In case you were busy really thinking about Michael Jordan's trademark celebration; he was just sticking his tongue out, right? How did he make that cool? That's kinda just gross, yes? Yeah, anyway, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Despite being held to three second-half points, the New Orleans Saints did enough to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 17-13, to keep in pace in the race for the top seed in the NFC. "I almost wish we'd let them win that, but the damn Seahawks " Saints quarterback Drew Brees said while shaking his head. When asked why he would possibly want to lose a divisional battle in the heat of the playoff race, Brees suddenly clammed up, but the wind whispered, "Clowney," as a shudder ran down his spine.
A late 3-point barrage from guard Nate Robinson and forward Jordan Hamilton was the difference as the Denver Nuggets pulled away from the Chicago Bulls in a 97-87 home victory. "Hamilton and Nate, you say?" said Robinson after the game, as he arched an eyebrow. "That sounds like a great idea for a buddy cop drama starring me, Nate Robinson. I call it Nate and Hamilton. I'm a young bad boy, and Hamilton's a grizzled veteran. And he's all like, 'Gimme your badge, Nate,' and I'm all like, 'Gimme one more chance, Hamilton,' and he's all like, 'You're a loose cannon, Nate,' and I'm all like, 'This whole city's a loose cannon, Hamilton.'" Hamilton then piped up to ask who would play Hamilton, because it sounded like a juicy part, and he wondered if Robinson had anyone in mind. Robinson considered for a second, before pointing at Hamilton and saying, "Carl Weathers."
SHOTS, ROYCE. But seriously, what is going on in Oklahoma? I did a little bit of YouTube spelunking and found these clips of money-grabbing half-court shots by OKC fans. In April 2013, you had this guy …
Man, this has been a weird little season so far. Everybody looks terrible on the second night of back-to-backs, and back-to-backs are happening all the time. Miami looks human, Indy looks unbeatable, Brooklyn looks old, J.R. Smith hates Brandon Jennings, and the tank division — Phoenix, Charlotte, Philly, Orlando, and Boston — is actually pretty good. I was getting a little confused by it all. Then, on Thursday night, the Thunder visited the Warriors. All night, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka battled David Lee and the Splash Brothers in front of one of those electric Golden State crowds that make most gyms look like mortuaries.
Last season, in late March, I awarded John Wall something called M.V.P.N.N.K.L. It's the MVP for people not named Kevin or LeBron. The only NBA players disqualified from winning the award are LeBron James and Kevin Durant (and Kevin Garnett, and Kevin Martin … sorry, Kevin Martin). The point is, while Durant and LeBron are around, it's hard to imagine anyone else winning the MVP award, so we have to come up with something for the rest of the league. Hence, the M.V.P.N.N.K.L.
After one week, this award belongs to Paul George. In fact, he might not even need the Kevin/LeBron exemption. He might just be the MVP.
In case you were busy coming around to the idea that Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is just the sort of guy who sometimes has to be yelled at, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
In what may prove to be the biggest upset of the entire NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers stormed out to an early 19-0 lead before holding on late to beat the two-time defending champion Miami Heat 114-110. Rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams looked like a star, putting up 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals, and seven rebounds in his NBA debut. Unfortunately, Carter-Williams was shut down for the season after the game by 76ers GM Sam Hinkie for what he described as "precautionary reasons." When asked to clarify, Hinkie said, "I'm hoping this will serve as a precaution to the rest of the team as to where looking like a star will get you."
The Red Sox are your 2013 World Series champions after John Lackey powered Boston past the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1, in a deciding Game 6. "Just as I predicted," said Boston superfan Aaron Sullivan. "Lackey brings us another banner. Never doubted that it would happen." When asked specifically when he made that prediction, Sullivan replied, "Fourth inning, right after we went up 6-0. And I swear I only backed off it three or four times," before promising to name one of his middle children John Lackey Sullivan, assuming that one of them came out looking a little squished.
The past two NBA seasons haven’t felt right without Derrick Rose having his say. When the league’s youngest-ever MVP went down in the Bulls’ first game of their first-round series in the 2012 playoffs, the NBA immediately became an incomplete product. He was the bright future of the league, destined for, at the very least, epic annual playoff clashes with elite teams. Immediately after tearing his ACL, the Eastern Conference became less competitive, turning into a relative cakewalk for the Miami Heat. We badly missed the mere presence of Rose in a playoff series — he alone gave you enough reason to believe that the Bulls could prevail.
During Bill and Jalen's preview of the Houston Rockets' season, Jalen predicts that Kevin Durant will join James Harden and Dwight Howard on the Rockets at the end of his run in Oklahoma City. Not done there, Jalen also predicts that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love will team up on the Los Angeles Lakers. And you thought only Clairvoyant Bill could see the future
For more of Bill and Jalen's NBA Previews, click here.
I’m normally not a big “gut feeling” guy, but I randomly mentioned to the Grantland bosses last week in L.A. that the Thunder just “felt due” for some unexpected move. They didn’t have enough financial flexibility to add even one meaningful NBA player in free agency, perhaps leaving them (and their rivals) to wonder whom they might have lured had the league kept Kevin Durant’s max salary at its original level. They’ve watched the Western Conference get stronger around them. The Spurs are the Spurs, the Grizzlies tweaked around the edges (including signing Mike Miller, one of several wing shooters the Thunder could have used), the Clippers reinvented themselves, the Warriors are good and young, and the Rockets annual candy budget is probably near the $185,000 or so Andre Roberson lost when the Thunder hardballed him.
But this wasn’t, and still isn’t, a sob story. The Thunder are contenders, even with Kevin Martin gone and no veteran in his place. And that’s sort of the point: The window is still open, even with the rocky offseason, only there are more Western Conference teams strong enough to shove it closed. A team in that position — a contender, but a wounded one with hunters stalking it — cannot afford to stand still, or to wait for next July.
That portrait gets more interesting now that Russell Westbrook will miss something like 20 games after doctors discovered complications from an earlier surgery to repair his torn meniscus. The obvious way to jolt a franchise is via trade, but the Thunder’s salary structure makes a game-changing deal difficult. Kendrick Perkins is the only highly paid player the Thunder might be willing to move unless they find a blockbuster involving Serge Ibaka, and the rest of the trade chips earn so little money as to make salary-matching a challenge in a big-time deal. There are interesting trade options at lower prices, and the Thunder could sign a minimum-salaried ball handler — Roddy Beaubois, Daniel Gibson, Chris Duhon, et al. — without going into the luxury tax, provided they waive one of the Hasheem Thabeet/Daniel Orton/Ryan Gomes trio. The Thunder have some interesting young pieces, a few appealing international guys, and a Mavs pick that could become unprotected in 2018. You could make a deal for a semi-unwanted mid-priced wing — Lou Williams? John Salmons? Courtney Lee? Evan Turner? — with that kind of treasure chest. (The Thunder have two significant trade exceptions, including a $6.5 million bad boy leftover from the Kevin Martin sign-and-trade, but using either would take them over the tax line.)
LeBron James is a human with a cell phone so I sent him some text messages.
Me: Bron-Bron! LeBron: Nope Me: sry Me: hey, so I guess you saw that thing about Dwyane and Kevin Durant? LeBron: what’s that now? Me: Durant saying he’d replace Wade with Harden in a current NBA top 10. LeBron: did you ever watch The Wire? Me: what? LeBron:The Wire. Did you ever watch it? Me: sure, of course LeBron: this is like when omar wanted honey nut cheerios Me: how so LeBron: wade is the cheerios Me: ? LeBron: harden is the cashier Me: dude LeBron: and the phoenix suns are west baltimore Me: wtf are you even talking about LeBron: it’s a metaphor, bro Me: no it’s not, bro LeBron: you’ll figure it out Me: no I won’t. nobody will. I’m pretty sure you’re just dicking with me LeBron: if there’s one thing I dick about, it’s metaphors Me: :/
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NBA season? Well, you're in luck! The Triangle is counting down the days for all of us.
By now you've probably heard about the Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant feud, but let's review exactly what happened and why it's so wonderful. First ...
How did the Durant and Wade feud start?
Durant did a video interview with something called Cinesport, and they read him a list of Sports Illustrated's top 10 players in the NBA. "I think you're missing James Harden," Durant said. They asked who he'd take off the list.
On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
Robert Mays: Typically when I watch football, I try to watch the line. That isn’t an attempt at snobbery. It’s just what I enjoy. Watching massive men fight for three feet of space, all with a combination of brutality and a criminally understated amount of grace, is my favorite part of the game.
Last night presented its share of opportunities for that. The 49ers have probably the best — and definitely the most imposing — offensive line in football, and Seattle’s rotating group of pass-rushing, run-stopping terrors is one of the better tests that San Francisco group will get all year. And while I did see plenty of that, the best battle at the line of scrimmage yesterday didn’t involve any linemen.
In case you were busy revamping your intimidation-based game plan, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Houston Texans stormed back from 21 points down to beat the San Diego Chargers, 31-28. "I'm in Cleveland now," yelled former San Diego head coach Norv Turner preemptively when picking up a phone call from a restricted number after the game. "God-forsaken Cleveland, OK? I used to be the head coach in San Diego, and now I'm here. Maybe it wasn't all my fault, huh? Are you happy? 'Cause I'm not," before profusely apologizing to his new pastor when he realized the mistake he had made.
James Harden and Kevin Durant talk to Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose about how close they were before the trade, how they keep in touch, and how it is like they got divorced and Durant got to keep Russell Westbrook.
Drew League? DREW LEAGUE. Above, check out Kevin Durant, who returned to LAUNFD and dropped 25 points and 12 rebounds in a victory, even though Austin Daye of the Toronto Raptors responded with 30 points and 10 rebounds.
The second clip concerns James Harden and the Money Gang, which is on a roll to end the regular season. Harden had 25 points and seven rebounds despite showing up to the game midway through the first quarter. I guess timing isn't everything. The Game scored 20, while DeMar DeRozan added 12 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
There are plenty of ways to spend a Sunday in July, but when you hear that Baron Davis is betting $50,000 with The Game on summer league basketball involving Kevin Durant, suddenly your plans are pretty much set. Or at least mine were. So, after checking out the Drew League a few weeks ago, on Sunday it was time for another pilgrimage to King Drew High School to see the biggest summer league on the West Coast. And there were a few different reasons this weekend's edition was great; let's just deal with them one by one.