10 years ago this writer holding a microphone as nervous as if he was about to get his Bill Murray on in ‘Lost In Translation’ and perform karaoke for the first time in Tokyo, but with no Scarlett Johansson, palm sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy…moms spaghetti (and on the surface he does NOT look calm and ready) is taking part in his first press conference…let alone his first NBA one. All for a major magazine for his first writing job, just a mere month after he wrote his first ever article for what we the British call, “a laugh”. No Buzz, no blog. And who was my first question too?
No other but the commissioner…Mr. David Stern.
But as Stern as you could call him, the pre-Silver commish was the most warm and gregarious you could imagine. That’s when I got a little wind under my wings like I was wearing Air Jordan’s for this NBA London postgame Chicago Bulls vs Utah Jazz presser. I had a few questions for then Chi-town coach Vinny Del Negro. I don’t think I had the balls to ask Coach Sloan anything. But apparently I had enough confidence to tell the then Jazz leader Deron Williams that his team could test my Lakers…he didn’t agree (there’s the spirit D-Will). And then in walked the man of the hour. The whole reason this game was here and at the very least taking off on these shores. Sudan born but British raised Luol Deng. He too was kind enough to give me a quote worthy answer to my question. Then as he left past the cameras and tape recorders I reached out my hand and he shook it back.
Thank you for that Luol, and for everything you’ve done for British basketball…and also for being part of my beloved purple and gold Lakers for a season or two (or more as fate would have it). Although most fans who can’t look past that massive contract fail to see that the most underrated superstar of this era was worth every penny when healthy…no Lake Show aficionado talks smack about the Steve Nash cash.
Now as this writer a decade later pens this in a Japanese residence aiming to have his own contract to remain here throughout the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, a week after taking in the cities NBA Japan Games featuring the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors, I look back to that Chicago Bulls London game of 2009 and the 2012 Olympics that came in London a few years later and everything you’ve done for the sport in my homeland and host nation. Knowing that from Brixton to Sudan you truly are a global ambassador like Dikembe Mutombo and like that mountain of a man will be at many a London exhibition for the National Basketball Association post career, no finger wag. No one-apart from former Orlando Magic big John Amaechi who truly changed the game from an equality perspective in the locker room-has done more for this game in the British Isles.
But this article isn’t about the U.K. Or even NBA Africa. Although that, just like your incredible and inspired charity work is worthy of its own book…let alone article. This is about the untouchable city of Chicago, from De Niro to Capone. The Windy City and the changing season you brought in with a gust and the Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson team of the new millennium and hope…that in the legendary United Centre seems as lost as the elevated train town that surrounds it, albeit still so classic. As American as apple pie…or Michael Jordan.
As you walk past his Statue of Liberty to this city iconic statue outside in the unmistakable windy granite look of this area, cemented in the nostalgia of the golden era 90’s like a Pippen bronze bust once you and your pulled tight coat get inside out the cold, you know what it’s about. Post Jordan and Baby Bulls era you were the team to compete, bring it all back. And although Rose was the next 23 in line star to grow from concrete you were the dependable all-star from the start and a ten years of your own. You’ll go down as one of the best Bulls ever. Like the 1 and only Rose, your number nine will be shot up there in the rafters with all the twenty and thirty-three’s and all the banners bar injuries you could have put up there.
Two All-Star selections an All Defensive Second Team selection and the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for starters that’s why. But the Duke grad who also logged some time with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat (after Pat Riley called him one of the most important acquisitions after he came in for the post King era in South Beach) was much more than a number, even if his will end up with the air up there when it is all said and done…which it is. Because after playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves last year after his Hollywood divorce, Deng is calling it a career. But he isn’t retiring Minny with the Wolves oh no. And there won’t be one last dance of a season sadly for those practicing their steps.
But still he is galloping out this association as a Bull. After signing a one-day contract with the team he entered the league with as an all rookie, seventh draft pick, Luol will retire and leave the league with the same team. It’s a grand gesture and nice move from the Bulls (even though it leaves talented player Perrion Callandret cut (bring him back)), as Deng’s 15 year career-with the lion share being with these cubs-comes full circle in Chicago like this town’s Loop subway system.
As Chicago as Common, Deng is back where he belongs if only for a night as the seasons of change and cities weather brings him back to where it all began for a fitting end blowing in the wind.
Blazing A Trail Back To The NBA. Portland Land Carmelo
Catching the ball out of bounds as a spectator courtside. Carmelo Anthony is no longer dribbling the ball to the baseline in street clothes. About to put up a shot before smiling and passing it to the referee like, “just kidding!”
‘Melo is back and Twitter just won’t calm down.
He deserves the character.
Way to reverse the trends Carmelo.
No New York state of reunion. Or things to do in Denver when your career is almost dead for the Nugget golden era icon. No chance to finally wear that Atlanta Hawk jersey they especially made for him. No banana boat ride with LeBron in Lakeland for the purple and gold to finally get another Anthony they seemed forever linked with like arms of the father of the bride. No matrimony to toast with wine friend Chris Paul back in Oklahoma (although the Thunder and roaring Rockets wish they could have him now) either. But the man who was wedded to rumour for this last year like he always will be the game has ended up blazing a trail back to the NBA with Portland. Back in bloom in Rose City as ‘Melo shows with Rip City it’s not R.I.P. to his career, but the criticism that came to whether he was still capable on court.
The hoodie and headband is back.
Just look at his t-shirt in the above picture. Soaked through with sweat in just another practice run were he just wouldn’t give up or in.
Now it’s time to really ball.
Sure it would have been great to see him basketball befriend the King rival he rookie entered the league with for a true Hollywood end. The Basketball God storybooks would have loved him to retake his Knick throne as the Ewing, Bernard, King of New York even more. But now he’s blazing with the PDX best backcourt duo of Dame Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Joining All Star, legend vets like Pau Gasol to help this Wild West team back to the contender saloon. Last time he left the league, ‘Melo had averages of 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 0.5 assists per game. With percentages of 40.5% from the field and 32.8% from three. And Houston thought they’d have no problem giving him up and keeping CP3 and James Harden like OKC losing an OK3 of him, Westbrook and PG3?
They said he wasn’t in the game like A.I. But he’s a ‘Champion’ like Young Jeezy on a Nicki Minaj song with Nas and Drake. “Big ballin’ like Jeremy Lin (doing so in Beijing), ‘Melo!”
What a difference a year makes.
It’s all A-O.K. now.
Now it’s Jamal Crawford’s turn to crossover back.
No ‘Melo yellow. Or Syracuse orange in N.Y.C. But none of that matters. The contract in Oregon is non guaranteed. But call it a comeback like Dwight Howard back in Lakeland. And you’ve seen what a couple of big dunks, blocks and games has done to his big man Laker legacy. After it looked like he was blackballed from the NBA, let alone Hollywood. But you can always flip the script and bring your big name back. And when it comes to the back of your jersey. Not many come bigger than number 15 or 7 with his new seal.
He’s one of the greats like is a N.Y.K. G.O.A.T. This generation, or the game all-time. It’s time to recognize what the name means. This is not redemption. But a revolution in reunion of a legend and the game he’s given everything to. That’s finally giving him what’s owed to him.
The respect he deserves.
The legacy continues.
You can’t keep a good man down.
Hoods up for this marathon. The hate is gone like a sprint through social media.
All for the love of the hardwood.
Summer run to season come.
Stay ‘Melo. Because your boy is back like he never left.
Don’t call it a comeback…he’s here to stay.
Marial Shayok 42 points helps Delaware Blue Coats get first win
Marial Shayok became the first Ottawa basketball player to get drafted into the NBA and now he’s quickly making a case for permanent NBA roster spot.
Two games into his G-league/NBA career the former Iowa State Cyclones is sizzling hot — averaging 38 points per game, 7.5 rebounds and 3 assists.
Shayok made a splash with a 34 point, 6 rebound, 3 assist debut and upped his numbers in his second game as the Delaware Blue Coats downed the Greensboro Swarm 141-135 to pick-up their first win.
The Philadelphia 76ers two-way player scored 42 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and added 3 assists in just 34 minutes. Shayok connected on 14-of-27 shots, 3-of-9 triples and a perfect 9-of-9 at the charity stripe.
Shayok, alongside a bevy of Canadians are currently strutting their games in the G-League — vying for a call-up for the bright lights.
Resilient, shorthanded Raptors hand Lakers 113-104 home loss
Talk about about being resilient. Talk about championship mentality. Talk about next man up!
The shorthanded Toronto Raptors — missing two of their main players walked into Staples Centre and walked out with an impressive 113-104 signature victory over the highly touted Los Angeles Lakers.
The Raptors improve to 7-2 on the young season and in the process and have now beaten the Los Angeles Lakers 10 straight times — dating back to the 2014-15 regular season when the Lakers won 129-122 in overtime in L.A.
Pascal Siakam continued his stellar season with 24 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks. Freddy VanVleet was also brilliant with 22 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals. Chris Boucher came off the bench to spark the Raptors on both ends of the court, including back-to-back key blocks on Lebron James and Anthony Davis. The Montreal native tied a career-high with 15 points, 3 blocks, 2 steals — including 9 points in the fourth quarter.
Norman Powell added 14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. Rookie Terrence Davis filled-up the stat sheet with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, playing his first significant action of the season, rounded out six Raptors’ players in double-figures with 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
Anthony Davis paced the Lakers with 27 points and 8 rebounds. Lebron James added to his triple-double total with 13 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds. Danny Green was held scoreless in 27 minutes.
The Raptors currently on five game west coast swing improve to 4-0 against the tough western conference and will play former teammate Kawhi Leornard and the Los Angeles Clippers in their next game, before wrapping-up one their longest road trips with games against Portland and the Dallas Mavericks.
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