With all of the main pieces already off the board, and a few unexpected surprise moves too, several teams still have many holes t-o fill before tipping off of the 2018-2019 NBA Season. I mean let’s face it, if there’s anything that we should have learned from this past season it’s that championships will now be won based on depth. The old mantra “Defense Wins championships,” while still somewhat true, means little now. The key now is to be able to overwhelm your opponent with the number of players that can be unleashed onto the opposing team, and to be able to attack relentlessly on multiple fronts. This is why Golden State continues to win, and why Cleveland and Houston failed. But alas, the new season is just a few months away. And for the right team, with enough assets and/salary cap space, there are still moves to be made towards knock the king (Warriors) off the board. So let’s take a look at what players still remain in play. Some moves will require a lot, and still others are more so based on being a proper fit (chemistry-wise). But any team, serious about winning, has at least considered moving on one or two of these players-still others will make a play to acquire the services of these talents…
With each day it becomes increasingly tough to gauge just where Kawhi Leonard will play next season (or the season after that). Whether a Laker, or elsewhere he brings excellence on both offense and defense-which is rare is this day and age on basketball. No matter where he goes, a healthy Kawhi Leonard can change or elevate the fate of any franchise. This storyline has played out in pretty weird fashion; but I’ve got my popcorn out as I wait patiently to see how this drama ends.
If you watched The Houston Rockets in this year’s NBA Playoffs, then there’s really no need for a bio here. Clint Capela is young, he’s fast, he can score from all over the court, he rebounds over guys much heavier than him, and will swat your shot right back in your face. Still a restricted free agent, The Rockets don’t have to move him at all this year; but knowing that they will not have the cap room to come anywhere near what will be offered to him in 2019, he has to be in play. He’s too much of a talent to let walk away without anything in return.
Carmelo fitting well on any team can be tricky; but in the right situation his scoring ability and experience could be the reason someone, other than The Warriors lift up The Larry O’Brien Trophy next season. And don’t forget he has added an extra wrinkle to his game after playing power forward for most of last season. Coming in at the veteran minimum, or via trade, Carmelo still can can provide 16-20 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Two ACL tears have led to a decline for this former first round pick, after seeing his break-out season in 2016. He can play both forward positions, and can score from anywhere. Still he is no longer a fit in Milwaukee; so consider the restricted free agent to be on the block for a trade or free agent tender offer that Milwaukee may not want to or may not have the cap space to match.
A little over a year and a half ago, Isaiah Thomas lll was averaging 28.9 points per game for the Boston Celtics, and well on his way to a max contract payday. But in March of 2017, he suffered a hip injury and decided to play through it. That injury came back to haunt him, during that year’s Eastern Conference Finals, and still to this day keeps that cloud over his shoulder. Question is, once fully back to health, can he recapture the magic? Clearly no longer as expensive of a hire as in the past, his toughness and play-making ability can lead the right to success at a pretty strong discount.
Hailing from Cameroon, Mbah a Moute can defend against all five positions, but can also score at will. Sacrificing minutes, and shots, Luc Mbah a Moute would post much higher numbers on a team that didn’t already feature two ball-dominant players in Harden and CP3. He is a powerful wing scorer and defender; and his presence was definitely missed when shoulder injuries forced him to miss The Western Conference Finals against Golden State.
Michael Beasley’s earl years were mired in off-the-court issues; but he can still score and rebound with the best of them. After a bit of a resurgence of his career in New York, Beasley may be in line for yet another chance at glory. As a die-hard Knick Fan, I hope he stays put in MSG.
Greg Monroe played for three separate teams last season. Yes, three. But it was on that third stop, in Boston, that he reminded the basketball world of what kind of post player he still is. His scoring, defensive presence and rebounding paid dividends in this year’s playoffs; and could definitely be an team-building asset for the right team this year.
For better or for worse, the current day NBA is all about shooters. And coming off career highs in scoring and three point shooting percentages, Wayne Ellington could prove to be quite the asset off the bench for any team (especially in L.A. for Lebron).
Napier showed strong play-making and scoring ability as he doubled his career highs in both points and minutes per game. His speed and scoring ability can make him a strong asset off the bench for any contender.
Kemba Walker is a wildcard piece that while not a free agent, has been mentioned in a million trade and/or restricted free-agent tender scenarios. A really good player; but on a really bad team; Walker is an electrifying scorer rarely seen because The Charlotte Hornets haven’t been a National TV priority since the nineties. Most-likely worthy of a max contract in 2019, I couldn’t imagine any circumstances that would make him want to stay where he is. So whether now, or as we get closer to February’s Trade Deadline, he and his 22 points per game will almost surely be on the move.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar has held The NBA’s All-Time Scoring Record since 1984. Kobe Bryant was in kindergarten, Lebron James would not be born until later that year, and Michael Jordan was in his Rookie Year. This 7’2 giant won six NBA Titles, six MVP Awards, three straight NCAA Basketball Championships, and won Most Outstanding Player in each of those three collegiate seasons. But yet when debating who is the greatest player of all time, his name rarely ever comes into the conversation.
Consider the fact that Lebron has only four MVP Awards, and MJ has five; but neither player did it even remotely as early in their careers as Kareem. No other NBA player has won more MVP Awards; and on top that, this man won the award five out of his first seven years in the league.
Hell, The NCAA even banned the slam dunk in 1967 because of him…
In his 1969-1970 rookie season, Kareem Abdul Jabbar took the former expansion team Milwaukee Bucks from a forgettable 27-55 record the prior season to finishing second in the East. The Bucks were only in their second season when the eventual Rookie Of The Year arrived; and as far as stats go, he finished up the season averaging 28.8 ppg with 14.5 rebounds per game to go with it. The following year, with the addition of Oscar Robertson, Kareem & The Bucks would claim their first NBA Championship. Jabbar led the league in scoring that season-with 31.7ppg-in route to earning League MVP & NBA Finals MVP honors. For the 1972-1773 season, Kareem would increase his scoring output to his overall career high 34.8 points per game and win his second straight MVP Award. The next three years offered more of the same (MVP again in 1974), before a culturally-starved Kareem Abdul Jabbar would request a trade to either New York or Los Angeles. There of course he would win five more NBA Titles and three more League MVP Awards. Kareem Abdul Jabbar would retire in 1989, as the NBA’s All Time Leading Scorer. At that time he was also career leader in blocked shots, and STILL has been to more All Star Games than any other player in NBA history. Ten times he made the more important NBA All First Team List (five times All Second team). Five Times he made the All-Defensive Team.
Perhaps one of my favorite points to mention about Kareem Abdul Jabbar is his social activist spirit. From hanging with The Five Percenters in Harlem, to plotting strategies with Jim Brown & Muhammad Ali, Kareem was never one to mince words when describing the hypocrisies of society. Even today, he continues on and that has cost him everything from head coaching jobs to being left out when discussing just who the great player of all time is. No shade towards Michael or Lebron; but the numbers don’t lie. I’m just saying…
I had been planning on writing this post for a while. But deep down I always hoped that I would never have too. But with word that Blaine Gabbert had been signed by The Arizona Cardinals today (yep, the same Blaine Gabbert that lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick), reality has now truly set in…
For months now, story after story has been written about WHY teams were allegedly reluctant to sign Colin Kaepernick. “Sources” cited everything from an alleged drop off in skill, to his body being too beaten up, to feared backlash from fans, to even the idea that his vegan diet would make him too susceptible to injury. And to be clear, up to this point the propaganda has obviously worked. To date, Kaep has received few-if any calls at all.
Sadly, none of those justifications presented so far carry any weight. Already having played through a full season since his refusal to stand for The National Anthem was first noticed in a Twitter Pic by Niner’s Nation reporter Jennifer Lee Chan, and later reported on by profootballtalk.com. Of course there was a huge backlash, but Kaep’s stance was also supported by a larger majority of fans, fellow athletes, celebrities, and even veterans. By week six of the 2016 season, Kaep had regained a starting QB role that he had previously lost while playing with an injured arm-and while his numbers were far from elite, they were far better than any of the quarterbacks that have signed with new teams so far in 2017. Playing on the numerically second-worst team in The NFL, Colin Kaepernick had a 90.7 QB Rating and threw for 2,241 yards. He also threw 21 touchdowns-versus only four interceptions. These stats were amassed in only 12 games, and on one of the weakest rosters in all of The NFL (go ahead, name three players without using Google).
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
And with little fanfare, Colin Kaepernick consistently put his time and money into multiple charities & causes. Kaep donated to Meals on Wheels, homeless shelters, recent parolees, youth job readiness programs, and helped get aid to Somalians suffering from a devastating drought/famine. Even if just from a PR standpoint, one would think that multiple teams could use Kaep’s charitable profile to distract fans away from the woefully bad football product that they are putting out on the field-but all of these teams instead gave away millions to other quarterbacks that have NEVER won anything on the pro level. The New York Jets chose Josh McCown, the 49ers moved on with Brian Hoyer, The Chicago Bears gave away an insane amount of money and draft picks for Mike Glennon & Mitch Trubisky, The Jacksonville Jaguars/Denver Broncos/Cleveland Browns stuck with what they had, and The Arizona Cardinals chose to secure a fragile spot with the QB that was benched in favor of said Colin Kaepernick. Smh.
Freedom Of Speech Does Not Just Apply When Those In Power Agree...
Coming off of the recent Brand Split (between Monday Night Raw & The New Live Version of Smackdown) and the dominance shown by Brock Lesnar at UFC 200, The WWE has been getting a huge amount of press lately. And based on what I saw on the July 25th edition of WWE Monday Night Raw, it appears that somebody in charge has actually been listening to the moans and groans of it's more traditional wrestling fans. I mean I've gotta say that for the last ten years, the product has been increasingly hard to watch. But as of last night, on the first post-draft edition of Raw, the was a very noticeable air of change in the air. The vibe was darker, there was much more action, the promos seemed less scripted, and most importantly-there was less talking. Period. There is a new title (because the name is pretty corny, we will just leave that part out for now), and there were some really good matches throughout the show-but the most refreshing parts of the show centered around the well booked debuts of now former WWE NXT Talents Nia Jax and Finn Balor. And they even brought back the "squash match!" Finn balor's long awaited move up to the main roster more than exceeded expectations, as he ended the show earning earning a spot in the main event at next month's SUMMERSLAM against Seth Rollins. The best match of the night honors go to Sasha Banks, as she defeated Charlotte Flair for the WWE Women's Championship. Sasha is quite possibly the best female wrestler I've ever seen; and her wild tribute to the dearly departed Eddie Guerrero was hilarious! And for those that don't know Sasha is Snoop Dogg's niece, and Charlotte is the daughter of The Legendary Ric Flair. It will be interesting to see what happens to keep the momentum up on Smackdown Live, and beyond. But for now, let's get you familiar with some other other stars that you may want to check out soon...
Honorable Mention: DOLPH ZIGGLER
Dolph Ziggler Ric Flair Kevin Nash
For years it seemed that A.J. Styles would go down as one of the most talented wrestlers never to step inside a WWE Ring; but alas as fate would have it "The Phenomenal One" finally arrived. Debuting at The 2016 Royal Rumble, A.J. hit the ground running and hasn't slowed down yet. Wrestling with The Ring Of Honor & New Japan promotions since 2013, Styles is most known as the long time face of TNA Impact Wrestling. Not really fitting the traditional mold of The WWE, few ever imagined Styles would ever have his "Wrestlemania Moment;" but undoubtedly the fan reaction he has received has been a huge driver behind The WWE's recent shift into their current "New Era."
As a kid this self-proclaimed "Boss" would beg her uncle Snoop dogg to take him with her to WWE Events, and from there the seed was planted that would she that young girl grow into transitioning The WWE Women's Division away from short eye candy exhibitions to Eye legitimate wrestling. Sasha is still eye candy herself, but with a penchant for stretching out her competition in all sorts of MMA-style holds. She's got style like none before her; and just the night before I wrote this blog, Sasha banks would see years of hard work finally rewarded as she became the new WWE Women's Champion. In the past, the women's matches were considered a chance to get up and go get snacks. But with Sasha, and a few others we will mention shortly, times have certainly changed.
Having built up a huge following wrestling under the name "Prince Devitt" internationally, Finn Balor's made it's way onto the American Wrestling scene after a super successful run as a founding member in New Japan Wrestling's NWO/Type Faction "The Bullet Club." After a memorable run as WWE NXT Champion, balor debuted in spectacular fashion this week on Monday Night Raw. For those not yet familiar, Finn Balor comes to the ring showcasing an exciting combo of high flying moves-with the "strong Style" tactics Japanese Wrestling is most known for. And as far as his entrances, only The Undertaker could claim to rival that. And he saves his best for Big Events...
Savelina Fanene (aka Nia Jax) is a former model, and is the younger cousin of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. She's only been wrestling since 2014; but with the way she throws her competition around in the ring, she did need to stew around on the independent scene for years to get noticed. she arrived, She Conquered, She Excelled...
Like A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe was one of the main faces of both The TNA Impact and Ring Of Honor Wrestling promotions. Currently The WWE NXT Champion, one can only assume that he hasn't promoted to the main roster so as to ensure that there is still a major draw to keep that brand as a viable and growing force that reigns above TNA & ROH. Joe also represents a trend of heavier set athletes that can really move around the ring, just as well as their smaller counterparts. Up until 2015, The WWE would have always passed these guys over. But now they are bonafied main event superstars...
Becky Lynch is a high energy European transport that came over to WWE in 2013. Along with Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Bailey, these ladies became known as "The Four Horsewomen" as they quickly became known for breaking the mold of what Women's wrestling had been up to that point. Not to say that all of their predecessors were wack-it's just that these ladies are that damn good!
Sesugh Uhaa made a name for himself in Japan's Dragon Gate promotion as "Uhaa Nation," before coming over to WWE as Apollo Crews. By all reports, the name is indeed a play off of Apollo Creed and Terry Crews (of whom he does somewhat resemble). At 6'1" and 240 pounds, it is amazing to watch crews do standing somersaults and come crashing down on his opponents. While most Black Wrestlers usually stay on the mid card, it does appear the company has bigger plans for Apollo Crews. Hopefully this will be the case. Especially after The Brand Split...
Not a lot of history to add here. Asuka, formerly known as Kana, doesn't speak much English. But with the way that she smiles her perverted "You Know You Just Fucked Up" grim at you (just before she kicks and twists her opponents all over the ring) she doesn't have to. Period.
Charlotte Flair is the daughter of The Greatest Pro Wrestler of All time. She was voted Pro Wrestling Illustrated "Rookie Of The Year in 2014," and by May of that year, had captured The NXT Women's Title. Charlotte was called up to The WWE Main Roster and quickly captured the then-Divas Champion, and at Wrestlemania was crowned as WWE Women's champion (an honor she held for over a year, until being dethroned by Sasha Banks on the July 25th 2016 Monday Night Raw). While comparisions to her father will never go away, she has done an impressive job of building her own brand-while simultaneously taking advantage of the path that was laid before her. Expect her and Sasha to put on many more spectacular matches well into the next year...
Formerly known as "Kevin Steen," Kevin Owens has been wrestling since the age of 16 years old. Now 32, The former WWE NXT Champion spent most of the past year feuding with the likes of John Cena and Sami Zayn among others. Like most of the others on this list, Kevin Owens displays an impressive and wide-ranging skillset of moves usually not found in a 260+ pound wrestler. Like the others, Owens falls into a category that Vince McMahon would have passed over in times past. And like most of the others, Owens stands to get a major shot at the main event due to the Brand Split.
For most people that grew up in the 70's and 80's Pro Wrestling and Shaolin Kung Fu Movies were two staples that dominated television on any weekend, and for me both of those somewhat guilty pleasures would continue to be a part of my life right up to this day. I don't really get too much into toady's wrestling as much; but can (and do) sometimes spend hours at a time watching the old classics. Figuring I knew just about all there is to know about the different legends and pioneers, I have spent considerable time learning about the Black and Brown Faces of yesteryear that could have been so much more well known-if not for segregation and old racist attitudes in certain territories. People like Ernie "The Big Cat" Ladd, Bobo Brazil, Thunderbolt Patterson, The Junkyard Dog and many others were fan favorites and generated lots of money for the different promotions that they worked for; but were not allowed runs as World champions because by many accounts promoters feared that angry white fans might riot. In fact it wasn't until 1992 that a Black World Heavyweight Champion would be crowned, when College Football Hall Of Famer Ron Simmons would be Big Van Vader for The WCW World Heavyweight Championship Belt.
One pioneering name seems to have fell through the cracks; and it wasn't until watching last week's WWE Hall Of Fame Presentation Show that I first heard the name "Sailor" Art Thomas. Inducted as a "Legacy" entrant, Art Thomas broke into wrestling back in 1943. After finishing up his time in the U.S. Navy, Thomas had already made a name for himself as a Bodybuilder and was asked to wrestle some house shows. Possessing an amazing physique, crazy strength, and 6'5" 265 lb frame he quickly rose up the ranks. Billed as a former seaman, Sailor Art Thomas was also known to showcase much style and flavor-always dressed immaculately in either a business suit or a seaman uniform. As a fan favorite Art Thomas would earn many opportunities to challenge for The NWA World Championship Belt-including several memorable battles with The Legendary "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers. In the 1960's Sailor art would move on to The then-WWWF and battle in Tag Team matches with Legends like Bobo Brazil and Bruno Sammartino. During the 1970's Art would move on again to wrestle in Canada, and would retire in the early 1980's. While working all over the country, Sailor Art Thomas was best known for his time wrestling in Chicago. Sailor Art would succumb to cancer in 2003. He was also known as "Seaman" Art Thomas, "Hercules," and "The Body." Without his hard work and sacrifice, so many others would not be selling out huge arenas today like The Rock, Booker T, and others have in more recent times. #SaluteThePioneers