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Saying Goodbye to David Stern

Before we get into the legacy of David Stern, the man who has presided over the NBA since before I was born, I have to level with you: I wanted this to be a straight hit piece.
As the “Goodbye Mr. Stern” pieces have been published on the interwebs this week, I have been taken aback at how overwhelmingly positive each has been. There’s no question that Stern has been successful at creating a global marketing juggernaut, but isn’t this the same man who ripped out Seattle’s heart and forced fans to endure multiple lockouts? At the very least, I expected pundits to paint a complicated picture of a man who had presided over some of the highest highs and lowest lows of the NBA’s storied history.
Despite the NBA being a lifelong obsession, I have a strong personal distaste for the man and his decisions as commissioner. When you look around the sports world, there’s plenty of incompetence to go around: Bettman has driven hockey into the ground multiple times, Selig mishandled steroids in baseball about as poorly as one could, and Goodell’s dictatorship makes Stern look collaborative in comparison. So what’s my beef with Stern?
I’m no conspiracy theorist – I don’t believe he rigged the lottery with a frozen envelope or controlled outcomes for ratings (would he have let that Cleveland-San Antonio series happen?). I think he’s been an egotistical autocrat who’s ruthlessly bullied everyone in his path, a path focused on personal glory and serving owners over fans. He’s the definition of smug and makes intimidating and embarrassing his enemies a sport, even when it’s completely unnecessary. Who else would proclaim he knew where the bodies were buried, because he’s the one who buried them? As we say goodbye to the Commish, let’ start at the beginning.… Read more...

Can They Do It Again? Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview

Tony Allen knows no mercy.

Starting Five: PG Mike Conley Jr., SG Tony Allen, SF Tayshaun Prince, PF Zach Randolph, C Marc Gasol
Key Bench Players: SF Mike Miller, SG Jerryd Bayless, SF Quincy Pondexter, C Ed Davis, C Kosta Koufos, SG Nick Calathes, F Jamal Franklin
Notable offseason additions: SF Mike Miller, C Kosta Koufos, F Jamal Franklin (#41 overall in the NBA draft), Coach Dave Joerger
Notable offseason subtractions: PF Darrell Arthur, F Austen Daye, G Keyon Dooling, Coach Lionel Hollins
FACT OR FICTION: The Grizzlies will take a step forward in a crowded Western Conference.
FACT. The Grizzlies have their work cut out for them in a loaded Western Conference playoff picture. Although Denver did everyone a favor with their timed implosion, the Grizz will have to contend with the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets, and even Warriors for playoff position in 2013-14. So why am I confident that they can do it?
The Grizz are coming off of their best season in franchise history, winning 56 games (just 4 short of the #1 seeded Thunder) while making it to the Western Conference Finals. To get there, they had to beat a very good Clippers team and take down a hobbled Thunder squad. Although the Grizz have changed head coaches, their pecking order and identity as a defense juggernaut haven’t changed a bit.… Read more...

Uncle Drew’s World: Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

Cleveland’s great hope for the future.

Starting Five: PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters, SF Earl Clark, PF Tristan Thompson, C Andrew Bynum
Key Bench Players: SF Anthony Bennett, PG Jarrett Jack, PF Anderson Varejao, G-F CJ Miles, F Tyler Zeller, G-F Alonzo Gee
Notable offseason additions: Coach Potato Head (Mike Brown), C Andrew Bynum, PF Anthony Bennett (#1 overall pick), PG Jarrett Jack, SF Earl Clark, G-F Sergey Karasev (#19 overall pick), G-F Carrick Felix (#33 overall pick)
Notable offseason subtractions: SG Wayne Ellington, G-F Omri Casspi, G Daniel Gibson, F Luke Walton, PG Shaun Livingston, G Chris Quinn, PF Kevin Jones
FACT OR FICTION: The Cleveland Cavaliers are a playoff team in 2013-2014.
FACT. Following the implosion of both Boston and Milwaukee this off-season, there looks to be a four team race for the seven and eight seeds. The usual suspects (Heat, Pacers, Bulls, Knicks, Nets, and probably Hawks) appear safe, but the Cavaliers, Wizards, Pistons, and Raptors (?!) are in the running for the next up and comer in the East. While each fanbase has lots of reasons for optimism, I really like where Cleveland is sitting right now and think they’ll take the 7/8.

Even if Anthony Bennett is a stretch at #1, they had a promising core already with Irving, Waiters, Thompson, and Varejao, a group that will only get better and is now complemented by some stellar off-season signings. Jarrett Jack was an absolute ROCK for Golden State and will bring the kind of moxie in the clutch that can bail out Cleveland in big moments. Earl Clark was a great signing who will provide a lot of depth, defense, and versatility. The Cavs managed to get both for just $11M next season, which is perfectly reasonable.… Read more...

It’s All About Health: Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview


Starting Five: PG Ricky Rubio, SG Kevin Martin, SF Corey Brewer, PF Kevin Love, C Nikola Pekovic
Key Bench Players: PG Alexey Shved, G JJ Barea, G-F Chase Budinger (eventually?), F Derrick Williams, PF Dante Cunningham
Notable offseason additions: G Shabazz Muhammad (14th pick), F-C Gorgui Deng (21st pick), G Kevin Martin, G-F Corey Brewer, G-F Chase Budinger
Notable offseason subtractions: F Andrei Kirilenko, PG Luke Ridnour
FACT OR FICTION: The Timberwolves are under real pressure to make the playoffs this year.
FACT. I’m as surprised to write this as to be honest. I fully expected to be writing that the Timberwolves were an up-and-comer that just needed 82 games of mostly healthy basketball to announce themselves in the Western Conference playoff picture. There’s lot of reasons for optimism and lots of excuses for the past. But here’s the case that went through my head:… Read more...

Tanking for the Future: Utah Jazz Season Preview

The future is now in Utah… it just isn’t very good yet

Starting five: PG Trey Burke, SG Alec Burks, SF Gordon Hayward, PF Enes Kanter, C Derick Favors
Key bench players: SG Brandon Rush, SF Marvin Williams, SF Jeremy Evans, C Andris Biedrins, PG John Lucas III
Offseason additions: PG Trey Burke (#4 overall pick), SF Richard Jefferson, C Andris Biedrins, SG Brandon Rush, PG John Lucas III, C Rudy Gobert (#18 overall pick), PG Jerel McNeal, PG Ian Clark
Offseason subtractions: PF Paul Millsap, C Al Jefferson, PG Mo Williams, SG Randy Foye, PG Jamaal Tinsley, SG Kevin Murphy, PG Earl Watson, SF DeMarre Carroll
FACT OR FICTION: The Utah Jazz should be lauded for completely tanking 2013-2014.
FACT. In general, I think the presiding sentiment of tank or compete is overrated in the NBA. The 76ers are currently receiving accolades for sending out All-Star Jrue Holiday for another chance at Wiggins, but – if you look at the teams in the playoffs last year – only one contender (The Thunder) really tanked to get where they are today. Most of the other up and coming teams, like Houston, Memphis, and the Clippers either accumulated mid-level assets to swing trades, signed pivotal free agents, or  got lucky like the Bulls.
That said, the Jazz made the right call to mail in this season. They have quality, young players to develop across the board. Burke, Burks, Hayward, Kanter, and Favors are all going to get plenty of minutes this year, but in a situation without pressure to make the playoffs. The future in Utah starts now – and they have a promising core that will see more first round additions next summer. If all goes right, this team could be a real force in the West in a few seasons.… Read more...

Why the Words Kobe Bryant and Amnesty Should Never Appear in the Same Sentence

Watching the Lakers battle the Golden State Warriors on Friday, I had a sinking feeling as Kobe went down twice before finally rupturing his Achilles (Video here). I said to myself, “The story where the Lakers sneak into the playoffs behind 48 minutes of Kobe playing like he’s in his prime? It’s over.” Ever the warrior, the Mamba hit two clutch free throws that decided the game before limping to the locker room under his own power (yup, that’s an option Paul Pierce).   I couldn’t believe it-the Mamba had seemed invincible. Injuries that stopped mere  mortals just required treatment and inhuman willpower.
After Mark Cuban already ludicrously suggested the Lakers amnesty a healthy Kobe, I knew it was coming. The basketball Internets smelled blood in the water and started to circle the corpse of the Lakers. I can’t say I’m surprised that those muckrakers at the Worldwide Leader immediately produced an article suggesting the nuclear option of amnestying, but even the usually reasonable Rob Mahoney (Sports Illustrated) and the LA Times make the same point.
I will say this in no uncertain terms: Amnestying Kobe Bryan is an idiotic move for the Los Angeles Lakers.
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UCLA Hired a Coach: A Mixed Reaction to Steve Alford

If anyone is suited for a pressure job like this it’s Steve. He grew up dealing with pressure. Anything about Indiana basketball is pressure. In addition, the University of New Mexico takes their basketball seriously. He’s not the kind of guy who will shy away from what expectations are about at UCLA. He’ll handle this with dignity, class and he’s ready for this. -Dan Guerrero


Well, UCLA and athletic director Dan Guerrero hired a coach.  Before dissecting the choice, I’d like to welcome Steve Alford to the Bruin family. We’ll do our best to give you the kind of patience that we showed Howland during his first few years, but the fact is that this is a fanbase that badly needs to win. You need to restore UCLA to where it belongs – as a top program in college basketball. A program that wins, year in and year out. A program that is a destination for the right recruits, especially from the West Coast. I sure hope you’re the right man for the job.
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The End of the Ben Howland Era at UCLA

A high point for the program and an opportunity to showcase some class.

I first remember thinking that Ben Howland might need to leave after playing Kansas in December 2010. They played Kanas on the road to the last minute and looked competitive the whole way. Bill Self, whose Kansas team UCLA had blown out in the Elite 8 in 2007, could barely keep a straight face when talking about the Bruins. He was honestly surprised that UCLA had played his Jayhawks so closely and commented that it wasn’t the same UCLA team it used to be. It didn’t improve from there.
Two weeks ago, I wrote an argument about why UCLA needed to fire Ben Howland after 10 long years and didn’t have the heart (read: guts) to publish it. I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Bruins and Ben has provided me some of the highest highs I’ve ever experienced in sports. It was hard to believe I could write that I wanted him gone. But after a disappointing first round exit, it was clear Ben needed to leave.
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A Eulogy for Dr. Jerry Buss


I don’t just want winners, I want champions.” – Dr. Jerry Buss


After a prolonged battle with cancer, Dr. Jerry Buss passed away this week. As the long-time owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and consummate winner, Dr. Buss leaves behind a legacy unlike any other in the history of sports.


Jerry Buss was a man that literally came from nothing and scrapped for every dollar as he began his career. A man who valued education, he earned a PhD in chemistry; however, he made his fortune in real estate. Starting with a single $1,000 investment, Buss built upon his success and eventually bought the Lakers, Kings, and Great Western Forum in 1979 for under $70M in one of the most complicated deals in sports history. Today, the Lakers franchise alone is worth over $1B and is the most successful in NBA history.… Read more...

Another Year of Mediocrity in Sacramento – Kings Season Preview

Is DeMarcus ready to lead?

Starting Five: PG Tyreke Evans, SG Marcus Thornton, SF John Salmons, PF DeMarcus Cousins, C Jason Thompson

Bench Players: PG Isaiah Thomas, SF James Johnson, PG Aaron Brooks, PG Jimmer Fredette, C Chuck Hayes, SF Tyler Honeycutt, SF Travis Outlaw, PF Thomas Robinson

Key Additions: PF Thomas Robinson, PG Aaron Brooks

Key Subtractions: PF JJ Hickson

As a Dodgers fan who suffered through the McCourt era, I feel for the beleaguered Sacramento Kings fans. After McCourt used the Dodgers as a personal piggybank and pay Russian psychics to “boost” team performance, it’s refreshing to see that Frank has competition for the worst ownership in sports over the last decade: the Maloofs. The Maloofs have spent the last five years trying to hold the city of Sacramento hostage for a new arena deal, tried to renege after they got it, and almost bolted for Anaheim when a local businessman was stupid enough to guarantee their personal debts.

From a basketball perspective, the Kings have been flailing since the Chris Webber era ended and haven’t made the playoffs since 2006. They’re an NBA team that has had plenty of high lottery picks and intriguing coaching hires, but has never been able to put it all together or build momentum towards a perennial playoff team. Unfortunately for Kings fans, this doesn’t look like the year that everything will change for them.

There’s no doubt they have talent – DeMarcus Cousins is among the best young big men in the league, Tyreke Evans looked like a future superstar as recently as two seasons ago, and some of their young talent like Isaiah Thomas has been surprisingly effective early on in their career. They are at least two deep at every position. Keith Smart looks like a coach with a powerful connection to his young players and may stick around the league for a little bit. If you’re so inclined, there’s plenty of reason for optimism for the future in Sacramento (if they indeed stay there).

There are a few problems with this roster that limit its upside. Tyreke has regressed and they’ve added me-first shooter Marcus Thornton as their new SG, making their backcourt an effective blackhole. Jason Thompson has never been able to justify being a lottery pick, but the addition of Thomas Robinson may just solve that problem. However, with Fredette, Aaron Brooks, and the rest of the reserves, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. Furthermore, the Kings are ostensibly going to try to play five guards this year and have four small forwards who’d like to see the court as well. What’s the 10-man rotation going to be?

Like many young teams that don’t have the pieces to make a real run at the playoffs, the odds are that we’ll see Sacramento maneuvering for a top draft pick in the 2013 lottery. With young teams the secret is always deciding when to stop stockpiling assets around the core, surround the stars with some veteran leadership, and make a run at the playoffs. The Celtics played it to perfection in 2007, but no one else has gotten even close (sorry Houston). It’s not time for that in Sacramento yet, but another lottery pick and additional development from Cousins/Evans/Robinson may be just the ticket.

Longing for the good old days in Sacramento

Best Case Scenario: I don’t see this squad, which won 1/3 of its games last year and remains more or less the same on paper, making the playoffs. Their best case scenario is a spirited season that allows them to develop their talent, become optimistic about 2013-14, and still results in a reasonably high lottery pick. Like Mi… Read more...