Whats Going on in Boston?

By: Troy Pierce

The Celtics have struggled to get into a groove this year and return to the top-notch level of play that lead them to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

The Celtics have a number of contributing factors for their rocky season thus far. Age is starting to catch up to Al Horford and he is only half-way through his max contract. Gordon Hayward has struggled to return to his high level of play since returning from a devastating ankle injury that ended his 2017 season before it even began. Boston placed a lot of hope and responsibility in both Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown, even turning down trades for Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard and opting to keep the young wings. Trade speculation has surrounded the Celtics all season, could this be the answer needed to get Boston back on track towards championship aspirations?

Horford has had his name floated around in trade scenarios but little has been made of any rumors involving Horford. Still, the Celtics could opt to trade him for a younger, cheaper front court option but finding a trade partner will be difficult due to the size of Horford’s current deal. Horford is making $28.9 million this season and has a player option for the 2019-2020 season. If he opts in, Horford will be owed $30.1 million. A steep price to pay for a player entering the twilight of his career. All of this makes a trade involving Horford unlikely.

Seeing Gordon Hayward struggling to return to his all-star form is not much of a surprise. Paul George suffered a similar injury during a FIBA game in 2014 and he also struggled to return to form once he made his return. George is now having his best season and making a case for the MVP and DPOY awards. This year was sure to be tough on Hayward but as the season progresses and into next season we should the Gordon Hayward that Celtic fans were so excited to acquire.

Perhaps Kyrie Irving is not fully ready to lead a team? Kyrie has talked about leadership a lot this season but that leadership has failed to translate onto the court. He has taken digs at Tatum, Brown, and other young teammates citing their “lack of experience” as a reason for the teams struggles throughout the season. While Kyrie Irving did have a couple impressive games during the month of December, he has mostly come back to Earth. It was reported earlier this week that Kyrie had contacted former teammate LeBron James. Kyrie reportedly apologized for their falling-out in Cleveland and the timeline leading up to Irving’s eventual trade to Boston from Cleveland before the 2017 season. The apology to LeBron certainly shows maturity from Kyrie and I think this could be a big step towards Kyrie becoming the leader that he desperately wants to be for his team.

I do not think any of these factors are the sole reason for the Celtics’ struggles but rather a collective burden that Kyrie and company will need to figure out if they hope to win an NBA Championship.

This is a DREAM Week for NBA Fans:

By: Troy Pierce

SUNDAY(1/20/19)

LAC-SAS (League Pass):
The last matchup between these teams had the Spurs win in a game where LaMarcus Aldridge was on fire, pouring in 38 points and leading San Antonio to a 122-111 win. The Clippers played well enough to win the last meeting but costly mistakes kept them from coming out on top.

Prediction:
Spurs win a close game and protect their home floor.

MONDAY(1/21/19)

GSW-LAL (TNT):
The Los Angeles Lakers won the Christmas Day matchup without LeBron James,
 127-101. LeBron would leave the game with an injury and he has not played since exiting on Christmas against the Warriors. In James’ absence the team has gone 5-7 while being lead by Kyle Kuzma and the rest of the young core. Rajon Rondo who was most recently sidelined with a finger injury could potentially make his return against Golden State. Rondo was cleared to practice with the team late last week.

Prediction:
Golden State cruises past Lakers in a Christmas rematch.

TUESDAY(1/22/19)

Portland-OKC (NBA TV):
The Thunder won the previous meeting in a close battle. Paul George lead the way with 38 points. Oklahoma City is a very good defensive that averages over 10 steals per game. If the Trailblazers want to win this game they will have to take care of the ball and prevent OKC from scoring easy points off of turnovers.

Prediction:
OKC wins and continues their rise to the top of the Western Conference.

WEDNESDAY(1/23/19)

Raptors-Pacers (League Pass):
Toronto came away with the win the last time these teams suited up against each other. Their victory came due to their great ball movement and teamwork as the Raptors would rack up 30 assists in the game. The Pacers struggled to hit from distance and shot a paltry 23.5% from beyond the arc and they will certainly look to improve that aspect of their game this time around.

Prediction:
Toronto steals this one on the road and continues dominating the East.

THURSDAY (1/24/29)

NOLA-OKC (League Pass):
The last time these two teams met Anthony Davis lead the way with a cool 44 points and New Orleans dominated on the glass grabbing 56 rebounds as a team. This time around the Pelicans will be without Davis.

Prediction:
OKC wins second game in three nights with big nights from Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

FRIDAY (1/25/19)

Raptors-Rockets (ESPN):
This will be a battle between conference heavy weights. Houston will be without Clint Capela and Chris Paul.

Prediction:
Raptors get the win but James Harden continues his scoring tear.

SATURDAY (1/26/19)

Philadelphia-Denver (League Pass):
Philly came into the season with expectations of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals but have struggled to really define themselves as a dominant force because of the way Milwaukee and Toronto have played thus far. Denver was seen as a very good team but one that lacked true star power to compete with the top teams in the West, yet, they have been at the top of the West for much of the season. The positional battles in this game will be interesting to watch as Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic will be matched up at the center spot while Ben Simmons and Jamal Murray battle it out to prove who the better point guard is.

Prediction:
Both are very good young teams that are not quite ready for that championship leap. Denver will protect their home floor and win this game.

Tobias Harris is Having a Career Year

By: @stonedlakerfan

Tobias Harris is having the best year of his career with the Los Angeles Clippers. Harris is posting career highs in points (20.8) and rebounds (8.0). His shooting has also improved this year and he is averaging career-high percentages in 2-point field goals (53.0%), field goals (50.3%), and 3-point field goals (44.3%), and his posting the second highest free throw percentage of his career (88.2%).

Harris has also eclipsed the 30-point mark four different times so far this season. The Clippers have gone 2-2 in such games. His highest point total in any game this year is 39. Los Angeles would go on to lose the game to the Portland Trailblazers.

Tobias Harris’ emergence as an offensive machine has helped carry the Clippers to a 24-19 record and claiming the 6th spot in the Western Conference. As it currently stands, Los Angeles is 24-21 in the eight spot with Lebron being out. Golden State is now in first after blowing out the Nuggets last night and Oklahoma City is 3.5 games back from the Warriors and 0.5 from the Nuggets who sit in second currently.

Only time will tell if Harris can continue to lead his team but he is certainly putting together a season worthy of the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.

The 5 Best Centers in Lakers History

AP SHAQ RETIRES S BKN FILE USA PA

By: Troy Pierce

Twitter Handle: @stonedlakerfan

The Los Angeles Lakers have the greatest lineage of big men to ever step on a basketball court. From Kareem to Shaq to George Mikan – the Lakers have always had an affinity for 7-footers.

Today I am going to rank the five best centers to ever play for the Lakers. Many of the players I name have played for multiple teams, however, my ranking will be largely based upon their accomplishments achieved with the Lakers.

Let’s get right to it…

 

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has achieved just about everything there is to in the NBA. He is the NBA’s all time leader in points scored and widely regarded has having the most unguardable scoring move in NBA history, the sky hook. In his time with the Lakers Kareem won five NBA titles, was selected to the all-star game 13 times, won two NBA MVP awards (1976 and 1977), amid many other all-NBA accomplishments, and leading the league in scoring, rebounding, and blocks on multiple occasions. Considered by some to be the best center ever, Kareem takes his rightful place as the first entry on our list.

2. Shaq

Shaquille O’Neal is considered by many to be the most physically dominant center ever. His size and strength made him virtually unstoppable near the basket. The way Shaq was able to use his size to dominate smaller players forced teams to use the “hack-a-Shaq” strategy. Shaq was so poor from the free throw line that teams would foul him to keep him from scoring close to the basket. During his time with the Lakers Shaq was the league MVP one time, won three NBA titles, lead the league in scoring, multiple all-defense and all-NBA honors, and is a three-time NBA Finals MVP.

3. George Mikan

George Mikan is the first great seven-footer in NBA history. Though the Lakers had not yet moved to the Los Angeles, Mikan was vital to the teams early success as he helped lead the Lakers to five championships. Among his many accomplishments, Mikan’s legacy goes beyond his playing ability. Mikan’s ability to score near the basket brought about rule changes that would help shape the NBA into what it is today. Mikan had such a scoring prowess near the basket that the change to widen the lane from six feet to 12 feet was eventually made in an effort to create more distance between the basket and widest part of the key. Eventually, the move was made to add the 24 second clock. Opposing teams had such difficulty stopping Mikan that a “keep away” strategy started to be used by many teams. Opting to waste time in order to keep the Lakers, and Mikan, from scoring was the only way teams could stop Minneapolis, and the shot clock was born.

4. Wilt Chamberlain

Yes, fourth probably seems a little low on this list for a name as prominent as Wilt Chamberlain but by the time he made his way to Los Angeles Wilt had already played his best basketball. Nonetheless, he is often brought up as one of the best big men to ever play in the NBA. Once scoring 100 points in a single game, Wilt was well past his prime with the Lakers and one helped to bring one championship to the city of Los Angeles.

5. Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol only spent seven seasons in Los Angeles but he was a fan favorite during that time and served as a key piece to two championship teams. He and Kobe’s friendship and connection on the court often has them brought up in “greatest-duos” conversations because of their chemistry on the court. Though Pau has never been a transcendent force in the NBA like the other names on this list, he helped to spark a new era of success along side on of the greatest players in history, Kobe Bryant.