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2018-2019 NBA Season Preview – Western Conference

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All The Kings Young Men...

Northwest Division

Portland Trail Blazers

Portlandia! It’s about time Dame and C.J. got some help. Lillard and McCollum may be the best backcourt in the association (sorry John Wall and Bradley Beal), but that isn’t going to front. Nik Stauskas and Evan Turner help. But if Rose City really wants to bloom and blaze a trail than it’s time to take a page out of legend Bill Walton’s Grateful Dead loving songbook and keep it in the family like Luke. Gary Payton II can relate. The son of the glove hands the PDX something the Lakers (South Bay or L.A.) will soon wish they never let go. And Seth Curry may not be his big brother or even his dad Dell. But with those Curry hot shooting genes in the house at this point I’d give a roster spot to one of Steph’s kids.

Denver Nuggets

Mile-High natives can breathe a sigh of relief. Denver have finally struck gold in the post ‘Melo area. Surrounding one of the L’s most underrated superstars in The Joker, Nikola Jokic with a pair of hands like Jamal Murray and Will Barton is a master move. As is getting the likes of Mason Plumlee and Gary Harris in a youth of tomorrow team that still has a veteran core in the middle thanks to All-Star, all-time big man Paul Milisap. And who knows just how much spark plug Isaiah Thomas will prove all the Cav and Laker LeBron’s who wrote him off wrong. Remember he’s still only a season removed from the star player that was worthy of trading with for King James’ former running mate Kyrie. But the real superstar potential lies with Michael Porter Jr. who at this point can be that push that promises playoffs. In the Nevada desert right now Denver looks better than a box of six McDonalds nuggets at the end of a hell of a night.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Butler did it. He’s gone and asked for a trade. So it looks like the Minnesota Timberwolves won’t be a Jimmy thing for long. Best in the King revolution of this new player power generation that they ship him now before he burns them like Hendrix’s guitar in free agency. At least Butler has been of service and duty by sacrificing a big pay day by doing the right thing and requesting something in return for his services, instead of just being free to retire to somewhere else next year and leaving the hungry Wolves with a sink full of dishes. And Minny could clean up in response, getting some big talent to surround Karl-Anthony with. As it’s still Townes’ town after all. Canadian Wiggins is still a budding star and fallen one Rose looks to be blooming in preseason. As free as his dreads and the feeling of being out the spotlight to play however he wants to play. Tyus Jones could be next up and this young team is still Jeff Teague deep in this league. But Thibs’ boys look more and more like they are resembling the Bulls these days. As joining Derrick and Taj Gibson is former All-Star Luol Deng who has been “playing” for the Lakers the last few campaigns. But who knows what this milk carton player can do once he’s opened up. He’s far from spoilt. But these T-Wolves are for talent. Now who and how do they choose?

Oklahoma City Thunder

Carmelo may be gone. But the NBA’s latest big-three was a trilogy that ended up looking like it was being ‘Taken’ for a ride. No matter how much it had a special set of skills. Who knew Paul George would still be here however? Certainly no one in L.A. But in OKC he is the perfect compliment for Russell Westbrook, who is going to dynamite dominate the ball and the hoop on any given night…or play! You forget this team still has talent like Dennis Schroder, Nerlens Noel and of course Steven Adams under the rim. The only question remains in the fallout of this ‘Mission: Impossible’ for the title is how long will this fuse last before it burns out? Or everything explodes!?

Utah Jazz

Salt in the wound for anyone who loves Gordon Hayward to see what happened to him after leaving the Jazz in the first game of the season last year for the Boston Celtics. But everyone loves happy endings, even when it comes to break-ups. And he and the Jazz will be back hitting high-notes like Rudy Gobert does blocks off the glass. Even if not in collaborating concert together. Hayward proved to a post Malone and Stockton generation that Utah could pick and roll and move on. And in less then a year they have done exactly that with someone who many see as the real rookie of the year in Donovan Mitchell. Mitch could at least go one-on-one with Simmons. Now we don’t need to wait and see how the potential of Dante Exum or Derrick Favors turns out. The Jazz have a superstar right now who they can trumpet as their brass.

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors

Forget Hollywood and new Laker LeBron taking over another 23 in M.J. to star in ‘Space Jam 2’. As those Monstar’s live in California now too and they have hold of the ball. The San Francisco (Golden State) Warrior Splash Brothers have a new nickname now they’ve added another franchise player to their starting five. At this point their bench could literally be Bugs Bunny and Bill Murray and it wouldn’t matter. Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green AND DeMarcus Cousins?! I’m done! So it appears is everyone else.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns have the ability to scorch this season. Phoenix’s always rise and superstar Devin Booker doesn’t have to chase The Admiral, Kobe or Wilt and score 70 points just for PHX to book a win anymore. He now has the likes of sophomore stud Josh Jackson and one of this years big rookies in big dipper DeAndre Ayton to give the Suns a big-three of tomorrow what’s set to run like Hall of Famer Steve Nash, The Matrix and Stat…STAT. And if that wasn’t enough this franchise of the future added another veteran leader, ready to go right now in Trevor Ariza. Who from Houston, elder statesmen joins this team that is growing more than Tyson Chandler’s James Harden impression. The desert isn’t dry anymore. And this team has sand.

Sacramento Kings

There are more Kings in California than the one in Hollywood, but when will Sacramento see the throne again like the time Webber, Peja, Vlade, Christie and Bibby almost took Los Angeles from the Lakers? The Kings almost moved to L.A. too, amongst Orange County, of course Seattle and others. But right now it looks like they are going nowhere. Zach Randolph and Iman Shumpert can still ball out on any given night. But they are passing the rock and torch to a future that needs a bearer. Perhaps finally one of this years top lottery picks, Marvin Bagley III has the balls and bag to be just that. But then again if Buddy Hield, Willie-Cauley Stein, De’Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson all blow at the same time than Sacto is set to go loco in a league that almost forgot there’s still more cowbell when the fans get the only player prescription that can take them to levels where decibels can’t get much louder. Sleep Train wake up and get on board. You’re almost at your destination.

Los Angeles Lakers

Jordan, Julius, Isaiah, Nance Jr. Gary Payton. If this was the ‘Stranger Things’ days of the 80’s losing names like that would be like a dream team becoming an early Halloween nightmare. Word to Michael Myers. But when all this clears the cap to get a King in return for your deck then what more could you ask for? Well how about a gang of the most talented and misunderstood veterans in purple and gold? Including a Celtic legend (Rondo…finally), a James draft class wild card (Mike Beasley), someone who even huffed and puffed in his ear (the real wildcard of Lance Stephenson) and someone who the King wouldn’t even allow to follow him (the Warrior champ JaVale McGee, who judging from the first game of preseason is going to have a monster year above the rim. Just set the table and he’ll clean up. Feed him the rock). And with the big-three of the young core intact with next up, Brandon Ingram, last years Hollywood rookie reality star Lonzo Ball and the real steal of the draft and first year player of the year Kyle Kuzma. Not to mention Zupac Shakur and this years Summer League MVP out in Vegas, Josh Hart, President Johnson and Rob Lowe are pushing all their chips into the middle of the table. And we haven’t even talked about rookie Moe Wagner yet (but we will) for a team that drafts better than venetian blinds. Oh and there’s some guy called LeBron here too. Sounds like the basketball Gods have scripted the chosen one for a Hollywood ending. And we aint talkin’ ‘Space Jam 2’.

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Los Angeles Clippers

Erm. Chris Paul gone. Blake Griffin gone. DeAndre Jordan? Gone! To Dallas of all places like he should have a couple of summers ago if CP3 and Blake didn’t intervene. “Hey! Stick around D! Let’s make this work”! Cue the Anthony Mackie in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, “well, this is awkward”, Black Widow and Bruce Banner gif. It looks like the battle for Los Angeles and who the STAPLE of downtown L.A. is back gold winning in Lakerland like a Paul for Pau nixing karma (yep…here I am letting it go). No matter how scary Patrick Beverly is to more than just an opening night rookie Lonzo. At least they have Sixth Man of every year Lou Will from the purple and gold. And getting one of the best centers in the L, Marcin Gortat to join one of the leagues best and underrated superstars Tobias Harris was a great move like the pick and rolls we are about to see set. But lets face it their best signing this year was Sports Illustrated top writer Lee Jenkins to an executive position. But even he can’t write them a happy ending out in Hollywood part two. These Clips look a lot different from the ‘Lob City’ look that took off from LAX years ago. Back then they had the sky-high confidence to cover up all the Lakers banners. Now they are back down in the cellars. At least the Clippers have found something that looks worse than their new look uniforms.

Southwest Division

Houston Rockets

Mike D’Antoni is either a genius or a madman. But what are you going to call him when his Houston Rockets finally soar past the Warriors? This coach has unleashed more Point Guards than when he gave the ball to Steve Nash in seven seconds or less and told him to Forrest Gump. Former Sixth Man of the Year and Three-Point Contest champ Eric Gordon, last summers big free agent signing Chris Paul and of course your reigning Most Valuable Beard, James Harden. But fear here as there is more. Sure losing Ariza will put them in arrears. But they’ve just added one time and maybe still superstar Carmelo Anthony to a big-three than will hopefully work better than OKC. If that doesn’t take them over the edge and Golden State than perhaps a core of Clint Capela, P.J. Tucker, Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Knight, Nene and a cherry on the blown out cake top dunk of Gerald Green will. These Rockets are ready to rock back in their best in association black. Houston is everyone elses problem now.

San Antonio Spurs

Forget Kawhi Leonard, all that drama and the fact that he’s now crazily up here north in Toronto for a second. Because this might be it for Pop. The era that he and The Admiral, David Robinson set sail has finally left port. The original big-three born from the twin towers is no more. One of the greatest Spurs in Iceman to T-Bot history, Manu Ginobili now joins Tim Duncan with a fishing pole. Whilst Tony Parker is now with the Hornets. What the?! And if that wasn’t enough Kawhi has now gone from mild-mannered to what the hell we’ve just seen over the last year. The professional mood and calm of Timmy has now gone, no matter how much LaMarcus Aldridge looks like a clone of the San An android. Looks like former Toronto star DeMar DeRozan traded here for Leonard better start a new standard for these Spurs to click again and back into place. As Patty Mills, Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay will all have their day too soon. But what of the wild hair and play of Lonnie Walker IV going forth? Maybe it’s time for a radical new look in this new age. Better call Becky with the good coaching.

New Orleans Pelicans

Cousins joining Kentucky family Anthony Davis out in the Big Easy always looked like it was either going to be huge, or hard pressed to last long. But after a SLAM cover injury curse that saw no limit and a zero jersey dedication from A.D. at the A.S.G. that was truly something, no one thought it would all be over so quickly for the new generation Duncan and Robinson. But as DeMarcus swaps the swamp for the bay and gold with the Warriors, the Pelicans swap ‘cat for ‘cat. As another wild Kentucky alumnus joins Anthony’s frontcourt. Leaving the crowning gold of LeBron’s Lakerland even though rumor had it that Davis might make that opposite switch back, it’s time for Julius Randle to show the league how good he really is and can be. Not to mention how much the Lake Show are missing upfront. And he has plenty of star company in the returning Holiday and the power potential of pick-ups Jahlil Okafor and Elfrid Payton. But this team lives and dies with the bill of Anthony Davis’ big numbers and by their seasons fourth quarter, whether the French Quarter big bucks will decide if he stays or goes next summer.

Memphis Grizzlies

Big in Japan. Yuta Watanabe might just be the rookie that Kyle Kuzma’s the 2018/2019 NBA season. Taking these Grizzlies from grit-n-grid to neon shine. Sure this seven footer won’t be bigger than Elvis, but he may just rock Memphis as he rolls down court. Rising like the Grizz fanbase in the Far East. Once compared to the Kings, Mavs and Spurs but now taking over all of them as the modern model for Western Conference consistency, you see that in lifers like Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr. and the dotted line of Chandler Parsons. But Tennessee needs a new project like Timberlake to take them out of the woods…swiftly. Yuta it’s you!

Dallas Mavericks

Dirk isn’t done. Far from it. I see no fat lady. But when Nowitzki says no more, Luka Doncic will be the Maverick that will keep Dallas shooting like J.R. or J.J. off the bench. Watch out Porzingis unicorns! The next internationl superstar ready to run right now is the future face of this franchise. That is unless last years high-flying rookie Dennis Smith Jr. doesn’t jump over him as this sophomore star stud baptizes the new rook in the chess positioning for power in practice. There’s more star power in all-vets Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews and new addition a year or two removed from what should have been in DeAndre Jordan too. The Mavs have finally got their man. But Dirk is still it until this champ goes for another chip. You thought it was just a one off? Well this team right now has what it takes to go for one last run for the ring for their number 41, who wants one more banner to be raised next to that jersey. Then like the Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum desert swagger at the end of ‘Independence Day’ you can light up the Cuban’s.

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NBA

Shaun Livingston Lived For His Career

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Shaun Livingston Lived For His Career
The Greatest Comeback Ever Told...

“I wasn’t supposed to be here”.

Shaun Livingston wasn’t even supposed to be still playing.

But boy did he.

He almost lost his leg.

But man he didn’t.

When Shaun Livingston entered the league as the fourth pick and a wide eyed kid with youthful exuberance above the rim in Hollywood. Him and the youngest Roc L.A. Familia (remember the classic SLAM cover?) crew of Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, Darius Miles, Corey Maggette and Keyon Dooling even took some of the bright lights of downtown L.A. from Shaq and Kobe of all dynamic duos from the basements of STAPLES. Arguably the most exciting Clippers team this side of Buffalo…yeah I said it Blake, Jordan and CP3…you too Kawhi and PG-13. It was an Iverson age of cornrows and tattoos. It was the generations hood to the storied Lake Show’s Hollywood history.

But then with a death of a dynasty a bunch of young Roc’s with the rock ended up all over the place too like State Property. The future of these young guns looked bleak like Memphis. Miles went to LeBron’s Land before the King. Elton ended up setting up his Brand in Philly. Whilst Odom went cross-court and stadium with the Lakers after a brief stint of talent in Miami when he was traded back to the bright lights and Kardashian city for Shaq.

But what happened to Shaun Livingston was so much worse.

With Charlotte as a Bobcat Shaun suffered a gruesome injury so bad it almost made Gordon Hayward’s opening night one look like a sprain…almost. Lets not front for the funny that injury was so bad and his comeback story so good too ’till this playing day.

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But no comeback story in this league is greater than Livingston’s, living for his career.

He almost lost his leg. Instead doctors saved it and then through the hardest of work and the most powerful perseverance Shaun saved his career…and then made it even better. And he could even still catch a few above the rim.

Number 34 ended up back in California with the Golden State Warriors via a comeback in the B.K. with the Brooklyn Nets. Out in The City of Oak Town he ended up winning three championships and going to two more finals before calling it a career yesterday and feeling “sad, fortunate and grateful” in his retirement. He was microwave more than just a super sub alongside legendary Sixth Man Finals MVP Andre Igudola (also gone this off-season with some guy name Kevin). He was an integral player to the dynasty influence that showed the Dubs were more than just the Splash Brothers of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson or Draymond and Durant. His jersey belongs up there in the new state of the art arena in San Francisco across the Golden Gate although his legend and legacy will always tram remain in the Golden State of Oakland, as the Warriors look to maybe Six Man legend Jamal Crawford to replace in joining big signing D’Angelo Russell in backing up the backcourt.

Now that’s what I call a true Warrior King.

Don’t call it a comeback unless it’s like this.

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NBA

Charles Barkley’s Round Bronze Of Rebound

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Charles Barkley's Round Bronze Of Rebound
Legends Walk Of Fame...

“I don’t think I’ve ever been that skinny!”

Trust Chuck to have the best soundbite of the night.

But after all it was his day.

Yesterday the Philadelphia 76ers unveiled a statue of Sir Charles Barkley outside their Camden practice facility. Joining the bronze likes of his legendary teammates at the time Dr. J, Julius Erving and the late great Moses Malone for one of the most storied teams in NBA history from The Answer to The Process.

“There is not a lot I can say this is just a humbling experience but it really means a great deal because I think people know what the 76ers mean to the NBA,” Barkley said of the honour to those in attendance.

Your move Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns.

But after running a power statue on Chuck to join the Legends Walk of Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, Mo Cheeks et al at the Training Complex in Camden, New Jersey there are still spots left for the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as Bark also remarked that he believes the new Sixers with Tobias Harris and this Summer’s free agent Al Horford will win the NBA Championship next year.

Isn’t he a TNT analyst?

You can forgive him it was an emotional day.

But stranger things have happened this Summer, Philly didn’t run out of bronze for the Round Mound of Rebound and one of the greatest players, especially Power Forwards the game has ever seen is finally getting his due in-between joking around with Shaq, Kenny Smith and E.J.

“You come here as a 21-year-old kid and now 40 years later – it has been pretty amazing – and it all started here so I just want to thank the 76ers Organization and the city of Philadelphia,” the great added. As Philadelphia Sixers head coach Brett Brown agreed, “We are privileged to have you a part of our past. You are referenced often.”

We all have our favourite stories about one of Basketball’s beloved, Top 50 players of all-time who averaged 23.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.7 steals during his time in Pennsylvania. And here’s mine…I don’t even think he was playing with Philly at the times but who cares? I tell this to people often-even non Bball fans-when they need some inspiration and I reach to my grab bag of top three stories that make me smile when I’m down. The other is an exchange between Wilt Chamberlain and playground legend Earl Manigault that Don Cheadle and Kevin Garnett as the Stilt recaptured at the Rucker for the G.O.A.T. movie (look it up), and the third being the time U2’s Bono made that “everytime I clap my hands someone dies” gaff.

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Anyway if you’re sitting comfortably I’ll begin…

Back in the golden era 90’s day there was a Nike commercial in a barbershop featuring then Golden State Warriors Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell boasting about one of them dunking on Barkley (I think it was Spree…see how good I am at telling this story Philadelphia?). I don’t even think I saw a Basketball in the whole commercial…let alone so much of a sneaker. But anyway the next time Chuck came up against those two in Oakland be hit like 50 odd points or something completely dominating the duo and game. With C-Webb and Sprewell down and out, draped in towels on the bench, Barkley after being a silent assassin all game and saying nothing in reply, backpedaled back downcourt after his last shot, finally looked at the distraught two and said…

“Put that in a f###### commercial!”

BOOM!

I hope the Dubs athletic trainer had some Aloe Vera.

I like this Charles Barkley quote too from back in the ’92 Dream Team Olympics heyday were he defined the fun that what his life and career by saying, “we’re here for a good time. Not for a long time!”

Well now in bronze he’s going to be here forever.

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