 5? Comment below if you thought someone else should be on the list or if you had them in a different order. Thank you for flying with us today!

 

Spurs vs. Warriors

Afternoon Flyers! Unfortunately, there was no access to the internet, let alone a compute due to Winter Storm Jonas. Due to this, there was no “Frequent Flyers” for last week or “Games to Watch” for this week. Now that I am back online, I thought I would talk about the game occurring tonight between the two best teams in the NBA.

Tonight, the San Antonio Spurs visit the Golden State Warriors in what looks to be a future Western Conference Finals matchup. I want to look at this matchup from all angles. I normally would pick who I though would win, but it is too close to call.

Point guard: Stephen Curry vs. Tony Parker

  • Curry is on his way to winning another MVP, putting up unbelievable scoring numbers in the process. He will be a very tough matchup for Parker to defend, since Parker has never been known for his defense. On the other side, Curry is not the best defender either and struggles against point guards who try and attack him. In this case, Parker will look to go at Curry as much as possible.

Shooting guard: Danny Green vs. Klay Thompson

  • Both of these guys are knock-down shooters and gritty defenders. This will be an interesting battle. Green will have his hands full chasing around Klay, while Green will have Klay stepping out and away from the paint due to his movement around the perimeter looking for open spots.

Small forward: Kawhi Leonard vs. Harrison Barnes

  • This will be a physical battle between two of the games best wing players. Leonard is the best defender in the league and a future MVP candidate, while Barnes is the dark horse of the loaded Warriors team, rarely getting credit for his great numbers and impact on the floor. I am not sure how often these two will be matched up with each other, but I think both will be X-factors.

Power forward: Draymond Green vs. David West

  • Knowing Popp, it is unclear as to whether or no West will start for the injured Duncan, but this is my guess. Green is another MVP candidate who leads the league in triple-doubles and is the vocal leader of the Dubs. West is a savvy veteran who is one of the most physical players in the league even now in his 30’s. He is big, strong, and a guy you don’t want to mess with, so this will be a great battle between him and Green.

Center: Andrew Bogut vs. LaMarcus Aldridge

  • These two will probably not be matched up very often, but at least for the first few minutes of the game, it will be fun to watch. Aldridge will have a bigger load to carry with Duncan out, while Bogut will look to clog the lane on defense to prevent the Spurs from attacking. 

     

    Both teams have a lot of depth, with guys like Andre Iguodala, Manu Ginobli, and Boris Diaw as the big names. So the benches will be a big factor in this game. The Spurs use a pick & roll offense and look for shooters off of multiple passes and great player movement. The Warriors look to do the same thing due to Kerr having played for Popovich at the end of his career. I am so excited to watch this game and cannot wait to see who wins.

No Fly Zone: The NBA

The No Fly Zone, where washing your hair is considered trying too hard and is therefore illegal.

All-Star weekend is the big show of the NBA season. All of the best players get together and compete East vs. West to see which conference is superior. The way the all-stars are decided is by the fans. The current format is that the top 5 players with the most votes in each conference will be the starters, while the reserves will be revealed at a later date.

The current lineups are as follows. In the east, we have Kyle Lowry, Dwyane Wade, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James. In the west, it’s Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard. There is no doubt that there is a ton of talent on these two teams. There’s just one slight little problem. NO POWER FORWARDS OR CENTERS. This has to be without a doubt the most disappointing set of starters I have ever seen. It is absolutely ridiculous. The current format is so stupid. The NBA has it so that fans vote for players from the backcourt and frontcourt. For those of you who don’t know, backcourt is the guards, while the frontcourt is the forwards and centers.

Here are some names for you. LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin. All of these guys should have at least been given a chance to start. But no, the league, now completely centered around perimeter-based players wants the game to be faster. Do it the old way, have a ballot for guards, one for forwards, and then one for centers. Give the big guys some love for crying out loud! It is killing the game. The big guys will be extinct soon, and the league is perfectly okay with it!

I have a fever, and the cure is MORE SPOTLIGHT FOR THE BIG GUYS. Stop the crushing on the guards. None of those guys could have played when the big guys were dominating. Enough is enough.

Should the NBA be in the No Fly Zone for this? Comment below with your thoughts!

Ball is not always life

Let me throw some names at you. Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, George Gervin, Alex English, and Adrian Dantley. What do these guys have in common? They were all scoring specialists. They were paid to put the ball in the hole. These guys  were unbelievable when it came to scoring, putting up numbers that are hard to imagine and closely resemble stats you would see in NBA 2K video games. So now I bring this question. Why did these guys get so many points? The answer is simple: They had the ball in their hands constantly. This has its pros and cons. You obviously want the ball in the hands of your best player, and if they are hot, then keep feeding them the ball. The cons are that the ball sticks, movement stops, and all the attention is towards that particular player. When going up against an elite defensive team, that team can overload that side of the floor and make him see multiple defenders while rotating and closing out on the other players. So what can this player do? There are so many ways for a team to have an elite scorer and still win without playing “hero ball”, because that never wins in the playoffs or in games against great teams. A lot if this, however, relies on the scorer doing most of the work.

Phil Jackson used to teach his players how to read a defense. What’s that? Instead of running down the floor thinking about where you have to be for the play being called or the play that just happened on the other end, looking at how the defense is set and seeing whether or not he is set and ready to play. This small action can make a huge difference for players. It takes a high basketball I.Q. to do this, but with watching film and practice, it can be done and make players ten times better. When it comes to the “scorers”, reading the defense will help them to judge whether or not the defense is overloading, getting ready to double, or to see if all eyes are on him. For the “other guys”, it will help to determine if they can make a play by cutting to the basket, setting a screen, or finding an open spot for a jump shot.

In my opinion, the most dangerous player you will face is one that does his damage when the ball is NOT in his hands. Think about it, what if you’re defending this guy and the ball is on the other side of the floor? As a coach, keep the ball out of his hands unless it is necessary. Remember, a defender needs to see both the ball and his man, so just imagine if he has to see the ball plus keep tabs on the 30 ppg scorer who can erupt at any moment. This concept also makes the other players better. They will feel more involved in the flow of the offense, therefore giving them more incentive to play harder. It also eliminates double teams, because if done right, the scorer will be getting the ball in an area of the floor where double teaming will lead to easy baskets (this is where reading the defense comes in).

I’m not hating on scorers, I absolutely love seeing a guy go for 50 or 60 points. The only thing I’m saying is that having him handle the ball the entire time will not only hurt the team, but it will hurt him as well. Just look at MJ and Kobe, they did all of the things I mentioned above and they have 11 rings between them.

Trouble in South Beach

Okay, who thought that the Heat would be a playoff contender with their roster this year? I am not saying because I like the Heat, but they actually have a very good team on paper. They have the attacking point guard in Dragic, the crafty veteran in Wade, a versatile wing scorer and defender with Deng, one of the best stretch forwards in Bosh, and the league’s best shot-blocker in Whiteside. Off the bench comes spark plug Tyler Johnson, veterans like Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem, scoring machine Gerald Green, and Justise Winslow, who many thought was the steal of the draft.

Currently at 23-19 and sitting at #6 in the East standings, the Miami Heat have quite frankly under-performed so far this season. Yes, injuries and the fact that this team literally just got together over the offseason are factors, but those should have subsided by now. Instead, the Heat have lost 5 of 6 and are in the middle of playing 11 of 12 on the road. So why is this team that experts thought would challenge Cleveland in the East in the preseason struggling so much? I’ll tell you why.

First thing, Dragic and Wade need to figure out who is going to handle the ball and when. Both like the ball in their hands, but Wade is the better of the two when playing off the ball. Answer: Be like Mike and get in the post Wade! He is stronger than most guards and his ability to use fakes is unparalleled. Dragic is very good in the pick & roll, so use Bosh and Whiteside in that regard. You can also play them separately, having  Dragic playing at the end of the quarter and bringing in Wade to start the next one.

The Heat’s big weakness is their lack of shooting from the outside. This allows opponents to back off of defenders and pack the paint, which in turn neutralizes Whiteside’s offensive rebound capabilities. Green is a streaky shooter, but is not consistent from the arc. Same thing goes for Johnson and Deng. The answer is that Pat Riley needs to find some shooters in free agency. Ben Gordon would be a great choice. If the Heat can get a shooting specialist, then they will be a better team.

Lastly, the Heat need to play more up-tempo. And don’t say that Wade can’t do that. They have the personnel to do so with all of those slashers. If they do this, they can outrun most teams in the slower-paced Eastern Conference. Erik Spoelstra is very good at playing fast as we saw in Miami 2012 and 2013 championship seasons.

USA Gearing Up for Rio

This summer, the USA basketball team will look to add another gold medal to its collection in the 2016 Rio games. The United States has won the last two gold medals without losing any games, although the much tougher competition from teams like Spain, Argentina, and Lithuania have made the Americans prepare much more than back when NBA players were first allowed to play in the Olympics.

The USA Basketball committee recently announced the final 30 players that will be given a chance to earn  spot on the team that plays in Rio. The players are as follows:

LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs); Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks); Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors); Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards); Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls); Mike Conley(Memphis Grizzlies); DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings); Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors);Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans); DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors); Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons); Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder); Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets); Rudy Gay(Sacramento Kings); Paul George (Indiana Pacers); Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors); Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers); James Harden (Houston Rockets); Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz); Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets); Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors); Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers);LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers); DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers); Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs); Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers); Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers); Klay Thompson(Golden State Warriors); John Wall (Washington Wizards); and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder).

A pretty impressive group no doubt. A lot of athleticism and versatility with guys that can play multiple positions. There will be a ton of speed on this team, which will definitely give them an advantage over their opponents. I’m very happy that guys like LeBron, Iguodala, Carmelo, CP3, and Dwight Howard are on the list, because they have played in they are the veterans essentially on this team with a lot of experience in international play. The old weakness of the US (if it was one at all) was that they were pretty small, and against teams like Australia, Lithuania, and Spain, who sport a lot of interior size, that proved to be problematic. No more. With Howard, Aldridge, Cousins, Drummond, Jordan, and Davis among the finalists, the USA should have plenty of big guys to combat against the rest of the world.

At the point guard and wing positions, this will be a very fun group to watch. You have three-point specialists like Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, and Bradley Beal. There are slashers like Russell Westbrook, Demar DeRozan, and Andre Iguodala. Then there are your all-around guys like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard. No matter who is chosen, this team will be one to be as feared as much as they already are.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the man to head this group from the sideline. This is none other than the great Mike Krzyzewski. Known for his ability to manage personalities and bring out the best in his players, there is no one better to get these guys to play for the benefit of the team than Coach K. I cannot wait until August to see this team in action.

Top 5 Centers Today

The center position is one at which you rarely find a player that fulfills the requirements of a center. A center has the responsibility of rebounding the basketball, setting picks, anchoring a defense, and protecting the rim. They are almost like the middle linebacker on a football field. These five centers listed below not only do all of these things, but they do them better than anyone else in the league.

  1. DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)

– It is hard to remember the last time I saw a center as skilled as DeMarcus Cousins. He reminds me of Hakeem Olajuwan in terms of his ability to handle the ball on the perimeter. He has gained control of his emotions this season, and it has paid dividends for the Kings. Putting up some crazy numbers and he is doing it in multiple ways. From having his back to the basket to stepping out and hitting jumpers, Cousins can hurt you in so many ways. You have to pick your poison and hope he has an off night.

  1. Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)

– He is the best rebounder of this group. He crashes the boards with like a madman and controls the glass on the defensive end. His offensive game is improving immensely, but he does most of his damage on putbacks and running the floor right now. On the defensive end, he blocks shots and changes others, which helps to anchor this renewed Detroit defense. He is a lot like his great predecessor in Ben Wallace, but with an offensive game that will make him a great superstar for many years to come.

  1. Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)

– He looks and plays like an old-school big man with that Euro twist that has become a staple in the NBA today. He is a banger in the post, but has an amazingly soft touch around the rim and at the free throw line. He is a lot like his brother, but with his wrestler-like build, is able to score in the paint more. Along with Cousins, he has the best game in terms of jump-shooting out of this group. He defines the “grindhouse” mentality of the Grizzlies, but does it on the defensive end as well, proving so when he won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013.

  1. Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)

– There was a time when he was number one on this list, but injuries have limited him the past few seasons. With that said, Dwight still can get a double-double with little to no effort and block a good number of shots while changing those he does not. When healthy, he may be the most athletic player on this list with his freakish jumping ability and sheer size and strength. He is the player considered the closest to Shaq when it comes physical ability, although he may be a better shot blocker.

  1. Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat)

– Whiteside is an interesting player. He is still developing a somewhat limited offensive game, but his strength lies in rebounding and blocking shots. He has the highest block rate in NBA history at the moment and shows no signs of slowing down. His length is unbelievable and that helps him grab boards and yes, block shots. What I like about Hassan is that when he blocks shots, he blocks them down back into play rather that out of bounds and giving the ball back to opponents. Let’s not forget his 3 triple-doubles the last two seasons that included double-digit blocks (the first person to have one since Marcus Camby).

Bigger than His Name Suggests

The Detroit Pistons recently retired the number of their longtime center, Ben Wallace. I don’t think it was coincidence either that the Pistons played some pretty scrappy defense in a win over the defending champs that very night.

Ben Wallace was an all-star four times, an NBA champion in 2004, and is tied for the most Defensive Player of the Year awards ever with Dikembe Mutumbo. Standing at 6’9, Wallace was short for the center position, but his relentless work ethic and workhorse mentality on the court allowed him to play much bigger than he was. He is only one a few players I have ever seen that could dominate a game without being a big scorer (I believe he has just over 6,000 career points). His rebounding and shot-locking are what made him such a force.

If you watch highlights of the 2004 Pistons, you’ll see how big of an impact he had in the Finals against the heavily favored Lakers. What really impressed me about Big Ben and I think is a testament to his mentality, is that he took upon himself to guard Shaquille O’Neal by himself. O’Neal, who outweighed Wallace by nearly 100 pounds and had roughly 4 inches on him, always had issues with Wallace, who’s strong base and will gave him relative success against Shaq.

The NBA has missed Ben Wallace greatly. There aren’t any players like him anymore that play with the same intensity and toughness. He made it a reality that you don’t have to score a lot of points to be a great player. The video below shows Wallace in Game 5 of the 2004 Finals. He had an uncharacteristically high 18 points, but had 22 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive end. He also had a block and 3 steals. Video credit to: LamarMatic