The pride and the passion ..

The pride and the passion

With so much happening over the last few days within the sports’ world, fans have not had enough time to collect themselves and to digest all of the information and news emanating from each avenue. The NBA Draft came and went , with little of note beyond the New York Knicks and in particular Phil Jackson proving that he is simply no better or worse than Isiah Thomas as an NBA executive. Granted, Thomas was able to achieve a great deal of havoc within and outside of the organization without having much success on or off the court. In the case of Jackson , he set about presiding over one of the worst seasons ever witnessed in the history of the New York Knicks.

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Phil Jackson and the coaching staff , then set about making their picks in this draft , taking as the fourth overall pick from the first round, Serbian Kristaps Porzingis . To understand the decision, one would also to have to acknowledge the fact it was deemed bewildering by the franchise’s fans who yearned for a player would be able to have an immediate impact for the Knicks. Porzingus in most circles is considered a project and not much else beyond that.

If the New York Knicks are to succeed, then they are going to need players, who are ready to play in the league and not be developed over the course of the next two to three years .

Given the fact beyond Carmelo Anthony, there seems to be no one else on the current Knicks’ roster able to provide the team with anything meaningful by way of productivity , and it easy to understand the bewilderment of their fans and the lack of progress seen or otherwise throughout much of last season with the New York Knicks.

With the choice of Porzingis in the first round by New York, then to be followed by their trading of Tim Hardaway Jr to the Atlanta Hawks for Jerian Grant , acquiring Willy Hernangomez from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for two future second draft choice and money. Somehow, it is hard to explain what Phil Jackson and the front office hope to gain from the acquisitions much less the draft choices , given the poor coaching acumen shown by head coach Derek Fisher and his coaching staff. Fisher for his part has been unable to explain, why it was the team failed to meet his expectations and that of the fans. Granted, Carmelo Anthony missed a sizable chunk of the regular season schedule, managing to play in only forty games during this past regular season.

Anthony has never provided much leadership on the court, simply being nothing more than an offensive minded player . Yet, it is now being reported the former NBA scoring champion is disgruntled at the moves made by the organization. Is it really that much of a surprise to begin with ? Never-mind the fact Carmelo remained with the Knicks in the pursuit of money , rather than seeking to fulfill a goal of playing for a contender. Regrets , most definitely, but the idiots providing the player with their input, as well as the Knicks’ front office, have provided nothing but comedic value to the season , along with the player’s own asinine insistence he remained in New York to fulfill his ambition of winning an NBA title. Four decades and counting, the New York Knicks have barely sniffed or touched the Larry O’Brien Trophy , while being able to call it their very own and signifying themselves as champions.

Injuries asides , there should be no excuses made for the team’s lackluster performances and poor record, but it remains one of the main focal points of another pitiful season, one of no passion from the players, much less among the coaching staff or from within the front office. Team owner James Dolan remains an executive who seems disinterested, simply knowing the franchise remains the most valuable and profitable of the NBA’s thirty teams.

The NBA hierarchy tries to make more out this annual farce, with the NBA Draft barely drawing any notice among the viewing public by way of its broadcast with ESPN or the league’s own cable outlet , the NBA Network. Yet for all sense and purpose the NBA makes more of it than is utterly necessary. In the aftermath of witnessing a less than exhilarating NBA Finals , where the Golden State Warriors had the better of their opponents the Cleveland Cavaliers and the asinine apologies being made by the LeBron James’ supporters. It begs the question , where does the league now go from here ? Six NBA Finals’ appearances for the four-time NBA League MVP and two wins , has now left many wondering if the ten-year veteran will win another NBA title. Clearly , without a team to complement his skill-set, James cannot do it all by himself , in spite of the ongoing ridiculous comparisons being made with Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Apathy and clear stupidity seems to be the norm among the protagonists of that particular debate.

I have often been told athletes now compete for the glory , but in the world of professional sports , it now has become about the “ bling-bling” , selling an image , brand management , fame and fortune . In the world of the NBA , it has become paramount and one of the primary reasons the league has become stale and vapid . Current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver may well be pursuing ideas, seeking to realign the league’s image , but I believe his predecessor David Stern placed the league on its downward slide , with it all taking shape over the past two decades. There is no pride or passion within the NBA and it has become a soulless entity , without character and a real identity.

With Golden State having claimed their first title in four decades , the franchise will now set about the task of improving for next season . Two key pieces are already in place with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson seen as the keys to the Warriors’ long-term future. Golden State Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr has the backing of an organization ambitious to build upon this season’s success . Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber , alongside consultant Jerry West have laid a formidable foundation from which to build upon and made the Warriors a desirable destination for a free agent to seek out winning an NBA title.

From my own perspective I believe the franchise will be a prohibitive favorite to win the title next season, even with the odds-makers in Las Vegas bearing down on the Cleveland Cavaliers , simply because of the LeBron James’ factor. Predicated upon what the Cavaliers’ front office is able to achieve , re-signing Kevin Love is most certainly a pressing need for the Eastern Conference champions, but it is nowhere near a forgone conclusion , Love wishes to remain in Cleveland. Cleveland’s needs are many and it remains to be seen what decisions are likely to be made by GM David Griffin and head coach David Blatt.

Warriors’ GM Bob Myers after his successful season at the helm of the organization had a very good draft class and it will be interesting to see how the new rookies acclimatize themselves to being members of an NBA championship team , even if they are likely to be losses from the team’s roster. The nucleus of the team will remain intact as Golden State looks to make a successful defense of their title this upcoming season.

A woefully inept season after the era of LeBron James and the success attained has left fans of the Miami Heat feeling bitter and sour. Now it appears the organization might well be willing to move on after what appears to be conflicting rumors concerning the long-term future of Dwyane Wade. The former Finals MVP has been nowhere near the player who brought the franchise their first NBA title and with it being the ” Pride of South Beach” . Wade might well have been part of Miami’s two later successes, but much of that can be put down to the exploits of his former teammate and close confidante LeBron James. And as close as the two players are said to be , I wonder if Wade was made aware of James’ intent to leave the Eastern based franchise at the end of the previous season after the disappointment of losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals.

During the off-season, Pat Riley and his closest advisers within the front office will have several meaningful decisions to make concerning Wade and several of the other Heat unrestricted free agents. Riley will have to consider the cap as well as whether or not it would be in the best interests of the Heat to retain a player who in recent years has become injury prone and less of a contributory factor , lacking leadership and a proven offensive weapon, beyond Luol Deng and the sporadic play of Chris Bosh , who like Dwyane Wade has his best years behind him , far behind him, that he can barely see it from the view of a rear-view mirror. In some respects the roster of the Heat might well have gotten younger , but several of these players have yet to show the ability that they are capable of playing in this league. Erik Spoelstra and his coaching staff will be back at the drawing board searching for answers once again after such a disappointing season.

It will be interesting to see if Dwyane Wade joins LeBron James in Cleveland or jumps to another contender, either in the East or Western Conference. Wade’s years of earning a top-notch salary have now passed and the thought appears to be he is likely to sign a minimal deal , one likely to be in line with a player of his experience and not much else beyond that.

As an avid San Antonio Spurs’ fan the disappointment of seeing the team bow out in the early stages of the NBA Playoffs was not only disappointing, but I felt the team lacked direction heading into the postseason. Granted , Kawhi Leonard coming off a sensational season and his Finals’ MVP run , a great deal more was expected from this Gregg Popopvich coached team.

The aging wonder , Tim Duncan is still able to play at a high level , even if he has lost a step or two. Teammates , Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are still able to work their wizardry when called upon to do so. But now is the time for the young guns on the roster to step up and take the lead , if the success of the franchise is to continue.

Five-time championship winning head coach , Popovich has written his legacy in the record books and his achievements speak for themselves. Peter Holt and RC Buford have been no slouches with their wizardry and custodianship of the Spurs’ franchise. The two are indelibly linked with the head coach , the famed trio now on the roster alongside perhaps San Antonio’s best player in its history , The Admiral , David Robinson .

I certainly believe the San Antonio Spurs will be able to challenge for postseason honors this upcoming season given the consistency shown by the franchise over the last eighteen seasons. They are likely to be seen as one of the favorites within the Western Conference alongside the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies , Los Angeles Clippers and the reigning champions , the Golden State Warriors. San Antonio simply went about their normal business during the draft , as they have often done over the past few years , managing to pick up players who are then able to the readiness of the team. Nikola Milutinov and Cady Lalanne have become the newest members of the Spurs and it will be interesting to see their development within the organization , with their being placed within the development structure of the franchise before making their professional debuts within the NBA during a regular season game.

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Do you believe the state of the NBA is one of the teams lacking passion and a great deal of pride ? Or has it more to do with the state of the game being one of sheer greed and a lack of insight , leadership within the union , hierarchy and the owners ?

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Tophatal

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Aches and still the growing pains of a league that remains out of touch

Aches and still the growing pains of a league that remains out of touch ………..

It is a strange time in the world of sports with the NBA Board of Governors now seeking a hearing, during which the league hierarchy and team owners will convene a meeting , during which, it is believed a unanimous decision will be made, to force the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers by the team’s beleaguered owner Donald Sterling. For all the false bravado, now being shown, by the NBA and their newly installed Commissioner, Adam Silver . The belief that now would be the time, to seize control of an episode in league history, that has come as a complete embarrassment , not just for the NBA , but also the teams , union , players and front office executives within the game in general. It begs the question, why now the proactive stance , when it was widely known across the league of Donald Sterling’s behavior and his views , never mind that within the Orlando Magic organization , the antics of Rich DeVos still goes unpunished but yet apathetic and idiotic fans believe that the Clippers owner’s actions warrants severe punishment. Personally, I have never had any faith in a league hierarchy , where the leadership tends to gloat , with regard to its alleged power. While in reality, it continues to allow the most egregious of actions to go unpunished, with the only thing being yearned for by the NBA, is the continued lust for money , and not a great deal much more beyond that.

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The NBA Postseason has brought about a not too distinctive change or turn of events, Conference Finals within the East and West , has left us with the four best teams in the league, that gives us a repeat of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals , where the Indiana Pacers are playing host to the defending NBA champions, the Miami Heat . Out West, the San Antonio Spurs will provide the setting at the AT&T Center in San Antonio , Texas , for the first two games of their best of seven-game series against the Oklahoma City Thunder . Scott Brooks will have done without Serge Ibaka , whose injury in the team’s series against the Los Angeles Clippers , will force the center to miss the remainder of the NBA Playoffs. As a big a blow as that might seem to be , one would be foolish to write off the Thunder , knowing that League MVP and Oklahoma’s best player in Kevin Durant , appears to be a man on a mission this postseason. Idiotic criticism of the charismatic and gifted player, bordered on sheer stupidity by several writers who cover the NBA, with some questioning Durant’s killer instinct.

A postseason within the NBA, that has already led to a fair share of melodrama now seems to have hit its stride. The firing of Mark Jackson by the Golden State Warriors’ hierarchy has led to former Phoenix Suns’ front office executive Steve Kerr rebuffing the overtures of Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks, with Kerr agreeing to a five-year $25 million deal with the Western Conference franchise. As to what this might suggest about the ongoing drama within the Knicks’ organization , will lead to ever-growing speculation. The longer that situation continues , it would seem the less likely Carmelo Anthony will come to a decision in remaining with the franchise.

Jackson and the New York Knicks will need to act with a great deal of urgency , as they seek to hire a successor to Mike Woodson , whose abrupt firing was not totally unexpected , given the well-chronicled failures of this team over the past season. Inasmuch, as everyone appeared to be of the belief that Phil Jackson’s insertion within the Knicks’ front office would lead to some semblance of discipline within the organization . The former Chicago Bulls’ first task will be to deal with a roster that is simply laden with some terribly exorbitant contracts and group of largely under-performing players. As to what this says about the previous front office executives brought in by team owner James Dolan to deal with the player personnel decisions for the Knicks. One can either judge Steve Mills , Donnie Walsh , Isiah Thomas and Glen Grunwald, as being a considerable success , while holding the position of general manager of the New York Knicks. Each, has made a colossal mistake during their tenure , perhaps none more so than Isiah Thomas , who at one point, held dual roles, as the head coach and Head of Basketball Operations, while splurging tens of millions of dollars in salary , for players who simply lacked a competitive nature .

All the bravura in the world , cannot hide the ongoing incompetency within the New York Knicks’ organization and the lack of foresight shown by James Dolan. Steve Mills was thrown in at the deep end at the beginning of the season , wherein , he was being asked to work miracles , while working in close conjunction with a coaching staff that simply lacked the aptitude to lead or having the acumen to coach. Beyond the play of Carmelo Anthony , there was simply nothing on display to believe that the Knicks would have been a legitimate contender within the NBA at any point this past season . Phil Jackson has a great deal on his plate, as miracles are being expected , with fans believing that the former Chicago Bulls’ coach can bring about the success he first achieved with the Bulls and then in his two stints with the Los Angeles Lakers . It is my belief that this off-season the roster of the New York Knicks will be totally revamped with several players likely to be jettisoned at the wayside, while seeking to rebuild through the NBA Draft and free agency .

It will be interesting to see what transpires over the coming weeks with the New York Knicks and how Phil Jackson deals with his having been spurned by Steve Kerr and the offer of coaching the Knicks. As to the available candidates , who are likely to be keenly interested in the vacant position. There might have been a time, when such a vacancy might well have been viewed as one of the premiere coaching positions within the NBA, but given the uncertainty of the franchise’s future and the less than forthright approach of Carmelo Anthony and his long-term future with the Knicks. I firmly believe, that Jackson and the organization will be in for some rough times ahead. No amount of presumptive speculation, about who the New York Knicks will be able to acquire can hide the fact that this particular franchise remains in state of complete disarray.

Far be it for me to suggest, but Mike D’Antoni’s resignation of the Los Angeles Lakers was long overdue or be seen as a further sign of Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak being at odds with the head coaches that have coached the team over the past two seasons. Mike Brown’s short tenure , was blissfully erratic and D’Antoni’s tenure, will be viewed , as an outright disaster, with his teams during his coaching stint , failing miserably at every juncture, with no progress whatsoever being made in terms of their play. Excuses will invariably be made, about team injuries, there being no leadership and the very issue of the Lakers, not having drafted anyone in the past three years that has been consistent or productive enough, to aid the franchise along the way.

In having one of their worst seasons in recent Lakers’ history , their finishing with a record of 27-55 does not belie the fact about how bad this team was said to be. Granted, Kobe Bryant was lost to D’Antoni and his coaching staff for much of the past season . It does still beg the question, how could anyone actually believe, that an aging Steve Nash playing alongside Pau Gasol , Chris Kaman , Jodie Meeks , Nick Young , Kent Bazemore , Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly could be seen as a legitimate contender within the Pacific Division of the Western Conference Conference remains a mystery , just as much as it was an enigma ? Another coaching vacancy remains up for grabs and I am not so sure, that the current situation within the Lakers’ organization is any better than that of the New York Knicks ! Bryant is at the end of an illustrious career , with no more than a year at best , where he can look to equal the feat of his idol , Michael Jordan in winning a sixth NBA championship and championship ring . At this point , I firmly believe that the title won by the Lakers in 2010 , will be the last that we shall witness from this venerable franchise for several years to come !

If you are going to pay in excess of $500 million for an NBA franchise , you had better be sure that it is a sound investment . Inflated prices are indeed driving up the values of NBA teams around the league . The Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks are deemed to be the only three teams in the NBA said to be valued in excess of $1 billion (1,000,000,000) . That being said , as much as Adam Silver might be able to take comfort in that fact , you cannot overlook that the profits of a number of franchises are indeed unacceptable and in some cases, one could view as being precarious . Silver’s predecessor , David Stern always suggested that the franchises within the NBA were some of the most viable in all of professional team sports. If only, the former NBA Commissioner could be believed when extolling those statements to the fans , public and journalists alike. Stern has been able to sell the public a great deal of garbage , that has been bought and paid for by the fans repeatedly over the years , with some fans actually believing his idiocy and actually seeking to defend the now retired former league executive . Apathy does necessarily have its privileges , but there are some fans , who do somehow feel privileged to be apathetic and gullible.

Vivek Ranadive , may well feel, that having purchased the Sacramento Kings, he may well have been seen as the savior of the franchise . Certainly, Sacramento City Mayor and former NBA player, Kevin Johnson , viewed the change in ownership from the Maloof family to the software entrepreneur as something to be relished. Now with the season having ended and the Kings sojourn , being uncompetitive and their troubled star DeMarcus Cousins continuing to be more of a distraction and a headache without showing any real signs of maturity. It is becoming extremely difficult to see how the team in its guise can be viewed as a legitimate contender for an NBA title.

Throughout much of the season DeMarcus Cousins ran afoul of not only the officials during the Kings’ regular season , but he also proved to be a constant irritant among the coaching staff and front office hierarchy . Monetary fines and league mandated suspensions did little to curb the attitude of the troubled star. I was once told by patron, that maturity and attitude simply did not matter concerning an athlete, just as long as they could play. I beg to differ , because the player’s actions in terms of temperament and attitude are a direct reflection of how a fan or fans, perceive the player and at times, a franchise, itself. Cousins for his part, while aware of his souring image seems unapologetic and a great deal of this I believe comes down to his college career while under the tutelage of John Calipari , during the player’s tenure at Kentucky (Wildcats) . Calipari, has always been a coach, whose attitude was simply about winning, while the players under his tutelage simply ran amok, by way of their off and on-court troubles. There has been a reason why , during his collegiate coaching career , several of the programs have come in for a great deal of scrutiny by the NCAA , with a number being cited for infractions of failing to follow NCAA rules and regulations. One has to question how in such instances , it has always been the athletes and program that have to be sanctioned and punished, when there have been clear cases where the coaches themselves , have been just as guilty of the transgressions , that are said to have taken place .

Michael Malone’s rookie season as head coach, was simply one of his finding a way to navigate through the competitiveness of the Western Conference , with a team that on the face of it, would have trouble throughout the season , without ever showing any real signs of progress. As to what the future now holds for the Sacramento Kings will be entirely predicated upon the ambition of Vivek Ranadive and GM Pete D’Alessandro and whether or not they feel that the franchise can survive, while having DeMarcus Cousin as part of those ambitions. Whatever the decision, made by the front office executive and team owner, will hopefully be of benefit to the franchise , rather than having a player, who has proven to be a constant detriment to the Kings , while offering little signs of leadership or maturity.

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As the NBA Conference Finals begin to take shape, do you believe that the four teams left at this stage of the proceedings, provide the best possible match-up , that the fans and league hierarchy could have sought ? Also, with the issues, now facing the Sacramento Kings and their troubled star DeMarcus Cousins, how do you feel that the franchise can best solve the problem? Leave a comment as you see fit, on this and anything else that you feel may well be relevant to the subject.

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Picture and slideshow details below .

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(1) Donald Sterling , the beleaguered owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, who in his first public interview with CNN reporter Anderson Cooper , since the uproar and outrage at his racial remarks , has since further alienated himself , with his criticism of Magic Johnson and what he now states was meant to be an innocuous remark about members of the Jewish faith . There has not really been an act of contrition by Sterling for his prior actions. AP Photo / Getty Images / Harry How ….

(2) Alex Martins of the Orlando Magic is seen here with team owner Rich DeVos at the franchise’s home venue the Amway Center in Orlando , Florida ,. DeVos may well prove to be the next team owner who finds himself in the cross-hairs of the NBA hierarchy, albeit, that would prove to be somewhat prophetic and comedic, given the fact, that after repeated homophobic remarks prior to the recent outcry of the actions of Donald Sterling , DeVos has yet to feel the wrath of the NBA. AP Photo / Keith Marshall …..

(3) Boris Diaw (33) of the San Antonio Spurs drives on Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first quarter in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on May 19, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. The Spurs would go on to defeat the Thunder in a lopsided victory to take a 1-0 lead in their best of seven games conference finals’ series . Getty Images / Ronald Martinez . …..

(4) Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers is seen here with the team’s newly installed head coach Steve Kerr . The former Suns front office executive and NBA television analyst , snubbed the overtures of Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks to accept the position with the Warriors and a five-year $25 million contract. Getty Images / Paul Walsh …..

(5) New York Knicks’ President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson is seen here with noted movie director and fervent Knicks’ fans Spike Lee . Jackson whose offer to Steve Kerr , to succeed Mike Woodson as the head coach was turned down , with Kerr choosing instead to accept the vacant head coach’s position with the Golden State Warriors. This off-season the Knicks’ senior most personnel executive will also have to deal with and placate his star player Carmelo Anthony , by proving to Anthony that it will be his intent to bolster the team’s roster by way of free agency acquisitions and the upcoming NBA Draft . With little wiggle room because of the salary cap ,. Jackson will be forced to seek the trade of several players or simply buyout their contracts , where the case maybe , leaving the franchise in non too enviable position overall . Getty Images / Marco Pantari ….

(6) EL SEGUNDO, CA – NOVEMBER 15: Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak , left, and coach Mike D’Antoni speak at a press conference introducing D’Antoni as the new Los Angeles Lakers head coach beneath a display of Lakers championship trophies on November 15. 2012 at the Lakers practice facility at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. This past off-season , D’Antoni handed his resignation to the Lakers’ hierarchy led by team owner Jim Buss Mitch Kupchak, which was accepted by the executives. No definitive reason has been given by Mike D’Antoni , but it is widely believed that he did not have the full backing of the Lakers’ playing staff led by Kobe Bryant . Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images ….

(7) ) Vivek Ranadive, owner of the Sacramento Kings . is seen here with Sacramento city Mayor Kevin Johnson. After a tumultuous tenure with the Maloof family as owners, during which Gavi and Joe Maloof over the past seven years have led the franchise through an uncompetitive time-span . AP Photo / Paul Russell …..

(8) DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings whose troubled career within the NBA has been well chronicled . Getty Images / Paula Mason ….

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