Three things I noticed last night at Knicks Cavs

My life is dope and I do dope things. One of those things was get to go to Cavs Knicks and sit in a luxury box last night. Aside from crushing three plates of (gluten free?) mac and cheese, one plate of sushi and 3-12 Stellas, I was psyched to see the unicorn in action against the best player in the world. Here's what I noticed:

1) The Cavs stink and Lebron is still the King. They are really, really bad. It reminds me of when I overrated myself in a pickup game, put all the scrubs on my team and then have to carry the load on offense and defense. Lebron got absolutely no help from any of his teammates for three quarters and had to make every decision. Again and again, Lebron made miracles happen and got a teammate an open shot. On the one time the Knicks didn't show hard enough on a pick and roll, Lebron powered in for a thunder dunk. Other times he prodded the defense with his passing setting up easy shots for his teammates. Besides bron bron though, there wasn't a lot to look at. Dwyane Wade looked old and cranky as he picked up a technical after executing the slowest spin move in history. I honestly don't recall JR Smith Playing. Crowder looked clunky. Jeff Green still thinks he can shoot threes for some reason.  Kevin Love was invisible.  

2) Kyle Korver's pre-game shooting routine. I showed up extremely early to watch Korver warm up, it had nothing to do with the free beers.  What I noticed is he catches the ball very high for a shooter and his shot is more lever than it is smooth. He once said he has a 26-point checklist for his shot and after watching him warm up, I believe it. In the fourth he hit several big shots during the comeback while I was working on my own 26 point checklist, each one being a different beer. 

giphy-1.gif

 

 

3) Frank is not afraid!!!! During the first half Frank Ntilikina (I just spelled that without looking it up!!) tried to get the ball and inbound it and Lebron tried to bully him.  Don't pick on our little Frank! He's 19 and he's so nice and cute! There was a brief moment where Frank was thinking if it was worth mixing it up with the NBA's biggest star, but then he gave Lebron a little shove. I loved it. So did the MSG fans. Kanter, playing enforcer came in and mixed it up with Lebron and the crowd was the loudest I've heard in the garden in the past five years. The reason was simple. For the first time in a while a Knick was not backing down, and another Knick genuinely cared about his teammate.

KP no longer showcasing, now playing to win

If you play with me in a pickup game you may here me yell "oh baby, workout son!" "Do you!" or even if someone is just playing with someone "showcase baby!"  Showcasing, the ultimate disrespect for your opponent in a men's league, is basically when you start showing your moves to scouts in the crowd who aren't there. Making moves to show how good you are.  Stepping back to the right to shoot a fadeaway when you could've drove all the way to the hoop. Hitting your man with a hesi double cross when you could've just shot the ball on the first move. 

 via giphy.com

via giphy.com

During Kristaps Porzingis' first two years in the league, too many times he fell prey to the seductive mistress known as showcasing. He would start hot from downtown and then launch another three to try to get MSG to erupt with the shouts and murmurs that said "wow I can't believe how good this guy is! And he's seven threeeeeeee!"  But this year there's been a change in KP. He no longer needs to prove that he's good.  He knows it. 

Late in the game against the Denver Nuggets KP received the ball on the left wing with a much shorter defender on him. Last year he would've gone to the fadeaway or even inside pivoted and tried a crossover dribble. This time he took three power dribbles, turned, and shot. Clink, clank, clunk, IN. Knicks win.  

Lebron is still the ultimate Alpha Dog

I'm not one to name drop- actually I totally am- but in this instance I haven't received clearance to reveal this guy's identity. That being said, one of my favorite players ever is a guy you've never heard of and a guy who never played in the NBA. Let's call him "Greg." I honestly thought I was one of the craziest and most outrageous guys I'd ever met, until I met him. He and I used to play in an elite underground pickup game in NYC where, during the summer, many NBA players would run.  During the waning moments of a pickup game one of the NBA guys drove the lane for a vicious dunk to put them within game-point.  Greg got the ball from the in-bounder, drove the length of the court, pulled up for a very routine fifteen footer from the elbow and sunk the game winner. He then yelled "TWO POINTS IS TWO POINTS. ALPHA DOG," right in the pros face. The pro just took it, knowing he had been beat, and walked off the court. Even though his net-worth and fame were 1,000 times Greg, he was not the Alpha Dog, Greg was.  

 via giphy.com

via giphy.com

And while there's many stars in the NBA, many of them are not in fact Alpha dogs. The kind of players that make their teammates scared and the other team nervous. Lebron James is still THE Alpha dog of the NBA.  Tonight against the Nets he turned it over and trailed Sean Kilpatrick on the break. Kilpatrick traveled (uncalled) pump faked four times then Lebron swatted the ball out of bounds. Later the same half it appeared that Lebron turned it over. He protested and without going to the monitor, the refs overturned the call. He just made it happen with his Alpha dogness. A few minutes later three Nets players ducked out of the way as he dunked it on the break from a step inside the foul line. (He's also become such a strong personality that he has convinced the refs that you can both jump stop, pivot, pick up your pivot foot, and then step through for an up-and-under, but that's another story...)

Sure, sometimes it can get annoying when Lebron acts like he's the GM, coach, and every other position in the Cavs organization. And yes, he's a bit of a diva sometimes. But cut him some slack because he's still sonning the entire league every night. I'd still like to see him match up with Greg though...

 

Hot and cold young guns

When it's all said and done Jason Tatum will be the best of the class of 2017. He's tall, he can shoot, and in just his third game (at the time of this blog) he's got 22 points against the Knicks. How the hell did Danny Ainge pull this off? When he drafted Tatum he basically said that he would've taken him number one overall, could get him at three and add another asset and somehow nobody with the Sixers thought to maybe grab Tatum instead of Fultz. Now Fultz' shoulder is falling off and Danny once again looks like the NBA's (evil) genius. Even though the Kyrie trade may have been the right move basketball-wise it was cold hearted as hell- remember that next time a player bolts an organization for more money. There's no loyalty in this game. *gunshot*

 via giphy.com

via giphy.com

Which brings us to our next big guard- not getting it done in LA and it's NOT Lonzo Ball. Brandon Ingram who draws comparison's to KD (mainly because of the body type) is behind where he needs to be and the solution is pretty simple: he needs to make shots. He's a career 40% shooter from the field and for a guy who's 6'10 that's not good enough. The problem is he's a tantalizing prospect who makes tough shots. The problem is that he doesn't get enough easy ones. He needs to lock himself in a room and study KD's turnaround and post game and needs to get a go to move. Right now he shoots too many tough two's and needs to get to the line more. There's no point in being able to shoot over someone if it's always a brick. Just because someone is skinny and looks like KD doesn't mean he's the next KD.  

The ROY this year will be Ben Simmons. He's a true 6'10 PG and has incredible balance, ball handling, passing and is a super athlete. I like that they just play him at PG and let him operate. If / when Fultz ever gets healthy this team is scary because Embiid is already a legend. Worst case Simmons is Lamar Odom. Best case he's an lefty, Australian Lebron. 

The NBA Humblebragging Continues

Am I crazy?  Or has humblebragging reached a fever pitch in the NBA?

When Dwayne Wade announced that HE decided to come off the bench I had to pick my eyeballs up from the floor listening to his self-congratulation and fake humbleness.  Wade explained, "I just decided, earlier than later, just to get to the unit where I'd be more comfortable in and can probably be better with this team in that lineup." Wow. What a hero. So impressed. But why did he have to make sure that we knew it was HIS decision and not the coaches? How insecure do you have to be to stress that YOU made the decision not the coach? Even if it was your decision couldn't you give some props to coach Lue and just be actually humble and say it was his call? Wouldn't that inspire other players to respect the coach even more?

Also he had to throw in that he is going to "lead the second group," just to let you know that he's not some normal bench player.

I've never heard Manu Ginobli (who moved to the bench in 2007) do this. He just shows up and balls.

Wade continued, "I didn't come here to shoot 20 shots or average 20 points. I came here to be a part of winning and to bring what I can to this team, and I want to do that. I feel that my best opportunity to do that is in that unit, so it just came down to that."  So impressive. Really. What a champ. This would be like your roommate saying 'Just want everyone to know that I replaced the trash bag in the living room. I didn't do it for the praise. I just want you guys to know that sometimes you need to replace that bag. And I was the one to do it. I'm not that type of selfish guy who doesn't replace the bag.' You'd be like 'Larry shut up, you're blocking the TV. Also you need to move out at the end of the month.'  

Can we all agree that we need to stop patting ourselves on the back for things we are supposed to be doing? Enough of the subliminal self congratulations. Sit down. Be humble. 

Watch the humblebragging here on this tweet via @BleacherReport via @SpinDavies

https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/922509943009349634

 via giphy.com

via giphy.com

Everyone always sides with the coach...

Earlier today the Phoenix Suns' guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted, "I don't want to be here" and within a few hours it was reported that head coach Earl Watson was fired.  Time to cue the "Bledsoe is a spoiled AAU brat" commentaries from the talking heads, blame the player, and decide that the coach should take none of the blame for a toxic relationship.  There's only one problem: you don't know what the hell was happening on that team or in that locker room.  It's even possible that Bledsoe found out about Watson's firing BEFORE he tweeted that he didn't want to be there. 

Even I was guilty of thinking "wait a second, come on Bledsoe, you weren't happy when you were one of three point guards on the team and now you've got the reins of the offense in your hands and you STILL can't make it work?" It felt like a total Dwight Howard.  Then I stepped back and realized that I myself have been in this very situation. And thinking back on it, out of all of the disputes that I've ever had with coaches, I was right 100% of the time. I couldn't think of one instance where I disagreed with a coach when I thought he was also right.  In many cases history proved me right in the long run.  On the other hand, when the coach said things like "Noah is a leader" or "we need to get Noah more shots" or "Noah, nice hair cut" he was right 100% of the time. 

Especially at the NBA level it's just as likely that the player's point of view could be the "correct" one in the long run, or that both points of view are completely valid. 

Watching the Suns for ten minutes this weekend, I saw two passes hit people on the side of the head or in the shoulder, they were completely out of sync. Maybe it was the coach's fault or maybe it wasn't. Either way, there's no reason to assume that Bledsoe was being a jerk, it's just as possible it was Coach Watson to blame.   When you lose by 48 points, heads will roll. 

 via giphy.com

via giphy.com