DeMarcus Cousins signs with Golden State Warriors

By Thomas Albano

Demarcus Cousins appears to be the latest NBA player to jump to the Western Conference and find a new home, as the all-star center has reportedly signed with the Golden State Warriors.

Over the last 24 hours, the Los Angeles Lakers have announced several big-name signings, including LeBron James, turning the team for one in a rebuilding stage and into a potential championship contender. Now, as Yahoo Sports first reported, the defending back-to-back champions seem to have answered back with a signing of “Boogie” Cousins.

As noted by Mark Medina, Warriors beat writer for The Mercury News, this signing would give Golden State five all-stars in their lineup, which also includes former NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, as well as Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

NBA Twitter lit up following the breaking reports, and Curry greatly welcomed his newest teammate via the social media platform, calling Boogie the latest “splash brother.”

 

The Warriors did lose a talent to the Western Conference rival Lakers during this free agency period, as veteran center JaVale McGee signed with Los Angeles. This, however, could have been a strategic move by the defending champions in order to help benefit forward John Bell and center Damian Jones.

Cousins made his way to the New Orleans Pelicans in a February 2017 trade, following about seven-and-a-half seasons of struggle and frustration with the Sacramento Kings.

Last season, Cousins was one of several players — along with Rondo and Anthony Davis — to help guide the Pelicans to success. Cousins played in 48 games last season, averaging 25.2 points per game, 12.9 rebounds per game, 5.4 assists per game, as well at least a steal and block per game before a torn Achilles tendon forced Cousins to undergo season-ending surgery in late January.

Fortunately for the Pelicans, the work Cousins had put in thus far, along with the continuation of momentum through the likes of Rondo and Davis, helped the team get to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

Cousins attracted the attention of several teams during this off-season period, including the Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks and Washington Wizards. He had the potential to land a maximum contract, but the Achilles injury likely scared teams from offering that. The Warriors had limited ability to make big moves, which is likely why they were not in the running for the likes of Trevor Ariza and Tyreke Evans.

However, as Medina notes, the Warriors are confident in Cousins because he has rehabbed the injury, and they are confident in being able to help Cousins maintain his intensity while still bringing out his best — something they have done with Green.

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[Bleep] the NBA. (AKA: Why a 4th Straight Warriors-Cavs Finals is a Problem)

By Thomas Albano

Note: Alright, so this is going to be part-editorial, part-column, part-Nick Fodera esque rant. This should be something.

At the beginning of the 2017-18 NBA season, I predicted on The Unspoken Podcast (complete with circus music in the background) that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers would meet in the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year in a row. I called the NBA the most predictable league there is today.

Guess what? I told you so. In seven games each, the Warriors and Cavs bested the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics, respectively, to reach the NBA Finals. What a joke.

I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of the NBA (if you already couldn’t tell), but I’ll give some credit and due where it goes to first before talking about the big problem…

LeBron

First, I’ll quote something I told someone following the Cavs’ Game 7 win over the Rockets: “As much as I hate LeBron for his drama, for The Decision, his cockiness, his influence, and as much as I hate Cleveland [Cavs fans – for their reaction to The Decision], LeBron may have surpassed Michael Jordan as a player.”

I don’t like the MJ/LeBron debate, but if I’ve had to pick a side, I’ve been a big MJ guy. But this playoff series may have started to change my mind. Let’s face it — NBA problem or not — eight consecutive NBA Finals, four with two teams each, is unbelievable. Not only that, but he had to put the team on his back more than ever.

In the seven games against the Celtics, LeBron had five double-doubles, one triple-double and one 40+-point game. His overall numbers for the 2017-18 playoffs — 34 ppg, 9.2 rebounds per game and 8.8 assists per game — a near-double-double per game and a just as close triple-double per game. I don’t know how anyone can still not give him credit as a player.

The only arguments for me that keep MJ over LeBron are: 1. The rings argument. 2. When both MJ and LeBron had some backup (i.e. Pippen, Rodman, etc for Jordan and Bosh, Wade, etc for LeBron), at least Jordan didn’t make a whole overblown thing about his free agency that ended in The Decision. To paraphrase a podcaster in Kevin Mahn of The Attitude Era Podcast (though he was talking about something completely different), LeBron can apologize for it all he wants, he can talk about the money donated from it, but it happened, it’s there for the world to see and remember and meme, and it showed such an ego. And 3. his influence (he’s the coach, the GM, the owner, the NBA commissioner, the guy selling peanuts in Section 209, the parking valet and the custodian sweeping the floors after the game).

This philosophy, minus the ego, will come into play again soon.

Other credit/blame

The Cavs’ series against the Celtics was ugly — until “Big Playoff LeBron”/”Big Game 7 LeBron” showed up in the final, deciding game, neither team wanted to win on the road. And in Game 7, Boston just played too ugly of basketball to snatch victory away from LeBron and Cleveland — you never, EVER want to go up against LeBron in a Game 7. As much credit as you want to give to Boston for getting this far without Gordon Heyward and Kyrie Irving, the truth is they probably needed the two to get past LeBron. Instead, their Cinderella story is over. (Yes, I said Cinderella story. Even as a No. 2 seed, it’s risky to bet against LeBron in the playoffs).

That side note brings me briefly to the Toronto Raptors — the No. 1 seed in the East and the Cavs’ second-round opponent. As I said, it’s a big gamble to bet against LeBron. I expected the Raptors to lose the series — though the Raptors should’ve put up a better fight. I think there are worse things than getting swept as a No. 1 seed in the second round (ex: the No. 1 seeds who were beaten in the first round by No. 8 seeds). But I will admit it is really disappointing.

And speaking of disappointments, the Rockets. Oh, James Harden, why did you disintegrate at playoff time yet AGAIN? Oh Chris Paul, why did you have to not play in Games 6 and 7? The final two games of the series must’ve been difficult for your fans to watch — especially Game 7. The Rockets missed at least 27 three-point shots — the worst such streak in NBA Playoff history (yes, the WHOLE PLAYOFF HISTORY). I was worried teams like the Raptors and Rockets would live up to their history of being playoff chokers, and, damn, the truth is on point.

The Big Problem

So…here we are. Warriors-Cavs IV. Something most of us saw coming. And speaking of seeing things coming, check out Schlasser (aka UrinatingTree)’s season preview at the start of the 2017-18 season. Let’s see how many things he got wrong…

Here’s what I found:

  • Celtics – kinda right, kinda wrong
  • Cavs – Right for now
  • Pacers – Underrated
  • Clippers – Overrated
  • Bucks – One round short
  • T-Wolves – Wrong team in playoffs but right
  • Pelicans – Perhaps underrated?
  • Knicks – Was wrong…then Kristas Porzingis got severly injured
  • Thunder – Overrated
  • 76ers – Wrong
  • Jazz – Underrated

So, still fairly accurate in my findings. But let’s do the old-fashion thing of canceling out the over- and under-rated team expectations.

In my findings, the only thing Schlasser truly got wrong was how the Philadelphia 76ers would do. And he expected about 80-85 percent of the league being boring and predictable. If you really want me to count some playoff stuff and the overrated/underrated teams, I still say it’s about 70-75 percent of the league — and that’s honestly unacceptable.

You can argue that the playoffs were something cool, and that we had both conference finals go to Game 7s for the first time since the 1970s, but, honestly, it doesn’t matter to me. Sometimes in sports it’s fun, or heart-wrenching, to look back at the could’ve, should’ve and would’ve. You can talk about the dreams, the journey, the could’ve, would’ve and should’ve. But it’s not the reality. It’s not the destination. And the cold, hard truth is we have yet another Warriors-Cavs finals that the networks will not shut up about for the next couple of weeks and probably end with, once again, Golden State winning the title 4-1. (Poor Stanley Cup Finals, a more exciting game, a more exciting playoffs and series, and two teams with the most intriguing and heart-filled storylines).

When something is easily predictable in the beginning, and it’s the end result — despite whatever bumps in the road — that’s not a good form of predictability.

And then once the NBA Finals is over, all the attention will shift to where LeBron goes to. If he goes to another team in the East, how do we not expect it to be the same as it ever was until either the Warriors or LeBron’s team is beaten before an NBA Finals? If he goes to a team in the West, then the Western Conference Finals might just become the true NBA Finals and the NBA Finals ratings will probably suffer. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has discussed potentially making the playoffs a 1-16 seeded tournament, which would be interesting, though I’d still be trepadatious until the Warriors and/or LeBron’s team finally miss the Finals. LeBron has complained about this potential move, however. So, does he not want to make more NBA Finals if he goes to the West?

I’ll just end by saying this…I have trouble watching basketball as it is. I can watch MLB games, NHL games, NFL games no problem. But basketball is kind of boring to me — well, most. I like the college atmosphere of NCAA basketball and the uniqueness of the BIG3, for example. Another Warriors-Cavs final isn’t going to get me to make sure my TV is on the NBA at this time.

Here’s the credit I’ll give Adam Silver — I love the TNT pregame crew. I like how he wants to create a Twitch-like atmosphere of broadcasting games (maybe viewers can have the ability to do their own play-by-play and color?) I like the social media focus. I like how he’s in the front of the sports gambling stuff. I like how Mr. Silver is on the cutting edge of technology and broadcasting.

I just wish the on-court stuff can get a shot of something. Now, he has fined Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban for discussing tanking. Is that a start, too? Maybe (though I think it had a bit more to do with the accusations of harrassment, toxic workplace, etc going on in the Mavs front office). But there needs to be something else…I just don’t know what. Fantasy-style re-draft? Ha! I wish.

I mean, at least we can look forward to the Draft right?

*REPORT COMES OUT ON LIANGELO BALL GETTING PRIVATE WORKOUTS WITH TEAMS*

F***! I HATE THIS LEAGUE!

Phil Jackson Leaves New York

By Thomas Albano

And the New York Knicks fans sang one of the following (or both)…

The New York Knicks and Phil Jackson agreed to part ways on Wednesday morning, prompting sighs of relief throughout New York and tears of joy spreading throughout Knicks nation.

This ends (for the most part) a tumultuous time in the organization that has seen Jackson — the now former president of the Knicks — clash with players including Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis, have an uncomfortable conflict with Charles Oakley, and give fans nothing but frustration after being brought in in an effort to rebuild and save the franchise.

For not just Knicks fans, but basketball folks in general, it’s a move long overdue.

James Dolan and Phil Jackson

At the very least, it should have been done before the draft, when Jackson drafted Frank Ntilikina with the team’s first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft — someone who can appropriately play the triangle offense Jackson wanted. Reports today have stated that if Jackson had been fired before the draft, the team would have taken NC State guard Dennis Smith Jr. (Side note: As I’m typing up this piece, I’ve learned Ntilikina has been injured in practice).

Where was Dolan the night of the draft? Playing with his band. So, shows you how much he cares for the franchise, I guess. Or, he used this as a smokescreen to ensure Jackson would get all the blame (but remember that he brought in Jackson in the first place!)

And keeping that in mind, Dolan wanted to honor Jackson’s contract the whole way through. This tells me there might still be some stuff we don’t know about that led to this sudden departure.

Regardless, it ticked me off last week to hear the likes of Bill Plaschke (and I love him and Around the Horn) to defend Jackson’s treatment of Porzingis by looking to trade him over a god damn exit interview. Plaschke said he was just doing a typical Phil Jackson thing of putting the young man through the ringer and trying to embarrass him after embarrassing the Knicks franchise (and to devalue his players so that way he can have a hold of them and not have to trade them).

Funny, considering all the Knicks fans I know, and all of the media, have given more beef to Jackson for what he’s doing than for the kid skipping the interview.

And even if you want to call KP a prima donna for doing that, if there are any people I can put angel’s wings and a halo on in this situation, it’s him and the fans. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say KP was the best player on the team last season because the whole Knicks team has been full of prima donnas.

Porzingis

Carmelo has been Mr. “Pass Me The Ball” (and though he wasn’t as bad this season, his little affair and getting ejected from quite a few games aren’t exactly “role model material”). Joakim Noah got suspended 20 games for an anti-doping violation. Derrick Rose is…well, Derrick Rose. And Jackson and Dolan don’t need explanations.

For all the “star power” this team had, last season was an absolute trainwreck. And it’s going to take a lot of time to recover.

But for now — ding dong, the wicked witch is dead.

That Time the Ball Family Got ‘Raw’

By Thomas Albano

Well, this was quite the interesting week in WWE now wasn’t it? From multiple segments on Raw to help build up to WWE Great Balls of Fire, to a Smackdown Live that featured a second women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match (because the first was god damn awful and had an ending that produced more backlash than the pay-per-view named as such), WWE programming was filled with memorable moments this week.

But none may be more memorable, or infamous for that matter, than when the Ball family showed up for a MizTV segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

I didn’t know what to expect with this segment, and I did not expect for LaVar and his sons to side with Ambrose and for LaVar to take off his shirt and nearly clash with Miz.

And it was during Ambrose’s entrance, when LaMelo Ball was heard over the microphone, where the figurative s*** hit the fan.

“Beat that n***a a**!” LaMelo shouted twice, picked up over the microphone and going through to and heard by the live TV audience. The video above with the segment was edited, but you can hear the audio in the following clip towards the end:

This, of course, prompted WWE to issue an apology for the incident, stating “The inappropriate language used by a guest during the ‘Miz TV’ segment was not scripted nor reflects WWE’s values.” Of course then the next night, Big E of The New Day makes reference an old Booker-T promo from WCW in which he accidentally used the slur against Hulk Hogan (think about it and you’ll understand the irony there).

Now, there is a good thing and a bad thing here. The bad thing? WWE may have gotten a bit of heat with LaMelo’s uncensored comments. And, well, some WWE personnel (namely Corey Graves and Braun Strowman for this piece) shared some fans’ thoughts in that they wanted the Ball Brand trio nowhere near the ring.

Am I the only one who drew this comparison last night? #lavarball #mamajune #raw @wwe @espn @bigballerbrand

A post shared by Corey Graves (@wwegraves) on Jun 27, 2017 at 12:58pm PDT

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 11.28.03 PM

The good thing? Well, I guess you can say this is one of those times controversy creates cash and that any publicity is good publicity. People are talking about it. Hell, you’re reading this piece!

But, honestly, as I’ve mentioned on previous editions of The Unspoken Podcast, I just want to see Lonzo play an NBA game. His dad’s the hype man, I get it, but I’ve gotten sick of him.

Let’s see if Lonzo can actually walk the walk in the bigs.