LeBron James has been pretty consistent

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via NBA Reddit

While we are spending this season talking about how amazing Stephen Curry is, and for good reason, it’s always good to take a step back and remember just how awe inspiring LeBron James game has been year-after-year.

I wish I was half as consistent of a writer as this guy is on the hardwood. I have a good reason for not writing the last couple of days, but I will talk about that more when the time is right. For now, enjoy the hoops tonight and I’ll talk to you all soon.

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Spurs Special Forces 3

This video has been making the rounds online today, and boy it it great. The premise is that Phil Jackson has held up Spurs Head Coach, Greg Popavich in a hotel room in order to sabotage San Antonio’s chances of signing free agent forward LeMarcus Aldridge. It’s up to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, who are actually part of an A-Team like force, hiding in plain site as the most boring team in the league, to save the day. Rest assured, hijinks ensue, and the Spurs take care of business in their usual Spursian way.

Big shout out to Matt Hill for putting this video together. It definitely won the internet today.

 

Cam Netwon is your 2015 MVP

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Cam Newton was at it again this week in Carolina’s 38 to 0 shellacking of the Atlanta Falcons. Newton threw for 265 yards on 15/21, with three touchdown passes and zero interceptions in a performance that is starting to feel like deja vu.

The Panthers are now a head scratching 13-0. With one more win they will lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Carolina is second in the NFL in both points scored and points allowed. It seems like they are dropping 30 points on everyone they face. And they are doing all of this with the likes of Tedd Ginn Jr., Jonathon Stewart and Devin Funchess in supporting roles.

The Carolina Panthers are the NFL’s version of grit and grind. Their offense relies on a heavy dose of running the ball, and a few big plays coming off of play action. Cam Netwon’s statistics don’t jump off the page, he doesn’t lead the league in passing or passing touch downs, but Superman is capable of making all of the throws as he showed off against the Falcons.

He has also mastered the forgotten art of the read option. There have been a slew of QB’s who have fallen in and out of stardom over the past few years trying to bring the read option over from the college ranks – RIP Collin Kaepernick and RG III – but Newtons ability to make accurate deep throws and take a beating have made him the perfect prototype for a read option QB in the NFL.

The constant threat of Netwon and Jonathon Stewart ripping off big runs, has made it possible for second and third rate receivers like Ginn Jr. and Jericho Cotchery to find openings down field.  Ginn Jr. had touchdown catches of 74 and 46 yards in todays win.

A lot of the credit for the Panthers dominance this year has to go to their defense. They are currently second in the NFL in defensive DOA. They are stifling against the run and relish the opportunity to get to the QB. In today’s game they got to Matt Ryan five times, caused two turnovers off of fumbles and had two picks.

When you pair a great defense with an efficient offense good things can happen in the NFL. This years Carolina Panthers has the same kind of look that the 49ers/Seahawks have had as the best teams in the NFC over the past five seasons. It’s yet to be seen whether or not the Panthers have enough talent to make a championship run, but they have the right quarterback to make this team great.

Superman is the league’s MVP.

 

When you spend $200 on league pass and can’t watch NBA TV games online

First off I would just like to say how much I love NBA League Pass. I’ve had the service now for three years and it’s been a staple of how I spend my winter nights. Being able to watch almost all of the Warriors games during their current streak has been exhilarating.

This weekend you can watch all of the games on League Pass for free. They are having multiple promotions like this all year and I applaud the NBA for giving prospective customers multiple demos of their top shelf product.

That all said, the Golden State Warriors are currently losing to the Milwaukee Bucks going into halftime, and I can’t watch the game because it is blacked on League Pass do the game being aired on NBA TV. That’s right. The Association -which owns NBA TV – blacks out games on League Pass – which is also owned by the NBA.

I understand that the league gets a whole lot of money for selling it’s product to the cable giants, and thus means it has to blackout games on ESPN and TNT, but it boggles my mind that they could not find a way to workout a deal to be able to show their own games on their own streaming product. It would be like Nike only being able to sell it’s shoes in third party retailers and not on its own site. It’s crazy making.

So now I’m left with the devils choice of either not watching the game until tomorrow, when one of the most impressive streaks in the history of sports could potentially be snapped, or finding a less than legal streaming option to take in the game.

I’m not the kind of guy who pirates digital goods anymore. I’m not going to hunt down some underground European streaming site to watch the game in extremely low IQ, but part of me wants to do so just on principle.  I realize this is a petty complaint, and I should be thankful to be able to afford League Pass at all. But this is history man, you would think the league would want as many people seeing these games as possible.

Not cool NBA. Not too cool at all.

Ends rant. Have a good Saturday night everyone!

The Chicago Cubs Death Star is Nearly Operational

Good evening!

I woke up to the news that the Cubs have signed free agent outfielder, Jason Heyward to an 8-year, $184 million deal. What struck me most about the news wasn’t how great of a deal the Cubs got for one of the best young players in the MLB, it was how inevitable it all seemed in retrospect. It’s not even all that shocking that Heyward reportedly took less money to come to the Northside. This is an organization that can now draw top shelf free agents at a bargain.

That sounded weird when I said it out loud. Let’s try that again:

The Chicago Cubs can now draw top shelf free agents at a bargain.

We truly live in interesting times.

When Theo Epstein came to the Cubs in 2011 the goal was to rebuild the team with draft picks, and create a sustainable core with which it could build around. When you look at the guys who were leading the Cubbies to their improbable playoff run last year: Kris Bryant (age 23), Kyle Schwarber (age 22), Javier Baez (age 23), Addison Russell (age 21); you see a team that is built for a decade long run. It takes so much talent to be able to build up an organization like this. Everyone from Theo to GM Jed Hoyer, to the scouting and development departments all have to be on the same page when it comes to this kind of rebuilding plan.

The ultimate coo for Epstein may have been singing Joe Maddon last year. There is no better manager for this team. His calming influence over the clubhouse and understanding of advanced metrics makes him the kind of manager that modern sports fans salivate over. When super utility man Ben Zobrist signed his four year, $56 million deal this Wednesday it was Maddon who got on the horn to convince Zobrist to take the Cubs deal over better offers from perennial NL powers Washington and San Francisco.

There are no scarier three words to a sports fan of a long troubled franchise than, “trust the process.” All you have to do is look at the shit show that is currently taking place in Philadelphia with the 76ers as evidence that rebuilds can be long, bloody affairs. But what happened in Chicago was a true rebuild, that was meticulously thought out by talented architects who were given the time and control to properly build up franchise that could contend over a long period of time.

There are no guarantees in baseball. Having a super talented team does not guarantee a championship. You can have a murders row for a lineup and the best pitcher in baseball and still not make it to the World Series – sorry Cubs fans, I had to needle a little. You can’t necessarily build a team to win now like you can in the NBA, and to a lesser extent, the NFL. What you can do, and what Theo and Co. have done so brilliantly in these five years, is give your team as many spins at the playoff wheel as possible.

So here we go. It’s winter 2015 and the Chicago Cubs are Vegas favorites to win the World Series next year at 9/1 odds. All of a sudden Cubs fans are the envy of the baseball world. If you are a Cubs fan out there just sit back and enjoy the next couple of years, because your franchise earned this.

Golden State Gift Guide

Good afternoon! I hope that everyone is having a happy Serial Season 2 Release Day! It’s taken all of my willpower to keep from listening, but with the long hours of holiday driving right around the corner it is important to remember what the true purpose of Serial is – to keep loved ones sane after driving back from their umpteenth Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Festivus party.

Speaking of the Holidays, there are few presents I want under my tree more than watching an undefeated Warriors team put their streak on the line against the Cavs in Cleveland on Christmas day. Golden State, as you may have heard, is 23-0 as of this writing. This run is already the single greatest in the history of America’s big four professional sports, and is almost unfathomable for a team that is coming off a championship run.

The stats for this current Warriors streak speak for itself. Golden State is scoring a league high 115.8 points per game, with a point differential of +14.6. That’s a jaw dropping 3.4 points higher than the second place San Antonio Spurs. They also lead the league in three point percentage and assists per game. Their Net Rating of 16.3 is the highest I’ve ever seen. Which is all to say that there has never been a team quite like this year’s Warriors. To watch them play during this current streak is like watching a big cat play with its prey.

It seems like anytime a team is able to keep the game close going into the fourth quarter Golden State is able to unleash their version of the Kracken –  a small ball lineup that features Draymond Green at center, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes at forward, and the Splash Brothers.  This lineup has the best +/- in the league, and is currently shooting an otherworldly 63.6% from the field and (I had to double check this) 62.5% from three. The NBA has never seen a lineup as unguardable as this.

Then there’s the question of Stephen Curry, and what do we make of this season that he is having. When you watch a lot of basketball it’s easy to become jaded by everyday greatness. LeBron James has been the best basketball player on Earth for around a decade, and somehow his current stat line of 26/7/7 seems almost pedestrian, because we’ve seen him dominate for such a long time. It’s human nature to take things for granted. That’s why I feel like it’s important to keep reminding people that what Steph is doing this season deserves to be treated like the marvel it is.

Curry is averaging 32 points per game this year with a shooting line of 53/46/90. His current PER of 34.7 is on pace to demolish Michael Jordan’s current record of 27.91. His .700 True Shooting percentage is so far ahead of historical records it almost makes the stat seem obsolete. That’s what Steph is doing right now, he’s making the entire league look like a flip phone and he’s the iPhone 7. He’s having the kind of season that destroys comparison. Michael Jordan in his prime could never fathom shooting the way Curry does, or playing as efficiently. He wouldn’t know how even if he wanted to try. This may be my favorite thing about the current Curry era. It feels like the death nail in the “next Jordan” quest. When you talk to kids who love basketball, they no longer want to be like Mike, they want to dribble and shoot like Curry.

There are other teams around the league that are trying to emulate what the Warriors are currently doing, but you cannot emulate a style that relies on the skills of a Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. I find it really interesting that the Spurs, a team whose space and pace style of the last few years was a huge inspiration for the current Warriors juggernaut, have zigged where everyone seems to be zagging. San Antonio is currently leading the league in points against (88.7) as well as three point percentage allowed (.309).  They are averaging the fourth lowest possessions per game at 95.7, which is a far cry from the past couple of years. Coach Pop knows that you can’t beat the Warriors at their own game, and is quietly forming an immovable object to counter Golden State’s unstoppable force. I’m already salivating for a potential Western Conference Finals between these two teams.

Ankle sprains to both Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson will pose the biggest challenge to the Warriors streak for a league record 33 straight wins. Barnes is expected to miss the next couple of games, and Klay will be a gametime decision when Golden State goes into Boston on Friday to play an increasingly frisky Celtics squad. If the Warriors can get out of Boston with a win they their schedule sets up almost perfectly for a Christmas showdown with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in what will be one of the most hyped Christmas games in years.

Even if the Warriors streak ends on Friday in Boston, it does not lessen what is happening this year in the Bay Area. I don’t think there has ever been a team that has played the game so close to perfection when it comes to sheer aesthetic beauty and cold blooded efficiency. There is no statistic that can capture the excitement of Stephen Curry going NBA Jam for a quarter, or watching Draymond Green lead a fast break flanked by four deadly three point shooters. This is basketball of the highest order. Every game this team plays feels like a gift from the basketball Gods.