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Thread: The Enigma

  1. #11
    He's One of Our Own! James's Avatar

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    That Players Tribune article was incredible. The writing here is really top notch!

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  3. #12
    Stand On Guard For Thee Captain Canada's Avatar

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    [banner]

    prep·a·ra·tion: the action or process of making ready or being made ready for use or consideration.


    Chapter 1: Exodus

    The Rookie Transition Program.

    Since the NBA Draft was such an enveloping and overwhelming experience, this was my first, legitimate time being around the incoming talent of this year's draft. Surrounding me were some of my Duke teammates, including the newest Detroit Piston, Luke Kennard, as well as my buddy Harry Giles, now a member of the Sacramento Kings. The room was buzzing with intrigue and mild conversation as we waited for the host to settle us and begin the program.

    It was designed to introduce the incoming class of athletes to what being a professional athlete would be like. Media relations, expectations from fanbases, dealing with financials. It's a drag, but I didn't mind sitting there; being able to soak in the wisdom of former players and executives certainly couldn't hurt. As long as I was prepared to limit the off-the-court distractions so I could just play ball, I was happy.

    "Man," Luke said, as one of the officials motioned for us to take our seats. "As if we're actually here. We ain't in Durham no more, A.J." I shook my head in disbelief. There would be no more meetings in the familiar sports auditorium to go over our previous games and practices with Coach K. Hell, after this, Luke and I would barely see eachother until the off-season other than matchups between the Pistons and my Miami Heat.

    "First off, I would like to congratulate all those here today on earning the opportunity to play in the National Basketball Association. We here at the Rookie Transition Program believe we have gathered the best culmination of experts and motivators to best aid you in working towards every dream and goal you have. Use the NBA as a platform to better the world and better our league but most importantly, better yourselves" the host spoke briefly. There was a skitter of applause as he welcomed the first guest of the afternoon, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    His 7 foot 2 frame was as intimidating on the stage as I'm sure it was when he was performing his famous skyhook shot during the 70's. However, his warm smile seemed to put everyone in the room at ease. This is a man that had won six NBA championships, as a 19-time NBA All-Star, and was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama last year. If you can think of any accomplishment, he's probably got it.

    "What a time to be alive, ain't it gentlemen" he said to a series of claps and yells of excitement from the crowd.

    "The NBA has the potential to be everything you've ever wanted. In this room are future champions and MVPs, hell, maybe even some Hall of Famers like myself. But, with every opportunity of grandeur and luxury, comes the possibility of disappointment and tragedy. The things you do, and say, and the company you keep is just as important as what choices you decide to make on the court, men. The difference between college and the pros is that there is nothing left to fall back on in the NBA. There is no room for excuses here. This is a league for men that act like men, not boys."

    I couldn't help but be caught up in his words of wisdom. I looked around the room and saw that everyone else was as well. Who here would be the Kareem of our draft class? Who would lay forgotten and not get the opportunity to do great things? Who would sabotage themselves? These questions made my heart speed up. The anxiety building up in the pit of my stomach. I prayed it didn't show.

    "Take the information, resources, and words that the following speakers give to you to heart. We've seen it happen, both positively and negatively. Good luck, men" he finished, receiving a raucous of applause.

    The next couple of speakers including a woman representing the NBPA to speak on topics regarding women, dealing with finances, and making comments on LGBT+ communities. Some took it seriously, some were obviously programmed to their beliefs. Women were objects, the money was endless, and they can say what they want.

    Next, we all got the opportunity to take tips on fashion and to basically mingle with each other. I had an interesting conversation with Lonzo Ball, the second overall selection to the Los Angeles Lakers, regarding how he was in terms of the media coverage on his father. I obviously couldn't relate with my father still being behind bars, but it couldn't be easy. Whether or not he deserved the comments he was getting, it's still the guy's father. He was down to Earth, which was surprising considering the persona he had created for himself.

    The Rookie Transition Program was interesting, I learned a lot that I honestly didn't know. But, to be honest. None of this would matter. It's as they say, the best practice you can get is on the court.

  4. #13
    The writing is excellent man. Loving this already.

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  6. #14
    Jimmy G / Zaddy C-Dub's Avatar


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    time to burn up Miami

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  8. #15
    This is awesome man!

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  10. #16
    Stand On Guard For Thee Captain Canada's Avatar

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    NBA Power Rankings: 1-10


    1. Golden State Warriors

    Last Season: 67-15 - Won NBA Championship

    Summary: The Golden State Warriors beat their opponents by a league-high 12.1 points per 100 possessions last year despite Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all hitting threes at rates below their career averages. For Curry, 41.1 percent was his lowest conversion rate ever. The league's best team (by a huge margin) got better—to the point where it now feels reasonable to predict they'll set the all-time record for offensive rating in a year where they could also lead the league in defensive efficiency.


    2. Cleveland Cavaliers

    Last Season: 51-31 - Lost in NBA Finals

    Summary: LeBron James treats the regular season like a warmup, their defensive indifference doesn't necessarily signal how they'll perform when actually trying and whatever version of the team starts the playoffs doesn't much resemble the one that ends them. Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose present spacing challenges to an offense that used to be based on surrounding James with four three-point shooters. It'll be fascinating to see this team's shot distribution, even with Kevin Love sliding over to start at center and, theoretically, compensating for a couple of guards who can't hit threes.


    3. Houston Rockets

    Last Season: 55-27 - Lost in Conference Semi-Finals

    Summary: Over the past three seasons, Chris Paul has averaged 9.9 assists per game and James Harden has averaged 8.5 assists per game. Only once has a set of teammates averaged at least 8 APG in the same season (minimum 25 games on same team): 1983-84 Spurs, John Lucas (10.7) and Johnny Moore (9.6). Expect to see Houston push the limits of three-point volume again, perhaps breaking last season's all-time record of 3,306 triple tries. In addition to all those bombs, it'd behoove the Rockets to let Paul operate in the mid-range once in a while. He's deadly from the right elbow, and postseason opponents (namely the Spurs) exploited Houston's allergy to jumpers inside the arc.


    4. Oklahoma City Thunder

    Last Season: 47-35 - Lost in Conference Quarter-Finals

    Summary: Russell Westbrook recorded an NBA-record 42 triple-doubles last season, breaking Oscar Robertson's single-season record. Westbrook is at 79 career triple-doubles and with 29 more this season, he would pass Jason Kidd for the third most in NBA history. The version of the Thunder General Manager Sam Presti built may be the best equipped group to match up with the Warriors, provided Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony decide to defend once in a while. With Patrick Patterson capable of playing some undersized 5 and Paul George useful as a defender against four positions (especially if the Dubs also play small, which they will) the Thunder can get switchy and versatile with the best of them.


    5. San Antonio Spurs

    Last Season: 61-21 - Lost in Conference Finals

    Summary: Is this the season Kawhi Leonard wins MVP? Russell Westbrook added two All-Star teammates. James Harden added another ball-dominant guard. LeBron James will certainly be in the running, but will he play enough? Institutional consistency, veteran savvy and Head Coach Greg Popovich's unyielding leadership are enough to preserve the significant gap between the steady Spurs and the Celtics. That could change if one or more of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili or Danny Green slip significantly.


    6. Boston Celtics

    Last Season : 53-29 - Lost in Conference Finals

    Summary: There's little question the Boston Celtics will score with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward joining Al Horford in Brad Stevens' offense, but this team's performance on the other end could be an issue. And if the Celtics go small around Horford, a notoriously poor rebounder, they could get demolished on the glass. The Celtics return just four players -- Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier -- from a team that won an East-best 53 games last season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Boston is the first team in NBA history to return four or fewer players the season after leading a conference in wins. All that said, the Celts' star power and Stevens' strategic button-pushing make them a clear runner-up in the East.


    7. Washington Wizards

    Last Season: 49-33 - Lost in Conference Semi-Finals

    Summary: Last season, Washington won 49 games, its most since becoming the Wizards in 1997-98. Washington has won 50 games five times in its history and hasn't done so since the 1978-79 Washington Bullets won 54 games. Jodie Meeks and Tim Frazier, both new additions, give the Wizards capable backups at both guard spots. And if Ian Mahinmi provides anything at all behind Marcin Gortat, the frontcourt gets some badly needed depth.


    8. Denver Nuggets

    Last Season: 40-42 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: The Nuggets became a top League Pass team when Nikola Jokic was inserted into the starting lineup in December. Following the All-Star break, Jokic averaged 17.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. The only other player to put up 17-11-6 in the second half of the season was MVP Russell Westbrook. While everyone's fawning over the Wolves as the West's best up-and-comer, the Nuggets are the squad with a locked-in strength. Their offense is going to be fantastic. Jamal Murray will score from everywhere, Gary Harris shot 42 percent from three last year and Jokic is the best big-man passer in the NBA. There is no way these guys rank outside the top five in offensive efficiency.


    9. Toronto Raptors

    Last Season: 51-31 - Lost in Conference Semi-Finals

    Summary: The Toronto Raptors appear to be serious about their offensive reinvention. After years defined by isolation attacks, low assist rates and stagnant stretches (especially in the postseason), they're committing to a drive-and-kick attack. In their final preseason contest, they fired up 48 threes and registered 31 assists. Both totals topped season-highs from 2016-17. Major changes like these are uncommon for teams with cores as established and familiar as Toronto's. But it was clear the Raps needed to tweak their style, and it'll be fascinating to see the results as the season gets rolling. Kyle Lowry is still an All-NBA-level point guard who has to stay healthy, DeRozan worked all summer to extend his range and C.J. Miles pairs nicely with Norman Powell to give the Raptors matchup options on the wing.


    10. Minnesota Timberwovles

    Last Season: 31-51 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: The Timberwolves added Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford this offseason. Will the addition of so many experienced players be enough to snap a 13-year playoff drought, the longest in the NBA? An underappreciated lack of wing depth and unproven defense are big obstacles, but the expectations are otherwise well-founded. Nonetheless, the reason Minnesota ranks this low has more to do with another breakout squad in the West. Minnesota is a trendy pick to push for 50 wins and a top-four seed in the West.

    Courtesy of Bleacher Report and ESPN

  11. #17
    Stand On Guard For Thee Captain Canada's Avatar

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    NBA Power Rankings: 11-20


    11. Utah Jazz

    Last Season: 51-31 - Lost in Conference Semi-Finals

    Summary: The departed Gordon Hayward will certainly be missed on the offensive side, but the Jazz should still boast a stout defense with Rudy Gobert in the middle. According to NBA.com player tracking data, Gobert held opponents to 43.8 percent shooting at the rim last season, the lowest field goal percentage allowed at the rim (minimum 300 attempts at the rim). Ricky Rubio could easily outproduce George Hill's contributions last season, considering Hill played just 49 games. A noted ballhawk, Rubio should also induce turnovers in a way Hill never did. His perimeter pestering combined with Gobert's fearsome work inside could lead the Jazz to a No.1 defensive ranking this season.


    12. Milwaukee Bucks

    Last Season: 42-40 - Lost in Conference Quarter-Finals

    Summary: Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals per game last season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, if he records career highs across the board this season, he will become the first player to improve his per-game averages in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals in each of his first five NBA seasons. Khris Middleton is fully healthy after losing much of last season to a hamstring injury. He's among the most underrated two-way wings in the league. Throw in a step forward from Thon Maker, sustained shooting from Tony Snell and added comfort for Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, and this team can get better. If the Bucks can stay in the mix until Jabari Parker returns from his torn ACL, estimated to be sometime in February, they'll be potent.


    13. Los Angeles Clippers

    Last Season: 51-31 - Lost in Conference Quarter-Finals

    Summary: Chris Paul is no longer on the team but the Clippers added a great passer in Milos Teodosic. That's good news for DeAndre Jordan, who has led the league in alley-oop dunks each of the past six seasons. Jordan's 595 alley-oop dunks since the 2011-12 season are 226 more than the next player on the list. Depending on the health of Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari, the Clips could have one of the more multi-skilled and dynamic forward duos in the league...or one that combines for about 100 games and sinks the team. Griffin's facilitation and a possibly improved three-point shot were on display in the preseason, but his athleticism seemed to be even further diminished coming off toe surgery. It will be hard to trust his durability after having his last two seasons ended by surgeries. He's missed an average of nearly 28 games over the last three years.


    14. Portland Trail Blazers

    Last Season: 41-41 - Lost in Conference Quarter-Finals

    Summary: Damian Lillard averaged 25 points per game each of the past two seasons but wasn't selected an All-Star in either season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, he is one of three players to average 25 PPG and not make an All-Star team in back-to-back seasons, joining Michael Redd and Purvis Short. Neither Redd nor Short did so in three consecutive seasons. A full season of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic means we should probably adjust our expectations upward for the Portland Trail Blazers. That group produced a plus-11.3 net rating in 419 minutes last year, and Portland went 14-6 in the 20 games during which all three were healthy enough to play.


    15. Miami Heat

    Last Season: 41-41 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: It was a tale of two halves for the Heat last season. Miami started 11-30, finished with a 30-11 record and wound up missing the playoffs by one game. And if the preseason was any indication, the one-on-one matchup between Hassan Whiteside and Joel Embiid will be fun to watch. Whiteside won the individual matchup in their only game last season (32-13 vs. 22-5), but Embiid and the 76ers won the game. Adding A.J. Jackson from Duke is a key acquisition; his scoring prowess will pay dividens. Don't expect it to be the Heat's saving grace this season though.


    16. Memphis Grizzlies

    Last Season : 43-39 - Lost in Conference Quarter-Finals

    Summary: The Grizzlies have made the playoffs each of the past seven seasons, the third-longest active streak behind only the Spurs and Hawks. That streak could be in jeopardy as ESPN's Basketball Power Index gives the Grizzlies a 19 percent chance of making the playoffs. If head coach David Fizdale has more success implementing a modern, uptempo attack with plodders Tony Allen and Zach Randolph gone, and if he gets production from an hodge-podge roster in which the likes of Wayne Selden, Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers occupy key roles, perhaps the Grizz do enough to offset inevitable decline from their two best players.


    17. Charlotte Hornets

    Last Season: 36-46 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: Despite this being his fourth stop in six seasons, Dwight Howard is still capable of producing a double-double on a nightly basis. Last season, Howard averaged a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double for the 13th time in his career, matching Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal for the fourth-most seasons in NBA history. Only three players averaged a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double in more seasons: Charles Barkley (15), Wilt Chamberlain (14) and Moses Malone (14). Malik Monk doesn't need to save the Charlotte Hornets, but a hot start to his rookie season could help them survive Nicolas Batum's absence better than expected.He shoots an easy ball from deep, has an array of in-between floaters and is comfortable navigating the pick-and-roll as a ball-handler. At a wispy 6'3", Monk will struggle guarding most 2s, but Batum's defense has quietly slipped in recent years. No great downgrade there.


    18. Philadelphia 76ers

    Last Season: 28-54 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: In ESPN's #NBArank, the 76ers had five players ranked inside the top 100 (Joel Embiid 32nd, Robert Covington 55th, Ben Simmons 84th, Markelle Fultz 86th, JJ Redick 87th). The only teams with more players ranked inside the top 100 were the Spurs and Rockets, who each had six. Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are rookies. They're going to lose their way on defense and turn the ball over a ton. Both figure to play big minutes, though Fultz's full-on shooting-form crisis had to have been a factor in his loss of a starting role. Yes, JJ Redick and Robert Covington are terrific wings, but they're dependent on others for their shots. If Embiid's not sucking in the defense, and neither Fultz nor Simmons commands attention on the perimeter, Philly's best shooters may find looks hard to come by.


    19. New Orleans Pelicans

    Last Season: 34-48 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: The Pelicans have arguably the best power forward-center combo in the NBA. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are two of 18 players with career averages of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in NBA history. The other 16 players are all Hall of Famers (minimum 200 games played). It's genuinely hard for Rajon Rondo's absence to hurt a team's chances of success. Other than a pair of strong playoff games for the Chicago Bulls last year, Rondo's presence has generally produced failure in recent years. But the New Orleans Pelicans were already so thin at the guard and wing spots, and still scrambling to replace Solomon Hill's minutes at the 3, that Rondo's sports hernia surgery actually constitutes a problem.


    20. Detroit Pistons

    Last Season: 37-45 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: New Piston Avery Bradley took a step forward last season in Boston, averaging career highs in scoring (16.3) and rebounding (6.1). He became the first player 6-foot-2 or shorter to average 16 points and six rebounds per game since 1970-71 and just the sixth player overall to do so. More encouraging: Andre Drummond's 80 percent conversion rate from the foul line. The career 38.1 percent shooter from the stripe hit 16 of his 20 freebies—perhaps a small-sample anomaly, or maybe the result of a summer spent working on his stroke. Drummond also told reporters he's down 30 pounds from last year's weight and had surgery to repair a deviated septum. Much depends on Drummond's energy level and commitment. And if he can hit enough foul shots to stay on the floor in the fourth quarter, the Pistons could make this initial ranking look low in a hurry.


    Courtesy of Bleacher Report and ESPN

  12. #18
    Jimmy G / Zaddy C-Dub's Avatar


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    all I needed to see was Warriors at #1

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  14. #19
    Stand On Guard For Thee Captain Canada's Avatar

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    NBA Power Rankings: 21-30


    21. Dallas Mavericks

    Last Season: 33-49 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: Dirk Nowitzki has played an average of 68 games over the past three seasons. If he plays 68 games this season, he'll need to average 17.1 points per game to pass Wilt Chamberlain for fifth on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Dennis Smith Jr. scored in double figures in four of his last five preseason games and shot 47.4 percent from long range while, more importantly, showing hints of advanced playmaking skill to go along with his ungodly athletic burst. There should be some concern about the relentless pace pushing head coach Rick Carlisle wants when Smith is in the game, as it would seem to marginalize franchise mainstay Dirk Nowitzki, leaving him plodding behind the action. But if Smith builds on what he's shown so far, he could propel Dallas into a crowded and exceptionally competitive West playoff race. And if all he does is dunk a bunch, that'll be a fine consolation prize.


    22. Los Angeles Lakers

    Last Season: 26-56 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: Lonzo Ball averaged a Las Vegas Summer League-record 9.3 assists per game. Only three Lakers rookies averaged even five assists per game in their first season: Magic Johnson (7.3), Norm Nixon (6.8) and Nick Van Exel (5.8). Kyle Kuzma continued to look like a legitimate rotation weapon, building on his strong summer-league showing but losing some of the perimeter accuracy that made his game especially tantalizing. He's done enough to carve out minutes up front, perhaps cutting into the roles of Larry Nance Jr. or even Julius Randle. There are reasons to believe the Lakers could score at a level above the league's average this season, especially if Brandon Ingram shapes up and the veteran duo of Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope benefit from Ball's playmaking. The problems will be on defense, where L.A. will struggle to avoid finishing among the league's bottom five teams.


    23. Orlando Magic

    Last Season: 29-53 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: After attempting 190 3-pointers in his first two seasons, Aaron Gordon took 267 3-pointers last season (made 77). His 28.8 3-point field goal percentage was the second worst in the NBA (minimum 200 attempts), just ahead of Marcus Smart (28.3). So much of what made last year disappointing involved Gordon's struggles as a perimeter player, weak wing play and underwhelming production from Bismack Biyombo in the first year of a hefty new contract. If those three areas improve (and the Magic defend as though they're being coached by Frank Vogel, and not some imposter), there's an outside shot they make a run at a playoff spot in the scorched rubble that is the Eastern Conference. Remember, though: Orlando had the second-worst net rating in the league last year, which means its measly total of 29 wins might have overstated the team's quality. This is a squad starting from a lower baseline than you think.


    24. Brooklyn Nets

    Last Season: 20-62 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: The Nets won 20 games last season, their fifth fewest since joining the NBA in 1976-77. The Nets have won fewer than 25 games in five of the past eight seasons. No other team has more than three such seasons over that span. Led by head coach Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn wants to space the floor, play fast and shoot threes. Quietly, GM Sean Marks has secured the beginnings of a young core without the benefit of draft picks. Brooklyn exercised 2018-19 contract options on D'Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Jeremy Lin and Allen Crabbe give the Nets backcourt depth—assuming Russell excels in a spaced-out pick-and-roll system (which he should) and LeVert progresses as a useful combo guard during his second season. He shot 9-of-18 and scored 28 points combined in the two preseason games he played while recovering from an ankle injury.


    25. New York Knicks

    Last Season: 31-51 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: The Kristaps Porzingis era is officially underway in New York with Carmelo Anthony now a member of the Thunder. Porzingis' ability to play inside-out was on full display last season, finishing with 78 dunks and 112 3-pointers. He was one of six players with at least 75 dunks and 75 3s and was easily the tallest player to put up those numbers. A Porzingis surge also won't negate the fact that the Knicks are going to trot out several one-way options in their rotation while suffering from a dearth of playmaking and stopping power. Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr., Michael Beasley and rookie Frank Ntilikina will log significant minutes, so opponents are going to get their buckets (even if Ntilikina profiles as a fine defender down the line).


    26. Sacramento Kings

    Last Season : 32-50 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: Rookie point guard De'Aaron Fox showed bursts of top-end NBA speed and athleticism but missed the final three exhibition contests with a sore back. New signee George Hill injured his groin in the Kings' second-to-last preseason game, and any injury for him bears close scrutiny. He played just 49 games a year ago while battling several maladies. Sacramento had a chance to gun for a top draft spot this season, to pocket more lottery tickets, to truly rebuild. But it didn't, and now Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and Hill will keep the Kings from being as bad as they could have been—and should have been. Sacramento doesn't own the rights to its 2019 first-rounder, and the lottery odds will get less favorable for the teams with the worst records after this season, which means the Kings may have blown their best chance at another cornerstone via the draft. Bogdan Bogdanovic is going to be fun, Buddy Hield should hit lots of open shots and maybe Skal Labissiere will make good on the late-season promise he showed last year. But this team has a toe on the mediocrity treadmill when it should be falling all over itself to fail—just for one more year.


    27. Atlanta Hawks

    Last Season: 43-39 - Lost in Conference Quarter-Finals

    Summary: It's going to be a long year for the Hawks, and they seem to know it. Like the Grizzlies, the Hawks could see their playoff run come to an end this season. Atlanta has made the playoffs each of the past 10 seasons, the second-longest active streak behind the Spurs. But ESPN's Basketball Power Index has the Hawks winning 27 games with a 0.4 percent chance of reaching the playoffs for an 11th straight year. Rookie John Collins can dunk from anywhere, second-year wing Taurean Prince might be a three-and-D stud eventually, and Dennis Schroder could take a step forward in his second year as the team's starting point guard. Atlanta has a bit more talent than the three teams beneath it, but the biggest reason it ranks above those clubs is the certainty that, no matter how bad its record gets, head coach Mike Budenholzer will have it playing hard to the end.


    28. Indiana Pacers

    Last Season: 42-40 - Lost in Conference Quarter-Finals

    Summary: Myles Turner may well become a star, but his mix of stretch offense and rim protection isn't nearly enough to offset an otherwise snooze-inducing blandness. Victor Oladipo was Indy's big get in the Paul George trade, but he has yet to prove he can succeed as a team's primary wing option.Lance Stephenson is the only remaining Pacers player from the 2013-14 squad that reached the Eastern Conference finals, and even Stephenson has changed teams six times since then. Now Indiana looks to its young, promising talent Myles Turner to help lead this team. Last season, Turner joined Anthony Davis, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber and Shaquille O'Neal as the fifth player to average 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks per game in his age-20-or-younger season. In conclusion, if the Pacers were a bagel, they'd be plain. If they were a paint color, they'd be taupe.


    29. Phoenix Suns

    Last Season: 24-58 - Missed Playoffs

    Summary: It obviously doesn't do much for their ranking here, but let's give the Phoenix Suns credit for avoiding half measures in their rebuild. Some teams in their position wouldn't have mailed in the final two months of last season. Thinking, perhaps, that having Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Devin Booker was sufficient, other clubs might have tried to avoid another lottery trip. Intriguing as their youth may be, the Suns aren't built to take the next step yet. Expect another dive toward the bottom of the standings; possible trades sending out Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler or Jared Dudley; and another high lottery pick.


    30. Chicago Bulls

    Last Season: 41-41 - Lost in Conference Quarter-Finals

    Summary: Chicago still got fleeced for Jimmy Butler. That's not changing. But that Lauri Markkanen flashed the smooth stroke and deft scoring touch of a possible (POSSIBLE!) quality stretch big man means the Bulls will open the season with something to show for the trade that sent Butler away. Zach LaVine's recovery from ACL surgery will keep him out of contact drills until at least late November, and Kris Dunn could miss the season's first couple of weeks after a nasty finger dislocation. Ryan Arcidiacono will get minutes at backup point guard, and the most important thing to know about him is that you will confuse him with Kirk Hinrich several times the next three months. Or maybe that'll just be me... In good news for the Bulls, they seem committed to shooting lots of threes. After ranking second-to-last with 22.3 deep shots per game last year, they heaved 34.2 per game during preseason play. That won't keep a team with one legitimate rotation player (Robin Lopez) out of the cellar, but it's something. The Bulls are bottoming out. It's the right call, but it won't be much fun.


    Courtesy of Bleacher Report and ESPN

  15. #20
    Stand On Guard For Thee Captain Canada's Avatar

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    [banner]

    de·but - a person's first appearance or performance in a particular capacity or role.



    Chapter 2: Game 1

    You ever hear about people who don't ride a bike for a little bit and then they start it up again and feel as though they have completely forgotten how to do it. I don't know if it is the anxiety of finally playing in a regular season NBA game, but I feel like I've forgotten everything I've ever learned when it comes to the game of basketball. Every jab step, every dribble - hell, even being able to lift off the ground for a dunk. Sitting in my stall, dressed in my Miami Heat sweatsuit, my mind was a blank canvas.

    "This is a public service announcement
    Sponsored by Just Blaze and the good folks at Roc-A-Fella Records
    "Fellow Americans, it is with the utmost pride and sincerity
    That I present this recording, as a living testament and recollection
    Of history in the making during our generation."
    Allow me to re-introduce myself
    My name is"...


    The words of Jay-Z echoed within my ear drums as I hoped the soundtrack would hype me up and allow this pit welled deeply in my gut to dissipate. So far? Nothing. I was nervous to the point where I could feel my skin slowly becoming more and more damp. My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. I kept staring at my hands, watching them shake uncontrollably.

    My first game of Varsity and I was fine. My first game at Duke, and I was perfectly composed. The NBA was a whole new beast.

    The signal to leave for the court had came and the guys began filing out of the dressing room. I felt myself incapable of moving. It felt as though I was glued to my seat. My legs wouldn't respond to my mind screaming for me to move.

    "Come on, man. It's time to go get what you have been working for for such a long time. Everyone will be watching you. You know how to do this. Come on, move." My mind was screaming. All of a sudden, I felt a hand clasp my shoulder, shaking me out of my personal stuper.

    It was Udonis Haslem, the veteran leader of the team. Ever since Dwyane Wade had left the team for the Chicago Bulls, Udonis had been the undisputed leader of this team and the longest tenured member.

    "Kid, all you gotta do is treat this game for what it is; 1 out of 82." he said briefly, rubbing the back of my neck in comfort for a second before nodding. As quickly as he had appeared, he left, striding his 6'8" frame out towards of the dressing room.

    "1 out of 82, eh?" I thought to myself. I shook my head free of the cobwebs that binded me to my chair and lifted myself to my feet.

    I had to visualize the success that would come. I was good enough that executives and experts thought I deserved to be here. I worked tirelessly since I was a child. My grandmother passed, my mother disappeared, and my father was incarcerated. And, I was here. The game would come back to me at the touch of a basketball.

    Just like riding a bike.

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