My bi-weekly look at all things NBA
BLAZERS - TY LUE - NBA DRAFT - JORDAN - I.T.
By: Tracy Graven - Senior NBA Analyst
RED HOT & ROLLIN’
All due respect to Bill Schonely, I just had to borrow the phrase for my hometown Portland Trailblazers, who have arguably the hottest streak going in the league right now. Thirteen straight wins over teams that a jockeying for playoff spots in both the East and West.
While some have come against those positioning themselves for the best draft position - purposely or otherwise - some of them have been damned impressive: Beating the Heat by 16, tripping up the Warriors by six before All Star and again by 17 with both wins coming inside the comfy confines of the Moda Center.
But add to that the fact that the Blazers overcame LeBron “I have no respect for humanity” James’ dunk to open the game last Thursday and best the Cavs by eight, while wins over Minnesota and Oklahoma City were equally as impressive.
Damian Lillard, looking like a Most Valuable Player candidate in on of the NBA’s smallest markets, is sporting a 26.7 point, 6.5 assist, and 4.4 rebound stat line this season and the Blazers have a never-say-die mindset.
While that not get James to consider Portland in free agency, it certainly has the King’s attention. “Give me Damian Lillard. I’ll show you how appreciated he’ll be.”
The Blazers are perched at the No. 3 seed in the West. But to show how tenuous the West is, San Antonio sat there a mere two weeks ago - now at No. 7.
Lillard and the Blazers host James Harden and the Houston Rockets tomorrow night and the Boston Celtics on Friday. Should be a defining week for Portland.
‘HEALTH REASONS’ MY AUNT FANNY
I have spent 35+ years in the working world. I’ve used a sick day once - about a month ago when I came down with this nasty flu that’s hit nearly everyone this year.
I never get sick enough to call in, much less ‘step down.’ But when I do, I know what the hell is wrong. Even if it’s cancer, I have vowed to myself and my bosses that I will work at least until noon the day of my funeral.
But not getting sleep? Chest pains? Anxiety? That’s all part of the job in the NBA. It’s all part of the job in any line of work.
Tyronn Lue is stepping down from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coaching position temporarily to deal with some ‘health issues.’
Does that have anything to do with the screamfest between Lue and LeBron James on the Cavs bench the other night?
Starting to believe that the Deep State issue isn’t in Washington, DC - but in Cleveland, Ohio.
Conspiracy theorists have said for months that Lue is just a figurehead for James, who is truly calling the shots on the floor and on the Cleveland bench. The verbal altercation that spread like wildfire on social media did nothing to dispute that. There are those who also feel general manager Koby Altman is a likewise figurehead/fall guy for owner Dan Gilbert, who is seemingly satisfied with his one ring and no longer has a use for James.
Lue and Altman appear to be the wall between the warring Gilbert and James. President Trump wishes he had a wall this firm and reliable.
While the fallout from all this soap opera drama will most likely play out as soon as the clock strikes 12:00:01 a.m. on July 1, 2018, we hope that Lue can catch up on his rest and maybe by then, he can fully explain his health issues.
Judging by the video snippet from the other night, I’m guessing he’s hiding in a locker until free agency, hoping not to get his ass kicked by the schoolyard bully.
The Cavs will take on the Milwaukee Bucks tonight at The Q. They also host Toronto on Wednesday night and Phoenix this Friday evening. Larry Drew will replace Lue on the bench during his hiatus.
While big names like Trae Young and DeAndre Ayton were in and out of the NCAA Tournament before you could even crack open your first beer, their positions of consideration in June’s upcoming NBA Draft weren’t moved by their early exits.
I still expect Ayton to go No. 1, Marvin Bagley to go No.2, and Young to end up with the New York Knicks or Chicago Bulls.
But how fun would Young be as a Dallas Maverick? Down the road from his Norman, Oklahoma home and paired with Dennis Smith, the Mavs would have a true backcourt not seen since the days of Jason Kidd and Jimmy Jackson.
I’d say Rolando Blackmon and Derek Harper but kids these days don’t know nor understand greatness like those guys.
The lottery is lined up with big men this year, like Ayton (7’0”), Bagley (6’11”), Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson, Jr. (6’11”), Texas’ Mohamed Bamba (7’0”) and Mizzou’s Michael Porter (6’10”) who is coming back from injury just in time for the Madness.
But players from mid-level schools like Nevada and Loyola-Chicago are still dancing with the big boys from which most of your draft pool will come from. No one had a bigger game last night than Texas A&M’s 6’9” 240 lb. Robert Williams as he and the Aggies stunned last year’s National Champion North Carolina by 21 to move on to face Michigan in Los Angeles’ Staples Center this Thursday night.
Catch the guys that are still playing in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight this weekend. There are guys you’ll be talking a lot about as the Draft approaches.
Blink and they’ll be gone.
SPEAKING OF DEANDRE
Why am I the only one who thinks that DeAndre Jordan - currently languishing in L.A. without a designated State Farm agent - should be the next big thing the Knicks should be chasing?
His 2017-18 number are well ahead of his career pace and the Knicks haven’t had a big bruiser like Jordan since Patrick Ewing. I mean Tyson Chandler and Dikembe Mutombo gave plausible efforts, Amar’e Stoudemire was as undersized in New York as he was in Phoenix, and Kurt Thomas was 10x the man Joacim Noah was/is … but none of them were Ewing. Marcus Camby is as close as the Knicks got.
Granted, Jordan has a long way to go to fill the shoes of Ewing, but what a stage on which to do it. There’s none better than Madison Square Garden.
Jordan’s current contract has a player option this summer. While he may be regretting what he did to Mark Cuban and the Mavs, he’s certainly not going to be happy in L.A. without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin there. Even if you use $24,119,025 as tissues, you’ll eventually run out.
No money and no ring.
And Jordan could be a hell of a draw to someone like LeBron James this summer.
(Finally. Jordan and James in a sentence that doesn’t ignite a G.O.A.T. Twitter storm).
Forget Jordan to Cleveland when both could shine in the revival of the storied Knicks franchise. Factor in Kristaps Porzingis playing at the ‘4’ and the exciting play of a drafted Trae Young getting worked in alongside guys like Tim Hardaway, Jr. or Frank Ntilikina or Emmanuel Mudiay (one or two would most certainly go in such a trade) and the Knicks could have a reversal of fortune faster than - pardon the pun - a New York Minute.
You could fire Jeff Hornacek. Keep Jeff Hornacek. Or do what they do in Cleveland and pretend Hornacek is the coach and listen to LeBron James running the show.
Regardless, it would make New York Knickerbockers basketball fun again. Relevant again.
In the meantime, the irrelevant version of your New York Knicks play Da Bulls tonight in MSG before heading on the road to take on the Miami Heat on Wednesday and back to the Garden to face Minnesota on Friday.
Those teams have solid big men (Hassan Whiteside, Karl Anthony Towns). The Knicks have Kyle O’Quinn and Enes Kanter.
They need DJ.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
It’s no secret that Isaiah Thomas is missing Boston. So much so that it’s rumored that he may be headed back to the Land of Green as soon as next season.
Feeling very under-appreciated from being traded, from 15 games in Cleveland where he never fit, and in Los Angeles where he’s definitely not a Sixth Man, it’d take more than a fan coaxing on Twitter to get Thomas back in shamrock green.
That under appreciation stigma started with Danny Ainge, who traded Thomas to get his hands-on Kyrie Irving. Who could blame Ainge? Irving has proven his worth and helped in the maturation and assimilation of guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
But there a hundred different ways he could have handled it. Thomas proved his worth as well. And he was endeared to the fans because Thomas bled green. After being bounced around from three seasons in Sacramento and then 46 games in guard-heavy Phoenix, Thomas genuinely found a home in Boston.
Though he is posting numbers this season (15.3 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.1 rpg) below his career averages of 18.9 points, 5.1 dimes, and 2.6 rebounds, let me remind you this cat is coming off hip surgery. You may recall that hip injuries and breaks are what take down many of our parents and grandparents. They’re not turf toe.
And Paul George isn’t exactly who he was pre-injury … yet teams like Thomas’ Lakers are clamoring for him. Perspective. We all need it. And I.T. just needs a little love. Maybe it’s in Boston, maybe it’s elsewhere.
His current team, the Los Angeles Lakers, travel to face George’s former team in Indianapolis tonight, and then travel to the Big Easy to take on Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans this Thursday night.
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