The Everyday Man's Sports Blog

Follow Mike Patton aka The General as he puts his thoughts in on sports.

Archive for the tag “Boston Celtics”

Dwight Howard To The Boston Celtics Makes Sense

(photo courtesy of www.sbnation.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com)

Dwight Howard had a decision to make back in the summer of 2013. He was traded that previous year to the Los Angeles Lakers from Orlando that previous year and had one year to check it out. That one year was not very good for him out in Los Angeles. He was fighting through an injury the whole time he was there and when he played, it seemed like he was not himself. Mix that with the fact that he and Kobe’s styles did not mesh and it was not a good experiment bringing him in. But yet and still, the Lakers were one of the teams Dwight was looking at going into free agency. The Lakers gave their pitch to him along with other teams like Houston and Dallas. Between those teams, Dwight turned down additional money he would have made with the Lakers to join star shooting guard James Harden in Houston. The pairing was supposed to take Houston to another level with two star players leading the way. But unfortunately, it has not worked out the way Houston has wanted. The Rockets may have gone to the Conference Finals last season, but it was not due to Dwight Howard’s effect on the team. Howard was not as effective last season because he was injured for most of it and that allowed for other guys to step in and make Houston better. And in year three with Dwight in Houston, it seems like things have gotten worse. The Rockets are on the outside looking in of the playoff picture at this point and the chemistry and play of the team just seems to be off. And right in the middle of it is Dwight Howard still speaking on wanting to be more involved in regards to more touches offensively. Well, it seems like the Rockets have had enough of Howard at this point. Houston has reportedly put Howard on the trading block and are actively looking to move him. And being that he can opt out of the four-year, $87.5 million deal he signed in 2013, it will be interesting what they try to get for him. But nonetheless, it seems like one team’s name has been mentioned more than any in acquiring Howard: the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics were a surprise team to make the playoffs last year. And this season, they have made it to the third spot in the East as they are currently constructed. But even with that, Danny Ainge has his eye on Howard and what he could bring to his team. And with the assets the Celtics have, they could certainly pull this trade off. The Celtics have a glutton of big men available on their team. One player the Celtics could dangle out there to get Howard would be forward David. The Celtics traded for the veteran big man this offseason hoping that he would be able to add to their team. But unfortunately it has not worked out and he has been sitting on the bench more than actually playing. And with the pricetag he is carrying this season ($15.49 million), they can easily move him and not miss him at all. If the Celtics throw him, a first round pick and maybe another frontcourt player. By adding Howard to the Celtics, that gives them a better defender on the backline than what they currently have. And if you pair him with the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, he would not really have to worry much about the offensive end of the court. But knowing Dwight, he would want to have the basketball in his hands. Even at 30 years old, he still has not got it that he is not a go-to guy offensively. In Boston, he still would not be that guy that he envisions himself being. And if he ends up not being happy, then you essentially traded for a rental player because Howard has the option to opt out of his current deal. But the potential positives in this one outweigh the negatives in this potential trade scenario. But of course that all depends on the thinking of Dwight Howard whether it works or not.

The Celtics would be getting Howard and all that goes with him, but Houston would be getting rid of a player that was doing more harm than good for them. It seemed like the chemistry in Houston just was not ever going to work out, as Howard seemed like the odd man out a lot. The biggest piece in trading Howard is not actually David Lee, but who would be traded with him. If the Houston Rockets are lucky, they get someone that has an expired contract as well. Guys like Evan Turner and Jonas Jerebko would be ideal players to add in this trade just for their expiring contracts alone. If one of these two is added like Houston would want, that would allow for them to have enough salary cap room with their current situation to go after a big-name free agent. Everyone knows that Houston has had its eyes on Kevin Durant for some time now. And even as far-fetched as it seems, the Rockets would like to make a run at pairing James Harden with Kevin Durant going into next season. But even if that does not happen, the Rockets would love to change the dynamic of this team going into next season. This all falls in line with them needing a new head coach going into next year as well. If Houston loses and does not make the playoffs while making this trade, it actually will benefit them even more. That would give them two first-round picks (if they don’t make the playoffs, they get to keep their first round pick they would have had to give to Denver because of a previous trade) provided they get one from Boston and cap space. In the NBA, that is definitely a good thing to have as the cap space expands next season. Adding a piece like Atlanta’s Al Horford potentially in free agency and putting him at power forward alongside young big man Clint Capela would be something that would also help this team as well. Horford is a better fit with Harden because he is able to space the floor with his shooting and actually has solid post game. And on the defensive end, he can rebound and actually guard power forwards. That leave Capela playing center and just worrying about blocking shots and defending, which is what he needs to be doing at this point in his career. So the trade of Howard could essentially end the Rockets’ playoff push, but it will help set them up for the future with Harden as their unquestioned leader.

The Dwight Howard experiment in Houston has proven to be a failure at this point. The chemistry never was there between he and Harden and the team never really got to where Houston brass envisioned with Howard and Harden. So to rectify this one and get first round picks and create cap space would be huge for them going forward. For Dwight Howard, he has to realize that the clock is ticking and his opportunities for success are fleeting fast. But the big question will always be around Howard and his role on any team he is on. Everyone who knows anything about basketball realizes that he will not be a viable offensive threat but him. And until he realizes that and quits derailing chemistry, then he will continue to miss out on team success. Boston is taking a chance on Howard with this trade. But the good thing for them is they probably would not be trading much to get him and they also would think that he would want to opt out of his deal should it not work out. Stay tuned folks. Howard could be donning green and white soon.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

Advertisements

The Kevin Love Sweepstakes Is About To Get Started

Kevin Love is officially a free agent. But where does he land next season? (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Kevin Love is officially a free agent. But where does he land next season? (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Decision time has come about for many in the NBA. There are some players that are have options on their contracts whether they would like to accept the contract they have or opt out in search of a better deal for themselves. LeBron James is one of the names that is opting out, but he is expected to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But James isn’t the only star player that has this option in Cleveland. The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Kevin Love last offseason and shipped the past two number one overall picks to Minnesota for him. The Cavs did this knowing that Love could potentially opt out of his deal after this season. But to many, they believed that Kevin Love and LeBron would be a good pairing based on their games. Well, it seems as if the pairing did not work as well as some thought, as Love had one of his worst scoring and rebounding seasons in the NBA. The pairing of Love with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James was not as good as some thought it would be. And as the season went on, it seemed the relationship between both James and Love was not the smoothest either. Of course Love is one of the hardest people to read in the NBA, so this talk about their relationship could be just rumors. But with all that talk and the play circulating in the media, Kevin Love made a decision to opt out of the last year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He could still end up in Cleveland next season, but the great thing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in this decision is now it makes it a little easier on them as to what options they have this summer. If Love would have opted in, the Cavs would have been in a tough place when it came to Tristian Thompson, who is a restricted free agent this offseason. Now instead of wondering how Love and James would get along, the NBA and its fans will be waiting to see where Love turns up next.

Kevin Love is a stats guy. He has averaged double-figure points and rebounds for five of his seven seasons in the NBA. And for what it’s worth, he is one of the best outlet passers in the NBA. That could be great for a team that is starting the fast break. The perfect fit for Love would be a team that has some explosive wings but allows him to be a focal point of the offense. In that aspect, there are a few teams that may be able to comply with what he would like. The most obvious answer for a team craving Love is the Los Angeles Lakers. Many Lakers fans have thought that eventually Love would be coming home to the Lakers. And in this circumstance, he could make Los Angeles his home. The Lakers have at least $23 million in cap space this offseason. The Lakers recently selected D’Angelo Russell out of Ohio State with the 2nd pick in the draft, so the indication from Los Angeles is that Love will be one of two power forwards they look at this offseason (LaMarcus Aldridge is the other). But with the silence of Kevin Love, you don’t know whether or not he wants the extra year on his deal and that could potentially affect him coming to LA or not. The only way he gets that extra year on his deal to go to Los Angeles is if he is signed and traded to them. And in that case, the Lakers would have to give up something to get him. More than likely it would be future draft picks and also a player. If I was the Cavaliers, I would ask for Julius Randle in return for trading Love to the Lakers. That would allow for the Cavs to sign Tristian Thompson back and also get him a backup in Randle to solve their power forward position. But of course, the Lakers are not the only ones interested in Love this offseason and they may not even be interested in parting ways with Randle so soon.

The Boston Celtics are another team that is checking out the prospects of bringing Love in. Danny Ainge tried to work something out to get him to Boston before when Rajon Rondo was still their point guard to no avail. Well, the Celtics now have a stockpile of picks and interesting players available to make something happen this time. The Celtics, like the Lakers, could try and swing a free agent deal with Love and leave it at that. That would give them Love’s talents for four years and more than likely max money. But if the Celtics were to decide to do a sign and trade for Love, they have all the assets to make it happen. They have a gluttony of talent in their frontcourt that many would be interested in including forward Jared Sullinger and forward Kelly Olynyk (wouldn’t it be interesting if he was traded to the Cavs in this one). But in all honesty, Love would not make as big a difference as the main player on that team. The Celtics need one more piece to go along with Love should they sign him outright or trade for him. That piece is a frontline scorer. If Love is brought in on that team and asked to be the leading scorer for them, then that team would go nowhere fast. And with the picks the Celtics made in this most recent draft, you have to count on free agency for them to add some punch there. In the end, he is not a difference-maker for that team that takes them to the playoffs. Of course he would get more touches and make more things happen for that team. But it would be Minnesota all over again but on the East coast and Love wants to be the focus or secondary focus on a team and win basketball games.

A darkhorse candidate that may take a look at Love is the New York Knicks. They drafted big man Kristaps Porzingis 4th overall in the draft, who by all accounts will not be ready to make a big contribution anytime soon. The Knicks redeemed themselves a little bit with trading Tim Hardaway Jr to the Atlanta Hawks for talented point guard Jerian Grant, but there is still the matter of that hole in the frontcourt. As the Knicks stand right now, they have no big men that are going to be there. Carmelo would slide back to the power forward position again if no one is found, but that is not expected to happen. The Knicks are expected to make a run at big man Greg Monroe and there are rumors out there that David West could sign there after opting out of his player option in Indianapolis. But none of these guys is a given to sign at this point and time. And even if the Knicks were going to sign Monroe they would still be able to take Kevin Love. Of course the money dries up quick when you spend it, and the Knicks would overspend for Monroe and another piece as well as trying to get Love. If that is the case, he would be looking to play elsewhere as he is not the top priority there in New York. Plus there is also the issue of whether he and Carmelo could co-exist, which no one knows. Melo is different from LeBron in that he is more of a scorer than facilitator. And that mix may not be something that would fit Love’s game, let alone the bright lights of the city that he seems to not care for. We could speak of them trading something to Cleveland, but the Knicks have nothing to offer there due to trades in the past and their roster not being as talented.

Love is going to be sought after by a few teams this offseason and there may be some surprises out there that were not mentioned. But along with potentially re-signing in Cleveland (which is a longshot at best at this point), Love has some things to think about. After all, this contract could be the last big contract he signs in the NBA. In all honesty, all teams would need to take a look at what they are willing to sacrifice for a guy that is a defensive liability but can flatout fill it up on the offensive end along with battle on the offensive boards. The choice is not only his but the teams that are interested. And come July 1st, Love, like many others who opted out of deals, will be deciding whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

If you like sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

Paul Pierce Has A Decision To Make Regarding Next Season In The NBA

Paul Pierce takes Toronto's Amir Johnson off the dribble. (Photo courtesy of www.SI.com)

Paul Pierce takes Toronto’s Amir Johnson off the dribble. (Photo courtesy of http://www.SI.com)

Paul Pierce has had an excellent career in the NBA. He has played for the Celtics and won a title along with playing for the Brooklyn Nets and the Washington Wizards. Going into this offseason, there was a question as to whether he would come back or not. He was clutch for the Wizards in the playoffs, hitting big basket after big basket for them. But he also was an older player in the NBA (37 years of age). As a result of his age, the Wizards seemingly paced him all year long to keep him fresh for the playoffs. He played a career-low 26 minutes a game and scored his lowest point total of his career. But the good thing about him playing for the Wizards is they did not need him to put up 18-20 points per game. The show belonged to guards John Wall and Bradley Beal as they were the main focus on the team. All Pierce was brought in to do was bring leadership and hit big shots. He definitely made an impact there, but the team did not succeed as much as they expected. The Wizards lost to the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and went home earlier than they envisioned. And with that loss, Pierce was not sure he wanted to come back. There were stories out that Pierce had thought about hanging up the sneakers instead of taking his player option to return to Washington in the 2015-2016 season. But those rumors were quickly put to bed as it has been confirmed that Pierce will be playing next season. That announcement was good news for a team, but that team may not be the Wizards. It is said that he could come back to Washington. But there is also a chance that Piece could be heading to the West.

The Los Angeles Clippers have had a void at small forward for a while now. Last season, Doc Rivers used veteran journeyman Matt Barnes as his starting small forward. And even though Barnes was a tough defender and had a solid season scoring (10.1 points per game), he was nowhere to be found in the playoffs and capped that disappearing act off with an underwhelming performance against the Houston Rockets where he disappeared in the biggest game, Game 7. It was obvious to anyone that watched the Clippers play that Barnes was not the answer for them at small forward and they needed to upgrade that position this offseason. When the Clippers traded him to the Charlotte Hornets in a package deal for the services of Lance Stephenson, it was apparent the team wanted to make some changes at the small forward position. Paul Pierce has had his most success in the NBA under coach Doc Rivers and currently Doc is the head coach and team president of the Clippers organization. There have been rumors out there for a while that Pierce would love to play for Doc again and this seems like the perfect opportunity. If he is able to come to terms with the Clippers on a cap-friendly deal, he would definitely be a huge upgrade over the now-departed Barnes. The veteran small forward has been known for his veteran leadership for some time now. And that leadership could be something that could help the Clippers even though Chris Paul is a veteran in his own right. Another thing he could bring to Los Angeles is his clutch shooting. Pierce has hit many clutch shots over his lifetime and we all know he isn’t shying away from any shot that could help the team win. The biggest thing that Pierce could bring to this team is his championship experience. Pierce won his lone NBA championship under the leadership of Doc Rivers in Boston. And if you look at the Clippers roster as it stands, Pierce has gone the furthest in the playoffs. The championship experience he brings as a player would prove invaluable in getting the Clippers over the hump.

The Clippers option looks excellent for Pierce, especially since he would be coming back to an area in which he grew up. But playing for the Clippers and Doc Rivers aren’t the only option out there. Paul Pierce still has an option that has to be decided upon pretty soon. In that option, Pierce would be receiving $5.5 million if he were to pick up the option with the Wizards. It has been rumored that he has declined the option with the Wizards next season, but that has yet to be confirmed. Even with him potentially declining the money, it could still be possible for him to come back there. He has a good opportunity to win if he comes back to Washington. Some can argue that if John Wall does not injure his wrist, the Wizards would have beat the Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. If he were to stay with the Wizards, the team would probably continue to play him less minutes while building on their progress from the 2014-2015 campaign. That would allow for him to be fresh during the playoffs and would also allow the Wizards to continue the development of young swingman Otto Porter, Jr. But along with him playing the same minutes, the team would have great continuity heading into next season. Pierce seemed to have a positive effect on Wall and Beal. Both would continue to grow under the leadership of Pierce. Eventually, the Wizards hope his leadership will be something that allows Wall and Beal to make consistent big plays down the stretch of big games without having to depend on Pierce to bail the team out. It would also give them a consistent shooter from the three-point range that could be counted on when they need him. That is essential when you have a playmaker with the ability of Wall and Beal. In fact, playing with Wall and Beal provides Pierce wide-open shots should they penetrate ore often. But the biggest thing, like what he would bring the Clippers, is championship experience. When some team has never won anything, it can be really tough for the opponent to handle the pressures that come from winning. And Pierce would help them check those emotions while focusing on the task at hand. Besides LeBron James’ Cavaliers, the Wizards have just as much hope as anyone next season to win the East. And quite frankly, the East would be an easier path for Pierce to go back to the NBA Finals.

Over the next few weeks, Pierce has to make some decisions. Does he leave for the Los Angeles Clippers or stay with the Wizards for his remaining time? It all depends on what Pierce wants to do. But in the meantime, it is down to the Wizards or the Clippers in this one. If he stays where he is, he could help the Wizards go to the next level. But if he goes home, the road to success could be more difficult.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

Oscar Robertson: Underappreciated Greatness

Oscar Robertson was magical in the NBA. (Photo courtesy of www.usatoday.com)

Oscar Robertson was magical in the NBA. (Photo courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)

The NBA has always had players that have captivated the imagination and fascination of fans. From Wilt Chamberlain to Magic Johnson to Michael Jordan, there has always been players that people have been in love because of the things that they have done on the court and the things that they have achieved. And it is because there have been so many great players in the NBA, that it is often hard for anyone to come to a consensus on who are the Top 5 or Top 10 players to ever play the game. The usual suspects like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson appear on everyone’s list in some shape, form or fashion. But after these two, there is the battle of the big men, guards and forwards that ensues afterwards. Some call for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell when picking the first big man in the Top 5 or 10. When guards are picked, some go to Bob Cousy and Kobe Bryant after Michael Jordan. And when it comes to forwards, many are quick to put Larry Bird and even current player LeBron James on this list. But what about the guys that were great in their era that people forget about? Most of the guys listed are the first names that people think of when think of their Top 10, but there is one name that people tend to forget each and every time. His name: Oscar Robertson.

The Big O as they called him, was known well before he made it to the NBA. When he was in college at the University of Cincinnati, the 6’5” guard from Indianapolis’ Crispus Attucks high school averaged 33.9 points per game, was a three-time All-American and was the main reason the Bearcats even made it to the two Final Fours during his time there from 1957-1960. He was essentially a man amongst boys even though he did not win that elusive title he craved when he was in college. But even without it, he was definitely one of the greatest players to ever play college basketball. And in an even more fortunate turnoff events, he was able to continue his special career with the Cincinnati Royals, who just so happened to have the first pick in the NBA draft in 1960. The things that Robertson did in the game a man his size was stuff of legends. Everyone talks about how LeBron James was the first to be that unique combination of size, strength and ability. Well, Oscar Robertson may beg to differ. Of course the athleticism was probably better in James than Robertson, but his size and strength in that era put him head and shoulders above the talents he played against. And it is because of that talent and the ability to make things happen for others, that he was a great NBA player. To give you an idea of how great he was, he averaged a triple-double in only his second year in the NBA (30.8 points per game, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game). The man just was a machine. Unfortunately he just so happened to play in an era where television was not big as it is now and he played in one of the smallest NBA markets at the time, Cincinnati, Ohio.

But other than playing in the smallest market in the NBA, he also played against one of the toughest teams in NBA history in the Boston Celtics during his era. Oscar Robertson was in the NBA from 1960-1974 and he played very well the entire time he was in the NBA, but the Celtics had a team of Hall Of Famers, led by Bill Russell. And during the entirety of Robertson’s career, the Celtics won the championship nine times. That left five years that Oscar had to win a championship and he was finally able to get one in 1971, when he and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor), won the championship. Even though television wasn’t around in that time, it seems like Robertson is criticized when it comes to great players because of the championship that he did not win. Some that judge how great players were don’t even consider him as great as he is strictly because of the championships he did not win and that is sad. Robertson consistently carried teams each and every year, but he had nothing to show for it but statistics, scoring titles, an MVP award, numerous All-NBA teams and six assist titles. He was the original stat-sheet stuffer each time he touched the court. He just happened to come around at the wrong time in his career. And he also happened to not get Lew Alcindor until he played in Milwaukee for the Bucks.

Oscar is definitely a Top 10 player in the NBA. He averaged 27.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists over his entire career. His numbers were impressive no matter what era he played in. And he should not be penalized on his level of greatness just because he did not win more than one championship in his career. Robertson was a special player who excelled at every single level he played at. He set the bar high and even though he did not achieve everything he wanted to over his career, his greatness can never be understated. Along with Magic, Bird, Kareem, Michael and Wilt, his name should be mentioned and he stands right along with them in the pantheon of greatness.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

Three Reasons The Atlanta Hawks Are About To Be Eliminated From The Eastern Conference Finals

Jeff Teague is a part of an Atlanta team that is fading fast in the Eastern Conference Finals (photo courtesy of www.ajc.com)

Jeff Teague is a part of an Atlanta team that is fading fast in the Eastern Conference Finals (photo courtesy of http://www.ajc.com)

The Atlanta Hawks were the top seed heading into their series versus the Cleveland Cavaliers but it did not seem like it. The Hawks had struggled to win series against the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets before facing the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, on the other hand, had an easy matchup versus the Boston Celtics and got a little push from the Chicago Bulls. And even without the services of Love since the first series, it seems like the Cavs have taken it to another level and have blown through the playoffs. Some expected a good battle between both teams. After all, Atlanta was nicknamed “Spurs East” due to their ball movement and their head coach, Mike Budenholzer, who was a longtime assistant in the Spurs organization. But there were others that looked at this team and were waiting on the Cavs to taken them apart like they did to the Celtics and Bulls. Well, at this point we are still waiting on any semblance of a series to show up. The Cavaliers have handled the Hawks pretty easily through the first three games on their way to a 3-0 series lead. It’s hard to believe that the #1 seed in the East could be getting swept so late in the postseason and so soundly. But there are three big reasons why this is happening to them and why Tuesday will more than likely be their last game in the playoffs.

Like was mentioned before, the Hawks are a team that moves the basketball a lot. The constant cutting, movement and passing has led to the Hawks being able to find high-percentage shots created by all the action going on offensively. And as a result, the Hawks averaged 102.5 points per game and were a difficult matchup for teams due to their multitude of players that can step away from the basket and shoot a three pointer. But in the playoffs, it seems as if the movement has gotten worse and worse. They had some ball movement versus the Nets and the Wizards, but it seems as if that motion has come to a halt. Part of that is the defense of Cleveland, which has been the best in the postseason. But the Atlanta Hawks have to take most of the blame in this one. They have become a stagnant offense in the playoffs and it seems like Budenholzer cannot get them out of their tailspin. Instead of the ball movement that was attributed to their offense, the Hawks have now become a more isolation-oriented offense. And with that type of style, the Hawks will never win, as evidence by this series. The best thing for them to do would be to stop looking at the matchups and where they may have the size advantage. By doing that, maybe it will bring some of the focus back to what made the Hawks so dangerous this season. Of course it will be a little bit harder for them to attempt to dig out of this hole, but it is something that would not be deemed impossible either.

Another thing that has helped them into their 3-0 is their lack of rebounding. The Hawks have not been considered a team that has been great rebounding this season. In fact, they were ranked in the bottom half of rebounding this season (ranked 28th in the NBA). Atlanta was successful in the regular season despite the lack of rebounding on both ends of the court. But as the postseason has gone on, they have definitely been exposed in the paint. They came into this series versus Cleveland ranked as the 11th worst rebounding team out of 16 teams. A successful playoff team should never be that low and when they are, they should know that it will catch up to them. Well it took a while, but the Cavaliers have been punishing the Hawks on the boards this series. As it stands before Game 4, the Hawks are a have been beat on the boards every game and are an astonishing -41 on the boards for the series. Tristian Thompson, LeBron James and Timofey Mozgov have been tearing it up on the boards while the Hawks have been missing shots and missing blockouts on the offensive end as well. As a result, the Cavaliers seem to get more shots each game and they also seem to be the tougher team. The Hawks never adjusted to the physicality of the Cavaliers and it is evident not only in the rebounding, but the games.

But the biggest reason the Hawks are down is they have no superstar or star guy that takes over when times get tough. Taking a look at the teams left in the playoffs, they all have a guy they can go to when the offense gets tough and stagnant. Steph Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston) and LeBron James (Cleveland) have been coming through for their respective teams and carrying them when it is evident their teams need someone to step up. All three of these guys make plays and can elevate the roles players around them to new levels of productivity. For the Hawks, they have some good players, but not one that can make other teams pay no matter what they do. It is commendable they have made it this far without one, but for the future, Atlanta will need that one guy to take over and make their offense go. Al Horford is a good post player, but he is not taking over when the going gets tough for them. All the Hawks have to do is look at their opponent to see how much a star player can help in tough times. The Cavaliers have been playing without Kevin Love since the Chicago Bulls series and have been missing Kyrie Irving the last two games. But despite those absences, the team still wins and it is all because of the LeBron James setting the table. He has not only scored when they needed it, but he has also made players like Matthew Dellavedova and veteran James Jones effective on the offensive end by setting the table for them. Having that star takeover has gotten them through the absences and the tough times and that is something a team trying to win a title needs. And unfortunately for Atlanta, they do not have that guy.

As it stands, it looks like the Hawks great season is going to go by the wayside in embarrassing fashion. They more than likely will lose the fourth game in this series and be going on vacation earlier than they though. But most of it is in their own doing. Sure, there have been some questionable calls and there may be some plays that bothered the Hawks and made tempers rise, but the Hawks cannot blame any of those on the execution of their offense and lack of rebounding. The star power search is up to the front office of their team. And even though there is one candidate in Jeff Teague that could be a star for them, he unfortunately has not reached the level they want him to just yet. The season has been a whirlwind for the Hawks, but the time has come for them to head to the offseason and the Cavs are going to take them there with a broom in hand.

Doc Rivers’ Labor Of Love Helping Propel The Los Angeles Clippers

Doc and Austin Rivers share a moment. (photo courtesy of www.espn.com)

Doc and Austin Rivers share a moment. (photo courtesy of http://www.espn.com)

Doc Rivers had a decision to make this season. Plenty in the Clippers organization felt it would not be a bad idea for him to trade for his son, but Doc had to think about it. He did not want it to appear like he was doing something to hurt his team. He thought about it decided to make the deal. After Austin Rivers was traded to the Celtics around the trade deadline, Doc made the move to get his son on his team. The Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics made a trade that brought together Austin Rivers with his dad and new coach, making NBA history being the first father to coach his son in the NBA. But this move was not met with the open arms and great, warm feelings that some thought it may have been. Doc was looked at as a man that had too much power with the organization by some. After all, he is the big basketball decision-maker in the Clippers organization and he was taking a chance on his son, who was a struggling guard that had not found his niche in the NBA. Many could not get over the fact that Doc did not make a move for a small forward the Clippers needed. But Doc made the decision to help his son and maybe save his NBA career.

Austin Rivers was a dynamite guard out of the Duke University when he was a freshman. Plenty looked at his ability to make plays and score the basketball and assumed he would be a good player in the NBA immediately. The then-New Orleans Hornets were one of the teams that were sold on his skills and they took him with the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. But instead of a great scorer or contributor, the Hornets got a guy who was inconsistent with his play on the court and his shooting. And at 6’4”, the Hornets felt he was a tweener on the basketball court. They just could not find a way to use him consistently on the court. And the numbers of the younger Rivers reflected the inconsistencies. He would never average over 10 points per game with the Hornets/Pelicans and he would also never live up to the promise some thought he had coming out of Duke. He needed a lifeline and a fresh start to his career. And that lifeline came in the form of his father, watching his son from a distance. The opportunity came about for Doc to revive his career and he took it. When Austin arrived in Los Angeles, many wondered how he would be. Would he come out of his shell and go back to the guy everyone saw as a freshman at Duke or would he continue to falter in his NBA career? At first, he seemed timid and would not shoot the basketball as much. It seemed like he was trying to fit in more from a distance than just playing basketball. At times, it seemed like Doc’s love for his son had conflicted his decision as a coach. And as the Clippers were doing well, it seemed he like he was still trying to figure out who he was as an NBA player. But little did we know that we would be in store for a coming out party for Austin Rivers in the playoffs.

Plenty had wondered not only what Chris Paul would do in the playoffs, but what would happen if he went to the bench during the game. There were not many players that were sold on the fact that Austin Rivers was the backup. There were concerns about his play and what he could do out there. But the younger Rivers put that to bed in the 1st round of the playoffs. Rivers had been solid for the Clippers when Paul went to the bench, but in Game 4 he definitely stepped up. The Clippers entered that game down 2-1 to the San Antonio Spurs and needed a win in the worst way. They needed someone to step up and play big and unexpectedly Austin Rivers showed up. The young guard from Duke had 16 points on 7/8 shooting and hit both free throws he attempted. It was evident that he was not ready to go home and he was ready to announce he could play in the NBA to the world. Ever since that game, it seemed like the hate and jokes that Austin Rivers received has started to fade away. And now he is not just known as Doc Rivers’ son, but as a basketball player trying to make his mark in the NBA. He cemented that he was a guy to look out for in Game 3 versus the Rockets Friday night when he spearheaded a great run by the Clippers. Rivers had 25 points and was on fire. His numbers have been getting better by the series. He only had two games of double-figures versus the Spurs in the 1st round and in this round, he has been averaging 17 points per game off the bench for the Clippers versus the Rockets. Undoubtedly he has been the shot in the arm that Los Angeles has needed and could be one of the big keys to them heading to the Western Conference Finals perhaps. Who would have thought what looked like a labor of love by Doc Rivers towards his son would be a move that could help propel the Clippers even further? Austin Rivers has finally arrived ladies and gentlemen. And the potential that all saw when he came out of college is finally getting tapped into. All it took was the words and coaching of his dad and the confidence of his teammates in his abilities.

The Incidents In The Cavaliers/Celtics Series Game Shows A Need For Punishment Change In The NBA

The battle for a rebound ends ugly for Kevin Love(photo courtesy of www.thesudburystar.com)

The battle for a rebound ends ugly for Kevin Love(photo courtesy of http://www.thesudburystar.com)

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been in control of the series versus the Boston Celtics from the beginning. It seems as if they were just toying with the Celtics, letting them come back in games only to distance themselves again and win. Heading into Sunday, the Cavaliers looked to end the series versus the Celtics and get some rest for the next opponent, presumably the Chicago Bulls. The Cavs expected the Celtics to come out and fight, but they certainly did not expect that to happen literally. Game 4 in Boston was a messy game. There was some nasty things that happened, but there were two plays that happened that caught the eye of many that watched the game and others that did not see it at all. Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk and Cavaliers forward Kevin Love were fighting for a loose ball in the first quarter when Olynyk inexplicable yanked down on Love’s arm. In doing so, he dislocated Love’s arm and then caused him to exit the game. The other incident that cause a stir happened between Cavaliers guard JR Smith and Celtics forward Jae Crowder. Both players were battling for position for a rebound on the floor when JR Smith took a wild swing behind him and clocked Crowder in the head. Crowder would leave the game with what was deemed a sprained knee, but it looked like he could have injured himself much worse than that with how dazed he looked. Smith was ejected from the game for that and could be seen clapping towards fans and smiling as he left the court. Both incidents could lead to missed games for Olynyk and Smith. For Olynyk, it could mean a suspension for him to start the 2015-2016 season. But for Cleveland, it could be an even worse thing for their starting guard. Smith could be suspended for the Flagrant 2 foul he was assessed after the hit on Crowder. And not only could he be suspended for the first game of their second round series, but he could be suspended multiple games. That would be a huge blow for the Cavaliers if Smith is suspended along with Love missing any time with the dislocated shoulder. Many are saying that both Olynyk and Smith should get multiple-game suspensions, but there should actually be more done than this.

In the NHL, there is a physical nature that comes with the game. People get their teeth knocked out and their clocks cleaned when getting crushed up against the glass, but when an act happens that is deemed dirty, the NHL has the best policy in sports. When an act like someone hitting someone with a dirty hit that hurts a player seriously or other things dirty happen, the NHL takes the time to investigate the matter. Usually they dole out suspensions and they are done with it at that time. But in hockey, the criminal court system also takes a look at the issue at hand. They review the tape and they also can pin assault charges on players for their actions on the ice. One of the most popular examples of the court system getting involved in an on-ice incident is the Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore incident of 2004. Bertuzzi was playing for the Vancouver Canucks at the time and they were getting blown out by Moore’s Colorado Avalanche. In the 3rd period of the game, Bertuzzi was sent on the ice in a game that had been particularly ugly due to all the fights in the game. Moore had earlier got into a dustup with Matt Cooke of the Canucks and served a five-minute major penalty for fighting. Bertuzzi immediately came on the ice to instigate a fight with Moore and when he failed to do so in the 3rd period, he went after Moore. Bertuzzi grabbed Moore by the back of the jersey and hit him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. Bertuzzi would also land on top of Moore, driving his face into the ice. Some thought that was just payback for Moore, but it ended up being much more than that. Moore suffered three fractured neck vertebrae, facial cuts and a concussion as a result of the hit, fall and his face being drove into the ice. Moore’s career was unfortunately ended by that one hit. As a result of that incident, there were criminal assault charges issued against Bertuzzi and also a lawsuit against Bertuzzi and the Vancouver Canucks.

Although the incidents that happened in the Celtics/Cavaliers game were not career-ending like what happened to Moore, the same rules could potentially apply, especially in the case of JR Smith and Jae Crowder. In the future, the NBA may want to look into the rules the NHL has. The NHL has fighting and things in their game, but they all know when to not cross the line. The NBA does not know that line and it can be blurry at times. Setting up this type of legislation would further set the tempo when it comes to incidents like what happened Sunday. If these rules were in place, Olynyk and Smith would potentially both be facing assault charges. Of course Olynyk’s incident would probably get less attention, but both would be in hot water if the courts were involved. But along with setting a tough line, it would also discourage the vigilante justice that can happen sometimes on the court and can distract from the game.

Moving forward, the Cavaliers could be affected in both incidents of this equation. One of their top players this postseason could be limited for a while with a shoulder injury while another may be out for the rest a while after losing his temper and decking an opponent. The Cavs may have some issues when it comes to the second round because of these two incidents. And in the regard of the Celtics, they will probably be missing a player to start next season and Crowder could be injured worse than what was initially reported. Fighting and intentionally injuring players has no place on the court. Of course you can take up for your teammates, but get the other team back between the lines maybe with a hard screen or something like that, not something dirty and obvious to people. That isn’t smart at all.

Taking A Stand

LeBron in Miami
Almost everyone is familiar with the Donald Sterling situation in the NBA. In case you have not heard, the exiled Clippers owner was caught on tape saying comments about not wanting minorities at his games and not wanting his girlfriend to hang around with Black people. The NBA’s immediate reaction was to fine Sterling $2.5 million, ban him for life from the NBA and force him to sell his team. But of course the process to ban him has not gone as fast as some would like. NBA commissioner Adam Silver met with the NBA Advisory board and they have to obtain a 75% vote from the owners to vote Sterling out of the league. And, as expected, there is some pushback coming from Sterling. He has said, through his lawyers, that he will not be paying the fine and will be suing the NBA. Hearing all this, there have been mumblings of the players boycotting the 2014-2015 season if Sterling still owns the Clippers going into next season. And just this week, it was rumored that LeBron James would be the leader of this boycott. This report was quickly denied by Players’ Union VP Roger Mason, Jr. as he said that LeBron never said those words to him (Mason, Jr. was the first reported as saying LeBron said he would lead boycott of 2014-2015 season). But before the reports of LeBron and the boycott were cleaned up by Mason, Jr., people started to throw out their opinions about what was reported he was going to do. Some supported his stand, while others began to attack LeBron. Some believed that LeBron should just stick to being a basketball player and others felt that he was doing this in a self-serving manner. But what was interesting is that he was standing up for what he felt was right in the matter despite what all the potential ramifications.

Jackie Robinson Looking at situations in the past, sometimes a stand is needed. Just think where we would be as a society if stands were not made at all. Even though Jackie Robinson was not the first African-American to play professional baseball, he definitely was one of the most influential. Before him, there were three others who broke the color barrier in baseball, but none of them had a lasting impact. Robinson was a very talented baseball player and ended up having a good career in the pros, but his entry was not met with the greatest acceptance. He was talked about, talked to and had many threats on his life as he pursued his dream. He took a stand for what he felt needed to happen despite the surrounding issues. Despite it not being the so-called “right thing to do” at the time, he made an immeasurable impact on sports and on sports culture as he began to help chisel away the color barrier.

Bill Russell But Robinson was not the only one to ignore the status quo. Bill Russell is one of the greatest centers of all-time. He led the Boston Celtics to as many as 11 titles during his time in the NBA. But other than that, Russell did not take any crap off anyone despite his celebrity in the game. During his playing career, the Celtics had an exhibition game in Lexington, Kentucky. And during that trip, Russell and other Black players on the team were refused service at a local restaurant. As a result, Russell and his other Black teammates did not play in the exhibition and flew home. Of course they were criticized for what they did, but they took a stand for what they felt was the right thing to do. Russell was also a part of the Black Power Movement that refused to be drafted because he would be going to war for a country that did not allow him equal rights. Of course, Russell received hate from his own fans in Boston over his career as well. But he kept doing what he felt was right and made his stand. And like Robinson, that stand is forever felt not only on the basketball court but off it as well. It may not have been the right thing in most people’s eyes at that time, but he did it because he felt it needed to be done. And his acts had an immeasurable impact.

Those who came down on LeBron probably would have come down on Russell and Robinson because they did not follow the protocol for the time period. Well, if history has told us anything, it’s that you cannot always follow the rules that are set. Sometimes a statement is needed despite possible repercussions. And in this instance, the NBA may be getting complacent in the player’s eyes and a stand needs to be made. Whether it’s LeBron or another player leading it, the players have to stand for what they believe in, whether we like it or not. The funny part is fans tend to criticize players for not being connected with the things that are going on and when players actually show they care about a situation enough to do something, they are criticized as if they did nothing. You cannot have it both ways. Either they stand for something or fall for anything. One or the other.

For more sports conversations, feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check out my Facebook page Mike Patton-The General .

Joakim Noah: The Soul Of Chicago

Joakim Noah At the beginning of the season, the Chicago Bulls were expected to challenge for the Eastern Conference crown. They returned a strong defensive team, Derrick Rose was on the mend and of course they had one of the best coaches in the NBA in Tom Thibodeau. Everything was in place for them to succeed. In the preseason and the beginning of the regular season, it looked like Rose was still shaking the rust off. He was starting to gain some steam after the team played the Denver Nuggets, but early in the season when the Bulls were playing the Trailblazer in Portland, this confident Bulls team was shook to the core by Rose going down again:

Rose was later diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his knee and was lost for the season. After the injury, the Bulls looked like a defeated team the next few games. They eventually got out of the short slump, but then management dealt them another body blow.

Chicago forward Luol Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers after he had rejected a three-year, $30 million dollar extension from Chicago. In return, the Bulls landed Andrew Bynum, who they quickly released to save money against their salary cap. This team was left for dead after that trade. All hope anyone may have had for them to at least make the playoffs dissipated. And some thought the team was getting ready to tank. But one man had other ideas. He refused to quit and give into those thoughts. After all, he did not quit when the chips were down in his career.

Joakim Noah was selected with the 9th pick of the 2007 draft. He was the center of the two-time defending National Champion Florida Gators and had declared after his junior season. But unlike his collegiate teammates Corey Brewer and Al Horford, Noah was a mystery to people as to what he would be. He could rebound and pass, but he could not shoot and was not a smooth operator out of the post. In the first couple of years of his career, the doubts about Noah were validated by his play. He was only averaging around six points and six and he really seemed like just another player. But it was not until the 2009 Eastern Conference 1st round series that Noah then showed he had arrived. Noah played with heart, desire and fought to the bitter end as the Bulls fought the veteran Celtics. Who can forget this memorable play during Game six of the Bulls 128-127 triple overtime win that series:

The Celtics would go on to win the Game seven, but Noah definitely made his presence felt. Gone was the guy that no one knew about and present was the guy that would become the emotional barometer of the team.

Noah would continue to improve every season from that playoff battle. And over the years, his skill and his grit have become the backbone of this team. And because of that grit, he would not let this team quit when all had given up on them this season. Instead of letting his team tank, Noah has taken the reins and become the leader not only by his emotion but by his play. He is again averaging a double-double and he is making the game easy for his teammates with his excellent passing skills (leads all centers in assists per game with 4.3 a game). And after their big win versus the Brooklyn Nets Thursday, the Bulls have gone from the bottom to near the top of the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They now are hot on the Toronto Raptors trail for the third spot in the East and they are only gaining momentum. The unselfishness, emotion and grit of Noah has been permeated throughout the whole team. His effect cannot be measured by mere stats because he is now the heart and soul of the Chicago Bulls. And as long as he is there, the Bulls will always be a tough out for anyone.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or come check out my Facebook page at Mike Patton-The General .

My Thoughts On The Chris Harren Documentary “Unguarded”

I recently watched the ESPN special documentary “Unguarded”. For those that didn’t watch, the documentary chronicled the life of former NBA player and college star Chris Herren. If you don’t know who Chris Herren is, you surely missed a treat on the court. Herren grew up in Massachusetts and was a basketball behemoth. He garnered All-American status and played college basketball at Boston College, Fresno State and ultimately played in the NBA and overseas. But, this documentary wasn’t about Chris playing basketball. It was about much more. For as many great things that Herren did on the court, off the court he was heavily into drugs. They kept derailing his life and his family. In fact, he was legally pronounced dead before as a result of drug use.

I personally can remember growing up watching him play for Fresno State under former UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian. At that point in my life, I thought Herren was going to be a great NBA player and I even remember him being in the NBA with the Celtics and the Nuggets. But what I didn’t know about is the constant struggle that he was going through each and everyday. This goes to speak about what we all think we know and what we really know. For as much joy as he was experiencing playing the game he loved, he was in pain on the inside.

I hope that a lot of people were watching and paying attention to the things that Herren went through. And I hope folks understand that drugs aren’t a habit, but a sickness that isn’t to be taken lightly. Drugs can seem to bring you to your highest of highs in your mind, but in those highs you could really be in the lowest of lows. The pressures of life can get to you. Don’t let them engulf you. Speak to someone. Handle your issues. And if you know someone who needs help, get them help.

I applaud Chris Herren for his transparency in sharing his life with the world. It takes courage to tell these stories and I want to salute Chris, ESPN and the director of this documentary, John Houk. Excellent work. And if you haven’t seen “Unguarded”, you need to! Even if you haven’t been involved in drugs or known anyone that is involved in drugs, you can learn something. Thanks for educating America Chris. We hear you loud and clear.

Post Navigation