The Revamped NBA All-Star Game

By Matt Engler ’18

The annual NBA All-Star Game produces new scenes and surprises every year. Last year, Drake introduced each of the of the players, it was Kobe Bryant’s final all star game and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played with each other for the first time since Durant controversially left for the Golden State Warriors in the previous off season. This year, new changes are in store for the 2018 All-Star Game mainly featuring a controversial new voting system that should drastically alter the game.

Being played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles this year, the All-Star game will now switch to a two team captain, draft format. In previous years, the All-Star game would be a competition between the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Each team would be entirely selected by fan voting. Now fans will vote for a pool of the top players, or ‘all stars” across the league, and two captains will pick teams based off the pool of players. There will no longer be east versus west which has been the format for the past 67 years.

This change is a result of growing criticism regarding the All-Star game in recent years. Many sports reporters and journalists have heavily criticized the game for a lack of competitiveness. NBA players tend to treat the game as a joke due to the possible risk of injury and the meaningless reward behind winning the game. However, even with these new changes, reporters are still unhappy with the competition. Stephen A Smith, an ESPN reporter, said “Y’all know what the problem is on Sundays on All-Star Weekend y’all show no effort.”

Smith went on to discuss how many of these players play much harder over the summer in pickup games with their friends rather than on All-Star Game weekend. The criticism can be refuted with the fact that the All-Star Game takes place in the latter part of the season so the risk of injury is much greater with the playoffs approaching.

Houstons Rockets point guard and former all star Chris Paul told Sports Illustrated, “I’m thrilled with what the players and the league have done to improve the All-Star Game, which has been a priority for all of us.”

There is clearly several conflicting opinions regarding the new format, however in the end it will be up to the fans to decide whether the changes were for better or worse.

The new All Star Game format offers a new outlook on how the league is approaching the annual event. These changes may or may not revitalize the All-Star Game to its former competitive atmosphere. Fans will pack the Staples Center on Feb. 18 in hope for a great weekend full of NBA culture.

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Reflecting on Carmelo Anthony’s Time with the New York Knicks

By Jack Caldwell ’18

After six long years, Carmelo Anthony’s stint with the New York Knicks finally came to an end last week, as he was traded from New York to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a draft pick to be named later. Upon arriving in Oklahoma City, Anthony was asked a reasonable question as to whether or not he would come off the bench for his new team. His response: “Who? Me?!

Thunder fans were almost immediately introduced to the harsh reality of Carmelo Anthony, a talented scorer whose desire to be popular is greater than his desire to win as evidenced in his time in New York. Although the Knickerbockers did not acquire much in return for the former scoring champion, fans should still be satisfied that the organization moved in the right direction for the first time in years. It’s time to move on from the Carmelo Anthony era.

When Carmelo Anthony demanded a trade from the Denver Nuggets in 2011, New Yorkers were fooled into believing that Anthony’s desire for a trade was fueled by a desire to return to his “hometown”. In reality, Anthony moved away from Brooklyn at age eight, developing his basketball skills in Baltimore, Maryland.  In an interview last year, he claimed that “Baltimore raised me – not Brooklyn,” and even has an apparent tattoo that says “WB” on it for West Baltimore. Anthony’s urge to come to New York directly correlated with the market’s status as number one in the country; not to mention that the Knicks’ have been the NBA’s most valuable team for years.  When Denver grew too small for his star status, Anthony held the team hostage until he was finally traded, despite the fact that his Nuggets were far more competitive than the Knicks at the time.  

Leaving a competitive Nuggets team to come to New York made it clear early on that Anthony’s willingness to be popular was stronger than his will to win. Although the Knicks were a solid team that year, they weren’t close to what Anthony had as a team in Denver – and his Knicks never matched their success.  

Early into his New York tenure, a new superstar rose, this time in unexpected fashion.  Although the madness only lasted for a few weeks, the name still has meaning for New Yorkers: Jeremy Lin. The underdog hero who saved the 2012 Knicks’ season – and unlike Carmelo Anthony, actually passed the ball – attracted much attention.  According to then-Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, Anthony resented Lin’s success as he watched from the bench during an injury. Additionally, Anthony was unwilling to adapt to help Lin continue to thrive. “They could co-exist if Melo went to the 4 [power forward], which he was unwilling to do,” D’Antoni added. Carmelo’s insistence to play the 3 (small forward) and control the offense overcame his will to do what was best for the team, and Jeremy Lin has never been close to the same since.

Sure, Anthony brought some success to New York.  The Knicks lone playoff series win in 13 years came with Carmelo as the focal point in 2013. But he also avoided winning yet again during free agency in 2014, declining offers from several competitive teams such as the Rockets and Bulls to stay in New York for more money.  Was it foolish for the Knicks to offer Carmelo another contract? Of course, and they’re to blame as well. But the Knicks also offered Anthony a contract that resembled that of other teams’ offers in order to provide salary cap relief, for $96 million. Anthony instead opted to sign for $124 million – advertising this as a whopping $6 million “hometown discount” from the $129 maximum. To provide context, $6 million doesn’t even equate to a veterans’ minimum over the five-year length of the deal. Maybe it’s not right to eviscerate Anthony for following the money, but it’s clear that he preferred money and fame over winning and success.

Carmelo Anthony’s contract has a 15 percent trade kicker, meaning that he would command one of the NBA’s most expensive salaries if he were to be traded. With his lack of flexibility evident after the Jeremy Lin situation, Anthony’s isolation style forces his team to slow down significantly. Considering the fast-paced nature of the modern NBA, the Knicks were granted a blessing in being able to trade an aging, overpaid scorer who holds the ball too much and slows down pace of play. Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott continue the youth movement for New York in return, and the future draft pick is always a plus. As for the Thunder, they can only hope that Melo can put his selfish tendencies behind him to win a championship. OKC certainly has the talent to pull it off if he complies, but if he slows down play he can also be their unraveling.

When Will “ The Process” Be Complete?

By Jarod Ferguson ’18

For the past four years in South Philadelphia, there has been a group forming. They can be seen(more heard) saying “Trust the Process.” They are Philadelphia 76ers fans. Ever since former general manager Sam Hinkie made “Trust the Process” the mantra of the 76ers much ballyhooed rebuild back into the elite, the fans have taken the quote to another level. It’s much bigger than the three words Hinkie told fans in his introductory press conference in 2013. The players have caught on, with star Joel Embiid even saying that he is “ The Process.”

However, for fans, this has been a long process. Even with acquiring generational talents like Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, the team has still been losing. Their 28-54 record last season was a big jump for the team, but the fans are hoping that the organization can take it to the next level and make the playoffs. They are a team that is going along with the analytic trend that top teams like the Warriors and Rockets follow and they hope to have the success those two franchises have had in the past three years.

Many basketball experts have been wondering when will “The Process” be complete? Will it be complete when they go to the playoffs? Win a playoff series? The finals? I think that  the process will be complete in 2020 because their young stars will be established by that time and they will have the assets to compete with the best teams by then. But as of right now, they should be proud of the transition the team made from almost setting the record for losses in 2015 to becoming favorites to make the playoffs two years later. Sixers fans,  continue to trust the process while you can before it is completed.

How Steve Nash influenced the NBA

By Ben Stein ’18

Though often overlooked, Steve Nash completely changed the way we view the NBA. Besides the obvious fact that he won the MVP award twice, in 2005 and 2006, his greatest influence on the game was that he made it a pass first league for point guards.

While his passing ability is unmatched, interestingly enough in all of his seasons as an NBA player he never averaged more than 19 points per game. In 2004-05 he had almost as many assists as points, scoring only 15.5 ppg, but averaging 11.5 apg. He made other players look better; when he had 11 apg it was as if he was on the other end of 22 to 33 points. The second best assister in the same 04-05 season was Allen Iverson with 10 apg, and then it dropped off massively with Jason Kidd being third at 7.3 apg.

I understand that there are still star players who are not pass first players. Damian Lillard and Gordon Hayward, for example, do not pass all that much, but there are now also many stars who do pass. The leading assist leader in the 2016-17 season was James Harden, besides scoring roughly 30 ppg he had 11.2 assists. That is not that different from Steve Nash who averaged 11.5. Also, there were many players this year that closely followed, and recently there has been an influx of great assisters.

The second and third best assisters were point guards, like Harden, had similar numbers. John Wall had 10.7 assists and Russell Westbrook had 10.4. Fourth and fifth best were Chris Paul and Ricky Rubio with 9.2 apg and 9.1 apg, respectively.

The assist leaders in the league before Nash became MVP did not average nearly as many assists. Jason Kidd was the assist leader for five seasons; in the 1998-1999 season he averaged 10.78 assists, 1999-2000 he averaged 10.12 and 2000-2001 he averaged 9.78 assists. During the 2001-2002 season Andre Miller was the league assist leader with 10.89, and Kidd led in 2002-2003 with 8.89 and 2003-2004 with 9.22. However, in the years after Nash, all assist leaders had more than 10 assists, and eight out of the last 10 have had more than 11 assists.

I do acknowledge that John Stockton owned the league with assists between the years of 1987-1996, however the players who followed him did not all assist in the double digits. All of the players who have followed Nash have.
Teams are scoring more, but it is not only the era of offensive domination…. it also due to the fact that we have some of the greatest passers playing now, partly because of Steve Nash.

Celtics should Embrace the Youth Movement and keep the first pick

By Jackson Daignault ’18

Coming off a Game Six loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the number one seeded Boston Celtics were left facing an internal question, “Now what?”

This season was always considered a rebuilding year, featuring a team that was “one player away.”

However, the Celtics played well beyond expectations, clinching the number one seed led by an All-NBA second team point guard in Isaiah Thomas. The franchise was also able to make its best free agency signing in its history with the acquisition of former All-Star Al Horford, a key piece of their offense throughout the season. These gritty Celtics were always considered underdogs, but after making a push to the Eastern Conference Finals, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope. Then Lebron James happened.

The past month was a whirlwind of emotions for Celtics fans. First, they won the draft lottery and were granted the number one pick. A few days later, the Celtics won Game Three off of an Avery Bradley game winner, inspiring hope for the Celtics to compete against the contenders. A week later, the Celtics’ last glimpse of hope was destroyed as they were eliminated by Lebron James.

What else could they have done? They had played beyond expectations, stealing a game in Cleveland, but still felt short to the star powered Cavaliers.

Now, the Celtics are faced with a crossroad: attempt to stockpile talent and contend with the Cavaliers of the world, or attempt to build through the draft?

The Celtics’ best option would be to embrace the youth movement and draft Markelle Fultz, the 19-year-old standout guard from Washington.

Fultz was a bonafide stud on a struggling University of Washington team, where he averaged 23.2 points and 5.9 assists per game. Fultz is the consensus number one pick, and has superstar upside. Fultz fits the bill for a long and productive NBA career.

Fultz and Thomas have both been vocal about their desire and ability to play together, so there is no argument in terms of fit. Pairing the two of them will allow the Celtics to dominate on the offensive side of the ball with two scorers, as well as develop their young talent. While Thomas may be a liability on defense, the 6’4 195 pound two-guard should be able to make up for some of Thomas’ issues on the defensive side of the ball, along with help from All-NBA defender Avery Bradley.

While trading for a proven star like Chicago Bulls guard, Jimmy Butler, or Indiana Pacers forward, Paul George, makes the team better in the immediate future, Lebron James is not getting any younger, and any path to the finals is blocked by him.

Trading for a player of either of their calibers would be a hefty price, one that would probably include the 2017 number one pick, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and/or one of their draft and stash players. Giving up those three incredibly valuable assets for a single player harms the development and depth of the team.

Jaylen Brown, the number three pick in the draft, has superstar potential and the Celtics would have a difficult time parting with him. Showcased by plays like this, Brown had a strong rookie season and will look to grow as he works into his second year. Brown is only 20 years old, and has the frame to be dominant in the NBA, coming in at 6’7, 225 pounds. Coming out of college, Brown’s jump shot was often criticized. However, Brown worked on his jump shot before and during the season, and he was a strong finisher for the Celtics in limited playing time. When Avery Bradley went down with an injury for a few weeks, Brown stepped into a starting role and played well. While Brown was inconsistent as a 20-year-old rookie, more playing time will benefit him and his development as a player. As a result of Brown’s great size, he often was given difficult assignments, such as Lebron James in the playoffs. While Brown by no means locked down James, he was able to get in his face and cause him some discomfort. If Brown is able to utilize his athletic ability to become a lockdown defender, he will have a great NBA career. The Celtics organization has high hopes for Brown, and he figures to be an untouchable franchise cornerstone.

On the other hand, Marcus Smart is in a world of his own. When Smart was drafted with the sixth pick of the 2014 draft, Celtics fans were left scratching their heads.

Another guard? That can’t shoot? What about Rajon Rondo?

But boy those critics have silenced. The positive impact Smart has on games cannot be measured in statistics. Smart puts his body on the line every time he steps on the floor, and plays with a ton of heart, a characteristic the city of Boston adores. While Smart is an inconsistent shooter (35.8%), he has shown what he is capable of, single handedly torching the Cavaliers in Game Three. The 29.1% three point shooter, Smart poured in seven three pointers, and made hustle play after hustle play to propel the Celtics to victory. Smart stepped up big in the absence of Isaiah Thomas while giving a glimpse of the future for the Celtics. Time after time, Smart has been the X factor for the Celtics, making winning plays by showing heart and throwing his body around the court. Smart could not have landed in a better place than Boston, a city that embraces his blue collar, bulldog mentality.

The Celtics also have two draft and stash prospects from last year: Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele. Zizic, the 20 year-old, 6’11 250 pound center has gained lots of national attention playing for multiple teams in Europe. According to a report from Sportingnews.com, an anonymous general manager believes that if the Celtics had not drafted Zizic with the 23rd pick in the 2016 NBA draft, he would have been selected in the top 10 of this year’s draft. The Celtics have struggled rebounding the ball this season, and Zizic figures to be the Celtics’ replacement for Amir Johnson on the glass. Developing a rebounder of Zizic’s talent will have a huge impact on the future of the franchise.

The other prospect, Yabusele, otherwise known as “the Dancing Bear”, played in China for a bit before arriving in America to play for the Celtics D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. The 16th pick in the 2016 draft, Yabusele averaged 12.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in Maine. Yabusele has a large frame, but also has a good jump shot. Yabusele has gathered Draymond Green comparisons, and if the French product can carry out that comparison, the Celtics will be thrilled. Yabusele figures to fit in the middle of the rotation, where he will continue to grow and develop.

The front office seems to be very high on both of these young exciting prospects, and expect both to be suited up at TD Garden next year.

Simply put, it would not make sense for the Celtics to give up any of these four assets for one of those two players. While adding Butler or George would allow them to better compete with the Cavaliers, the road to the finals has never been more difficult, with Lebron James showing no sign of slowing down. It does not make sense to mortgage the future of the franchise for a handful of years of contention. Boston is no stranger to winning, and will expect to maintain the winning ways of their 2008 Celtics team.

By keeping and developing their young talent/picks, the Celtics will be able to keep their championship window open for years after Lebron James finally hangs up the sneakers. A core of Isaiah Thomas, Markelle Fultz, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele, as well as former All-Star, Al Horford, and All-NBA defender, Avery Bradley, will be strong for not only now, but also the far future.

Embrace the youth movement, Danny Ainge. Let’s get Banner 18.