Welcome to Summer: Where “Stick to Sports” has no place to hide.

sportsballs1

By Will Stevenson

Oh Summer, why doth thou forsake thee? If I were into baseball as I once was, then the sports calendar wouldn’t be a bottomless pit full of coach talk hypothetical lists. What I have noticed during the “off-season” is sports fans grasp for anything to talk about, and when the major sports aren’t on television, their true colors come raining down. Opinions, or reactions have used to be marred back in the day before social media. Even if your co-worker told you Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest player of all-time, you may counter with Bill Russell, and then that would be the end of it. Now, that conversation can and will be had around a million times a day, every day. The comment section has become America’s fine dining establishment where anyone can go to be heard. Never mind the fact there are hired commentators for every website and Facebook as well. Nevertheless, we are drawn to any story that can give us substance, and if it doesn’t have any, we will hypothetically make something interesting out of it.

The summer months will now be known for domestic violence allegations, NBA Free Agency, NFL Minicamps, draft stock, front office movement and League posturing for the upcoming seasons. The News Cycle comes and goes so quickly, it is hard to keep up with what is new news, and what is old news. Remember the OJ Simpson coverage? Ezekiel Elliott? The continuous Kyrie and Melo trade rumors. Remember when Phil Jackson left the Knicks? How about the Mayweather/McGregor pre-fight world tour? Lavar Ball? Almost every one of these stories has been covered in the past month or two, or even a few weeks ago, but now they are old news. The current media conversation revolves around Colin Kaepernick, Josh Rosen, NBA trade rumors and the obligatory “Top ‘insert number’ list” for the sports we love.

The ‘off-season’ sports cycle brings about something different inside the sports fan: Real Feelings. Each topic in the above paragraph brings out conversations that most are not comfortable with in an open forum. All you have to do is click on a Colin Kaepernick link to see what America thinks as a whole on the topic. No longer are “X’s and O’s” the end all be all to our sports allegiances. During the season we will all watch the Redzone Channel, pregame shows, follow fantasy leagues and forget all about what Ray Lewis and Shannon Sharpe were debating because there is now a box score to look at. During the summer months, there is no place for “Stick to Sports” to hide. Honestly, there are other things we could pay attention to, but what fun would that be? I don’t mind a conversation on any of these topics, nor do I mind to read up on the many debates of my fellow Bookers and Tweeters. I have one question: Are we evolving through these topics, or do we just want to be right? I always wonder what the agenda is of a post about Lavar Ball, or a “Kaepernick is not being blackballed” thread. I wonder if people even care what is going on, or is there only goal to ruffle feathers, and are they being paid to do it? From what I have witnessed, more people have equipped themselves with knowledge on these topics, while others continue to say the same old ignorance.

Not only have the commentators been open to the non-sports topics, the media has jumped into the pot as well. No longer do fans have to sit around and wonder if the people they see on camera feel the same way they feel. More and more commentators are freely putting their stamp on their message about topics that go on outside the realms of actual game-play. I enjoy it, even Will Cain. There can’t be a Ray Lewis without a Shannon Sharpe. There can’t be a Will Cain without a Bomani Jones. For my selfish reasons, I want all the opinions to be out there, running rampant as closeted PCers race to find a boring monologue to post in response.

It is weird how the sports world is portrayed against the entertainment world. Many of us are old enough to remember Beavis & Butthead, SouthPark and StickDeath.com, but somehow a player flipping a bat after a homerun, or a player high-stepping into the endzone is cause for uproar. More people are tuning in to politics, but do not want politics near their sports.

Maybe it will never change. Maybe those who post things will never concede to racism in sports, college athletics being a non-competitive industry, or the need to treat athletes as humans like us. Maybe people still believe marijuana should never be used, but Oxycontin is just fine. Who knows. All I know is I love the summer months, because Stick to Sports has no place to hide.

Interesting in becoming a part of the Sports Elite writing team? Send us an email

Magic, Jeanie and Rob: Lakers Are Making Moves, But Don’t Wait Up for Paul George

By William Stevenson

We’ve had fun clowning the Lakers and the Knicks over the past few seasons. I regret to think we won’t be able to make fun of the Lakers for much longer. When the Buss family was entrenched in off the court drama, things were looking dim as Luke Walton struggled to impose a defensive structure, injuries hampered the Lakers early on, and nobody could put a finger on who would run the operations for the organization. Fast forward a few months, and Magic Johnson an Rob Pelinka (former agent) are now making smart moves to improve the roster. Everything is a long shot to work out with there being many uncertainties with player development, team chemistry and unknown injuries, but as of right now there is hope.

The Lakers now have 3 first round picks and Brook Lopez after trading away DeAngelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets. With Mozgov gone, they only need to stretch Lou Deng’s contract to make more room. With Russell gone, they can draft Ball with no chemistry issues, but they give up their backup plan. They also do not have to worry about extending Russell or allowing his value to plummet while he adjusted to the 2-Guard position. Paul George wants to come to the Lakers, their first “big star” since Kobe and an injury plagued Dwight Howard. The rumors of Lebron James are back in full effect with Magic Johnson at the helm, and the seemingly utter train wreck that is the front office of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Lakers can trade their number two pick now, package their first rounders for George, or stand around and play the waiting game, which isn’t the best play for a team and fanbase that is starving right now. Waiting till next year to acquire George via free agency is a risky move, especially when the SuperMax is still in play, and you never know what can happen in a year.

Honestly, I wouldn’t wait. Although there is no reason to fork over multiple picks when the Lakers have the leverage over the Pacers, they cannot wait around and hope George fulfills his verbal committment. What if the Pacers decide to sign a marquee free agent (they have cap room to do so), George makes and All-NBA Team, and somehow Myles Turner blossoms the way Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic did last season? Then what? You can’t depend on chance for too long. I’m sure the Nuggets and Blazers had no thoughts of giving the max-max to Jokic and Nurkic last year, but now they must. What if the Lakers struggle once again, Randle and Ingram plateau, and Luke Walton isn’t what Magic and Pelinka want for the Lakers, then what?

Lopez only has one year left, and he can be traded before the All-Star break if need be. Jordan Clarkson is also on a team-friendly contract, and the Lakers are looking to move him as well. As we seen with the Phoenix Suns, acquiring players through free agency doesn’t always work as planned. They were expecting so sign LaMarcus Aldridge, so they signed Tyson Chandler, but then Aldridge spurned the Suns to sign with the Spurs. So be wary Lakers fans and management, the time is now. Don’t wait for other teams to catch up, because as we’ve seen this offseason, the teams at the top are gearing up to take down the Warriors, and you don’t want to get caught watching others take down the throne.

500 Days of Spring: The NBA Season Is A Long One

By Will Stevenson

The NBA Regular Season is winding down, and I for one am very excited for it to be over. Remember when Joel Embid was the talk of the league? Remember when the Warriors and Thunder were facing off and Pachulia was standing over Russ? I remember when the Bulls were playing hard and the Lakers were 2 games above .500. I didn’t even know who Nikola Jokic was or that Nurkic was a beast in the making for the Trailblazers. I thought the Blazers were bad? Remember when the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets were tied at 11-30? Since that time, the Heat are now 32-35,  and the Nets are 12-54. Remember the Warriors being a villain? That concept was pretty much a lost cause for the team.

Certain things have dulled this regular season: Injures, Back to Backs, Pace of Play and new systems. Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Kyle Lowry, LaMarcus Aldridge are the marquee names that have, and will miss extended time this season. Not to mention players like Chandler Parsons, JR Smith, Evan Turner, George Hill, and Derrick Favors have all missed significant time with injuries. Players are resting more, which they should, and teams are keeping players as fresh as possible for the stretch run. With the draft coming and the free agent pool being dwindled by extensions this past summer, teams are tanking on purpose.

Injuries

I can never wrap my head around the concept of a player being injury-prone. It’s as if we don’t believe players should every have anything wrong with their body. Injuries are a natural part of progression, and bad luck can happen to anyone, which it does. How many players have the Pelicans released because of injury? How many times has Lance Stephenson been cut because he’s suffered various injuries. I remember watching Pierre Jackson (right before the Yogi Ferrell “explosion”) score 9 points in the first quarter for the Mavericks, then he hurt his leg and I haven’t heard from him since. He was on a 10 day contract and was released. Andre Bogut played 58 seconds before he collided with another player and broke his leg, he was released as well. Kevin Durant was knocked out by a flopping Zaza, just as Paul Gasol got hurt during shootaround. A number of players have broken a hand or finger by it getting caught in an opponents jersey. If you remember, Durant had a nasty fall in which he fell on his wrist a few games early before the knee injury. The point is injuries happen, bad luck happens, and these guys aren’t injury  prone, they are just human beings in a sport in which bodies collide with each other often. I won’t even go into these training regiments and tightness of muscles plus over-exertion. Players get injured often, and waiting until you are fully 100% is something that isn’t obtainable. Chandler Parsons is on the verge of being Brock Osweiler’d. Kyle Lowry would be replaced if Cory Joseph weren’t the embodiment of Delusions of Grandeur. Derrick Favors, in a contract year, is both months removed from being a centerpiece and months away from being paid the vet minimum and/or being replaced by Trey Lyles.

Rest

This won’t take long: Players need rest. Whatever high-horse you are on, complaining about how the fans need to see the best product are taking hypocrisy to a whole new level. Nobody complains when stars rest in Orlando, or Milwaukee, or if it isn’t a Primetime game on TNT, Espn or ABC. I get it, you care enough when you get to watch them in primetime, but not when they are playing in Minnesota on a Wednesday and being broadcasted by the local cable company. Even those that paid to go to the game, it happens. If the NBA isn’t refunding your tickets or giving back so sort of perk for those that went to the Spurs/Warriors game, then you shouldn’t be so angry at the players. You should be mad at yourself because you got played, again.

Tanking

This tanking thing is something isn’t it? The Kings are trying to tank so hard, but can’t. when they traded Cousins they were 3 games out of the last playoff spot, and banking on the Pelicans making the playoffs or missing it barely to get 2 lottery picks and be bad enough so Chicago wouldn’t get their pick which is top-10 protected (I play lots of 2k). The Kings are 6 games out of the 8th seed, but are tied with a team that gave them a 1st rd pick, but it was top 3 protected because there was no way they could end keeping that pick, the Pelicans. That’s right, Fire and Ice are melting themselves into a possible oblivion I haven’t seen  since the Lakers and Nets traded away all their picks and missed out on protection picks. The Kings could lose out on a possible top 3 pick, or the Pelicans could lose out on a top 5 selection. We all knew it would take time for the Pelicans, and they were thin, but it has really been a struggle, especially with the resurgence of the Blazers, Timberwolves and Mavericks. The bottom-playoff teams have been so bad that the teams attempting to tank are a 3 game win streak from being in the playoffs. The Lakers have been horrendous this year, and this time it’s not Kobe’s fault. The Lakers pick is top 3 protected, so if they win, they lose the pick to the 76ers. Their development this year stopped around December once the injuries hit and the losses piled up. Mozgov and Deng have be inept and are now DNP-CD (Did not play – coaches decision), isn’t that something for 33 million a season for 4 years (Thanks Jim). The Orlando Magic traded away Oladipo, Sabonis, Ibaka, and still are as putrid as before. The Suns aren’t tanking, but their play does it for them, and the Nets are tanking but don’t have a 1st round pick (a high one) for 3 total years. Teams are hoping the 2017 class is a deep one and leads to potential stardom, but these teams should realize that they themselves have played a major role in harming their own on-court success.

Despite these issues in the league, I am interested in watching playoff basketball. With the pace of play substantially going up league-wide, I’m interested to see if the high pace will translate to the playoff style. Will the Rockets continue to shoot 40 three pointers a game? Will a team like the Wizards be able to put up 106 ppg? Will coaches be able to swallow their defensive and carefulness instincts, knowing that a team could “grit and grind” them at any point. Though the pace of play is up with transition and three pointers attempted, we saw how that changed when the Cavs fug in on defense and the Warriors didn’t connect on those threes. Will teams turn back into the Jazz on offense, and will the Grizzlies continue their team record pace for relapse into the Grindhouse? Just something to check up on.

Lavar Ball: Building An Empire While Inside an Empire

Will Stevenson

In 2017, things are different.  In this capitalist society, maximizing your value is something every one of us should strive to do.  In all honesty, we don’t want others to maximize their value.  We want them to go through the “proper channels” and only behave the way we want them to.  Most of us weren’t born with the talent to dictate our own financial prowess.  Most of us work jobs, have managers, a boss that tells us when and where to be, how to act, and what our value is.  I must admit there is something that rises up in us when we see someone “buck the trend” of business and/or sport protocol.  When we see someone else have the power, instead of reveling in their presence or linking up with them to become stronger as a brand, we cut them down so they can be on our level. Sad is it not?

Lavar Ball is building an empire inside of an empire, which belongs to college basketball and the NBA.  Lavar Ball has helped himself to any news outlet to profess the greatness of his three sons.  Three sons.  We loved the Mannings, the Gronkowskis, but we don’t like the Balls.  Why?  In a sports world in which a collegiate athlete is drafted to a particular team instead of being able to choose a team of their own, being able to dictate the terms is almost impossible. For Lavar Ball, he must be able to dictate what he can, and continue to push the envelope.

Ball has spoken on how he wants his oldest to play for the Lakers.  He wants his son to stay in California, be close to home.  That actually sounds like something that would be a great idea, knowing the further away Lonzo Ball is away from his father, the easier it is to be pulled from his influence.  Ball has also spoken of building a brand with his sons: shoes, apparel, all the like.  We know the competition with Under Armor, Nike, Adidas, Jordan and Reebok would crush the competition, but why not try to infiltrate the system.  Every business out there is going to attempt to sink their marketing teeth into the Ball family, so it would be in Lavar’s best interest to do that himself.

As sports fans, we hate meddling parents.  We want those meddling parents to stay out-of-the-way and let coaches do their jobs.  Lavar has been slashed in almost every comment section there is for his interviews.  We always say others should avoid the spotlight, so if there were to be a downfall there wouldn’t be so much damage from the media.  Who can avoid the spotlight though?  The same people criticizing Lavar Ball are the same ones leaving comments on ESPN or on twitter hoping someone of importance reads it.  How ironic right?  Don’t let the fact that the Ball family is better at basketball than most of us let that cloud our hopes for their success.

We keep saying the fathers of this nation are lacking.  We keep reiterating that parents should be raising their children, not the system.  We continue to tell our children they can be anything, and they do always have to go the regular route.  If a relationship between a father and his sons is such that a father has the knowledge to navigate the sports business world, then we should all get behind the father and his sons.  Leagues such as the NBA, NFL, and MLB make it almost impossible for an athlete to do their own marketing, or choose another brand that isn’t sponsored by said league.

Maybe they all make it in the NBA.  Maybe none of them do.  Who cares?  What Lavar Ball has been able to accomplish up to this point is nothing short of amazing.  We don’t like what he says or how he goes about it, but we cannot dismiss his accomplishments because we are too busy stuck in our insecure feelings.

LeBron Is KING.

LeBron James has been keeping the cavaliers relevant since he rejoined the team. He delivered on his promise of a championship and has done outstanding things in the community. He receives a lot of hate like he is a bad guy but I believe that hates comes from him being so good at what he does.

This season is going to plan but the Cavaliers might want to beef up the roster because they don’t quite measure up to the top teams from the western conference. My sleeper team this year is the Rockets because they are a deep team with a lot of shooting from behind the arch and a few scrappy big guys who are hungry for rebounds and hustle points.I think they can give the Cavs a run for their money but they have to get past the Spurs and the Warriors.

The Cavs are signing Deron Williams who is on the back nine of his career and it is rumored that Andrew Bogut will sign with them as soon as he gets a buyout from the 76ers. To me on paper this does not make them deeper, but it makes them have some names that are now washed up and hoping KING LEBRON can carry them on his back and win them a championship.

I do think he will win it this season because the Warriors are all hype and no bite. They just will have a hard time this year getting past the Spurs and the Rockets and I do see them losing in the playoffs this year. Look for LeBron to get his 4th ring this season and remain the king of the NBA.

written by Melvin Jackson III

NBA Transactionology: Let’s Make A Deal

Will Stevenson

*Remember in The Hunger Games when Katniss and Peeta were going to eat the berries because they didn’t want to kill each other. Remember when the higher ups did not appreciate being shown up? The Kings-Pelicans trade was a cop-out, and now everyone in the NBA thinks they too can devalue other players to acquire better talent. We Need Order!*

With the trade deadline tomorrow afternoon, the NBA has presented us with another moratorium to discuss the one thing we love above anything else in sports: Transactions. Every year we do this, with every sport, but with the rotations only being around nine deep for most teams and sometimes shorter during the playoffs, a well-timed acquisition can dynamically change the fortunes of any given franchise. I was listening to the TruHoop podcast yesterday, and Brain Windhorst admitted that 98 percent of the information he receives around the trade deadline are all lies, which is quite believable. He also admitted that all the work and texts from last year’s trade deadline meant absolutely nothing. Most of everything on basketball-reference or Hoops Rumors are just that, rumors. There is a stat that only two or three teams have ever made the playoffs, after January 20, after making a trade while being out of the playoff picture. I have a better stat for all of the 28 teams in the NBA besides the Cavaliers and Warriors:

Can you beat the Warriors? Can you beat the Cavaliers?

If you are a team that is looking for a player boost in the next day, will that player be able to propel you to the Eastern and Western Conference Finals? We’ll get back to this.

The worst thing to happen to the trade deadline was the Kings-Pelicans trade for Boogie Cousins. The trade was such a low-ball, that teams like the Nets have to soften their stance on Brook Lopez. The Kings have every NBA front office person thinking they too can send over lint and green tea to acquire a star in this league.

Celtics

I think most teams realize there is no reason to mortgage their future draft picks and prospects for the chance to get knocked out in the 2nd round of the playoffs. The Celtics have been hanging on to those picks for a few years now, and it’s actually worked out with the acquisitions of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Al Horford, and the drafting of Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk. Let’s be honest, the Celtics aren’t beating the Cavaliers, and they may not even surpass the second round with their 1-4 offensive-give all the shots to Isaiah Thomas in the fourth quarter-strategy. P.J. Tucker will not enhance their ability to win the title, but maybe Blake Griffin will. Griffin can and most likely will opt out this summer for free agency in any event of a trade, but it’s worth the risk. Maybe Blake Griffin or Jimmy Butler won’t get you the chip you want, but you’ll feel better about your chances. I actually think the Celtics want to play the underdog role for another year and keep the championship expectations off their backs. Thomas and Bradley are up for contracts next summer, and Jae Crowder is a movable piece as well. With the draft picks from the Nets, they can rebuild on the fly and keep cap room while staying an underdog. Genius.

Clippers

The Clippers have one move: Carmelo. That’s it, that’s all they have. Paul, Griffin and Reddick are all free agents this summer, and Steve Balmer doesn’t seem like the patient person. The Clippers have produced a great starting lineup for the past few seasons, but it hasn’t pushed them past the second round. Their bench is better this year, but it’s too late because the Warriors are here.

Raptors

The Raptors are the Clippers of the East, they have longed for a stretch four since Chris Bosh left for the Heat. They acquired Serge Ibaka from the Magic for a bag of sticks and a late 1st rounder; but was it too late? Think of this for the Raptors: They traded for Lowry, drafted Derozan and Valanciunas and that’s the core. Demarre Carroll and Corey Joseph aren’t free agent flops, but their production is average at best. They extended Terrence Ross, who they traded for Ibaka, and let Biyombo go to the Magic. Norman Powell and Delon Wright have been injured this season, along with Jared Sullinger. The Raptors have enough to get to the ECF, barring an epic shooting performance like last playoffs.

Wolves

Thibs has been trying to get the band back together since he took over the personnel in Minnesota, and with Zach Lavine down with an ACL until next spring, the Wolves are searching for scoring. This is an issue with many teams who have struggled this season: A veteran coach takes over a losing team with young players, but the pressure of making the playoffs is so great that the young players can’t break the rotations. Thibs has tried to trade for Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Noah and Jimmy Butler. I’m surprised he didn’t go after Loul Deng or bring up Ben Gordon from the D-League.

Although the Finals looks like a foregone conclusion for the next couple seasons, it is nice to see teams still out here trying to compete for the playoffs. It’s cute.

Welcome to the Mecca

By: Will Stevenson

Sports. It’s a trying time in the sports arena these days as the NFL season has ended, the NBA hasn’t reached the all-star break, and… That’s about it. It’s not as if there aren’t interesting sports stories out there to generate decent conversation, it’s the sports athlete that has been watered down. We as a sports society have become bored with the talk of the Warriors on-court play, the passing of LeBron James or even… well that’s about it.

The NBA has had quite the year so far as the New York Knicks have basically dominated the tabloids with their Knick behavior. Draymond Green called Dolan’s behavior as, “slave mentality”. I love Draymond Green; he’s never afraid to drop a bomb in the middle of the pool and watch others squirm to swim around it. The word “slave” sends chills down the backs of most of this country, mainly because of untapped guilty and a total lack of understanding of what slavery was. When others compare slavery to modern-day basketball, everyone usually shuts it down. We as a nation learned slavery from Roots, which was in fact a fabricated story with an insufficient storyline. Many schools have stricken the word from the curriculum, replacing it with other words that aren’t so toxic to our youth.

Holy Bleep I thought this was about sports.

While listening to the Dan Lebatard Show with Stugotz last week, Dan repeatedly spoke about his surprise that Oakley was being defended everywhere, while Dolan was being crushed in the media, and with the fans. I thought about that concept: A large black man gets into it with security, gets removed from a game, and is still innocent on the majority. I’m sure Dolan thought as many in his position did, thinking he could say whatever he wanted about Oakley, and the public would have to side with Dolan, because he is rich and has the power. Dolan forgot one thing: The Black Code.

The Black Code is real. You may hear about it with “street cred” or “keeping it real” and think of “Chappelle’s Show” back in the day, but where I’m from, your name and deeds carry weight. The way you are is respected by others, even if you are a person that may slap a few people here and there. Oakley is a respected man in his community, and in the basketball community. Oakley is similar to the assassin in a movie that garners respect from his adversaries and community, even though he’s an assassin. Once your stature as a man or woman is notarized by the black community, there usually isn’t anything to take that luster off. I said usually.

None of the claims from Dolan made sense when applied to Oakley: From the drinking, the whispering, to the antagonizing. As soon as the press release came, literally while Oakley was still in the building, the world of Oakley descended upon Dolan. Dolan looked to point out the, “Angry Black Man”, “Out of Control Black Man”, and the “Alcoholic Black Man” all in one press release. To make matters worse, Sunday’s game against the Spurs was, “Look at the former Negros by my side” for Dolan. It was a complete bleep show as former Knicks were brought in for a dog and pony show as if to say, “Look at these Knicks, they like me, they’re not like Oakley”. It was an utter embarrassment as former Knicks were used for Dolan’s PR show that fell flat on its face.

Welcome to the Mecca.