Saturday, December 18, 2010

Straight From The Rook #11

Mat MacDonald AKA The Rook The Rook is currently enrolled in Human Kinetics at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. A frequent contributor to all NBA and Raptors debates along with other sports. Witty, quick and never afraid of a challenge, Mat's here to talk hoops with you and dish out his two cents whenever!

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Smooth Jams

Walk into a corner store, a mall, a funeral home, a school, a barbershop. Walk anywhere and Iʼll bet you hear notes of any genre blasting from a speaker or a pair of headphones. Laying back tonight and taking in J. Coleʼs newest mixtape “Friday Night Lights” I couldnʼt help but wonder whatʼs next in the music industry. Coleʼs on his way up - if he isnʼt there already - and just like Torontoʼs Drake, there doesnʼt seem to be any stopping him.

It got me to thinking, if music can be this smooth, and as basketball enthusiasts we associate genres to ball, then just who is the smoothest in the game? Smooth? Weʼre talking dish the ball, get to the hole, a quick pick and roll, steal your girlfriendʼs sister at the door smooth. Weʼre talking flip the script on an event thatʼs already been pre-determined.

So whoʼs the smoothest right now?

Russell Westbrook is playing some smooth tracks right now to the ears of the OKC faithful. So far Rus has looked like the player of the year for the Thunder, surprisingly -or maybe not. A few years ago I said that he would be the next, and when he got in the league it didnʼt take long for me to know heʼd be at the top one day soon.

The problem is that right now thereʼs too many point-guards in a guard driven league. Standing next to Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and even the vets like Nash and Kidd, Westbrook doesnʼt get all the love and consideration that he deserves sometimes. With a solid season so far and nice numbers across the board (23 ppg, 8 asts, 5 rbs).

But how can we even start to talk about smooth without throwing out the name Kobe Bryant. The Lakers started hot and have since tapered off a bit, but thereʼs no doubt that the Lakers are still the team to beat in the West until they lose their title as NBA Champions.

Right now the Lakers sit at 19-7, good enough to put them third in the West behind the Spurs and the Mavs. Kobe leads the Lakers in both points (26.7) and assists (4.7) per game so far this season, but itʼs not his play thatʼs being noticed as much right now for L.A.

A hint of Spanish music is blasting on the streets of LaLa land right now as Pau Gasol is leading the charge for the purple and gold, a team thatʼs in search of yet another title. On the season Pauʼs averaging a shade under 20 points (19.8) per game, along with a monster 11 boards a contest.

The snarking of fans around the league surrounding LeBron James and his circus seems to have masked the fact that indeed the Lakers are doing the same thing with Bryant, Gasol and Artest -- when heʼs not donating money or championship rings.

But the question still lingers, whoʼs the smoothest team in the NBA right now? If youʼre going by record then thereʼs no hotter team in the NBA than the San Antonio Spurs. Winners of seven straight, the Spurs are on a roll once again.

Their overall record sits them atop the NBA standings right now as the best team in the league with a 22-3 mark, and the play of veteran leaders Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker has really sparked a team many thought may have to be re-oiled many times this season just to keep up with the pack.

The most surprising thing is that the Spurs arenʼt showing any signs of slowing down. Already holding two big winning streaks this year the Spurs have proven that age means nothing.

The concept of keeping something together thatʼs been working is of course a brilliant idea, but who would have the balls of R.C. Buford to keep that group together when the rest of the league seems to be getting younger and younger. Either way, the Spurs are singing the sweet tunes of Ray Charles right now in the state of Texas. “If it ainʼt broke, donʼt fix it!”

Of course, Frank Sinatra couldnʼt be forgotten in all of this. For years, ages, decades heʼs been a legend. Kind of like that team down in New York who dawn the orange and blue. If youʼre a Knicks fan and you arenʼt singing at the top of your lungs right now, then you might as well cut your vocal chords. The Knicks are for real this year. Much to the dismay of many people that are close to me, Iʼll be the first to admit that the Knicks are contenders out of the east.

Now, they havenʼt necessarily played the top competition in the league yet as their schedule to start the season was a little, ah, Amarʼe friendly, but after a loss to the Celtics -- yes, a loss -- that was easily the best NBA game of the season to date, the upside is huge for the boys from the big apple.

Amarʼe is the MVP of the NBA if the season ends today, hands down. Currently riding a nine game streak of averaging 30+ points -- a Knicks record -- and leading his team to wins in 12 of their last 15 games, STAT has stood true to the nickname (almost typed Knickname) and has
proven that he can be a winner outside of Phoenix. Mind you, when you take in Sinatra most of the time youʼre accompanying a partner, and someoneʼs got to take the lead. Thatʼs where Raymond Felton steps in.

After dismal years in Charlotte -- due in large part to the lack of fan support, terrible team colors and supporting cast that would make the cast members of 3rd Rock From The Sun feel safe about their job -- Felton found himself in a new home this year. Really trying to fill the shoes of Steve Nash, RF has been able to do that and more. Fans wondered how Amarʼe would be able to play with Felton after Nash was ʻthe manʼ for him.

Well so far this season both Nash and Felton are averaging nearly the same numbers. Feltonʼs 18.7 points per game compared to Nashʼs 18.1 are as close a match as the Olsen twins. And while Nash averages around two more assists per game than Felton, one can only be quick to think that someone has to give the ball to Hedo Turkoglu and his high demands, right?

All in all, these guys are playing some ball right now and playing some sweet tracks. But wait, what about the busted Aqua CD that you have in your car? What about those tracks. The ones that make us scream and scratch at our ears. Well, weʼve got some of those too...

The Wizards arenʼt showing any signs of magic anytime soon, John Wallʼs doing his best impression of the one foot stomp and Agent Zero, well...yeah, itʼs not sounding too good in Washington. How does a team who picks up the number one draft pick in the league end up with less production than the previous season? Not to mention they were flat out TERRIBLE last year!

If youʼre deaf, youʼd enjoy the Wizards. And speaking of number one picks, the Clippers are dreadful. Being the little brother to the Lakers, the Clippers have learned nothing and continue to drop further and further in the books of NBA fans. Even Clipper Derryl hates them, or at least refuses to wear his flashy jacket from time to time. Things just arenʼt good for the Clippers right now. On the plus side, thereʼs usually the Blake effect which can be felt over the whole league.

When a rookieʼs averaging 20 points and 12.2 rebounds per game, itʼs pretty safe to say that heʼs the rookie of the year. As of now, thereʼs no doubt that heʼll take the award home regardless of record. And when youʼre on a team whoʼs poll question on their website is, “Which game are you most excited to see at home this season?” then you know youʼre in for a long, long year.

Without throwing the Raptors or Nets under the bus, itʼs safe to say that both teams are rebuilding and flashy at times. Toronto has a ton of young talent and a huge amount of money to spend next summer while Jersey continues to stack up on first round chips in hopes of landing someone bigger than their co-manager Jay-Z. Derrick Favors and Ed Davis are the two prized rookies for both franchises and both have proven to be good fits in the NBA.

Favors is a double-double machine, and in his first start of the season Wednesday night against the big Bulls front-court, Davis recorded his first double double of his career (10 points, 10 assists).

Itʼs the holiday season so kick back and throw on those holiday jams. If youʼre listening to Mariah Carey, James Brown, Marquis Houston, or heck even some old Mark Walburgh, make sure you rock out because what weʼre about to see come March and April in the NBA will without a doubt make your jaw drop, if it hasnʼt already...


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