Ja Rule has had a turbulent last couple of years, as the rapper was the face of the infamous Fyre Festival.
Rule’s reputation was sure to take a hit, as a bunch of rich kids were promised an exclusive music festival experience on a private island with IG models, but were instead met with cheese sandwiches and tents.
Last night, Rule was out performing though, as he did the halftime show for the Milwaukee Bucks home game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Bucks may have been subtly trolling Ja Rule by getting shots up while he was performing, but the real shots were fired by the Timberwolves twitter account.
Ja Rule was clearly upset with the Timberwovles after the game and went so far as to curse them from winning a championship unless they apologize.
Considering the fact that the Timberwolves have never won a championship, or even a conference championship for that matter, Ja Rule’s curse may have the legs to last 30 more years.
Hometown Favorites – Grind Weekend
This past weekend, legends from the Los Angeles basketball community got together at the Cal State Los Angeles gym.
They invited the next generation of LA hoopers and shared their knowledge about the game of basketball, the brotherhood, and life outside of hoops.
Russell Westbrook, Lou Williams, Baron Davis, Nick Young, DeMar DeRozan, Dorell Wright, Trevor Ariza, Bobby Brown, Pooh Jeter, Montrezl Harrell, Chris Copeland, Michael Beasley and others spent their weekend with some of LA’s top basketball talent from middle school to the college level.
Follow the movement on @la.unfd
PJ Tucker: The Latest to Walk from Team USA
A man known for what sneakers he has on his feet just walked out on Team USA. Following De’Aaron Fox’s subsequent withdrawal, the Red, White, and Blue is down to 13 healthy and able bodies in Las Vegas this summer.
Team USA is spending August preparing for the FIBA World Cup, and thus trying to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Tucker and Fox withdrawing from the Stars and Stripes speaks to a larger issue that Team USA has run into this summer: the number of American born stars that are willing to spend the off season playing this high a level of competitive basketball is small.
The roster itself only features players with a total of five NBA All-Star appearances, the least since the NBA Lockout of 1998 led to a team with no active NBA Players. The ’98 team, however, had a young Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Tim Hardaway, and Chris Webber… and faced little obstacle in winning the FIBA Gold.
Also unlike the ’98 squad, this Team USA is dominated by guard play, which does bode well for international play. Traditionally, international teams have been able to find ways to produce talented big men. But, much like the NCAA tournament, the FIBA tournament is usually dominated by the speed and pace of the ball handlers.
Basketball, however, is shifting to bigs that handle the ball. Giannis Antetokounmpo, for example, already has an international highlight reel of him taking the rebound from one end and forcefully dunking the fast break on the other. Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets’ seven-footer, runs the Serbian offense and could very well lead the European continent in assists.
The United States fared well in their recent exhibition against Spain. Donovan Mitchell and Khris Middleton led the way by each scoring more than a dozen points in the well-balanced American attack. Coach Greg Popovich used 12 different players in his rotations, and each combination seemed to have no issue finding good shots.
Still, Americans are left wondering where the star power has gone on Team USA. One clear aspect is that the upcoming NBA season has as much uncertainty as any in recent memory, and the typical All-Star caliber player is using this off season to prep for a potential finals run. Depending on the analyst you ask, more than half a dozen teams could realistically win the Larry O’Brien this season. Thus, the stars of those teams want to do everything they can to stay healthy, prepare mentally, and build team chemistry leading to that end. Thus, most of the players on Team USA are either young enough to be able to put more wear and tear on their legs, on teams that have an outside shot at a championship at best, are a role player that will have less usage during the season, or some combination of the three.
That does not mean there won’t be highlights at this year’s FIBA games. Young Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell headlines a group of up and coming names on the American team. Mitchell may be preparing for a breakout third NBA season, and playing a big role in Coach Pop’s offense may be exactly the right jumpstart. Mitchell led the team in minutes in their two exhibition games in Las Vegas, and looks to be a key part of the offensive gameplan.
There are four Boston Celtics on the team: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and recently acquired Kemba Walker. There will undoubtedly be stretches where the four of them, or at least some combination of two or three of them, are on the floor at the same time. Not only does this preview the season in Boston, but the congruence these four get will be important for the success of both Team USA and the Celtics.
Team USA heads to Australia to train down under before playing the Australian national team on August 22nd. Australia features eight NBA players, headlined by Patty Mills and Joe Ingles (Ben Simmons recently withdrew, similar to several American players, to focus on the NBA season). While they are not as highly ranked in FIBA as Spain, the United States may have their hands full trying to match up with so many pro perimeter players.
Tune in at 5:30 AM eastern on August 22nd to watch the USA continue to tune up against Australia. Too early or late for ya? The two rematch on August 24th at 12:00 AM eastern, and the USA wraps up exhibition play against Canada, in Australia, at 5:30 AM on August 26th.
2019-2020 NBA Schedule Announced… Here are the highlights
Earlier, after leaks began, the Christmas day games were released more formally through various news sources. You can access the #NBAOnChristmasDay schedule on SLiC, here.
On Monday, the NBA released the entire official schedule for all 30 NBA teams. Now that we’ve had plenty of time to review the games, below are some trends to follow:
Zion Williamson is on Big Time TV
Last year’s Rookie of the Year race between Trae Young and Luka Doncic was discussed at length by NBA talking heads throughout the season. Doncic came out to start the season clearly ready to play, and Young had an incredible February and March that made the fans feel like there may have been debate as to who the Rookie of the Year was. But, many of the average fans watching didn’t really know what they were discussing. Neither Young nor Doncic played more than ten games on national television, thus many of their highlights and moments were only seen by those watching NBA League Pass or there in person.
This year, the NBA aims to not make that mistake again. The New Orleans Pelicans, one of the NBAs smallest markets, have one of the brightest young stars in Zion Williamson. And he will be on national television for all the world to see. Zion and the Pels will be on national TV on opening night against the defending champion Toronto Raptors, Christmas Day against the Denver Nuggets and international star Nikola Jokic, and MLK day against the Memphis Grizzlies and number 2 overall draft pick Ja Morant. Including NBATV appearances, the Pelicans are on TV a scheduled 30 times.
Further, if they can make a push into the eight seed, there is a chance we may see more of the young Pelicans. The majority of their 13 nationally televised games are before March, and thus they have time they can still flex into the TV slate as we enter the stretch of the season.
Opening Weekend Star Power
The Milwaukee Bucks and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo open up their season in Houston on October 24th. The Houston Rockets have two MVP players of their own (2017 Russell Westbrook and 2018 James Harden), and thus the NBA’s three most recent MVPs will all be on the floor at once. Both teams are coming off of disappointing ends to otherwise strong seasons a year ago, and both have a lot to prove in the open landscape of the NBA. Further, with the focus on bigger markets like Los Angeles and Brooklyn, the Bucks and Rockets will likely make their first big impression on the national NBA fan right off the bat.
Further, the late night game that day, will be Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors opening their season by hosting the LA Clippers. Curry’s back to back MVPs means that the last 5 MVP trophies will all be on display to start the year on the same night.
New Look Golden State Still on TVs, New Look Raps not
Last post-season, the non-invested NBA fan fell in love with Jurassic Park and the culture surrounding the Toronto Raptors, a team with a small-market feel but a (literal) nation of fans. In the NBA Finals, they beat the Golden State Warriors and the death lineup was injured and then dispersed.
Typically, that would mean a shift in programming. In the US, we tend to enjoy winners. We rank players by using rings, wins, and losses. However, in looking at the televised NBA schedule, that does not seem to have translated to the Toronto Raptors. Sure, they lost Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, but the Warriors also lost two times finals MVP Kevin Durant. The Warriors have the second most nationally televised games (42), and the Toronto Raptors are 14th out of 30 NBA teams (19 games nationally televised in the USA).
This spring, the Raptors felt a lot like a surprise or a Cinderella team. Was that because they only had 12 games on national TV in the United States? It makes sense that we are surprised by things we don’t watch, because we literally can’t see it coming. That isn’t to say that every team deserves equal time on national TV because, let’s be clear, they don’t. But, it would be odd to “not see the defending champs coming,” right?
Warriors in February
A few big things may happen in February in San Francisco. For one, with Draymond Green’s extension kicking in next season, they likely will be shopping D’Angelo Russell this trade deadline or next summer, to avoid paying four max contract players nearly the entire hard cap in the 2020-21 season. Interestingly, the Warriors last game before the trade deadline is against Russell’s old team, the Nets, in his old home, Barclay’s in Brooklyn. Do they somehow hold onto him until the last minute before the deadline (February 6th)? And if so, before being shipped off to his third team in eight months, does Russell give the Nets fans (and his successor Kyrie Irving) a real show before heading out?
Shortly after the trade deadline, as in February 8th, the Warriors host the LA Lakers. LeBron James and Anthony Davis come into to town, but the story of the show may be if Klay Thompson is back or not. He is currently, firmly, saying he will be back after the All Star Weekend, which is just a week later. But, with any headway in his recovery, it stands to reason that he may be about to make his debut in what could be a battle of two NBA championship contenders. He will almost certainly, unless he has a hiccup in his rehab, be back for their meeting in LA at the end of February, and thus either way the two teams will meet much closer to full strength in February than previously. Does Steph Curry or LeBron use this as a chance to show out? Do they make a big statement on national television?
If both were to happen (Russell Traded after the 5th, Thompson being back for the 8th) the Warriors will be fielding dramatically different lineups twice in one week, and each of them will feature three former All Stars in the lineup. THAT makes for crazy outcomes, because it will make it hard for the Lakers to scout them and look ahead, even if they wanted to make one of their February meetings a statement game.
Stars Returning to Old Homes
Nets at Celtics Nov 27 & Lakers at Pels Nov 27
These two, together, kick off Thanksgiving eve… And what better way can Bostonians eat, drink, and be merry than to have a big night cheering against Kyrie Irving as he returns to Boston. Kyrie took the brunt of the blame for the disappointing Celtic season last year, and now they can really unleash the rains of boos.
Asif that wasn’t enough of a reason to gather around the television as a family with the sound turned up, the late night game on the same evening will feature both sides of the biggest trade of the off season. Anthony Davis returns to New Orleans, but we also see the young former Lakers, now Pelicans, face off against their old team and mentor. The only thing that would make the Thanksgiving eve night better would be LaVar Ball sitting front row, mic’d up.
Warriors at Nets Feb 5
As aforementioned, the night before the trade deadline, All Star D’Angelo Russell is heading back to BK to face the Nets. Undoubtedly, even with other All Stars on the floor, Russell will make it his goal to dominate the point guard match up between he and Kyrie Irving.
Mavs at Knicks Nov 14
This one is intriguing, because it’s hard to tell how hard the fans of New York will be on former Knick Kristaps Porzingis. It isn’t his fault they didn’t land an All Star in the off season, or that they didn’t get to pick Zion. He did, however, make quite a stink upon leaving, and demanding a trade out. In the last time he was on television playing basketball, Porzingis was playing at an All Star level. Further, he looked to make Knick basketball exciting again.
This will likely be a negative reception, but just how negative remains unknown.
Clippers at Thunder Dec 22
Oklahoma City has dubbed themselves as “Loud City” for a reason. We saw the decibel levels rise, and the cupcake shirts come out, when Kevin Durant came into town. Paul George, a year after shocking many and resigning with the Thunder, forced his way out of town and to Los Angeles (where many thought he would have gone a year ago). As much as that move shocked fans, the Thunder have essentially taken a hard turn in another direction. Paul George’s forceful exit was not lost on fans, and the reaction should be strong. Look for a storm of noise in the Chesapeake Arena.
Boston at Charlotte Nov 7
As tough as the aforementioned crowds will likely be in the reunion they are hosting, Charlotte will likely be the polar opposite for Kemba Walker. Kemba carried the franchise for much of the last decade, provided the fans many big moments, and represented them well in last year’s All-Star weekend. Be ready for a fun montage video.
Utah at Memphis Nov 15
Similarly, Mike Conley’s return to Memphis will remind the fans of the Grit and Grind Grizzlies. Conley was one of the faces of the Grizzlies as they made runs to the Western Conference Finals. Now, as they usher in rookie point guard Ja Morant, the Grizzlies will undoubtedly be sure to welcome him back and play a montage that calls back to a happier time in Memphis. On the floor accomplishments aside, Conley’s impact on their culture and identity will be recognized to say the least.
Rockets at Thunder Jan 9
After the fall out of the Thunder roster, Russell Westbrook was traded as much to service him as it was to help redirect a falling apart franchise. Westbrook had played his entire career to this point with the Thunder, his rookie campaign was their first year in Oklahoma City, and of the three future MVPs the Thunder had on their 2012 NBA Finals team, he was the last one standing in Thunder blue. Further, since the exodus of Kevin Durant, Westbrook has averaged a triple-double each season.
What the fans will miss the most about Westbrook will be the tenacity and passion in his game, and they will undoubtedly give him the same emotion. The Thunder, who were at the forefront of making full stadiums of tee shirts for every big game and playoff game, will undoubtedly do a big night for Westbrooks return.
Clippers at Raptors Dec 11
While he was only there a year, Kawhi Leonard’s presence was history changing in Toronto. The city, and country, knew he was likely gone after a year, but they gambled and traded a face of the franchise for him. The reward was worth it in June, and now the Raptors are facing the much more daunting task of defending a title without the Finals MVP.
While he left them, and created his own super team in doing so, Kawhi’s agreement was always known to be just one year in Toronto. He will, undoubtedly, be celebrated for bringing the NBA Championship to Canada. Additionally, since he cannot be there for the opening night ring ceremony, the night will undoubtedly be all about Kawhi’s time year in Toronto.
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