On Wednesday night, the Portland Trail Blazers will be faced with a daunting task: extending their overachieving season by defeating the Golden State Warriors in Oakland.
Absolutely nothing short of a miraculous performance will save, and extend the Blazers’ season. And, yet the Blazers’ leader is highly capable of delivering such a performance.
Damian Lillard is the kind of conductor who can orchestrate the most harmonious melodies, which leaves the audience in tears of joy as they watch beautiful basketball.
Remember the Warriors’ first game following the All-Star Break? It was in Portland, Oregon when Damian Lillard dropped dimes (sorry couldn’t help it!) all over Chef Curry and company.
Lillard, the undersized point guard, finished with a career-high 51-points to go along with seven assists, six steals, and zero turnovers to lead his Blazers to a dominant, statement-making blowout win of the defending champions Warriors.
Portland won 137-105.
So, yeah Golden State took the regular season series 3-1. And, yes they are most likely to win the 2016 NBA Playoffs series 4-1. But, could Stephen Curry have done what Damian Lillard pulled of? Nah. How about Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden or Carmelo Anthony? Nope.
The only player who could – and probably – would of done something as special as what Dame did, is LeBron James.
Let’s recap what happened to the Blazers about a year ago in free agency. LaMarcus Aldridge signed with the San Antonio Spurs. Wesley Matthews left for the Dallas Mavericks. Nicolas Batum signed with the Charlotte Hornets. Robin Lopez signed with the New York Knicks.
Those are three starters, and their sixth man. Basically four of their top five players left, and yet Dame, and head coach Terry Stotts, have this team in the second round of the playoffs.
When Mason Plumlee is arguably the best free agent you signed after watching the exodus, you have to wonder what the front office was doing.
You can look at it, analyze, and throw all the numbers you want to coronate Stephen Curry, but none of those will compare to the challenges that faced the ever so underrated Oakland, California point guard.
Yes, Curry was a member of the 50-40-90 club, and he led the league in both points per game and steals per game. Yes, the baby-faced assassin killed the Spurs at home, and in Alamo City during the Spurs’ only home loss this season. Yes, I remember the Saturday night instant classic overtime thriller in Oklahoma City and the shot seen around the world to win it. Yes, I remember the blowout of the Cavaliers in Cleveland, and the “hopefully it still smells a little bit like champagne,” comments.
Yes, Chef Curry was the orchestrator of the greatest regular season in NBA history as his Warriors went 73-9, but I dare every single one of you to show me a Klay Thompson who averaged 22.1 points per game, and a Draymond Green who averaged 14 ppg, 9.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game, on top of being the best defender on the Warriors, and their spiritual and emotional leader.
Some of you will point to Lillard’s new partner in crime, C.J McCollum. McCollum can’t yet be compared because this past season was the first time he played a role in the Blazers’ season. He was drafted in 2013, and prior to this season in which he averaged 20.8 points per game, McCollum averaged just 5.3 points per game in 12 minutes (2013-14), and 6.8 in 15 minutes per game (2014-15). He was Wesley Matthews’ backup.
As of right now, McCollum’s situation is TBD. It is to be determined whether he can be a consistent 20-point scorer for the Blazers, and Lillard’s sidekick.
I don’t want to sound like a “hater” because Curry, and his Warriors deserve all the accolades they receive. They deserve all the praises they obtain. I’m just of the mindset that you can’t overlook players, and coaches who overachieve just because their team has a record that is not quite as good as another team.
This reminds me of the 2013 NFL season when Peyton Manning like Stephen Curry re-wrote the record books on his way to his fifth MVP, while Tom Brady like Damian Lillard took a supporting cast that left everyone screaming “Belichick is jeopardizing Brady’s last years” all the way to the AFC Championship game.
So, while this NBA series is not in the Western Conference final, I can’t help but see the resemblance, and feel bad for Dame and Brady.
Before the season began every pundit, every analyst, and everyone that follows basketball declared the Portland Trail Blazers as a lottery team. And, yet the undersized, underrated superstar point-uard nicknamed Dame kicked open the superstar status door, and declared “sorry for dropping in!”
And delivered a season to remember. Dame you the real MVP.
Knicks RJ Barrett: Basketball + Business
Canadian RJ Barrett sits down for a very candid interview with agent Bill Duffy and “The Boardroom” host — former no. 1 overall pick Jay Williams to discuss basketball and his business ambitions and aspirations.
Barrett is expected to be amongst the highest global sponsorship earners of his generation and is represented by agent Duffy — who has done over 3.5 billion dollars in contract negotiations and also represented Canada’s greatest basketball player to date and RJ’s very own Godfather Steve Nash.
Under Duffy’s direction, Barrett is expected to capitalize on the immediate rise of Canadian Basketball and the national corporate entities looking for an immediate association with the rapidly growing sport.
Barrett has already inked deals with financial powerhouse Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and global leader in made to measure apparel company INDOCHINO — Which costumed designed his Draft night suit.
Globally, with Barrett’s ability to speak French, Duffy also sees a market in China but as well as untapped African market. After all, Duffy is somewhat responsible for Yao Ming’s massive success in the Asian-Pacific markets.
When it’s all said and done, Barrett stands a chance at being Canada’s top-earning athlete, both in salary earnings and corporate dollars.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Is The Real MVP
Santa Monica, California was on an award tour like A Tribe Called Quest for the NBA’s end of season grand prize spectacle last night. Hanging out in the coolest performing arts theatre in all of Los Angeles (my apologies to the Hollywood Bowl), the converted airplane Barker Hangar played host to the 2019 NBA Awards. The Emmy’s, Oscar’s and Grammy’s of hoops Tony.
The best of the Basketball best and the cream of the future hops crop descended on this hangar, suited and booted like they were flossing injured court-side.
Shaq sized in the perfect setting in a place that houses feats of brilliance that take flight like Mike, this event could only be hosted by the one and only, Big Aristotle of the Diesel, Shaquille O’Neal (sorry Drake. Although you troll NBA players better than Kevin Hart telling Kenny Smith he’s so ashy if he smiles his lips will bleed as he goes to take a sip of his water). And the most entertaining NBA player ever (give him his award) laughed, joked, sang, rapped and danced his way to an enjoyable evening in the place he racked up three rings on repeat.
But how about the prize giving? Well your real Most Valuable Player this year is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Say what you will about last year’s MVP and this year’s runner up in the closest of recent races as tight as the Rookie of the Year voting, James Harden racking up triple-doubles like Charles Barkley says Lonzo Ball does triple-singles, but it’s the Alphabet’s time now after slaughtering this season gone. Sure he didn’t come away with the ‘chip like worthy candidate Kawhi Leonard and his (we still hope) Toronto Raptors, but that is his next challenge for the Mamba Mentality tweeted in congratulation by Kobe Bryant who predicted this MVP years back. And in a beautiful and emotional speech, Giannis dedicated all this to his dearly departed dad and his brothers and mom in attendance as every eye not dry in the house got out their seats in unanimous ovation.
And in a truly global game flying the flag outside the United States for each category winner, Antetokounmpo almost doubled up, finishing in second place for Defensive Player Of The Year, under the stifling Eiffel of French fly swatter, Rudy Gobert. As Paul George after an incredible season-no lucky shot-came in third place like he did for the MVP voting. Toronto not only got the ‘chip in the Six however as their X-factor Pascal Siakam came up with the Most Improved Player award ahead of Sacramento sophomore De’Aaron Fox and Brooklyn’s own (if they play their free agent cards right), D’Angelo Russell.
Coach of the Year was bucked by Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer dry-erasing for the MVP. And Bradley Beal was passed the Community Assist Award for all the good this All Star has done. Give him a hand for all the ones he has. Whilst the Sportsmanship award went to new Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley Jr., who also racked up the Teammate Of The Year award for his grit n grind time with the Memphis Grizzlies. But who else for the Sixth Man of the Year award then the ‘6 Man’ of all-time, Lou Williams? Joining Clippers teammate Jamal Crawford as the only player to win the Sixth award three times over.
And the House Of Highlights Moment of the Year of course went to Derrick Rose. Can you guess for what game?
We have a ball rattling around the rim forever in Toronto that shoots for even more stars though.
But how about that Rookie of the Year award? Who you got? Because in narrowly beating out Atlanta Hawk Trae Young it’s clear the award belongs to superstar right now Luka Dončić after a Maverick season in Dallas. Where the Texan gunslinger from Slovenia is about to draw on them all next season. Look out for the kid like Pat Garrett, Billy.
Sager Strong, broadcaster Robin Roberts took home that award named in honor after the suited court-side with a microphone presenter. And her “make your mess your message” speech was the most inspiring of the night after her fight against breast cancer and bone marrow disease, raising awareness.
Executive of the Year went to Jon Horst of the Milwaukee Bucks (sorry Rob Pelinka…jokes) but the Lifetime Achievement? Well that went to a former President who has just left office. No not Obama (although POTUS does have game…WAP!). But the Magic man, Earvin Johnson. The Laker legend honored in California for all he’s done since starting the fast-break of Showtime, to changing the game behind the back without taking a single shot. All the way to walking away from it bravely when he was diagnosed with HIV and then making a comeback so beautifully for the man who will always be purple and gold with all this entrepreneur pulls out the empire of his top hat. Say what you will about his presidency residency but as we look to free agency this crazy off-season, remember who started all this off by bringing the King to Hollywood last Summer, waiting outside his house in his car at one in the morning.
Now that can’t be tampered with.
Apart from with this. How about one better? In a courtship of rivals and a year of what could have well just been shared MVP and ROY honours, Magic Johnson shared this award of a lifetime with his former, rival and friend Larry Bird. The college to big league opponent who was a Celtic classic legend from downtown Boston. All the way to the parquet green pride of more smoked Red cigars. Two lifetimes for the price of one. Now who cares whose coming in second place?
Because all in all last nights NBA Awards show of All-Stars showed us one thing like the NBA Finals. No matter who took home the gold, we all came away winners.