Last year the Atlanta Hawks got off to a slow start to the season before rookie Trae Young and star power forward John Collins were able to push the team to a number of late season victories where the two players were exceptional.
Collins in his second season hit a great stride averaging 19.5 point and 9.8 rebounds per game along with a trip to the NBA’s slam dunk contest during All-Star weekend. The rookie back court pair of Trae Young and Kevin Huerter combined for 29 points and 11 rebounds per game, and many feel like Trae Young may be able to average that himself this upcoming season. Huerter will have competition for his starting spot with the addition of former Duke SG Cam Reddish through the draft last month.
Speaking of the draft, the Hawks also added Virginia F De’Andre Hunter who led the Cavaliers to the 2019 NCAA championship on addition to center Bruno Fernando who helped build a program at Maryland. If these three rookies can come in and make immediate impacts, I’m sure the Hawks can make a run in the weakened Eastern Conference.
The Hawks also added veteran wing presence Chandler Parsons to help out Vince Carter as he is set to enter what should be his final NBA season. It would have been great if they could have convinced Al Horford to come back to the squad but they still retain SG Kent Bazemore who was also one of the Hawks players back when they captured the number 1 seed in the East in 2015. Former Hawks Kyle Korver is still available in free agency and although many articles link him to the Lakers, the Hawks should take a long look at Korver and bring him back to help spread the floor with his top notch shooting ability.
After the Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors to claim their first NBA title the celebration barely lasted. That’s because everyone was fixated on what would happen with free agents Kevin Durant, who had just torn his achilles in the finals, and Kawhi Leonard, who had just won finals MVP. Their decisions were set to shape the NBA for years to come as they’re two of best three players on the planet and reports of the two even becoming teammates were swirling around various headlines.
But before they could even make their announcements one of the Los Angeles franchises made a huge splash move.
The AD Trade
The Los Angeles Lakers have long been the NBA’s most cherished franchise and their move a season ago to get LeBron James bought a championship atmosphere that LA hadn’t felt since the departure of Kobe Bryant. Yet, the Lakers failed to make the playoffs in an injury-filled 2018 season and were looking to make a huge move in the offseason in order to have a chance at a chip. The Lakers then traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and a slew of draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in order to get Anthony Davis. Having AD paired with LeBron should surely restore the championship pedigree that the Lakers are uses to having. Even Las Vegas agreed, having the Lakers listed as the most likely 2019-20 champion following the trade. Will they bring in enough pieces in order to make the run that they want?
KD Moves To The East
Another move that shook up the Western Conference was the departure of Kevin Durant from the warriors. Actually, not only did he move on from the Warriors, he moved on from the Western Conference as a whole after inking a deal with the Brooklyn Nets in order to hoop with Kyrie Irving when he returns from the aforementioned achilles injury in the 2020-21 season. The move removes the NBA’s best scorer from the conference where his teams (Thunder/Warriors) were annually near the top and places him in the East, giving more balance to the West.
Thompson Out, Russell In?
KD wasn’t the only Warrior who suffered an injury during the NBA Finals. Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the last round and left a bit of uncertainty for the Warriors heading into next season, especially after they lost Durant. GM Bob Meyers went out and found another ball-handling guard who moved well without the ball in his hands and could create his own shot: D’Angelo Russell. The Warriors were at their best when they played within the team and had a ton of ball movement involved in the offense and now they can bring that back with the addition of Russell. The only question is where does that leave Klay when he comes back? Do they move him to the three or do the Warriors trade Russell if the one year rental doesn’t prove to live up to his all-star status?
Clippers Go All In
The Los Angeles Clippers made the biggest chess moves of the entire summer. They took a page out of the Raptors 2018 formula and went all in on star forward Kawhi Leonard and why not? He just lead the Raptors to their first championship by bringing his skill set to a team that was deep on the bench and played great defense. Now he’s joing a clippers team that has a deep bench and plays great defense, how ironic. The icing on the cake for the whole deal? Paul George. Kawhi reportedly told the Clipper to get Paul George in order for him to sign to the team, and they did just that while giving up a bunch of future draft picks in the process.
The Golden State Warriors defeated the Houston Rockets just a couple of days after Kevin Durant strained his calf in game five. Although Steph Curry helped his team hold onto a critical game five victory, he would be called upon to deliver even bigger with his team’s best scoring option sidelined with injury. He went on to deliver 33 points (All in the second half) en route to leading the Warriors to their fifth consecutive Western Conference Finals appearance. Curry’s performance highlighted his leadership and calmness while delivering in the clutch to get his team to the next round as he scored 23 of his 33 in the final quarter. Klay Thompson chipped in 27 points (21 from 3-point range) while Andre Iguodala came alive in Durant’s absence scoring 17 points including 15 from 3-point range. Draymond Green almost notched a triple-double by scoring eight points to go along with 10 rebounds and seven asissts. People often forget these were the original Golden State Warriors that won a championship and went 73-10 the following season without Kevin Durant in their roster. Instead they won with the four aforementioned stars who had been on the roster since Mark Jackson was their head coach.
Many figured that with Durant and DeMarcus Cousins out with injury, the rockets with James Harden and Chris Paul would be enough to will the Rockets to victory. The pair tallied 62 points and 19 assists combined but their status as closers has once again been marred by back to back upset losses that they had no business losing. Kevin Durant went down late in game five and that put the Rockets in prime position take a hold of that game with Durant then sidelined. Instead Harden became less aggressive (Five points in the fourth quarter) while the rest of the team crumbled under the pressure of trying to withhold a lead at Oracle. Oh and it didn’t help that Steph Curry got hot late either.
The Rockets and the rest of the NBA must always remember that Curry lead his team to a Western Conference Finals series win in 2016 after being down 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder who then had Kevin Durant.
The blockbuster trade for Kyrie Irving prior to the 2017 bought a new swagger to the Boston Celtics, who had also acquired Gordon Hayward via free agency. That new swagger was placed on hold after the first game of the 2017-2018 season when Hayward went down with injury and left Irving as the lone superstar amongst a young roster. After all that is what Irving wanted right? He asked for a trade out of Cleveland because he didn’t want to play second fiddle to LeBron James in Cleveland although the Cavaliers appeared in three straight finals.
Kyrie then went down with his own season-ending injury that seemed to shake the Celtics season. However the young Celtics team were able to rally behind veteran Al Horford and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals where they were one game away from defeating LeBron James and setting themselves up with a date with the Golden State Warriors. But this year was supposed to be different because the C’s were getting their leader back in Irving.
Kyrie’s lone full season as the starting point guard for the Celtics was marred with a handful of ups and downs. At the beginning of the season, Boston was playing good basketball, racking up 30 wins in 48 games. Then they sort of hit a wall and dropped to fourth in the conference after being second last season without Irving for the full season. So what happened? Well, Irving’s lack of leadership showed multiple times as he attempted to either play hero ball a bunch or he would alienate his teammates during and after games.
Nikola Jokic had been on his way to becoming one of the best centers in the entire league for some time now. With the dominance of other big men such as Demarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid making such huge names for themselves. But there’s one thing that each one of these players lack: Playoff success.
Jokic, in just his fourth NBA season had never participated the NBA playoffs until this season following an exceptional regular season from his Nuggets squad that finished second in the conference. The Serbian center was then able to will his team to a game seven victory over the San Antonio Spurs to give the Nuggets their first playoff series win since the 2009 when Carmelo Anthony was their superstar.
Last night ‘The Joker’ notched 37 points along with nine rebounds in a game one victory over the Portland Trailblazers. It was a well needed victory for a franchise that’s turned it’s past misfortunes into a buzzing championship contender with a flurry of unselfish players to match their team-first style of play. Jokic is the focal point of all of this as he’s the engine that gets the team going along with third year guard Jamal Murray who chipped in 23 points in their win.
The Boston Celtics just swept the Indiana Pacers handily in a series the Pacers were overmatched in from the start. Indiana was missing star guard Victor Oladipo throughout the series as he’s battling back from a ruptured tendon which he suffered in January. The loss loomed large as the Pacers were forced to turn to Bojan Bogdanovic to provide a spark on offense throughout the series.
The Celtics pushed any chatter of an early playoff exit out of the door as their core of Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford along with their deep bench are all peaking at the right time. It’s been a long road for this Boston team that entered the season with expectations higher than almost any team in the NBA. Remember now, this is the same Celtics team that was a Game 7 victory away from knocking off LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals a year ago.. without Irving or Gordon Hayward. Now LeBron’s in the Western conference
The Sweet Sixteen is here and this year’s matchups figure to be some of the best in the past few years. Big matchups such as Kentucky-Houston and Duke-Virginia Tech highlight this year’s round of games but don’t sleep on the other games.. or the teams that are featured in them.
Let’s take a look at the underdogs with the best chances to pull of upsets come Thursday and Friday:
1. Auburn Tigers
The Auburn Tigers have proved to be one of toughest squads to beat all year with two impressive victories over Tennessee who is also in the Sweet Sixteen along with their most recent victory, a 14 point win over Kansas. Can the resilient bunch put it together once again and will they way to victory against Roy Williams and his #1 seeded North Carolina squad? We’ll see.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies have a great chance at defeating Duke for two reasons. For one, they beat the Blue Devils before (yea Zion Williamson was out but a win is a win) and for two, Duke was a missed put back away from losing against UCF. The Hokies of Virginia Tech must capitalize on the Blue Devil’s vulnerability if they want to win this matchup.
3. Florida State Seminoles
Let me be honest.. Florida State shouldn’t be listed as an underdog. Although they’ve endured seven losses on the season they’ve managed huge wins against LSU, Purdue, Virginia Tech and Virginia, all whom are also in the Sweet Sixteen with the Seminoles. The fact that Gonzaga is a #1 seed helped to categorize the Seminoles as an underdog for their matchup, however don’t be surprised if Mfiondu Kabengele and company are able to beat the Bulldogs.
The Los Angeles Lakers are officially hanging from a thread in terms of making the playoffs after their recent loss to the NBA’s worst team, the Pheonix Suns. The loss now seats the Lakers two spots outside of the playoffs which also amounts to them being five games back from being in the eight seed. With 19 games left in the regular season, would it be wise to believe LeBron James can lead this group of players to the playoffs?
The 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers are not a bad squad. They definitely have had an up and down season, however they certainly have the pieces in place to make a playoff run, if they can even get there. Star forward LeBron James previously stated that he was activating his “playoff mode” earlier than expected due to the Lakers playoffs hopes reeling. However, the rest of the squad outside of Brandon Ingram have shown up on a consistent enough basis for the Lakers to have the string of wins that they so badly need if they really want a playoff spot. Their loss to the Pheonix Suns highlighted how sloppy and unorganized year it’s been for a Lakers team led by Luke Walton who is reportedly set to be fired after the season. So will the Lakers play inspired basketball down the stretch for their current coach or will they slouch around the last 19 games?
Hawks point guard Trae Young, becomes the first rookie since Philadelphia 76er, Allen Iverson, to record 35 plus points in two consecutive games. The Atlanta Hawks rookie has been on a impressive role since the All-star weekend. The Hawks point guard has averaged Twenty Three points per game over the course of February. The rookie point guard recorded 36 points and 10 assists during the Hawks 131 to 123 win versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. Young has definitely created a spark within his young Atlanta team. The Hawks point guard will win Rookie Of The Year, playing at this rate. Check out Trae Young’s highlights last game verse the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Below)
Muhammad Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay, was one of the greatest boxers of all time. But Ali was also much more than just a boxer as he served as a Civil Rights Activist in the 1960s.
Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky and by the time he was 18 years old he was already professionally fighting. He first garnered worldwide attention during the 1960 Olympic Games when he won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the age of 18. At the age of 22 he upset former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston for the title of best heavyweight in the world. Ali then went on to defeat Floyd Patterson along with another string of helpless boxers before he was banned from boxing for three years for refusing to serve in the United States military during the Vietnam War (which was due to his battle with dyslexia).
Upon his return Ali regained the world heavyweight title by defeating George Foreman in the widely remembered Rumble In The Junglein which almost no one gave him a chance at winning.