James Harden Should Party Before Every Game

General Sports, NBA

the cola

James Harden went to a Drake concert over the weekend in Houston, then he went out and dropped 45 points on Golden State in Game 4 and extended the all-but-done Western Conference Finals series.  Then the rains came and flooded Houston to the edge of catastrophe…..coincidence?

hardendrake_fl2iw7The Houston Rockets internet blew up after photos came out of Harden apparently having too much fun (at a Drake concert?):

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This is the most positive press Drake has EVER had, I think he needs James Harden more than James Harden needs Drake.

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The Hometown Hero

NBA

If you’ve been able to see LeBron James’ latest commercial with Kia (attempting to remove himself from the noise to finding comfort in the backseat of the Kia K900), this image is reminiscent of James’ unpredictable ride with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. After suffering defeat in Miami against the San Antonio Spurs, LeBron decided it was time to move on.

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The growth of LeBron during his “college years” in Miami is evident by his outspoken leadership and ability to make others around him better in Cleveland. When James entered Miami, this was Dwyane Wade’s team; before he left, the Heat was James’ team.The major difference I saw with LeBron’s return to Cleveland was how “quiet” it was in comparison to “The Decision”. LeBron was getting away from the noise, such as the Kia commercial.

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This season, critics have been brought back to reality when they hear the humbleness of Kyrie Irving (playing in his first NBA playoffs) in post-game interviews. Although Irving has the skill set to play on the biggest stage, this team was not “playoff-ready” before LeBron’s return. Since James’ arrival, Cleveland has stepped up their game especially with the recent acquisitions of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. The absence of Kevin Love has not affected Cleveland as much as the media expected. Plus, it doesn’t hurt when your back-up point guard (Matthew Dellavedova) is putting up decent numbers, as well.

“This Cavaliers team has obviously bought into the leadership of LeBron James.”

Leading the Eastern Conference Finals 3 games to none against the Atlanta Hawks should be an eye-opener to LeBron critics. This series has shown James in a different light as the player-coach we would often see with Kobe Bryant on the floor. Due to Coach David Blatt’s first season with the Cavaliers, it is understandable that Blatt may not have the best answers under the pressure of the playoffs. This is the void LeBron fills.

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James has been here. He’s battled to get to the Finals five times, and walked away with two titles. This Cavaliers team has obviously bought into the leadership of LeBron James, as Cleveland continues to fight their way into the NBA Finals.

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The Clippers Are Still the Clippers

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“The Clippers are still the Clippers”, a tweet from Magic Johnson’s twitter account read after the Clippers’ awful Sunday performance.

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After leading the series versus Houston, LA managed to fold under pressure and give away this series to the Rockets. Houston is a great team, due to their size and resiliency; but, when you have a team down 3 games to 1, you need to close it out.

Championship teams know how to close out games. Coach Belichick and the Patriots may run the score up, but who’s to argue with making sure their opponent doesn’t have any life for a comeback? The Clippers appeared to be a championship team, but their emotions got the best of them.

I believe the weight and emotions of the Game 6 loss in Los Angeles carried on to Game 7 in Houston. This team came out flat, getting outplayed pretty much every minute of the game. These are the playoffs, not a regular season series. Houston brought the fight to the Clippers, and LA showed up unprepared and confused.

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I agree with Magic Johnson. The Clippers are still the Clippers. Maybe if Chris Paul’s trade to the Lakers was OK’d by David Stern, he wouldn’t have to suffer a playoff meltdown such as this series. As a Mavericks fan, I contemplated which one is worse: being knocked out in the first round or leading 3 games and ultimately losing the series. My vote for the worst-case scenario goes to the Clippers.

As impossible as it is to know if a new group would work better, we do know that this group has an issue. We know because we saw it lose its cool against Dwight Howard and Josh Smith late in the third quarter of Game 6 and then again against James Harden and Pablo Prigioni late in the third quarter of Game 7.

The broader story of Game 7 on Sunday was about the Clippers still being sad from Game 6, their emotions getting the better of them.

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As of now, I do not have a specific team to root for in the Western Conference (maybe Houston, since I’m a Texan). But in regards to the Eastern Conference, my ticket is punched for LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This should be an entertaining conference finals series on both ends. The MVP versus The Runner-up MVP (West); The Young Cavs versus The Seasoned Hawks (East).

(Not So) Above the Rules

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The NFL has sent a message to Tom Brady and the New England franchise in their response to Deflate-Gate. Although this punishment will not greatly affect the legacy of Tom Brady, this adds to the numerous scandals of the New England Patriots under Owner Robert Kraft and Head Coach Bill Belichick.

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Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick

The NFL viewed Brady’s actions as arrogance, and I know the league office saw the deflating of the footballs as the mechanical equivalent of using PEDs. That is not such a ridiculous comparison. PEDs destroy the competitive balance of the game and so, too, can altering the equipment.

This ruling—Brady suspended four games, the Patriots fined $1 million and the team losing a first-round pick next season and a fourth-rounder in 2017—has many layers. The NFL clearly decided that Spygate, the team’s last cheating scandal, was part of the equation.

Also, we can look at this decision as part-political. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell needed to satisfy 31 other owners, head coaches, and general managers who most likely believe that Goodell and Kraft were too close and that the NFL overlooked the Patriots’ alleged cheating for too long.

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriots’ Owner Robert Kraft

Ryan Clark spoke for most of those other 31 teams when he said, “There was a feeling around the league…that the New England Patriots will bend the rules, they will try to find ways to win games that may border on cheating.”

But what this ruling is mostly about is Brady and the future of the sport. The NFL, in the past, has gotten decisions wrong. Ray Rice was originally suspended for two games for knocking out his fiancee. They will tell you that was a mistake (and Goodell has said it publicly).

Those times of easy punishments are over. That’s the message. It’s a new day because the league knows what’s at stake here. The game can’t be viewed as wrestling. Whether players pump up their bodies with fake drugs or deflate a football, the NFL knows the core of what made it the biggest sport in America is believability.

It’s true that teams warmed up footballs or Aaron Rodgers wants his footballs overinflated or teams used an illicit substance to get a better grip on the football.

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Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

The difference between those teams and the Patriots is prior history. Spygate is a part of this. Those other teams don’t have a major scandal on their record. The warming of the footballs also happened in broad daylight, and when they were caught, the teams didn’t pull a Brady. When Brady was busted, he basically said, “Me? Cheat? What?”

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Patriots QB Tom Brady

There’s a chance Brady’s suspension is reduced to two games, but the message was still sent. You are great, Brady, but you are not above everyone else.

You’re not bigger than the league.

You Can’t Prepare for an X-Factor

NBA

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Last night, Los Angeles Clippers’ guard Austin Rivers poured in 29 points as LA moved up to lead the series 2-1 versus Houston. The atmosphere in the Staples Center hasn’t been this exciting since Kobe was in the playoffs.

The 3rd quarter showed Austin Rivers withholding nothing. Reaching back into his days at Duke, Rivers seemed unstoppable as he clawed his way to score 15 points in this quarter, alone. The Clippers gained a lead upwards to 27 points. By this time, you would assume the Rockets were ready to get their hotel quickly.

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I believe this is a big thing for the Clippers and Austin Rivers’ confidence, because they both have suffered a great deal of criticism. Drafting Blake Griffin, picking up Chris Paul, and assembling other vital pieces for this team has taken a very long time. Therefore, it is understandable Clipper Nation is very proud of their team.

With Chris Paul’s hamstring injury after the San Antonio Spurs series, Austin Rivers was the next man up for the job. I’m glad to see Rivers grow overnight in this year’s NBA playoffs. The Clippers will be a team to make some noise against Golden State / Memphis if they advance.

‘Til next time.

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