Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Notes From Wizards-Clippers

I’m in DC right now, and a couple of nights ago, I took the opportunity to see the Wizards square off against the Clippers in the Verizon Center. Here a few observations from the game.

There were a couple of strange things that occurred during the game. For instance, at one point in the second half, plastic cows attached to mini parachutes were dropped from the rafters. Why? I think it had something to do with a Chick-Fil-A promotion, but honestly, I’m not sure.

The halftime show was immensely enjoyable. A pair of goals were set up at the free throw lines and a three on three game of soccer was held. The fun part was that, since each player was encased in a plastic bubble, it was impossible to get hurt, so the game was spent watching the players ram into one another. Always a pleasurable experience.

During the pregame warmups, I had a good time watching Josh Smith practice his free-throw shooting. Sorry Josh, even sinking sixty free throws in a row won’t make up for this travesty:

The game itself wasn’t overly exciting. Despite the absence of Blake Griffin, the Wizards were unable to take a single lead. The Clippers opened up the game on a 13-2 run and didn’t look back.

Cole Aldrich, of all people, had a solid game. He produced thirteen points, six rebounds, three assists, four steals, and a block over twenty minutes. Aldrich’s main contributions to the game were the four times he tried and failed to throw down a big dunk, leading to plenty of taunts from the stands.

DeAndre Jordan was particularly entertaining for a couple of reasons. One, whenever he has a big dunk, he hangs on the rim for a moment, letting his lengthy limbs loose:


Two, Jordan has a magnificent deer-in-the-headlights look whenever he goes to the free throw line. On his first two attempts, his anxiety, nervousness, and dread were plain to see:

As expected, he missed those free throws, although he rallied to make three of his next four to finish the night with a solid three of six at the line.

Throughout the night, the Wizards were discombobulated on offense. There were many possessions that ended late in the shot clock with a contested heave from John Wall. Even when a Wizard had a wide open three-pointer, more often than not, the shot clanked off the rim.

There was one notable near-achievement from a Wizards player: Jared Dudley, a starter, nearly earned a thirteen trillion. He played thirteen minutes, and recorded a grand total of zero points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and fouls. The only thing keeping Dudley from a historic performance was one measly turnover. Alas. Better luck next time, Jared.

It’s indicative that I talked more about the sideshows, both literal and figurative, from the parachuting cows to DeAndre Jordan’s gangly legs, than about the game itself. I guess it was just that kind of night.

Still, despite the uncompetitive game, I had a good time, and it certainly was a…

This article can also be found at Jock Journal.

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Which Games Should You Watch on Christmas?

On Christmas Day, us fans of the NBA have a serious conundrum. There’s basketball for thirteen hours straight, which is great, but we also have familial obligations and the like. For those of you who can only escape your family for a game or two, here’s a guide to determining which games you should watch and which ones you shouldn’t.

Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Watch if you like: Freakishly long arms, all-lefty lineups, aging stars,  unibrows, imagining what Young Kristaps will be like in three years, having a quick snooze before the good games start.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Chicago Bulls

Watch if you like: Teams still finding their identities, power struggles, Enes Kanter’s bushy eyebrows, discontented players, Steven Adam’s fake-looking mustache, ex-college coaches in their first season in the NBA, Bobby Portis sitting on the bench, Dion Waiters hoisting up awful shots that miss by a mile.

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Watch if you like: Games with history behind them, unstoppable pick-and-rolls, superduperstars, injured players returning, going small, raucous home crowds, great basketball, ridiculous displays of shooting from Steph Curry, ridiculous displays of athleticism from LeBron James, Iman Shumpert’s hair, JR Smith hoisting up awful shots that somehow go in.

Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs

Watch if you like: Spectacular wing defense, Hack-a-Howard, intra-state rivalries, Spursgasms, foreign players, beards, dazzling sequences of passing, free throws, lefty shooting guards with Eurosteps.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Watch if you like: Kobe Bryant missing shots, thunderous dunks, Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan alley-oops, young studs against in-their-prime superstars, brutal blowouts, watching the last quarter and a half played by scrubs.

Trade Grade: Frazier to the White Sox

Last week, news broke that Todd Frazier was being traded to the White Sox in a three-team trade. Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson, and Micah Johnson headed from the White Sox  to the Dodgers, and the Reds received Jose Peraza, Brandon Dixon, and Scott Schebler from the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Dodgers

There’s little to say about the Dodgers, who acted as facilitators in this trade. They exchanged three prospects for three better ones, who are closer to the majors.

Johnson and Peraza are similar players, so that part of the trade is a wash. Both are second basemen, both don’t hit well, and both are speedy. The only important difference is that Johnson is two years older than Peraza, so he has a lower ceiling.

Every time I see Trayce Thompson’s name mentioned, immediately afterwards, the writer notes that he’s the brother of Klay Thompson. Out of respect to the former, we won’t mention the latter in this article (hey, wait a second…). Anyways, Thompson, a righty outfielder, was a pleasant surprise for the White Sox last season, hitting .295/.363/.533 across the 44 games he spent in the majors. He’ll be a useful bench player in Los Angeles.

Montas is another solid pick-up. Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ GM, said that the team plans on trying him out as a starter, but he views the twenty-two year-old as a potential  “impact bullpen arm”. Los Angeles’ bullpen was shaky last season behind Kenley Jansen so Montas could help shore up the relief corps.

Although the trade overall was a blockbuster, the Dodgers were not directly involved in the Frazier aspect of it. However, the deal helps Los Angeles improve without incurring a significant cost, making it a solid, if unspectacular trade.

Grade: B+

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds were expected to trade away Frazier. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do, as the team is currently rebuilding and Frazier will be a free agent after the 2017 season. However, one would expect the team to receive a tad more for their star third baseman.

Looking at their return, it’s easy to wonder what they were thinking. It was the right move to trade Frazier, but the combo of Peraza, Dixon, and Schebler isn’t particularly special.

The latter two players are largely insignificant. Dixon, a second baseman, turns 24 in January. He’s a non-prospect; despite hitting nineteen homers over the past season, one that he split between High-A and Double-A, his OBP was a dismal .303. The 25-year-old Schebler is better than Dixon, but only slightly. He made it to the majors earlier this season for nineteen games, and didn’t acquit himself too poorly, but he struggled in Triple-A and, due to his age, he’s not as likely to improve as a younger player.

Peraza, the apparent headliner of the deal was a top prospect only a year ago, but has since been traded twice, going from Atlanta to Los Angeles and now to Cincinnati. He’s a second baseman and offers a nice amount of speed. However, that speed is mainly appealing to fantasy owners, and a slash line of .293/.316/.378 over 118 games last season in Triple-A isn’t anything to write home about.

In case this wasn’t bad enough for the Reds, they’re not going to have second base available for Peraza and Dixon because their Brandon Phillips trade with the Nationals fell through after Phillips refused to waive his no-trade clause. Phillips is owed $27 million over the next two seasons, so either the Reds will have to eat his contract or find somewhere else for Peraza and Dixon to play.

Not only was the return for Frazier awful, but there’s not even an open spot to play the players received, making this trade an utter catastrophe.

Grade: F

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are the big winners in this trade. The three players they gave up are all solid, as we discussed above, but Frazier is a genuine star. In 2014, he hit 29 home runs before following that up with another 35 this past season. That kind of power is increasingly rare and Chicago did well to snatch Frazier up once he became available.

Frazier will pair with Jose Abreu to form a fearsome duo of right-handed power hitters. That one-two punch should wreak havoc in the cozy confines of US Cellular Field. Chicago’s lineup is solid from top to bottom, with Adam Eaton, Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia, Melky Cabrera, and others flanking the pair of sluggers.

In addition to Frazier being very good, this trade is beneficial for the White Sox because they will no longer have to start Gordon Beckham at third base. Beckham, put simply, is not good, and Frazier is a massive upgrade over him. In an American League ridden with parity, one big addition can result in a massive improvement in playoff odds, and, as we all know, once you get into October, anything can happen.

Grade: A

Welcome to the Suck Bowl

The NFL has the Super Bowl. The NCAA has countless bowls, covering an eclectic array of classics like the Cotton, Orange, and Rose, and shameless advertisements including the GoDaddy, Hyundai Sun, and Nova Home Loans Arizona. The NBA? Well, it has the Suck Bowl.

Tonight in Philadelphia, two team with a combined record of 2-32 will square off. In one corner, there are the Lakers, whose Stone-Age coach’s stubborn dismissal of common sense has them at 2-14. In the other, there are the Sixers, whose New-Age general manager’s continued plea to “trust the process” has the team at a dismal 0-18.

These are two teams heading in similar directions, but it’s always intriguing to map out how each got to where they are.

Let’s begin with the Lakers, a team that is dysfunctional enough that it allows Kobe Bryant to airball at least four shots a game and whose coach, Byron Scott, recently said: “Our guys get along. They just don’t trust each other”. And no, I’m not sure how that makes any sense, but remember, this is the same guy who seemingly believes that two and three are equal, based on his insistence that his team not shoot too many threes.

Anyways, way back in 2012, the team traded for stars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. The team was expected to be great; however, Mitch Kupchak, the team’s general manager, apparently forgot that defense is as important as offense en route to a disappointing 45-37 season.

Despite their final record, the Lakers were still in the playoffs as the seventh seed, so there was still hope for their season. Then they got whipped by the Spurs by an average scoring margin of 18.75 over a four game sweep.

In the offseason, Howard fled to Houston, ending the team’s hope that he would be its bridge from Bryant into the future. Instead, the Lakers extended Bryant’s contract by two years for 48.5 million dollars, condemning the team to mediocrity or worse for the foreseeable future.

The next season, Los Angeles went 27-55 and Bryant played in a mere six games due to injury. There was a bright side to the team’s awfulness: a high draft pick resulting in Julius Randle, a power forward out of Kentucky. In addition to Randle, the Lakers nabbed Jordan Clarkson, a guard, at 46th overall.

In the 2014-15 season, the Lakers went 21-61, the franchise’s worst record throughout its entire history. Adding to the dismal display, Randle broke his leg in his NBA debut, immediately ending his season, and Bryant again suffered through various injuries, playing only 35 games. However, Clarkson had a sparkling rookie season, excelling in March and April once he received playing time, with averages of 17 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.7 assists over the last two months of the season.

Another ugly season led to another high draft pick, and with the help of some luck in the lottery, the Lakers were able to draft D’Angelo Russell, a star point guard, at #2 overall.

That’s where the team stands. It’s got an aging star who’s not a star any more (and is retiring after the season) and a couple of young studs. The team sits at an ugly 2-14, but there’s plenty of hope for the future.

In Philadelphia, there’s also hope, but the team took a far different path to get it.

The story of the present-day 76ers team began in 2013, when Sam Hinkie tore down the team to tank for a high draft pick. The team finished 19-63, but only got the third pick in the draft, with which they took Joel Embiid. Later on in the first round, the Sixers traded its 10th overall pick to Orlando for the 12th pick and a 2017 first rounder (which led to some hilarious awkwardness as I discussed here), and selected Dario Saric, who can’t come to the US until at least 2016.

After another horrific season at 18-64, the Sixers again had the third overall pick, and again took a big man, this time taking Jahlil Okafor out of Duke.

As Philadelphia stands now, it has a ton of solid players on its roster, from Nerlens Noel to Robert Covington to TJ McConnell to Nik Stauskas to Tony Wroten to Isaiah Canaan to Jerami Grant. It has a wealth of future draft assets (as Business Insider details here). It even has a couple of 2014 first-rounders coming in the future when Embiid finally makes his debut and Saric comes over from Turkey.

It’s clear that Hinkie is pushing all his assets into the future while imploring the team’s fans to “trust the process” and, despite the agonizing state of the present-day team, the plan is nearly guaranteed to work. Zach Lowe wrote over the summer that “if Philly is really willing to do this for five, six, or seven seasons, it almost cannot fail. It will either land a superstar or draft so many good players that they will gather a solid NBA team.”

Until that glorious future, however, Sixers fans are stuck with the current team. Despite its numerous quality players, it’s winless at 0-18. The team isn’t as bad as it record shows, though, as Philadelphia has had a lead in the fourth quarter of each of its last five games, only to fritter it away, resulting in agonizing loss after agonizing loss.

Tonight’s game against the Lakers is especially important, because, if the Sixers lose, they’ll set a record for the worst start to a season in NBA history. Luckily, Philadelphia is favored by 1.5 points, but if they lose again tonight, another shot at a victory may not come for a while.