Friday, April 25, 2014

Teen Asks Girl To Prom In The Most Permanent Way Possible

I never understood the point of elaborate prom proposals. I mean has anyone ever turned down a prom invite? I feel like if you're asking someone to go with you, you're not just gonna pick a name out of a hat and put her on the spot, there's gotta be some kind of mutual interest there. And from the looks of that smooch I'll bet these two already know each other pretty well (in the biblical sense). Probably could have saved that money, and a lifetime of ridicule, by just asking her in person, no? 

I don't know, maybe I'm just old fashioned. 

-fresh (@danye33)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Weave Gotcha Covered- Niykee Heaton "Take Care Medley"




It's been far too long since my internet girlfriend got some love on the Weave. In the fifteen months that have passed since I last blogged about her, Niykee has signed a record deal, dropped a fire single ("Bad Intentions") and more or less put the Instagram game in a choke hold.

And just when I thought her confidence level couldn't get any higher, she went and dropped this twitter bomb yesterday

Her swag level is absolutely off the charts right now. Head so big you can't sit behind her. So with that in mind, I decided to throw it back to simpler times, before the Benzes and the (possible) boob job. Back when it was just acoustic covers, with messed up covers in the background. Here's Ms. Heaton GOING INNNNNN on a Drake medley from his second studio album Take Care.

lyrics for those inclined

-fresh (@danye33)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Drinking Your Own Puke Is Probably A Good Sign That You Should Call It A Night

Still not as bad as shitting your pants, but god damn that's a close second.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Fonts and Fresh's 2014 NBA End of Season Mega-Column

After the roughly third hour that week spent talking on the phone about potential playoff match-ups, MVP candidates, the Knicks and a two week fantasy hoops finals that literally went down to the last minute of a Sunday night game between the Blazers and Pelicans, John and I came up with an idea. Our coast-to-coast convos had become too passionate, too detailed and too entertaining not to share with the world (or at the very least, our friends). 

We decided a mega-column, a virtual 2 Man Weave if you will, would be the best way to get our thoughts down on paper screen, and hopefully provoke some thoughtful discussions on the regular season that was in the National Basketball Association. 

Below you can find our choices for a handful of awards, ranging from semi-serious (the "Point Break" Robbery of the Year) to the big kahunas (MVP, ROY, COY etc.). We spent the past two weeks writing this and didn't read each other's winners until it was time to submit our final draft.

So get comfy, crack open a cold one, and if you have access to any early Easter candy I suggest grabbing a Snickers- cause you won't be going anywhere for a while. 

Most Surprising Team

Fresh says Phoenix Suns

Heading into the 2013-14 season, if you were to ask me what five teams I thought would have the best odds of landing the #1 pick in this year’s draft I would have told you (in no particular order) the Suns, Bucks, Sixers, Jazz and Magic. Four of those teams have (shamelessly) overachieved in their quest to get Riggin' for Wiggins, while the other, the Phoenix Suns, were a Mike D'Antoni mustache whisker away from making the playoffs for the first time in the post-Amare era.

New head coach Jeff Hornacek had the team playing inspired ball, and point guard Goran Dragic, the biggest of all the 2014 All Star snubs (sorry Boogie), is generating legit first team All-NBA buzz. Dragic is on pace to become just the fourth guard (5thif you count Dale Ellis, who was more of a swingman anyway) to average 20 ppg on 50% FG and 40% on three’s (the other players to do so were Reggie Miller, Drazen Petrovic and the aforementioned Jeff Hornacek). Their conference-rival Rockets have got to be kicking themselves for choosing to stick with Jeremy Lin over both Dragic and Kyle Lowry, two All Star caliber players (though to be fair, the Lowry trade helped net James Harden, so the Dragic loss clearly stings more), who have seen their careers blossom once leaving the Lone Star state.

What makes the Suns turnaround so impressive is that they've done it despite getting pretty much zero production from last year’s #5 overall pick, Alex Len. Instead it was a pair of summer trades that netted them three role players who morphed into unlikely key contributors. The first trade sent a past-his-prime Louis Scola to the Indiana Pacers for journeyman Gerald Green, center Miles Plumlee and a lottery protected first round pick in this year’s draft. The second trade was a three-teamer with the Clippers and Bucks that saw them part ways with Jared Dudley and a second round pick in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler (they would go on to trade Butler to the Bucks before the season even started).

The production they've been able to milk out of those three players has been astounding. Plumlee went from playing fewer than four minutes a game as a rookie to putting up a respectable 8.3/5.5 in 25 minutes of action per night. Bledsoe, despite missing close to half the season with a meniscus injury, has more than doubled his point per game average from a year ago, while setting career highs in minutes, FG%, rebounds and assists. And Gerald Green hit the fourth most 3’s in the league while averaging close to 16 ppg.

It's a shame that 48 wins wasn't enough to get them into the post season (by comparison, they would have been tied for a #3 seed in the East), but for them to be able to flirt with 50 wins makes them a lock for Most Surprising Team, and feel good story of the year. With at least three first round picks in this June’s draft (their own, the Wizards' via the Marcin Gortat trade and the aforementioned Pacers deal), plus another three first rounders the following year, as well as an off-summer to gel, the future is looking bright for the Suns. 

Fonts says Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns, The Phoenix Suns, and The Phoenix Suns again for good measure. Vegas set their over/under wins total at 19.5. They went 48-34. In retrospect, they made all the right moves, from hiring Jeff Hornack, to releasing Michael Beasley, to winning the Eric Bledsoe trade convincingly. When Phoenix GM Ryan McDonough turned Luis Scola into Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, AND a first-round draft pick, no one predicted that the meteoric ascension of Green and Plumlee would coincide with the worst season of Scola’s career. Chief Kieff and Mook Morris are playing so well that audiences everywhere are taking the time to try to tell them apart. Their thrilling and unexpected performance this season wasn’t enough for them to reach the Western Conference playoffs, but with an average age under 26 years-old and 3 first round picks in this summer’s draft, the future is very bright for the rising Suns.

Most Disappointing Team

Fresh says New York Knicks 

$90 million salary. $35 million in the luxury tax. 37 wins. 0 picks in the 2014 draft.

LeBron James took the Cavs to the finals with Boogie Gibson, Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, yet Melo couldn’t get the Knicks into the playoffs in a conference where more than 30% of the teams were actively trying to lose games.

Their point guard pulled a Plaxico and got arrested on felony gun charges hours after a loss, their shooting guard would rather lay the pipe than practice (though I can’t really fault him for that), their power forward makes more millions of dollars per season than minutes he’s allowed to stay on the court per game and their only two young assets (Tim Hardaway Jr and Iman Shumpert) get dangled like carrots as trade bait on a weekly basis.

I knew the Bargnani trade was a colossal mistake at the time, but even I didn't see his season turning out this bad. He’s like the anti-Blake Griffin. Whereas every time Griffin steps on the court there’s a potential to land on Sportcenter’s Top 10, every time Bargs steps on the court he’s a lock to make Sportscenter’s Not Top 10. From guarding invisible defenders, to breaking his arm on a dunk attempt, to bricking a 3 up 2 with 10 seconds to play and the shot clock turned off, he truly was the worst Knick I've ever seen. 

But hey! I’m sure the Knicks will TOTALLY right this ship and that unprotected 2016 draft pick that’s headed Toronto’s way won’t come back to bite them in the ass at all.

Fonts says Detroit Pistons

The Knicks are so far off the charts when it comes to disappointment, that the thought of writing about them makes me nauseous. Perhaps their fans should be up for some type of lifetime achievement award. Instead, I assessed the other 29 NBA teams, and widdled it down to the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks. Both teams came into the season anticipating a trip to the playoffs, and both are picking in the lottery. The major difference between them now is hope. Milwaukee somehow had the worst record in the same basketball league as The Philadelphia 76ers, meaning they’ll pick at the top of a loaded 2014 draft. Detroit trailed the pack all season in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, and yet they’re 8th in the lottery. The gap between Jabari Parker and Rodney hood is substantial to say the least.

The Bucks also managed to pick The Greek Freak seven picks after The Pistons took Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the 2013 draft. Yikes. Throw in $80 million guaranteed to Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, and the sale of the Bucks to a new ownership group that vows to keep them in Milwaukee, and the Pistons take the cake in the dissapointment department.

"The YouTube Award" aka Dunker of the Year

Fresh says Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers 

It's going to take a 2014 Kevin Durant-dethroning-LBJ performance for someone to take Dunker of the Year away from the Blake Show. Sure, there were other jams that I enjoyed more than the best of what Griffin had to offer (Paul George's in-game 360 windmilland the time Terence Ross baptized Kennith Faried to name a few), but the fact of the matter is no player rocks the rim harder, or on a more consistent basis, than Blake. Just take a look at what he did to Kris Humpries in the above video. Poor guy hadn't been embarrassed that badly since Kanye stole his chick and threatened to have him cut from the Nets on "Theraflu."

Simply put, Blake Griffin is the main event of the greatest show on court. 

Fonts says Blake to DeAndre Alley-oops

Blake Griffin, in addition to being the most exciting dunker in the NBA, has become a terrific passer. Just take a look at some of his lobs to DeAndre Jordan this season. 

"Point Break" Robbery of the Year 

Fresh says the Raptors trading Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks for a 2016 first round pick, two second round picks ('14 and '17), Steve Novak and Marcus Camby

I know this trade happened in June, but with most teams (hint: not the Knicks) reluctant to trade future draft picks due to a stacked incoming draft class, there weren't really any season-altering trade deadline robberies to write about. The Evan Turner/Danny Granger swap had the potential to take this award home, but that trade ended up having the opposite affect on Indiana, at least partially contributing to their second half tailspin.

The Raptors and Knicks have a long history of wheeling and dealing with one another, dating back to the Charles Oakley/Marcus Camby deal in '98. New York won that trade, and the addition of the young center helped fuel a finals run the following season, with an aging Patrick Ewing sidelined with a torn Achilles tendon.

Andrea Bargnani Does Not Appear To Have Control Over His Own Body

Fifteen years later Toronto finally got their revenge. I'm 85% certain that they still make this trade without the first round pick included. That's how badly they wanted Bargs off their books. The trade made no sense for the Knicks on paper, and somehow played out even worse in real life.

The seven foot "three point specialist" shot just 28% from deep before suffering a season ending injury half way through the year while attempting a garbage time dunk. Looks like $11 million well spent if you ask me!

As a Knicks fan, what really irks me about this deal was the fact that James Dolan was so confident in his shitty, rapidly aging team that he neglected to put any form of protection of the 2014 first rounder. Although, the more that I think about it, the more I doubt he even knew that was a possibility.

Fonts says the Luol Deng trade

Whether they were trying to shed cap, tank into the lottery, or some combination of both, the Chicago Bulls front office attempted to punt the season away by trading their longest tenured player to Cleveland. What resulted was the inexplicable tear that the Noah-led Bulls went on shortly thereafter. Deng was shipped out of town for Sacramento’s protected first round pick (which could convey as a 2017 second), the right to swap 2015 firsts (if the Cavs lands outside the lottery, which probably won’t happen), two future seconds round picks, and the right to waive Andrew Bynum.

In addition to liberating the Cavs from the Bynum half-court shot shit-storm experiment, this trade was supposed to give Cleveland the veteran leadership and wing production it desperately needed to make a playoff push. Instead, they finished the season 22-25 and Deng’s presence did very little to mitigate the Kyrie versus Dion soap opera that Cleveland’s season has been marred by. The sick irony of it all is that Luol might end up signing with Chicago this summer for the $30 million they offered him in the first place.

Social Media King Metta World Peace (unanimous decision) 

Well there was the time he said he was changing his name to "I have a name"

The time he asked for boxing advice from non-black/Filipino people

The time he crowned the Knicks champions, despite being eliminated from playoff contentionThe time he talked about his very own type of Lunar eclipse 

And who could forget the time he invited us all over for a cooking party!!!

Ed Note: All of these tweets took place within the last week. 

Worst Off Season Signing

Fresh says a two way tie between OJ Mayo, Milwaukee Bucks, 3yr/$24m and Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons, 4yr/$54m, with an honorable mention going to Carl Landry, Sacramento Kings, 4yr/$26m 

I didn't hate either of these moves last summer, but boy oh boy do they both look awful right about now. Mayo was coming off his most well rounded season in Dallas where he started all 82 games, and Smith was coming off six straight post season appearances and seven straight seasons of at least 15 and 7. Both are now just cautionary tales of what happens when bottom of the barrel teams overpay for talented guys with questionable character issues, just because they have money to blow.

Mayo looked genuinely disinterested this season, putting up the second lowest point, rebound and assist averages of his career for the worst team in the league.

Smith, who spent most of the season out of position at small forward, sank just 70 of his unforgivable 265 3-point attempts this season, while regressing in literally every statistical category besides FT% (which was still a dismal 53%). The Pistons should have recognized their front court logjam in the early goings (before Smith became virtually untradable), or moved Greg Monroe at the deadline.

And big ups to the Sacramento Kings for locking Carl Landry up to a 4yr/$26m deal! Because anytime you have the chance to commit $6.5 mill a year to a 30 year old career back-up you just HAVE to do it. Contracts like this are what set teams back year after year. 

Landry playing in just 18 games this year before suffering a season-ending knee injury, but even when he did play he was awful, averaging a measly 4 ppg and 3 rpg in 12 minutes of action. 

Fonts says Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons, 4yr/$54m

What do Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Monta Ellis, Manu Ginobili, Lance Stephenson, Ty Lawson, Raymond Felton, Eric Gordon, Marcus Morris, Mike Miller, Jimmy Butler, Jeremy Lin, Derek Fisher and Kyle Singler all have in common? They all attempted FEWER three-pointers this season than Josh Smith. J Smooth and the Pistons share the blame for his atrocious 4 year/ $54 million contract. Smith, along with another shoot-first lefty with a penchant for sulking, was overpaid to play on a roster that didn't make much sense to begin with for an inept coach who couldn’t even make it to the All-Star break. On the other hand, Josh has played this season as if he’s unaware that basketball is a team sport. He’s been a coach killer and a stat sheet filler for half of a decade, and is clearly more concerned with padding his own numbers than he is with winning games. On the bright side, the Milwaulkee Bucks have committed another $78 million to Larry Sanders, Irsan Ilyasova, and O.J. Mayo beyond this season, so Smith’s could end up being only the 4th worst contract in the division.

Best Off Season Signing 

Fresh says Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks, 3yr/$25m (year 3 player option) 

Monta may not have gotten the amount of money he was looking for last summer when that Mavericks scooped him up for the a little more than eight million per year, but that hasn't stopped him from exceeding almost everyone's expectation of him in the 2013-14 season. 

Ellis, the former Public Enemy #1 of every advanced stats nerd on the player (that conch has since been passed along to Rudy Gay), has transformed his game- now taking fewer shots, and more importantly fewer 3's (Monta shot 28% in '13), while putting up numbers that are identical to his time in Milwaukee. His points, assist and rebound averages are all within three tenths of what they were a season ago.

Often times when teams miss out on the max-level guys they had been saving their cap for (a la Dallas in '12 with D-Will and D-12), they end up trying to overcompensate and wind up getting suckered into cap-crippling deals. Kudos to Cuban for doing the opposite of this, instead surrounding his aging star with a competent back court at a fair cost (in this case Ellis and Jose Calderon).

The feisty vet has started every game this season for the Mavs, and has helped take some of the scoring burden off of Nowitzki. They'll face off against their long time, in-state rivals, the San Antonio Spurs, in round one, and I'm banking on Ellis emerging as a difference maker in this series. I could definitely see him catching fire and stealing a game or two early, forcing the #1 seed to sweat in the Texas heat. 

Fonts says Al Jefferson's Bed

For only $41 million over the course of 3 seasons, the Charlotte Bobcats acquired one of the league’s best two-way tempurpedics. In all seriousness, Big Al has been a beast on the low block for the Bobcats, totally 42 double-doubles, and leading Charlotte to their first playoff apperance since 2010. At 6’10”, 265 lbs, the 29 year-old Jefferson…..looks so small in that bed! Do you think he had it shipped on a flat-bed truck from Utah like a modular home? Imagine how long it took a man that large to crawl into the center of such an enormous mattress. Great work this year Al, with your righty hook in the lane, and with your kick ass bed!

Best Tank Job

Fresh says Philadelphia 76ers

I don't care what the standings say, no team did a better job of pissing away 82 games than the 76ers. Sure, the Bucks (somehow) finished up with a worse record, but at least they spent money last off-season (Sanders, Knight, the aforementioned Mayo contract) and genuinely made an effort to improve (which is sad in its own right). Philadelphia has been doing everything in their power to lose games since last June, when they traded away their All Star point guard, Jrue Holiday, for Nerlens Noel and a top 5 protected first round pick in 2014. 

Don't get me wrong, I loved that deal for Philly, but it just goes to show how badly they wanted to tank this season. It was made clear from that get-go that Noel, who was coming off a torn ACL, would be sitting this season out (even though he could have came back months ago). They also traded former #2 overall pick Evan Turner (still on a rookie deal) for Danny Granger (whom they immediately bought out) and a future second round pick. Then they traded their center, Spencer Hawes, to the Cavs for two future seconds. Then they lost an NBA record tying 26 games in a row. 

When its all said and done, Tankadelphia may have left a bigger mark on the NBA history books than any other team this season. They exploited a clearly flawed system that rewards team for bad performance, and if you think new commissioner Adam Silver is going to let this continue to happen under his watch then you're sadly mistaken. The way the draft lottery works will change, and it's going to happen sooner than later. Whether that means going with the Wheel proposal, giving all lottery teams equal odds, or some other idea that hasn't been thought up yet, somethings gotta give. 

Of course, none of that will matter to the 76ers. They'll get their prized possession come June. 

Fonts says Philadelphia 76ers

The numbers speak for themselves. 19 wins. 63 losses. 5-36 on the road. 26 game losing streak, tied for worst ever. 109.9 points allowed per game (30th in the NBA). One starter traded to a title contender (Evan Turner). Only two other players who belong on an NBA roster (Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus). 19.9% chance of winning the draft lottery. Let’s hope this is the straw that breaks Adam Silver’s back, and that a new method of determining draft order is around the corner.

Gif of the Year Air Canada Grounded

Rookie of the Year

Fresh says Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets

Before you x-out of your browser, or switch over to YouPorn because you think my Rookie of the Year selection is a joke, all I ask is that you hear me out for a second. For starters, the class of 2013 was historically bad. Not since the Mike Miller/K-Mart class of 2000 has a group of players entered the league to less fanfare, and followed up with worse production. Secondly, the players who have lived up their expectations- Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo, have a combined record of 67-179. And lastly- this game winning block by Plumlee against THE BEST PLAYER IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE!!!!!!!!!!!

There's no denying MCW's ridiculous splits this season (16-6-6), but should ANY player on a team that lost 26 consecutive games be rewarded with anything besides a dunce cap? Team success plays a huge factor in MVP voting, so why wouldn't the same logic apply with ROY? Plumlee has averaged 7/4 on 65% shooting while playing quality minutes for one of the hottest teams in the league. The Nets lost Brook Lopez for the season, traded Reggie Evans early on and got only 53 games, and career low production, from KG. Yet all the while the 22nd pick in last year's draft was there waiting for his number to be called to pick up the slack.

Fonts says Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

It feels like a long time ago when Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad were expected to compete for this award. My vote goes to Michael Carter-Williams for averaging 16.7 points per game, 6.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.9 steals in 70 starts for the D-League 76ers. Philidelphia, in the midst of their unapologetic tankfest, didn't do much to help the development of Michael Carter-Holy Grail. They let him do, essentially whatever he wanted, and MC Dub never seemed to mindHe became the favorite for ROTY the night he posted 22, 12, 7, and 9 steals against the Miami Heat, which also happened to be the first game of his career!!!

Just for kicks, take look at his rookie numbers compared to a few past winners and future hall-of-famers:

Carter-Williams 2013-2014: 34.5 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 6.2 Rebounds, 6.3 Assists, 1.9 Steals
Chris Paul 2005-2006: 36.0 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 5.1 Rebounds, 7.8 Assists, 2.2 Steals
Lebron James 03-04: 39.5 MPG, 20.9 PPG, 5.5 Rebounds, 5.9 Assists, 1.6 Steals
Jason Kidd 94-95: 33.8 MPG, 11.7 PPG, 5.4 Rebounds, 7.7 Assists, 1.9 Steals

What should you deduce from this information? Nothing.
Carter-Williams’ stats are inflated for a multitude of reasons, and I’m an unapologetic Syracuse homer who stands up for Dion Waiters and Carmelo Anthony almost daily. Forget the fact that his shooting splits are 39/26/69 (ouch), because this rookie class mostly stinks. A few first-year players (Oladipo, Burke, Plumlee, Giannis, Hardaway Jr.) have shown promise, but MCW takes the hardware.

Most Improved Player

Fresh says Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns  

In the almost nine years since Gerald Green was selected 18th overall by the Boston Celtics he's suited up for seven different NBA teams, spent two seasons playing in Russia, and as recently as 2012 was the MVP of the D-League All-Star game. He came into the league as a raw, high flying hoopster from Houston, and for the first time in his professional career has finally found a place that feels like home. 

Green, a throw-in in last summer's Louis Scola trade, played in all 82 games for the Suns, averaging a career high 15.8 ppg (more than doubling last season's 7.0 average), while sinking 204 3's (good for the 4th most in the league) and shooting 85% from the stripe. 

I would love for Green to receive some hard-earned hardware this year. He developed a deadly long range shot seemingly out of the blue, and posterized cats on a nightly basis. Sure, tons of players make significant leaps from year to year, but to go from relative obscurity to the third leading scoring on a 48 win team is pretty remarkable. 

Fonts says Goran Dragic, Pheonix Suns

Perhaps every player in the Phoenix rotation should share this award. Six months ago, they were coming of off a 25-37 season, 32 games under .500. Everyone behind a keyboard or in front of a live microphone predicted that they would be the one of the worst teams in the Western Conference, and they responded by pushing the ball, shooting threes, and winning games. Goran Dragic was at the center of it all, making great decisions in transition and in the half court, and showing guts and pedigree at the end of close games. In his sixth season, he blossomed into a player capable of things very few people believed he could do. Under first-year head coach Jeff Hornasack, Dragic made a substantial offensive jump:

Dragic 2012-2013: 14.7 PPG, 44% FG, 31% 3PT
Dragic 2013-2014: 20.3 PPG, 51% FG, 41% 3PT

There's been an interesting conversation happening recently about the spirit of the award. Should top picks like John Wall and Anthony Davis be considered even though those players are expected to improve? Should older players who have underperformed in their careers be acknowledged as a result of lowered expectations? In the past, the Most Improved Player has typically been awarded to a rising star who wasn't necessarily expected to become a franchise guy. I believe the honor should reward the player who, not only shows the most significant rise in performance, but also takes on a greater level of his team's responsibility. Dragic performed like the leader of a 48-win Western Conference playoff contender, and while the Suns didn't make the post-season, no other player, including Wall, has seen their improvement tied so dramatically to a rise in their team's success. The Brow and John Wall will receive plenty of accolades in their careers, but my vote goes to Goran. 

6th Man of the Year

Fresh says Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls

When the Bulls traded Luol Deng in early December for 12 hours of Andrew Bynum and a future 1st round pick that they’ll likely never see, many thought the team was headed on a Red Line trip to the lottery. Another season without their MVP, Derrick Rose, and now a second All-Star stripped from their roster. The move was designed to get the team under the salary cap, and potentially land Rose some new star power by tanking their way to a higher pick in the most talked about draft since LeBron's. The only thing standing in the way of the Bulls and minty fresh lottery pick would be head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Predictably, Thibs wasn't having any of that. Less predictable- the epic tear the club has gone on post-Deng trade. They’re 34-16 since the deal and moved all the way to the #4 seed in the Eastern Conference. For the past six months we've been licking our chops in anticipating of a Pacers-Heat ECF rematch, but with the way Chicago’s playing lately, don't pencil Indiana into the Eastern Conference Finals just yet. 

There’s no denying first team All-NBA candidate Joakim Noah’s role in the running of the Bulls, but the steady, improved play of power forward Taj Gibson off the bench has been crucial to their success. He’s averaging a respectable 13 ppg and 7 rpg, and has become their go-to scorer late in games. He puts up identical numbers to starter Carlos Boozer, and his defensive is a key reason this team finished tops in the league in team defense once again.

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at these gushing praises from coach Thibs

I think that the biggest thing for him is what he has contributed to us winningI hate to lock into individual awards. I think players are recognized when the team has success. He’s been a huge part of it. The way he has played all year, I’m hopeful that he’ll be recognizedThe things that he does for us are all team-oriented. He plays great defense, challenges shots, guards everybody, runs the floor hard, sets great screens, does his job, gets deep post position. When the second guy comes, he makes the play. He has gotten comfortable in pick-and-roll situations. He’s had a terrific year for us. And I hope he does get recognized.

I can’t wait to see the production that Gibson is capable of in a starting role once Boozer gets amnestied.

Fonts says Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls

The ascension of Taj Gibson is perfectly timed for Chicago. Derrick Rose’s health creates a lot of questions surrounding the team’s future. Conventional wisdom says that they’ll use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer’s contract this summer, leaving them with them a variety of options in terms of roster building go forward. They could acquire substantial peripheral talent to build around the core of Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Gibson, or move Taj’s cap-friendly contract (3 years, $25 milllion remaining) in pursuit of another star like Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh.

Gibson’s development speaks to a larger trend and is further proof that great organizations with top-tier coaches continue to inspire growth in their young players. Gibson is ultimately responsible for his own development. However, the Bulls track record of getting the most out of, not only their own draft picks like Noah and Butler, but also veterans like D.J. Augustin, Kirk Hinrich, and Nate Robinson, has helped them get to the playoffs for six consecutive seasons. It’s the common thread with all of the built-from-scratch perennial playoff teams in today’s NBA. The Spurs Dynasty brought in Kawhai Lenoard, and converted his glaring weakness (outside shooting) into one of his greatest strengths. Oklahoma City oversaw significant growth from Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Harden, and most recently Reggie Jackson. The Pacers, before their recent implosion, were regarded as the shining example of how a title contender can be built with a lot of commitment to player development and no top draft picks.

The inverse is true when a player’s growth is stunted by unstable coaching situations, lack of veteran leadership, and a losing culture. What improvement has Kyrie Irving shown in his third season, or Dion Waiters in his second? What would players like Demarcus Cousins and Kevin Love be capable of if they were coached by defensive difference-makers like Thibs or Ric Carlisle? A premature congratulations to Taj Gibson, but I think even he would agree that being a Chicago Bull has given him every opportunity to become the NBA’s best 6th man.

Coach of the Year

Fresh says Greg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

For the third time in four years the ageless Spurs have finished the regular season with the West’s best record, reaching the 60 win plateau for the fourth time in Greg Popovich’s tenure as coach. This marked the fifteenth year in a row that the Pop/Duncan duo surpassed 50 wins, and if it hadn't been for the lockout shortened season in ’99, that streak would be longer (San Antonio went on to win their first of four titles in that shorted season anyway).

Under coach Pop, the Spurs have become almost robotic in their execution. Everyone on the team has bought into his winning ways, and everyone on the teams pulls his own weight. Six different players average double figures (Parker, Leonard, Duncan, Ginobili, Belinelli and Patty Mills) and another three players (Diaw, Green and Splitter) are all close behind averaging 8+. Not only that, but not one player averages 30 or more minutes per game. That type of balance is an anomaly in the super star era of NBA hoops. They've been able rest their veterans and still pull off winning streaks that last close to a quarter of the season.

Look, I love what Thibs has been able to do in Chicago, despite losing Rose to a season ending injury and Deng to an indefensible trade. And I love what Steve Clifford has done in Charlotte, taking a perennial bottom feeder squad and turning them into a playoff team with a top 10 defense. But at the end of the day real has to recognize real, and there is no one on the planet who is better at coaching basketball than Greg Popovich. The Spurs are like Wooderson is "Dazed and Confused," they get older, but their record stays the same. 

Fonts says Greg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

No one ever talks about the why start now? Jeff Hornacek will probably win this award because of the fantastic and unexpected season the Suns have had. Tom Thibideau held his team together with Joakim Noah and a roll of duct tape, and somehow coached the Bulls to the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. Steve Clifford has done such a great job improving his team’s defense that most of you should Google who he is. Doc Rivers, Scottie Brooks, and Eric Spoelstra all deserve credit for racking up 50+ win seasons despite injuries to their respective all-star guards. Mike Woodson somehow went 5 months without knocking out JR Smith or crying on television. The list goes on.

And yet, in a class of his own sits Greg Popovich. The Spurs finished a league best 64-18, led the NBA in assists (25.3 per game), and yet no one on their team averaged more than 30 minutes per game, which hasn't happened since the ABA-NBA merger. The fact that Tim Duncan started 74 games this season is a testament to how good Popovich is at keeping his players healthy and rested while winning indiscriminately. Rarely does the league’s best coach ever win this award, but Greg Popovich is just that, and he gets my vote.

Defensive Player of the Year

Fresh says DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

DeAndre broke out in a huge way this season, leading the league in rebounds with 1,114 (13.8 per), finishing second in blocks with 203 (2.51 per) and anchoring a defensive unit that held opponents to the fifth worst FG%. He helped the Clips win 57 games in the ultra-competitive Western Conference and drew comparisons (however unmerited it may have been) to the great Bill Russell. At just 25 years of age, DeAndre is finally beginning to scratch the surface of what will surely be a promising career.

Full disclosure- 'Dre was a huge contributor on my CHAMPIONSHIP winning fantasy hoops team this past season, and although Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert are both (probably) more deserving of this award, I just wanted to show DJ some love.  My site, my rules. 

Fonts says Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers

In the last 20 seasons, The Glove and The Artest Formerly Known As Ron are the only perimeter defenders to take home this award. A few rim protectors deserve consideration this season, but I’ll take Hibbert because of his highly publicized verticality skills and impressive 41.4% opponent FG% at the rim, a statistic I may be overvaluing and and still don’t fully understand.

Hibbert anchored a Pacers defense that allowed only 92.3 points per game, and lead the league in defensive field goal percentage (42.0%). Even though their train wreck of an offense is crashing into the playoffs as one of the worst in the NBA since the All-Star break, Hibbert and David West exhibited tremendous commitment to protecting the paint all season long.  Sure, Hibbert has made some of the most accusatory and alarming quotes in the history of 56+ win seasons, but the 7’2” Hoya still earned the award, and the nickname "Big Dawg", for guarding the yard like The Beast.


Fresh says Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

For the past two weeks I tried talking myself into picking LeBron James as the MVP but I just couldn't do it. I've always been a strong believer that the best player in the league deserves the award, and would find myself getting upset anytime the voting didn't follow my rationale (Malone over MJ in '97, Nash over Shaq in '05, etc.). But the year-long tear that KD (none of this Slim Reaper nonsense) just went on cannot go unrecognized. 

The 25 YEAR OLD put the Thunder on his back, en route to 58 wins, a #2 seed in the Western Conference and his fourth scoring title in five years. He became just the fourth player in league history to average 32 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists per game, and finished the regular season scoring 25 or more in each of his last 48 games. 

His game took huge strides on the defensive end of the court this season, where he held opponents to just 28 percent from the field in isolations (per Grantland, via Synergy Sports). 

Russell Westbrook, the Robin to Durant's Batman, missed close to 40 games, and young up and comers Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III never capitalized on their opportunity to shine, instead losing out on crunch time minutes to 1/2 man 1/2 dinosaur Derrick Fisher. Just imagine what this Thunder team would be capable of had their embarrassingly cheap owner not traded away the best shooting guard in the league for 10 cents on the dollar. 

When we talk about the Thunder, we should be talking about a potential dynasty, but instead we're left with a once in a generation scorer whose spent the past two seasons in an "EFF YOU" mode not seen since post-trial Kobe.

And you know what? That's not a bad consolation prize. 

Fonts says Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Lebron James and Kevin Durant traded punches all season in an MVP race that felt like it needed polling like a political election. In the end, KD had a more impressive season and his team won more games in a better conference. His 32.0 ppg is 4.6 points higher than the next closest player, last season’s scoring champion Carmelo Anthony. It’s also 4.6 points higher than his career average, and he just won his fourth scoring title! Durant's 50/39/87 shooting splits are somehow lower than they were last year. He’s 3rd among small forwards in rebounding (7.4 rebounds per game), trailing only Melo (8.1) and Nicolas Batum (7.5), and his 5.5 assists per game are a career high.

When Russell Westbrook injured his knee, the Thunder went 20-7, and The Durantula averaged 35.0 points per game on 52.7% shooting while playing 38.7 minutes per game. This season, he's scored 40+ points in a game 14 times, including a career-high 54 against Golden State.

Lebron James was magnificent, showcasing all the skills and style that garnered him 4 MVP awards already. The King averaged 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds , and 6.4 assists on a 54 win team. He’s still the only member of the 56/37 club, a staggering representation of how remarkable his offensive game has become.

Just as Durant carried the Thunder when Westbook missed 8 weeks, Bronnie James Dio started every one of the Dwyane Wade’s 28 DNP’s this season. Both men accepted heavy defensive responsibilities this season, defending positions one through four at various times due to injuries and various line-up combinations. These two even hit identical game winning 3’s.

Lebron did so many things to deserve this award, but Durant did more. The 25 year-old, who said last year "I'm tired of coming in second," will have his name entered first on most ballots this year. It’s fair to say that Lebron James is still the NBA’s best player, but Kevin Durant is this season’s MVP.

Fresh's All NBA Teams

First Team All-NBA

C- Joakim Noah
F- Kevin Durant
F- LeBron James
G- Goran Dragic
G- James Harden

Second Team All-NBA

C- Al Jefferson
F- Blake Griffin
F- Dirk Nowitzki
G- Steph Curry
G- Chris Paul

Third Team All-NBA

C- Dwight Howard
F- Kevin Love
F- Anthony Davis
G- John Wall
G- Tony Parker

Font's All NBA Teams

First Team All-NBA

C- Joakim Noah
F- Kevin Durant 
F- LeBron James
G- James Harden 
G- Chris Paul

Second Team All-NBA

C- Dwight Howard 
F- Blake Griffin
F- Carmelo Anthony 
G- Steph Curry
G- Goran Dragic

Third Team All-NBA

C- Al Jefferson
F- Kevin Love
F- Paul George 
G- John Wall
G- Tony Parker

Finals Prediction  

Fresh says "In a rematch of the '12 Finals I'm taking the Heat over the Thunder in 7 for the  MoHeato 3-peat. Bron tells KD he can keep the MVP trophy, so long as he gets the bling."

Fonts says "I want so badly to pick OKC, but Miami still has the best player in the league and a much better coach until proven otherwise. Heat over Thunder in 7."


Dan Chiavetta (@danye33) and John Fontanelli (@johnanthony37) met in Scuba class at SUNY Cortland in the fall of '07. They hosted a radio show called "The 3 Man Weave" and have been talking sports ever since. 

Any feedback/questions/disagreements with our awards? Tweet us! We'd love to hear from you. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Get To Know A Future Pro- Shaquelle Evans

By the time April rolls around most college seniors are already a month or two into their cruise control descent towards graduation. Senioritis has kicked in, the weather starts getting nicer, the parties become more frequent and the next thing you know its cap and gown season.

But in case you couldn't tell, NFL prospects aren't your typical college seniors. As the school year winds down, the pressure to prepare for the next step in their career starts heating up. I got a chance to talk with Shaquelle Evans, a wide receiver from UCLA and 2014 Senior Bowl participant, about what it’s like to compete at the combine,  what separates him from the rest of a loaded wide receiver class and how he plans on spending his last days in Westwood. 

2MW- For starters I just want to congratulate on you on a great college career and for being named to the Senior Bowl. What was it like practicing and playing alongside guys you played against throughout your career?

Shaq- It was cool just getting to know guys that you've been competing against for the last 3-4 years, and seeing people that you haven't seen in five years from high school days. So it was just a great experience to be out there and a blessing to be one of the players selected.

2MWWhat’s life like as an NFL Draft prospect? Can you take us through a typical day?

ShaqA typical day for me is just wake up, work out, lift some weights and then do some receiver specific drills. On days you don't lift weights just make sure your feet are working right, your routes are right, things like that. After that it's pretty boring because you can only work out for so long during the day so after that there's really nothing to do. Try to buy time with other things like video games, watch TV, just to get through the day. 

2MWYou mention video games so I have to ask, are you looking forward to playing as yourself in Madden?

Shaq- Oh yea definitely, I mean I'm hoping. That's something I've been thinking about ever since I started playing Madden. Hopefully I'll be blessed with the chance to play as myself in the game finally.

2MWI know you're focused on taking the next step in your career, has seniorities been kicking in yet at school? I would imagine it's gotta be getting hard to concentrate on classes. 

Shaq- Oh definitely, it's definitely hard to concentrate. But luckily right now I only have one class and it's not too bad, it's pretty easy. So I'm gonna get through it and after this class I'll be done with school. But seniorities has most definitely kicked in. 

2MWWhat kind of receiver workouts have you been doing to stay in shape? Do you have a set guy who throws to you or is it a rotating cast?

ShaqI've got a guy I work out with to make sure my feet are right at the top of my routes. At first I was running routes with Bryn Renner (quarterback from North Carolina). I've also thrown with Trent Edwards, Nick Foles, Ben Roethlisberger, Blake Bortles, a number of different people. I'm busy staying active as much as possible throughout this process to make sure I'm sharp enough for when my name is called and it's time to hit the field.

2MWI saw you ran a ridiculous 4.32 40 at your Pro Day- were you happy with how that day shaped out?

ShaqYea, I feel like I had a solid day. My main goal was to go out there and run good routes, catch every ball, which I did, and to run a faster 40 than I did at the combine, which I did. I felt like I had a productive day that definitely helped me out.

2MWCan you tell us a little bit about what it’s like to take part in the combine? It must be intense knowing all your drills, reps and runs are being monitored so closely, plus you’re surrounded by guys who are fighting for the same job that you want.

ShaqIt's definitely a different experience. It's a journey, I mean they make it seem like you just get there the day before and you wake up and do your drills. But you're there three days before doing medical testing, all types of tests, psychological tests and then interviews with teams so you're up all day doing all those things. Then you've got to go out there and preform with so much pressure on you. It's definitely an interesting experience. You're out there with guys you're cool with, but you also have to compete against them, so it's a little bittersweet. Definitely a blessing to take part in it because not everyone gets invited. 

2MWHow closely, if at all, do you pay attention to mock drafts?

ShaqI don't really look at anything. I've always been like that. Even when I was at college I didn't look at media reports after practices or games. The only thing I want to see is some pictures maybe (laughs), but that's about it. I don't listen to the noise whether it's good or bad. 

2MWHow are you going to be spending draft day?

Shaq- I've invited some of my family to come around. I mean, I'm not going to be sitting there watching and waiting, but whenever my phone is called that's when I'll be attentive. I feel like if I just sit there and watch then it's going to just make me even more anxious, so I'm just gonna be waiting for that phone call.

2MWOne of your teammates, linebacker Anthony Barr, is another top prospect in this year’s draft- what is your relationship like with him?

Shaq- Me and Anthony are great friends, we've been hanging out pretty much since I've been here. But when we were on the field I used to hate going against him. The only time I would really have to block him was on bubble passes where I had to block the outside linebacker, but I definitely hated doing that because he's so big and strong. There was really nothing I could do, just try to hold my ground for as long as possible, but he's going to get off the block. I tried my best!

But we're great friends and he's a great competitor. I can't wait for him to get picked.

2MWWhat is it about your game that makes you stand out from the rest of the wide receivers in this year’s class? Is there anything that you do differently?

ShaqI think I have a very, very good technique, so I don't have to learn as much technical things that other guys will have to work on. I feel like I'm a detail technician because of the type of coach I had my last two years (Jim Mora). I feel like you begin to take on the personality of your coach and I definitely did that. I also feel like my ability to beat man to man coverage is a huge asset because at the next level although teams might play a lot of zone, it's the players who can make plays against man to man coverage that are at the top of the league.

2MWDo you feel like there are any players in the league who your style of play is similar to?

Shaq- If I had to compare myself to someone I always look to Andre Johnson (Houston Texas WR) because he's a bigger body guy like myself. He's about 220 (pounds), a little bigger than me, I'm about 210-212. We're both physical guys, we're both athletic and great route runners. He can run any route- deep route, medium route, and I think I can do that too. We're also good at blocking in the run game.

2MWI know you’re a Cali boy- so I'm guessing it's going to be either the Raiders, Chargers or 49ers, but who was your team growing up?

ShaqMy favorite team was always the Philadelphia Eagles, but I also rooted for the Chargers. I really liked (Donovan) McNabb when he was at Syracuse, so I just went with the Eagles once he got drafted. Been a fan since '99 but I guess now that reign is ending. I'm not a fan of anybody anymore, just the team I end up playing for!

2MWWhat’s your pre-game routine like? Do you have any superstitions?

Shaq- I like to do the same thing before every game. I've got a set program. I go in the locker room, I get changed and I go sit down for like five minutes, put my cleats on and my warm up. Go outside for 30, 40 minutes, get my feet going. Running routes, catching passes. Then I come in, get my wrists taped, put my pads on, then the jersey, then go in the mirror and make sure everything is straight. Put my towel on and then we head out for the warm ups and its time to go.

2MWDo you play any other sports for fun besides football?

ShaqYes, I love basketball.

2MWWho's going to win the NBA title this year?

ShaqThe OKC Thunder. That's my team cause of (Russell) Westbrook. I love him, that's my favorite player and he's also a Bruin. So I'm always going OKC.

2MWLastly, how often do people point out the fact that you share the same first name as Shaquelle O’Neal?

ShaqPretty much every time I meet someone, so it's normal for me now. I expect to hear it.

2MWWell I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. Good luck on draft day and I look forward to following your career!

ShaqThank you man, I appreciate you having me.

-fresh (@danye33