S01E28 ~ Video Blog: My Attempt to Survive Fantasy Playoffs

 

We talk Fantasy Basketball Playoffs!

I go over my strategy this week to try and win my match-up against the top seeded team in our Keeper League. As the #5 seed, I’m hoping for a little luck and a lot of volume to beat the #1 team in the league.

I go over the available players, winning by volume (streaming players), dropping players who are injured (don’t hold onto them for too long) and dropping supposed star players (JOSH SMITH).

As of Tuesday 3/25: I am down 7-2.

Note: Ignore my oudated FireFox…

#JINXONTRINITY

S01E27 ~ Oscar Predictions Pt.Deux – Directing & Best Picture

As we near the Academy Awards this Sunday, Henry and I complete our two part series by discussing who will win for Best Director and which movie will take home the highly coveted Best Picture statuette.

While most consider it a two man race between Alfonso Cuaron and Steve McQueen for Best Director, there have been word from prognosticators who suggest that David O’Russell and American Hustle were on a lot of ballots at the end of the voting period last week (much to my chagrin).

If 12 Years a Slave loses to American Hustle, we riot.

Around the 33:00 minute mark, Henry and I switch gears to talk about more Matthew McConaughey and the brilliance of True Detective, fan fiction and the strange fiction genre.

S01E26 ~ Oscar Predictions – Acting Nominations

This is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only has the NBA trade deadline come and gone with a slew of rumors and under-the-radar deals; it’s movie-award season. It’s OSCAR SEASON. And this year has given us a number of movies that have captured the wide spectrum of the human condition: from inherently evil plantation owners with a penchant for brutality to conniving con-artists with selective morality; from a courageous AIDS-ridden activist to a courageous, gravity-defying astronauts, both searching (and ultimately finding) the will to live; this year in cinema has given its audiences a slew of complex characters and compelling story lines that have kept us enraptured throughout the Fall and Winter seasons.

In the first of two special podcasts, Henry and I go our our predictions for who will take home the golden statuette for all the acting nominations. Let’s go #TeamLeo!

S01E25 ~ All Star Weekend RECAP – lots of hate

All Star Weekend has come and gone. As uneventful as Saturday night was (I’m talking about the mess that was the freestyle and battle rounds of the Dunk Contest), there were several enjoyable spots throughout the weekend that made tuning in worthwhile:

  • Arne Duncan is as skillful a passer as Steve Nash was in his prime;
  • Andre Drummond continues to establish himself as one of the league’s top rebounders;
  • Dion Waiters vs. Tim Hardaway Jr. was reminiscent of T-Mac vs. Gilbert Arenas;
  • Dion Waiters doing everything he can to up his trade value;
  • Chris Bosh is just as efficient with the half court shot as he is with the corner three;
  • Trey Burke finally did something semi-decent in the skills competition to make his horrific rookie season somewhat less unforgettable (but mostly forgettable);
  • Marco Belinelli and Bradley Beal ousting a competitive field (sans Slo-Joe) in the 3-point contest (Curry is now 0-3 in 3-point contests – safe to say, he can’t make open, uncontested shots);
  • Damian Lillard fatigued due to participating in every single damn event;Blake Griffin dunks everything;
  • Kevin Durant never willing to pass;
  • Kyrie Irving is good whenever he wants to be (there’s still hope Cleveland!);
  • The pre-game show featuring Pharrell and his mountie hat, Nelly, Snoop Dogg (and/or Lion?), Diddy; and
  • Fat Busta Rhymes.

In this week’s podcast, Ben and I go over what we liked and disliked about the NBA All Star Weekend. Long story short: MORE ARNE DUNCAN PLEASE.

S01E24 ~ Mid Season Awards and The Legacy of MVPs

The halfway point of the regular season has come and gone. With roughly 30 or so games left to play for most teams, the stakes are getting higher and higher as teams fight for playoff berths and jockey for seeding. The final quarter stretch is one of the more fun times over the course of the regular season: where “must-win” games really become season-saving games; the elite players fight each other in crucial division/conference matchups; and hopeful and fringe playoff teams look to claw their way to the post season.

With an up-and-down year filled with innumerable injuries and several surprises (some good [Anthony Davis! Phoenix Suns! Portland Trailblazers!], some bad [All things Cleveland]), this season has given us more questions than answers. Just how good are all Western Conference teams these years? Just how bad are the teams in the North Atlantic? Is this the year Kevin Durant usurps the throne from Lebron James as the league’s best player?

Nelson and I go over our Mid-Season NBA Awards, from Exec of the Year to Most Improved Player to the league’s Most Valuable Player. We go through a list of executives, coaches and players who we believe should win the awards if the season were to end today.

We then wrap up the podcast with a fun discussion on whether or not the number of MVP awards a player has will ultimately affect his legacy and standing in the pages of NBA history. All that and then some in this week’s pod.

2/3/14 ~ Best of Se7en: Grizzlies vs. Thunder, Trailblazers vs. Timberwolves, All Star Game Starters, Carmelo Anthony 62 Points

Welcome to Best of Se7en!  With 82 games in the season and 30 teams, the NBA has a lot to sort through for what you should be keeping your eyes on. In this weekly Monday feature, I will be going over seven games to tune into for the week; as well as seven of the most interesting story lines in the league.  

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Feb. 3 – Feb. 9 Games (All times EST)

Monday, February 3: Memphis at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM

Grit ‘n grind, baby! The Grizzlies seem to have turned the corner on the season and have reeled off six straight wins–two against the Rockets and one against the Blazers. The success this team has had in January really underscores the importance of Marc Gasol (since his return from injury) and what a unique style the Grizzlies play when pairing Gasol and Z-Bo, as most teams lack the size to counter that. The Thunder, on the other hand, have done even better as they have won ten of their last 11 games and look to be the odds on favorite to come out of the West come June. It seems that the Thunder are playing small(-er) ball these days, so the contrast in size and styles will be interesting to see in this game, especially if Memphis can pull off a win and continue its hot streak against a legitimate contender. One last thing to note is that the Grizzlies made quick waste of the Thunder last year in the playoffs, so revenge will be on the mind of Durant and co. as they gear up to match up with Memphis without Westbrook once again.

Wednesday, February 5: Phoenix at Houston, 8:00 PM

Positioning is going to be key in the playoffs for the Western Conference teams. For Houston and Phoenix, who are both fifth and sixth in the West respectively, they will be jockeying for seeding with each other the rest of the season. The difference between playing a (I’m assuming healthy by the time the playoffs come) Spurs team who is as seasoned as they come as the 2-7 matchup or playing the Blazers, who were a lottery team last year, as the 3-6 matchup is a world of difference. Given how close the Suns and the Rockets are in record, games like these might prove to be a deciding factor in either a 5th, 6th, or 7th seed in directly affecting the other team’s record, or having this game be a tiebreaker if they end up with the same record at season’s end.

Wednesday, February 5: Dallas at Memphis, 8:00 PM

The battle of the fringe Western Conference playoff contenders. At this point in the season, it looks like Kevin Love & crew still don’t have it together for a playoff berth, and the Nuggets have suffered just enough injuries, so it’s essentially now a two man race for the 8th seed in the West between Dallas and Memphis. This matchup, aside from the overarching theme of jockeying for the 8th seed, will also be an interesting clash in styles. Dallas, led by the perimeter oriented trio of Dirk, Ellis, and Calderon, are offensively minded (7th in points per game), but suffer defensively (25th in points allowed per game). Memphis, led by the back-to-the-basket styles of Z-Bo and Gasol, are a defensively oriented team (3rd in points allowed per game), but suffer offensively (24th in points per game). As a pure basketball fan, watching the contrasting styles and pace is a fun experience; also interesting to see which style will prevail.

Wednesday, February 5: Miami at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM

My question for this game is: will LeBron stick Blake? Especially over the last year and a half, LeBron has put in significantly more minutes at the power forward slot. Given how well Blake Griffin has been doing (25 points is fairly regular for him now) without Chris Paul, it will be intriguing to see if LeBron steps up and takes on the challenge of defending Blake Griffin, as they are both fairly comparable in size. Lost in the shuffle of Blake’s impressive recent performance, the Clippers actually have not beaten a good team (my definition: Western Conference playoff team or Miami/Indy) since mid-December when they beat the Spurs. If the Clippers can steal a win against the Heat, it’ll be a good confidence booster for the impending return of CP3.

Friday, February 7: Portland at Indiana, 7:00 PM

Much has been made of LaMarcus Aldridge’s ascent this year into the upper echelon of NBA players (especially with his recent arguable snub as a Western Conference All Star starter). He definitely has one of the most unique offensive arsenals in the game, as he has enough size to bang down low, and has the finesse, touch, and length to pretty much be unstoppable from midrange. In spite of Indiana’s defensive prowess, as they are 1st in the league on points allowed per game, even the duo of Hibbert and West were not enough to stop Aldridge in the first Pacers-Blazers game of the season with Aldridge rattling off 28 points on 11-19 shooting. The issue is that the Blazers are mediocre defensively, as highlighted by letting Paul George go off for 43 points (boosted  by seven 3s) on 16-30 shooting. Will this game be much of the same story?

Saturday, February 8: Portland at Minnesota, 8:00 PM

I’m looking at this game as LaMarcus Aldridge’s personal vendetta against Kevin Love’s All Star starter status. Does winning not matter anymore? Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge are putting up incredibly similar numbers, yet Kevin Love is about to be six for six in years spent in the lottery, and the Blazers are 34-13 for the season. I would not be surprised at all if Aldridge takes this as an opportunity to try to go for something like a 32 point, 16 rebound, 4 assist game as a big middle finger to the Kevin Love fans, especially with Pekovic still out and unable. Something to also watch out for is the Lillard-Rubio matchup. Most of us know by now that Rubio is a defensive liability outside of collecting steals, and Lillard has been a second year stud, as shown by their first game of the season when Lillard went off for 36 points.

Sunday, February 9: Philadelphia at LA Clippers, 9:30 PM

Selfishly, as a fantasy owner of his, Chris Paul making his return from his shoulder injury for this game is an especially big thing to keep note of.  Other than that, this game will be interesting to see because of the Chris Paul vs. Michael Carter Williams matchup. The first time the Clippers and the Sixers played this season, MCW sat out because of a (very questionable from the tanking Sixers) soreness in his knee. If MCW is able to suit up for this game, it’ll be a matchup of the current and the future. CP3 is undeniably the greatest point guard in the game today, and this could be a statement game for MCW to put his foot down as the point guard of tomorrow, as he is the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year thus far.

Storylines

David Stern Hands Over The Baton To Adam Silver

This past Saturday marked the 30 year mark of David Stern as the NBA commissioner, and the official last day of his tenure. Adam Silver now steps into the role for the league with some interesting shoes to fill. Stern’s legacy is marked by both positive and negatives. Among the highlights are a globalization of the game, as shown by basketball’s popularity in Europe and China as well as brilliant marketing of the game’s players with players like Jordan, Kobe, and LeBron now being household names. Among the lowlights are the Tim Donaghy scandal, two CBA related lockouts, and the Malice in the Palace. All signs point towards Adam Silver as one who embraces change and innovation, and it’ll be interesting to see in the coming years if such ideas that have been tossed out there like having teams in Europe, a shorter season, or a return to high school to NBA eligibility will come to fruition.

Blake Griffin’s Standout January

Due to a separated right shoulder, Chris Paul has only played in two Clipper games in January. Much to the joy of Clipper fans, though, Blake Griffin has stepped up quite nicely in his absence and seems to have taken his game to the next level. For the month of January, Blake has put up 25.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and a staggering 55.4% clip from the field. Granted, taking a quick look at the Clippers’ January schedule will show more lottery bound teams and Eastern Conference D-League teams, but this is still promising for Blake. He has undergone much scrutiny over the years for not having developed his game over the years to be more than a dunk machine to a point where he can be a reliable second option for a team that can make playoff noise.

All Star Team Reserves

My buddies Brian and Jimmy have already covered off on much of this in the most recent Boom goes the Dynamite pod here, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Some main takeaways, rapid fire: it is really hard to choose who to cut from the West, Joe Johnson should not be anywhere near the All Star team, Lance Stephenson will get his one day, it’s hard justifying having two Raptors in the game, Adam SIlver better replace Kobe with Anthony Davis since the game is in New Orleans. Looking up and down both rosters (http://www.nba.com/allstar/2014/players/), I must say, the West should win this one easily. Kevin Durant for All Star MVP, y’all. And I want to see Steph Curry take a spot up jumper from halfcourt.

Andrew Bynum’s New Indiana Home

Well, it took a while since he got cut by the Bulls after the Cleveland trade, but Andrew Bynum has finally found a new home. The Pacers have signed Bynum for the rest of the season to a guaranteed, veteran’s minimum, 1 year, $1 million contract. It is to the surprise of many, myself included, that Bynum even played in games this year for the Cavaliers and put up some relatively decent numbers. It remains to be seen what his exact role will be with the Pacers, as they already have Granger, Scola, and Watson coming off of the bench for them, so Bynum’s playing time right now is a fairly big question mark. Some in the media are speculating that this move by Indiana was just so that Miami wouldn’t have the chance to sign him and add size to combat one of the biggest advantages Indiana has against Miami.

Memphis’ Mid-Season Run

See, I knew that losing Lionel Hollins as the only major offseason move wouldn’t knock the Grizzlies into the lottery. The Grizzlies have gotten Marc Gasol back, rattled off six straight wins, and have themselves back in the West’s playoff mix as they sit in the 8th spot. Courtney Lee has also turned out to be a good pickup for the Grizzlies to both add some backcourt depth (especially with Conley out now due to an ankle issue) and overall offensive spacing to a team that largely relies on the interior duo of Z-Bo and Gasol. Aside from an obviously tough game against the Thunder next week, the Grizzlies have a string of games against mediocre-to-bad East teams, and will accordingly have a chance to further cement their footing in the West playoff picture.

Kyrie Irving – Cleveland, Rocks?

According to several unidentified sources, Kyrie Irving has been telling people in private that he wants out of Cleveland, as he is in the middle of his third year in the league and expected to miss the playoffs for the third straight time. In response to these reports, Kyrie has come out and said that he is happy to be with Cleveland and is pretty sure that he will be in Cleveland for a long time. Amidst a season where the East is so bad across the board, it has been fairly disappointing to see Cleveland still struggling to even sniff an 8th seed in the conference, as Kyrie Irving’s numbers have also declined largely across the board much to the dismay of Uncle Drew supporters. With Irving’s restricted free agency coming after next season, the Cavs and Irving both will have some huge decisions to make if nothing changes with the team and Kyrie’s success next year.

The End of Kevin Durant’s 30 Point Streak

Kevin Durant has had a hellacious January, putting him in the front seat for the regular season MVP race, and the month was certainly highlighted by his scoring, as he had a streak of 12 straight games with 30 points or more, threatening to leapfrog Tracy McGrady’s streak of 14 straight games back in 2003. Unfortunately, the Thunder’s game against the Nets on 1/31 was so one sided, that Kevin Durant sat down with 1:15 left in the third quarter with 26 points (on a ridiculous 10-12 shooting night) and didn’t come back in the rest of the game. Just to put his scoring into perspective, Durant averaged an insane 35.9 points per game for January (his season average is now at 31.1), bringing up some questions from the media on if Durant could eventually eclipse Kareem as the leading scorer of all time. The biggest question moving forward will be if Durant will continue this level of production once Westbrook returns.

S01E23 ~ All Star Snubs and Super Bowl Predictions

Today the NBA announced the Western and Eastern Conference reserves, rounding out the final rosters for the NBA All Star game. While the All Star game has become an exhibition shootout, highlighted by thunderous dunks and long distance marksmanship; it is also a gauge for the well-respected players throughout the league (both by the fans and coaches). In a nutshell, it’s a meaningless game that has no bearing on how the season will end. And yet every year, there is a big hoopla on who will make the squad. And, surely enough, there’s an even bigger hoopla on the three or four players that are left out of the game; much to the dismay of their respective fan bases.

In this week’s podcast, Jimmy and I discuss the snubs from this year’s All Star game and provide a new twist on how to select the final rosters moving forward.

We then wrap up the pod with our picks for Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday. It’s a big game and one of the biggest gambling days of the year, so how can I not place prop bets? Enjoy.

 

1/27/14 ~ Best of Se7en: Thunder vs. Heat, Warriors vs. Clippers, The Finale of the David Stern Era, All Star Game Reserves

Welcome to Best of Se7en!  With 82 games in the season and 30 teams, the NBA has a lot to sort through for what you should be keeping your eyes on. In this weekly Monday feature, I will be going over seven games to tune into for the week; as well as seven of the most interesting story lines in the league.  

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Jan. 27 – Feb. 2 Games (All times EST)

Monday, January 27: Toronto at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM

Has Brooklyn finally turned the corner? As winners of ten out of their last eleven games, the Nets have made a strong push towards higher seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs. This game will be their attempt to exact revenge on the team that gave them their one loss in their recent string of wins on 1/11. Since trading away Rudy Gay, the Raptors have done a lot more with less. They are 8-6 in January and currently 4th in the East right now, a seed that no one had projected them to be at in the beginning of the season. With a chance to get a statement win against another one of the East’s best (the Nets have recently won against Miami and Atlanta), look for the Nets, Deron Williams & company to bring their A-game.

Tuesday, January 28: San Antonio at Houston, 8:00 PM

In their two games this season, Houston has beaten San Antonio both times with an average margin of victory of ten. In spite of that, do any of us really think that Houston has a chance to upset the four time champion Spurs in the playoffs? Yes, the Rockets have those two, possibly three after this game, regular season wins to hang their hats on, and the Harden-Dwight combination has not combusted yet, but it would be foolish to place your money on a last-year-first-round-exit to upend the continued excellence of the Spurs. With the way that the Western Conference is going, these two teams might actually meet in a first round matchup.

Wednesday, January 29: Oklahoma City at Miami, 7:00 PM

The battle of the two MVP frontrunners. The overall consensus in the media and general public is that Kevin Durant has made a legitimate case to be the MVP this season and has usurped LeBron’s quest for his fourth straight MVP, and fifth overall. Even without Westbrook, Durant has more than stepped up to the plate for OKC, and led the team to a 10-4 record in January to put them at the top of the West, which was topped off by a 46 point game against the Trailblazers in a ridiculously efficient 18-25 shooting night and a ten game streak of 30+ points scored. On the flip side, Miami has struggled a lot as of late, with Wade in and out of the lineup. In their last nine games, the Heat have only gone 5-4. Whether or not this is the team pulling back in anticipation of the playoffs (especially since the East isn’t providing much in the way of threatening to leapfrog them as the number two seed) or this is an actual indication of the team’s struggles, this game will provide a good barometer of that. Might this be a rematch of their 2012 Finals where LeBron got his first ring and Durant his first heartbreak?

Thursday, January 30: LA Clippers at Golden State, 10:30 PM

The last time these two teams met on Christmas day, the game was a lot more naughty than nice. The highlights of that game were Blake Griffin being tossed out for incurring two (arguably, questionable) technical fouls, and Draymond Green being tossed for a Flagrant 2, and the Warriors ultimately holding on for a two point win. Without Chris Paul as the catalyst for a lot of trash talking, this game may be a bit more tame than last time, but here’s to hoping for a bit more chippiness and the start to a real rivalry. The Warriors have been struggling of late, having lost four of their last six games, and will be looking at this game to course correct before the All Star Game (go Steph!) against a team they may very well meet in the playoffs.

Friday, January 31: Memphis at Minnesota, 8:00 PM

With Eric Bledsoe missing a significant chunk of time for Phoenix (his timetable has him back around the end of February) with his meniscus surgery, there may very will be an open playoff spot in the Western conference. This could be the opening that Memphis or Minnesota need to make a second half push after a very underwhelming start in what was supposed to be a season with playoff aspirations. Memphis had been struggling in the two months since they lost Marc Gasol to an MCL injury; but have rebounded since his return, winning five of their last six games. Minnesota’s 121-120 win against the Warriors on 1/24 was their first win of the season in a game decided by four points or less (previously 0-11), and could serve as a catalyst to closing out more close games to make a late playoff push. While being in direct competition for that possible last playoff seed, games like these will be incredibly important for these two teams’ aspirations.

Saturday, February 1: Brooklyn at Indiana, 7:00 PM

At this point, it looks like Indiana will retain the number one seed fairly easily in the East. They have demonstrated continued excellence both offensively (George, Stephenson, etc.) and defensively (Hibbert, George), Miami continues to have bouts of inconsistency, and the rest of the East is a ways away. That said, it will be interesting to see how Indiana will respond to Brooklyn in this game, as I fully expect Brooklyn try and carry their recent momentum to take this game as a chance to make a announce to the world that the Russian billionaire’s ridiculous monetary investment was worthwhile for this season. Will Indiana, having won all three of their prior matchups this year against the Nets, just make quick waste of them once again?

Saturday, February 1: Miami at New York, 8:30 PM

For whatever reason, the Heat have always struggled against the Knicks, going 1-4 in their last five regular season matchups in spite of the Knicks’ continual mediocrity. With the Heat outputting inconsistent production lately, this may chalk up to another L for the Heat. One thing that I would keep an eye on is if LeBron takes a personal challenge of defending Carmelo to keep him in check, as Melo has averaged a ridiculous 35.4 points (highlighted by his Madison Square record setting 62 point outburst against the Bobcats), 10.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 3.6 threes a game on 48.6% shooting from behind the arc. As one of the most complicated individuals in the game today, it remains to be seen if LeBron is willing to concede regular season production and accolades at this point in preparation for the postseason, or if he still finds motivation in matchups like these.

Storylines

All Star Game Starters Announced

Well, the results are in! Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Love will represent the West’s starters in this year’s All Star Game. Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony will be on the opposing side for the East. There are a couple of “d’uhs” in here–LeBron, Durant, George who more than deserve the starting nod. On the flip side, a huge congratulations goes to Curry who was snubbed from last year’s game and whose support pushed him this year past even fan favorite Chris Paul in voting to give him his first All Star berth. The other major surprise was Kevin Love, whose TWolves are 21-22 on the outside looking into the playoffs, over Dwight Howard, as this is the first game in years that Dwight has not been voted in as a starter. With the selection of the reserves coming fairly soon and a TBD replacement for Kobe’s starting spot, there should be a couple of other players worth debating over once those are finalized. Check out my buddies’ Brian and Thai’s podcast on who should fill out the rest of the team here.

Carmelo Anthony’s 62 Points

This isn’t much of a storyline that has any implications moving forward, but I just wanted to make sure that basketball fans were aware of this remarkable achievement in case they’ve been hiding out under a rock. This past Friday on 1/24, newly annointed All Star starter Carmelo Anthony scored a franchise record 62 points on 23-35 shooting (including six 3s and ten free throws) against the Bobcats. With the game already over at 109-72 in favor of the Knicks, Melo finally sat down for the rest of the game with about seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, much to the dismay of some fans. If the game had remained fairly competitive, there was not much doubt that Melo could’ve easily gone for 70 points, or dare we say even eclipse Kobe’s 81 against the Raptors. Now if only Melo could turn his scoring prowess into meaningful wins…

Hello, Brooklyn

In case you haven’t noticed, the Nets have finally woken up this season! Winners of ten of their last eleven games, the Nets are now finally in the playoff hunt and sit in the seventh seed in the East. Something that the Nets will have to figure out moving forward is the exact rotation that they would like to settle on. Since returning from injury, Deron Williams has come off the bench in four games that have all resulted in wins. Obviously, with as much money as the Nets are paying Deron, they will not continue bringing him off the bench (he’s averaged 34+ minutes already in his last two games), but there are definitely a lot of moving parts to consider with this team for the eventual rotation.

Okay, See!

I guess no Kevin Martin, no Russell Westbrook is no problem for the Thunder as long as Kevin Durant is there. Going into this season, many did not have very high expectations for the Thunder, as they had lost Kevin Martin in free agency which essentially meant that they had James Harden for…Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb. That trade is still heavily criticized to this day, but Reggie Jackson has stepped up a bit this season, and Kevin Durant is putting up MVP numbers (31.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 5.2 apg, 31 PER) to absolutely carry this team to great wins against elite teams like the Spurs, Blazers, and Warriors lately. Chemistry will always be an issue for when Westbrook comes back, but there is absolutely no reason at this point that one should be pessimistic for the return of an All Star to this team, and they should definitely be a lock for the Western Conference Finals.

Tom Thibodeau, #SorryNotSorry

So, it seems like the Bulls forgot about one little thing when they traded away Luol Deng in a cost-cutting, tanking effort. Their coach has a never-say-die attitude. As one of the most hard nosed and disciplined coaches, Thibodeau recently came out and suggested to the media (without explicitly saying it) that he had a fairly big disagreement with Bulls brass about trading away Deng and the team going into tank mode. In response to that, Thibs has been playing his players to the ground, notably Jimmy Butler who has already had games of 60, 50, 42, 42, 41, and 41 minutes played. It seems that this relentlessness from Thibs has lived up to his expectations, as the Bulls are a tidy 8-3 since the Deng trade. It remains what more Thibs can salvage if Bulls brass continues to trade more players, which could be a very real possibility especially with Carlos Boozer.

Dwyane Wade’s Health & The Heat

After a full offseason with practically zero basketball and a strange shockwave treatment, there were high hopes that Dwyane Wade would be going into this season much healthier than the last, where it looked like he had used up all viability in both his knees by the end of the Heat’s championship run. Those hopes have definitely not materialized, as Wade has only played in 30 of the Heat’s 44 games this season due to various injuries and rest. This has been a bit troubling to the Heat, as they are trying to preserve some of LeBron’s minutes (as his odometer is racking up with all of the postseason and Olympic play), and the offseason pickups of Beasley and Oden have not been very substantial. Ultimately, the Heat’s season will ride on the health during the postseason, not the regular season, so if Wade can heal up by then, and then go all out from May to June, then the Heat should be fine. If not, well, Decision Pt. 2 here we come…

The Hawks’ Treading Water

Since losing Al Horford for the whole season to a torn pectoral muscle, the Atlanta Hawks have put up a respectable 6-7 record (while maintaining the third seed in the conference) and those six wins include games against the Heat, Pacers, and Rockets. On top of Horford’s injury, the Hawks have also had to deal with miscellaneous injuries to Carroll, Teague, and Antic. Much of this can be attributed to the play of Paul Millsap, who has averaged a shade over 19 points and eight boards a game since Horford was announced to be out for the season. Although the Hawks still don’t have a chance of making legitimate playoff noise, their play without their All-Star center has been promising, especially in a weak Eastern Conference, and if they can retain a top four seed, they have a good chance of advancing to the second round while continuing to build their core for next season when Horford is back.

S01E22 Fantasy All-Star Picks

NBA-All-Star-Game-2014-Logo-Wallpaper

All-Star voting results are set to be announced tonight on TNT but before we get the official results, Brian and I put together a “Fantasy” All-Star team from the starters right down to the reserve spots. Brian gets the extremely difficult job of trying to figure out who to leave off on the West squad and I get the equally difficult job of figuring out who to include on the team. Will Sir Lancealot make the team? Is Hall-Of-Fame bound Tim Duncan going to get left off the squad? We answer these questions and raise a few more questions on our adventure to Snubsville.

Jimmy’s Bold Gambling Predictions: NFC/AFC Championship Bets

Editor’s Note: Jimmy’s in Vegas this week and asked me to post his football bets on the basketball blog. It’s fine. I’m a fan of feeding into his gambling problem anyway. Here are his picks for this week’s Conference Finals! Keep in mind that I’m fading Jimmy for days. He was 2-2 in last week’s Conference Semis. G’luck in your gambling endeavors!

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Bold Predictions

With the AFC and NFC champions decided this Sunday, I go over the manners in which each team will need to perform to effectively punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.

New England @ Denver – 12pm on CBS

Why Denver Will Win:

We are all familiar with Peyton Manning and his subpar playoff record. He’s 10-11 in the playoffs and that’s not something to be uber proud about. However, that’s all in the past and after last week’s playoff match-up against a red-hot Chargers squad, he showed us how dominate of a quarterback he can be, especially with a dynamic receiving core and an effective running game. Manning’s receiving core is far superior to any receiving talent Tom Brady has on the Patriot’s sideline. The running game for both teams are essentially a wash, as they have both proved to be very efficient, so the offensive edge is hugely in Manning’s favor.

If the Broncos can move the ball on the ground Sunday against a stout, yet unproven defensive unit (due to significant injuries), they can open up the aerial game for Manning and prove to all his naysayers that he can still ball at 38.

Why New England Will Win:

Manning is 4-10 against Brady. The record speaks for itself.  Manning can’t close out games against Brady. However, the play of Brady isn’t the main culprit for Manning’s upheaval. It’s Coach Belichick’s defensive schemes that’s out-smarting, out-“Manning” Manning, deeming him ineffective against the Patriots.  Whatever it may be, the Patriots have his number throughout his career with the Colts, and now with the Broncos. Earlier this season, the Patriots were the only team to hold Manning to under 260 yards passing – 150 yards to be exact –, albeit, they let Knowshon Moreno run all over them for 224 yards. But this New England front seven has been playing quite well of recent, even with all those injuries to key guys like Vince Wilfork and Brandon Spikes, so they should do a better job of keeping Moreno in check this time around.  If the Patriots can slow down the run, Manning may face a heavy dose of pass rushers come Sunday, which in turn will lead to some lame ducks that will ultimately turn into turnovers.

As for the Patriots on offense, if Brady continues to make due with B-list receivers and takes care of the football, he could have a successful day in the air with a banged-up Broncos’ secondary that’s without one of their top corners, Chris Harris, who’s out for the playoffs after tearing his ACL last week against the Chargers. The resurgence of the LeGarrette “Baby Beast Mode” Blount, whose potential has not be on display since his rookie season in Tampa Bay, could spell trouble for a Broncos team who’s also without their defensive captain Von Miller (torn ACL).

Bold Picks: Denver (-4) over New England, 34-24

(Line Source: Bovada)

San Francisco @ Seattle – 3:30pm on FOX

Why Seattle Will Win:

Obviously, the strength of these Seahawks that we know of today is its defense.  They can beat you at every level on defense, on any given day.  They’ll stack the line and stop the run, or disguise a package and send pass rushers to bum-rush the QB, or drop back their linebackers to play in coverage.  They can shut any offense down, and this game will be another reminder of what makes Seahawks’ football what it is.  The run defense is going to have to slow down Colin Kaepernick and his running backs, and force the mobile quarterback to beat them in the air, where they’ll be ready with ball-hawking defensive backs, led by All-Pro Richard Sherman.  They’ve proved that they can win by playing error-free, efficient football on offense and just rely on the run.

The defense is key here and if they can slow down Kaepernick and keep him in the pocket, they can very well punch their ticket to New York/New Jersey.

Why San Francisco Will Win:

Other than praying that their own running game isn’t stymied, the Niners are looking to capitalize on below-average production from Russell Wilson, who was 9-18 last week for 103 yards against a Saints defense that has been much improved, but still well-below what the Niners put out on defense.  Wilson has been less than his usual stellar self, throwing for less 200 yards in four of his last five games.  If Wilson continues this trend, it would allow the Niners defense to put more of an emphasis on stopping the run, and effectively stopping the Seahawks offense altogether.  The Seahawks have already ruled out Percy Harvin (concussion) Sunday, so with inconsistency of play from Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, this would just add another wrench into any player with big-play ability outside of Marshawn Lynch.

For the Niners, It all comes down to the running game on both sides of the ball.  Stopping the run, while getting your ground game going, will give those Niner “Faithfuls” something to cheer about =)

Bold Picks: Seattle (-3) over San Francisco, 24-13

(Line Source: Bovada)