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2014 FIBA World Cup: Three Euro-based players with NBA futures

By: Kamal Hylton (@KamalHylton) Throughout the 2014 FIBA World Cup there have been some stellar performances from quite a few players that are currently on NBA rosters. These are players we’re well familiar with, or in some cases will get familiar with them if/when they decide to come to North America. What I’d like to focus on in this piece are three players that currently play in Europe and would be a great fit in the NBA. There are a few others that are worth keeping an eye on and showed themselves well in moments, but these three were fairly consistent for their teams and proved vital figures in important games.

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Sneaker Watch: Adidas Crazylight Boost

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Adidas have unveiled the new, amazing ‘Crazylight Boost’ sneaker for Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.

The new sneaker pays homage to the Blazers Point Guard, with the colourway of Purple, Red & Black nodding at Lillards College colours of Weber State and his NBA home of Portland. Lillard’s nickname of ‘DAME’ is also incorporated into the shoe with the ‘E’ in the name using the 3 stripes of Adidas. Neat.

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FIBA World Cup: Brazil dominate rivals and Boomers come up short

By: Kamal Hylton (@KamalHylton)

Yesterday’s knockout games were good, but today’s games were even better! Providing excitement and drama in two games that were billed as interesting clashes.

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FIBA World Cup: Splash Bros. highlight beginning of knockout stages

By: Kamal Hylton (@KamalHylton)

Group stage play is now behind us, a part of the competition that had some interesting teams, moments and games.

This included the upset of the tournament with Senegal defeating a major European nation in Croatia 77-75, the Philippines ending a 40-year drought in major FIBA competition with a 81-79 win against Senegal and arguably the most entertaining group stage game in Australia defeating Lithuania 82-75

Now we’re in the business end of the tournament, where terms like ‘win or go home’ or ‘survive and advance’ have a true meaning.

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ertuetyu

Kevin Durant Looks Exactly Like Terry Crews In The New NBA 2K15 Game

Say what you will about video game technology nowadays, they’re usually pretty spot on. Especially the folks at 2K Sports who produce the wildly popular NBA 2K series. Unfortunately, the first look at virtual MVP and cover star Kevin Durant looks a little bit more like Thunder center Kendrick Perkins’ and movie star Terry Crews’ lovechild. Regardless, we’re looking forward to the game which is due out later this year. 

In case you didn’t know already, Terry Crews is this guy:

Terry-Crews-3



143297

Tag Team Title

Time for my Week 2 Friday Feature time and believe it or not the number two plays an enormous part in the entirety of this article.

If anyone was paying attention to a tweet I sent out earlier in the week, you may know where this is heading.

For those of you not hanging on my every tweet, I’ve decided to at least give you an inclination.

Screen shot 2014-08-13 at 9.05.59 PM

 

 

 

 

All right now that everyone has seen the above reference I guess the cat is out of the bag. For some unbeknown reason, perhaps it is the lack of basketball, I have watched an abundance of WWE over the past fortnight.

I hand on my heart can say that I have watched more in this timeframe than I ever have in any part of my life.

Am I ashamed of this fact?

You better believe I’m not.

Now I’ll happily admit that modern WWE isn’t as good as years gone by but it was never going to be. I mean the bar was raised to unfathomable heights thanks to the likes of The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and The Rock.

Again, I’m managing to ramble on about irrelevant information so I guess a point is necessary at some stage.

With reference to my above tweet, I’m trying my hand at comparing some of the all time great WWE Tag Team partnerships to some of the most formidable NBA Duos.

Some of these were easier to come by however some really took a bit of time researching, both on the Internet and playing Xbox1.

 

The one that came to me in an instant was the most damaging duo that exists within the NBA right now2. The run and gun is slicker than oil and the air with which they carry themselves is unrivalled. Of course I’m talking about none other than Oklahoma’s Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook.

One story that makes the following comparison seem more fitting is a steel cage match from the 2001 Survivor Series. The Dudley Boyz put their WCW title on the line against the Hardy Boyz3. With Matt safely out of the cage, Jeff had the chance to escape, instead opting to Swanton Bomb his way back into the cage and effectively out of the match.

As frustrating as this was, it’s hard not to be captivated by the moment and how insanely awesome it was. Jeff Hardy perfectly encapsulates Russell Westbrook; he was flashy and colorful but took risks that at times simply weren’t needed.

If you haven’t seen it, or cannot remember the steel cage match I’ve taken the liberty of including the link below.

http://www.wwe.com/videos/the-hardy-boyz-vs-the-dudley-boyz-tag-team-championship-unification-steel-cage-m-26050642

 

Whenever the topic of greatest NBA duos is brought up there is one pairing that reigns supreme. Two of the greatest 30 players of all time, none other than Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen4. They wreaked havoc on the league on their way to capturing 6 titles and were as close to unstoppable as there has ever been within our great league.

With that in mind, this comparison actually is pretty straightforward. If Jordan and Pippen are the greatest NBA duo of all time then their WWE counterpart can only be the current record holders for the single longest tag title reign & most combined days as champions; Demolition.

They made Tag Team title contenders look like boys amongst men much the same way as Jordan and Pippen did, there will always be others who will contend but in the end the champions always stand the tallest.

 

After spending a few quality hours playing some more Xbox, I came to the conclusion that the next pairing is seriously lethal. By themselves they are as fearsome as they come but when paired up the fear inside reaches critical levels. Known as the Brothers of Destruction, Undertaker and Kane dismantled any wrestlers who were brave (or dumb?) enough to get into the ring with them.

They simply towered over opponents and had next to no holes in their game. The best big man combination that comes to mind is Tim Duncan and David Robinson. I may be cheating a little with this one but I am only going off of one NBA Season (1997/98), why you may ask – because it’s my article. That’s why.

During this season the Admiral and Big Fundamental combined for 3,305 points – 1,752 boards – 423 assists and 517 stocks. Those numbers are absurd and show the complete dominance they had over the league. By themselves they could more than capably get the job done, but when teamed up they were a complete nightmare.

 

Now it wouldn’t be a decent comparison article if I only did players of the last 20 years.

So what I will bring to you is my final pairing.

 

I love nothing more than putting on one of my many DVDs of games from the 70s and 80s and watching how different the game was back then to how it is now. The same can be said for the WWE, ashamedly I do not own quite nearly enough DVDs of old school wrestling than what I would like.

However the beauty of this day and age is that anything can be found on the Internet. I have watched hours of footage of a Tag Team pairing named Valiant Brothers, who back in the early 1970s held the title for 370 days, which was the record up until Demolition knocked them of their perch.

When I think of early 70s NBA a fair few superstar names come to mind but the one pairing who are an extremely close second in terms of all-time greatness can be the Bucks combination of Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.

They carried the Bucks organization to an NBA Title and an enthralling 7 game battle in another NBA Finals. The beauty of Oscar and Kareem was that there games were so far ahead of their times which was the exact same as the Valiant Brothers. This helped them to achieve the greatness they thoroughly deserved.

 

Well there you have it, my second Friday feature and if your not enjoying the interesting spin I’m trying to bring this offseason then let me know about it.

Although I have a few ideas for upcoming articles, if you have anything interesting then let me know.

Stay tuned.

 

1One of my greatest writers block techniques is playing NBA on the Xbox or playing any game I am trying to write about. Don’t believe me? Try it out one day.

2If you try and say that KD+RW aren’t the most lethal duo right now, you are clinically insane.

3I miss the early 2000s and being able to put a Z instead of an S and this be considered cool.

4Nobody was keen to argue with me about Pippen being a top 30 so you better believe I’m going to mention this as many times as humanly possible



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All You Need Is Love

Kevin Love will opt out of his current deal and head to Cleveland, in a deal said to be agreed upon by the Cavaliers and the Timberwolves early this morning.

According to multiple sources, the 25 year old Wolves All Star is finally getting his wish, and will be traded to the already stacked Cleveland Cavaliers after the August 23 rookie contract deadline. The block buster trade will see Love head to Northeast Ohio while 2014 number one pick Andrew Wiggins and 2013 number on pick Anthony Bennett will take their talents to Minnesota, along with a protected future first round pick.

LeBron James, who had preached patience and leadership with his young Cavs team just last month, is evidently far removed from his initial outlook, and very much dedicated to the Cavs competing for a title this coming season. In a report earlier this week, we learned that James had instigated no contact with his young rookies, including Andrew Wiggins, and was fully invested in the pursuit of Kevin Love.

Patience and leadership be damned. 

Kevin Love has spent much of his career trying to lead an underwhelming Wolves team into the playoffs, but despite his best efforts, has never been able to drag them into the post season. His inclusion alongside James, point guard Kyrie Irving, shooting guard Dion Waiters and center Anderson Varejao will most certainly turn heads next season, with the Cavs the far and away favorites to take out the East in 2015.

But while this is a super team in every aspect of the phrase, there are many questions to be answered. Love and Irving have both succumbed to injury clouds throughout their careers, while defense isn’t a strong point either. Will these factors become an issue for the Cavs? Coupled with serious depth issues at multiple spots, and the inevitable question of chemistry, there is every chance this team won’t produce to the extent many expect. 

LeBron James is again sitting atop the pile in terms of favoritism, and the Cavs have completed an NBA summer heist of mammoth proportions, but one does begin to question the validity of his true metal. We really have never seen LeBron stick it out through the hard times, and drag a team out of mediocrity to the top before. I for one, would have loved to see that from him in Miami – Or to a further extent, Cleveland in 2010. But here we are.

Regardless of what happens in Cleveland, there will be excitement in Minnesota, with the acquisition of Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine undoubtedly providing their long-suffering fans with something to cheer about. Wiggins is an out and out talent, with a ceiling unparalleled by any draft prospect in recent memory and while the Wolves may have a long road ahead of them, they’ve at least gained something special from the loss of Kevin Love. 

Will the Cavs come to rue the day they traded Andrew Wiggins? Impossible to say, but for now, they’re in the box seat and LeBron James is once again the cream of Cleveland’s crop. 



MJ

Legendary Tales

This is only the beginning; I am planning on releasing a feature article every week and am going to try my best to ensure they are released at the same time. Friday mornings to ensure your day begins the right way and gets you primed for the upcoming weekend.

All right enough screwing around, lets get stuck in.

Granted this story will refer several times to the latest Hercules movie I tried my best to not divulge too many spoilers, actually if you are worried about this article potentially ruining your movie going experience you can rest easy.

After watching Hercules a few nights ago, the movie made a fascinating point. Although the legendary tales would have you believe that Hercules himself conquered the Twelve Labors, he actually had a band of battle hardened mercenaries helping him to complete the task.

Now I can see you sitting there reading this and thinking to yourself “what the hell does this have to do with the NBA?”

Short answer: Everything! (it literally has everything to do with the NBA).

Don’t believe me?

I’ve only written 117 words, give me a bit more time.

I consider myself to be an extremely lucky individual to have been able to grow up and watch the greatest player who has ever graced the hardwood ply his trade.

Granted I was only 9 when the Bulls completed their second three-peat but I can vividly remember watching some of these games with my brother.

With the age that we now live in, everything is available on DVD and having these readily available also makes it easier to take a look back through the ages and watch the master at work.

If you haven’t twigged on to who I am talking about, seriously if you haven’t then you may need to book yourself in for a psych test, it can be the one and only; Michael Jordan.

Still lost? Don’t worry we are slowly getting there.

Throughout history the stories of Michael Jordan have become the stuff of legends, much along the same lines as Hercules.

Taking absolutely nothing away from Jordan, I don’t know if that’s even possible to do, but if you didn’t know any better you’d bet good money after hearing some stories that Jordan single handedly destroyed the great teams of the 90s.

After watching the movie I left with little doubt that Hercules is as close to indestructible as anyone has ever been, but even this man needed the help of others to conquer the tasks laid out ahead of him.

Jordan was exactly the same, yes he was extremely blessed to be placed into the correct situation but he worked as hard as any man ever has to get his name where it belongs.

Ok, now lets get into some comparisons.

Hercules’ right hand man Autolycus was every bit as good of a warrior as the great man himself but never received the unbelievable accolades.

Michael Jordan’s right hand was, and is, still considered to be one of the 301 greatest players to ever play the game, of course I’m talking about Scottie Pippen. The man put his heart and soul on the line and loved going to battle perhaps more so than what Jordan did.

Now every great man needs a loyal warrior by his side, essentially an attack dog, in the movie Tydeus is discovered by Hercules in a burnt down village and although he never speaks he listens intently to his masters every word. He is feared by everyone else but is known to be as loyal a warrior as they come and no man fits this decription better than Dennis Rodman. Honestly, the man was, as close to insane as a human can possibly be but you just knew that he would have done anything had MJ given the orders.

Unfortunately, one of Hercules’ mercenaries was a woman which makes it kind of tough to somehow relate this to an NBA player but I think I pulled this off. 2

Atalanta is as tough as they come and isn’t afraid to let the boys know all about it, she’s a sharp shooting archer who could hit an apple on top of a cow’s head from 1,000,000 miles away. Every great team needs this type of long range assassin and a reliable one at that and there was no better player that garnered more of MJs trust than Steve Kerr, a man similar to Atalanta who wasn’t afraid to stand up when needed.

If you’ve seen the movie then you already know about Amphiaraus and his unique prophetic abilities. A man known to be able to speak to the gods and advise his adversaries about what paths may lay ahead, Michael Jordan was extremely blessed to have a Zen Master sitting courtside to help him out. Phil Jackson is one of the greatest coaches of all time and had an innate ability to be able to have his troops ready for any situation that they may have faced.

Now we all know that the only way for a legends tales to become so fabled amongst us mere mortals is for avid storytellers to continue preaching the stories of times past.

Iolaus is the cousin of Hercules and although he isn’t a warrior like some of the aforementioned names he is as big a piece of the puzzle than any of them. I’m not saying that Michael Jordan wouldn’t be as big as he is today if it wasn’t for a few storytellers, but did any man bring more spotlight onto the half man/half god of the NBA world than Sam Smith when he released his infamous book The Jordan Rules.

After having gone through all of this, I racked my brain trying to come up with a better NBA/Mythological comparison than MJ and Hercules.

Don’t even bother trying to come up with a better one; it doesn’t exist.3

Michael Jordan is as great, if not better, than any story you will ever hear any man tell. But if it wasn’t for the mercenaries he had on his side and at his disposal would the tales have been as legendary?

I also have to give a massive hat-tip to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson for becoming bigger than the Hulk. Seriously at one point you can see stretch marks on his shoulders, the man literally is too big for his own body!

Well there you have it, my first routine weekly feature for this brilliant website.

Not happy with it? Let me know, don’t worry I can handle criticism.

James McKern

@jLmcKern

1Please someone disagree with my Pippen being a top 30 all time claim, I’d love to have a discussion/argument about this.

2Apologise goes out to Steve Kerr for comparing you to a woman; in fairness she isn’t any woman. She’d comfortably kick my ass.

3If you did somehow manage to come up with a better comparison, I would honestly love to hear it.



NBA: Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Lakers

The Curious Case Of Kobe Bryant

It wasn’t long ago. June 2010, and Los Angeles was in a state of euphoria. The Lakers had just won the NBA Championship on their home floor, in game 7 against a tough Boston Celtics squad, and had ambitions of their second three-peat under the guidance of Phil Jackson. There was hysteria at the Staples Center as Kobe Bryant celebrated his 5th title, and the Lakers were once again sitting atop the NBA pile, victorious for the 16th time in their history.

No one could have predicted what would unfold for this franchise, and its superstar over the next four years. It’s a story that will be written in the annals of basketball history, and studied throughout the years as a piece of Lakers folklore that is just as culturally important, although not as successful, as the Showtime Lakers of the 1980’s or the Shaq and Kobe era during the early 2000’s. As any Lakers fan will tell you, the unwavering love for the ball club is second to none, but this is a story that has tested, and will continue to test even the most hardened fans.

A second round exit to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in 2011 would set in motion a series of events for the Los Angeles Lakers that would render them unable to compete for a title for years, and put the franchise in a state of flux from which they are yet to pull themselves. The lockout, the nixed Chris Paul deal, the Dwight Howard saga, numerous coaching debacles and injury have all been a part of a period in Lakers history which many will be happy to see the end of. Even if it takes years.

Perhaps the most intriguing, and equally tragic element in the Lakers downfall however, is the final phase of their superstar and leader, Kobe Bryant’s career.

An 18-year veteran, Bryant has endured both good times and bad in his years with the Lakers, but none so much as the current challenges he faces in the twilight of his much decorated time at the top. Five Championships, two finals MVP’s and a league MVP, two scoring titles, sixteen All Star selections, 4th highest scorer in NBA history (soon to be third) and countless other accolades have cemented Bryant as one of the top 10 players of all time, but now, in his (presumably) final two years, perhaps his greatest challenge awaits.

His horrific Achilles injury in 2013 had the NBA world questioning whether he’d ever be the player he was again, given the history of the injury he sustained that April night at Staples Center seldom yields positive results. He returned for 6 games in December (averaging a respectable 13.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game) before a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau (knee) forced the Lakers to sit Bryant for the remainder of a season already lost, and hope their star would be ready come October 2014.

And ready he is. Working himself back into game-ready shape, and by all accounts, looking good. Kobe Bryant will be fit, healthy and ready to go come opening night.

The off season hasn’t panned out quite as the Lakers had hoped. After locking up Kobe for two more years with a much criticized $48 million contract, they aimed at big time free agents Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, and missed out on both. Instead the results this summer have been, while solid, relatively underwhelming. Additions have included Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, and 7th overall pick Julius Randle, while also re-signing the likes of Nick Young, Ryan Kelly and Jordan Hill. A roster that, while maybe not title-winning in stature, will provide Bryant with some reasonable company until next summer when the team will have numerous free agency targets.

A veritable gold-mine for those who subscribe to the notion that other stars are against playing with Kobe, the Lakers inability to lock down their targets in free agency has become more about the veteran and his stubborn ways than it has about the team, and what playing in Los Angeles can do for a player, even beyond basketball. In that, it is important to remember that the Lakers, while a desirable destination no matter which way you view things, have never used free agency as a means of re-tooling. Throughout the past 18 years, there are few occasions whereby the team has acquired talent via free agency, preferring trades as a means of improvement.

But with 2 picks in 2015, and a top 5 protected lottery opportunity, being awful may not be so bad for the Lakers next season – The issue is, however, Kobe. To assume a guy like Bryant will be happy with losing in his final years to better the team going forward, is naive. Call him selfish, but at this point, he’s earned the right. You can bet the house that with everything he’s faced this past 15 months, there is a fire burning under Kobe Bryant, and despite the burden on his shoulders, he’ll be there on opening night, ready to lead his team out of mediocrity and back into the spotlight. The questions that need to be answered will be in due time, and whether he proves you wrong or right, there must be a level of respect for a man who has given his whole self to the game of basketball.

The debate continues to rage surrounding Kobe, and if he’ll still be able to contribute to the Lakers going forward, but while his Championship window is as good as closed, there is still plenty left in the tank. The fact is, that while many continue to doubt Kobe’s ability, he continues to set the bar in terms of how his competition readies itself – His tenacious, obsessive commitment to self-improvement and unrelenting competitiveness are testament enough to the fact that Kobe Bryant, no matter what, will always make a difference.

He’s got his doubters, and he has his critics, but the interesting thing about Bryant is his willingness to embrace it and use it as a means to compete. Fuel for the fire burning inside him. Yes, he is in his twilight years and the Lakers simply cannot rely on him alone to lead them back to title contention, but surely it’s more admirable for a man who has been the cornerstone of the franchise for near on 20 years to stand up and fight than it is to admit defeat and retreat into the shadows. As much as he would disagree, Kobe’s greatest challenge now is not winning a sixth title, or another MVP award, but ensuring his legacy is solidified, his name immortalized and shrouded in purple and gold with both the lovers and the haters firmly intact. They’ve all made him who he is today, and I’m sure he’d credit each and every one of you equally.

But be that as it may, there is still a task at hand, and in Bryant’s mind, it’s still fair game. Will the Lakers be atop the pile in these, an all time great’s final years at the helm? It’s unlikely, but you’d be a fool to think Kobe won’t die trying.



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2014 NBA Summer League: UCONN’s DeAndre Daniels proving a smart pick by Raptors

By: Kamal Hylton (@KamalHylton)

While all the attention from draft night to summer league for the Toronto Raptors has been on its 20th overall selection in 18-year-old Brazilian Bruno Caboclo, second round selection in 37th overall pick DeAndre Daniels has been making a impression of his own.

The 6-foot-nine forward out of University of Connecticut finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds in his last summer league game, a 64-60 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. He has shown consistency over the course of the tournament hitting the outside shot, stretching the floor and playing solid defence.

Along with selecting Caboclo, the Raptors have gotten considerably longer with the selection of Daniels. Possessing two players that have well over a 7-foot wingspan and help upgrade its parameter defence.

Other that his ability to shoot, Daniels has also made an impact doing the little things like hitting the boards, showing the willingness to guard multiple positions and running the break.

It will be interesting to see how head coach Dwayne Casey and the Raptors brass approach developing Daniels going forward, he might have to follow the path one of his teammates did in their rookie season in Terrence Ross.

The 8th overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft spent the majority of his time on a watching brief, only recently after the Rudy Gay trade was a position and enough minutes made available and he was able to make a name for himself attacking the rim and hitting shots from beyond the arc.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if much of Daniels rookie campaign was spent on a similar watching assignment, developing on the practice court and getting the majority of his playing time in the D-League only shuffling back and forth when needed. This is a formula that has proven to work in the league, some teams like the defending champion San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder having this down to a science with proven success.

On a team like the Raptors, although they have two very talented players in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry as the main options, success comes in a team orientated style.

Both Daniels and Caboclo have had their share of struggles , but have shown a lot more positives than negatives and will be worth keeping an eye on for the future of the Raptors.