If you’ve been keeping tabs on the players looking trim this pre-season, and I really hope you haven’t, you would have seen Kyle Lowry killing it.
The Raptors Point Guard looks noticeably slimmer and has featured in more than a few filler headlines this off-season.
But not only does skinny Lowry look good, he plays good.
Young Majestic has been on a tear in the pre-season and is leading the way for not only Toronto, but the league.
Dude dropped 40 on the T-Wolves in just 13 shots.
Otto Porter Jr is Still Alive
When one door closes, another opens.
Yeah, Paul Pierce might be living easy in LA, sipping on pineapple spritzers, but that doesn’t spell doom for Washington.
The veteran’s departure has left a lanky string bean shaped hole in the middle of the line-up, and going into his third year, it’s now or never for young Otto Porter Jr.
It’s time for the 22 year old to step up, adjust the specs and get nasty.
And so far in the Pre-season, he’s been fairly respectable – translation: if he can keep this up, he’s a starting 3 in the L.
Please keep it up Otto.
Paul George is Back
Seeing PG rack again is a thing of beauty.
There’s a soft spot in my heart for dunkers who rock the two-foot gather, bending their bodies to the side for slow-mo slams.
But what I love even more is to see someone comeback, unaffected by the most horrific of injuries, looking confident and collected.
George had the luxury of stretching his legs in the garbage time of last season and has been unafraid this pre-season.
The new look Pacers face some uncertainty early on, including whether George should start at the 4, but one thing they can count on is Young Trece, back putting in work.
Emmanuel Mudiay is NBA Ready
Look it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the newest Nugget, but potential is supposed to be raw, and baby there’s truckloads of it.
There’s no doubt Mudiay is leading the rookies going into the 2015-16 season with averages of 15 points and 5.4 assists in 29.2 minutes of game time.
The turnovers are a bad smell, but transition to the pros isn’t without its hiccups.
The physique on the 19 year old already looks NBA ready, no doubt a product of his time overseas, but his patience with the ball is what’s most promising.
Provocative Prediction/Way Too Earlier To Call/Big Call: Mudiay for Rookie of the Year.
Westbrook and KD Haven’t Missed a Beat
Surely they’d be rust, right?
Flashback to last season: The brother Durant goes down with a screw loose, Westbrook steps up. Becomes the undisputed heavyweight champion of his team and basically the league for a brief stretch.
OKC miss the playoffs, Westbrook shows MVP potential.
Now we’re starting a fresh season and the old Alpha is back on the court, so whose team is it? Well if the pre-season is anything to go by, we’re asking the wrong question.
KD and Westbrook have looked slick both individually and as a duo. The Thunder’s one-two punch looks straight deadly with a determined Durant making up for lost time and an angry Westbrook looking for any reason to obliterate someone on the break.
Let’s be real though, this instant chemistry shouldn’t come as a surprise, the boys have been kicking it for seven years now.
We’ve all done it. We’ve all been guilty of talking smack about who the best players of all-time are, and everyone’s got an opinion.
Take for example that one mate who plays it by the books, picking the classics like Kareem and Bird, or that one wildcard that still thinks about Gilbert Arenas when he’s eating breakfast. And we all know that one buster who just started playing 2K and thinks he knows wassup: “James Harden bruh.”
No matter the group of friends, picking an all-time squad of five is always a hot topic of discussion, but what about the NBA players themselves? What do they think?
Well ponder no more my curious hoop head, for all will be revealed amongst the doldrums (cc: Zach Lowe’s favourtie word) of the offseason.
Recently, during a sneaker tour of Spain, Kevin Durant sat down with ‘NBA Maniacs’ to answer a few Q’s and cheese up some soundbites. During the interview Durantula was asked about his all-time starting five.
Starting with the point KD listed the following basketball Gods: Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal.
Now we could waste the rest of the offseason arguing back and forth about who does and doesn’t deserve a spot, but let’s just remember, this is KD’s list. So rather than just talk about the selections, I feel as though we can take it a step further. Everyone’s heard about Durant’s top five, but what about his top five’s top five?
Stay with me here.
I have tried my very best to uncover the ultimate team by using each of the players above and seeing what their own all-time starting five is.
To help improve the sample size I have also included the opinions of various other elite players and who they believe deserve a spot.
By cross referencing all the line-ups chosen, I have come up with the unofficial all-time starting five’s all-time starting five.
Point Guard: Magic Johnson (4 selections)
Bench: John Stockton (2 selections)
No one had ever seen a point guard like Magic Johnson before.
He was a 6’9” magician who commanded the fast break with such flash and charisma, splitting one-handed bounce passes through legs and egos. His no look dimes were so accurate he could’ve been rocking a blindfold out there (or at the very least an eyepatch). All this and he could still cover any position on the floor. It should be no surprise that Magic commands the point guard position in this list.
Kobe, MJ, LeBron and The Glove all had Magic at their point, paying homage to the level of talent ripe in the NBA during the 80’s.
The guy did everything well. His career averages of 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists speak for themselves. An incredible player on and off the court.
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan (6 selections)
Bench: Kobe Bryant (2 selections)
Let’s talk about who didn’t pick Jordan rather than who did because come on now, he’s the GOAT.
For those of you who don’t know what that means, I’m not talking about a hairy Bovidae munching on some overgrown grass. I’m talking about a marble statue floating through the air. A logo who crippled defences and dismantled opponents. A tongue wagging, red mesh rippling basketball genius known as the Greatest Of All Time.
Dr. J, Karl Malone and Gary Payton are the only players to leave MJ off their all-time greatest list. Julius defends his selection by saying he’s had the same five ever since he was 15 years old.
Karl Malone picked MJ’s old teammate Scottie Pippen instead of Jordan, saying the reason was because Scottie led the team in every statistical category while Mike was gone.
Karl just seems a little Ready Salted if you ask me.
Small Forward: Larry Bird/Scottie Pippen (tied at 3 selections each)
Bench: Dr. J (2 selections)
Easily the most divided position of the lot, an underrated Scottie Pippen shares the 3 with Celtic legend Larry Bird.
Unsurprisingly Scottie was mentioned in MJ’s line-up. His former teammate and fellow all-time starter having his back much like he did in Chicago. He also got the nod from Jason Kidd, and interestingly was chosen by old rival Karl Malone who picked Scottie over Jordan.
Larry Legend features as a starter thanks to his arch rivals the Lakers. Both Magic and Kobe chose Bird as their starting small forward, showing respect to the clutchest moustache the game has ever seen. He can also be found atop LeBron’s Mount Rushmore (his top four players of all-time), which gave Bird the narrow advantage over Dr. J.
With career averages of 24.3 points, 6.3 assists and 10 rebounds, Bird has the advantage when it comes to the numbers, but don’t feel bad for Scottie. With six championship rings won with the Bulls he doubles that of Bird’s. Either way you slice it, that’s a lot guac for a lot of chips.
Power Forward: Tim Duncan (3 selections)
Bench: Kevin McHale (2 selections)
He’s still tip-toeing up and down the pine like there’s a broom handle up his booty, but already people are ready to crown Big Timmy D the greatest 4 to play the game. With a ridiculous career double-double to the tune of 19.5 points and 11 rebounds, it’s kinda hard to argue with them.
He’s living proof that consistency both individually and as a core is a winning formula in the NBA.
He’s proven he’s clutch, increasing his averages in the playoffs and he’s won both early and late in his career. Since 1999 Duncan has won 5 chips with the Spurs and proven every single year that he’s not too old to bang with the best of them.
The guy refuses to go away. Maybe that’s why he’s a perfect fit in the all-time best of the best.
Centre: Bill Russell (5 selections)
Bench: Wilt Chamberlain (4 selections)
As time goes by people tend to forget even the greatest of legacies and Russell is no exception to this. He seems to have slowly faded from people’s minds as one of the greatest. Kids just aren’t picking him on 2K these days. But his NBA peers haven’t forgotten how dominant the Celtic legend was.
The five-time MVP was such a shot-blocking force that he changed the way defence was played. Complete and utter dominance in the 60’s earned him 11 championships with the Celtics and could very well be the reason he narrowly edged out Wilt for the starting job.
Much in the way he ripped down 51 boards in a game, Russell snatched the centre position from Wilt in this all-time starting five.
It’s safe to say that opinion will always be split on which players were the best ever. People’s definition of what it takes to be great will always vary, which is why there are so many different all-time starting fives out there. This is simply a list of players who earned the respect of their peers and proved to be the most consistent among popular opinion.
Additional players randomly included: Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, Julius Erving, Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen and LeBron James.
*each player wins their traditional position based on the number of selections they receive in other player’s line-ups.
*some players (Tim Duncan) have yet to talk about their all-time starting five or have an incomplete list (Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James)
I admit it. As a Brit, I don’t really understand U.S. sports.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the rules. When I was a lad in the ‘90s, I owned a Sega Megadrive – called a Genesis in the States – and became incredibly proficient on Madden, NHL and other EA Sports games. Oh, and NBA Jam. “He’s on fire!”
I get the rules. But I still don’t get the sports. I think it’s a cultural thing. But I’m going to run the risk of my American friends and make some observations on sports this side of the Atlantic. Tongue firmly placed in my cheek, of course.
It seems as if American sports are especially focused on appealing to men. Even more so than other places in the world.
How do I know? Look at the franchise names. They ripple with masculinity. They scream testosterone. Powerful names to appeal to powerful men.
Team names like Anaheim Ducks. The Toronto Maple Leafs. Admittedly they are Canadian, but you accepted them into your league. The Pittsburgh Penguins, named after the well-known ecosystem-dominating predator. The Los Angeles Clippers (how did a team of hairdressers get a professional team?) The New Orleans Pelicans. The Arizona Cardinals. Because a team of high-ranking robed Catholic priests would be intimidating in a contact sports situation. I could go on.
But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Substance is more important than style. So let’s look at the substance of the popular US sports, one at a time.
Football is first up.
I’m sorry, but I can’t get past the name. Football? One player uses his feet ten per cent of the time at best, and it’s not even a ball.
I suppose ‘Throw Pigskin Egg’ isn’t a catchy name, even if its appropriately descriptive.
You also have about a hundred people on the team on the sidelines. Offense, defense, special teams. Frankly, I’d feel part of a special team if I was being paid ten million dollars to punt the ball a few times a game.
Another thing is the breaks. Someone does a bit of throwing or running or hitting, and then they get a rest! You call them ‘downs’ but I think they should be called ‘downtime.’ Bless them, these big hulking athletes, who need a little breather to get over the frequent stitches that two second exertions cause them. Perhaps that is why a football game that should last eighty minutes is spread out with commercial breaks to take up the best part of a weekend.
The poor delicate flowers. And don’t tell me how tough a sport it is. They get armour, on top of the frequent rest stops. Rugby players get nothing except broken noses, shattered collarbones and cauliflower ears. Yet women swoon over them. It’s ridiculous.
What about College football?
Quite frankly, I think students get away with murder these days. They should be studying hard in preparation to contribute positively to society through paying tax. Not given access to stadiums of thirty-thousand people fans who want to watch them play sports. They’ve got enough distractions with cheap beer, house parties and frat houses. I’m not bitter I didn’t have that opportunity. Oh no.
Therefore, I’ve deduced that Football is a simple equation. (Rugby + armour) + cheerleaders = Football.
Basketball, I have some more time for.
Who doesn’t like watching a sport that you know you will never be able to replicate, if only because you just scrape to being five foot ten inches tall?
I can’t even jump up and reach the candy on the top shelf in my cupboard my wife hides from me. I’ve got fat chance of reaching the bottom of the net, let alone slam dunking someone in the face.
Interestingly, Basketball is based upon a British game called Netball, popular amongst schoolgirls. Girls of distinctly average height.
Therefore, I’ve deduced that Basketball is a simple equation. (Netball + bouncing) + cheerleaders = Basketball.
Baseball was up next, for my unbiased analysis.
I enjoyed finding out that the World Series was only played by American teams. That world championship must mean a lot, eh?
You also love your stats. Baseball seems to be the sport of choice for those non-athletic geeks who love Excel spreadsheets more than they should.
Imagine my surprise to discover that Baseball is based upon a British game called Rounders. A game played by schoolgirls. I’m noticing a pattern emerging.
Therefore, I’ve deduced that Baseball is a simple equation. (Rounders + stats) + cheerleaders = Baseball.
Hockey. Ah, Hockey.
Now, I loath ice-skating. I’ve done it once, and it was such a traumatic experience that I’m currently resisting all attempts by my wife to try it again. I’m not saying I couldn’t do it, but I did resemble a newborn deer lacking leg ligaments, on roller-skates, trying to stand up.
So how these guys, wearing hand-me-down armour from resting footballers, can skate into each other and then punch each other in the face, I have no idea. I have no idea how it is legal.
During my research I discovered that Hockey is based upon Hockey. Or what is now called Lawn Hockey, because certain people seem to be unable to determine through sight alone if the game is being played on ice or grass and therefore require an extra noun.
Incidentally, Lawn Hockey is very popular among British schoolgirls. Hmmm.
Therefore, I’ve deduced that Hockey is a simple equation. (Lawn Hockey – Lawn + Ice) + UFC = Hockey.
Indycar just seems to be Formula One racing around oval tracks. It’s worth saying that it’s not based on a game popular amongst British schoolgirls. For once.
So, my American friends, this is why most of the rest of the world don’t get US Sports.
I’ve given you an objective, balanced, well-thought out explanation. Unbiased and not at all affected by my faded athletic ability. Why don’t you tell me what you think? Using stats and cheerleaders, of course…
The suits who chill behind the scenes at the NBA have made a refreshing change to its playoff format.
NBA.com released today that the NBA Board of Governors have approved changes to the way teams are seeded after 82 games, which will start this coming season.
The voting followed recommendation from the NBA’s Competition Committee.
The board’s unanimous decision means the eight playoff teams from each conference will be seeded in order of their regular-season record. A format that makes a lot more sense than the old one.
In previous seasons each division winner was awarded a top four seed in their conference regardless of record.
The changes have also trickled down to home-court advantage in the playoffs regarding who wins a tiebreak. Where home-court advantage would have previously been awarded to the division winner, now the seed goes to the team who won in head-to-head results.
A logical move by the league that’s been long overdue.
With the NBA regular season peeking over the October horizon, player movement has slowed to a Kendrick Perkin’s pace. I’m talking size 18 sneakers, slogging up and down the court, not even an A4 could slide under those hogs mid-run. You get it, it’s slow.
The only real headline left is whether Tristan Thompson will get that max contract his agent really, really wants.
And I’m sure you’ve heard all about the big wig moves: the redistribution of wealth in Portland, Munroe’s new home in Milwaukee, even the big wig moves that didn’t happen: DeAndre hates drama.
But what about the teams that moved in the shadows, quietly making their squad better with an offseason pick-up? Well for those who are curious and have ninja like reflexes, here are the top five sneaky good offseason moves.
*It should be noted that the sneakiness of a move is rated by the price a team got for said player verses their value, as well as lack of media hype and confetti.
But mostly it’s just based on a player’s ability to throw or catch alley-oops.
In only three years the former number five overall pick has bounced around the league playing for the likes of Sacramento, Portland and most recently Philly. With career averages sitting around 5.1 ppg with 4.8 rebounds, some might overlook the 24 year old.
However these stats come from limited minutes and after a noticeable increase in production with the 76ers last year, Robinson is a steal.
Especially for $2.2 million on a two year deal.
Even with an incredibly tight budget, the Brooklyn Nets have pulled off a bargain back-up for Thaddeus Young and his newly inked contract. Here’s hoping T-Rob still has some ‘SportsCenter Top Ten’ left in him.
Sneaky good rating: 5/10 (bargain bin)
4. Jared Dudley – Washington Wizards
What do you do when you lose Paul Pierce? Simple. You get the poor man’s Paul Pierce (even though he’s a little more expensive).
Jared Dudley doesn’t exactly look like an NBA player, in fact seeing Kobe Bryant having fun at practice is more likely than Dudley going up for a two-hand jam. But there is nothing more underrated than a ‘Glue Guy’.
The veteran’s best years are behind him, there’s no arguing that, but having someone to take care of team chemistry, stirring the beaker from the bench, is huge. He fit in perfectly with a young Bucks squad and looks to do the same in Washington.
For $4.25 million in the last year of his contract he’s a nice addition to a team with dreams of a deep playoff push.
Sneaky good rating: 5.5/10 (half-used tube of super glue)
3. Josh Smith – LA Clippers
He’s a gamble, I know, but what I admire about Smith to LA is that the Clippers were man enough to sign a guy who killed them last year. J Smooth was a big part of Houston’s comeback in the Western Semi-finals last season that resulted in that LA train wreck (you know the one that was super painful that you couldn’t take your eyes off).
We’ve seen proof that Josh Smith off the bench can work well, and for a $1.5 million contract, why not roll the dice? Smith gives the Clippers versatility, able to cover multiple positions and fill much needed holes within their second unit.
Besides, if Smith’s alley-oop chemistry with Blake and DJ is half as good as it was with Dwight, his signing will be worth it for the acrobatics alone.
Sneaky good rating: 6.5/10 (lucky dip)
2. Gerald Green – Miami Heat
The revival of Gerald Green’s career has to be the best feel good story the NBA has seen in recent years. The dude’s vertical is so nasty it even makes Shannon Brown screw up his face and say, “good show old boy”. But Green has worked hard to prove that he’s not just a pogo stick with a goatee.
His 2013-14 campaign showed he still has a place in the league and despite a drop-off from last season with less minutes, he’s still an excellent swingman off the bench.
For $1.35 million, the Heat have secured quality depth behind both Wade and Deng, but more importantly, Wade has someone he can throw ridiculous lobs to again.
Sneaky good rating: 8/10 (cheap airfare)
1. David West – San Antonio Spurs
No doubt you’ve heard of the new cowboy in town out in Texas, but LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t the only forward the Spurs added this offseason. After a glorious public break-up with the Pacers, David West has signed a Veteran’s minimum contract ($3 million for two years) to come kick it with Timmy and the boys.
In all honesty this has more to do with West valuing championships over money than it is the Spurs pulling off a sneaky good pick-up. West took a whopping $11 million pay cut to sign with San Antonio who have added a gritty vet for dirt cheap. A vet unafraid to bump chests with the likes of Matt Barnes or flick Blake Griffin in the earlobe if need be.
But the sneaky good meter loves what he brings to San Antonio. His toughness is invaluable and he gives the Spurs true frontcourt depth. A legit starter, West can come off the bench for ‘Old Bones Duncan’ and contribute meaningful minutes.
Sneaky good rating: 9/10 (hired muscle)
Josh Smith might implode and David West might not fit in. Gerald Green might windmill so hard he snaps his wrists clean off. But maybe one or two of these players prove to be that key cog within a team’s identity. All we can go on is a player’s shown potential and all we can hope for is that they contribute and play the best they can. I for one am excited to see what these cats can bring to the table, and prove to the rest of the league why you should never sleep on sneaky good ballers.