NBA

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Isaiah Taylor has got until Sunday to figure out if he’s as ready for the NBA as Johnny Manziel was for the NFL. There’s no question in my mind: Taylor should stay for his junior year, further develop his skills and delay entering the NBA draft.

Taylor is a 6-foot-1-inch tall point guard who is astonishingly quick, has a unique ability to drive the ball and is a feisty ball defender. But he lacks a consistent jump shot and weighs a mere 170 pounds.

If Taylor chooses to stay at Texas, he’d be the driving force for head coach Shaka Smart’s new offensive and defensive scheme.

Taylor was already the head of the snake whenever the Longhorns decided to press opponents last season. He only averaged one steal per game in 2014–2015, but Smart’s “havoc” system will increase that number — Smart’s system demonstrably produces steals.

Since Taylor flourishes in the open court, the up-tempo pace Smart employs on offense will allow Taylor to drive the ball and have the defense on its heels.

Furthermore, with Taylor breaking down defenses as a result of his driving, he’ll be able to produce shots not just for himself, but also for his teammates. Texas’ two incoming recruits, Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach, are both players who can shoot and attack.

When Taylor blows by his man, it will force the next defender to help on the drive, if that defender helps off someone such as Davis, Roach, rising senior guard Javan Felix or any other player Texas has that can shoot (sorry, Demarcus Holland). From there, they’ll have fairly open looks at the basket.

Taylor’s drives will have the defenses scrambling from all of the team’s help and the knowledge that Texas has shooters on the perimeter. It’s often not the first drive that hurts the most — it’s the second drive. If Davis, Roach or Felix can drive the ball after getting a kick out pass from Taylor, then that will put even more pressure on the defense.

In order for Taylor to be as effective as possible, he will have to develop a jump shot. Without a jump shot, the chain of events that he causes as a result of his drives are unlikely to happen because Taylor’s defender could simply play off him. A consistent jump shot would make Taylor the best point guard in the nation because of all the threats he would pose. It’d be hard to guard someone with his quickness and a consistent jump shot.

The jump shot wouldn’t just elevate Isaiah’s game to a whole other echelon, but it would improve his draft stock. A former Arizona State point guard told me that when he would go up against point guard Avery Johnson, he would play off him because Johnson didn’t have a consistent jump shot.

Taylor would be guarded similarly, but his unique skill set merits something different. He should stay at UT and develop those skills further.

Can we fix the Pro Bowl?

Why don’t I care about the Pro Bowl?

This may be the million-dollar question. The Pro Bowl is the NFL equivalent of the All-Star Game, but it fails compared to the MLB and the NBA ones.

Now, what is the reason for this? It can’t be because baseball and basketball are better than football; now that’s just ludicrous.

Maybe it’s the lack of value in the game. The MLB All Star Game actually matters. The winning division gets home field advantage in the World Series.

This could be a great thing for the NFL to adopt, but then they would have to have the Pro Bowl during the season.

The recent reformatting of the Pro Bowl has only made it worse. Firstly, they moved it to be before the Super Bowl, which excluded some of the best players each year. I mean, that’s obvious, they made it to the Super Bowl after all.

Secondly, it is no longer NFC versus AFC. This has really led to the demise of the Pro Bowl, not that it was ever great, but it was better than this. This year, for example, it was Team Irvin versus Team Carter. Each coach “drafted” players that were selected to the Pro Bowl by voting.

Now let’s be frank, this is just unnecessary. They are trying to model a pickup game of football. Why are you ruining something that could honestly be so great?

Think about it. A game where Aaron Rodgers is throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. Does that sound awesome or does that sound awesome?

On paper, it should be. In reality, it is similar to watching paint dry.

So, why can’t we have the Pro Bowl midseason like the NBA and MLB do?

Maybe the reason the NFL is opposed to this is because of the physicality of the sport.

However, the NFL plays the fewest games per season compared to these sports. Yes, I understand football is literally running into someone and getting hit. But playing 82 basketball games a season probably isn’t too easy either.

Regardless of the levels of physicality, you play any sport at a professional level that often, your body will feel it.

I’m not asking for the NFL to play 50 games. I’m asking for one more game halfway through the season, I’m asking for 17 games. Give these guys an All Star break.

There won’t be any defense until the fourth quarter. It will just be exciting and electrifying plays for the fans. That’s all they really want.

Does anyone watch the NBA All-Star Game for a good matchup? No. We watch it to see a dream team that will never exist elsewhere. We watch it to see Chris Paul lob the ball to James Harden. We watch it to see LeBron throw the ball to the perimeter for Carmelo to shoot a three.

Why can’t we have this in football?

I want to live in a world where I can see Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy in the backfield together for one game a year.

Am I really asking for that much? No, no I am not.

So please, give me an NFL All-Star Game that everyone will watch.

Millions tune in to watch the NBA All Star Weekend. Millions tune in to watch the MLB All Star Game. Let’s add the NFL to that list.

There won’t be a dunk contest, but there could be a 40-yard dash contest, a one-handed catch contest, and a throwing contest.

Basically, it could be a casual combine. I mean, why not?

Do it for the fans. Bring the Pro Bowl back to life. Honestly, the NFL could use all the good press it can get right now.

T.J. Ford, who played for Texas for two seasons, continues to make an impact by coaching an AAU team in Houston.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

T.J. Ford spent only two seasons in Austin.

In that short span of time, the young point guard managed to lead Texas to a Final Four appearance while earning himself the Naismith Trophy for college player of the year.

The NBA Draft selected Ford as No. 8 overall after he spent the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 seasons as a Longhorn. He faced high expectations, but some grisly injuries — combined with a spinal condition that made paralysis a real threat — meant ultimately, Ford could only play off and on for nine years. Still, he never lacked in heart and talent.  

“His work ethic was incredible,” said Ronnie Courtney, Ford’s high school coach. “His heart is probably as large as any heart you are ever going to find, in terms of wanting to be the best at what he was doing.”

Although he retired in 2012, Ford hasn’t stayed away from basketball. Now, instead of dishing out passes, Ford dishes out advice on ways to succeed on the court and beyond.

Today, Ford runs the TJ Ford Basketball Academy and an Amateur Athletic Union Program in Houston, his hometown. Ford works alongside Courtney and other Houston area coaches to help Houston-area children improve at 

basketball and, hopefully, land college scholarships. But Ford said his academy is about much more than the game. 

“Basketball’s just a vehicle for us to get things that we’re trying to get across to the kids,” Ford said. “It’s a lot of fun being able to help a lot of different kids from a lot of different ethnic groups and just show them what a family environment feels like. Every kid’s home situation is different.”                                                                         

Working with kids and running an AAU team was not Ford’s original plan when he first retired from the NBA.

“I was focusing more on NBA guys that I was training, that worked out with me for four to five years,” Ford said. “We had a couple high school kids that would come in and train with us and had great seasons, and it kind of just took off from there.”

Ford’s program already boasts a strong track record. and he is as good at working with seven-year-olds as he is working alongside NBA players. Twelve of his players already gone on to earn college scholarships.

Texas head coach Rick Barnes said nothing about Ford’s successes is surprising.

“He had a great knack at knowing how to … put [his teammates] in a position to be good,” Barnes said. “[T.J. was] a ‘people person,’ and he always wanted to learn.”

Soon after he retired, Ford was offered NBA coaching opportunities — but the allure of returning to basketball played at the highest level could not outweigh the thought of coaching the game at its very roots.

“I love working with kids,” Ford said. “Teaching the game is teaching the game, and I enjoy doing it with any age level.”

In addition, the love of teaching has called Ford back to the 40 Acres, where he is taking classes to complete his education degree. Ford, who hopes to complete his degree in the next year and a half, still heads back to Houston on the weekends to coach.

“This is an unbelievable place [where] I had some great experiences,” Ford said. “For me, it’s pretty fun just being back and walking the campus and actually just being a regular student.”

All-Star Weekend predictions

Fans of the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities can breathe a sigh of relief. The NBA has changed the format again from last year’s team concept for All-Star Weekend. Last year’s team concept did not bode well with the fans so they are modifying it once again. So hopefully we will get a more entertaining All-Star Weekend.

 

Lets start from the top: the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge. This year’s new format still features players in their first two years in the league. But it separates the top players by USA and World rosters. The World roster is featured by Andrew Wiggins (Canada) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), while the USA roster has Victor Oladipo and Michael-Carter Williams leading the way. The World Roster is filled with big men such as Steven Adams and Rudy Gobert that could give USA some trouble in the paint. However the guard play of USA is far superior than the World team’s, so I’ll give the slight edge to USA. 

Team USA wins this and Oladipo is crowned MVP. 

 

Next up, the Degree Shooting Stars Challenge. This one is quite simple, it comes down to who can knock down that half court shot fastest. Chris Bosh’s team is the defending champ but I think he loses that title this time around.

I’m taking team Westbrook which includes Russell Westbrook, Penny Hardaway, and Tamika Catchings to win this competition. 

 

Now the fun starts. The Taco Bell Skills Challenge features quick and speedy guards from across the league and showcases their skills in an obstacle course. The format has players going head to head in a bracket style tournament. Another change has the obstacle course ending in a three pointer. That is a big game changer as it eliminates some players right away.

Give me Jeff Teague in this event. He may not be the quickest of the bunch, I’ll give that to John Wall, but he will be able to make the passes and finish the three pointer rather quickly. 

 

Probably the most anticipated event of the entire weekend is this year’s Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. Participants include the Splash Brothers, Wes Matthews, JJ Redick, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Mr. Automatic Kyle Korver (we need to get him a nickname), and defending champ Marco Belinelli. The field is said to be the greatest of all-time by many. It includes the top five players in three pointers made so far in the season. So picking this apart will be difficult, because how do you separate the best of the best? Well I’ll go with the process of elimination and say Belinelli won’t repeat and Wesley Matthews doesn’t seem like he can hang with the big names. Plus I don’t like the idea of him going first. As for Curry, arguably the best shooter in the game, I don’t think his game translates to the three point contest so he’s out. Harden and Irving face the same problem.  They aren’t much of spot up shooters, they create their own three point shots. JJ Redick is my dark horse pick, because honestly if he didn’t shoot so well he wouldn’t be in the league right now. Which leaves Klay Thompson, who has my favorite shooting stroke in the league, and Mr. Automatic himself. Both are great spot up shooters and both can light it up on any given night. 

Its a toss up between these two but I’ll give the nod to Thompson winning it all. Its hard to bet against a dude that dropped 37 points in one quarter. 

 

To wrap up the Saturday night events comes the Sprite Slam Dunk contest. It is usually my favorite event to watch however in recent year’s it has been a disappointment to say the least. Again this year we are stuck with no big name players. However one of my favorite players to watch, Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo is pretty intriguing but I think his frame and size prevents him from doing a dunk appealing in a contest. Having said that, if there was a contest for posterizing players, he’d be at the top of my list. Mason Plumlee has the same problem, I don’t like the idea of having a big 7-footer in the dunk contest. We don’t care about how powerful of a dunker you are, its about finesse and don’t tell me Plumlee has finesse. 

I’ve seen Oladipo throw it down plenty during games and he has the creativity but the rookie Zach Lavine is my pick to win it. And if you have any doubts, just search Zach Lavine’s highlights on youtube, you won’t be disappointed. The kid can fly. 

 

Last but not least, the All Star game itself. Its a fifty fifty bet on who wins since it’s the best of the best, and honestly it doesn’t really matter who wins. 

But I just like the Western Conference roster a bit more

And the fact that overall, the West is so much better than the East tells me the West will win. And I’ll go ahead and appoint Anthony Davis as the MVP. I think he will get plenty of easy dunks early on, snatch a good deal of rebounds, and block quite a bit of shots. And yes, I believe this is foreshadowing for Anthony Davis. He has plenty of MVP’s coming his way soon. The dude will be the dominant force in the NBA within 2 years. 

NBA midseason predictions

The NBA season has lived up to all the preseason hype that surrounded it.

Midway through the season, we have seen a triple overtime game, Klay Thompson break the NBA record for points in a quarter with 37, and so far the top three teams in each conference have never won a title, which could be a compelling story come playoff time. But with the season halfway done, lets look at some predictations: 

Eastern Conference

Before the season started, the biggest prediction fans had was that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls would clash in the Eastern Conference Finals. Fans and even analysts knew better than to say the Wizards or the Hawks (yes the Atlanta Hawks) would be the top two seeds in the conference come All Star break. So what is happening in the East?

Well, Cleveland struggled out of the gate. But to be fair, it isn’t easy starting the season with a rookie head coach, a reloaded roster, and the abundance of expectations the team faced. However, now that Lebron is healthy and J.R. Smith and Mozgov seem to have found their place on the team, the Cavs have won seven straight. Still in my opinion, they can’t win with this current roster. A big part of their problem is that Kevin Love doesn't fit in their roster. He seems misused and even lost at certain times.

On the other side, Chicago can’t seem to avoid the injury bug, but thankfully Derrick Rose is slowly looking to be back to normal. This season Noah, McDermott, and Dunleavy have continuously missed games due to injury.

However, if the Bulls can get healthy, they are still my favorite to win the East. They have a point guard in Rose that has veteran experience and they have the biggest frontline in the NBA in Noah along with a rejuvenated Gasol and a high energy Taj Gibson. With rookie Nikola Mirotic finding his groove in the rotation and Jimmy Butler a clear cut favorite for most improved player, this team can be dangerous come playoff time.

But wait, I almost forgot the top three teams in the conference. Atlanta has been a great storyline thus far. No superstar on the roster, and yet they are currently on top of the East riding a 17 game win streak. Sorry to break your hearts Hawks fans, but I don’t see this team representing the East in the Finals. Simply put, they don’t have a go to player. We haven’t seen a team without a superstar win since the Pistons did it in 2004. Next the Wizards. Again, this team has the pieces to be a contender in the next few years. They’re just too young right now. But the backcourt of Wall and Beal will continue to be one of the dominant duos in the NBA. As for the Raptors, there is just no big men on that team that can bang with the Hawks or Bulls come playoff time. So have fun during the regular season, because come playoff time your team will come just a bit short.

Western Conference

Lets just start off by saying the Oklahoma City Thunder sit at 10th in the Western and two games out of the 8th and final spot. That right there should tell you how crazy the West has been this year. Quite frankly, a three-game losing streak can drop you from third place to 7th place very easily. So how can I possibly distinguish who are actually contenders and who are just not there yet.

Well I’m going to start off by saying, the defending champ Spurs will be just fine. Kawhi Leonard is back and slowly they are finding their groove. And nobody is better than resting their players during the regular season to keep fresh during the playoffs than Gregg Popovich.

Next, the Golden State Warriors have been arguably the most impressive team this year. Stephen Curry is the leading candidate for MVP and Klay Thompson is cementing himself as a true star in this league. Not to mention, Steve Kerr has these guys playing stifling defense. Draymond Green has played himself into consideration for a max contract this offseason. Plus, having home court advantage throughout the playoffs can be huge for a Warriors team that is 21-2 at home.

Sitting at second is my pick to win it all. And here’s why. The Memphis Grizzlies might be the most balanced team in the NBA. They have the strongest frontcourt duo in the NBA with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Mike Conley is having a career year. With the addition of Jeff Green, they got a versatile player who can defend multiple positions and knows how to put the ball in the basket.  They have the league’s third best defense in points allowed. If they can acquire one more solid bench player near the deadline, they will be the team to beat come playoff time. Moving along, Portland unfortunately had its chances cut short when Lamarcus Aldridge injured his thumb which requires surgery. Even with him delaying surgery, there’s no telling how much his game will be altered while playing through pain.

Now the next few teams in the West, Clippers, Rockets, Mavericks, all have one flaw that scares me. They rely on the jump shot, way too much. Yes, Harden is playing at an MVP caliber but where has his “Robin” Dwight Howard been? Harden can’t and won’t do it alone. For the Clippers its simple, there’s no depth. The addition of Austin Rivers seems a bit bizarre with a team that needs much more help. And for the Mavericks, Rajon Rondo hasn’t been the missing piece. Actually he’s been the opposite. They are now 11-9 since acquiring him. Yeah that sure was a “blockbuster” trade, Cuban.

So in my prediction, we will be seeing the Memphis Grizzlies versus the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals this season. And the ultimate winner? The Grizzlies. Even after saying all that, what do I know? Except that there is plenty more basketball to be played, and so many more factors that can alter the playoff picture. But for now, this Memphis team looks poised to make a deep run.
 

San Antonio Spurs rolling but Austin Spurs are real bright spot

The San Antonio Spurs are one of the hottest teams in the NBA as of late. Winners of 11 of their last 13 games, the Spurs look to be once again one of the powerhouses in the league, and, a championship contender.

While most of the focus recently has been on this San Antonio team, basketball enthusiasts should actually be putting their attention on the Spurs D-League affiliate, the Austin Spurs.

Since the San Antonio Spurs purchased the D-League franchise, the Austin based team has become a model for other NBA teams on how to successfully operate what is essentially a minor league basketball team.

While under the San Antonio Spurs ownership for the past seven, going on eight seasons, the Austin Spurs have posted a winning percentage greater than .600 five times. The franchise has also won one D-League title during that time span.

The amazing part is that all this winning has not completely been a function of players just wanting to come to play for a team run by the San Antonio Spurs. It’s also the willingness of players from the parent team to come up to Austin to develop their game.

Four players on the San Antonio’s current roster have had D-League experience, Kyle Anderson Austin Daye, Danny Green, and Cory Joseph. Two of those players, Green and Joseph, are playing significant roles for the team. One of those, Green, is in the starting five.

The work San Antonio has done to integrate the D-League franchise into their organization has been fantastic. They have been able to get everyone in the organization to buy in on how valuable a tool the Austin team is.

In fact, last season, Cory Joseph actually asked San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich to be assigned to the D-League team.

“Can I go back to the D-League?” Joseph told nba.com.

The request was odd, especially considering most NBA players experience negative emotions and thoughts when asked to serve in the minor league for basketball.

Players never want to be sent down, nonetheless ask to. Even Popovich was surprised by the decision.

“You don’t get that kind of a request,” Popovich said.

Nevertheless Popovich agreed and the run in the D-League seems to be doing wonders for Joseph’s NBA career.

Getting the players on-board is just one side of the equation though. The other side, and often equally ignored, is understanding the rules of the D-League and how assignments work.

What makes the Austin team so special is that San Antonio has a mastery on the rules of the D-League and knows how to put it to good use.

This offseason, San Antonio brought in five players on non-guaranteed contracts into training camp. They ended up waiving all five, which was not surprising considering the team already had 15 players under guaranteed contract.

While a move to bring in those five players when they were going to be waived may seem perplexing to the casual fan, to the San Antonio organization it is regarded as a smart move.

By waiving those five players before the start of the season, San Antonio was allowed to assign three of those players to their Austin franchise.

That understanding of the D-League is so valuable, especially in a league where the talent gap is small and any little advantage can make the world of a difference.

These two points are not the only things that make this Austin Spurs team so special. There are numerous reasons that serve evidence as to why this franchise is so great such as the team having former NBA players as coaches, former NBA front office men handling the team’s basketball operations, and much more.

The San Antonio Spurs are having another great season and they have the Austin Spurs to thank for quite a bit of that success. The Austin team has put a big stamp on this NBA organization from developing players to having some of their front office guys move up to San Antonio.

San Antonio might be rolling right now, but, the biggest bright spot of this organization just might be their D-League affiliate.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Senior forward Jonathan Holmes needed to move from the four to the three. In simpler terms, he is moving positions from the power forward to the small forward because the addition of freshman forward Myles Turner created a logjam in the frontcourt.

From an individual perspective, the move would improve Holmes’ chances of playing at the next level — 6-foot-8 power forwards typically don’t make it in the NBA.

But, at 254 pounds, Holmes wasn’t in the right shape for the change.

“Coach said to lose weight if I was serious about moving out to the wing,” Holmes said. “On the inside, it’s a lot more physical. On wing, it’s a lot more agility.”

So, with that, Holmes began the shift.

He gave his Tiff’s Treats to junior center Cameron Ridley, stopped eating pizza and started working out more.

“It felt like prison,” Holmes said.

By the time fall practices started, Holmes had trimmed down to 232, shedding more than 20 pounds.

“He’s at the weight he needs to be if he wants to play some three,” junior forward Connor Lammert said.

But playing the position takes more than just having the right physical shape. Holmes has to be able to run with the other teams’ wings, and he needs to be able to defend the smaller, quicker guys.

“Whether or not he plays, there will be [results] if he’s able to defend on the wing,” head coach Rick Barnes said a few weeks ago.

All indications point to Holmes being the three to start the season.

“I work on it every day in practice,” Holmes said. “I feel comfortable playing the three the whole game.”

The change will do wonders for a talented Texas team that boasts a lofty No. 10 ranking. It makes the team more versatile and gives Barnes the option to go with a bigger lineup.

“Our zone is bigger than some NBA teams,” Holmes said of a lineup that could possibly include him being paired with the 6-foot-9 Ridley, the 6-foot-11 Turner and the 6-foot-9 Lammert.

Holmes’ switch encapsulates everything he stands for on the team. As the lone remaining member of the seven-man 2011 recruiting class, the quiet and reserved senior is the leader of a not-so-young-anymore Texas team.

“He is able to communicate better and lead more verbally than he has in the past,” assistant coach Chris Ogden said. “More importantly, what he says has a lot of meaning.”

He doesn’t just lead verbally — but also by action. He’s one of the hardest workers Barnes has ever coached, and it rubs off on the rest of the team.

“Jon’s work ethic is ridiculous,” junior guard Javan Felix said. “He’s always in the gym working, and he takes different steps to make himself better. He’s improving as a leader, and he’s talking more. Jon’s not the type to open his mouth up and say a lot, but he’s starting to learn how to do that.”

When asked about sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor’s spot on the regional cover for Sports Illustrated, Barnes was happy for his floor general, but he couldn’t help but add, “I would have [liked to see] Jon Holmes on the cover for everything he stands for.”

Barnes boosts strong recruiting board

Longhorns basketball Coach Rick Barnes made waves last year when he landed five-star recruit from the Class of 2014, Myles Turner. Turner, the seven-foot center from Trinity High School in Bedford chose the Longhorns over Ohio State, Kansas, Duke, Arizona, and Kentucky. Considering the lengthy historical success of the aforementioned programs -- as well as their standing as traditional college basketball powers -- many viewed the commitment of Turner to Texas to be a surprise.

Barnes continued his strong recruiting efforts this year, as thus far he has snagged four-star guards Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach from the Class of 2015 and looks to bring fellow guard Admon Gilder to the Longhorns program as well. 

While the recruitments of Turner and Davis were to some unexpected, when looking at Barnes’ recruiting track record, they are from an anomaly. Barnes holds one of the more impressive resumes in all of college basketball when it comes to producing pro prospects, and in his time at Texas, Barnes has amassed an astounding list of players that have come through the Longhorn program to make it to the NBA.

The 2014-2015 season will be Barnes’ 17th season with the Longhorns, and in that time Barnes has had 17 players drafted into the NBA. There are ten Longhorns currently active on NBA rosters, the eighth highest of any program in the country, and second in the Big 12, trailing only Kansas.  

Most notable of the NBA players to come out of Texas is Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. This upcoming season will be Durant’s eighth year in the league, and in that time Thunder star won one MVP award for his play during the 2013-2014 season, and has already won the scoring title four times, trailing only Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.  

During Barnes’ tenure as the Longhorns head coach, he has produced players with a laundry list of accomplishments. Among the players to come through the Longhorns program under Barnes are nine first-round draft picks, five top-ten picks, two NBA champions in Dexter Pittman and Cory Joseph, two NBA All-Stars in Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge and one NBA MVP in Kevin Durant. 

As a recruiter, Barnes plays to his strengths. While the Texas program may not have as much history as Kansas or as much NCAA tournament success as Duke, it has proved time and again that it is capable of producing quality NBA talent. If Barnes is able to continue his run of getting players to the NBA, the recruits will keep coming, and the Longhorns program will remain a collegiate basketball power. 

Though Steve Nash's career might be ending, he will go done as an NBA star

Steve Nash might have already played his last NBA game.

With back and nerve problems that will keep him sidelined the entire season, Nash may not have hoped for an ending like this, but he sure did have one heck of an NBA career.

Due to the primacy effect, it is easy to forget Nash won consecutive MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 with the Phoenix Suns. We are now seeing an aged Nash with a depleted Lakers team while his career is slowly coming to a close.  But at his prime, Nash facilitated one of the most high powered offenses we have seen in his time with Phoenix. That Phoenix team is known to have started the “up-tempo” style of offense we see so much around the league now thanks mostly to Nash.

Led by coach Mike D’antoni, Nash along with Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion averaged a league high 108 points per game. Nash was a double-double machine with points and assist well in double digits. The way Nash weaved through defenses with such ease and orchestrated this high octane offense was a thing of beauty. To truly see his underrated speed and skill of passing, he was one of those players you had to watch live in a stadium at least once.

And how can we forget Nash’s antics in the dunk contest with fellow teammate Stoudemire. Nash used his brilliant soccer skills to kick up the ball for an alley-oop dunk to Stoudemire. He used this creative side to create passing lanes that nobody thought existed and it was these little things that made Nash such a fun loving teammate and player to watch.

As his career may be coming to a close, Nash’s career averages of 14.3 points per game and 8.5 assists per game don’t tell the whole picture. He ranks third overall in total assists and tied first for an almost perfect free throw percentage. Nash is considered to be a lock for the Hall of Fame and its a shame his last few seasons are far short of hall of fame play.

If this truly is the end of his career, it sure was fun. Nash led arguably the best offenses in the league with Dallas and Phoenix for about six seasons in a row in the early 2000s. With all the accolades Nash does hold, lets hope he isn’t remembered by his last dying years of his NBA career and instead the Nash who blew us away by his speed and kept us guessing of what spectacular pass was coming next.

Injuries never a good sign for NBA

Any NBA fan absolutely hates to see injuries plague the league. It gets even worse when the injury happens to a superstar.

We have already seen a devastating injury to Indiana Pacers’ star Paul George that will cause him to miss the entire season. Now reigning MVP Kevin Durant has suffered a Jones fracture on his right foot. This injury expects to sideline Durant for approximately 6-8 weeks.

A Jones fracture is a fracture to the middle of the fifth toe and one can only imagine the pain and severity of a fracture of this sort. Other NBA players have suffered this injury and their timetables have varied. C.J McCollum missed twelve weeks with this same injury without going through surgery, however all signs indicate Durant will have surgery. Brook Lopez had the surgery and required two months to recover. Jones fracture was Lopez’s first surgery, since then the big man has been one of the most injury plagued players in the league.

So here we have Kevin Durant who has only missed 16 total regular season games in his seven NBA seasons likely to miss a quarter of the season. Where does this leave the heavily favored Oklahoma City Thunder for the first 25 games?

Well they have All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to create some offense and rising star Serge Ibaka. But honestly how can any team replace a reigning MVP? Durant was the guy OKC turned to when everything else broke loose on offense. Durant was the guy that could create a shot for not only himself but his teammates. All that pressure can be allocated to the rest of the team, but Russell Westbrook may take the initiative all by himself.

Westbrook is known to be a sort of “ball hog” when it comes to his shot selections. He takes ill advised shots, turns the ball over at a high rate, and is easily frustrated on the court. However, he can be one of the most prolific and athletic players in the entire league. So coach Scott Brooks has to find a way to find the balance to where Westbrook can efficiently sustain the Thunder’s offense.

In regards to the rest of the season, Thunder fans can only hope and pray that Durant’s injury is a one and done type of deal. Hopefully, after surgery, we never hear of another injury related to this Jones fracture. For now though, all we can do is pray Durant fully recovers and can return to his MVP caliber play.