We’re just eight days away from the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery, and the NBA Playoffs are really starting to heat up. Although the presumed favorites are walking through their respective conferences, Houston and San Antonio are trading haymakers, while the Wizards have flipped the script on their series with the Celtics after a tough first two games.
I’m most interested in a series that just ended, because of how it relates to the Sixers.
The Raptors have existed in the same sort of space as a team like the Grizzlies the last few years, albeit in a weaker conference. What do you do when you’re good enough to make a Conference Finals but don’t have any real shot at contention without catastrophic injuries to your opponents?
Andre Iguodala’s Sixers were never quite at that level, but the Raptors are running into the same glass ceiling problems that have haunted teams stuck in the middle of the road. Toronto is something like the best possible version of a Sixers outfit that never stripped things down, and kept borrowing against the future to max out the present.
Even the best possible version of that team was vaporized by a team and a player in LeBron James who will cast aside your best-laid plans. That series is a crystallization of what the sport of basketball has always been about: needle-movers. There’s a big gap between the guys who can do that in the regular season and the players who make a mockery of the pretenders in the playoffs.
Teams that start rebuilding this summer—like the Raptors, theoretically—now face the prospect of the next wave of young talent ascending by the time they get their pieces in place. The likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the up-and-coming Sixers, plus the tail-ends of primes for players like Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and more will be waiting for the new-look Raptors on the other side.
You obviously can’t avoid competing forever, but teams in the East trying to make a push during the era of LeBron are fighting a losing battle. By simply sitting out of that fight and pushing their resources down the road, the Sixers did themselves a big favor.
Demar DeRozan still shouldn’t have admitted this though
DeRozan: "If we had LeBron on our team, too, we woulda won."— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) May 7, 2017
(He's right, but I'm not sure that's how this works)
Admitting a guy on the other team was better/more valuable than your entire team is, well, sort of weird.
The homie also known as Netw3rk is always worth reading, but this in particular is worth going over: Saying you were “Hacked” on social media is one of the dumbest things going. No cyber-criminals are taking over your Twitter account, man. I know you can’t admit to a DM gone wrong, but at least go with, “A friend was playing a joke” or something.
Mike Brown summed up all our thoughts on the Lonzo Ball sneaker fiasco
Mike Brown says he won't be buying LaVar Ball's $500 signature LO2's...or his $200 pair of flip flops pic.twitter.com/HZwhGchwBA— KNBR (@KNBR) May 5, 2017
More importantly, you should read friend of the blog John Gonzalez on why Mike Brown has the best job in the world.
This job will likely go to someone with a lot more experience, but my heart is with former Sixers broadcaster (and current Hawks front office member) Malik Rose on this one. Go get ‘em, old pal!
As the resident Celtics hater around these parts—okay, really that’s all of us—it is my obligation to say Thomas gets a ton of calls he doesn’t really deserve because he’s small and officials show mercy to him accordingly. To reuse my own words:
Isaiah Thomas gets officiated like he's playing U-9 soccer and the bigger kids aren't allowed to touch him— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) April 30, 2017
Maybe Thomas is right and those big, bad Wizards need to be watched closely, but with Kelly Olynyk running around elbowing guys in the head and being a perpetual instigator, I’m not especially inclined to care if IT doesn’t get every call to go his way.