Maybe the Isaiah Stewart-LeBron James Brawl Was a Good Thing

As many of us know, LeBron James and Isaiah Stewart got into an altercation during a Sunday matchup of Lakers-Pistons. Whether this was intentional or not is up for debate, but the fact of the matter is that it still happened, and a heated argument took place afterwards. Once Stewart saw that he was bleeding, he charged at James, ready to take his head off. The two were separated by the other eight players on the court, as well as both team’s benches and coaching staffs. Both James and Stewart are around 6’9″ and 250 pounds, so it takes a lot of people to restrain them (it also means it would have been a pretty fair fight, except that James is almost 37 and Stewart is 20). Eventually, after enough restraint, Stewart calmed down. End of story.

Credit to Carlos Osorio of AP Images for Picture

… Or so we all thought, because it turns out Stewart wasn’t really calm. Stewart still wanted James’ head, so he made everyone think he was fine and then charged at James again. It looked a lot like an NFL running back swerving through defenders, trying not to get taken down. Although he shoved off the first few people that tried to hold him, he was eventually stopped by three coaches and Cade Cunningham, the first pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. With blood by his eye socket and streaming down his face, Stewart made his way back to the locker room, for it was already a foregone conclusion he was ejected… except he didn’t stop there. Once he was about to exit the floor, pushing off the arm of one of his coaches, Stewart turned around, charging at James while seeing red (literally and figuratively). He got through nearly the entire Pistons’ staff and almost made it to the Lakers end of the floor before he was stopped, and I don’t doubt he would have knocked James unconscious if he had the chance. Eventually, after the third and final time, Stewart and James were both ejected, and play resumed.

Credit to Nic Antaya of Getty Images for Picture

When the NBA handed out suspensions, they gave James a one-game suspension, and Stewart two games. This makes sense to me, because while James started the conflict and gave Stewart a bloody eye (I do believe this was an intentional and dirty play), Stewart escalated the conflict by trying to take his head off. Then again, who wouldn’t want revenge on someone who hit them hard in the head with a flying elbow? Despite fights not being a good look for the NBA, I think this one was particularly beneficial to both the Pistons and the Lakers.

Let’s start with the Pistons’ point of view. This game was played in Detroit, and while the city has a bad history of fighting (the Bad Boys Pistons and the Malice at the Palace), this one was helpful in determining team identity. Almost every championship team has one of those players who is a spark, off the bench or as a starter. This player often brings the energy at home and is a fan-favorite with the crowd, although opposing teams often end up hating him. They can, in some instances, be a real pain in the butt, because they will do things that you sometimes question, such as calling out their teammates in public. Some examples of these types of guys are Draymond Green from the Golden State Warriors, Marcus Smart from the Boston Celtics, Patrick Beverly now for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Alex Caruso for the Chicago Bulls, Montrezl Harrell from the Washington Wizards, and many more. The Pistons don’t have their spark guy who is willing to mix it up with anyone, unless you count Kelly Olynyk, who, along with Zaza Pachulia, often seems to be involved in injuring star players. The Pistons may have just found their spark guy, and although it seems to be a smaller role on an NBA team, it’s difficult to win without a spark guy.

Credit to The Sports Rush for Picture

As for the Lakers, James’ ejection is showing the team once again what they are missing and where they need to improve. Despite the fight coming a few minutes into the third quarter, the Pistons were up 12 points when the brawl started. The Lakers would end up winning this game, 121-116, but they should have won by a lot more. Yes, the squad was on the road, and James got ejected, but the Pistons are still one of the worst teams in the entire NBA. The Lakers are supposed to be contenders, title favorites. Yet, they can only squeak out a five-point victory on the road to a team who is the 14th seed in the Eastern Conference? Imagine how poorly they would do against a playoff team.

Well, against the New York Knicks, the Lakers had to play in Madison Square Garden without James, and they lost. An unsurprising takeaway? Russell Westbrook had a great statline of 31 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 steals… but they lost. Anthony Davis put up 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists… and they lost. The Knicks were simply the better team, and as I watched this game, I found it interesting that Westbrook shot 50% from three, 88.9% from the free throw line, and 55.6% in total, which was one of his better shooting performances. The Lakers as a team, however, shot 37.4% from the field and 30.6% from three, while the Knicks shot 45.1% from the field and 44.1% from three. In this game, Westbrook did exactly what he was brought in to do with the Lakers, but they still lost.

The Lakers still haven’t learned to play with one another, and more importantly, they haven’t yet figured out how to win with each other. It’s the same as learning how to get A’s in school; if you know the content, but struggle on quizzes and tests, you won’t get good grades. I’m sure the Lakers are great in practice, but in the game, they don’t always get good results.

I’m not going to say Westbrook was a bad addition to the roster, but I know most Laker fans are panicking, and in hindsight, Buddy Hield should have been traded to this team, not Westbrook. I predict that the Lakers will have a much better second half of the season (assuming everyone remains healthy), but we’ve seen Westbrook’s track record in the playoffs, and if the Lakers advance beyond the second round, I’ll be amazed. Westbrook can’t realistically be traded, due to his large contract, so GM Rob Pelinka has to live with what he has. If by the time James retires the team hasn’t one another ring, I think the Lakers may have a new GM.

 

What do you think about the Lakers and Pistons? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

Should NBA Executives and Los Angeles Fans Be Worried About the Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most hyped teams coming into the 2021-22 season, the NBA’s 75th. With LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook as their big three to go along with Carmelo Anthony, Deandre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Nunn, and Malik Monk, the Lakers have a loaded roster. While there’s no definitive proof that the NBA fixes games, even the NBA’s front office would have to admit that the Lakers winning a title would be a perfect ending to the 75th NBA season. The Lakers and Boston Celtics are tied for the most championships in NBA history with 17, and the Lakers have been in 32 NBA Finals total. The only thing that could make this better is if the Lakers defeated the Celtics in the Finals to get that 18th championship. However, if their preseason performance is any indication of how they will play this season, then they will be lucky to make the Finals.

Credit to Lakers Daily for Picture

When Westbrook was first traded to the Lakers, many true NBA fans questioned why Westbrook, a somewhat selfish point guard who is one of the worst shooters in the NBA and causes turnovers galore, would work well when playing alongside two MVP caliber players. However, many casual fans shrugged off the questions about Westbrook’s relentlessness and floor spacing, because they were so excited to see everyone play together. Now, after six games, people are realizing what many knew all along: this big three simply can’t work together.

Their first preseason game came in the form of a blowout loss against the Brooklyn Nets. Keep in mind that James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant did not play, and while James and Westbrook didn’t play, Davis did. The Nets best player on the floor was LaMarcus Aldridge, who is 36 years old, and much older then Davis. The final score of this particular bloodbath was 123-97, but the Lakers get a little bit of a pass because it was their first game.

The second game was against the Phoenix Suns, and once again, Davis was by himself. While Chris Paul did play in this game, Devin Booker did not, so the Suns didn’t have all of their star power. The result was a 12-point loss. Next up was the Golden State Warriors, which had Stephen Curry and Draymond Green both playing. In this game, Davis got a rest, while James and Westbrook played in their first ever preseason game. Both did not play much, but in 17 minutes, Westbrook had six turnovers. Curry did not play much more then either of the Lakers’ stars, and the result was Jordan Poole stepping up to score 28 points. The result? 114-121, in favor of the Warriors.

Credit to Kyle Terada of USA TODAY Sports for Picture

After going 0-3, it was time for the Lakers to step it up, as they had a rematch against the Phoenix Suns. Booker didn’t play once again, and in this game, James took a rest, while Davis and Westbrook played together. In 25 minutes, Westbrook and AD combined for 27 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals, and 10 turnovers (9 of those came from Westbrook). There are some good things about that statline, but some pretty bad things as well. The result of this game was an even worse 123-94 blowout loss.

In game five, the big three would play their first ever game together, in a rematch against the Golden State Warriors. During the game, the big three would all play great. Davis had 20 points, Westbrook had 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists, and James had 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Unfortunately, they combined for 11 turnovers, and they lost the game by 12 points. The worst part? Both Curry and Green weren’t playing! Three MVP talents lost against the Warriors bench!

After going 0-5, the Lakers finally caught a break, playing a lottery team in the Sacramento Kings. The big three was playing again, and at the very least, they would have a confidence boost as the preseason ended. Right?

Wrong. Somehow, the Lakers managed to lose to the Kings, as De’Aaron Fox had 21 points, Richaun Holmes put up a 15 point 10 rebound double-double, and Terrance Davis had 20 points off the bench. The loss was only by four points, but still… three superstars against Fox and company? This is truly unacceptable.

If the Lakers continue like this, their diamond season could turn into a lump of coal, and without so much as an NBA Finals appearance. Whatever’s going on, the Lakers have a lot of fixing to do if they truly want to contend. So yes, I do believe that people should be worried about the Lakers. But what do you think about them? Don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog for more articles and opinions on this upcoming NBA season, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

The Lakers-Nets Saga Just Got Even More Interesting …

Woj was very busy on September 2nd, 2021, letting the world know some new interesting trades and insights inside the NBA. The first piece of news came in the form of a trade between the Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics.

Juan Hernangómez is a 6’9″ power forward, but unfortunately, some of his best years have been riddled by injuries. He still brings solid floor spacing and defense to whatever team has him, something the Celtics desperately need. On the other hand, Kris Dunn is a 6’3″ point guard who has played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Chicago Bulls, and Atlanta Hawks. When he was on the Bulls he had some good years, averaging 13, 4, and 6 in 2018. While Carsen Edwards hasn’t done much in his two years as an NBA player so far, he still has a lot of potential and could develop nicely as a backup for Ja Morant. All in all, this trade won’t shake the NBA landscape, but it will help both teams with problems they currently have. Now, onto the biggest Woj bomb that’s hit recently:

While this trade may seem odd on the surface, it isn’t that weird when you dive deeper in. Brooklyn gets financial relief which they desperately need since they are so far over the salary cap. They also get two young players with potential in Jahlil Okafor and Sekou Doumbouya. The Pistons, on the other hand, get four second round picks, which includes the Nets’ 2022 and 2027 second round picks as well as a 2024 second round pick from the Washington Wizards and a 2025 second round pick from the Golden State Warriors. The Pistons also get $5.78 million, which isn’t a small amount. The question is, why aren’t the Pistons keeping DeAndre Jordan? Why are they working on a buyout?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

After everything the Lakers have done to try and form a super team, they will now be adding Deandre Jordan to their roster? This is ridiculous! It seems as though every NBA player that has a buyout with his team ends up on the Los Angeles Lakers or Brooklyn Nets. Only four notable players on the Lakers remain from the 2020-21 season, which are LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Marc Gasol. This offseason, they added Russell Westbrook to their roster, in addition to resigning Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, and signing Kendrick Nunn, Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk, and Carmelo Anthony in free agency. This makes the Lakers a super team, and adding Jordan only enhances that.

Credit to Marca for Picture

After the Brooklyn Nets lost Jeff Green this offseason and decided to waive Alice Johnson, the Lakers have a better team than the Nets do. At least… they do on paper. While James has ordered LA to construct the best possible roster for him to chase a title and Michael Jordan‘s shadow, it still won’t be enough, as an old friend of the Nets is coming back.

Well, well, well. Isn’t this interesting? Jordan may be going to the Lakers and solidifying their super team, but LaMarcus Aldridge will be rejoining the Nets. And despite all the Lakers have done this offseason, I still think the Nets are the better team. Why, you may ask?

  1. The Nets still have a near-prime Kevin Durant, a prime Kyrie Irving, and James Harden who is still at the top of his game when not injured.
  2. The Nets were able to add Patty Mills to their roster, who is a great point guard.
  3. The Nets drafted Cameron Thomas, who would go on to be summer league MVP, and Day’Ron Sharp from UNC.
  4. The Nets still have Joe Harris (one of the best shooters in the NBA), Bruce Brown (an incredible defender), and Nicolas Claxton (one of the best young rim protectors in the game).
  5. The Big Three have still not played that many games together when they are all healthy, and when they are, they are incredibly dominant. If we give them a whole healthy regular season to learn to play with one another, the Nets could easily win 65+ games.

Now let’s look at the Lakers point of view:

  1. Signed Nunn, who has lots of potential but didn’t get to do a ton in Miami. Realistically won’t be getting many minutes behind Westbrook.
  2. Signed Malik Monk, who has previously violated the NBA’s anti-drug policy.
  3. Signed Anthony, an aging former star who will demand the ball and is only in it for a ring at this point.
  4. The Lakers have the oldest roster in the NBA. While this is great for experience and guys who know how to play the game, at some point their bodies will betray them, like James’ did last year. When this happens, it’s going to be up to the young guys (Nunn, Monk, Horton-Tucker) to lead the team. Are they ready for that?
  5. Anthony is known for his mid-range jump shooting. Westbrook is known for his drive to the rim plays and mid-range jumpers. Davis shoots 30% from three when in LA, and James isn’t a good three-point shooter either. How in the world will this team space itself out?
  6. Westbrook is an alpha dog, always has been and always will be. There is nothing that anyone can do to change that, and he’s played with more All-Stars then I can count on one hand. He also (infamously) chokes in the playoffs, something James can’t afford to have happen.
  7. None of their big men except Marc Gasol can shoot and stretch the floor, and Gasol is 36.

As you can see, the Nets may still have the advantage in the Lakers-Nets rivalry. Because of injuries, the NBA Finals matchup we all hoped for and anticipated in 2021 did not happen. However, with the renewed rosters, I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one of these two teams in the Finals this year.

If you want to be updated more about moves the Lakers and Nets make, then don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

Days One and Two of Free Agency: The Strong Get Stronger

In a very exciting free agency class, Days One and Two of Free Agency have brought us some crazy singings, moves, and trades. From 5-8 PM Eastern Time, NBA TV did a special called Free Agent Fever, where they had analysts react in real time to the trades and signings going on. As soon as 6 PM rolled around and free agency started, I started looking at Adrian Wojnarowski’s twitter. Not two minutes into free agency, I saw this pop up on my screen:

Yup, believe it or not, Lonzo Ball is headed to the Chicago Bulls! Along with the contract they are picking up, the Bulls are sending Tomáš Satoranský, Garrett Temple, and a second round pick to the Pelicans. This is a great move for the Bulls, as they get a near All-Star caliber point guard, show Zach Lavine (who is an unrestricted free agent next year) that they are dedicated to winning and will more likely then not make the playoffs next year. Also in another exciting turn of events…

Everyone’s favorite player is switching teams

Yes, believe it or not, the official meme of the NBA (actually, maybe not considering how Ben Simmons has been playing and Kyle Kuzma… should I make a biggest memes of the NBA post? Let me know in the comments), Alex Caruso will be signing a four year, $37 million contract with the Chicago Bulls, meaning that the Bulls now have lots of depth at that position. On a side note, I would expect that Coby White won’t be with the Bulls much longer, as his play style and Lavine’s don’t mesh well together. However, now that Caruso is on the Bulls and previously played for the Lakers, it will be ridiculous easy to make memes about him… almost as easy as it was to make memes about Brian Scalabrine. Here’s an example:

Personally, I don’t like Caruso because this offseason he was arrested for drug possession, but as a basketball player, this move does indeed help the Bulls.

Some All-Star worthy players resigned big contracts with their current team, such as Mike Conley, who resigned with the Utah Jazz for three years, and $72.5 million. Jarrett Allen resigned for five years and $100 million, and the Phoenix Suns successfully negotiated with Chris Paul to give him a four year deal that earns him up to $120 million. Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat also made some big money, with a five year, $90 million deal. This made headlines as the largest deal for an undrafted player in NBA history. However, the biggest contract so far has come from Steph Curry. He signed a contract extension for four-years and $215 million, making him the first player to sign two contracts over $200 million. My, how far we’ve come from the days where players were making $50,000 a year.

Credit to Getty Images for Picture

Kyle Lowry, who is one of the biggest free agents in the 2021 Free Agent class, has found a new home, as he is getting a three year deal in Miami, which will be a sign and trade. Jimmy Butler, who just earned himself a four year, $184 million contract, was instrumental in recruiting Lowry to the Heat, and now that he’s there, they have a team worthy of the NBA Finals once again. The Heat can have a starting five of Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo, which features four All-Stars.

In my years watching the NBA, I have developed a distain for both the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, as in my opinion, they have ruined free agency. They are both big markets, meaning they can attract big names, but that is not why I hate them. Because of what LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have done in forming multiple super teams, every toxic Lakers and Heat fan likes to brag that every star player is going to the Lakers, and it gets very annoying very fast. The Heat are the same way, as it seems at every trade deadline or free agency fans claim they are going to acquire at least four new All-Stars.

Credit to Clutch Points for Picture

Speaking of the Lakers, they have made some key acquisitions, and have had some key departures. Russell Westbrook was a huge upgrade for them at the point guard spot, but they lost a lot of young assets and draft capital in return. They still have an unhappy Dennis Schröder, who I fully expect to be traded this offseason. So, the Lakers need veterans because otherwise they simply won’t have enough players to form a solid rotation where players can get rest.

The first veteran they got was Trevor Ariza, who previously played for the Los Angeles Lakers in the Kobe Bryant-era. Dwight Howard is also returning to the Lakers, back from a season with the Philadelphia 76ers in which the team underachieved. This will be Howard’s third stint with the franchise, and second time playing for them in three years. The Lakers also got Kent Bazemore on a one-year contract, as he has also played for the franchise before. Wayne Ellington will also be coming along for the ride, as he played for the Lakers for one season in 2015. One of their bigger additions is Malik Monk, who is a young stud of a shooting guard and progressing each and every year of his NBA career. The Lakers also acquired Kendrick Nunn, who despite being a younger player, really wants to win a ring. He turned down significantly more money to join the team, making only $5 million a year for the next two years. This also just helps prove my theory that the Lakers are going to trade Schröder as soon as possible. However, the most hyped-up signing of a veteran player has to be Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony has been chasing a ring his entire career, but unfortunately he’s mostly been on losing teams. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from NBA history, however, it’s that when a player joins a super team to win a ring, it doesn’t end up going very well (Karl Malone, Gary Payton on the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers). However, just think about how you would have lost your mind if you saw James and Anthony team up in 2011.

The Lakers also unfortunately got a downgrade at the center position, as even though they acquired Dwight Howard from the 76ers, the Lakers All-Star big man Andre Drummond found his way to Philadelphia. This is a somewhat puzzling move, as Drummond and Joel Embiid have a history of beef, but it is a great way to get depth for the 76er’s second unit. That is, if they can mesh after Embiid has said things like this:

Credit to Bleacher Report

Speaking of the Washington Wizards, they have been making some moves since the Russell Westbrook team. Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards GM, has let Robin Lopez walk to the Magic. Lopez is the second center to go the Magic from the Wizards, with the first being Moritz Wagner.

After Russell Westbrook was traded by the Wizards, their biggest offseason addition is Spencer Dinwiddie, who is not officially a member of the team, but as close as you can get. An anonymous Wizards fan said about the Westbrook trade, “Although some are disappointed with Russell Westbrook’s departure from DC, the trade may be just what the Wizards need to become a playoff team. For years now, Wizards have been at the bottom of the league, loosing games, and as Bradley Beal says, ‘lacking defense.’ Most people blame the downfall of the Wizards on past stars, John Wall and Russel Westbrook. However, the Wizards unstable season is more to blame on DC’s lack of role players. Through the Lakers trade, DC acquires great surrounding players, all with playoff experience. Combined with Beal’s lights out shooting, the Wizards could be unstoppable!”

Dinwiddie is a superb point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, who averaged over 20 points per game in 2020 and was nearly voted an All-Star. In 2021, Dinwiddie only played three games due to an ACL injury, but he is back, better then ever, and will certainly play at that All-Star level.

Credit to Michael Dwyer of AP Images for Picture

Multiple other small signings have happened as well, although it’s clear that as of right now, the winners of the 2021 Free Agency are the Chicago Bulls. I couldn’t even get through writing this article without another major trade happening, and once again, it features the Chicago Bulls.

Credit to Jonathon Daniel of Getty Images for Picture

Demar DeRozan is headed to Chicago, on a sign and trade deal for Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, and two second-round picks. DeRozan’s new contract will be for three years and $85 million. With this move, the Bulls have easily propelled themselves into the playoffs, and may just come out of the east and make their first NBA Finals since the Michael Jordan era. This is easily the best Bulls team we have seen since 2012, which featured Derrick Rose, a young Butler, Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Kyle Korver, and Brian Scalabrine. Last season, DeRozan averaged 21.6 points and a career-high 6.9 assists per game, despite not being properly utilized by the Spurs and spending most of his minutes at the power forward position. A starting five of Lonzo Ball, Zach Lavine, Demar DeRozan, Lauri Markkanen (assuming he doesn’t get traded), and Nikola Vucevic features two All-Stars and two borderline All-Star caliber players. They also their 4th overall pick from 2020, Patrick Williams. They are undoubtedly a contender and favorite to come out of the east.

When asked about their chances, an anonymous Bulls fan told me, “I think the Bulls have set themselves up for a significant run in the playoffs. The addition of Lonzo Ball should propel their move. Zach Lavine is turning into a force, Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams add to the mix. I don’t know what Ayo Dusunmu will bring but I hope it’s the same spark he gave to Illinois.”

Kawhi Leonard has not yet announced his decision to either re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, or to sign with another team, so stayed tune for what has the potential to be the biggest news in all of free agency.

The Kendrick Nunn signing came in right as I was finishing the article, so I want to know: who won free agency so far, the Bulls or the Lakers? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog so you don’t miss more articles coming out on free agency, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

LeBron James Switches Jersey Numbers; Again

LeBron James has decided to switch his jersey number from number 23 to number six, the same number he wore for the Miami Heat from 2010-14. The official announcement came on June 9th, 2021.

Credit to Adam Pantozzi of Getty Images for picture

Ironically, this move came only a few days after Pat Riley, president of basketball operations for the Miami Heat, was fined for breaking the league’s tampering rule, which in essence means he is trying to slyly recruit James to the Heat when he is not a free agent.

“I would leave the key under the doormat if he would call me and let me know he’s coming. I would do that, but I doubt very much that key… That key is rusted now.”

Pat Riley during a June 4th radio interview

Many NBA fans speculate that James changed his jersey number because he wanted to play like he did as number six on the Miami Heat (he won two MVPs and two championships), or make lots of money from jersey sales because everyone would be buying new LeBron jerseys. However, James alleged reason is a lot more difficult to believe:

“You know, a lot of people say it’s because I want to be like my Heat days, but man, I just wanted to honor DBook [Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns] by wearing the number of games it took him to take us out of the playoffs. The kid’s next up.”

LeBron James speaking to a reporter about his jersey swap

Are we really going to believe this?

I have a difficult time believing that this is the only reason why James switched jersey numbers. Is he telling us that if the Suns pushed them to seven games, he would copycat Kevin Durant and wear the number seven? I don’t think so, as it would make him look like a hypocrite when Durant wears number seven for religious reasons, as it is the most common number in the bible.

Do you really believe we would see James wearing number four or five if that’s how long it took for Booker to dispose of James and the Lakers? Per ESPN,

“Promotional materials for James’ upcoming movie, ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy,’ were released this week showing James’ No. 6 ‘Tune Squad’ uniform, as noted by The Athletic, which first reported James’ jersey change.”

ESPN on James’ jersey change

So, James changes to the jersey number that he wears in the movie he made to copy Michael Jordan and make loads of revenue from? The same jersey number that he wore on the Miami Heat when he won two championships? The same number he wore when he won gold medals on Team USA and used on his practice jersey for the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Credit to Bleacher Report for picture

This sounds like a bit too much evidence against him, even though James gave Booker his jersey from Game Six. One then has to think about what exactly James said in the quote above.

When Michael Jordan lost to the Detroit Pistons in the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, could you ever imagine him and Isiah Thomas taking a picture together and Jordan changing his jersey number to 11 to honor the man who kicked his a–? Jordan spent the following offseason working out with Tim Grover so that he could get rid of Thomas once and for all, and take control of the Eastern Conference. Can you imagine Kobe Bryant changing his number to 34 so he could honor 2008 Finals MVP Paul Pierce of the rival Boston Celtics? No! He also worked as hard as he could with Tim Grover (despite winning MVP that season), and then won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. James simply doesn’t have the killer instinct that the legends before him had. This could be his downfall, and aside from aging, the reason why he doesn’t win another MVP or championship in his career.

If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, I recommend buying Tim Grover’s book, Relentless. He gives an incredible, deep-diving explanation about what it takes to be the best at what you do, and while it was written a few years ago, many of its meanings and explanations of certain players are still spot-on.

Just to prove I’m not crazy, delirious, and babbling on about a subject most NBA fans won’t care about, let’s look at the history and lies of James’ jerseys:

2008: James plays on the second greatest Olympic USA Basketball team ever (known as the Redeem team), and wears number six. That year, the team cruises to a gold medal.

2010: James joins the Miami Heat, and in doing so is forced to switch jersey numbers, to number six. The Heat retired Jordan’s jersey out of respect for him, even though he never played for their franchise. James pretends that he loves what the Heat did, and being as egotistical as he is, says, “I feel no NBA player should wear 23. I’m starting a petition and I’ve got everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I’m not going to wear No.23, then no one else should be able to wear it.”

He also said, “I just think that what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized in some way soon. There would be no LeBron James, no Kobe Bryant, no Dwayne Wade if there wasn’t Michael Jordan.” There is nothing wrong with this sentiment, but it feels very hypocritical coming from the guy who has been chasing Jordan’s shadow his entire career and is doing everything in his power to get people to believe he is the GOAT. He believed in 2016 that after winning his third championship, he was better than Jordan! And did he really just say if I can’t do something, then no one should be able to do something? That sounds like a spoiled child! James wasn’t even in the GOAT debate in 2010, as he hadn’t won a single championship. Remember, James himself chose to go to Miami, build a super team, and became the most hated player in the NBA during that four year stretch.

2014: James returns to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and immediately switches back to wearing the number 23. Everyone now knows that James was full of it in Miami and that he only switched to six because of the jersey retirement deal. On his flippable practice jersey, James wears number six as well as 23, which he claims is a tribute to Deion Sanders, an NFL player who put his college number, two, on his practice jersey, but played in number 21 for most of his career. While wearing number six on his practice jersey for both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers, he wins two more rings, so you can’t say he doesn’t have good memories with the number six. Did I mention James never went to college?

2019: James attempts to recruit Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers. Whether getting to keep number 23 is part of the deal in trying to recruit Davis to the Lakers is unclear, but James publicly promises that for the 2019-20 season, Davis will get to wear 23 (which, for the record, he wears as a tribute to James, his favorite player). Then, Davis doesn’t get 23 because apparently, James “missed the deadline” and the transfer couldn’t occur. Also, Nike voids the swap, because they had thousands of James’ jerseys ready to sell and didn’t want to waste millions of dollars. If James cared so much about giving Davis the number, then why didn’t he offer to give him the number for the 2019-20 season and donate those jerseys to charity so kids who don’t have real clothes can have something to wear?

As you can see, James lying about his reasoning is nothing new, and while it would be great for fans to believe that James is retiring his jersey number for Booker, I simply can’t. Past experience and too much circumstantial evidence make that impossible for me, but what do you think? Why do you think James changed his jersey number? Let me know, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

Four Coaches Whose Jobs Are On the Line This Offseason

Every offseason, there are coaches that get hired to new teams, and inevitably, get fired from previous teams. Some coaches are with their respective teams a lot longer than others, but when the team itself isn’t changing or there are problems, those coaches are soon shown the door. Today, we are looking at four coaches who are the most likely to get fired if they don’t have a successful playoffs or offseason.

Honorable Mention: Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

Credit to Sarah Stier of Getty Images for Picture

Yesterday, Stevens stepped down from his head coaching position with the Boston Celtics and became the president of basketball operations, as former president and Celtic legend Danny Ainge retired. Since the Celtics had not appeared to be making much progress in their quest towards a championship after losing to the Brooklyn Nets in five games, I wrote the following:

The Celtics have made the Eastern Conference Finals multiple times, which includes 2017, 2018, and 2020. In those multiple series, the Celtics have always come within one game, and even one quarter away from a trip to the Finals, but just miss out every time. Now, as of the writing of this blog, the Celtics are down 3-1 against the Brooklyn Nets which has three MVPs. There is very little chance the Celtics win this series, and if they do, something tells me Danny Ainge will be getting restless with the lack of Finals, and want some changes.

The Celtics have been contenders for the last five years, but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean anything except that they are a top four team in the NBA. Only the top two compete in the Finals, and since Ainge played on the 1980s Celtics, he knows his basketball and how to win, even if it’s not how certain fans want to. While I hope Stevens does not depart this offseason, it could be another executive or coach who is fired, and another player who is hired (who knows, maybe Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers will sign with the franchise and give the team a big three).

This prediction proved to be both right, wrong, and somewhat backwards. There was a major change among the staff, and the Celtics will have a new head coach. This is the opposite of what Greg Poppovich did in the late 90s, as he resigned from his position as General Manager so he could coach the San Antonio Spurs himself. It will be interesting to see who the Celtics hire as head coach, and how different their style of play and win total will be in comparison to Stevens’ tenure with the team.

#4: Luke Walton, Sacramento Kings

Credit to the Los Angeles Times for this picture and accurate representation of Walton’s time coaching the Los Angeles Lakers

After an unsuccessful post-Kobe Bryant coaching career with the Los Angeles Lakers in which the team never made the playoffs, Luke Walton signed a contract to become the head coach of the Sacramento Kings. At the time, the Kings were not a playoff team, but they had hope. De’Aaron Fox looked to be a future All-Star, Buddy Hield was becoming an elite shooter, and Marvin Bagley was a powerful force in the paint. However, as soon as Walton started coaching, things went downhill. The season before Walton arrived (2018-19), the Kings won 39 games and missed out on the playoffs. Since Walton arrived, they have sported identical 31 win seasons in both 2020 and 2021. Player development, the thing Walton was supposed to be good at, was stifled, as Fox had not yet made the leap to All-Star, Hield’s stats, efficiency, effectiveness, and minutes went down, and Bagley was misused, injured, and ultimately felt as though he was given up on. Many think the Kings are cursed, or have really bad luck, and I can’t say I disagree1.

Did you know that the Kings have not had a winning season since 2006? It has been over a decade since they were last in the playoffs! The franchise needs to fire Walton ASAP so that they can have a chance at undoing the damage he did and acquiring more assets to contend for the playoffs in the near future. Maybe they would be best served hiring this next coach if he gets fired, because something he’s been known for is player development…

#3: Scott Brooks, Washington Wizards

Credit to District Sports Report for Video. Go check out their YouTube Channel!

Ah yes, Scott Brooks… where to begin? I don’t know a single Wizards fan that still wants him D.C. From countless, countless, articles to videos (above) to petitions about why he should be fired, they all have good points: the Wizards can’t come through in the clutch, he has had the job several years and they haven’t gone anywhere, and he doesn’t have a go-to rotation; instead, he is just throwing out lineups and hoping one works. Young player’s development, which Brooks is supposed to be known for, isn’t going anywhere, and he has misused Deni Avdija, the Wizards 2020 lottery pick in different situations. The problem is, there are two factors that may end up keeping Brooks his job:

  • He led the Wizards through the play-in and to the playoffs, even though they are likely going to lose in the first round
  • Despite an injury-riddled season, the Wizards had a storybook turnaround
  • Russell Westbrook was coached under Brooks during part of his time in Oklahoma City, so they have bonded and Westbrook does not want him gone

These three facts are going to make it difficult to fire Brooks, but it’s the right thing to be done. The Wizards need a fresh start.

#2: Terry Stots, Portland Trail Blazers

This picture is used under a Creative Commons License

Stots has been the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers since 2012, the longest a current coach in the NBA has been with one team. During his first season with the Blazers, they went 33-49 and lost 13 consecutive games to end the season. In the following years, they would make the playoffs multiple times, but could never get past the second round. Damian Lillard has been the star of the Trail Blazers, though aside from backcourt addition C.J. McCollum, he has never gotten any key pieces and stars that have helped him propel the Trail Blazers to the next level. The farthest Stots and Lillard have gone in the playoffs was the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019, where they were swept by a Kevin Durant-less Golden State Warriors juggernaut that would go on to lose the Finals after their All-Stars were injured and reinjured. In 2020, Stots and the Blazers found themselves kicked out of the first round in five games by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.

All in all, the Blazers have made some playoff appearances and one deep run, but have never reached or won the NBA Finals. Stots will have been with the Blazers for nearly a decade after this season, and if Stots doesn’t make another deep playoff run this season, beating teams like the Denver Nuggets and the winner of the Phoenix Suns/Los Angeles Lakers series, then I see no good reason why Portland would keep him around any longer. Lillard has been loyal to the franchise his entire career, and to repay him, they need to get him a better supporting cast and coach who can take him places.

#1: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks

Credit to Brian Sevald of Getty Images for Picture

A former Coach of the Year, Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks has done a great job developing Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as All-Star wing player Khris Middleton. However, post-season success may lead to the former Coach of the Year’s demise. In the 2018 playoffs, the Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics in the first round; in 2019 (Antetokounmpo’s first MVP season) they lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors, and in 2020, they lost to the Miami Heat in the second round. The Eastern Conference is not at its strongest, and the Bucks are simply not able to capitalize on the situation. When you have two All-Stars (including an MVP) on your roster and you aren’t able to make it to the NBA Finals (which has been the expectation for Antetokounmpo), that does seem to be a problem.

After Antetokounmpo signed a five-year extension and made it clear he is not leaving the franchise in the near future, the most removable piece of the team would be Budenholzer. The Bucks already got revenge by sweeping the Miami Heat in the 2021 NBA playoffs (the team that beat them in the prior playoffs), and if they can beat the winner of the Philadelphia 76ers/Washington Wizards series, then they will be back in the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s difficult to say if making it there alone will let Budenholzer keep his job, but it’s very unlikely that if the Bucks can beat (most likely it will be) the Brooklyn Nets and make the NBA Finals that Budenholzer will lose his job. I like Budenholzer, and I think he is a great coach for this Bucks team, so personally, I’m rooting for them to make a deep run in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

What coach do you think will get fired first (if any)? Let me know your thoughts, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

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1: Then again, couldn’t you make an argument that lots of small market teams are cursed? For example, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, and of course, our beloved Sacramento Kings. While I doubt the NBA is rigging games, if they were, it’s not going in the small-market team’s favor. Maybe we should call it, “The Small Market Curse.”

The NBA Awards: Mamba On

The NBA Award results are beginning to be shown to the public, and among them are the 6th Man of the Year Award and the Most Improved Player Award. The respective awards went to Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz and Julius Randle of the New York Knicks, who both had wonderful seasons. Clarkson won the 6th Man of the Year Award by averaging 18.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists while playing in 68 games, coming off the bench in all but one. His performance helped propel the Jazz to the top of the NBA’s standings, finishing with a 52-20 record.

Credit to the NBA YouTube Channel for the Video

Randle, on the other hand, took a subpar Knicks team that he had been on the season before and completely transformed himself from above average role player to All-Star. During his first season with the Knicks (2019-20), Randle averaged 19.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists while the Knicks finished with a 21-45 record, good for the 12th seed in the Eastern Conference. This season, Randle became a first time All-Star and averaged career highs in every category, with 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game. The Knicks went from the 12th seed to the 4th seed, with a record of 41-31 in 2021. There is no doubt that he deserves this award, and earned it.

Congratulations to both of these men for making such incredible strides in their development.

With that being said, I couldn’t help but notice a striking similarity when it comes to the two award winners. A fact that I cannot gloss over, and one that makes me realize that even when you are dead, you can still have a massive influence on today’s NBA.

Credit to CLNS Media for Picture

Allow me to introduce you to the 2010 Los Angeles Lakers. Fresh off of winning back to back NBA Championships, the team fell off as Lamar Odom would leave the team in 2011 for the Dallas Mavericks, Ron Artest would sign with the Knicks in 2013, and Pau Gasol would sign with the Chicago Bulls in 2014. In an attempt to win a few more rings (Artest and Gasol did not age very well), the Lakers signed Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic in 2012. They also successfully traded for point god (that was his nickname) Chris Paul in 2011, but David Stern vetoed the trade because he thought it was unfair.

That big three would be the equivalent of today’s Brooklyn Nets, but since there was no Paul, it was just Bryant and Howard, which did not work out. Howard had nowhere near the work ethic of Bryant, a fact that Bryant could not stand. In a short amount of time, Howard had departed to the Rockets, and Bryant was forced to carry the Lakers while they tanked for high draft picks.

Credit to Mark J. Terrill for Picture

This forced Kobe Bryant into working harder than he should have at his age. So it should be no surprise that Bryant tore his achilles on April 12th, 2013, during a game against the Golden State Warriors. With no Bryant, the Lakers deteriorated. The Lakers had no first round draft picks in 2012 and 2013, but with their second round picks they selected Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly, who are good friends to this day.

However, in 2014, the Lakers finally got a top draft choice (the 7th pick to be exact) and selected our good friend Julius Randle. Unfortunately, he broke his shin in his first game, and missed his whole rookie season. Aside from Randle, the Lakers also received Jordan Clarkson in a trade from that same draft. Because of the injuries to Randle and Bryant, the Lakers had yet another bad year and in 2015, selected D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick. Unfortunately, this once more did nothing, and the Lakers received the second pick again in 2016, with which they selected Brandon Ingram. 2015-16 was Bryant’s final season, and after it was over, the Lakers had only their young core and another number two pick, this time Lonzo Ball.

So, with the exception of Ingram and Ball, all of the young Lakers got a chance to learn from the great Black Mamba himself, and while their stats on the Lakers were less then impressive, as soon as they were traded and moved to different teams, they became different players. It was as if the Black Mamba was inside each of them, telling them exactly what to do in order to become the kind of player that he was. Julius Randle has said that he thinks about Bryant on a daily basis, and Clarkson recalled how badly he wanted to win that final season. Before a game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Bryant gave every member on the team a pair of his shoes, but after a blowout loss, he took them all back, saying they weren’t worthy of wearing his shoes.

Once D’Angelo Russell was traded to the Brooklyn Nets, he became a first-time All-Star, led the Nets to a playoff appearance for the first time since 2015, and was traded in a sign and trade for Kevin Durant, a former MVP. Ryan Kelly, the second round pick in 2013 and the last player to ever sub in for Bryant, left the NBA to play overseas in Japan and is now averaging a 20-point 10-rebound double-double. Ingram and Ball must have learned some of the lessons from their teammates who played with Bryant, because once they were traded to the Pelicans, Ingram became an All-Star and Ball began to make his three-point shots.

The other two players from the Lakers’ young core? Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson would play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but it wasn’t until he was on the Utah Jazz that he found his role, and became the player he is today. As for Randle, he would soon find himself on the New Orleans Pelicans, and from there the New York Knicks. The fact remains that two NBA award winners were those who studied under Kobe Bryant, the man with the most legendary work ethic on the planet. It’s safe to say that the Black Mamba was a great coach, and might be remembered as one of the greatest coaches ever if he did so professionally.

If you enjoyed learning about these award winners, then don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

Six Times Larry Bird Endured Pain Like No Other

Larry Bird is one of the greatest competitors the game has ever seen. From his incredible work ethic to his trash talking and pain tolerance, Bird is truly one of a kind. Wanting to win more than anything, Bird would grit his teeth through nearly everything and carry on so that he could lead his team to victory. This blog post features six stories of Bird that show just how tough he truly was.

Disclaimer: The stories of how Bird masked and fought through pain are incredible, but were not always wise decisions. This blog attempts to capture how Bird endured pain, not endorse it. Do not attempt any of this at home.

#6: The Finger

Credit to USA Today for Picture

Bird was drafted by the Boston Celtics after his junior season of college. However, instead of turning pro, Bird had made a promise to his mother that he would get his degree and stay all four years at college. Red Auerbach, suspecting this, decided that Bird was worth the wait and waited for him to turn pro after his final year of college. After losing to Magic Johnson in the 1979 NCAA Championship, Bird had one thing to do before reporting to Boston. Majoring in Physical Education, Bird would become a physical education and health teacher, as well as an assistant baseball coach at West Vigo High School, located in Terre Haute, Indiana. After Bird was done teaching for the day, he would often play basketball or fill in for a missing player on the softball team. Unfortunately, one of these softball games would turn into his doom, as when playing in left field, Bird tried to catch a fly ball. He caught it successfully, but the ball smashed into his finger and bent it backwards. In his own words, “I looked down, and my finger was all the way over to the other side of my end.” After his brother nearly barfed looking at the grotesquely bent finger, Bird was rushed to the emergency room. Although given a splint, Bird kept going on with his normal day activities, until he was summoned by a doctor in Indianapolis.

At the doctor’s office, Bird was told that his right knuckle was shattered, and that he would need surgery to get it stabilized. When Bird asked the surgeon later how long it would take until it was healed, the surgeon said, “Healed? Son, I’m not sure it will.” This jeopardized Bird’s career with the Celtics, as Red Auerbach and the team thought he may be damaged goods. The Celtics’ physician, Thomas Silva, said that the knuckle would never fully heal, matching the words of the surgeon in Indianapolis. While Bird’s range of motion would forever be off, Auerbach told Bird to get on a court and start shooting. Bird buried all of his shots, and in doing so convinced Auerbach that they should keep him. Auerbach would later say, “If he was in pain, he did a pretty good job of disguising it. He was one tough kid.” Regardless, Bird would never shoot the same as he did at Indiana State. While he still made some memorable highlights (such as the 1986 three-point contest), if you really want to look for Bird’s best days, you may want to find clips of him in college. 30 years after the injury, Bird confirmed, “I never could shoot as well again.”

#5: Harvey “Catches” Bird with an Elbow

During a game in 1982, Bird went up for a rebound against the Milwaukee Bucks. Unfortunately, big man Harvey Catchings was going up for the rebound at the same time. Although they both stood at 6’9″, Catchings was a center and more accustomed to battling his way for boards. Catchings elbowed Bird on the side of the cheek (though we don’t know if it was intentional or unintentional). Bird was in an excruciating amount of pain, and this may have been because his skull was depressed by the blow! However, Bird would not allow himself to come out of the game, and played through it until the buzzer at the end of the 4th quarter. From there, Dr. Silva forced him to go to the hospital, where doctors drilled inside Bird’s head so they could “pop his zygotic arch back out,” or in normal words, pop out his skull.

#4: Larry’s Little Toe

In 1985, Bird began to feel pain in his toes. Bird being Bird ignored the pain for three weeks until it got too serious to ignore. Going to Dr. Silva, he was told that he had a very serious infection, and that he was going to have to cut it open to let the infection drain out. Dr. Silva said that he would give Bird novocain, but Bird just said, “Nah, just give me one of those beers over there.” Bird would play in the game that night, however when it was over, his sock was soaked in blood. This prompted M.L. Carr to say, “I swear to God, they carved him up like he was John Wayne. Toughest guy I’ve ever seen.”

#3: Dell Curry and the Eye

In the mid 1980s, Bird had already suffered some serious injuries, but he was still in his prime, winning championships and MVPs almost effortlessly. However, in one of those games, Dell Curry, father of Stephen Curry (two-time MVP), elbowed Bird in the eye (most likely by accident) and fractured his eye orbiter. Bird would end up with double vision, and as he would later say, “I was seeing two baskets. I had to guess which one to shoot at.” Despite the horrible injury, Bird would stay in the game, and more often than not, guess the right basket. Towards the end of the game, blood dripped from Bird’s nostril, and when he blew his nose, his eye protruded grotesquely.

#2: The Aw, Hell Game

It was the first round, Game Five of the 1991 NBA Playoffs. The Boston Celtics were matched up against the Indiana Pacers, and injuries were bothering old Larry once more. In a game where Bird wasn’t even sure he would play (it was a game time decision due to some back injuries), Bird, being the team player he was, dove for a loose ball. Unfortunately, he would bang his head on the ground and fall unconscious. Luckily, Bird regained consciousness, but he was escorted off the floor and into the trainer’s room. The team physician diagnosed him with a concussion, and it was clear to him that Bird was out for the rest of the game.

In the second half, Bird started getting antsy as the Celtics were losing the lead that he had worked so hard to gain. Bird asked the team’s new physician, Arnold Scheller, “Doc, should I go back in?” Scheller replied, “Larry, I think you’ve done enough.”

Larry’s response: “Aw, hell.” He then ran back onto the court, where the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Once Bird got into the game, they would go on a 33-14 run and win. Keep in mind, Bird was playing through a concussion!

#1: The Back

Credit to The Athletic for Picture

Bird’s back plagued him throughout his entire NBA career. From the early 1980s to the early 1990s, Bird’s back was one of the few things he couldn’t control on the court. While many different back issues resurfaced through his career, the ones he had towards the end of his career, particularly in 1992, were the most devastating. Bird’s back kept him from traveling to the 1992 All-Star weekend, and his back was in such bad condition that he spent a lot of time in a fiberglass body brace that extended from his upper torso to his hips. After he was in good enough condition that his doctors told him it was of no more use, Bird went into his backyard and blasted the brace with a shotgun. Although pain would later flair up in a couple of months, Bird would decide against his doctors wishes to fly to LA to speak when Magic Johnson’s number was retired at halftime in a game against (who else) the Boston Celtics.

These sorts of moments would bind Magic and Bird together, so that whenever someone would talk to one of them, one of the first things they asked was, “How’s Magic?” or, “How’s Larry?” I’m sure Kevin McHale and James Worthy were each slightly disappointed, but they understood.

Bird’s ability to play through pain was unmatched and will most likely forever be unmatched. Make sure to follow the blog if you liked this post and want more, and as always, have an awesome day!

Rui Hachimura is One of the Best Rising Stars in the NBA. Here’s Why:

On April 28th, 2021, Rui Hachimura had a decent game for the Washington Wizards, scoring 12 points along with a rebound and two assists. While this statline doesn’t stand out, it was one of the most significant nights of Hachimura’s career because of these two points:

This dunk landed the number two spot on the NBA’s Top Ten Plays of the Night, and showed everyone just how dangerous Hachimura can really be. Most fans may not know this unless you closely follow the Wizards or the Top 10 Plays of the Night, but Hachimura had a similar dunk earlier in the season; this time on Isaiah Stewart of the Detroit Pistons:

Credit to House of Highlights for Videos

Hachimura’s game expands far beyond posterizing big men. While the Wizards have been riddled by injuries and COVID galore this season, Hachimura has stepped up his game. Over a ten game stretch during the end of March, Hachimura averaged 20.2 points, and 7.8 rebounds per game on 52.8% shooting from the field, 40.6% from three, and 82.6% from the free throw line. At the beginning of the season, Westbrook didn’t play back-to-backs, the Wizards canceled multiple games due to COVID-19 protocol and restrictions, and Beal was out for a short amount of time due to injury.

One of the things that makes Hachimura such a special player is his relentlessness. In his rookie season, Hachimura was blocked and dunked on multiple times by Karl Anthony-Towns, Anthony Davis, and Devin Booker. However, he never gave up, and kept relentlessly driving into the lane and contesting shots. While his three point shot is not yet particularly reliable (he is shooting 30% from three for his career thus far, but it’s slowly getting there), his bread and butter shot is his mid range jumper from near the free throw line. Whether it’s a pull-up, turnaround fade away, or in transition, Hachimura can make that shot nine times out of ten, over anyone.

Credit to Romp 2.0 for all of the following pictures. Go check out his Youtube Channel!

As an example, take this possession against Giannis. Hachimura starts with the ball at the three point line, and knowing he is a bad three point shooter, Antetokounmpo gives him a little bit of space, but his hand is still near the ball. Hachimura then pump fakes, causing Giannis to move his arm. After creating a little bit of space, he drives to the left, something that it looks like Giannis was anticipating based on his feet. From there, Hachimura drives to the free throw line, then lowers his shoulder into Giannis, pushing him backwards and creating separation.

After creating the space, Hachimura shoots a falling jumper. Antetokounmpo contests the shot, but can not get his hand on the ball due to Hachimura’s elevation and space. He then nails the jumper over the two time Defensive Player of the Year.

This isn’t the only time Hachimura has done that. In that same game, Hachimura made a similar move against Khris Middleton.

Grabbing the ball outside the free throw line, Hachimura gives Middleton a few pump fakes, making Middleton think he will shoot the long two. Instead, he catches Middleton completely off guard, and while Middleton’s feet are positioned in a way that would make Hachimura think to go left like he did to Giannis earlier, he instead goes right, meaning Middleton has to take a half second to change his feet. In that half second, Hachimura drives by him, and when Middleton recovers and tries to go into the lane to contest the shot, Hachimura pulls back, and nails the uncontested free throw line jumper.

It’s safe to say that Hachimura has mastered the pull-up jumper.

However, it’s not just Hachimura’s offensive game that makes him such a special player, it’s his defense as well. Being a 6’8″ power forward, Hachimura generally ends up with the tougher defensive assignments, such as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant.

During that April 28th win over the Lakers, Hachimura held AD to 26 points. The reason I say held is that while Davis is averaging 23 points per game this season, LeBron James is out, and he is expected to carry the scoring load. With the next highest scorer being Andre Drummond, who is not known for his offensive game (because of his shot blocking and rebounding), it seems Davis has to score more than 30 points a game for the Lakers to have a real chance at winning. Even though he did his best to carry the Lakers and shot 50% from the field, Hachimura had a stretch during the third quarter where due to closely contesting his shots, Davis missed four shots in a row. It got to the point where LeBron James became so uninterested in watching his team lose he began using his phone, and walked off the court before the game had officially ended (much like the 1991 Detroit Pistons).

While his game still has a long way to go on the outside, Hachimura’s game has transitioned well into the NBA, scoring 30 points in a game this season and having many 20+ point games. Originally, when the Wizards drafted Hachimura, I had no idea who he was. I thought that the Wizards should grab Cam Reddish, who was a teammate of Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett at Duke. When they didn’t, I was very frustrated, thinking they had selected a guy who would become the next Dragon Bender.

I could not have been more wrong.

The Wizards are currently on a hot streak, winning 11 of their last 13 including an eight game win streak. They were battling against the Bulls and Raptors for the 10th seed in the play-in tournament, but now hold a two game advantage over those two teams and are two games behind the Indiana Pacers, who are in the 9th seed. While Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal will lead the charge into the play-in and playoffs, the two glue guys who are holding the flaws of this team together are Daniel Gafford and Rui Hachimura.

Hachimura has been named to the All-Rookie second team and was selected into the Rising Stars Game. Do you think he will be an All-Star and member of the All-NBA in the future? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog for more posts like this, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

LaMarcus Aldridge Retires from the NBA due to Heart Condition, Irregular Heartbeat

Credit to Jim McIsaac on Getty Images for picture

The chronicles of the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers seems to never end. Where both teams keep making moves and trades to one-up the other, the Nets just lost one of their key contributors. LaMarcus Aldridge, a seven time All-Star and five time selection to the All-NBA, is retiring after experiencing an irregular heartbeat during a Saturday game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“For 15 years I’ve put basketball first. And now, it’s time to put my health and family first.”

LaMarcus Aldridge in a twitter statement

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. As reported by Chris Haynes on Twitter, His Rookie Year he was diagnosed with irregular heartbeat syndrome, so this has been something he’s dealt with his whole career. It’s sad it has to end like this.

Aldridge was the second overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, selected by the Chicago Bulls out of the University of Texas. He would be traded to Portland on draft night, and would make the All-Rookie team the next season. In his 6th season, he became an NBA All-Star, and averaged 20+ points per game for five straight seasons. However, after the 2014-15 season, Aldridge decided to test the free agency market, and while the Los Angeles Lakers thought that LA was coming to LA, Aldridge signed with the San Antonio Spurs for four years and $80 million. He did so because he wanted to play on a winner, and the Lakers in 2015 were not winners.

Aldridge was so good that Bruce Bowen, the elite defender on the Spurs whose number 12 jersey number was retired, gave his team permission to un-retire it so Aldridge could wear it. Aldridge played five and a half seasons with the Spurs, being named an All-Star twice. Aldridge will remain one of the great players to never win a championship ring.

Credit to Jesse D. Garrabrant of Getty Images for picture

Former teammates Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the Portland Trail Blazers were surprised at the news. Damian Lillard was interviewed on Jalen & Jacoby, and he talked about how he thought basketball is now the least of Aldridge’s concerns. Dame also said on Instagram, “Health and family will always come before a game. Amazing career bro! Prayers up! CJ McCollum, responded with this on Twitter.

How will Aldridge’s retirement impact the Nets?

After the San Antonio Spurs bought out Aldridge’s contract, he signed with the Brooklyn Nets, and played five games for them before retiring. In those five games, he averaged 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2.2 blocks on 52% shooting. During those five games, the Nets went 3-2, and they currently hold the second seed in the Eastern Conference. After I went on a rant a couple of weeks ago about how Aldridge joining the Nets was so unfair to the rest of the NBA, the Lakers signed Andre Drummond, and now Aldridge is retiring.

Boy, how the tables have turned.

So, are the Nets still on track to make the NBA Finals and win it all? Their recent six point loss to the 76ers may be of concern to some, but they were playing without Harden and KD, and only nine men. Even without Aldridge, the Nets still have an incredible starting five (when healthy) of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and Deandre Jordan. They have some bench depth in Jeff Green and Joe Harris, so while Aldridge’s retirement hurts, it is not the end ordeal.

With Aldridge’s retirement, I actually think that the Nets and the Lakers are equal with one another, when everyone is healthy. While the three Nets superstars form the best offense in the league, the Lakers have one of the best defenses. The Nets have past-their-prime stars Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and while they can still get up a bit, they aren’t what they used to be. The Lakers have 6th Men of the Year Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroder, as well as some pieces of a young core in Talen Horton-Tucker, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, and Kyle Kuzma. Aldridge may not have seemed like much on paper, but without him, the matchup between the Nets and Lakers will be a lot more fierce.

Now that this matchup is more even between the super teams, who do you think is winning the NBA Finals? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!