Am I Wrong ?

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By Stefan Anderson

The annual free agency period normally creates a domino effect, where the biggest star on the market garners the attention of his desired team, then all of the remaining options follow suit. This year’s was a bit different–more like a complicated game of dominoes. Each team made its moves and the important piece, Kevin Durant, put his block on the game with his signing with the Golden State Warriors.

Durant joins the historic Golden State Warriors after they fell to Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. Similar to James in 2010, Durant is leaving his beloved Oklahoma City to chase the Larry O’Brien trophy.  In his short career, the Texas product has earned an MVP trophy, multiple scoring titles and Olympic gold medals but still lacks the most important piece to his resume, an NBA championship.

The 2013-14 MVP has been ridiculed for making his decision to join a team that just won 73 games, was a game away from earning their second consecutive championship– a team that his former team the Thunder, was one game away from beating as well. Since 2012, when the Thunder were defeated in the Finals by another super team, the Miami Heat, they have seen the Western Conference Finals twice and been knocked off both times.

Boston’s big three in 2008, the team that birthed this new era of super teams was formulated after Kevin Garnett, the Wolves’ biggest star to date, and Sonics standout Ray Allen forced a trade out of their respective teams and gathered savvy vets to help them meet their goal of winning a championship for Boston. When Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh teamed up to form the Heatles, it was for the same goal and they accomplished it twice. The lament for Durant can be understood. Ultimately he made the best basketball decision for himself as he stated in his Players Tribune essay.

If you look at it from a larger scale ,each of the last 10 champions in the NBA have all had 2-3 potential Hall of Famers and/or great supporting casts. A special consideration to Cleveland and Golden State because we cannot project where Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving will finish, but they will all have a pretty good shot at it.

San Antonio (2014), Miami (2013, 2012), Dallas (2011), LA Lakers (2010, 2009), Boston(2008), San Antonio (2007), Miami (2006).

After looking at those rosters, look how many of the same teams were formed because great players understand that after battling for so many years and not achieving the ultimate goal of winning the NBA Finals, you have join another team to do so. Elder fans scream “Barkley would never have teamed up with Jordan,” but  he did team up Hakeem and Clyde after losing year after year to them.  They say “Magic would never join Bird,” but fail to reference the other teams that won during the 80’s like the Philadelphia 76ers with two NBA MVP’s and the Bad Boy Pistons that collected a ton of Hall-of-Famers on their roster, to dethrone the alpha-dogs, Lakers and Celtics. Also see these Lakers and Celtics.

The Warriors were organically grown into their position, by drafting their core players, by being bad for many years to now climbing out the bottom of the West and becoming a powerhouse. A star like Durant, who is still in his prime after bringing Oklahoma City up from the pits to contender, has been through the struggle and contemplates if they are able to reach that place again in OKC. Rather than pondering that decision, Durant now is in contention for the prized possession. In the current NBA, we often see players as free agents make the choice to get paid the amount desired or play for what they most desire. Kevin Durant made the decision to play for what he most desired.

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NBA Preview: Southeast Division

southeastBy Stefan Anderson

The Southeast Division provides the Eastern Conference as well the NBA with a great amount of talent and will be making its mark this season.

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets are back and looking to build off their playoff success for the first time since 2009. With the Al Jefferson running the post as traditional back to basket player, with a trio of young wing players that include Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd Gilgchrist and Lance Stephenson, the buzz is definitely back in Charlotte. Rookies P.J Hariston and Noel Vonleh can provide some valuable minutes and provide that spark for their bench this season.

Charlotte has a great chance to be the winner of the Southeast Division and will make noise whether conquer the division or not.

Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta has had one the more underrated team in the past few seasons, clinching a playoff berth for the past 7 seasons. Establishing a winning culture and but failing to capitalize when they obtain the postseason success.  Adding players like Adrian Payne and Thabo Sefeloshia, give the Hawks and added presence but it will not be enough for this season especially in the Southeast division.

Atlanta should be in the hunt for the playoffs will fail to do so but expect to see them in the 9 or 10 spot competing regardless of their standing.

Miami Heat

Losing LeBron James sent shock waves but Miami did not panic. With the face of the franchise returning with his other co-star Chris Bosh, the Heat look to stay alive but not as a good as they have been for the past 4 years. Adding veterans like Luol Deng, Danny Granger, and Josh McRoberts, Miami has assembled a playoff roster this season. Rookie Shabazz Napier can bring a great impact to Miami and provide valuable minutes starting or coming off of the bench.

Miami doesn’t have much concern other than having Dwayne Wade on the court, as he’s been injured in the past few years but the supporting cast of Miami should propel to them to the playoffs.

Orlando Magic

The Magic are going to back in the same position they were in last season, rebuilding. Drafting Aaron Gordon and Alfred Payton to add along Vucevic and Oladipo give Orlando some hope for the future. The young team has promise but still have yet to add the pieces needed due to their many different reasons.

The Magic have a ways to go before reaching the success they want to see but have the potential to be there soon.

Washington Wizards

The Wiz Kids look to keep dazzling the NBA with young superstars John Wall and Bradley Beal at the helm.  Adding Paul Pierce might be just what the Wizards lack in the past season, a veteran with championship experience and can be the hand and glove fit needed.  They remain physical with Nene and Gortat, bringing many different dimensions and can make the next step this season.

The Wizards can be the other team to compete with the Bulls and Cavs this season to take the Eastern Conference.

Southeast Division Standings:

  1. Wizards(Playoff Team)
  2. Hornets (Playoff Team)
  3. Heat (Playoff Team)
  4. Hawks
  5. Magic

Domino Effect

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By Stefan Anderson

Cause and Effect, refers to the concept of Causality (also referred to as causation) is the relation between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first.  Not 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, “I’m taking my talents to south beach” allegiance that would engineer one team the opportunity to have three Free Agent All-Star players combine on one roster. But wait, that would only come shortly after one storied franchise did similar years before but instead of building through free agency or draft they traded all assets to acquire the trio. Most things happen due to cause and effect and the newest trends of the NBA are a testament to that.

After Miami’s formed the big three, the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement had just ended and players and owners were forced to make decision that help benefit each other, as they say, but instead forced players and fans to suffer with another lockout. During the lockout Owners wanted to have a higher BRI (Basketball Related Income) and players disagreed. Derek Fisher (the irony right) stood along the NBPA to bring back basketball. The sides came to an agreement but something’s changed including the salary cap, to help benefit smaller market teams from losing their superstars, and also changing max contracts to 5 years, so change is evident to come about.

We just came off an offseason where seen the most superstars in my recent becoming free agent including the league’s biggest star LeBron James.

James, remained loyal to his fans in Cleveland, his hometown team that he helped propel the franchise to yearly competitors, including a trip the 2007 Finals, but Cleveland could not give the King a good supporting cast. James was given the opportunity to give himself the right opportunity to and make the best career decision. How often the does the best player gets the opportunity to do that for himself? Not often, most would argue that Magic, Jordan, Bird and etc., would never do the same but how many of them were surrounded with the same incompetent cast throughout their career? Exactly so if Owners and other in the front office cannot get the job, why not take matter into your own hands.

Not all superstars that are in small markets want to explore different options in a huge market (i.e. Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan). But for the most part they want to leave because of lack of basketball moves by the front office and having the opportunity to compete for a NBA Championship.

Recently Carmelo Anthony has been in reports to joining LeBron James and the Miami Heat, when he opts out of contract this summer. Anthony is in a similar situation in New York to James in Cleveland. When your career begins to dwindle down, how many more opportunities do you get to win a NBA Championship? Anthony is willing to walk away from 23 million dollars for this upcoming season to chase his championship aspirations. After experiencing nearly any success in Denver, he was traded to New York where he is suffering the same fate. Does it say a lot about Carmelo’s attitude and perseverance, or was he not in the best of situations. He came from a small market team in Denver that could not put the right pieces around him to now in New York with a money hungry owner that traded away the franchise’s future to receive the superstar.

The idea that players can now choose their own fate comes on the heels over Owners’ and other front office personnel that do not make the correct moves to keep teams and build long term situations is shown greatly. I am not opposed to the idea at all, and shows a new era of the NBA and could give the league an extremely great look or totally bad perception as well. I am afraid of the “If we can’t beat them then join them” effect happening in the NBA and take away from the various amounts of talent spread across and making one all-star team that wants to win a championship. As long as the talent is distributed evenly throughout the league, then I will be a happy customer but I believe that it will become oversaturated if these situations keep coming about.

5 on 5: NBA Finals Preview

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By Stefan Anderson and Jazmine August

With the NBA Finals set to take place on Thursday, there are so questions to be asked about the heated rematch between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. Jazmine August and Stefan Anderson team up to play a 5 on 5, discussing different scenarios for the series and give their own predictions.

1.Will the Spurs use the same defensive strategy to go under screens and let the heat shoot jumpers?

SA: Of course when you play the Heat you should to protect the basket with Miami’s slashing style of offense, but with Chris Bosh stepping out and becoming somewhat of a 3pt threat, shooting nearly 2 a game and hit them at 41 percent, the floor is spaced even more. The Spurs also Boris Diaw who can step out and guard the perimeter but it will certainly cause distraction for Tim Duncan. With that being said they should do that until Miami shoots them out of that defensive mindset.

JA:  If the San Antonio Spurs know what is good for them they won’t use this defensive strategy. Veteran players play best in the high pressure, “do or die” moments of the game and the Miami Heat have a few of those. Expect Ray Allen & Shane Battier 3 pt percentage to increase in this series. Remember last year Finals Game 6? I don’t think I have to say anymore.

2. Without Mike Miller and savvy vets like Shane Battier not being effective in these playoffs does Miami have enough shooting?

SA: The Heat are shooting a playoff best 40 percent from the 3, only better than ironically San Antonio. So yes, but the shooters they have, have to step up and support James and the Big 3. They have Ray Allen still but if player like Shane Battier, Rashad Lewis and Norris Cole stay consistent along with Bosh can give enough space and help Lebron do what Lebron does best attack the basket.

JA: A veteran role player like Mike Miller was a piece of the “heart” of the team and came up clutch with 5 3 pointers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals 2012 that lead to Lebron James elusive first title. Losing Mike Miller in the off-season was a loss to the Miami Heat but like I previously stated the Heat wing players will step up and show out on the NBA’s biggest stage and this includes Shane Battier. Expect Rashard Lewis to play more minutes as well.
3. Can the Spurs still compete with the Heat if Tony Parker is not 100 percent?

SA: I do not believe that Spurs can compete with Miami if they do not have Tony Parker at 100. You can sense the difference in last year’s series when Parker was guarded by Lebron and taken out of the game; his impact is needed for the Spurs to conquer another title. Maybe at 80 percent they can compete but anything less they will hand Miami the 3 peat.

JA:  Yes they can and yes they will. Although Tony Parker is arguably the best point guard in the league, the Spurs may have the deepest bench. Under the leadership of a veteran like Tim Duncan, explosiveness of the young stud Kawhi Leornard,  an arsenal of shooters like Manu Ginobli and Danny Green and role players like Patty Mills and Boris Diaw that can and will give quality minutes, they can most definitely compete without Parker. Not to mention, Greg Popovich is their coach.

4. Should Coach Popovich think about putting Kawhi Leonard on Wade instead of Lebron?

SA:No, I think that Kawhi Leonard is the one of the best defensive players we have in this league and is the only answer the Spurs have to slow down James ,who is set to have a legendary series in my opinion. Danny Green is a good enough defender for Wade and will give him enough trouble running around screens and knocking down 3 pointers.

JA: That may be a possibility but I don’t know how much of a difference that will make. There is no one in the league that lock James up defensively for four quarters. He’s just too big, too strong and too great. Switching Leonard to Wade would free Lebron James to explode offensively. Either way, James and Wade both win the matchup against Leonard.
5. Who’s bench players will have a bigger impact in this series Heat or Spurs?
SA: Spurs bench solely because Manu Ginobli, they also have a better bench than Miami and go a lot deeper than Miami’s bench would. Mills, Ginobli, Splitter, Belinelli  all can give valuable minutes in Pop’s system. Although Miami’s Bench, (Cole, Allen, Birdman and maybe Lewis) need to be more effective to hoist up the Larry O’Brien trophy.

JA: The Miami Heat fanatic in me wants to say that the Heat bench will have a bigger impact than the Spurs bench but the analyst in me trumps that and says the Spurs will. Their bench is just too deep it’s as simple as that.
Prediction:

SA:Spurs in 7, I believe the home crowd will propel them in what should be interesting series to say the least. Duncan and Ginobli’s willpower to conclude their careers winning will lead them in the path to glory and give Duncan his 5th ring and cement the argument of Best Power Forward Ever.

JA: Spurs will desperately try to avenge the devastating loss of the 2013 Finals but in the end the Miami Heat will prevail in a thrilling Game 7 and be the first team to three-peat since the Kobe/Shaq Lakers. Heat in 7.

It’s Marathon Not a Sprint

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By Stefan Anderson

As most runner that run long distance would tell, it’s all about pacing yourself. Ironically the Indiana Pacers have failed to do so. After being defeated by the Miami Heat in the 2012 playoffs in 6 games, they bounced back and stretched the series out one more game in Eastern Conference Finals, but failed to finish the Heat and watched the Heat win their second consecutive title. Following last year’s defeat in the playoffs, the Pacers believed that if they hosted the game 7 of series it would have been a different outcome, making it a priority to earn this year’s top seed in the East.

Starting from the offseason the plan was in full implantation for the upcoming season.

After acquiring Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland, the Pacers stacked up their bench and went forth with executing their plan. The Pacers came out the gates hot this season, holding on the top seed and holding the best record in NBA for a good amount of time. Indiana was on course to complete the task, the emergence of Paul George blossoming into a superstar and force to compete with the league’s biggest star Lebron James.

But the trade deadline came about.

After reaching higher heights without their once franchise player Danny Granger, they decided to trade Granger for a younger, athletic swingman in Evan Turner, to give their team more weapons to put an end to Miami’s dreams of a three peat.  Also signing the inconsistent but valuable when healthy Andrew Bynum, they were poised to continue their reign and win the Eastern Conference as planned.

Then the plan backfired.

Since trading away Danny Granger, the Pacers have been 10-13 including losing 7 of their last 10 games.  The Pacers find themselves in a familiar but uncomfortable position chasing the Miami Heat for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Was Granger that much of a factor for Indiana? Maybe but I believe that Indiana’s has more than chemistry issues. Granger, has been good asset for Indiana since being drafted but has seen a decline in the past few years and has lost role due to injuries.

Therefore, I do not believe that he is the main reason for their recent loses and that it comes from continuity. The Pacers with their new additions and more depth on the bench, puts Coach Frank Vogel in a tough spot to adjust to his new players along bringing them into the rotation. Now after having a set amount minutes for each player, while keeping starters at the same minute total, a very complex situation to say the least.

The Pacers are not totally out of their place, because of their consistent defense and physical style of play that holds teams just over 90 points a game. They have fared great amongst the good teams in the NBA and the East as well, splitting with the Bulls and could win the season series with the Heat if they win on Friday. The Pacers are still in a great position, but have to play with a chip on their shoulder and should be very interesting to watch in the playoffs as the season comes to a close.