Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

philstarwarriors

 

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

Rumors swirled around Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden that he moped and pouted around the locker room when Stephen Curry was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player over him.

Harden’s frown will be as long as his beard because the Golden State Warriors will win the series.

Curry totaled 1,198 points, including 100 of 130 first-place votes, from a panel of 129 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada, as well as the Kia MVP fan vote on NBA.com.

Harden received 936 points and only 25 first-place votes.

Now, to the hardwood. The Warriors went 4-0 against the Rockets in the regular season, winning by an average of 15.3 points. Golden State coach Steve Kerr and Curry has been downplaying the regular season record against Houston, but I’m not buying it.

I’m not predicting a sweep simply because James Harden will play with a chip on his shoulder after he felt he was slighted for the MVP award. But if the Rockets win this series, it won’t be because of Harden, it will be on the broad shoulders of Dwight Howard.

Nobody on the Warriors’ roster can guard Howard, but Howard doesn’t have the mindset to dominate in the post. At this stage of his career, he still hasn’t developed a repertoire of post moves and doesn’t command the ball.

This series will come down to Howard, but I don’t trust him. He’s averaging 17.3 points per game and 13.8 rebounds per game in the playoffs, but he needs to up his scoring to around 25 ppg from here on out if he has hopes to make his second trip to the NBA Finals.

However, it will be too much Curry, too much Klay Thompson and too many 3’s. It will be a light show between two high scoring teams, but Warriors in 6.

Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives around Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on January 19, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio."

Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives around Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on January 19, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.”

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs (5) Washington Wizards

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34)
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawks showed true vulnerability in its two eye-opening  losses to the Nets. If Brooklyn guard Deron Williams would’ve sustained any type of consistency, the Nets would’ve knocked off the 1-seeded Hawks. The Hawks are cohesive as a unit, but they are missing that “It” factor.

Luckily, Atlanta was able to ward off the Nets with its three-point shooting led by Kyle Korver. The 3-point specialist knocked down 18 three-pointers in six games, shooting 38 percent from long distance.

Paul Pierce’s barrage of clutch three-pointers combined his moxie and experience in the playoffs, is what Atlanta lacks. John Wall and Jeff Teague will be an exciting matchup to watch throughout the series.

But Pierce, as he skips down the court with his bravado after drilling clutch shots, reminds spectators those shots is why Washington signed “The Truth.”

“This is why they brought me here,” Pierce yelled.

Wizards in 6.


(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs (3) Chicago Bulls

Dec 26, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James

Dec 26, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James

The consensus is shifting towards the Bulls to win the series after the devastating loss to Kevin Love for the Cavaliers. Love sustained a separated shoulder in a tussle for a loose ball with Celtics center Kelly Olynyk.

Chicago’s issue in the past has been the lack of scoring, but Pau Gasol, the emergence of Jimmy Butler and Rookie of the Year runner up Nikola Mirotić, gives the Bulls a bevy of scoring options.

And, of course, former MVP Derrick Rose who has flashed shades of his heyday.

The loss of Love for the Cavs and the two game suspension of J.R. Smith eliminates spacing for LeBron James to operate on the floor. Although, bringing a physical and lengthy Tristan Thompson in the starting lineup bodes favorably for Cleveland. Gasol is more finesse than brute strength. Thompson’s defense on Gasol will be key throughout the series.

Before the Bulls dealt a 54-point shellacking to eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks, they endured back-to-back head-scratching losses after taking a commanding 3-0 lead. Mindless losses against LeBron, Kyrie Irving and the Cavs will cost you the series, not just two games.

Cavaliers in 7.


WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Golden State Warriors vs (5) Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) down on the court after an injury. Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) down on the court after an injury.
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies will force you to play their style of basketball: rugged, grind-it-out, and punch you in the mouth. But without their floor general Mike Conley, who suffered a severe facial injury, the Grizzlies offense will be stagnant.

And unfortunately, Memphis’ offense will be the least of their problems. Conley’s ability to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player will be sorely missed.

Conley would’ve drawn the responsibility to guard MVP-favorite Stephen Curry, but with Conley’s status in limbo, Curry and Co. will put on a shooting clinic.

The Grizzlies rugged style simply won’t be able to keep pace with the Warriors.

Warriors in 5.


(2) Houston Rockets vs (3) Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers Chris Paul (R) works against Houston Rockets James Harden (L) in second half action of their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, California, USA, 11 February 2015.

Los Angeles Clippers Chris Paul (R) works against Houston Rockets James Harden (L) in second half action of their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, California, USA, 11 February 2015.

Game 1 of this series will be the rested versus the restless.

The Clippers survived a seven game series against the defending champions in the San Antonio Spurs, and the Rockets made swift work knocking off the Mavericks in five games.

Chris Paul will take any rest he can get after tweaking his hamstring in the thrilling Game 7 win over the Spurs. Paul’s nifty layup with one second left on the clock punched the Clippers’ ticket to the next round.

The Rockets live and die by MVP candidate James Harden. If the Clippers can contain Harden (easier said than done), it will shift the series heavily in favor of Los Angeles.

The battle of heavyweights down low in DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard will cancel out each other. It will be a physical matchup, but a possible “Hack-a-Howard” and “Hack-a-Jordan” will be brutal for viewers.

I’ll take the battled tested Clippers and the coaching edge with Doc Rivers over Houston.

Clippers in 6.

January 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates with guard Klay Thompson (11) against the Toronto Raptors during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Raptors 126-105. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

January 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates with guard Klay Thompson (11) against the Toronto Raptors during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Raptors 126-105. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

The 2015 NBA Playoffs start Saturday. Who’s moving on to the next round and who’s going fishing?

Western Conference

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis will win the league’s MVP trophy in the near future. He will surely win Defensive Player of the Year some day as well, but MVP favorite Stephen Curry and the Golden States Warriors is too big of a fish for the Pelicans to swallow.

The Splash Bros, Curry and Klay Thompson, ranked first and second respectively(286, 239), in made 3-point field goals. Davis won’t be enough to block or stop all the long balls by Curry and Co., but he’ll show the world why he’s considered the best young big man in the league.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

James Harden’s performance has been un-beard-lievable this season for the Rockets. He averaged a career-high of 27.4 ppg, catapulting himself into the MVP conversation, which is also impressive in the absence of Dwight Howard.

Harden has been bounced at the playoffs in six games the past two seasons. Although, a first-round matchup against a Mavericks team still figuring out its identity since acquiring combative point guard Rajon Rondo, is a sigh of release for Harden.

The Rockets three-game wining streak at the end the season was vital in dodging the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Harden and the Rockets will advance.

Prediction: Rockets in 6

(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs (6) San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are not your typical 6th seed. San Antonio is the defending champions and have reached the Finals in back-to-back seasons. The veteran trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, as well as the soon-to-be leader of the team in Kawhi Leonard, have one goal in mind, another champion

This is a defining series for Clippers guard Chris Paul. He’s undoubtedly a superstar point guard, but he has yet to reach the Finals or Conference Finals during his nine-year career. Paul needs this series win for his legacy and to not fall into the category of one of the greats to never capture a ring.

But those talks will start after this series.

Prediction: Spurs in 6

(4) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (5) Portland Trailblazers

Both teams struggled down the stretch. The Grizzlies lost two of its last three and squeaked by the lowly Utah Jazz in an 89-88 victory. The Trailblazers were banged up losing Nicolas Batum and C.J. McCollum to injury. Both are listed day-to-day.

But the Grizzlies are still the better team and has dominated the Blazers in recent years.

Since the 2012 season, Memphis has bullied Portland, winning nine of 11 games. The Grizzlies swept Portland in the regular season 4-0. The City of Blues will send Portland home on a sad note.

Prediction: Grizzlies in 5

 Eastern Conference

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

At one point during the season, the Nets were 12-31 and thinking about if they would have the opportunity to select Jahlil Okafor or Karl Anthony-Towns in the NBA draft. Now, everyone knows ‘where Brooklyn at,’ and that’s in the playoffs.

But it won’t last long. The Hawks have ran the table since the beginning of the season, including a franchise record 19-game winning steak. Brooklyn is barely a road block in Atlanta’s path.

Prediction: Hawks in 4

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics

I’ll keep this brief and simple: the Cavaliers have LeBron James, 4-time regular season MVP and 2-times Finals MVP. Not to mention a superstar in the making in Kyrie Irving.

According to ESPN Stast&Info, James has played 158 playoff games. The entire Celtics roster has played 139.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 4

(3) Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks

Kudos to Jason Kidd and Bucks’ GM John Hammond for guiding the baby Bucks to the playoffs.

Milwaukee has played stellar defense over the second half of the season, but locking down the raucous crowd in the United Center as they cheer on the resurgent Derrick Rose and the Bulls, will be too much for the Bucks.

Speaking of Rose, the matchup between he and Milwaukee’s Michael Carter-Williams is an intriguing bout.

Prediction: Bulls in 6

(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards

This series is going to take a Game 7. This is by far the best series in the opening round of the Eastern Conference. John Wall averaged the first double-double of his career (17.6 ppg, 10 ast) and averaged 19 points and nine assist in the three game against the Raptors this season.

The Raptors have won seven of its last 10 games and won all three games versus the Wizards this season.

Bradley Beal has been in-and-out of the lineup all season with nagging injuries, but if he can stay healthy during this series he and Wall can elevate themselves as one of the top backcourts in the league.

And they will.

Prediction: Wizards in 7

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils watches "One Shining Moment" with his players Grayson Allen #3, Quinn Cook and Justise Winslow #12 after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils watches “One Shining Moment” with his players Grayson Allen #3, Quinn Cook and Justise Winslow #12 after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men’s Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

By: Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

Coach K wins 5th John Wooden Trophy

Kentucky wasn’t able to etch its name in history, but Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski is (as if he already wasn’t) one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history after capturing his 5th John Wooden Trophy after his Blue Devils defeated Wisconsin 68-63 Monday night.

Krzyzewski is ranked 2nd All-time in national champions with five, only behind Wooden himself with 10. Before entering Monday’s matchup of No. 1 seeds, Coach K was 0-3 against No. 1 seeds in the National Championship game and 4-1 against all others.

Two moments made Coach K’s 5th title a bit more special than the others, 1) Krzyzewski became the first coach in Division I men’s basketball history to eclipse 1,000 wins after defeating St. John 77-68 Jan. 25.

And 2), he was highly-criticized for his inability to coach top recruits, or “one-and-done” players.

Freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Justice Winslow are all but gone to the NBA, and the jury is still out on Tyus Jones’ decision to declare for the draft.

But it was his one-and-done freshmen that spearheaded Duke in the second half. Four of Duke’s freshmen combined for 60 points, an NCAA Championship record. Wisconsin’s four seniors combined for 28.

Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan went on a post-game rant, and displayed poor sportsmanship as he criticized the refs and said Wisconsin doesn’t “rent a player.” It was the epitome of the phrase, “sore loser.” If you’re the spokesperson for a senior led program, Ryan, then show some class and teach the youth how to handle defeat.

Ryan’s full quote:

“All the seniors that I’ve had — hard to say the word. But every player that’s played through the program, okay, we don’t do a rent-a-player. You know what I mean? Try to take a fifth-year guy. That’s okay. If other people do that, that’s okay. I like trying to build from within. It’s just the way I am. And to see these guys grow over the years and to be here last year and lose a tough game, boom, they came back.”

Coach K responded to Ryan quote earlier today during an interview with CBS.

 “Duke doesn’t rent a player,” Krzyzewski said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.”We have one of the great schools in the world, and when we recruit a young man, we recruit a young man because of three things: One, he has the academic potential to do well at Duke; two, he has the talent to do well; and three, he has great character. All the guys on my team fit that description 100 percent.”

Maybe Ryan should take a page or five, from Coach K.

Joe Thomas says teammates “lost trust” in Johnny Manziel during the season

The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner and Cleveland Browns 22nd overall pick may have already hit rock bottom entering his second season in the NFL.

Johnny Manziel checked himself into a drug rehab facility shortly after the Super Bowl to put a stop to career and life-threatening habit.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Manziel is “likely to be discharged soon, possibly even next week.” Those words were confirmed by Browns head coach Mike Pettine made at the owners’ meetings in Phoenix two weeks ago, when he said he expects Manziel to participate in offseason workouts, which begin April 20.

But if the 22-year-old is expecting a warm embrace when he returns, teammate and Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas has a message for Manziel.

“I think he’s going to have to prove to the team that football is important and being ‘the man,’ being the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, is important, it is his goal, his single goal in his life,” Brown told Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland 850. “You know, I think he lost probably a lot of trust among the guys on the team last year by the way he handled himself once he became the starter. And I think he had a lot of time to reflect, I’m guessing, after the season was over by the comments he made in the media and by his actions, checking himself into rehab. … I think those were really positive steps. I’m hoping when we come back in April, we see a new Johnny and everybody’s blown away with his commitment. And I think he’s got the talent, so it’s just a matter of if he commits himself to it, we can have a really good quarterback on our hands.”

Kudos for Thomas, who is the leader of the team, to say what needs to be said to a promising player, but misguided player. Manziel was drafted 22nd overall for a reason, to lead a franchise in desperate need of success and rejuvenation. Checking himself into rehab was another stepping stone to get Manziel’s life on and off the field, back on track.

Like Thomas so eloquently stated, Manziel has to prove to the team that football is his No. 1 priority when he returns from rehab.

There is nothing but truth in Thomas’ words. Prove to your team and the franchise that you’re not just another player that will squander a golden opportunity to play at the highest level of football, Manziel.

Race For 8th in the NBA

Multiple teams in each conference are jockeying for the final playoff spots with a little over a week left in the season.

In Western Conference, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder is leading Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans by half of game. OKC is currently 42-35 and the Pelicans are 41-35.

Remaining games for the Thunder:

Tue, Apr 7 vs San Antonio; Fri, Apr 10 vs Sacramento; Sun, Apr 12 @ Indiana; Mon, Apr 13 vs Portland; Wed, Apr 15 @ Minnesota

Remaining games for the Pelicans:

Tue, Apr 7 vs Golden State; Wed, Apr 8 @ Memphis; Fri, Apr 10 vs Phoenix; Sun, Apr 12 @ Houston; Mon, Apr 13 @ Minnesota; Wed, Apr 15 vs San Antonio

Predictions:

What Russell Westbrook has been doing is simply mind-boggling. If it wasn’t for the legitimate MVP candidate, the Thunder would be a lottery team at this juncture, especially after the news of teammate and reigning MVP Kevin Durant, shut down for the season after three surgeries on his foot.

Westbrook recorded his third 40-point triple-double of the season in a loss to James Harden and the Houston Rockets Sunday. The Thunder are asking a lot from Westbrook as he singlehandedly carries the team on his back in Durant’s absence.

If you look at the schedule, San Antonio and Portland are the only two teams left on the schedule that posses any real threat to OKC.

As gifted as Anthony Davis is, and arguably the second best player in the league, the only team remaining on their schedule that doesn’t have a winning record is the Minnesota Timberwolves. Unless Golden State rest its players, I can’t see the Pelicans knocking of MVP favorite Stephen Curry and the Warriors tonight.

Memphis has been inconsistent as of late, but they are still favored over New Orleans. Every team except for the Timberwolves are vying for a playoff position. The Phoenix Suns are three games back from the 8th spot, but unless both the Pelicans and the Thunder lose the rest of their games, the Suns won’t make the playoffs.

The Thunder will hold off the Pelicans for the final spot in the West.

The competitiveness in the Eastern Conference stops at the 5 seed. Seeds 6 through 9 all have losing records. The hottest team among that group is the 7th-seed Brooklyn Nets. The Nets have a record of 36 and 41, but won 8 of its last 10 games.

The 8th seed in the East is down to a three horse race between the Boston Celtics (35-42), Indiana Pacers (34-43) and the Miami Heat (34-43). Horrid records for either of those teams that will back its way into the postseason.

The Heat seemed like a lock to make it weeks ago, but Miami is currently on a 4-game skid, dropping from 7th to 10th.

Miami is still the better team between the three of them. So until April 15 says otherwise, I’m still picking the Heat to claim the final spot in the East.

"In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home." -LeBron James said in his letter to SI.com Bill Kostroun, Associated Press file photo

“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.” -LeBron James said in his letter to SI.com
Bill Kostroun, Associated Press file photo

By KELTON BROOKS

Twitter: (@BrooksWeekly)

Ten years from now, no, 20 years from now, one will ask a question of an action that scratched a ripple into the space-time continuum: “Where were you when LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers?” I was at work tweeting my butt off.

Flabbergasted but impressed. Confused yet in awe. Intrigued, although, I completely understood it all. I’ll be the first to admit that I believed LeBron was returning to Miami, but after reading his letter on why he returned to Cleveland, I’ve never been more happy to be wrong. His statement was beyond sincere, completely honest and poured out straight from his heart.

Cleveland deserves its hometown hero.

In his letter to SI.com announcing his return to Cleveland, his opening paragraph gave me goosebumps. It made me draw my eyes beyond champion rings, MVP trophies and clutch game winning shots.

It simply made me look beyond the game of basketball.

Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.

Four years ago, the King embarked on a journey of riches. He led the Miami Heat to a championship appearance in each of his seasons in South Beach, coming away with two elusive championship rings that he so badly coveted, two Finals MVP trophies, two regular season MVP awards, and averaged 26.9 points per game, 7.6 rebounds and 6.7 assist per game.

But before he set off, LeBron ignited a fire storm in his hometown of Akron, Ohio and the city of Cleveland. Jerseys were burned, tears flowed, groans bellowed, and billboards of his legendary status were stripped down and disposed. Even the Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert expressed his hurt and disgust in his own letter after LeBron set sail for a voyage to more promising lands.

It was rocky sail at sea, but LeBron hit the nail on the head in his letter on his time in Miami:

Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.

Miami taught LeBron how to win when it counted.

In seven seasons with the Cavaliers, he left as the all-time leading scorer with 15, 251 points, minutes played with 22, 108, and all-star appearances with six. The Cavaliers won more playoff games in seven seasons with LeBron James (42) than in 37 seasons without him (28), according to ESPN Stats & Info. But the Cavaliers only made one Finals appearance with LeBron and he was swept by the same team that beat his then Miami Heat in five games, the San Antonio Spurs.

Those numbers are gaudy and teasing, but unfinished. LeBron knows the city of Cleveland is starving to hoist a champion trophy of any sport into the air. A major Cleveland pro sports team has not won a championship since the Browns in 1964 (141 seasons), the longest active drought of any city. LeBron made it clear what his mission is in his return to Cleveland:

When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.

Westgate Las Vegas has Cleveland and San Antonio as co-favorites at 4-1 odds to win the championship. For the Spurs, they are the defending champions, I get it. But for the Cavaliers, I should be shocked, but I’m not. LeBron stated in his letter that “we’re not ready yet,” meaning the Cavaliers current roster with all-star point guard Kyrie Irving, No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters and the growing Tristian Thompson. A say current because Cleveland could easily trade some of these assets to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love.

Although, this is the Eastern Conference we’re talking about. The Atlanta Hawks made to playoffs with a 38-44 record and the No. 3 seed in the West, the Los Angeles Clippers, would have been the top seed in the East with a 57-25 record.  The only team that would give the now Cavaliers team any cause for concern would be the Chicago Bulls if they signed Carmelo Anthony.

When the LeBron took the Cavaliers to the Finals in the 2007-08 season, the starting lineup was: PG: Larry Hughes; SG: Sasha Pavlović; SF: LeBron James; PF: Drew Gooden; C: Žydrūnas Ilgauskas. The only player that is of any relevance of that team remaining in the NBA is Anderson Varejão. Even at their youth (if a Love trade doesn’t happen), a roster of LeBron, Wiggins, Irving, Waiters and Thompson is head and shoulders above the skill set and talent compared to the 2007-08 Cavaliers roster. Not to mention a LeBron that is motivated playing for his home team and light years ahead of his younger days with the Cavaliers.

That’s what the Heat didn’t have anymore. Youth. Miami was becoming old and slow, steadily signing veteran band-aid pieces that will stick around for a few years. The Heat have plateaued. They wouldn’t have gotten better than they already were at the time with LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Cleveland offers the chance to win now and in the future with Irving and Wiggins primed to take the throne left by Lebron.

I’m still astonished at the reception and how the world was at bay waiting for LeBron’s decision. Lebron’s return might be the most significant moment in Cleveland sports’ history.

And by the end of his career, LeBron might go down as the most influential athlete in the history of professional sports.

Which team will land the 7-time NBA all-star?

Which team will land the 7-time NBA all-star?

By KELTON BROOKS

(@BrooksWeekly)

The forgone conclusion is officially confirmed. Carmelo Anthony has opted out of the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks and will test the open market that is free agency.

He will officially become a free agent July 1.

The 7-time all-star and former NBA scoring champion (28.7 ppg; 2013) now has the flexibility to: A) sign a maximum contract worth $129 million over five years with the Knicks or B) sign a maximum deal worth $96 million over four years with another team.

The teams that reportedly have the likeliest chance to land Anthony—not named the Knicks—are the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks.

The Houston Rockets presents an appealing destination with James Harden and Dwight Howard in place, but signing Melo would create a clog in the engine in Houston. Melo is a ball stopper. He will dribble, dribble, dribble until the end of the shot clock before hoisting up the shot, a bad habit that he frequently does way to often.

The way the ball sticks to Anthony’s hand would also minimize Howard’s touches in the paint. After signing Howard to a four-year $88 million contract last summer, Houston wants to feed Howard early and often. This won’t cause as much friction as some would think with Harden because he is a proven facilitator. Harden has also created a bad rep of disappearing in crunch time. He shies away from the spotlight. Anthony welcomes it. Still, both would have to sacrifice their scoring.

On the business aspect of swooning Melo, Houston would have to move salary off its roster to create much needed cap space to offer Anthony a max contract. Anthony can make $22 million in the first year of a max contract starting next season.

The Rockets’ front office would have to ship big-salary players such as Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to make room for Anthony.

The Knicks can offer Melo a full max contract, familiarity with his friends and family, and Phil Jackson.

Nothing beyond that.

New York won 37 games last season and is not in contention to win a title in the near future.  Andrea Bargnani woefully underperformed last season as he was singed to become a key acquisition, J.R. Smith broke an NBA record of most 3-point attempts in a game with 22, and the hiring of the player turned coach in Derek Fisher doesn’t scream championships.

The Mavericks have been linked to Melo, but reportedly, Dallas has much stronger interest in signing Los Angeles Lakers’ forward/center Pau Gasol.

The superstar should sign with the Chicago Bulls, and here’s why:

If we’re strictly talking about basketball and not the idea of moving his family to a different city, where does he want to spend the rest of his career and the right living environment, then signing with the Bulls is Melo’s best chance to win a ring.

The match is almost too perfect.

The Bulls have one of the top coaches and minds in the NBA in Tom Thibodeau, and a healthy Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah would undoubtedly far outweigh any talent of teammates Anthony has had on his previous two squads. During the NBA All-Star break, Noah and Anthony had conversations on the bench about teaming up, which reportedly turned into a sales pitch to lure Melo to the Windy City.

Anthony would provide the offensive punch needed on a point-starved team who thrives on the defensive end of the ball. The Bulls ranked dead last in scoring (30th) with 93.7 ppg this past season. Melo is not a willing defender, but he won’t have a problem in Chicago if Jimmy Butler is retained. Butler will continue to guard other teams best player or scorer. Anthony has played under defensive minded head coaches in George Karl and Mike Woodson. Playing under Thibodeau would not create a stir on or off the court.

To sign Melo, the Bulls will have no choice but to part ways with the likes of Carlos Boozer, and possibly Butler, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, their two first-round picks (16 and 19).

Melo, 30, at this stage in his career, reaching the Conference Finals once and winner of only three playoff series, he should strongly consider taking less money to sign with the Bulls.

According to ESPN’s Chad Ford, the Bulls are trying to make moves by offering Taj Gibson, Tony Snell, the No. 16 and 19 pick in Thursday’s draft for Minnesota Timberwolves’ power forward Kevin Love. If Anthony is seeking money, then he has no intentions of signing with the Bulls. But if he has aspirations of winning a ring before his career is over, he’ll take his talents to Chicago.

The San Antonio Spurs celebrate with the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy after the Spurs defeated the Miami Heat 107-84 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals to win the NBA Finals Championship, June 15, 2014 in San Antonio,Texas.  From left are: MVP Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills.   The Spurs won the best of seven series 4-1.  AFP PHOTO / Robyn BeckROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs celebrate with the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy after the Spurs defeated the Miami Heat 107-84 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals to win the NBA Finals Championship, June 15, 2014 in San Antonio,Texas. From left are: MVP Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills. The Spurs won the best of seven series 4-1. AFP PHOTO / Robyn BeckROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

 

By KELTON BROOKS

(@BrooksWeekly)

Game Recap:

Quick turnovers that led to fast-breaks by Miami, LeBron James attacking the rim with ferociousness, couple that with a few generous whistles by the refs in favor of the Heat, it appeared the back-to-back defending champs were about to steal one early in San Antonio up 22-6 in the first quarter.

It was a promising sight as the Heat were outscored by 38 points in the first quarter throughout the series.

But the Heat flamed out. The 16-point lead was the champs last hurrah.

A five-point spurt by Manu Ginobili in the middle of the opening quarter sparked a fierce Spurs rally who were down 29-22 at the end of the quarter. The furious run of precision passing and bombs beyond the arch carried in the second quarter as the Heat watched their lead diminish falling behind 35-37 after Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard buried a 3-pointer to take the lead.

It was over right then and there as Miami never went ahead in the scoring column again for the entire game. Just like that, Miami’s two-year title reign was over as the Spurs captured their fifth title in a 104-87 victory that wrapped up the series in five games.

Confetti fell, the champions were crowned, and a sense of redemption was all too sweet after losing to this team 12 months ago. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker became the winningest trio in NBA postseason history. Leonard, 22, became the fourth youngest Finals MVP averaging 23.7 points in Games 3-5 and admirably defended James throughout the series. While Leonard received the MVP honors,  a host of Spurs players were in consideration of the award, especially Ginobili. The now 5-time champion nearly outscored the Heat’s bench by himself in the clinching Game 5 24-19.

The first-ballot Hall of Famer in Duncan is not only the greatest power forward of all time, but one of the greatest players of all time with 5 rings. That’s one shy of the mythical Michael Jordan and tied evenly with Kobe Bryant. Duncan, 38, may now get to coast into the sunset winning champions years apart from each other. This was the Spurs first championship since sweeping then LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals.

Reaction: 

Five games? The back-to-back defending champs possessing the best player in the world would lose to a “boring, old and slow,” team in five games? If you had told a person to identify the old and slow team on the court, he would point at the Heat like a witness pointing at the accused in a courtroom. It was a crime how poorly the Heat played in the last three games.

San Antonio attacked from all angles on the hardwood, made the extra pass that led to easy or wide open buckets, and played unselfish. Unsung hero Patty Mills went 5-8 from behind the 3-point line and 6-10 from the field scoring 18 points in Game 5. No hero ball, only a team who dominated the Heat winning each of their games by +15 points in the series.

After a disappointing showing by point guard Mario Chalmers who struggled mightily in every game of the series (14 total points and 10 turnovers), Heat coach Erik Spoelstra elected to start Ray Allen in place of Chalmers. That decision made the Heat’s bench go bad to worse. Miami’s bench was outscored 41-6 by the Spurs’ reserves by the end of the third quarter.

LeBron averaged 28.2 point per game and 7.7 rebounds in the series. In Game 5, James led the Heat in points (31), rebounds, (10), assist (5), and blocks (2). Over the last six quarters, LeBron has outscored the rest of Miami’s starters 48-46. That’s including Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. In Game 4, James accounted for 90 percent of the team’s points in the third quarter.

Where were the King’s men?

Wade averaged 17.5 in four games against Charlotte, 18.2 against the Brooklyn Nets in five games, and averaged nearly 20 against the Indiana Pacers. An upward trend that crashed in the Finals as Wade averaged 15.2 points per game. Bosh disappeared in games 3-5 after scoring 18 in both Games 1 and 2. The rest of the Heat were non-existent.

You can have the best player on the planet on your team all you want, but if he’s not getting any help and averages 38 minutes per game in the regular season and played 1,800 more minutes than Bosh and Wade, not even LeBron’s broad shoulders can carry a team by himself against a well-oiled machine  that is the San Antonio Spurs.

With Miami’s ‘Big 3′ all able to opt out of their contracts, this may be one of the most entertaining off seasons yet.