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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.

NBA

Millsap Mishap Could Keep Forward Behind 3 Months

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Poor Paul Millsap.

This campaign after becoming one of the biggest free agent pick ups of the offseason, one of the leagues leading Power Forwards has been put down on the medical report with an injury that could call him off sick for a quarter of a year.

The most reliable player over four periods has spent the bird share of his career helping his former Atlanta Hawks make it to the first round knockout stakes of the playoffs each year. But following the season where they didn’t make the cut of the second one, it was time for a change for the 32 year old number 4 who once looked to be the Utah Jazz, Karl Malone replacement Carlos Boozer didn’t turn out to be early in his career alongside former leading Point Guard Deron Williams.

And in the mile high city of Denver with a would be big-three of sophomore sensation Emmanuel Mudiay, dreaded defender Kenneth Faried and of course The Joker with the last laugh Nikola Jokic, these Nuggets in their new Nikes looked golden and finally past that baby blue Carmelo era (they may as well be as Anthony, now with the blue, white and orange of the Thunder isn’t even a Knick anymore (it’s ‘Old York’ now Knickerbockers)). But now like Ben Affleck looking at the ‘Justice League’ box office returns it’s time to ask the Nugs “why so serious” Batman as an injury to their versatile veteran forward of seasoned upon seasons of experience doesn’t exactly put a smile on their face.

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The All-Star was averaging a helpful handful of exactly 16 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists before tearing the ligaments in his left wrist in a 127-109 loss to the Lakers who themselves recently lost all dunking son Larry Nance Jr. to a broken wrist, but are thankful to be having him return after they cut the turkey this thanksgiving. Millsap and the Nuggets are looking at second opinions from docs offering the same sort of speedy recovery that doesn’t sap their frontline. But if they concur with the original diagnosis, it’s three months in a suit and tie and not to mention cast for Paul who will return in late February after the All Star break he normally never takes off.

The man with the three year, 90 mill deal helped make this outside eight seed threat Denver the new gritty, grinding Memphis of the West. Now without him the older than Richard Jefferson roster is thinner than the air up there in Colorado.

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Somebody Stop The Mask Of Kyrie Irving

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USP NBA: BOSTON CELTICS AT BROOKLYN NETS S BKN BKN BOS USA NY

Smokin’!

Even that phrase delivered at a perfect Jim Carrey pitch can’t quite put into perspective just how hot Celtic Kyrie Irving is right now. Especially in the Boston green, Rip Hamilton face-mask.

Maybe those three little letters would do more justice for this league leader?

You know Menacing, Versatile, Phantom?

No?

How about M-V-P?

Kyrie joins Kobe, former Cleveland Cavalier teammate LeBron James and the man whose about to pass him the Maurice Poldoff torch, Russell Westbrook to be an absolute menace in the Phantom of the Opera face-mask, leaving other teams dead on basketballs biggest stage. He may have fractured and broken some bones in his face, but that won’t stop him as he fractures and breaks the backs and hearts of the faces of all the other franchises he faces off with night after excruciating night.

Those who used to say it must be the shoes (and have you seen his best in show sneaker designs complete with shamrocks like Starbucks on St Patrick’s Day this season heads? Those halloween pumpkin ones were the spice), are now saying it must be the mask.

Sure the plastic profile guard makes for some meme worthy Pinterest fan art appreciation but this guard has made a point at hating it…the sweat inducing mask that is, not the love. These kind of covers can blind you, but like the concussed legend of Celtic great Larry, letting it fly like a Bird above the baskets in the Boston Garden all the way to the rafters (as he saw too hoops like 80’s girls earrings and just aimed for the top one), Kyrie plays through all the pain and frustration. Taking it out on the ball (like opponents on Lakers rookie Lonzo) and the other teams hoops that to him seem bigger than those ones Bruno Mars sang about.

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Take Dallas for example. Irving just masked all his pain by taking the Mavericks for 47 points, 3 rebounds and 6 assists in the last contest that took the Celtics to a sweet sixteen straight. After dropping two games following Gordon Hayward dropping out of the new season before the second quarter of his opening game one even played out, everyone was calling time on these new Celtics as soon as Gordon turned his ankle counter-clockwise. But now one of the best in the association Kyrie is showing LeBron and them he’s just as good as them or anyone alone like this man from down under always wanted to prove. This definition of clutch, who leaves everyone else in the fourth with straws has already shown on a championship scale against Curry of all hot guards that he can take the last shot that really matters. Now forget the Most Valuable Player award for a waning second or even the time his dynamic duo partner in pine Hayward comes back, Irving has the power to dribble drive all the way to the crown on his own.

And it’s going to take more than a mask to stop him.

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The Wind Brings The 2020 All-Star Game To Chicago

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1973. And the first NBA All-Star Game to play in the Windy City of Chicago, Illinois features the last All-Star game in the last season of two lasting Los Angeles Lakers legends. One man who scored 100 points in just one game, Wilt Chamberlain. And one man who was and still remains the one and only logo of this National Basketball Association, Jerry West.

1988. And arguably the greatest All-Star Game of all-time and an even better, best ever All-Star weekend sees Michael Jordan become Michael Jordan. M.J. scored 40 in an 138-133 O.T. A.S.G. win for the East meeting the West. But a day before all that he and the Slam Dunk Contest became even more legendary. As mere moments after storied Boston Celtic great Larry Bird asked “whose coming in second place” before raising his finger in victory before the ABA coloured moneyball ripped through the twine (no Nick Young swag), Money took off from the free throw line like a good doctor for his above the rim J and jumped over everybody including Atlanta Hawk wing spreading, sky-soarer Dominique Wilkins.

Now more than 30 years later after next years All-Star Game in the purple and gold city of Los Angeles and the 2019 one in the redeemed city of Charlotte, the 2020 and 69th All Star Game will be played in Michael’s old town of Chi-city. In the same year as Tokyo, Japan will hold the next Olympic Games, the game of basketball will go back to it’s 90’s roots and an inspired iconic landmark of hoop heaven that didn’t really have the same spirit in the seventies, but really Jumpman took off in the golden era eighties. So much so that the old ’88 All Star Weekend t-shirt is a historical thrift store must find for more than it’s 80’s Tron like, cool, retro logo.

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And with mid-February lovers big blockbuster basketball coming back to the city of wind like the river that runs through it, Chi-town needs this like out of towners need deep dish pizza. You only have to listen to the news or the Common album ‘Nobody’s Smiling’ (you know the legendary M.C. who used to wipe up Jordan’s sweat off the old Chicago Stadium hardwood has to perform at the mid-season classics halftime show) to know this classic city is marred by violence that burns through this second city like fire. The beloved Bulls have even become a “garbage team” to root for too, losing the big-three likes of last seasons Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade (who may even be on a farewell All Star tour once his hometown All Star weekend comes crossed off the calendar and everyone is united in the airlines center).

Now this team who relies on sophomore stud Denzel like Oscar hopeful movies will hopefully be back by the next few valentines. As the heart of the city in twenty twenty will want to see something as visionary as Sinatra’s kind of towns history.

That’s just the Chicago way.

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