Friday, June 27, 2014
Basketball Christmas 2014
Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Last night I was invited to a special screening (two weeks early, actual World Premiere) of the summer blockbuster “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” starring Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Jason Clarke, Emma Watts and directed by Matt Reeves (“Let Me In” & “Felicity” hence the Keri Russell). This movie is the sequel… to the 2nd reboot prequel (not the Tim Burton reboot everybody kinda chooses to forget)… of the movie series from the 1970’s about a planet where intelligent English-speaking simian apes control the planet that I loved watching with my dad & grandpa growing up. So it simply HAS to be a great flick, right? Spoiler alert: The planet is Earth… in the future. (GASP!!!) Yeah, I know… didn’t see that one coming 40+ years ago when Charlton Heston screamed it into American lore forever. “YOU MANIACS!!!” Even if you didn’t know that bit of trivia, here’s what’s going down. In the original prequel “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” from three years ago, a scientist looking for a cure to Alzheimer’s found a drug that made his pet chimpanzee / test subject Caesar super intelligent… and by the end of the movie, he’s the leader of an ape uprising… that because it’s an apocalyptic movie… is based here in San Francisco. If you haven’t seen “Rise”, check it out. It’s pretty much what you expect… but I enjoyed it. Now, the sequel that I saw was set ten years later after a devastating virus has wiped out most of humanity save for a few bands of survivors… and of course the genetically engineered super apes led by Caesar. Now… the movie starts with them having a truce… and living in peace… and of course the movie is two hours of them sharing ideas, helping one another rebuild the infrastructure of the destroyed cities, growing crops to sustain everybody & obviously interbreeding. Sounds like a boring ass movie if that were the case, right? Luckily… the peace doesn’t last too long… and WAR HAPPENS!!!
Now, I don’t want to give too much away… because I REALLY want you to go see this. That being said, it was a great movie with a LOT of symbolism, odes to stuff like racism & stereotypes (though disguised as ape vs. human), good vs. evil vs. stupid vs. panicky vs. survival, all good story details… and then there are a few things that make you just scratch your f**king head and go “Okay, we’re going with this? Okay… it doesn’t make sense.” Not giving too much away, these humans that are surviving & bunkered down in downtown San Francisco go across the bridge into the Muir Woods to try to start up this hydroelectric dam so that they’ll have power, as their gas supplies are dangerously low and apparently they REALLY need lights & iPads to survive. Oh, they say it’s for the radio but… if that were the case, I think the radio could survive indefinitely with their remaining fuel… and there’s no mention of how all the human waste gets out of their encampment or they eat on a daily basis… but that’s beside the point. On the way to the dam, one of them stumbles on a few of the apes, overreacts in fear, and caps one of them in the head. Obviously about a hundred warrior apes follow the sound of the shot as well as the few humans in the area… and the leader Caesar says “GOOOO!!!” Now, if I’m the humans… my immediate thought is “HOLY F**K!!! A TALKING APE!!!” Then when they all yell “GOOOO!!!” after sh*tting my pants repeatedly (full squid mode), I kindly go back to the encampment & never return, finding alternative means of energy… and start working on agriculture to help the camp survive. Obviously that’s not what happens… and what ensues is a great allegory about how societies work… and you get some decent action flicks that involve apes riding horses with machine guns in each hand… and a lot of other things that just… that’s now how it would happen, that’s not how apes move… but you suspend your disbelief & it’s a great flick given the material. I highly recommend that you go check it out. On that note…
NBA Draft 2014
This year’s Basketball Christmas was running simultaneously with the world premiere of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” so I only caught the first few picks… and even that had some surprising stuff. So in the month since my predications back on May 22nd, a few things have happened. For one, the consensus #1 pick Joel Embiid had a pretty serious surgery on his foot. How serious was it? Well, it’s the kind of injury that basically ended the careers of guys like Yao Ming, Bill Walton & Greg Oden… but it’s also the surgery that Michael Jordan had his 2nd year in the league & he went on to be the G.O.A.T. Where does Joel fit? Well, the other centers were all 300+ pounds so once the ankle goes, then it’s the knee, and the back & so on. Embiied however is something like 230 pounds soaking wet… so there’s still the possibility that he’ll pull off an amazing career. That being said, he wasn’t going to be the top pick anymore. Too risky.
Also, one of the top international recruits, Darco Saric, signed a three-year contract with a Turkish team… which means that he won’t be coming to the league for AT LEAST two more years is somebody picks him. This is pretty routine for international players nowadays because… well, I honestly don’t f**king know how this is a thing… but apparently the draft has become all about investment in the very distant possible future (and historically doesn’t work out at all, but I digress) and that’s just the way it is. That’s why it seems more than half the people drafted are either 19 years old or international… because you never know what they’ll be like when they can actually play real basketball (and their rookie contracts expire & they can test free agency just as they’re getting good) but again, I digress. So his position was going to go down a bit.
Another sad tale was the diagnosis of draft entry Isaiah Austin from Baylor who mere days before the draft was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, which is a form of gigantism-esque syndrome where his body is basically going to fall apart in a few years at the joints… and he’s already blind in one eye… so he wasn’t going to be able to play basketball on a competitive level anymore. However, the NBA did a VERY classy thing and made him an honorary draft pick so that he could hear his name called & make the walk. Not a dry eye in the house… f**king great move, guys! Anyway, after all that explanation as to why some of my picks are way off… here’s what went down…
1. Cleveland – Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) – I'm still not sure why he wore his mom's suit... but after Embiid’s stock dropped, it was apparently that the Cavs were going to pick Wiggins. Why? He’s the kind of slasher/scorer that they needed… and the other name in the running Jabari Parker… frankly they already have a few of him with past picks Tristan Thompson & Anthony Bennett, by which I mean big guys who are all about scoring playing the power forward position… so they didn’t need to waste a 3rd pick on the same position. I mean… they’re no Minnesota hoarding horrible point guards or anything. They also picked up guard Joe Harris (Virginia) for some backcourt depth. I loved this pick.
2. Milwaukee – Jabari Parker (Duke) – This is the pick that Milwaukee wanted the whole time. He’s a great scorer, leader, has the Duke tutelage, and he grew up 90 minutes away so it’s the perfect fit for them in the long run. Don’t be surprised if this guy becomes the face of the franchise for the next decade-plus. They even picked up an international guy in Damien Inglis (France) and a large dude in Johnny O’Bryant (LSU) because the Bucks could use all the help they can get to get back in the running. Tanking works, everybody!!!
3. Philadelphia – Joel Embiid (Kansas) – Again, tanking works!!! After the Sixers did EVERYTHING they could do to have the worst record in the league (and still didn’t even do that) including that horrible third of the season where they went winless, they got the former prize of the draft in Embiid to pair right along their incredibly similar pick from last year (Nerlens Noel) who missed all of last year with injury… but hey, as long as one of them works out to be a great center/power forward, then they’ll be okay. If both work out, they’ll look like f**king geniuses. The problem is that everybody compares Embiid to Hakeem Olajuwon (cuz he’s African too?) and Serge Ibaka… but honestly, his actual game on a style profile has been compared to guys like Patrick O’Bryant, Mohamod Sene & Daniel Orton (remember him?). What does that mean? He doesn’t do much except occasionally block shots… and take five-foot shots… but hey, prove me wrong. They then traded to get Dario Saric (Croatia) so they’ll have him when he’s ready in two years (because who really needs to win now?) and used a harem of hoarded 2nd round picks on the likes of K.J. McDaniels (Clemson), Jerami Grant (Syracuse & son of former player Harvey Grant), guard Vasilije Micic (Serbia), Jordan McRae (Tennessee) & Pierre Jackson (NBDL). So if they end up signing all of these guys… more than half of their team will be under 21 years old, including last year’s rookie of the year Michael Clark-Williams. Wow… that’s building for the future. Good luck guys…
4. Orlando – Aaron Gordon (Arizona) – This was the first pick where I kinda went “Huh… okay.” Great athlete is all I heard about this guy… and comparisons to Blake Griffin… but that’s a REAL stretch. He has a few moves, grabs rebounds & can jump out of the gym… but let’s hold off on all the BS until he actually does something. Fourth overall pick in this loaded draft? May be a bit of a stretch, but hey, the Magic continue to amaze me sometimes… and apparently they had him higher on their list than Noah Vonleh who I had them picking (though similar kind of player). They also used their next pick on their point guard of the future, Elfrid Payton (UL-Lafayette) as also predicted. Good news… that freed Vonleh up for the Jazz to take with the next pick. YAY!!!
5. Utah – Dante Exum (Australia) – F*******K!!! The Jazz fell for it. They f**king fell for it. Let’s see… what do we know about Dante Exum? He’s allegedly 6-6 and plays point guard in an Australian basketball league. Because of the commercials during the draft, we know he actually has the Australian accent too. He has a decent highlight reel playing against… I assume are the Washington Generals of the Aussie league because they just seem to stand around & let him do layups with little to no resistance. He hasn’t played a game in over a year… and he’s 19 years old. DRAFT THAT MAN IMMEDIATELY!!! Sigh… oh the Jazz also spent their lottery pick last year on their “point guard of the future” (Trey Burke). Sigh… the Jazz fell for the Exum pitch. Even if they wanted another point guard, there were plenty proven ones available… and also 19 years old… but whatever, maybe he’ll be the next… Patty Mills? That’s the only Aussie guard that I think there’s ever been. NOT my favorite pick… but then the Jazz turned me around about an hour later by drafting one of my favorites from the draft, tall two-guard Rodney Hood from Duke… and maybe they won’t be so bad after all. THAT’S a great pick in my opinion. Anyway, still can’t believe they fell for it…
6. Boston – Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) – I REALLY like Marcus’ game. He’s a tough, hard-nosed, quick, rebounding point guard with a game a lot like Rajon Rondo plus twenty pounds of muscle. The only problem is… Rajon Rondo is already on the Celtics team… and there can only be one point guard allegedly. Sure they may make for a great undersized tandem in the backcourt (a la Curry-Thompson in Golden State) but… they’d both have to be great shooters to spread it out… and they’re really not (at least not yet). I assume Rondo will be traded soon enough… and I also like their 2nd pick of James Young (Kentucky) and they should get some great value from him. The Celtics may turn this thing around yet… especially if they can get a key post player for Rondo & continue the development of Sullinger and/or Olynyk.
7. L.A. Lakers – Julius Randle (Kentucky) – I’ve said before that I REALLY like this guy’s game… and he could be the star of the future for the Lakers. He’ll be under a LOT of pressure in the next few years… but right now, he has Kobe coming back from injury last year, Pau Gasol (at least until he’s probably involved in a trade for Kevin Love), Steve Nash & a supporting cast to help him transition… so yeah, Lakers are making moves, don’t sleep on them. They’re going after marquee guys… oh & they also drafted guard Jordan Clarkson (Missouri) who was highly regarded but I never saw him play. Is the Lake Show back? Not just yet… but at least they’re trying again…
8. Sacramento – Nic Stauskis (Michigan) – Sigh… sometimes I feel like… the Kings WANT to get kicked out of the league for a lack of competition to the other teams. No knock on Stauskis… especially since he had probably the best celebratory handshake in the history of the NBA Draft, at least since Jan Vesely’s smooch on his girlfriend… but he’ll probably be a great pick for them… but I just see him as… like a Jason Kapono / Jimmer Fredette / Morris Almond kind of player, where he just shoots threes… and that’s it. Granted, I didn’t see a lot of him this year with Michigan (who apparently had like five draft worthy players but were still completely irrelevant at the college level?) but that’s all anybody ever said about him… is that he’s a great three in the corner on a kick-out kind of player. Does that mean he’s Ray Allen? Or Jimmer Fredette? We shall see. Sacramento had a LOT of needs though… I wish them the best of luck… but there were a lot of players left at this point that might’ve been better suited for them (Vonleh or Payne for post depth, McDermott for 3 bangin’ stretch forward, etc) but we’ll see…
9. Charlotte – Noah Vonleh (Indiana) – Not sure why this 19-year old Chris Bosh clone dropped so far (other than the real Chris Bosh skipping the Finals, SPURS!!!) but his loss is the Bobcats/Hornets gain in my opinion. Once this guy works on his post game, he could be a best… and adding a jumper would make him an All-Star. Luckily, he can learn post game from Al Jefferson & jumpers from owner Michael Jordan… so keep an eye on this cat. I also like them picking up former UNC alum & NBDL dominator P.J. Hairston later in the round & defensive specialist Dwight Powell (Stanford) in the 2nd. They have a LOT of young talent, now they just have to get it all together. Keep an eye on the Hornets (formerly Bobcats).
11. Chicago – Doug McDermott (Creighton) – The Bulls made some moves. They had the worst offense in the NBA last year (thanks to former MVP point guard Derrick Rose being out again mostly) so they went out & got the collegiate player of the year and scoring machine in McDermott. I’ve mentioned before that I love this kids game & he can stretch out the floor for their post guys (not sure who they’ll have left, but they are trying to make HUGE moves in free agency) so we’ll see how this guy does in the league. I’ve heard comparisons from Dirk Nowitzki & Peja Stojakovic to Jimmer Fredette & Adam Morrison… but I think he could definitely be at least like a Matthew Bonner / Ryan Anderson kind of player in the right system and grow from there into… who knows? What’s that? Why yes, all those comparisons happen to be Caucasian… is that odd? That’s just what I heard. What’s that? OH!!! Doug McDermott is a white guy? Who would’ve thought that the guy with an Irish last name would be Caucasian? If that’s the case, why didn’t the Celtics draft him at #6? Isn’t that what they usually do?
13. Minnesota – Zach LaVine (UCLA) – The kid’s stock grew when there was video released that he had like a 44 inch vertical… which is good because, a lot like Michigan, I thought UCLA was supposed to dominate with their five or six NBA worthy guys & we didn’t hear much from them as a team… but hey, it’s all about individual players & then getting them to play as a team in the pros, right? Oh, do I also have to mention that Minnesota drafted yet another point guard? I think they’re planning on making him a slasher two-guard in their system but… yeah, I don’t know what they’re planning on doing now that they’re basically going to have to trade Kevin Love. They did also draft the son of a former #1 overall pick in Glenn Robinson III (Michigan) or GR3 as he’ll soon be known (on the Minnesota bench) but things should get pretty interesting in Minnesota very soon depending on what kind of assets they’ll get for Love.
14. Phoenix – T.J. Warren (NC State) – I really like this pick. This guy has game. Top scorer in the ACC, great offensive weapon for the Suns run & gun style… and then they went & drafted one of my favorite point guards from the draft Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) to back up Dragic and learn from him… and then even made an attempt at a future asset with one of the most redundant names in sports, Bogdan Bodganovich (Serbia). I love what coach Jeff Hornacek has been able to do out in Phoenix & wish him future success (outside of Spurs games of course).
15. Atlanta – Adriene Payne (Michigan State) – Again, one of my favorites in this draft… and I think the 2nd senior in the draft (McDermott) and it’s interesting that the Hawks drafted him already having Paul Millsap & a fairly deep post rotation… but hey, you can never have enough bigs and at this point in the draft, he’s probably the best available. I like it. They also picked one of those “raw” international guys in Spanish giant Walter Tavares (and who doesn’t like a guy named Walter) and guard Lamar Patterson (Pitt).
16. Denver – Jusuf Nurkic (Bosnia) – They turned the McDermott pick into this international giant & a great Ty Lawson-type point guard in Gary Harris (Michigan State). Basically they took one pick & filled two needs. Well played as long as Nurkic turns out to not be the last international giant that you used a #5 pick on… but how many of those first round international guys that nobody has ever really seen play against real competitions has ever flopped? What’s that? Dirk Nowitzski is the only one that’s actually worked? Well, there you go… prove me wrong, Jusuf!
20. Toronto - Bruno Caboclo (Brazil) – This was a total “Who the f**k is that?” moment across the globe! Nobody had ever even heard of this guy… and he’s the 20th pick in the draft. Why? He might be something in… three or four years? There were a lot of NBA ready guys still at this point… but whatever, Canada can do what they want since the Cavaliers are taking all their native sons with their lottery picks. I do like that they picked up forward DeAndre Daniels (UConn) as he’ll help out their bench… but yeah, who the f**k is this Bruno guy?
21. Oklahoma City – Mitch McGary (Michigan) – I’m pretty sure that reason that the Thunder picked Mitch was because everybody assumed that the Spurs were going to take him at pick #30 & they didn’t want him to be used against them… but I think this guy could be something good. He’s a big who had that great NCAA tournament run last year… and then through a combination of pot-smoking violations& injuries basically wasted the past year… but he seems to have decent skills. My major concern: So many of those guys who were drafted solely on a few weekends in the NCAA tournament haven’t worked out… and there’s the injury & he’s kind of a husky guy… but with hard work, he can probably overcome all that. They also picked up rebounder & defensive specialist Josh Huestis (Stanford) so they’re really aiming at the Spurs to take them down.
22. Memphis – Jordan Adams (UCLA) – I know little to nothing about Jordan other than he was on that vaunted UCLA team that didn’t do anything… but I like that the Grizzlies were able to pick up a great, local, hard-working rebounder & defender kind of guy like Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee) who fits PERFECTLY into their system. Kinda bummed that the Jazz drafted him then sent him to Memphis… but hey, that’s how it works. Hopefully it works out for the hometown kid playing in his own backyard too… gotta love those stories.
24. Miami – Shabazz Napier (UConn) – Apparently this was LeBron’s favorite player in the draft… and he had a great career at UConn ending with two championships… and let’s face it, he just wants them to replace the Mario Chalmers – Norris Cole situation at point guard with the Big Three & Haslem still around. My prediction is that all the Big Three will opt out of their deals… just to resign different ones that provide more financial flexibility to get them some help… and basically letting LeBron call the shots with draft picks is a great way to make sure the King comes back (because D-Wade & Bosh really aren’t what they used to be) and Shabazz should be a decent pro… the only drawback is his size… but hey, there’ve been some great “undersized” players in the NBA. Just sayin…
25. Houston – Clint Capela (Switzerland) – It’s weird to me that the Rockets are AGAIN trying to do the whole overhaul of the team. They got James Harden & Dwight Howard after clearing house a while back… and now they’re doing the same thing to try to get LeBron and/or Carmelo in free agency… and have already gotten rid of Omar Asik & Jeremy Lin is next… but hey, we’ll see how that all goes down. In the meantime, they got Clint Capela who is basically unknown & “raw” so I can’t help but think of Bismarck Biyombo a few years back… but at #25, he’d be considered a steal if he turns out halfway decent. They also had a pretty good pick of Nick Johnson (Arizona) in the 2nd round who would help with a few vacancies in their lineup & off the bench… so we’ll see how this all develops too.
30. San Antonio – Kyle Anderson (UCLA) – I know I always seem to say that the Spurs make the “steal of the draft” just about every year… and I was actually absolutely correct with recent Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard… and at least for a few years with DeJuan Blair… and yeah, kinda missed the ball on James Anderson but he can still contribute to more than trade fodder down the road. However, with Boris Diaw & Matt Bonner on the way out of their careers, this guy is the PERFECT replacement from this draft. Period. Tall, pass-first, stretch-forward, and best of all incredibly young. Yeah, he does have kind of a dopy mouth breather kind of look to him... but in this system that they have set up currently… wait for it, STEAL OF THE DRAFT!!! If he gets a three point shot… watch out world! They also drafted some Serbian guy named Nemanja Dangubic who’ll probably end up being the next Ginobili… but we’ll find out. GOD I LOVE THE SPURS!!! They’re what professional basketball SHOULD be. That’s why everybody else is signing their coaches, GMs, front office staff, former players, etc. to try & emulate them. Well done… and congratulations on championship #5 with a small market team.
34. New York – Cleanthony Early (Wichita State) – I feel like I have to chime in on what Phil Jackson has been doing with the Knicks… and I really like. This guy from underdog behemoth Wichita State Shockers, seems like a great steal in the early 2nd round… as many had him projected as a lottery pick. Great value there… and may help the fan base forget about another C-Anthony who’s probably packing his bags as we speak. Later in the round, they drafted Thanasis Antetokounmpo (NBDL), whose brother Giannis was taking over Milwaukee before Jabari Parker came to town… and though he only did modestly in the NBDL (like minor league for the NBA), he’s young, athletic & full of potential as is just about everybody else in the draft… so he may be a future fan favorite in NYC… and they really haven’t had one for a while unless you count Jeremy Lin & J.R. Smith. Not a bad pair of 2nd round sleepers for Mr. Jackson in just a few months on the job.
Anyway, those were my takeaways from the NBA Draft this year… be sure to check back in a few years to let me know how horrible my predictions based on past incidences were… but my record so far has been pretty good. Go ahead & check it out… I dropped a few balls… but I’ve got a pretty decent percentage of about 80%. Free throws it’s nothing write home about… but when it comes to draft picks, that’s like hucking half-court three-pointers with contact. Have a great day everybody!!! Happy Pride!!!