AC’S Spotlight Episode 20-NBA Draft and Free Agency w/ Zach Harper

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So the 2014 NBA Draft came and went Thursday night and we have a bunch of brand new faces in the league hoping to make their mark. Did anyone win the draft? Who fared worse or better between the Celtics and Lakers?  I break down the draft and talk some Free Agency w/ Zach Harper of CBS Sports. Zach as always is a great guest, and we continue on chatting about the LeBron sweepstakes, who’s getting Carmelo and where does he fit, Knicks philosophies, Sixers philosophies As always you can check this podcast here or on Itunes. Thanks everyone for continuing to listen!

AC’S Spotlight Episode 19-Free Agency and Trade Bonanza W/ Rafael Canton

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So I guess the NBA offseason has really started to pick up! The Knicks and Mavericks have a deal that seems to be going through involving Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton going to the Mavericks for Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Samuel Dalembert, 2 2nd round picks and Wayne Ellington. It’s the 1st trade of the Phil Jackson era, and what will come of it? On the podcast today Rafael Canton of NBA Trades came on to discuss the deal and what it means for the Knicks and does this signal the end of Melo as a Knick?

Also we discussed the rest of Free Agency, who fits better for Melo, the Bulls or Rockets? Included is chat on the Heat and what LeBron James will do along with Wade and Bosh, the Kevin Love situation, and Raf’s favorite draft night trades. Take a listen, and many thanks to Raf for coming on, fun conversation as usual. You can listen to this podcast here or go on Itunes to check it out.

AC’S Spotlight Episode 18-The NBA Finals & The Latest With The Knicks

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As the NBA Finals continue with the Spurs and the Heat there’s plenty to talk about in that series as it advances to it’s 4th game. Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal comes on to discuss the Spurs historic 1st half in Game 3, Miami’s chances to win this series and of course the rumors of Carmelo Anthony going to Miami and how legit it may be. We also talk some Knicks. In addition, Ian Begley of ESPN NY.com comes on to talk about the Knicks hiring of Derek Fisher and what’s next for the franchise as far as the roster is concerned. Many thanks to both gentlemen, you can listen to this podcast here or on Itunes.

 

The Thunder Have A Bright Future, But It Could Be Brighter

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When Scott Brooks said the Thunder had a successful season, he couldn’t have been more right about that statement. 59 wins with a ton of injuries including losing Russell Westbrook for 36 games is a great accomplishment. Kevin Durant and Westbrook continuing to improve individually and collectively is important as well as they continue to lead this team. Serge Ibaka clearly showing his value and his importance as the 3rd best player on the team. Reggie Jackson has slotted himself in as another important cog of this team and a core piece. All of this matters, but Scott Brooks and Sam Presti need to do more to let Durant and Westbrook’s games flourish together and surround them and Ibaka with enough talent to get to the next level.

This season has never been more clearer to me in the sense that Durant and Westbrook can win a championship together, they complement each other on the court and they symbolize the two man wrecking crew in such a ferocious and awesome way. I think TNT’s  Kenny Smith made a great point on the post game yesterday about Brooks needing to be harder on them. Their halfcourt offense as we’ve all said leaves something to be desired. Their bench with some of the young players they have could be developed better. Diversified lineups and diversified offense would be great for this team.

I used to think that Scott Brooks should be fired because he seemed to not have an idea of what he’s doing, but I have to be fair. He’s been to 3 Western Conference Finals and 1 NBA Finals in his short coaching career. You can say KD, Russ, Harden, Ibaka and such but someone has to guide them there. His positive reinforcement is refreshing in a lot of respects, you don’t see coaches like Brooks in the league very much anymore. Just like any player though, he has room to improve and he has to get their offense right.

Kevin Durant also needs to get easier baskets for himself. As great as he is there are so many great defenses that lock in come playoff time and make his shots more difficult than they need to be. I don’t think its as simple as him posting up like Barkley says, but as crazy as it sounds he can get even better in making life easier for himself on the offensive end. Westbrook has improved plenty with his decision making and he could play on my team anytime, but I think the Thunder have to help him out. I don’t think he should be the point guard all the time. Assuming Derek Fisher finally retires, they need a guy they can slot in as a backup point so either Jackson or Westbrook can be the two guard. It will open up things immensely and give the Thunder different ways to attack their opponents.

On the wings I’d love to see Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb play more, I feel like they could be significant contributors on this team. Also just playing different lineups and having different looks is the way the league has gone. That would be great to see. This team isn’t far away from a championship. When you have the 2nd best player in the game and arguably another one in the top 5, a title is in their future. It’s up to everyone in Oklahoma City to look at themselves in the mirror, and take it a step further. The Thunder have a bright future, but man it could be brighter if there were certain tweaks.

The Spurs Trip Back To The Scene Of The Crime

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“We Got Four More To Win, We’ll Do It This Time.” Tim Duncan

At the end of Game 6, as San Antonio did something that not many thought they could do after one of the most excruciating losses in the history of the Finals, they dusted themselves off and are now back in the same position. Not only that, they have homecourt and the motivation of redemption for themselves. After knocking off the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 in Oklahoma City, a place the Spurs hadn’t won in 9 tries, we as fans get the Finals rematch that has been worth the wait.

When Duncan made that quote last night, I had a flashback to Game 6 in Miami last season. While watching that game particularly in the 1st half I saw Duncan play like a man determined to finishing the job, getting a ring for the thumb and walking off into the sunset. I thought it was going to be his retirement game; but obviously LeBron James and the Heat had other plans. So here’s Duncan, Parker, Manu, and Popovich all looking to redeem themselves against the team trying to make history and etch their names in stone as the new dynasty in NBA lore. Miami with a title win here earns that right. The Spurs can bookend that first title in 1999 with a 5th title.

I believe Duncan if the Spurs win will retire with 5 rings and a perfect close to a career. There is a lot on the line here historically for both of these squads, but the matchup will be exquisite from a basketball standpoint. That’s how it’s supposed to be. In the days before the Finals take place, we’ll look back on last season’s classic, and that it was. Heat/Spurs for the 2nd time in a row. Get ready.

The Pacers Need To Realize It Takes Everything To Beat The Champs

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It’s hard to defeat a team that not only has the best player in the world, but has seen it all. The Miami Heat have been put through the fire, they’ve seen their best and their worst days and have come out of it as a supremely confident and in control team, and why not? They’re 2 wins away from doing something unprecedented, one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of basketball,and again they’ve found a way to take control against a team that in a lot of ways has outplayed them in the majority of the 1st three games of the Eastern Finals.

Indiana needs to dig deeper, they have to find something within themselves that they haven’t found quite yet. We’ve seen so many instances of teams who thought they could defeat Michael’s Bulls, Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers, and Tim Duncan’s Spurs, but in order to actually defeat them and make history, there’s a resolve that you need to find when the going gets tough. Indiana has reached that point now.

This type of situation is what Miami loves, being up 2-1 with a Game 4 at home with the opportunity of going up 3-1. With that in mind, Indiana needs to stay with it’s bread and butter offensively. They got away from West and Hibbert after the 1st quarter and inexplicably never went back to them with any consistency. That’s what’s going to beat Miami. As electrifying as Lance Stephenson can be, him meandering on the perimeter is not a recipe for success. Paul George has to play better and can’t start the game like has the last two. He has to be more consistent and aggressive foul trouble not withstanding.

Give Miami credit for continuing to try and adapt and adjust to what the Pacers have done to them. Indiana has forced them to try and find different lineups and combinations to find their game. Also, include the fact that Chris Bosh has struggled so mightily in this series thus far, the Heat have to feel very confident. With all that being said, Indiana still has to play their game and stick to their game plan. No one said it was going to be easy, and it’s not going to be easy. What the Pacers are trying to do will be one of the hardest things ever. Defeating LeBron James at the peak of his game, and also getting a very,very good Dwyane Wade in this series. It starts tonight with the Pacers having a chance to wrestle back homecourt advantage. Win and it’s a brand new series, lose and they’re on the precipice of being a footnote in Miami’s legacy.

AC’S Spotlight Episode 17-NBA Water Cooler Talk W/ Sean Grande

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As the conference finals are on a hiatus, I decided to call up my buddy who happens to be the radio voice of the Boston Celtics. Sean Grande joins me to talk about both series as they go and whether OKC has a chance to come back and how long will the Miami/Indiana battle go. We also discuss the draft lottery, what the Celtics may do with their draft picks, Kevin Love, and more on the future of the Celtics. In addition, there was talk of a Melo/Celtics connection? Yes, that and more. Many thanks to Sean, who’s one of the best in the business. Direct link to the pod is here.

Heat Vs Pacers Could End And Start A New Era

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Jonathan Abrams from Grantland wrote an incredibly good oral history on the Kings/Lakers tussle in 2002. That rivalry was a 3 year culmination of bad blood, the classic rise to the top of the young team and the old champion trying to keep them down. Sometimes the young team breaks through, other times they don’t. Jordan’s Bulls needed a couple of seasons before they finally took down the Bad Boys in Detroit. The Knicks were a very good team in the 90’s, but could never get past Jordan’s Bulls. The “Best Starting 5 Alive” Pistons of the mid 2000’s defeated Miami’s Shaq & Wade in the 05 Conference Finals in 7 games, but the Heat on the way to their first ever championship beat them the next year. The point is, these matchups defined eras. These rivalries were heightened more when the team chasing the champion actually defeated them. It makes it that much more compelling. That’s whats at stake in Heat/Pacers Part III.

Regardless of whatever has happened in the last 3 months to Indiana, this is what they got the #1 seed for. I feel like looking at this series is like looking into a window of Lakers/Kings back then. The Lakers had beaten the Kings the 2 previous postseasons, and were dismissive of them. The Kings felt like they had to get homecourt advantage in order to get past the Lakers. They got it in 2002, and we were treated to one of the most compelling series in the history of the game. We’ll remember that the Lakers essentially won the Finals in that series, and we’ll remember Sacramento blowing a chance in a 7th game at home to change the way the Shaq/Kobe dynasty is viewed.  The Kings ended up being a footnote in history, because despite that great season it means nothing if you can’t slay the dragon.

The Indiana Pacers have a chance to make history for themselves and stop something historical in Miami’s threepeat chase and an unprecedented 4 straight finals. It’s appropriate that it’s these two with the Finals standing off to the distance. With all the struggles the Pacers have gone through, it will be nothing compared to what a loss in this series will do to or for them. It could change their franchise and send them spiraling in a different direction. Frank Vogel’s job will be thrown into question, they may have to rethink their ideas of how their roster is constructed and overall a loss makes their 56 win null and void. It’s just the way we all look at things now. The totality of the season pales in comparison to what the ultimate endgame is, and that’s a championship.

For Miami this is another opportunity to vanquish their greatest competition in the conference and change Indiana’s perception of itself as a whole. The Heat go to the Finals and it’s an opportunity to do something that should be considered one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of basketball. It isn’t hyperbole, it’s fact. In this era with all the extra playoff games and all the extra scrutiny LeBron James and his mates have played through the past 4 seasons it would be a special accomplishment. If Miami somehow lost this series, then they go into an offseason wondering if they’ve gone as far as they could go as a group. Not to say that the big 3 will automatically disband, but when you have to question it in the immediacy of a playoff loss perception is reality. Does a guy like Chris Bosh despite everything he’s said about staying maybe decides that winning 2 titles is good enough? Maybe he’d like to leave and get paid the most money that he could get. How about Dwyane Wade? They’ll keep saying that he’s healthy but if you need a “maintenance” program for a 32 year old player in which he misses 28 games how much can the Heat as franchise trust to commit to him? Obviously this all coincides with what LeBron James will do or not do.

LeBron has found a home in Miami and has had the best moments of his career to date here. What he’s up against now is measuring himself to the best in history. How many titles can he amass while he still is in his prime years? Does he trust Pat Riley enough to continue to retool and reshape this team so they can remain in the championship conversation in the next 5 years? More importantly does LeBron see Wade as his running mate or as someone he has to drag to the finish line on his broad shoulders? These are legitimate questions whether you’d want to admit them or not. The Heat’s Big 3 were unselfish enough to take discounts on their contracts when they were formed. If I was a betting man (and I’m not) I’d have to seriously doubt that all three players would choose the same fate.

All of this stuff swirling around the series about both of these franchises is very compelling. Can Paul George break through and become a superstar in the eyes of everyone earlier than expected? Will Lance Stephenson (playing for a big payday) be able to avoid the bad moments and be the guy who caused Miami so many problems in the series last season? Or will he crumble? Will we see the Roy Hibbert that’s dominated Miami, or will we see the one that disappears into the ether? The Pacers (still looking for their first title as a franchise) can stop history and make their own. I love this series for all these questions, and I love this series because it’s the classic “Trying to take the old warrior out” series. Indiana and Miami have split the last 14 games, and I expect nothing but a classic 7 game tussle between 2 of the best 4 teams left in basketball. Who wins? A lot of people are picking Miami and rightfully so with Indiana’s struggles, but sometimes who knows, maybe the sight of Miami across the lines awakens something in them that we haven’t seen in completion for awhile. Whatever the outcome, the landscape of the league changes and that’s what makes it great for basketball. Let’s get it on.

AC’S Spotlight Episode 16- Thunder/Clippers, Coaching Carousel and NBA Playoffs W/ Chris Herring

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In one of the weirdest and controversial Game 5’s in recent memory, the Thunder defeated the Clippers and took a 3-2 lead in the best of seven western conference semifinal. Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal joins me to break down the bad calls, the Clippers collapse, and we go around the NBA Playoffs plus Stan Van Gundy’s hiring in Detroit, the dance between Steve Kerr, the Knicks and Warriors, and more. As always Chris does a great job I thank him for joining me. Always check out the podcast here or on Itunes.

 

 

 

AC’S Spotlight Episode 15-Previewing The NBA Playoffs W/ Rafael Canton

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Continuing the NBA Playoff Previews, AC is joined by Rafael and they go through every series and break down the matchups and give their 1st round picks. Listen to this podcast here, and any other ones on AC’S Spotlight on Itunes!