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The General’s Top Three Teams In The Joe Johnson Sweepstakes

(photo courtesy of www.fansided.com)

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

The trade deadline has come and gone and some players that could affect teams were moved. One notable one is now-Pistons forward Tobias Harris. But after that, is the season where veteran players get to pick the team they want to go to. Yep, buyout season is upon us now and after the trade deadline is usually when it happens. Of course, some players get traded and get bought out with no one to pick them up. But there are some that are coveted but not coveted at the pricetag they were being paid at. Joe Johnson was getting paid 21.9 million this season for the Brooklyn Nets. Plenty of teams were interested in him, but the pricetag was just too high for them. Many teams were hoping instead of trading for him, that the Nets would reach a buyout with him eventually. It may not have happened when many expected it to, but now Joe Johnson is a free agent on the open market. The Nets and Johnson agreed to a buyout of his contract on Thursday. And assuming he will clear waivers, Johnson will be able to pick where he wants to go. More than likely, a contender will take a chance and bring him in for the rest of the season and the playoffs. But the question is which team will he choose? The answer to that question is still up in the air, but here are the three teams (in no particular order) that are expected to make a run at the 34 year old veteran.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been better under the leadership of Tyronn Lue. The teams seems to be more in tune defensively and Kevin Love is more involved offensively. Even with some of the struggles that they have had this season, they are still the best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. But even with that, there seems to be an issue with the shooting they have coming in off the bench. Channing Frye was acquired to add to the shooting off the Cleveland bench, but anytime you have Richard Jefferson coming in off your bench to backup LeBron James, then there is an issue. Johnson is not a small forward, but at 6’7”, he can play the small forward position. He and Iman Shumpert coming in off the bench would be a solid duo because they both have length and size defensively and offensively Joe could balance out the inconsistent shooting that comes from Shumpert and some of the backup guards. Johnson would be a shot in the arm for the backup crew in Cleveland and could also run with starting crew sometimes with LeBron James. And with LeBron’s propensity to break down defenses, Johnson could spot up and nail the three (Johnson is a career 37% three-point shooter). He essentially would help create even more lanes and space for LeBron, especially if they go to the small lineup with LeBron at the power forward position. And more importantly for Johnson, he could play on a team that could potentially get him to the NBA Finals for the first time.

Johnson could definitely help the Cavaliers’ bench, but he could also help the Thunder whether it be off the bench or in the starting lineup. The Thunder have been carried all season long by their superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But what they have had all season is a hole at their shooting guard spot. They filled it earlier in the season with Andre Roberson. The young wing player is in the mold of former Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha in that he is a defensive player and can spot up offensively and can occasionally hit the open shot. But in a playoff series, he helps other teams play four on five. His offensive game is not respected and that causes things to be harder for Durant and Westbrook in crunch time. The other shooting guard the Thunder have is Dion Waiters. The young guard out of Syracuse has been inconsistent at best for his entire career and you never know what you will get out of him, whether it be off the bench or starting. Johnson would give them a career 17 point per game scorer that is feared scoring the ball and could help some of the playmaking pressures off Durant and Westbrook in the playoffs. If he decides to go with that team, that gives them a veteran presence that could conceivably give them enough to challenge for the Western Conference crown.

Johnson would be heading West, but there is another team that should take a look at him. That team: the San Antonio Spurs. Many will probably wonder why he would fit that team. They are pretty deep as it stands right now. But Joe would fit in seamlessly on that team. Manu Ginobli will be back momentarily with this team and they have the energetic Jonathan Simmons coming in off the bench as well. But Johnson adds something that they miss when they look down the bench. Johnson can play the small forward position off the bench in San Antonio and give them some much-needed shooting there. And he can also play the backup shooting guard position as well if Ginobli does not make it back like they expect him to. There will not be huge minutes for Johnson to be had there, but he would be on one of the best teams in the West and a team that some think can knock off the Golden State Warriors. Having a guy like this coming in off your bench is never back for a team that covets guys that can shoot and move the basketball. Joe can become a Black Hole at times with the ball, but I’m sure he could adapt to the play in San Antonio pretty easy.

This decision for Joe Johnson is a huge one for him. It could be the difference between winning a title and going home earlier than expected. Johnson may not have this type of opportunity again in his career, so he may want to examine his fit to each team before making his choice. He brings some good things to all three of these teams and it will be interesting to see which one he chooses, whether it be one of these three or another wildcard team.

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An Offseason Mistake That Is Costing The Oklahoma City Thunder

(photo courtesy of Chuck Burton/AP)

(photo courtesy of Chuck Burton/AP)

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been trying to get Dion Waiters involved as a part of their team. They tried him in a few different roles last season when they acquired him from Cleveland at the trade deadline. The results were sporadic at best and he did not help them as much as they thought he would. This offseason, the Thunder made a coaching change and also were thinking of signing Waiters to an extension. Both sides were unable to agree on a deal however. But the Thunder expected as Waiters got more comfortable beside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, that he would produce better numbers. He was put in the Sixth Man role and recently has been starting for the Thunder. And even with more familiarity with Westbrook and Durant, he is still get the same type of numbers while playing some lackadaisical basketball still. Add what he is producing with the starter for most of the season at shooting guard, Andre Roberson, and the Thunder still have that hole at the shooting guard position. But if they actually looked down the bench some last season, they may have had the answer right there with them.

Jeremy Lamb has had a career in the NBA that has been known more for who he was traded for them what he has done. For those that may have forgot, Lamb was a player that was included in the trade Houston made for the services of James Harden. When he was acquired in Oklahoma City, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he was going to eventually be the starting shooting guard for them. Well, that never materialized in OKC and he was eventually buried on the bench there. Even though he was a guy that shot the ball relatively well and could defend his position, there seemed to be a short leash with him in OKC under the coaching of Scott Brooks. In games where Durant, Westbrook or both would be out, Lamb would have some good shooting games and others where he would go missing. But even with that, he was still competitive on the defensive end more than Waiters was and gave the Thunder more there. But because of the trade that was made for Waiters, it seemed like OKC was going to force Waiters upon that team to justify trading for him. As a result, this offseason Lamb was traded to the Charlotte Hornets for the services of veteran point guard Luke Ridnour (who was consequently waived by OKC soon after the trade) and a 2016 second round pick.

The trade to Charlotte was a now-or-never trade for Lamb. He landed on a team that needed him to play well on the offensive end. And since he has been a member of the Hornets organization, he has definitely done so. Lamb is averaging a career-high 10.8 points per game off the bench in 21 minutes per game. He is shooting 47% from the field, including 32% from the three-point line, and he is getting 5 rebounds a game. Lamb and Jeremy Lin (who combine to make the highest scoring bench duo in the NBA) have helped Charlotte make it to the seventh spot currently in East. He is making the most of his opportunity and will more than likely be getting paid next season because of it. Taking a look at his numbers, he has actually performed better than Waiters in less minutes. Waiters is averaging 9.7 points per game while shooting under 40% and committing 2 turnovers a game. That isn’t exactly what the Thunder were looking for off the bench this year. And despite the success the Thunder have had this year, they could use a consistent shot in the arm off the bench. And Waiters has yet to provide that consistently. The Thunder thought they were getting that from Dion, but they have not got that one just yet at all.

Looking back at it, the Thunder really did not give Lamb a fair shot at all. If the organization would have stayed with him through the growing pains, he would have been the starting shooting guard for them right now. But instead of doing that, they thought Waiters was the answer. And with that, the search for a starting guard beside Durant and Westbrook still goes on. Oklahoma City has been known for grooming and growing players, but they dropped the ball on this move and it could cost them. Lamb would give them a shooter they need instead of a player they cannot trust.

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16 Bold Predictions For 2016

(photo courtesy of Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

A new year is upon us and there will be many great sports events that will happen. Some will be expected like the Super Bowl, college football championship game and the college basketball national championship game. But there are also things that happen that catch us all off guard. It’s easy to predict things that will happen, but it is not as easy to predict the unpredictable events that can happen. But with that being said, let me take my shot at it. Without further ado, here are my 16 predictions for 2016

  1. The Alabama Crimson Tide will win the National title

Clemson is a worthy opponent for Alabama in the National Title game. They are solid in each facet of the game and can make some explosive plays. But versus Alabama, the game will be won or lost in the trenches. Alabama is a physical football team and they have dominated teams up front for majority of the season. Clemson is a physical bunch as well and they will not wilt when facing the Crimson Tide. But eventually the physical play and the explosiveness of the Alabama front seven will get to the Tigers.

  1. The Golden State Warriors will not win the NBA title this season

The Warriors are again having a great season. And of course they will be a factor in the West this year. But let’s not forget that there are some other teams that can get it going and potentially knock them off. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs are talented enough to give the Warriors fits. And this season, one of those teams jumps up and gets the job done, ending the Warriors’ season prematurely.

  1. Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke will not make the NCAA Final Four this year

All three teams are very deep and talented. But in this year’s college basketball, each team has some flaws going with them. Of course North Carolina is the most talented of them all and they are shooting the basketball well this year. But eventually the shooting will fall back to earth and they will have to win a game with defense. That will be where they fall. As far as Kentucky, they have been pushed around more in the post than usual. And even though they are talented, that shortcoming will leave them hamstrung in March. And as far as Duke, they may have their tough guy, forward Amile Jefferson, back before the season is over. But they still don’t have enough scoring from inside that will scare someone. And that will be something that eventually catches up to them.

  1. The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series

This past year, the Cubs went further than anyone thought they would. And heading into this season, the expectations are they will go even further. Some may wilt under those type of goals, but this team may just thrive under them. And with the additions they have made this offseason, the Cubs will finally make it back to the World Series and will win one, breaking the supposed curse that was placed upon them.

  1. The Carolina Panthers will win the Super Bowl

Quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are sitting on top of the football world right now, sporting the best record in the NFL at 14-1. But that is not the ultimate goal for them. The thing that they are striving to get is the Lombardi Trophy. And for the Panthers, plenty keep speaking on all the reasons this team cannot win the Lombardi Trophy. Well, Cam and the boys have been listening and they will use that as extra motivation to go to the first Super Bowl for Carolina since 2003. And instead of coming up short like they did against the Patriots the last time they were there, the Panthers will seize the day and win their first Lombardi Trophy.

  1. Steph Curry will win another MVP

Curry was in another world last year. He averaged 24 points per game and eight assists last season while locking up the MVP trophy. And just when it was thought he could not get any better, he shows up this season and is putting up better shooting, scoring and rebounding numbers across the board. He has gone from another world to another stratosphere and there is no doubting that he is the best player in the NBA right now. And with the record the Warriors are currently sporting, he will be the MVP again. As much as some want to give this award to LeBron, it just will not happen again.

  1. The Philadelphia 76ers will swing and miss in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes

The talk around Philly is they are in tank mode once again. And the object of their affection this year seems to be LSU forward Ben Simmons. The Australian forward can do everything on the floor and that combination of size and skill has every NFL scout hoping Christmas comes in June for them. It would seem the perfect storm would have Philly getting the first overall pick this year in the draft. But unfortunately, it will not be for them this year either. The 76ers will get the second or third pick, not the first. And with that, they can kiss goodbye to Ben Simmons ever wearing a Philadelphia uniform.

  1. The Jacksonville Jaguars will make the playoffs next season

Head coach Gus Bradley is building something in Jacksonville. He has a quarterback in place in Blake Bortles, a reliable tight end in Julius Thomas, two young receivers that are making it happen in Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson and running back TJ Yeldon. Defensively, the Jags have taken a step forward this year and will more than likely add a pass rusher next season. That combination of things along with the state of the AFC South could have them either winning the division or making the playoffs as a wildcard.

  1. The Oakland Raiders will make the playoffs next season

The team showed growth this season. Derek Carr showed even more improvement this season. And with the weapons he has offensively, the offense should do nothing but get better next season. And defensively, they have a standout player in Khalil Mack. If they are able to add more defensive backfield help, this team will definitely be ready to make the playoffs next year. The Silver and Black will be back next year.

  1. DeMarcus Cousins will not be a member of the Sacramento Kings

DeMarcus is a very talented player. Unfortunately, he has not been able to wrangle his temper on the court. And with the surroundings in the city of Sacramento, it may not be the place for him to have success and mature as a player. So with that being said, Cousins will be out of Sacramento this offseason. Boston would be one place that has assets to trade for him. But there will be plenty that will be vying for his services. Only time will tell, but he will be playing in another city come next basketball season.

  1. Kevin Durant will re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder

Much has been said of where Durant will land next year. There have been rumors floated out there of him landing in everywhere from Golden State to Washington next year. But in the end, the prevailing thought is he will end up staying in Oklahoma City. The chemistry he and Westbrook have is something that he will not find anywhere else. And if they can get some consistent scoring from a third option, then this team will be able to make that magical run like they did when they met LeBron’s Miami team in the NBA Finals.

  1. Peyton Manning will not retire.

It was looking like he would be done at the end of the season last year. But instead of doing so, he decided to come back this season. Needless to say, this has not been the most memorable of seasons for him as a starter this year. And despite the thoughts that he will be retiring at the end of the season (and by looking at him right now, he should), he will more than likely try to play yet another season in the NFL. The question now is where he will play because it surely won’t be in Denver next year.

  1. Hue Jackson and Teryl Austin will get head coaching jobs this offseason in the NFL

Both have been excellent coordinators and Jackson never really got a shot when he was in Oakland. Jackson has been very solid as the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati and Austin has been excellent as the defensive coordinator in Detroit. Both are definitely qualified and you are hearing their names mentioned over and over again in coaching searches. It will only be a matter of time before both become head coaches. And this offseason is the perfect time for both to become head coaches in the NFL.

  1. Luke Walton will be named the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers

Unexpectedly, Luke Walton has been the interim head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Some may have expected the Warriors to not do so well without their leader, but Walton has led the team very well in his absence. And he has done so well that he will garner some head coaching looks around the NBA. One place that will be looking for a head coach soon will be the Los Angeles Lakers. With his experience with the organization as a player and his familiarity with the team, he would be a perfect fit for them and their young team.

  1. The Kansas City Royals will not make the playoffs this upcoming season

I know this is something that Kansas City fans will not want to hear, but it could definitely happen. The Royals just won the title, so there is always that moment of relaxation knowing you have achieved your goal. And the Royals will be fighting that all season long as they try to repeat as champions. Unfortunately, they will not be able to overcome that as they miss the playoffs this upcoming season.

  1. Fans will continue to show no chill on social media

As time has gone on, keyboard courage has grown more and more amongst fans of sports. You can see on social media all the people that continue to call people out knowing they will never meet them in real life. Unfortunately, this is not going anywhere and there will be more of it to come. A thing I have proposed is that things would change if people had to attach their employer to the things that they say. I bet the fear of losing their job would change the things that people say.

The new year brings some new things and also some new happenings as well. It will be interesting to see if these sixteen things happen or if these thoughts going flying in the wind.

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The General’s Perspective On The Stephen A. Smith/Kevin Durant Feud

The battle lines have been drawn and both sides have fired shots. But what are their roles in the mess this is now? (photo courtesy of www.news9.com)

The battle lines have been drawn and both sides have fired shots. But what are their roles in the mess this is now? (photo courtesy of http://www.news9.com)

The NBA basketball season is right around the corner. Teams are full with expectations and some with reservations. And while teams are looking to make it happen, there are players that are either looking forward to free agency or trying to change their narrative. One player that is being talked about regularly for next summer is Oklahoma City small forward Kevin Durant. Along with everyone wondering how his health will hold up, there are some wondering if he will be in Oklahoma City next season. He has yet to sign an extension and there are some that think he will be leaving for another scene in 2016. Recently, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith fueled those flames by saying he had heard from sources that Durant would definitely be considering the Los Angeles Lakers as his primary target should he not return to the Oklahoma City Thunder. And when Durant heard this, he had this to say: “I don’t talk to Stephen A. Smith at all. Nobody in my family, my friends, they don’t talk to Stephen A. Smith. So he’s lying.” Of course this response struck a chord with Smith and he addressed Durant on Monday’s edition of First Take. He proceeded to break down everything Durant said and claimed that Durant was the one “lying” and that he indeed talked to someone close to him. Smith also said Durant may want to check his sources. He even went as far as to say he was fielding calls from Durant’s inner circle trying to call a truce. This one may have died down for a day or so, but it seems like the temperature is still rising.

Durant is presumed by many the crown jewel of the free agent market. There will be many things that will be said about where he may or may not go all summer long. So why he was distracted by Smith saying what he had reportedly heard from sources? This was honestly something that never even should have struck a nerve with him. And calling Smith a liar through the media was uncalled for. It is understandable that he may not have liked what was said, but there will be many things that will be said over his lifetime that he will not like. In a sense, Smith calling players these days sensitive was a great assessment when it comes to Durant. If he wanted to respond to Smith, take that conversation behind closed doors. I’m sure Durant has Smith’s number and has contacted him more than he is letting on. Questioning someone’s credibility is not the answer here. But it seems like Durant has been going a different road over the last year with the media. It started with his talk in regards to how the media does not know much (which was followed by an apology) and it has apparently not left. Not sure what is going on with Durant, but his laser focus needs to stay on the court and not in the media.

Stephen A. Smith, for his part, did some things in this one that were not the brightest. He was called out as a liar by Kevin Durant and he just snapped. Smith would go on to call Durant a liar, tell Durant “he did not want to go there with him” and proceed to go through the whole situation. Although entertaining, this something that he could have done off air. Of course Durant took the dig at him and his credibility as a journalist and reporter. And anyone who is a journalist understands the fight for credibility that happens. That strikes a reporter and journalist to the core. But he could have been the bigger man, since he is older than Durant, and taken this one off the grid. Smith went off and that’s what fed into what some people loathe about him. But don’t let the persona he has fool you. Even though he is probably is not as involved in reporting and journalism as he once was, he still is a very credible source that has broken big stories before. Who remembers the person that broke the LeBron story of him going to Miami? That was one Stephen A. Smith. And there were many more stories that he has broken. So why would he lie on Kevin Durant just for this scoop? There would be no purpose for him to do so. And what a lot of people also missed is the truth that he laid in the rant. If there was not some truth to what was said, why would Durant suddenly react to him the way he did when others have floated rumors out there?

All in all, both are grown men and they could have handled this better. But since they did not, they both taught us a few things in the process. Many have shot down Stephen A. Smith in this situation just because he was the one behind some of these comments. But if another commentator said what he said, then many would not have batted an eye at it. And in Durant’s case, if this was LeBron saying what he said, he would be getting killed in the media. Both these last statements are not just situations but they are facts. Looking past someone to actually listen to what they are saying is something that we have lost in this world. Disdain for someone is understandable, but don’t let that blind you to what is being said. And that in itself is a lesson many could learn. But in the end, both these two need to get off social media and the television and pick up the phone. I’m sure in the end, both of them still have love for each other.

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The Plan For The Charlotte Hornets To Build A Contender Has Begun

Michael Jordan meeting with the press. The Hornets plan for building a contender is underway. (photo courtesy of www.utsandiego.com)

Michael Jordan meeting with the press. The Hornets plan for building a contender is underway. (photo courtesy of http://www.utsandiego.com)

The Charlotte Hornets are a team that many thought would take the next step last season. They had made the playoffs in the 2013-2014 season and wanted to build upon it the next season. That offseason, they thought they added the missing piece in their equation when they brought in guard Lance Stephenson on a two year deal worth $9 million per year. The team also included an option to pick up Stephenson’s deal after the 2015-2016 season. Well, the deal for the missing piece in Charlotte ended up being a disaster. Lance was not the player they thought he was. He seemed like more of a round peg fitting in a square peg. And the scoring they thought he would bring was not there. In fact, Stephenson did not even average 10 points per game last season. So, going into this offseason, the Hornets were determined to change course. General manager Rich Cho started that one off with trading Stephenson to the Los Angeles Clippers. And in return, the Hornets received forward Spencer Hawes, who never seemed to fit in Los Angeles, and forward Matt Barnes. But if you take a look at the overall picture, this move was just the beginning of a master plan in Charlotte.

Michael Jordan has been the owner of the Hornets for a few years now. He inherited the team under the Bobcats nickname, but he them changed that to the Hornets once the New Orleans franchise abandoned it for their new nickname, the Pelicans. That first step helped bring back some credibility to the franchise along with them making the playoffs last season. And although he had a misstep this past season with the Lance Stephenson experience, the plan is still in place for the Hornets. The franchise has been rebranded to what it once was and that brought back the love of the community for the team to an extent. Jordan’s next step of the plan was to bring back some winning to the team as well. Even though they lost in a sweep to the Miami Heat in the playoffs in the 2014 playoffs, they made the playoffs and was expected to make a progression. They failed to do so in the 2014-2015 season, but the plan is in motion for 2016-2017 already. As mentioned, Stephenson is gone but he was not the only move made. The Hornets have also shipped out guard Gerald Henderson Jr. as well as last year’s draft pick, forward Noah Vonleh, in order to acquire forward Nicolas Batum. In doing this trade, the Hornets bring in a guy that can be a lockdown defender on one end and can do some things offensively that can help them spread the floor for point guard Kemba Walker to penetrate as well as give Al Jefferson a shooter teams have to worry about. Henderson was a solid offensive weapon for Charlotte, but they were never going to take the next step in their progression with him. And Batum actually does not need the basketball to be effective in a game like Henderson does. With Vonleh gone, the Charlotte Bobcats are admitting the mistake they made drafting him. Vonleh never really contributed and we still don’t know what all he can or cannot be. With Hawes now in place in Charlotte, he can do the things that Vonleh was supposed to do right now. And in Portland, Vonleh gets a fresh start and will get a chance for playing time should LaMarcus Aldridge leave this offseason as expected. This trade actually made sense for the Hornets and helps them be a more competitive team as well as a longer team defensively. The only bad thing that can come out of this one is the fact that one of their previous rookie 1st rounders, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, will be moved to the bench. But that move will actually help strengthen the Hornets and their bench actually.

The other move that was made already by the Hornets this offseason was pretty quietly done. The team traded Luke Ridnour, whom they acquired in a trade for Matt Barnes, to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the services of shooting guard Jeremy Lamb. Lamb has been a player that has shown moments in his career, but unfortunately has not shown up consistently on the court and in the scoring column. With his addition, it means he is in a sink-or-swim year with Charlotte. When Lamb first entered the league, many thought his sweet stroke was something that would pay dividends for whoever drafted him. He was picked by the Houston Rockets and then used as a pawn in the trade that brought Houston James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The expectation was that he would end up eventually being the guard starting opposite of Russell Westbrook once he got to Oklahoma City. Well, he has not exactly fulfilled those expectations. Lame has not had consistent playing time since he has been there and it has been inexplicable at best. He shoots the ball well and can make defenses pay when they crowd him, but somehow he did something that kept him buried on the bench for the Thunder. In coming to Charlotte, Lamb now gets reunited with his former college teammate, Kemba Walker. Both of these men played well beside each other when they won a national title together at the University of Connecticut. And maybe in reuniting these two together, there will be some chemistry started and Lamb will help space the floor for Walker and Jefferson. With the sweet stroke that he has, it’s going to be interesting to see how he is used by the Hornets in their offense. As far as Ridnour, he has been traded more times in 24 hours than probably any player in NBA history. And it is ironic that he has come back to the franchise that he began his career with when they were in Seattle previously. The end is near for him in his NBA career and many have recognized that. He made a good run, but the time is slipping on his career like the sands from the hourglass. And the last little bit of grains are sliding down as we speak.

The Hornets have all these new pieces in place along with the addition of Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky via the 2015 NBA Draft. Now some may be ripping into Jordan for the reported trade he turned down from the Boston Celtics that included numerous draft picks, but there is a method behind some of the madness, or at least Jordan thinks there is. Besides the contract of Spencer Hawes, the contracts that the Hornets inherited with Lamb and Batum expire at the end of next season. And with the cap about to be at an astronomical number in 2016, the Hornets will be sitting with only Kemba Walker, PJ Hairston, Hawes, Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller on the roster should all still be on the Hornets team past the trade deadline. Three of those contracts are still rookie deals and only Kemba’s contract is one that takes up a good percentage of the salary cap in Charlotte. With the All-Star game coming to Charlotte in 2017, they need someone that will be a representative for them there. And in the summer of 2016, they will have the cap space to go get that guy. Al Jefferson will probably be someone they bring back provided he wants to be there after the 2015-2016 season and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will probably get an extension with the team, but the Hornets will need someone that brings star power to the team. And there is one man that is out there that can b4ing that to them. No, LeBron James is not coming to Charlotte in 2016. He will more than likely be making over $30 million per season when his deal happens in the summer of 2016. But there is a guy out there that can bring star power to the team and his name is Kevin Durant. The scoring machine from Oklahoma City is up for a new contract and it seems as if he is preparing to leave the city. Charlotte is not the place many have him pegged to go to. Many see him returning home to Washington. With Wall, Beal and Durant, the Wizards would have one of the best trios in basketball if not the best. But the Hornets may have more money to offer him and also may be able to bring in another piece with him should they decide to jettison Jefferson instead of re-signing him. This year, if the Hornets make the playoffs, the arrow will be trending up just like it was for Miami the year before they signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh. And just like Miami, the Hornets could make a power play that could make them an instant contender. There are no guarantees that Durant will look at Charlotte in the summer of 2016. But then again, there were not many thoughts of LeBron going to Miami when he was a free agent until maybe a week before his announcement. The impossible has happened before and for the Charlotte Hornets, they are hoping it happens again. And it will all culminate with the summer of 2016.

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The Small Market Excuses In The NBA Need To End Right Now

Small market teams can compete and compete on a consistent basis. The fallacy that they cannot is something that needs to end. (photo courtesy of www.usatoday.com)

Small market teams can compete and compete on a consistent basis. The fallacy that they cannot is something that needs to end. (photo courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)

The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers met for a great clash in the NBA Finals. The best team in the NBA versus the best player in the NBA. In the end, the best team wore down the team with the best player and won the title in six games. Both teams played each other pretty tough for the first few games, but the last three games were lopsided in the favor of the Golden State Warriors. They just wore down the Cavs, who were playing short-handed due to the losses of All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. And even though LeBron James had a great series from a numbers standpoint, he could not guard all the weapons the Warriors had nor could he score efficiently on most of them. The Warriors erased 40 years of futility with the win. And the even more interesting thing is a guy that was a starter-turned-sub for the Warriors in Andre Iguodala played well off the bench and starting in games 4-6 to earn NBA Finals MVP. But the game was just the background to all that has been going on in the NBA the past few years. And amazingly, no one wants to say much about it.

The Golden State versus Cleveland series had the best viewership on television since the days of Michael Jordan when he won his sixth championship almost 20 years ago. Pretty unbelievable that the ratings have not been as good since then being that we have had teams like the Lakers win the championship five times since then. But what this also speaks to is the power of the players here. If you just look at the markets both NBA Finals participants are in, there is a stark differnce. The Oakland/San Francisco market is considered one of the biggest markets out there in the NBA. But when you take a look at Cleveland, that market is one that is not very big at all. In fact, it is smaller than the Miami, where LeBron James left to go to when he exited Cleveland for four years. The idea has always been that in basketball, the big teams are the ones that will continue to show up and be in the championship year after year after year. When, in fact, that is not the case at all. Sure, Oakland/San Francisco is a big market, but San Antonio is not a big market and neither is Cleveland. The fact of the matter is big markets are needed in terms of exposure perhaps, but are not something that is needed to make the NBA exciting and watchable.

In the NBA, it is more about the teams that are on the floor than the markets they are in. As the NBA has grown, the market teams and players are in has matter less and less. Just a few years ago, it was something that small-level owners were worried about as if they could not build a good team in fear of losing a great player to a big market. When in all actuality, that was the supposed small-level owners giving the fans of that team something to let them off the hook. Time and time again the small-level owners have been crying they have been losing money in regards to trying to keep up with the bigger cities. And in all instances, the numbers have not ever been shown to prove that. But in basketball terms, there have been small-market teams that have competed. Look at the teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers and others. They are there all the time because their owners actually spent money and put together a team that could make some things happen, not because they were big spenders in a big market. As the NBA has grown, the excuse gets more and more overdone by the minute. The fallacy of small-market teams not being able to compete only comes about when it comes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And in all reality, that is just a ploy for the owners to make more money while keeping the players and fans at bay. How else can it be explained that the Milwaukee Bucks being sold for $550 million despite being in one of the smallest NBA markets? That’s right folks. We have been blinded by some propaganda and a lot of us have fell victim to it without even knowing it. When a team is bad or has to make a tough decision, if it’s a small market team, they get the benefit of the doubt because of that. A perfect example of that is when James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets because the team could not pay him what he wanted. Of course they could have paid him and it would have potentially locked up their cap space. But the main thing that many were saying was that a small market team could not afford paying him. And that is when the propaganda begins. The sympathy for a smaller market begins to roll in and owners began to trick you into thinking they are sympathetic figures. But the reality is the owner does not want to spend money to pay the luxury tax. They want to line their pockets with the monies in terms of profits and also want to fool you into thinking the teams are still as good as they were. They present all the information, but in the presentation they fool many.

The presentation by the NBA shows us year after year that small market teams are really not at a disadvantage at all. Players will play where they can get a chance to compete and win. But it is up to the owners and the teams to create that marketability to make that happen. Marketing is not something that just happens when you go to a big city. With the internet as big as it is these days, you don’t have to be in a big market to even succeed. The biggest examples of that are Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Both have been in small markets and have thrived when it comes to off the court endorsements and things of that nature. So, when a team is losing or has to lose an impact player because of they don’t want to pay them, quit letting the small market teams off the hook because they don’t want to pay. When a team is not competing year after year, stop letting them off the hook because of the small market they may play in. Take the finger-pointing and aim it at the owners and the front office for making poor decisions to make the team competitive and for not wanting to pay. The decision falls on them and them only. They did not want to pay or build a good team. They did not want to satisfy their fans and instead wanted to line their pockets. The excuse of being in a small market is just that: an excuse. Cleveland just proved that it is an excuse, San Antonio has been proving that it is an excuse for small market teams for years.

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The 2015 NBA All Ski-Mask Way Team

Who made the NBA's All Ski-Mask Way team this season? (photo courtesy of www.imgarcarde.com)

Who made the NBA’s All Ski-Mask Way team this season? (photo courtesy of http://www.imgarcarde.com)

The NBA season is almost to a close as the NBA Finals are upon us. We have had many exciting games, plays and individual performances along the way. Who can forget the reception when LeBron returned Opening Night to Cleveland or when Russell Westbrook was on his triple-double streak? While those moments stand out in the memory of a lot of people, there are also performances that many would love to forget. Some fans may want to even forget their teams even played this year. And even worse, there are some players that fans may want to forget were even on their roster this past season. The trouble is some of those players are hard to forget because of the huge pricetag they tote with them. Some fans may accuse them of stealing money from their organizations. These players have earned the ire of many fans across the board and have been taking their paychecks with a ski mask all season long. So to honor these players, The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog presents the NBA All-Ski Mask Way team, dedicated to recognizing the best of the best of stealing money from organizations in the NBA.

Lance Stephenson-Guard, Charlotte Hornets)

When Lance was given the opportunity in Indiana to replace Danny Granger, he took full advantage of his chance. He was putting up triple-doubles and making the winning plays for them. He also was the only one that played and showed up consistently when the Pacers played the Heat last season in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. It was all set up for him to have a huge payday and take his career to the next level. Some thought he would stay in Indiana and continue his growth there, but he decided to take his game and go to Charlotte. His deal with the Hornets was for three years and $27 million (last year of the deal is a team option) and he was expected to be the number two option beside center Al Jefferson. Well, he did not quite exactly reach the level he thought. Lance averaged 8.7 points per game, even less than his average salary per year. And he shot below 40% from the field (37.6%) for the first time since 2011. And to top it all off, the youngster out of Cincinnati was relegated to the bench for most of the season. Not what you expected from him going there. He may rebound next year, but we know the Hornets are looking to get rid of him if they can. But for now, he is there little salary albatross they cannot ship out of town if they wanted.

Eric Gordon- Guard, New Orleans Pelicans

Who can remember in the summer of 2012 when Eric Gordon was a restricted free agent? At that time, he signed an offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns and declared that he had found his home and did not want to go back to New Orleans. Well, the then Hornets signed matched the four-year, $58 million offer from the Phoenix Suns and ever since he has been disappointing the Hornets/Pelicans. This season he continued his downward fall in scoring from 15.4 points per game to 13.4 points per game. And he wasn’t even a dynamic player this past season either. It seems like he has been passed by on the team by the play of Tyreke Evans and if Jrue Holiday is healthy next season, he could be looking at a bench role or even (or should I say hopefully) someone will take his expiring contract off their hands. The Pelicans are probably very thankful that he is coming off the books after this year. But until then, that over $15 million salary for next season is a haunting upon the management there in New Orleans.

Deron Williams- Guard, Brooklyn Nets

Who can remember the time when Williams used to be in the argument about the best point guard in the NBA? The Nets were banking on Williams showing them that he was that guy when they signed him to a five-year, $98 million in the summer of 2012. To say the Nets have not got a good return on their investment is an understatement. The guard out of Illinois has been battling injuries during his entire time in Brooklyn and when he has been on the court, he has not been the same guy he once was. In fact, since he signed the big deal with the team, Williams’ points per game have declined each season, dropping to 13.0 points per game this season (his lowest since his rookie season in the NBA). People can say that it was because of his coach and the change of system, but good players get it done no matter what system they are in. As time goes on, it has become apparent that Williams was a star in Jerry Sloan’s system in Utah, but is an ordinary guard outside of it. He does have his moments, but he is not steady enough to be even considered a superstar point guard anymore. He does not perform like it and he likely never will again. He played good at the right time for the Nets and Brooklyn has been footing the bill for his declining performances ever since.

Channing Frye- Power Forward, Orlando Magic

Channing Frye was one that probably would not have made this list if it had not been for Orlando overpaying to obtain his services. Nevertheless, the rangy big man out of Arizona locks down the power forward spot on this team. Frye had the worst shooting year of his career (39.2%) after signing the four-year, $32 million deal. The Magic may not have expected Frye to be a superstar, but they certainly did not expect him to have his worst output since the 2009-2010 season. And to be someone that is 6’11”, you would think that he would average more than 4 rebounds a game despite averaging 25 minutes a game. But that is just the reality when you have a stretch four shooting three’s that does not do much else. Hopefully next season will be better for him, but that all depends on if his jump shot is falling. Because if it isn’t, then he will not have much more impact on anything else at all. Whatever the Magic saw in him as a prized free agent was an illusion.

JaVale McGee-Center, Denver Nuggets/Philadelphia 76ers

The JaVale McGee experience was limited this year due to injuries at the beginning of the year. But once McGee hit the court, the hilarity ensued. It just seems like McGee is not all there at times when he is on the court. And honestly, it seems like he is purposely trying to make us laugh and make Shaqtin-A-Fool each week. Tragic Bronson, as he is called by Shaq on his bloopers segment, is a very talented athlete. He is that rare combination of speed, agility and leaping ability. And that was on full display when he was under the tutelage of former Nuggets coach George Karl. But since he has been gone, he has been non-existent and not deserving of that contract that pays him $11 million a year. He may not have played but 23 games, but that was enough of a sample to let us know he was getting things done the Ski-Mask way and that he played good enough at the right time to fool the Nuggets to give him a deal. Great thing for the next team that signs him is that he has devalued himself enough where he does not come close to getting that amount of money. Philly bought him out once he was traded to them and he is out there for someone to grab.

All Ski-Mask Way MVP- Kendrick Perkins, Center, Oklahoma City Thunder/ Cleveland Cavaliers

The MVP had some stiff competition this year, but in the end, it could only be him. The big man was getting an average of $9 million a year from the Oklahoma City Thunder. When he was brought there, he was brought in for brute toughness, his defense and his locker room leadership. He definitely was not brought there for his scoring at all. But when his defense started to suffer and he was just a body out there that could not finish a layup consistently, then he became a liability. Honestly, his contract extension was not the smartest thing that Oklahoma City could have done because at the time, his deal knocked them out of contention to sign both Serge Ibaka and James Harden. And for what? 4 points per game. He was eventually traded to the Utah Jazz and bought out by them, only to join Cleveland on their championship run. But even though he is making a little less than $500,000 for the rest of the season, he still robbed the Thunder in broad daylight for a couple years. He is the true definition of doing things the Ski-Mask way.

Honorable Mention

Landry Fields-Guard, Toronto Raptors

Many have not heard this name in forever and that is because since he has been a member of the Toronto Raptors, he has entered the basketball equivalent of the Witness Protection Program aka the end of the bench. Not what many expected from a guy that made $8.5 million this season. The Raptors must be jumping for joy that he is not on their roster next season at that number. And with the exit of him, maybe they can use that money to bring in someone that can actually contribute in points per game and not claps per good plays by his teammates.

This is your 2015 NBA All Ski-Mask Way team! Hope you all enjoyed the team and enjoyed arguing about how bad they were this year.

New Orleans Pelicans And Golden State Warriors: A Difference In Experience

Steph Curry with the three over the outstretched hands of Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis during Game 3 (photo courtesy of www.bigeasybeliever.com)

Steph Curry with the three over the outstretched hands of Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis during Game 3 (photo courtesy of http://www.bigeasybeliever.com)

The Golden State Warriors were the favorite by many to win the NBA title this season. Their combination of precision shooting, tough defense, depth and versatility can be an overwhelming thing to see every game. The Warriors used that combination to win 67 regular season and secure the number one seed this season in the tough Western Conference. Meanwhile, their first round opponent took a little bit different route to the playoffs. Fighting through injuries to key players, the New Orleans Pelicans fought their way into the playoffs. For most of the season, they were battling with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns for that eight seed in the West. It took the Pelicans until the last day of the regular season, but they were able to make it into the playoffs as the eight seed. Despite injuries to key players like big man Anthony Davis, the Pelicans were able to keep it together enough to make a run towards the playoffs. Through that experience, it seemed the Pelicans were trying to take that next step in developing. The team was able to make it to the playoffs and their prize for making it was the Golden State Warriors. And you could tell the difference in both teams on the court and not just by their records.

As you watched the series, it was evident who the more experienced team was. That was shown throughout the series when each team faced a little bit of adversity. In the first game of the series, the Warriors were dominating the game. They seemed to be comfortably pulling away from the Pelicans, when New Orleans made an improbable run in the fourth quarter. The game got tighter and tighter as the Warriors were missing shots and the Pelicans were working through Anthony Davis. Then, as the game got tighter, the Warriors did not panic and put the ball back in the hands of their best playmaker, Steph Curry. As a result, the Warriors were able to right the ship in that game and they ended up handing on the series-opening win versus New Orleans. The Pelicans were going to Davis for a while in that fourth quarter, but it seemed like when they got close, they decided to start going to other areas, mainly guard Eric Gordon. As a result, the momentum that was built was essentially ceased by a member of Anthony Davis’ own team. This shows you right there that the Warriors were sure who they were while the Pelicans are still trying to figure it out on the court.

Another example of New Orleans’ youth showing up for them was in Game 3. The New Orleans Hornets were on the opposite side of the coin when it came to 20 point leads this time. The Pelicans had been taking it to the Warriors all night long. It looked like they were going to win their first playoff game and then potentially get some momentum going. But the Warriors took the time to trust their defense, go back to basics offensively and they also hit the offensive boards. They began to chip at the lead of New Orleans Pelicans’ huge lead in the fourth and they eventually would tie the game on a spectacular three-point shot by Steph Curry and send the game to overtime. The Warriors would go on to win the basketball game in overtime. They did everything right in terms of stopping the opponents, knocking down shots and doing whatever was possible to get the win they needed. On the other hand, it seemed as if New Orleans was wilting on the court. The Pelicans got their by allowing forward Ryan Anderson to go to work in the post on whoever the Warriors decided to put on him. That was working well, but it just seemed like they wanted to go a different direction when it mattered the most and Golden State was making their run. Touches to Anthony Davis can always be great things, especially in the clutch. But instead of going to Davis and Anderson, the ball funneled through the hands of guard Eric Gordon. And it was in that last twelve minutes in Game 3 that Golden State won the series and New Orleans lost it.

The experience of losing this series will undoubtedly not feel good for the Pelicans. They played hard and tried to win a game or two while trying to make it competitive all the way through. But the inexperience of their team eventually cost them. They did not know how to close someone out or take it to another level of playoff intensity at all times. On the other hand, Golden State has been in the playoffs before. When tough situations come, they know how to handle those like that of a team that has experienced the playoffs together. And it is because of their collective experience along with excellent ability that they are headed into the next round while the Pelicans are headed home. The experience the Warriors had won out over the inexperience of New Orleans. Hopefully Anthony Davis and the Pelicans will take this as a learning lesson and not as a failure.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are on the clock for a new head coach

Are we looking at the end of the Westbrook/Durant era in Oklahoma City? The new head coach will give us a view into that equation (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Are we looking at the end of the Westbrook/Durant era in Oklahoma City? The new head coach will give us a view into that equation (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Oklahoma City Thunder have grown a lot over the last seven years. From a team that seven years ago was struggling to make the playoffs to a team that has made the conference Finals a couple times and made the NBA Finals once, the expectations have rose with each passing year. Scott Brooks has been at the helm for all seven of those years and has seen this team grow and mature. But over the years and with the expectations rising, there has been some disappointment. The expectation heading into this season was the Thunder would get a favorable seed and make a run deep into the playoffs. But it wasn’t the Spurs, Clippers and Golden State Warriors that posed the biggest roadblock. Injuries to Durant and Westbrook derailed their run. Their dynamic duo missing games caused the rhythm of the team to be off the entire year. And even though Westbrook had a ton of heroic games, they were not enough to take this team to the playoffs. After the regular season ended, the Thunder decided they wanted to reevaluate the coaching of Brooks over the years. And as a result, the Thunder relieved Brooks of his coaching duties. The firing of Brooks came as a surprise to some, but others looked at is as long overdue. From the questioning of his play-calling (or lack thereof at times) to the curiosity of his rotations, many felt that he was not the guy to get the Thunder where they wanted to go. And finally, the Thunder agreed to that thought by letting him go. The good thing about Brooks is he is not a terrible coach and will get another opportunity. The bad thing for him is that he will more than likely not have the same talents as Durant and Westbrook where he may be headed.

Now that the shock has worm off from Brook’s firing, the Thunder have to move on. Even though it may have been a move that many did not like, it was one that management had to make. He had taken him as far as he could and there was no more he could do for that team. Essentially they were not going to win a title with him at the helm. So the question now is who replaces him? At this point, there have been two names that have been mentioned regularly since news broke that Brooks would be fired. One name is a shocker for some and the other is one that some could have pinpointed. Current University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan has been mentioned as a potential candidate to replace him. The mention of his name has completely shocked people, but he has went this route before in his career. He actually got the job with the Orlando Magic in 2007 only to have a change of heart and go back to Florida. So this foray into the NBA is nothing new for Donovan at all, but it is surprising nonetheless to hear he is interested again. The other name that has been mentioned is University of Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie. And although he recently said that he was not interested in the position, we all know that many a coach has said that before and still bolted for a new position. The name of Donovan is perplexing to understand. It’s fine that he wants to take a chance and go to the professional ranks, but is he really the guy that can make things happen there? One thing that college coaches struggle with when they go to the professional ranks to coach is control. In college, more coaches have control over any and all things and their players. And as a result, they are the ultimate control freaks in regards to what happens with their team at what times. In the NBA, that is one hard thing to do because players are grown men and not growing young men and the team has more control over things than the coach could ever imagine happen. Donovan may be up for a challenge, but the challenge of coaching Durant, Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder is one that he should pass on. It essentially would be something that may go over his head. So, along with Ollie, there is another candidate that has not been mentioned at all and should be mentioned right now. His name: Mark Jackson.

Mark Jackson was handed the keys to the Warriors when they were a bad organization back in 2011. The Warriors were a laughing stock at that time and no one really thought they would ever be back. But Jackson took that team and made them better each and every year he was there. The team was never known to be a defensive one and he actually got them to dig in at that end of the court. It was incredible watching their rise with the Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, making big shots while the team enjoyed their resurgence. But unfortunately, the resurgence under Jackson ended when Jackson and management could not get along anymore and he was fired to make way for Steve Kerr to be the next coach. Kerr may be very successful and has led the Warriors to new heights, but the foundation of that team was set by Jackson and he is to thank the most for them being relevant once again. Jackson is the type of coach that would command respect from Westbrook and Durant if he were to come there. The best thing for him in this situation is he has a team that is defensively sound already. The presence of big men Stephen Adams and shot-blocking extraordinaire Serge Ibaka would make things easy for Jackson to transition into coaching them. But where Jackson could make his biggest impact could be in being a leader for this team. In Brooks, many questioned whether he could make it happen when the chips were really on the table. He made it happen a few times for that team, but with the talent that they had, he fell short a lot of times as well. With Jackson, the Thunder would have a better leader of men on their sideline getting them going. The Thunder need a coach that can push them to be better than what they currently are because that will not be good enough in the West. Jackson is the perfect fit to be that guy because he is a motivator at his best. But along with the good things that Jackson could do, there is one thing that could bother some Thunder fans in regards to Jackson. There was often some criticism of Jackson in regards to how his teams did in crunch time execution. To be honest, Jackson may not be any better than Brooks in that area and that is something that motivational speeches cannot cure. If he is to take over the Thunder, he will have to improve that part of his coaching moving forward. If he does not, then there is the possibility that he could help usher in a new era in Oklahoma City that does not have Durant in a Thunder uniform. And that is something that Oklahoma City and its fans fear happening. Jackson is a good choice and the best thing that he has going for him over Ollie is he has previous head coaching experience at the NBA level.

Jackson may have the experience in the NBA being a head coach, but Ollie has something that Jackson does not have: a past relationship with Westbrook and Durant. For those that are not familiar, Kevin Ollie was a journeyman backup point guard during his entire career in the NBA. He played for at least a dozen NBA teams over his career and is well-respected at the professional level. But there is one stop that he made a big impact on and could make an impact again as a coach. Ollie was in Oklahoma City as a backup point guard for the 2009-2010 season. He may not have played a lot on that team, but his impact was immeasurable on one of the Thunder’s key players, Kevin Durant. The elder of the Thunder stars, Durant was asked by Grantland about Ollie at one point in the past in regards to his impact on him and this is what he had to say: “I think he changed the whole culture here in Oklahoma City. Just the mindset, professionalism, every single day. And we all watched that and we all wanted to be like that.” This past comments about Ollie show that he earned the respect of the guys that he played with and that they hold him in high regard. These statements suggest that they would fall in line if he were named the coach of that team. Add to it that he knows the NBA game because he played it so long and you could be looking at a guy that could slide in seamlessly as the head coach there. But along with that, there is the matter of him saying that he is only interested in the University of Connecticut at this time. Honestly, it was believed that he would say that and many coaches have said what he said before. But even with that statement, it is not guaranteed that he will stay. At this point in his coaching career, it is not if he leaves UConn, but when he leaves UConn. The clock is ticking on him and he would be naïve to say that he would stay there and turn down the chance to go back to a place where he fought so hard to be successful.

Donovan and Ollie may be the main names featured in this one, but Jackson is also a name that needs to be mentioned more for this job. All three may love to coach the Thunder, but there is only two names that make sense: Ollie and Jackson. Donovan may want a challenge, but can he really be the one to take them to a new level of success after Scott Brooks? The feeling is that he would be in over his head coaching two NBA superstars and trying to exceed the expectations that Brooks had. Jackson and Ollie, on the other hand, would fit well with the team and could help them take it to the next level potentially. But all in all, the team has to think long and hard about who the next head coach is because that decision could change the team for the better or for the worse. Durant and Westbrook are the key pieces as to this working and they have to be on the same page with the hire as well. If they are not, the Thunder risk one or both leaving the team when their contracts are up. And that would be a situation that they would love to avoid if possible. It should be interesting to see how this all plays out. But needless to say, this decision on a new head coach is a big one for Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder management.

Kevin Durant: The Next Level

kevin durant In the 2013 playoffs, the fortune of the Oklahoma City Thunder were on their way to defending their Western Conference crown when this play changed their fortunes:

Russell Westbrook suffered a knee injury that would have him miss the rest of the playoffs. After this injury, the Thunder and their playoff hopes fell on the shoulders of their big star, Kevin Durant. And at that point and time, Durant was not ready to shoulder the load. He was trying to do any and everything to help his team win, but he just had not expanded his game enough to handle those responsibilities. He had enough to beat the Rockets, but they fell in the Western Conference Semi-Finals to the Memphis Grizzlies in five games.
Heading into the offseason, it was not for certain when Russell Westbrook would return and many thought his absence would lead to more struggles from Oklahoma City. We never really got to witness early how the Thunder would look without Westbrook because he came back pretty early from his injury. And with Westbrook returning early, Oklahoma City served notice that they were a team to be reckoned with. But just like last year, Westbrook suffered another injury. The dynamic young point guard was again having trouble with his knee and his return to the team was not expected until after the All-Star break. And again the whispers began to come again about the Thunder falling back to the pack without Russell. But little did they know that this was only the time for Durant to obtain the glow.
For those that don’t know what the glow is, check out this movie clip from Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon:

For those that don’t understand how Bruce Leroy obtained the glow or haven’t seen this movie, you must understand that Leroy went through some trials to get to where he ended up. He passively fought some battles with the villain in the scene, Sho Nuff. But eventually, he learned from those situations in the past and looked deep inside himself to find the power he had all along. Durant, like Leroy, is a pretty passive person in his demeanor. And to his detriment sometimes, he does not have that alpha personality that you see from great players all the time. But one thing Durant has done this year is learn from the past. Instead of allowing the team to sink while Westbrook is out, Durant has taken the reins and taken over this team.

Currently, he has led the Thunder to nine straight wins and carried the Thunder offensively with 12 straight games of 30+ points. But it’s not just that he is scoring, it’s how he is doing it. Coming down the stretch of games, Durant is coming up with any and every clutch basket that his team needs. And unlike last year in the playoffs, he is also finding ways to be a facilitator and looks more comfortable in that role. The growth of Durant is undeniable. Just when you thought that he could not get any better, he acquires a keen killer instinct. And with his play so far this year, it seems like he may be the next person to hoist the NBA’s MVP award. It’s still a long season, but the gap is starting to close between two of the best players in the NBA, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Follow Mike Patton on Twitter at General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

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