Fear And Loathing To Las Vegas: 31-1, the Raiders are leaving Oakland

By Will Stevenson

Welcome to the NFL where business is booming. As a North Carolinian, I have watched professional teams come and go, and I’ve often wondered why this state hasn’t been a part of the events that go on in our professional leagues. We haven’t had a baseball team, so watching the Braves on TBS or the White Sox and Cubs on WGN were the regional options.  Our basketball team was here, then went to New Orleans with our good players and ultimately drafting Chris Paul, then leaving us with an expansion team called the Bobcats. Oddly enough the HB-2 sent the 2017 NBA All-Star Game to New Orleans, so yet again New Orleans was there to take our karma (Somehow I feel David Stern is behind this, but I digress). Our football team came in 1996, I was there when they played their home games at Clemson Stadium. The Carolina Hurricanes are our hockey, which they were relocated from Hartford.

With North Carolina being more famous for their collegiate sports, our history as a professional sports state pails in comparison to places such as Cleveland, Green Bay, New York, Los Angeles, and St. Louis. Although I don’t have a long-standing connection with the Carolina Panthers or the newest version of the Charlotte Hornets, I still have an understanding of how it feels to know the team you invest your time and money into is leaving to another city. With today’s 31-1 vote to move the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, those feelings of betrayal and emptiness were connected once again. We’ve all seen this coming for the past couple years and we should have know it was going to happen when the Rams moved to LA, and then subsequently the Chargers. The Raiders stayed in Oakland, but most knew it wouldn’t be for long, as Las Vegas was ramping up their proposal. With that 31-1 vote, Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins voiced his concern with the Palm Beach Post, “My position today was that we as owners and as a League owe it to the fans to do everything we can to stay in the communities that have supported us.” Is that a general concern of the fans, or is Stephen Ross looking at his mid-dumpster fire of a money-making franchise and seeing what is to come on the horizon?

All Las Vegas needed was a team, any professional team to get the NFL on board. Baseball wasn’t budging, the MLS isn’t in the Big Four as far as major sports are concerned here in the states, and the NBA wasn’t ready to test those waters after the debacle of a weekend with their All-Star game (Shoutout PacMan Jones). That leaves one left: Hockey. That’s right, the NHL, a league that has undergone major construction with their relocation over the years through their rebranding after work stoppages and the loss of network sponsorships, has paved the way for professional sports in Las Vegas.

The NFL has continuously noted the conflicting interest of gambling and a possible move to Las Vegas, but it’s 2017, and with the world being so technologically advanced, there’s no need to refuse uncharted territory that can be seen as financial gain. A fan base is key to the business of relocation, but the Raiders won’t see Las Vegas for another 2-3 years with the opening marked for 2020. For the NFL, that’s plenty of time to decide on PSLs (Personal Seat Licenses), sponsorships, parking, traffic, and promotional tactics: And Hotels. Let us not forget this is a business, and when a new sports franchise is coming to town, there are business partnerships that must be forged: Restaurants, Hotel Chains, Flights, Ticket Packages, “Ambassadors”, Spokesmen, Commercials, etc.

Enough of the business aspect, let’s get back to the fans in Oakland. The Oakland fan base has once again suffered. Their team is leaving, and their team is actually good with a promising offense running the show. You know what that means: The Raiders have two years to go for it all. I know stacking rosters to win isn’t the most efficient way of building a championship contender, but the Raiders have only one chance to do it. With the Patriots maybe-slowing-down but not probably, the Raiders need to win the Superbowl with the team they currently have. They need to win before the fans have to choose between going to Las Vegas or possibly rooting for either of the teams in LA. Help us all if any Raider fans have to cheer for the Rams.

This is a day when all Raider Nation collectively post on social media to grieve. Every meme, picture, comment section, Twitter think-piece and Facebook Group is already feasting at the Vegas trough. Just as Kendrick Lamar said to rappers about his upcoming album, Oakland has two years to get their sh*t together. In two years you will only have the Warriors to cheer for, and I’m sure that traveling package for Las Vegas won’t be cheap. Your significant other will only allow so many “football trips” to see the Raiders play in Vegas, and I’m sure some of you are already planning to fail two years in advance.

Happy Monday Oakland, Happy Monday.

PS: Who will be the next “Purple” in Las Vegas? Ask for a friend.

NBA Non-Playoff Run: The Basketball Gods are coming

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By: Will Stevenson

With the end of the NBA regular season coming to an end, the actual basketball coverage continues to dwindle. We have teams at the top of the standings that are just hoping to get to the playoffs without any injuries, teams in the middle jockeying for home court, teams at the bottom still fighting to stay in the playoffs, and the teams trying kinda-sorta to keep their lottery pick. The teams who have no hopes of the playoffs are shutting down veteran players and giving those minutes to the young guys, while those coming up on free agency are showcasing for the offseason. Defense hasn’t been great this season, so those games between losing teams seems unwatchable to most casual NBA fans. The NBA isn’t like most sports as in they have a long season, so marquee matchups down the stretch don’t have the shine as they were suppose to have when the scheduling was being made. More than those who are in the playoffs, lets take a look at the teams we thought would be competing for a playoff spot this year.

  1. Hornets (32-40) 3 GB of the 8th seed
    Kemba Walker has done all he can to keep the Hornets afloat this season. Even with the emergence of Cody Zeller and Frank Kamisky, the Hornets are still a team full of face cards: They can’t outright win with a spade, but they can get a book every now and then with a King of Clubs. Coach Clifford has been able to adjust to the NBA’s rising pace of play by adding more shooters and letting the big men go from the previous roster. The Hornets have one scorer, Kemba Walker, and with them being a below average defensive team, won’t cut it in today’s NBA. Let me not forget about the poor play of Nicholas Batum who is often injured and inconsistent of being a number two player on a given team. The Basketball Gods have awarded the Hornets with Kemba, but it seems as though everything else is just average: Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, Kaminsky, Zeller, Batum and Joseph Forte… I mean Jeremy Lamb.

2. Timberwolves (28-43) 6.5 GB of the 8th seed
50-32, that was pretty much the consensus after Tom Thibodeau was named the Head Coach in the offense. With the play of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach Lavine, we had high hopes the Wolves we become the Western Conference darlings, much like the Trailblazers last season. We must have forgotten about the ability to learn team defense and the fact their young stars are just that: Young. Even before the season started, Coach Thibs didn’t like his roster as rumors of old Bulls being traded to the Wolves circulated. Wiggins still hasn’t been able to match is on-ball defense with his offense, and the Wolves aren’t adapting to the 3pt barrage as the rest of the league as of yet.

3. Lakers (21-51) 2nd worst record in the league
New coach, new system, but the same players. The Lakers came out the gate average, but they played with energy, hustle, and ESPN showcase defense. After the injury to Russell, it all fell apart and the run to keep that Top 3 protected pick in this year’s draft was the only thing to shoot for. I didn’t think the Lakers would make a playoff run, but I imagined them winning 30-35 games this season. Maybe the Basketball Gods will punish the Lakers again and knock them out of the lottery this season. Only can only hope.

4. Pelicans (30-42) 5 GB of 8th seed
Anthony Davis. That’s pretty much the team in a nutshell, but after an offseason spending on mediocre role players, the Pelicans were looking to be a team of 3 and D. Jrue Holliday , Tyreke Evans, and Quincy Pondexter started out the season on the IR, and Buddy Heild was shooting like the Raptors in last year’s playoffs. Then, the Pelicans pulled off a ransom for Demarcus Cousins. They were 3GB of the 8th seed at that point, and they’ve been falling since. 30 games isn’t enough to say the “Fire and Ice” experiment failed, or to move Boogie in the offseason if they can’t extend him, or to fire Alvin Genty, but the Pelicans must figure out if they want to resign Holliday and keep the team they have for the next few seasons. Once, again, I’m hoping the Basketball Gods give the Pelicans a Top 3 pick. In that case, the Kings would lose out on the opportunity to have 2 lottery picks this season. Or maybe the Pelicans don’t deserve to have a lottery pick this year. I’m conflicted.

5. Blazers (33-38) 1.5 GB of the 8th seed
We see it all the time in sports. A team stays hot and overachieves during a season, and then they overcomplicate things in the offseason which makes the next season impossible to replicate. The Blazers were flying high as they lost in the second round to the Warriors last year. They have two guards that could score form any place on the floor, 3 and D winds, and athletic big men who could run the floor and make plays from the high post. It all went downhill with the explosion of the Salary Cap last summer. The Blazers needed to hit the salary floor and add players to a roster that seem pretty good, and young. They paid Mo Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli. Harkless is average, Crabbe is average, Evan Turner needs the ball to perform, and Festus hasn’t played a game this season. Offense is the trend this season, but if your guards can’t stop penetration and your bigs can’t defend the rim on a consistent basis, then a bad shooting night will result in multiple losses.

6. Bulls (34-39) 1.5 GB of the 8th seed
Breaking News: The Bulls have signed Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade. I knew it was downhill from there. After the Bulls let Noah go and traded Derrick Rose, I figured they would be going in a younger direction, even with Taj Gibson outplaying Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic at every turn. I figured, and I was wrong. The Bulls decided to go against conventional and analytical wisdom to pick up two over-thirty-non shooting-high usage players to their team. Even after the high 3pt percentage games to start out the season and a Wade game-winner, the Bulls fell back to earth as they should  have. They ended up trading Gibson and McBuckets to the Thunder for Cameron Payne, and lost Wade to injury a few weeks ago. To no surprise, they’ve played better without him. Rondo’s play on the court hasn’t been the issue this year as he has played well off the bench. I don’t know what the Bulls will do this offseason, but I do not want to see them get swept by the Cavaliers if they make the playoffs. If by chance, the Kings get screwed in the lottery and they land outside the top 10, the Bulls will get that pick. I don’t know what the Basketball Gods will do this summer.

For these franchises, the season was full of hope back in October. Whether it was injury or inconsistent play, these teams will fin d themselves in the lottery if they don’t make a final push to be swept in the playoffs.  If not, there’s always Tinder.

The new Twin Towers?

By Lawrence Edwards 

 

Sampson + Olajuwon, Duncan + Robinson, Gasol + Bynum; there have been several duos dubbed the “twin towers” in the NBA and each of them special in their own right. Depending on the era you grew up in you got to witness how special it can be to have two dominant big men supplying rim protection and rebounding down low, it forced other teams to think twice about going inside. Yes in this era the flashy 3 point shooting is slowly becoming more popular than the drive to the hoop. But if all goes well this generation could witness one of the best instances of twin towers that we’ve seen in years. Last night the Sacramento Kings sent shockwaves through the NBA and the All-Star game wasn’t even concluded yet. They traded DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans and 2 1st and 2nd round picks.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) blocks the shot of ...

DeMarcus cousins is the best PF/C combo in the NBA right now and he just teamed up with another one of the best PF/C in the NBA in Anthony Davis. With teams looking to team up super stars the Pelicans decided to do it the old school way with making their own version of the twin towers. When the news of this trade was first announced there were two immediate thoughts to this from what I saw – “They won’t be able to coexist”, “This will be the best big man duo in years” now both of these are valid assumptions. On one hand you have two big dominant post players who both demand the ball in their hands and can make special things happen with it and that could be a recipe for selfishness and tension between the two but I don’t think that happens here…

DeMarcus Cousins Has Added a New Skill: Draining 3-Pointers | STACK

Here’s why it will work…

  1. Both Boogie and Davis can play the center position so they can switch out between the 4 and the 5 spot
  2. Both are averaging over 27 points a game double digit rebounds and couple blocks a game
  3. DeMarcus Cousins is actually an underrated passer, he is averaging almost 5 assist a game – 4.8 to be exact – which will bode well for Davis down low
  4. Cousins is a big man who can shoot and play from the perimeter which mean less bodies down low for Davis to contend with, with offensive rebounding
  5. They come from the same school coached by the same coach during the John Calipari era at the University of Kentucky

The chemistry for these two should not be hard to come by. Anthony Davis obviously needed help in NOLA and Boogie gets the chance to breathe fresh air after a toxic stint in Sacramento. This could be possibly the best move for both players and organizations. Yes Sacramento hasn’t been too good at developing their young players lately like Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore to name a couple, so fans being skeptical and concerned about getting Buddy Heild and draft picks in the trade for what was their franchise player of elite caliber should be normal, but how long do you expect Cousins continue to give his all for an organization he has a rocky relationship with? For the New Orleans Pelicans however, this is a slam dunk trade. Yes they traded away a young player in Buddy Hield but in it they gained another player whom you can build a franchise around. Of course I don’t expect this to just work right out of the gate, you need time to mesh, but I think it could happen quickly between these two. If this works out well, NOLA just made a massive contribution to ensuring their future is bright. Once they get a viable backcourt, the sky’s the limit for this team now. In an era where you live and die by the 3 pointer, teams had better hope their shooters bring their A game when they play NOLA because anything inside will be near impossible to accomplish with the amount of rim protection NOLA is boasting. I really hopes this works out, it will be very nice to see the dynamic of the “twin towers” make its way back into the NBA.