Frequent Flyers: Feb. 21- Feb 27

So in the first full week  since all-star break, the NBA picked up right where it left off and did not disappoint as there were some unbelievable performances this week.

I like to shine light on players who aren’t getting a huge deal of recognition, but in some cases, you can’t help but give praise. So our first winner this week is reigning MVP Stephen Curry! There are very few players who have ever been on this level for as long as he has. The Heat, Magic, and Thunder all played well enough that they should have beat GSW with little trouble, but they could not contain Curry. He had over 40 point in each game and ties the NBA record for 3’s in a game last night, while breaking his own record for 3’s in a season.

Our second winner this week is another big name  in Kyle Lowry. Lowry did not disappoint this week. He had a triple double against New York and then had 43 points including the game-winner against Cleveland on Friday that continued Toronto’s longest home winning streak since 1999. He will have to continue to play at this level if Toronto wants to finally get past the first round for  the first time since 2001.

Our last winner for this week is probably ROY winner Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns had two HUGE double-doubles this week that helped the T’wolves win 2/3, including a big win in New Orleans last night. This young man is proving why he is the future of a Minnesota franchise that has not seen the postseason since 2004.

 

No Fly Zone: Green and Whiteside

The No Fly Zone, where winds of stupidity blow so hard that it causes your hair to grow inward.

This week, the Heat and Warriors played in a fairly entertaining game. That is not important though. What is important is the beef between Draymond Green and Hassan Whiteside leading up to the game. Whiteside took shots at the “small ball” approach and Green made remarks about Whiteside only dominating in the D-league. It was good back and forth, but only one problem: THEY HAVE NEVER ACTUALLY MET IN PERSON. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, these two had a battle on Twitter. I know, I am just as shocked as you are.

I mean really? A Twitter battle? C’mon guys, at least do it on Skype or something where you’re actually saying to each other’s faces. This is the same as breaking up over text! Just like my mother used to tell me: If you can’t say it to their face, then you shouldn’t be saying that. Draymond? Hassan? Do I need to call your mommies? If you don’t shape up, I’m going to make you sit in the corner with a chair that is nowhere near big enough for you.

You read it right, I’m talking to you two like babies, because that is exactly how you are acting. Grow a pair, get off the social media, go up to the guy, and tell ’em he’s a bum at least! You can say other stuff that I won’t put on here, but say it with your voice and not your mobile devices. Makes me sick. You’re both grounded! And unfortunately, you’ll be in the No Fly Zone until you’ve learned your lessons!

 

Pacers vs. Heat Do It Again!

I don’t care about who plays out West, but the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, in my opinion, have the best rivalry in the NBA. A rivalry is really not supposed to be one-sided. Sorry Clips, you’ll get the Warriors eventually (but probably not).

Does anybody else agree that rivalries centered more on defensive teams than high-scoring teams are more fun to watch? It just means that anyone can win these games. In the other type, if one team gets hot, the game is pretty much over. With the Heat and the Pacers, it doesn’t matter if one of them is hot, because the other teams is eventually able to buckle down on defense and grind their way back into the game. It is freakin’ awesome!!! I love it!

Even when they are not the beasts of the East that they were a few years ago, but they still don’t like each other, they still have players from those powerhouse teams of years’ past, and they have the same coaches with very similar styles. Two games have gone to overtime this year and three of  the four contests have been decided by single digits. The one decided by double digits was a one-point game at halftime and a single-digit contest until the final few minutes. These are the types of games that make you sit on the edge of your seat and go nuts when someone actually scores.

The Heat won the most recent matchup in Miami by 8 in overtime, but trailed for most of the game, including an 18-point deficit in the second quarter. Led by Whiteside, Dragic, and Winslow, the Heat were able to overcome 31 points from Paul George and a hot Pacers team early on.

Could we see a Heat/Pacers playoff series? Possibly the 4-5 matchup? I would love that! Doesn’t matter who wins, but you will see some great basketball! I encourage everyone to watch that series if it happens!

Top 5 Power Forwards All-Time

My apologies to all you Flyers out there. I have been very sick these past few days, but I am back and ready for action now! Let’s meet our top five power forwards to ever play in the NBA!

  1. Tim Duncan

– Mr. Fundamental himself! You can also call him Mr. Consistency, because even now nearing the age of 40, he can still get it done! Duncan has won 5 titles, 2 MVP’s, and is a 15-time All-star. Is not the most athletic player out there, but his combination of intelligence and skill is unmatched by anyone to play in the post. He seems to know when and not to do certain things. My favorite thing about Duncan is his ability to use the glass. It’s there for a reason people! He does it better than anyone.

  1. Karl Malone

– There is a reason why they called him The Mailman. Because he always delivers! Malone is one of my all-time favorites because he was just so good in the post! He is right there with Michael and Kareem with having a move in the post that was virtually undeniable. He could run the floor better than anyone and is in my opinion the best pick and roll player in the history of basketball. His combination of athleticism and strength allowed him to score in a variety of ways. He physically looked more like a heavyweight boxer than a basketball player, but it did not slow him down one bit.

  1.     Kevin Garnett

– He was drafted in 1995 and is STILL PLAYING. In his prime, this guy was one of the most fun players to watch. He was one of the first big man that could really step out and play on the perimeter. KG wasn’t extremely muscular, but he was as strong as an ox and lightning fast, which allowed him to run the floor with relative ease. What really impresses me about Garnett is his evolution into perhaps the best defensive big man in history. I’m not talking about blocking shots, but his ability to communicate with teammates and play ferocious on-ball defense is unbelievable! That is the reason he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.

  1. Charles Barkley

– Sir Charles! You may know him as being the entertainment on TNT’s Inside the NBA, but we know him as one of the best all-around forwards in NBA history. Standing at only 6’6, Barkley used his triple threat combo of skill, size, and athleticism to overpower and outwork taller players. He could beat you in so many ways, but his greatest attribute in my eyes was is rebounding ability. I’ll go more into it when we talk rebounding, but he was the master of getting rebounds in traffic because he jumped laterally rather than just up and down. This allowed him to use his size to clear out other players. Much respect Chuck!

  1. Kevin McHale

– No one may believe this, but he has the best back-to-the-basket game I have ever seen. Why? Because he made up for his lack of speed and quickness by developing a post-game that revolved around a wide variety of ball, head, and shoulder fakes. If done right, then no one will be able to guard you down there. McHale knew that and used it to his advantage. Not only was he very skilled, but die to playing with the great Larry Bird, he developed a great intelligence for game. That intelligence helped him even more. He has now recently been a successful head coach and given some of the great post-game wisdom to his big men.

NBA Trade Deadline Recap

Hello all! I hope you guys had a good all-star break! Now it’s back into action, and what better way to start than by going over what happened on trade deadline day. I wasn’t expecting too many major moves mostly because teams are waiting for a huge free agent class and want to keep cap space or they are over the luxury tax and just want to trade for draft picks and dump players. So let’s get started.

To New Orleans: Jarnell Stokes and cash                                                                                                   To Miami: Protected 2nd round pick

  • This was a move made by Pat Riley to not only clear some roster space, but also to get rid of cash so the Heat can avoid paying the luxury tax yet again. 

To Detroit: Donatas Montiejunas and Marcus Thornton                                                                     To Houston: Joel Anthony and 2016 first round pick (top 8 protected)

  • Interesting move by Houston. They lose Thornton, but do gain Anthony, who has been to the finals and could be a good backup to Dwight Howard, although those thoughts did not last long. Detroit gains another stretch four to put around Drummond and a good bench scorer in Thornton.

To Cleveland: Channing Frye                                                                             To Portland: Andersen Varajeo, 2018 Cavs 1st-round pick (top 10 protected                                                                                                              To Orlando: Jared Cunningham, Cavs future 2nd-round pick

  • This move mostly benefited Cleveland, as they got a player in Frye who can stretch the floor with his range and allow more spacing for Lebron and Kyrie.

To Utah: Shelvin Mack                                                                                     To Chicago: Justin Holiday and a 2nd round pick from Atlanta          To Atlanta: Kirk Hinrich

  • This move puzzled me a little bit. Hinirch is older, but will help provide a veteran presence for the young Hawks guards. I mostly think it was a move to clear cap space. The Jazz get a good guard in Mack who can help out in their rotation.

To Thunder: Randy Foye                                                                                  To Nuggets: DJ Augustin, Steve Novak, 2 second-round picks

  • Good move by OKC. Denver clears cap space and OKC gets a good veteran shooter in Foye, who should help out their bench right away.

To Blazers: Brian Roberts, future 2nd-round pick                                  To Miami: Ability to go below luxury tax

  • Another move by Riley to get the Heat’s financials in place.

To Wizards: Markieff Morris                                                                          To Suns: Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair, 2016 1st-round pick (1-9)

  • Awesome move by Washington. They give up Humphries and get a solid scorer and shooter in Morris. He can provide firepower off the bench and be insurance in case the Wiz decide to move on from Nene.

To Philadelphia: Joel Anthony                                                                       To Houston: N/A

  • Houston creates cap space and Philadelphia gets a veteran big man who may be able to provide some guidance for the young Sixers.

To Memphis: Lance Stephenson, future 1st-round pick                       To Los Angeles Clippers: Jeff Green

  • This put the Clippers into major contention. This may be the piece they need. Now they have a small forward who can tangle with Kawhi Leonard and Harrison Barnes. Watch out for the Clips!

All-Star Check-in

Now that All-Star Weekend has passed, it is time to resume the NBA season. Like I did during the holidays, I will now give you my award winners at this point in the season.

MVP: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

  • This is a pretty obvious pick. He is putting up unbelievable numbers and has taken his game to an entirely new level compared to last year. There is really no way to consistently stop him on defense, which is why he is so valuable.

Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)

  • Same as last time, but he has gotten better since the holidays. He is putting up double-double averages, which has been rare for a rookie center to do in recent years. He is the future in Minnesota and will start his career off right by taking home this award.

Sixth Man of the Year: Ryan Anderson (New Orleans Pelicans)

  • He is the perfect backup to compliment Anthony Davis off the bench. He is playing around thirty minutes per game while putting up starter-like numbers. A sixth man is supposed to be a go-to guy you bring in, which is exactly what he has become this season.

Most Improved Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

  • He really is a Greek Freak. This guy is so much fun to watch and is the future face of the Bucks. I really like what I have seen so far this season and there has definitely been a major jump in his talent and production this year.

Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics)

  • Let’s think about this. He has a bunch of guys that no one wanted and is having them compete for a top spot in the  Eastern conference playoffs. Unbelievable. His tough-minded defensive approach has given Boston a reputation for being tough and rugged. He gets my nod as this year’s best coach.

Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)

  • I have not seen a perimeter player this versatile and athletic on defense since Scottie Pippen. That is a nearly perfect comparison for Leonard, whose body structure and play style greatly resemble Pip’s. He gets my vote for this year’s award.

It’s That Time Again

As the NBA All-Star game approaches, let’s take a look at what exactly is going on during this action-packed weekend in Toronto.

We have the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, which is always fun to watch (although I think the Rookie Challenge was better). My pick for that one is the United States Team.

Saturday night is a big one. The first event is the Skills Challenge, which for some reason the NBA is allowing big men to compete in. Probably to make up for their super flawed all-star voting system that has no big men starting. The participants are as follows: Emmanuel Mudiay, Demarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Anthony Davis, Cj McCollum, Karl-Anthony Towns, Isaiah Thomas,  and Jordan Clarkson. I am going to have to go with Isaiah Thomas as the winner. He has the quickness and skills, obviously, to win it.

The second event is the three-point shootout, which may be one for the record books this year. Here are the participants: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Kyle Lowry, JJ Redick, Chris Bosh, and Devin Booker. There could be multiple performances that could be very memorable. Normally, I would pick Steph right off the bat, because he is probably going to win. But where’s the fun in that? So I am going with JJ Redick to pull out the victory.

The last event is the slam dunk contest. The participants are: Andre Drummond, Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon, and Will Barton. The dunk contest has been pretty bad the past few years, with more props being used than actually trying to be creative with dunks. My pick is the defending champ Zach LaVine.

The last event on Sunday night is the all-star game itself. The West won last year, with Westbrook taking home the MVP. This year, I will go with the East, with hometown man Kyle Lowry taking home MVP.

Remembering Two Greats

It has been a big week so far in the NBA. All-star weekend is coming up and the Warriors are getting closer to eclipsing 70 wins. The other big story is the Heat’s announcement of the retirement of Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey and the Pistons officially retiring Chauncey Billups’ number last night. Two great superstars from the 2000’s who will always be remembered for their great performances.

Let’s start with Billups. Chauncey Billups was part of the group that helped to revive a pretty much dormant Pistons franchise around 2002 and began what became a dominant stretch for the franchise as they went to the Eastern Conference Finals for six straight years, with Billups as the starting point guard for every team. His most memorable stretch came in the 2004 NBA Finals, where his Pistons were facing the heavily-favored Lakers who featured none other than Shaquille O’Neal. Billups ended up winning the MVP as Detroit beat the Lakers in 5 games, winning their first title since 1990. He was part of the resurgence of the tough Detroit defenses of old and brought the old chant “DEETROIT BASKETBALL!” back into fruition.

Shaquille O’Neal will most likely have his number retired by three teams (LA already did, and Orlando probably will in the future). That is an impressive stat that speaks volumes about how dominant he was and how big of an impact he had on those teams. The Miami Heat were a very unlucky team at the time they acquired Shaq.  Three years earlier, the team’s franchise player, Alonzo Mourning, had to temporarily retire due to a kidney ailment. They had been through two horrid seasons, but had a future star in second-year guard, Dwyane Wade. Shaq helped the Heat win their first title in 2006 and also was a big part of Wade  developing into the player he would become. In my opinion, the Shaq trade to Miami is a prime example of just how good Pat Riley is at building a team.

Both of these players are very respected, and are rightfully being etched into those franchises’ histories.

Top 5 Small Forwards All-Time

  1. Larry Bird

– Larry Legend. Arguably one of the greatest players to put on a Celtics uniform and the man that brought basketball back to life along with Magic in the 80’s. He is without a doubt the smartest player I have ever seen. He didn’t dazzle with his athleticism, but he was so good at being one step ahead of the opponent that he could beat them to different spots all the time. He is also on the all-time list of best clutch shooters. This man was so confident in his abilities that it literally made him that much more dangerous on the court.

      2. Scottie Pippen

– For those of you that say he was only good because of MJ, go look at his stats ad highlights from 1993-1995 when Jordan was gone. He carried the Bulls and led them in pretty much every category. He was one of the first players that could get the rebound and then take the ball the length of the floor to slam it in. He was something to watch. Pippen’s greatest attribute was his defense. He was so versatile and athletic that he could guard wings and point guards. He was always among the league leaders in steals and was an all-defensive 1st team selection 8 times!

      3. LeBron James

– He may be number one on this list when he hangs them up, but that fact that he is number three and is only 30 is mind-boggling! LeBron can literally play every position on the floor. He is fast, quick, and skilled enough to play he point, versatile and athletic enough to play the wing, and big and strong enough to pay in the post. I have never seen anything like him and I don’t think we will again for a long time. I really don’t see a weakness in his game anymore since he improved his jump shot. So he may actually be un-guardable at times now.

      4. Julius Erving

– Everyone may know him for his dunking ability, and rightfully so. What people don’t remember, however, is that he popularized the very move. It wasn’t just him slamming it in, it was him perfecting an art that is rarely used the same way today. Dr. J is ranked 6th in career scoring and is arguably the best player in 76ers history. His most memorable play was the rocking windmill over Michael Cooper in the 1983 NBA Finals, which the Sixers won over the Lakers in a sweep.

      5. James Worthy

– BIG GAME JAMES. The man consistently the finisher of the Lakers’ “Showtime” fast break. He was something to watch too. He wasn’t the type of small forward you see today. He didn’t shoot a lot of 3’s, but was instead usually on the perimeter doing his damage from mid-range or in the post. What impressed me the most about Worthy was his ability to do multiple things during the game. He rebounded the ball, ran the floor, and finished fast breaks the entire game. That takes a lot of stamina, durability, and skill!

Games of the Week

Monday, February 8: Orlando Magic @ Atlanta Hawks

  • Two teams currently showing two opposite trends in 2016. The Hawks are winning and the Magic are losing. This is the second half of a home-in-home series between these two clubs and they have not disappointed so far. The Magic won the first game in Orlando on a buzzer-beater by Nikola Vucevic. The Hawks will be looking for revenge while the Magic will look to turn around their season and start a winning streak. I will pick the Hawks to win this one.

Tuesday, February 9: San Antonio @ Miami Heat

  • Remember that memorable 2013 Finals and then that lopsided 2014 Finals? I’m pretty sure these two teams do. San Antonio is playing very well since their loss to Golden State and will look to continue that success in Miami. Miami has gotten its act together as of late too. This will probably end up being a low scoring game as both teams like to play in the half court. It will be a good one, but I will pick the Spurs to win on the road in South Beach.

Wednesday, February 10: Charlotte Hornets @ Indiana Pacers

  • Two teams playing much better than last year. The Pacers are contending for a home court in the playoffs and Charlotte is competing for a spot in the playoffs, although they are a much improved team offensively due to the emergence of Kemba Walker as a go-to guy. Paul George is hoping to find his shot in this game in order to put behind his recent struggles. He will be facing, however, a tough defender in Nicolas Batum. My pick is Indiana at home. I am going to call for a high-scoring affair since both teams like to spread the floor and get up and down the court.

Wednesday, February 10: Houston Rockets @ Golden State Warriors

  • Could this be the team that stays pace with the Warriors’ small-ball lineup? They have done well when Ariza and Smith play down low, but are they as good at playing together as Golden State? My guess at this point is no, because the Dubs are playing at a level only seen a few times and are pretty much unbeatable at home. I will go with the Dubs in this one. I just don’t see Houston sticking with them for a whole game.

Wednesday, February 10: Los Angeles Clippers @ Boston Celtics

  • I’m looking forward to this one. The Clippers are finding ways to win without Blake Griffin, which is proving to be a great omen for them going into the rest of the season. The Celtics, meanwhile, are continuing to impress me with their play of late, which included a big upset last week in Cleveland. Isaiah Thomas and Chris Paul will be a good battle, while Avery Bradley will have to try and keep J.J. Redick in check. I am picking the Celtics to win at home and further impress the rest of the league.