LeBron James at Dodger Stadium No Longer A Dream

lebron-james-4

On July 1, 2018 LeBron James signed a 4-year $154 million deal to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.

A monumental moment is sports history, indeed.

What follows for King James and the Lakers will only take the two brands to unprecedented heights. A dream come true for the purple and gold faithful. It all starts with the picture of LeBron holding up his Lakers jersey for the first time while standing next to legendary Magic Johnson at the introductory press conference. A jersey that will likely sell out faster than any other jersey ever before. Next will come LeBron’s first game, first point, first dunk, first win, fourth championship, and so on and so forth. All of it being captured as another chapter to the career of arguably the greatest player in NBA history.

But let’s make one thing clear.

Nothing will be more monumental than LeBron’s ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium in a Los Angeles Dodgers jersey.

LeBron will never feel more welcomed to Los Angeles until he gets the standing ovation at the Chavez Ravine. He will feel the pressure of winning a championship, sure, but the pressure of delivering a strike in front of 50,000-plus fans in one of the most iconic jerseys, in one of the most iconic stadiums, in American sports history is a different beast. LeBron will take pride in wearing Dodger Blue. The man knows the significance. One can only hope he throws from the mound but making that pitch in a Jackie Robinson No.42 jersey would be all kinds special.

That’s where I want to be. The first time LeBron gets his official welcome from Los Angeles, gets a picture taken with the current king of LA, Clayton Kershaw, and it better be on July, 13, 14, or 15, against the Angels so all their fans can once and for all realize there’s only one team in Southern California that people actually care about.

Advertisements

Harden’s MVP is Another Win for Seattle

james_harden_rockets_best_record

Try to imagine your favorite professional sports team uprooting the franchise for an entirely different State, City, and then for good measure changing the team colors and nickname that you rocked for years with a pride unlike any other.

Most of us can’t imagine that, right?

But we can sympathize for those who have gone through it, Seattle, is the first team that comes to mind. The city lost the Supersonics after the 2008 season when they booked a one-way ticket to Oklahoma City and changed their name to the Thunder. Despite not having a team to root for the last decade, Seattle, has had the one team who’s been the most fun to root against, if you’re a Seattleite.

The Thunder have made four Western Conference Finals appearances, one NBA Finals appearance, while drafting three NBA MVPs, and one of the three has two NBA Finals MVP awards on his resume. The Thunder are the first franchise in NBA History to draft future MVPs in three consecutive seasons. (Via @ESPNStatsInfo on Twitter). Now that sounds unbearable if you’re a Supersonics fan but Oklahoma City doesn’t have an NBA championship to show for which has allowed Seattle to bask in the glory of every mishap the Thunder have taken in the last ten years.

On Monday night, Seattle was basking again.

James Harden took home his first NBA MVP award at the NBA awards show on TNT, the former Oklahoma City Sixth man of the year, now, Houston Rockets guard who averaged 30.4 points per game and 8.8 assists per game. Oklahoma City traded Harden in 2012 after falling to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals in five games. Just a few weeks ago, the Golden State Warriors won their second of back-to-back NBA championships with Kevin Durant taking home a consecutive Finals MVP award, the former NBA MVP of the Oklahoma City Thunder (2013-14 season). Durant left the Thunder in free agency in the summer of 2016 after falling to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals in seven games, despite leading the series 3-1. This all happening one year after current Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook won his first NBA MVP award while averaging a triple-double for the (2016-2017) season.

The Seattle fans nightmare of an Oklahoma City Thunder Championship celebration came close to happening right in front of their eyes, instead, they’ve gotten to watch one of the great “What If” sports debates unfold with the rest of us. Except they’ve likely enjoyed it more than you, and I, and we can’t blame them for it. Oklahoma City is now stuck in the 90 percentile of the league on the outside looking in at a Warriors dynasty, waiting for its next turn at an NBA title run, a wait that might be long enough to see a return of the Seattle Supersonics, who don’t seem any farther away from a championship than the Thunder do these days.

 

Celtics’ 2-0 Series Lead is What Fans Should Want

lebronjames-cropped_n0yytb62v7iy1uqsuc9d1blkx

LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers are down 0-2 in the Eastern Conference finals after dropping Tuesday night’s game to the Boston Celtics, 107-94. If you’re a fan of the NBA or sports in general this is exactly what you want.

First things first, no one wants Boston to win this series outside of the fans from Boston, and the fans who fall in the MJ corner of the Jordan-LeBron debate along with the lonely handful of fans in the other corner that think Kobe Bryant got skipped over in the debate. Boston’s 2-0 series lead is fueling a fire. The fire every sports fan prays to see from their favorite player and fears to witness against their favorite team. The fire that ignited LeBron to score 21 first quarter points on 8 of 13 shooting from the field, 4 of 7 from the three-point line, tying his playoff career high for points in a single quarter.

LeBron finished with 42 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists.

That line is the standard for LeBron these days. The Cavaliers need every bit of LeBron, per usual, but especially this postseason with a rotation so thin you’d mistake them for a high school team with half its players ineligible because of bad grades. The aforementioned line should be good enough for the Cavs to win and for fans to marvel at, but it’s not. It’s the sad but honest truth. The 40-15-12 lines only have fans asking for more because a 21-point first quarter convinces us that there’s more to WITNESS.

The farther the Celtics push the Cavs to the brink, the deeper LeBron has to dig to discover new heights.

Boston can take credit for discovering the monster LeBron currently is. In 2012, in a decisive Game 6 in Boston, LeBron went for 45 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists on 19 of 26 shooting from the field which was his greatest performance to date. He’s won three NBA Championships since. Think of that as LeBron Volume 1. The 2018 Celtics injury plagued team is somehow beating the Cavs without a star and a bunch of kids who attended LeBron’s camp growing up. They could go down as the unlikeliest NBA finals team ever or the team that gives us the greatest LeBron game ever played.

LeBron might actually need to drop numbers we’ve never seen from him before to win this series. His career-high in points in 61 from a game on March 3, 2014 against the Charlotte Hornets. His career-high in rebounds is 19 against the same Hornets franchise on January 11, 2008. His career-high assists is 19 from a game earlier this year against the Atlanta Hawks on February 9, 2018. Any of those career-highs could get broken in this series against Boston or have to be if the Cavs want to make this a series.

The Celtics have a handful of players to throw at LeBron and a head coach that is considered a mad scientist in basketball circles. They held him to 15 points in Game 1 and let him score 42 in Game 2. In Game 3 LeBron could give us another 45-10-14 line or he could give us a performance that we will talk about forever and we’d only have the Celtics to than for that.

 

Utah’s Recipe to Their Game 2 Victory

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz - Game Four

The Utah Jazz defeated the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night with a score of 116-108, evening the Western Conference semis at one game apiece, 1-1. On a night when rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell fell below his season average of 20.5 points per game and finished with 17 points on 6-21 shooting from the field, Utah’s scoring load was picked up by five different players finishing in double figures, led by Joe Ingles team-high 27 points, Alec Burks (17), Jae Crowder (15), Rudy Gobert (15), and Derrick Favors (10).

Despite his poor shooting performance, Mitchell’s 11 assists were the key to the Jazz victory.

The team was without point guard Ricky Rubio for its second straight game due to a hamstring injury, a traditional point guard/hair savant who opens up passing lanes and makes everyone’s life easier on the basketball court. Mitchell took on that role in Game 2 against Houston. It was clear from the tip that Mitchell was looking to create for others and the others and himself put an emphasis on shots from behind-the-arc. The Jazz needed to be leaps and bounds better from three-point land than they were in Game 1 when they finished 7-22 to Houston’s 17-32 performance. Mitchell’s five assists and Joe Ingles 11 points including three 3-pointers found Utah leading Houston 36-28 after the first quarter.

The Jazz lead got as big as 19 points in the second quarter before entering halftime with a 64-55 lead.

A James Harden and Chris Paul led team in Houston finally took a lead halfway through the third quarter, 71-69, their first since it was 6-5 with 9:56 remaining in the first quarter. It was 86-85 in favor of Utah headed into the final 12 minutes of the game. Enter the Mitchell and Ingles duo, once again. The two combined for 16 points in the fourth quarter, split down the middle with eight apiece. The Jazz never wavered from the game plan. Mitchell added four assists in the quarter, two of which ended with an Ingles three-pointer, and on back-to-back possessions found Dante Exum in the corner for three to go ahead 95-94, and then Crowder less than a minute later from behind-the-arc to take a 98-94 lead. A lead in which Utah never gave up. The Jazz finished 15-32 from three-point land as Houston ended up going 10-37.

Defensively, Utah held Harden to 32 points on 9-22 shooting from the field, 2-10 from three, and Paul finished 8-19 from the field and 2-5 from three with 23 points.

The Teammate Test: Westbrook Or Pedroia?

Laser show

A lot has been said about Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook’s press conference with teammate Steven Adams over this past weekend, of course, and you were defending one of three sides on Monday morning, Westbrook, Adams or the columnist. A lot was also made out of the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles scuffle from over the weekend, leaving us to decide whether or not veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia handled the situation correctly after his teammate Matt Barnes decided to throw at Manny Machado in retaliation. Two different sports, one common denominator, teammates.

Here’s how the two incidents played out.

Everyone should have an opinion on the topic, we’ve all had to work with others at one point or another, whether you’ve been the one defending a teammate/coworker/friend/sibling/etc., the one being defended, the one being thrown under the bus or the one doing the throwing. Let’s dissect each situation and then decide what type of teammate you are at the end.

Let’s start with Westbrook. The question asked by the columnist was directed at Steven Adams and was most definitely fair (Columnist: +1). Westbrook interrupted the question to defend Adams and the rest of his teammates (Westbrook: +10) ten points for following rule No.1 Sec. 6.09 of the teammate rulebook. Some say Westbrook never let his teammate talk and made sure they mentioned Adams by age (23) before saying he can speak for himself, that’s true, except that same 23-year-old Adams never chose to step up and do so at any point (Adams: -1). The columnist did stand up to Westbrook by responding that he asked Steven the question (Columnist: +1). Westbrook proceeded to hit the reporter with “next question” a few times which is the most elementary way out of a question for any athlete (Westbrook: -1). The columnist genuinely sounded mad towards the end of the clip and didn’t want to give up the microphone until Adams answered his question but Adams never did give in (Columnist: -5; Adams +1). The columnist should’ve been ecstatic about the answer Westbrook gave him, which would’ve been any other reporter’s dream, instead of becoming a part of the story for getting worked up about a quote from Adams that would’ve never seen the light of day. Ultimately, Adams stayed quiet at the right time, respecting Westbrook for having his back in the first place.

FINAL: Westbrook (+9), Adams (+1), columnist (-3)

The Pedroia saga started on Friday night after Machado’s late slide put him on the shelf for the time being. Pedroia never seemed to take exception to Machado’s slide after the game, mentioning that he’s not the “baseball police” and that he didn’t have an issue with anything (Pedroia: +8). The old school approach by Pedroia was well represented after he showed no regard for the fairly new rule on slides at second base. On Sunday, the pitch was thrown by Barnes (+10) in retaliation for the slide except it was near the head of Machado (-9). Barnes had the right idea in protecting his teammate but throwing above the shoulders should be off-limits. This is where the situation gets dicey. Pedroia never publicly acknowledged Barnes for trying to back him in the moment or afterward, even though it wasn’t done correctly by his standards, he’s seen in the clip telling Machado that it wasn’t him and goes out of his way to take the others team side immediately (-5). This is rule No.6 Sec. 0.9 in the DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE section of the teammate rulebook. We don’t know what went on behind closed doors but Pedroia was probably too vocal about his teammates not handling the situation the way he would’ve done it. By the way, who made Pedroia the chief of the baseball police? Barnes never touched on Pedroia’s comments (+2) and denied any notion that he purposely threw the pitch at Machado after the game(+1). The young pitcher kept the situation in-house and bought into the must lie situation about the intent of the pitch.

FINAL: Barnes (+4), Pedroia (+3)

Now, it’s time to pick your poison. What type of teammate are you?

Clearly from the point system used above I see myself as a ton Westbrook, of course, speaking in terms of a teammate and not at all in terms of athleticism, and I’d say I’m more Barnes than Pedroia because I’d never support an opponent over my own.