Basketball Diary

Changing Of The Guards

Changing Of The Guards

Changing Of The Guards

The NBA season 2015-16 is underway with several unrivaled story lines. There is a changing of the guards from the old to the new, including the retirement of a basketball god. While the defending NBA champions (Golden State Warriors) began the season with a remarkable (20W-0L) record. The association is currently structured between what I like to call: “The Haves vs The Have Not” meaning, NBA teams with large budgets, tv deals against those with little capital to get premium players in small market areas. The Nuggets, Pistons, Pelicans, 76ers, The Kings, Clippers, The Knicks and the Wizards to name a few teams  in need of major upgrade.  The NBA wealth needs to be spread across the organization, giving way to better competitive matches on TV instead of lead blowouts due to uncompetitive balance across each club. The NBA Draft has always been seen as a balance, allowing teams with loosing records to compete for young talent in the form of a lottery draft. The NBA in unison with the players union should work out a deal with team owners.  Perhaps a comprehensive TV deal package with revenue options should also be considered for low bracket teams in addition to draft options. Allowing teams  with little market capital, ie: ( The Kings, 76ers, Bucks, Nuggets, etc) the ability to build/buy talent around young players coming out of college. There are times where  contracting large amounts of money to a single player does not result in wins. The Pelicans (5W-15L) with Anthony Davis, who is a rising star is a major point in case to consider when allocating large contracts for a single player vs the rest of the team. When Dwayne Wade was told a few years ago there was a possibility to bring both Bosh & King James to Miami, he immediately said, “I will take less money in my contract in able to bring them both here”  leading to back-to-back titles in South Beach for the first time in history.

The following story line is a basic observation from a fan/player of the game spanning across two decades. It all started when watching MJ battle my old NYC Knicks at the Garden back in the 90’s

Sir Kobe

Kobe Bryant announced he will retire at the end of the 2015-16 season. Ending a twenty year career, multiple MVP’s, 5 championships and a love for the sport that is truly second to none. Kobe’s competitive drive along with his ability to score  on almost every winning shoot, as a high school champ into the pros in Philadelphia caught the eye of NBA scouts. He was drafted from High School to the NBA, to later become a Laker via a monumental trade deal orchestrated by the Jerry West.  Kobe is currently on his last NBA tour which promises to be a final farewell to one of the best players to ever wear a Laker uniform. In March 2016, The Lakers will play Phil’s Knicks at Staples Center in LA. I surely will not miss the opportunity to see Kobe & Melo dance on the court, one last time. In a first person poem, the 37 year old describes his relentless passion for the game of basketball:

“Dear Basketball,

From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.

And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands”.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

Love you always,



In my own personal view, Kobe stands as one of the top Laker’s  ever to play the game, behind Magic, Kereem & Jerry West. Other than Magic Johnson, I was not old enough to see Kerrem & West play.  My introduction to the Lakers began with Kobe during three back-to-back championship run within the Phil era (1999-2002). Bryant’s fortunes would soon change when Phil Jackson became coach for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999. After years of steady improvement, Bryant became one of the premier shooting guards in the league, earning appearances in the league’s All-NBA, All-Star, and All-Defensive teams. The Los Angeles Lakers became true championship contenders under Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who formed a legendary center-guard combination. Jackson utilized the triangle offense he used to win six championships with the Chicago Bulls, which would help both Bryant and O’Neal rise to the elite class of the NBA. The three resulting championships won consecutively in 2000, 2001, and 2002 further proved such a fact.

Years later Kobe surpassed critics expectations after winning two additional back-to-back titles.  Players such as Kobe, Lebron, Curry, Wade burst into the media spotlight once in a lifetime like a solar eclipse. These extraordinary players find meaningful ways to capture our imagination, no different than monumental Greek deities. They are leaders, role models (on and off the court) who condition their bodies to perform incredible magic on the basketball court. There is a clear changing of the guards in the 2015-16 season, from the old into the new.

This season as Kobe retires with the Lakers possibly not making the playoffs ( 3W-16L record thus far) is passing the throne to King James. Lebron who is now in his  early 30’s has seen the rise of the young via Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Rosell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Should Lebron is to make a championship run with the Cavs, the time is ripe for him to do so, provided his team gets healthy and well conditioned (Mosgov, Shumpert, Irvin & Love to name a few) for a few seasons is yet to be determined. I will always remember Kobe as a leader with a tremendous basketball IQ. He always took the wining shoot, because with seconds left of the clock you want no one else on the team to make the play. He was born to make the impossible, possible for all to see in one infinite basketball loop. Kobe, MJ and Lebron are the best players I have ever seen play the game of basketball. They are unique charismatic born leaders who made the game even better as ambassadors of the brand.  I grew up watching Kobe and MJ achieve monumental championships, scoring titles, MVP’s as they inspired me within my own ecosystem between art, design & technology to always get better.  I was never a Bulls fan, I was an MJ enthusiast,  as he always put on a show at the Garden. While MJ displayed his magical talents against my old  NYC Knicks who made compressive playoffs run every year during the 90’s.  Within my own competitive ecosystem I applied Kobe’s philosophy to be a student of the game, “Learn as much as you can, always want more.” I was never a Laker fan, I will always be a Kobe devotee. Tim Duncan who is close in years to Kobe is still on a winning team. The Spurs (16W-4L) record is  proof you can be close to 37 year of age and still compete at a high level. However, the Lakers leadership has failed to surround Kobe with talent as the Spurs have around Duncan. 


ALSO FROM ART JOURNAL: Making A Case For King James


A remarkable Feast In The Bay Area

The defending basketball champs, Golden State Warriors began the season with an impressive (20W-0L)  wins. Surpassing the 1993-94 Houston Rockets  (15W-0L) record. Thus engraving themselves in basketball history showcasing why this team is still hungry to win more titles. What began with the work of Mark Jason was transformed into a winning formula when Steve Kerr said no to Phil Jackson in opting to coach The Warriors instead of the Knicks several seasons ago. Kerr brought championship leadership to a young team with a rising super star in Stephen Curry. The current MVP might possibly be the best 3pt shooter we have ever seen second to Reggie Miller and Ray Allen. Curry currently averages 31.6 PTS, 44.5% 3PT per game with a resulting 51.2 FG%. For those of you outside the basketball lexicon, a players FG% is calculated based on the % of a field goal that a player makes. The formula to determine field goal percentage is based on field goal made/ field goals attempted. Curry is the leading scorer in the NBA.  His teammates can also score in large numbers, therefor positioning themselves at the top of the  scoring food chain. The way in which the Warriors score behind the 3pt line as a unit instead of playing the isolation game is quite amazing to see.

My initial views when watching the Warriors  play before they won the title last year was of little interest at first. The court of public opinion on the team was alined with mine own views: That a 3pt jump shooting team who played zero to little defense in the paint will never win a title. Surely, that changed when Mr.Kerr joined the Warriors as head coach.  Kerr allowed Golden State the ability to become more than simply a splash and run team. They can also defend in the permitter, rebound and have  multiple methods of beating their opponents.  The splash bothers as they are often called by the media are two of a kind. The Warriors are a team build for the Twenty First Century. An era where guards dominate as defensive tactics are no longer front and center. A GM trying to built a championship team must take note from the Warriors playbook. You have to beat them at their own game, match their intensity using defensive tactics of assimilation. Defend the 3pt line, while having power forwards in the paint collect the rebounds. Clearly, it is easier to say than to actually do as the champs have illustrated last year vs an unhealthy Cleveland team where King James needed help.

There are two notable questions with regards to the Warriors tactics this season:

  • Will they reach or surpass the Bulls 1995-96 (72W-10L) record?
  • Will they repeat as NBA defending champs?

The fine folks over at TNT sports believe its a matter of staying healthy while leveraging how to stay motivated during the regular season. The Bulls made a run during the second half of the 1995-96 season instead of hitting the ground running as the Warriors have. Kenny Smith over @TNT Sports  believes the Warriors might come up short due to wear and tear during the regular season. Quite frankly, I disagree with most media sport pundits who say: “nay” to Golden State matching the Bulls record. The Warriors are young, hung and full of 3pt balls with the ability to score big! They certainly are capable of 72W, and should I say it now, they might even pass MJ bulls 72W feast. IMHO, the only obstacle standing between another title is a healthy Cavs team. While MJ Bulls historic ( 72W-10L ) is within reach should they managed to stay motivated. Evidence of how good they really are might come when the Warriors Play against King James on Christmas day or vs the Spurs defensive style. Frankly from what I have seen thus far, both Cleveland & San Antonio  are the only  teams in the association with enough fire power to actually compete vs the Warriors.  Surely with a 20W-0L record, the Warriors are probably hungry for a challenge.

Longest Winning Streak To Start  A Season:

  • 1884: St.Louis Marrons (MLB) 20W
  • 15-16: Golden St Warriors (NBA) 20W
  • 2007: New England Patriots (NFL) 18W
  • 1972: Miami Dolphins (NFL) 17W
  • 93-94: Houston Rockets (NBA) 15W- ( Won the Title )


ALSO FROM ART JOURNAL: The NBA Season: 2015-16


Making A Case For The CAVS

Lebron James is the best player in NBA for several reasons. He has been to the NBA finals five consecutive times, wining two back-to-back titles in Miami. Like Kobe he was drafted from High School  to the pros. Lebron’s impact on the game as a dynamic leader who can play all positions in extraordinary. He is probably the first player coach to ever play the game, meaning he has a remarkable basketball IQ who can call his on plays on the floor. This season the Cavs need to stay the course in several key areas in able to finally achieve an NBA title with King James leading the way. Irvin who is consider to be Lebron’s Wade needs to come back healthy, A.S.A.P. Iman Shumpert is yet another player who performs exceptionally well when he comes from the bench. All championships teams need a casting crew of dedicated bench players to do their bidding during key moments in the game. This season the Cavs seem to struggle when Lebron is resting which is clearly frustrating the King. During several post-game interviews with the media, Lebron has clearly displayed dissatisfaction towards certain players not being in Synch with him. Clearly the bench in conjunction with Mr. Blatt’s coaching skills need to improve over the course of the regular season.

There is a clear disconnection between knowing how to call the correct plays for certain key players, love is a great example to highlight. While maintaining leads has been difficult when pivotal bench players are on the floor. Mathew Dellavedova (A.K.A Deli) needs to improve on his field goal (%) and 3pt attempts made as well ( 7.9 PPG ). Tristan Thomson defensive rebounding skills  are always impressive but ideally he should be a double-double player on the court. Thomson is currently averaging ( 7.8 PPG), quite frankly for all the fiasco “hold out moments” during the pre-season contracting saga & ultimate bonus contract he was awarded from the Cavs. I am of the belief, Thomson  PPG field goal% needs to reflect double digits. JR Smith who performed last season as “JR Swiff” needs to improve behind the 3pt line as well.









Categories: Culture, Editors Monthly Op Ed, Essay Non-Fiction, Gonzo-SportsTags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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