Russell Westbrook goes down south; Houston, not Miami

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Russell Westbrook is going to need to adapt his game in Houston, for he’s not a one man team anymore. Photo by Getty Images/Ringer Illustration, from the ringer.com

The Earth shook once more, as the basketball world felt the aftershocks from NBA Free Agency on Thursday.  

The Oklahoma City Thunder agree to a blockbuster trade that will ship off Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, where he’ll be reunited with James Harden, according to ESPN. Westbrook played with Harden for four seasons with OKC, including the 2012 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.

NBA shocks us again; the reports had Miami as Westbrook’s front runner, only until hours later he signed with Houston. 

Does Westbrook not want to play for the team that he lost to in the Finals? I guess I could see that. 

The Houston Rockets are clearly trying to win now, for they gave up a boat load of draft picks for Westbrook. Rockets GM Daryl Morey is going with the win now mentality, and hope that the Westbrook-Harden reunion will work out – for it could cost them. 

You could say that the Thunder are rebuilding, trading away their best and final superstar, and now reportedly could move Chris Paul to clear more cap space. While Paul is a talented, admirable 34-year old player, not every team in the NBA is lining up for his remaining three-year, $129 million contract. 

Sam Presti, and this Thunder team will be veteran-less, if they decide to trade their Center Steven Adams as well as Chris Paul. GM Sam Presti and OKC, are looking to completely rebuild and planning for the future, for they certainly are in great position with all of their newly acquired picks.  

A lot has happened since the Westbrook-Harden era ended in OKC, for they both are now superstar players. 

Since 2012, both players won MVP, and Harden was runner-up three times. Westbrook also is the first player since Oscar Robertson, to average a triple-double in a season, and he did it three straight years running.  

There are a lot of questions, however, for this new Rockets team. 

Will a ball-dominant type guard like Harden and Russell co-exist? They are going to have to find that championship chemistry they had built in OKC. 

Harden led in points last season, along with Westbrook at 2nd. They also have been at the top of the NBA in terms of efficiency.

I myself, am not so sure how this will work out for the Rockets, while on paper it does make them a contender in the West. The question is though, how far? 

The Western Conference is tough, and I just think if Westbrook signed with Miami, it would be an easier path to the Finals. Let see though if this finally pushes the Houston Rockets over the hump. 

Why Russell Westbrook should sign with the Miami Heat

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Russell Westbrook and Miami Heat have mutual interest, according to reports. Photo from ClutchPoints, extracted from CavsNation (https://cavsnation.com/how-the-cavs-can-facilitate-the-russell-westbrook-to-miami-trade/).

The Russell Westbrook era in Oklahoma City is coming to an end, for the Thunder are having serious trade discussions with several teams, including the Miami Heat.   

There is reportedly mutual interest between Russell Westbrook and the Miami Heat. After asking for a trade request, and sending Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Thunder are looking to trade Westbrook.

Thunder GM Sam Presti’s gamble with George almost seemed to pay off, getting as much as possible from him in a successful couple seasons with Oklahoma City, until George shocked the basketball world signing with LA. 

The Thunder is now in complete rebuilding mode should they trade Westbrook, for the team has already fallen off the sturdy latter that is the western conference. 

As a Miami Heat fan, I am thrilled that the team just acquired an All-Star player, like Jimmy Butler, but I would go absolutely insane if Russell Westbrook signed. Putting aside my bias as a fan, here are five reasons why Westbrook should sign with the Heat.  

1. Westbrook and Jimmy Butler can be Miami’s “Batman and Robin”   

Westbrook is not only searching for a new home, but also a new friend – a superstar type of friend, that is. Aside from George, Westbrook hasn’t had a star sidekick since Kevin Durant, who we all know how that story went.

2. The NBA Western Conference is really hard 

Why not be the beasts of the east? The NBA Eastern Conference, as well as the balance in the league in general, seem to be more leveled. With Kawhi Leonard leaving the Toronto Raptors, and Irving departing the Celtics, the path through eastern conference is a much easier one than last season.  

3. Miami is a much more attractive market than Oklahoma City

If it weren’t for his incredible athleticism, and freakish basketball skills, we wouldn’t really know the star Westbrook as much as we like too, as other NBA stars across the nation. I could be completely wrong, but I definitely think we would hear a lot more headlines about Westbrook if he was on a more appealing, popular franchise like the Heat.   

4. Westbrook can create a new legacy with the Heat

From legendary players – Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal to modern superstars – Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh, Westbrook can be that next star in the Heat franchise.  Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to associate yourself with elite company. 

5. Play for NBA Legend Pat Riley

Westbrook can learn a lot from a former championship coach, player, and now as an executive. He can elevate his game, and continue to grow as a player with legendary company surrounding him. 

While the Russell Westbrook-Miami Heat trade is far from a done deal, it is definitely a possibility. The Heat still have many loop holes however in this trade, for they have to figure out how to maneuver their limited salary cap. 

The Nets win NBA Free Agency: Brooklyn; the Real New York

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The Nets acquired two out of the three biggest NBA free agents, Kevin Durant (left) and Kyrie Irving (right).
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images, extracted from clutchpoints.com

The Tale of Two Burroughs.

The Brooklyn Nets have made the headlines in Day 1 of free agency, acquiring one of the biggest stars – Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant. It’s a tough day for New York Knicks fans; James Dolan and Knicks’ front office, whiffed, yet again. 

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The Free Agency Frenzy begins as Kevin Durant declines player option

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It’s off to the races.

The 2019 NBA Free Agency is about to be interesting, and maybe the most intriguing ever, after news of Kevin Durant to decline his $31 million option with the Golden State Warriors. Durant is currently in New York City, to asses his Achilles injury, and now will evaluate his options for free agency.

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The Pelicans, Hawks win the 2019 NBA Draft

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New Orleans Pelicans rise up with a huge draft night and No. 1 pick Zion Williamson, just after trading their best player Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Zion Williamson, of course, was selected first overall by the Pelicans. New Orleans got their guy, but also a gang of other picks in the first, and second round.

The 2019 NBA Draft was highlighted by the number of trades that went down. New Orleans were certainly busy Thursday night, by being in several trade conversations with teams like Los Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, and the New Jersey Nets.

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How Kawhi Leonard saved the NBA

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We the north, are now, we the champions. It was a moment where you asked yourself, do you believe in miracles?!

Canada will now remember that phrase in a different perspective after winning their first NBA title in franchise history.

Leonard not only sparked his team, and changed the culture in Toronto, but impacted the NBA in a huge way. The Warriors’ dynasty might not be over just yet, but they will be a very different team next year.

The Warriors suffered catastrophic injuries and over come obstacles, but showed they could be beaten. Leonard is helping give parody back to the NBA, pointing out that Golden State isn’t completely unbeatable.

While Toronto is still celebrating, they are focusing on the NBA Free Agency avalanche coming this offseason, especially Golden State.  The ‘big 3’ in the 2019 NBA Finals’ Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson are going to be free agents.

Leonard’s situation is completely different than Durant and Thompson because of their devastating injuries in the Finals.

Durant and Thompson may have to sit out the entire 2019-2020 season, making their free agency plans a little more complicated. Rumors now are that, both players will resign, for the Warriors may look to offer both max deals.

Where will Kawhi Leonard go?

It is almost as if Leonard, in a Raptors jersey, will be now a just a memory – rather than a reality. The overwhelming feeling around the league is that he will explore free agency, and end up in another competing franchise next season.

I hope Kawhi goes to the Clippers! Even though, a part of me would like to see him stay in Toronto, but I just don’t think it will happen.

Enjoy this Toronto, because 2019 may the best year yet in the Raptors franchise.

Photo by Chensiyuan [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

The Timeout that changed the NBA Finals

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Kawhi Leonard commandeers the Toronto Raptors to the first lead change of the NBA Finals, going on a personal 10-0 run late in the 4th, only to be wiped away by a rookie coaching mistake.

Raptors’ Head Coach Nick Nurse calls timeout for the Golden State Warriors?

Nick Nurse calls a timeout late in the game, just after Leonard puts on an absolute clinic, destroying all the momentum for the Raptors.

It is like icing your ownkicker. Who ices their own kicker?

Nurse was asked about the timeout during the postgame press conference, and he pointed his motive due to a recent NBA rule in 2017.

Raptors coach explained that the team had two free timeouts, only to lose one in the final three minutes, due to the new NBA Rule. He thought it was a good time to give his team rest.

Seriously?

Rest is not an excuse for calling that timeout, at that situation, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Maybe, if it was during regular season, then sure give your players some ‘rest’, (in that small duration of a timeout) but not the Finals.

I have respect for Nurse, and what he accomplished in his first season as head coach, but that timeout was huge rookie mistake. He will have to learn the hard way, that putting the gas pedal on your opponent is a must, in not only basketball, but in all sports.

The Raptors will have to start finding momentum back somehow, with taking advantage against a Warriors team without their superstar Kevin Durant.

It looks like the Warriors gambled with their decision to play Durant in Game 5, re-aggravating his injury early in the game. This was an extremely emotional point in the game, from fans cheering him off the court to condolences from Drake.

Shout out to KD, hoping for a speedy recovery.

Can the Raptors capture momentum back without Kevin Durant for the rest of the Finals?

Photo by Chensiyuan [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

No Durant, no problem; Warriors eliminating ‘parody’ in the NBA

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The Golden State Warriors finally found themselves to be vulnerable in the postseason without arguably the best player the NBA, Kevin Durant. James Harden and his Houston Rockets, however, failed to seize the opportunity against a team that rarely has any weaknesses.

The defending champs again will themselves to another western conference final, after taking down the Rockets in Game 6. It was a jubilation for the Warriors, for the first time, they were doubted in moving on to the next series.

What will happen to James Harden, Chris Paul, and the Rockets is another story.

The Portland Trailblazers are finding themselves in a similar position as the Rockets, for they had an opportunity to win Game 2 on Thursday night at Oracle Arena, with an 8-point lead late in the second half. The Warriors of course, willed their way to another comeback, going on a 14-2 run to the end game.

I thought for a second, that the Warriors could actually fall to the Trailblazers, if they split the series before going back to Portland. Man, what a joke that was.

Just as I told myself before, and that this has been a theme in the NBA: there is no more parody.

NBA fans are excited for next season for a few reasons, one mainly is the impact of free agency, for there are many big free agents in the market this offseason. Another reason to get excited is the debut of Zion Williamson.

These are fun things to think about, but the lack of parody and desire to be a competitive league, is more interesting to me. After this season, I see the Warriors’ dominance take to another level.

Kevin Durant has not said anything at all about his future, who many reportedly think he will in a New York Knick or New Jersey Nets uniform next year. If this is true, will this make an impact in the NBA next year?

Durant will get another ring with the Warriors, and then adhere to his personal motives with a max contract elsewhere. I think other big free agents like Durant, are looking to make a big splash in free agency, rather than focus on going somewhere that could actually be a championship contender.

Possible free agent/destinations for 2019

1.    Kevin Durant – New York Knicks/New Jersey Nets

2.    Kyrie Irving – Los Angeles Lakers/New York Knicks or New Jersey Nets

3.    Anthony Davis – Boston Celtics

4.    Kawhi Leonard – Toronto Raptors

5.    De Marcus Cousins – not Golden State Warriors

Besides Leonard possibly resigning with Toronto, and Davis shipping to Boston, most of the big free agents in 2019 are looking to get paid. This means they will seek elsewhere in order to receive a max contract.

It will be interesting to see where Klay Thompson goes next season, but he could easily resign with the Warriors to add to their dynasty run. I also believe Draymond Green finds a way to stay in the Bay Area, which he seems to be in happy place stepping in for Durant.

So now we know, the Golden State Warriors will be officially unstoppable, and might not be beaten for another 5-6 years.

Photo by Noah Salzman [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Does the NBA play defense anymore?

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The Orlando Magic routed the Atlanta Hawks 149-113 Friday night, turning in on just at the right time for the playoffs, but the Hawks’ high scoring effort is anything but an asterisk this season. Let’s take a look at all of the scores from the NBA last night.

The NBA had 13 games on Friday, and yet every single winner managed to score over 100. In fact, the loser in each match up practically put up 100 points.

Even the low-tier teams in the league like the Kings, Knicks, and Lakers contributed to the high scoring barrage. All season long the NBA has had tremendous offensive stats, also meaning the defense has been atrocious, maybe the worst in the past decade.

The basketball world will somehow defend the NBA and the lack of defense, saying that this is a new league and how it is evolving into more of an offensive game. I could agree with this in some instances, but if you just watch some of these games, players don’t rush to get back on defense.

When I watch football, I am obviously not hoping for a 9-6 game…but who wants to see a “Pro Bowl-like” defensive effort…which is basically squat.

I’m a huge fan of James Harden and his game, but we rarely see highlights of him on defense. This is fine for some individual players, point guards on offensive, but as a whole the NBA is lacking effort.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the no.1 MVP candidate right now, and rightfully so, because he is one of the best two way players in the game. He is someone who does it on both ends of the floor, he slams it home, then sprints back on defense to make an incredible block.

Will players like Antetokounmpo and the likely no. 1 draft pick, Zion Williamson, help balance the NBA?

Photo by Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Sports Mania that is March

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We tend to forget that spring is more than just the blossoming of nature, it is also a time for blooming activity and play, such as sports. This season is mainly associated with America’s favorite past time, but also is a hub for soccer, hockey, and basketball.

With the tradition of opening day baseball, and all the hype that sports fans have for college basketball in March, we occasionally overlook other headlines happening. Along with the MLB, the MLS has also begun their season, and with much more hype that the game of soccer is evolving in the US.

With a just a month away from playoffs, this is a pivotal time for the NHL, as well as the NBA.

It is an exciting time watching teams fighting, clawing to make the post season. If you’re a Los Angeles Lakers fan, or maybe a Chicago Blackhawks admirer, then it might be another story.

Who’s in, and who’s out?

LAFC, a prominent new franchise in Los Angeles, exceeded expectations last year in their 2018-2019 inaugural season. Wining over 16 games, and scoring over 57 points overall in the MLS standings, for the LAFC was a great achievement.

Being an LAFC fan, I was bummed out when the team got knocked out by Real Salt Lake 2-3 in their first playoff game. It ended with a late goal by Salt Lake, being significant to the team, and how they lost some of their games this season.

I believe that LAFC will make playoffs again, but will hard to repeat such expectations for last year.

There is a bevy of sports to watch right now, and AAF will help relief your football grieving. The Alliance of American Football, has been pleasantly surprising to the football world.

Critics and skeptics rather took notice to some of the rule changes, especially the kick off in the AAF.

It is somewhat a mixture of Arena Football and the CFL, but also unique itself. The lack of kickoffs, is a major step toward making a safer game; the new rule changes give the NFL something to think about on their emphasis on player safety. The other shining element people are attracted to from AAF, is that it is an opportunity for great players to exploit their play.

There are many former NFL players in the new and upcoming game, witch makes it fun to watch. Former pros and college stars, make it interesting to see how the players react to yet, another chance in football.

What teams are going to bloom this March?

Photo by Keenan Hairston from Raleigh [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons