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Courtside Column – Season of change

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John Wall & The Washington Wizards

’24/48′ On the 82.

Water cooler attendants! We’re going to need a bigger jug! In this storytelling season of sacred hoops we’ve had more than a couple of historical moments for the most storied franchises in this National Basketball Association for your classic conversations and dynamic debates. They say this league is ‘where amazing happens’ and here’s something more amazing than Peter Parker swinging through the heart of Manhattan for a truly superb sequel. For the first time in NBA history, the three most famous teams; the storied Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks are not in the playoffs. OK, so after their down and dreadful seasons this is no new news but just years ago Kobe Bryant’s Lake Show and Paul Pierce’s Celtic pride we’re duki

ng it out like the good old days for the NBA crown and the new generation of history repeating itself to another epic rivalry on a Wilt and Bill, Magic and Bird level. Now the Lakers are wondering whether the oft-injured and incensed Kobe Bryant will ever return to the alpha-superstar he is…or even return healthy at all, while they pin the rest of their hopes on the donkey-punch play of the great and exciting Nick Young who see’s the future, even if sometimes it looks like he’s shooting with a blindfold. Meanwhile that forever Celtic Paul Pierce is with Kevin Garnett in Brooklyn as the former New Jersey Nets look to shake-off that ‘traitor’ tag the former Boston brothers have and also shake off the mecca Madison Square Garden’s Knickerbocker team as New York’s finest and king like Bernad was back. If that wasn’t enough the Knicks are wondering if Carmelo Anthony will ever be the “LeBron James” they hoped he’d be, while putting all their faith into the zen of Phil Jackson as the former champion Knick role player and legendary Bulls and Lakers coach takes his eleven rings to his hoops home front office, to hopefully do to this team what Pat Riley did and is now doing upstairs and down with his slicked-back talents in South Beach.

Former Heat/Laker player Lamar Odom redeeming himself and re-teaming with former Laker champion ally and Queensbridge born and bred project Metta World Peace (if he stays put) is a sensational story start. Especially with what Odom can do on the floor, especially with how Phil nows how to handle him-in more ways than one-and especially with those Gasol rumors. The talk of the town that everyone is loving…except this Laker fan who does have to admit it’d be quite nice, but please Phil don’t be the new Clips and take Kobe, no matter how much he loves the Garden. Kobe’s Lakers and Rondo’s Celtics (whose he hoping to pass to?) will now rely on the NBA draft for their new franchise face in this next generation and from college studs from stellar classes like Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kentucky’s Julius Randle we may have the next retired gold or green jersey for our banners and rafters. Still there’s Irving’s improving, wine-tasting, champagne chasing Cleveland, the motoring Pistons, the Magic needing Orlando, the antler-cut Bucks and the ‘what the hell happened to Philadelphia’ Sixers in this lottery too…and that’s just in the East. Out West the burning bright Phoenix Suns we’re ever so close and are just one piece away from punctuating the new league power player Eric Bledsoe. While the tough bearded Minnesota Timberwolves are fighting the cold in more ways than one out in Minneapolis with the hot flair of Ricky Rubio, but they need a little more to push through the hate and not lose Love. Then there’s those few Nuggets in Denver and Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers future flying Pelicans in New Orleans that are being propped up by the Seattle Soni…excuse me, the Sacramento Kings, the Utah Jazz and of course the Los Angeles Lakers. I guess those early new millennium decade days where really longer ago then we thought. Still as quickly as the winds of season of change come in, it could all become better one day and 82 for these teams in this snakes and ladder league as they cut their way through the grass.

Still in this fast-paced, yesterdays news is a timeline scroll away digital day and age, people are more concerned with winners and not losers in this playoff picture. A bracketed frame that is currently looking like Chicago, Charlotte and Houston will be tackling with fishing-rods sooner than later…but let’s not take the bait yet. Besides did you ever think that the Bulls would make it this far without Derrick Rose again? Thank God for Thibs, the team and the arc of Noah’s career, because they even did it while losing Luol. You must be Joakim right? You can’t deny the passion and fire of players that won’t even take a play off, regardless of a game…and how about those ‘Cats speaking of a Chicago legend? Michael Jordan has defied critics and taken his Charlotte Bobcats to the playoff promised land and these orange and blue are looking as real as the teal renaissance that will colour them as the Hornets once again after the New Orleans name change. I know right…what was the point of them leaving and expanding, but hey if it works for them let’s hope it happens for the missed and mistreated Seattle Supersonics…but David Stern and Adam Silver take note…it’ll never be the same. With M.J’.s success I bet the Wizards wished they stuck it out with the man who came out of retirement for them and practically played for free (let’s not forget the best to ever do it donated his playing salary in 2001 to the 9/11 relief fund…and you thought him selfish) and actually played scientifically and statistically better than most people thought or didn’t for that matter. Still with Mike’s former team on the ropes the Washington Wizards are doing better than they and even everyone expected and are one of our teams of the year and picture perfect heading for this column for more than just their best jerseys that hark back to the Bullet days that M.J helped throwback perfectly during his last hardwood classics. The run and gun of John Wall and Bradley Beal is fun and formidable and as they’re working through the kinks and creases we have a dynamic duo for the promised potential of the days of future past. Beyond a weird X-Men reference, we’re basically saying these guys are first class yesterday, tomorrow and right now when it matters today and the cheetah fast, Bullet train, wall to wall play of John gives the Wiz a new spell of the better Gilbert Arenas they always wanted…and needed.

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Meanwhile the new Houston Rockets of Dwight Howard’s smile, James Harden’s beard and Jeremy Lin’s linsanity are cleared for takeoff into the underrted history of a franchise that has boasted the likes of Hakeem Olaujawon, Yao Ming, Moses Malone, Clyde Drexler, Tracy McGrady and of course Steve Francis. Of course don’t push them because they’re close to the edge, in a Grandmaster flash they could be gone but they’re right there with Los Angeles new first team in the Chris Paul and Blake Griffin lob-city led Clippers who are nipping at the sneakers of surely the MVP-to-be Kevin Durant and his championship hopeful Oklahoma City team with Russell Westbrook’s enthusiasm and energy and Derek Fisher’s clutch and championship experience and pedigree. The every improving and proving Portland Trail Blazers and their Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge combo may not be smelling like the city of roses but these hipsters have for sure unchained themselves from those old Jail-Blazer days too. While the Curry hot and Klay Thompson Golden State Warriors will live large and die hard by the threes of the splash brothers for the contention credit. With Memphis still grizzled to the beard of the new Gasol great Marc and all their Conley led championship caliber too this West is anyones. With the great and one of the underrated best of all time Dirk Nowitzki passing Larry Bird’s legend the three ball great could even add to his ring collection if he gets the hot hand, but in this Texas triangle of the West best no one is beating those old San Antonio Spurs led by the robot of Tim Duncan and his Ginoboli and Parker androids. I mean just look at that win streak and everyone was talking about Kevin’s (including us). How is this veteran team still clicking after all these years? The answer is because decades and generations from now this unique unit will still be remembered as one of the best. They could even meet LeBron James Miami Heat again in the finals like last year but what believe me would be different, because of course in this game, the king looks to take his throne again for the third time. We thought that the great famous, first five of the Indiana Pacers would be champion but this ‘Indy 5.00’ looks to have slown down after the loss of their sixth man and former big star Danny Granger and have you heard what the most professional player on this team Roy Hibbert is saying? I guess those never-extinct Raptors of Toronto and Canadian representation have as outside chance as now the talon gripping, playoff mainstay Atlanta Hawks and the league of extraodinary Teague, but who knows? Even Jason Kidd knows how to lead his Nets to the finals..so long as he can keep his tie off. From the suits on the sidelines to the sweats on the court it all looks to be one big debate as these guys roll up their sleeves like those jaded feeling, jarred jerseys. Will the storm of Kevin Durant and his Thunder be able to truly reign over the Heat of LeBron James South Beach talents? Or is this just a short shower of success? These two guys could share the Most Valuable Player award but after its all said and done, there can only be one true champion and king.

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NBA

RIP OKC. Dame Time Clocks Thunder’s Reign From Way Downtown PDX

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RIP OKC. Dame Time Clocks Thunder’s Reign From Way Downtown PDX
What Time Is It...

Blazing!

Even two games down the Thunder bolt boys joked like the last laugh that was yet to be delivered, like this what’s the 4-1 punchline. Zero to zero for the best series of these NBA Playoffs so far, Russell Westbrook rocked the baby at Damian Lillard, before mocking his wrist watch celebration like he did Laker meme Lance Stephenson’s air guitar strumming one with D’Angelo Russell ice in his veins. All before Paul George double pumped a dunk as time expired on a game that was already decided way before the horn blared.

“It is the unemotional, reserved, calm, detached warrior who wins, not the hothead seeking vengeance and not the ambitious seeker of fortune.”

But then last night before posting that Sun Tzu quote on Instagram in this art of war. In the face of P.G. the PDX P.G. beat the buzzer as Dame Time struck from way downtown RIP City. With an Austin 3:16 bottom line to give OKC the history engraved tombstone and the Portland Trail Blazers a legendary storied, legacy making championship belt for this classic series in hardwood history.

Reminding us of that time Charles Barkley responded to a Nike barbershop ad featuring former Golden State Warriors Chris Webber and Latrell Speedwell joking about dunking on him by putting all the points on them in the following game and running past them on the bench draped in dejected towels shouting, “put that in a f###### commercial!”

Damian Lillard 37 Footer Over Paul George
Damian Lillard buries series clinching 37-footer over Paul George – Photo Blazers

37 feet high and rising from deep. Deep as the halfcourt abyss. With the this time of season cherry blossoms blooming outside Portlandia’s Moda Center, the City of Roses was handing everyone from basketballs Oklahoma home funeral flowers. And leading the precession, hearse wrapping it up like his killer bars, Dame D.O.L.L.A was right on the money like exact change only please, waving goodbye. Even if Paul George walking off in defeat like LeBron James and getting his Vlade Divac on in a press conference more awkward than a blind date with an ex called it a “bad shot”. To which the great Dame simply replied with a tweeted “lol” (see also, laugh and last). He better Big Shot Bobby Horry check a newspaper or something. Dame Time didn’t just beat the buzzer. He took baby powder to it. As Dame had all the Louis Armstrong time in the world with ten on the clock and the last shot in this final frame to dribble drive or dish. But instead, toying with George like a cat does a mouse, as David beat Goliath like Jerry did Tom, Lillard had the sand to set up shop, his spot and his shot from what looked like a bunker. A hole in one, with the cocksure confidence of Tiger Woods putting for Masters glory in Augusta and embracing his kids, two decades after doing the same with his pops all for the green jacket.

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From this master, like a tap in putt with no Mulligan to carry, this was always going in. Nothing but net. All water like those Thunder tears. O.K. now that was a 3.

And to think I swore I wouldn’t go back on social media until after the new Avengers movie came out, but DAMN Dame Time! Spoiler alert, this is the new ‘Endgame’ now.

Cousy. Pettit. Sam Jones. Wilt. Chuck Barkley. M.J. And now the Dame train as the legendary Lillard goes hard to join this lineage as the only players to hit 50 in a playoff clinching game. And what a way to do it, fading away to clock out of the game and series 118-115 for the greatest Portland playoff moment since the G.O.A.T’s shrug. As mobbed by teammates on the floor he sank into, telling Russ to ‘Get Out’ his house. Peeling off like Jordan, Damian all on his own like a devil, GIF turned into an instant meme, as he turned the Thunder into a memory (you know the one were everyone loses their mind around that smirking kid with glasses in the raincoat? Well now guess which superheroes face is super imposed?). Staring into the camera with that look you know was for Russell Westbrook.

Blazers Win Damian Lillard Buries 37 Footer
Blazers Win. – Photo: Portland Trail Blazers

What a whole mood.

Whose left holding the baby now?

Dame didn’t even have to check his watch. Why? Him, her, them. They all knew what time it was. His. As Dame Lillard just did it in the Oregon home of Nike. Shoe dog like Phil Knight, running off victory for the courtside crowd, including legendary comedian Cedric the Entertainer for this last laugh lap. As this Gladiator hit one of the best and biggest shot fired in NBA history. Subliminal and literal.

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NBA

Two-time U Sports MVP Kadre Gray declares for NBA Draft

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Two Time U Sports Mvp Kadre Gray Declares For Nba Draft
Photo: Laurentian Voyageurs

Two-time U Sports basketball player of the year Kadre Gray of the Laurentian Voyageurs has declared for the 2019 NBA Draft.

Gray, a 6’1″, 190 lbs junior guard from Toronto, Ontario has been terrorizing Canadian university basketball since his freshman season — cementing his legacy as a two-time MVP and scoring champion with a ridiculous 26.3 points per game career average in three full-seasons with the Voyageurs.

The 2016-17 U Sports rookie of the year award winner took the league by storm — leading the country in scoring as a freshman with 23.2 points per game. He finished second in his sophomore season with 24.4 points per game and led the nation in assists total with 141.

He took his game to a different stratosphere in his junior season — increasing his league-leading output to the third highest scoring average in Canadian university hoops since 1981-1982 with 31 points per game.

Calgary Dinos’ all-time great’s Richard Bohn and Karl Tilleman both led the nation with higher and ironically, identical scoring averages.

Both Bohn and Tilleman averaged 32.8 points per game. Bohn doing it during the 1995-1996 season and Tilleman, a two-time Canadian Olympian and NBA draft pick dominating the league in 1981-82 — before Canada’s adoption of the three-point line.

Two Time U Sports Mvp Kadre Gray Dribbling Declares For Nba Draft
U Sports MVP Kadre Gray dribbling against Ottawa Gee-Gees – Photo: Laurentian Voyageurs

Not a one-trick-pony, Gray averaged 7.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists, 1.6 steals in 34.1 minutes per game.

Gray erupted for a career-high 48 points in a 101-81 win over the Lakehead Thunderwolves — shooting 13-of-23 from the floor and burying 19-of-20 shots from the foul-line on November 3rd, 2018.

He delivered his third 40-plus point game of his career with another impressive performance — 16-of-29 shooting against the Ryerson Rams on February 9th, 2019 — his lowest scoring output of the season was 23 points on multiple occasions.

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Kadre Gray U Sports Basketball Highlights
Two Time U Sports Mvp Kadre Gray Caree Conference Stats
Laurentian Voyageurs’ Kadre Gray Career Conference Stats
Two Time U Sports Mvp Kadre Gray Caree Conference Stats Other Stats
Laurentian Voyageurs’ Kadre Gray Career Conference Stats
Kadre Gray FIBA Americas Qualifiers Against Brazil
Kadre Gray takes it to the rack during FIBA Americas Qualifiers Against Brazil – Photo: FIBA

Gray also represented Canada during the FIBA Basketball World Cup process playing in games against Venezuela and Brazil.

Prior to Laurentian, Gray honed his skills as a two-time athlete at Eastern Commerce Collegiate for three-years — leaving track and field (high jump, 100 meters) in the rear-view mirror and transferring to rival Oakwood Collegiate to conclude his high school career.

Ryerson’s seven-foot center Tanor Ngom also declared, making it the first time in the history of Canadian university basketball that two U Sports players have entered the draft.

Additionally, with a record number of Canadian players in the NCAA tossing their names in the draft process we should expect 2019 to be the biggest year for Canadian’s at the NBA Draft.

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