Celtics (1) vs Bulls (8)

Could this be the year? Could someone in the Eastern Conference other than LeBron James reach the NBA Finals? The Boston Celtics are certainly vying for that spot as they took home the number one seed in the East. They will face off with the 8 seed, the Chicago Bulls, in the first round. This series is very interesting because these two teams split their season series, 2-2. However, the Celtics lost those game by a 3.5 point average, while they average 13.5 point wins in the other 2 games. Boston will certainly be large favorites, but a 7 game series is not out of the question. That is not typical of 1-8 matchups, so it just goes to show how even every team in the East is this year.

Home court will certainly be advantageous for the Celtics, as they finished the year with a 30-11 record at the Boston Garden. Conversely, the Bulls suffered when playing away from Chicago, going 16-25 on the road. Having been rumored to be interested in trading for Jimmy Butler at the trade deadline, it will be fascinating to see if the Celtics have enough fire power to make a run despite making no moves. Butler has been on fire lately, averaging 27.3 points, 6.8 assists, and 6.1 rebounds while playing just over 38 minutes per game over the last 10. Expect the Celtics to make it a point to shut him down and make the likes of Rondo and Wade beat them. Isaiah Thomas will have to extend his fantastic regular season into the playoffs. He ended the season 3rd in scoring, averaging 28.9 points per game. The Boston offense will continue to run through him.

I personally think the Celtics will take care of business. With the way that Jimmy Butler is playing right now, I think the Bulls will get a couple of wins, but Boston will win in 6. Expect some nail-biters.

Series Prediction: Celtics in 6 games

You can catch game 1 of the series on Sunday, April 16th at 6:30 PM ET on TNT.

Game 1 – Sun.  April 16 Chicago at Boston, 6:30 p.m., TNT
Game 2 – Tue.  April 18 Chicago at Boston, 8 p.m., TNT
Game 3 – Fri.  April 21 Boston at Chicago, 7 p.m.,  ESPN
Game 4 – Sun.  April 23 Boston at Chicago, 6:30 p.m., TNT
Game 5 * Wed.  April 26 Chicago at Boston, TBD
Game 6 * Fri.  April 28 Boston at Chicago, TBD
Game 7 * Sun.  April 30 Chicago at Boston, TBD

Calder Hill
Baseline Times NBA Staff Writer
@BT_Calder

NBA Playoffs First-Round Schedule is Set

The field is set and the NBA Season has officially come to a close. 16 teams start a journey this Saturday in hopes of becoming champions. Lebron James will attempt to lead his Cavaliers to their third straight NBA Finals while he personally seeks his seventh straight.

The Warriors will look to avenge a horrific memory of losing afoot of a 3-1 lead in last year’s NBA Finals against the Cavs. With Kevin Durant on their side he to is familiar with the bad fortune of losing a 3-1 series lead as he did in the Western Conference Finals as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

There is a new top dog in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics are officially entering the Playoffs as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Isaiah Thomas or known as “Mr. Fourth Quarter” will look to lead his team deep into the East and upset the Cavaliers from repeating as champs.

The great debate of who should get MVP could be determined no better than whoever wins the series out of the Houston Rockets or Oklahoma City Thunder. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will square off against each other. In an MVP race too close to call can we just say winner takes all based on this series?

Here is your Game 1 Schedule set for tip-off this Saturday, April 15th and Sunday, April 16th.

Game 1: Saturday, April 15

Indiana at Cleveland, 3:00 p.m. ET, ABC/R

Milwaukee at Toronto, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Memphis at San Antonio, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

Utah vs. LA Clippers, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Game 1: Sunday, April 16

Atlanta at Washington, 1:00 p.m. ET, TNT

Portland at Golden State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/R

Chicago at Boston, 6:30 p.m. ET,  TNT

Oklahoma City at Houston, 9:00 p.m. ET, TNT

NBA Season closes out with history again

The talk of the town and drama unfolded last July 4th, where Kevin Durant announced his decision to move on from the Oklahoma City Thunder where he spent nine seasons of his entire career. He would make a move to join the “enemies” as the Golden State Warriors were fresh off a Finals loss and conceding a 3-1 series lead. This struck the NBA drama line as it also fired up Russell Westbrook who did not have the kindest the well wishes for his former teammate. Westbrook instead chose to sign a three-year deal to remain in OKC. He fired up an entire city in distraught weeks later after the Durant announcement.

Now it wasn’t really impossible or crazy that some suggested that Westbrook could average a triple-double or take on the role as the Thunder’s leader. There was no doubt that in KD’s shadow was a motor that could push a team to win over 45 games and do a few extraordinary things, well like averaging a triple-double and breaking Oscar Robertson’s record for most in a season.

When Mike D’Antoni took over as the Houston Rockets Head Coach last summer he eventually announced that James Harden would be his point-guard. A move that raised the eyebrows since Harden has ever known the two-guard spot for his career. How does 29.1 points per game, a career high 11.2 assist per game while the Rockets are the third best team overall in the league record wise sound? A dramatic turnaround for the Rockets as they have 13 more wins than last season’s 41-41 record. Harden will enter the postseason as an MVP candidate next to his former teammate Westbrook.

How about the defending champs? The Cleveland Cavaliers found themselves in a bit of a dramatic stories this season. In January, Lebron James claimed the Cavs needed a playmaker. In comes Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut off the wavier wire. Bogut would eventually be wavier after injuring himself two-minutes into his first game as a Cavalier but the signings show the King that Cleveland is all in again this season. The Cavs find themselves in second place in the Eastern Conference. Majority of preseason analysis locked in Cleveland as the East’s best team all season long. The Boston Celtics now hold a one game lead over the Cavs and will look for bragging rights as the top seed. Let’s not ignore that King James is having a career year in other departments in the mix of a Russell Westbrook triple-double season. Lebron is averaging 26.4 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game and, 8.7 assists per game. All while managing to shoot 55-percent from the field. He will make another postseason run and attempt to reach his 7th straight Finals, this time as a defending champion once again.

Last year the record breaking all centered around the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry shattered the record of most three-point fields made in a season formerly held by Ray Allen. Curry went on to pouring in 402 three-point baskets. This season he currently sits at 319 and with one game left he’s safe from breaking his own record. Instead of talking about breaking the Bulls single season record of most wins again, the Warriors may have quietly won 66 games. While 19 of them were without Durant due to a knee injury, they still managed a 14 game win streak without their All-Star Forward. Luckily, for the Warriors their new recruit in Durant knows the feeling of losing after leading a series 3-1. If this is the year of revenge then faith may be with the Warriors.

While the season certainly had its upside there tends to be a downside. The project in Chicago did not work as planned for the Bulls to compete as a contender in the Eastern Conference. They currently find themselves in a must win tonight in their final game to earn a playoff berth. With Dwyane Wade having a player-option after this season and the Bulls heading in a different direction could he be one-and-done in his hometown?

The New York Knicks were supposed to be a super team according to point-guard Derrick Rose. That super team is officially out of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year as a franchise. The Knicks have had their share of drama this season as the Charles Oakley incident put a dent in their selling point to potential free agents this summer. Phil Jackson and James Dolan both are on ice as the future of Carmelo Anthony must be determined this off-season.

As we embark on the 2017 NBA Playoffs, this NBA season will be one that will have that little asterisk next to it. Likewise last year the Warriors broke a team record but today have a individual player record. Primarily, we can thank Russell Westbrook as he joins Oscar Robertson as the only player to achieve averaging a triple-double. The suspense continues as if this becomes a common theme what can we expect to be broken next season?

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times NBA Contributor
@BaselineChevy

Episode 34: NBA Playoffs 2017 First-Round Preview

Chevy and DeMario tag team to provide you with a Playoffs Preview. The duo runs through the highs of this season and previews each of first-round series in both the Eastern and Western Conferences. See who the fellas pick and follow us on Twitter for updated Playoffs coverage @BaselineTimes!

NBA to host player awards during live telecast

Speaking of Adam Silver being the progressive type there is also a new concept in town. The NBA will be announcing their player awards via a live broadcast on TNT on June 26th. This event will be hosted at at Basketball City at Pier 36 in Manhattan.

The event will host celebrities, current and former players, and many league executives. Traditionally, the NBA announces their player awards throughout the playoffs. However, everyone will have to wait until June 26th to find out the coveted MVP. The Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man Award, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year will be announced during the live show as well.

The league also announced that a few new awards will make its debut which are soon to be announced as time draws closer to the end of the regular season. Currently, the NBAPA debuted a Players Award show in 2015 and followed-up again in 2016. The concept was to introduce a peer-to-peer recognition which was aired on BET networks. No indication if the current NBA-led show will impact the 2017 version of the NBAPA Players Awards show.

New York Knicks Guard Derrick Rose Out for Season with Knee Injury

Derrick Rose has been officially ruled out for the rest of the season. What is familiar to Rose, another torn meniscus will need surgery to repair torn cartilage. Acquired by the Knicks a day prior last summer’s NBA draft the Phil Jackson brought in the one-time MVP to rejuvenate a team desperate for some help for Carmelo Anthony. Thurs far, the project has not worked well as the Knicks are currently eliminated from the playoffs with a 29-48 record. Rose’s teammates echoed much support and remained optimistic the point-guard can return with high hopes.

“I feel bad for him. I know how hard he worked throughout the season just to maintain the shape that he was in,” said Kristaps Porzingis. “To see that happen to him, right now, at the end of the season, it’s tough. I feel he’ll come back stronger.”

James Dolan and Jackson will have to be the world’s best salesmen this summer as the point-guard free agency market picks up. Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry can exercise their player-option to become unrestricted free agents. Filling out the list will be Jeff Teague, Patty Mills, Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday, and George Hill as a few notables.

Another reason why the Knicks turnaround may be tough is the Charles Oakley incident. Players from around the league had spoken in favor of Oakley and expressed their support for the former New York Knick. One person at the helm of support is Chris Paul, who is a potential free agent the Knicks may want to target to pair with his buddy Carmelo Anthony.

As the season wraps-up the Knicks will be missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season. What’s next in New York is a prayer to turnaround the franchise impression of disappointment and return to a destination for big market stars.

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times NBA Contributor
@BaselineTimes

Russell Westbrook: Thank You

Thank you.

Russell Westbrook, you are the example of what the fans want to see. You are the last of a dying breed in the NBA. Thank you for playing last night in Orlando. As a Magic season ticket holder and fan of the overall NBA it was a pleasure to see you bring your team that once was down 19-points in the game.

On the hot topic of players resting there are many fans who are deprived from seeing their favorite superstar who is in town for one night only during the NBA season. The Oklahoma City Thunder make one visit to Orlando each year due to be an out-of-conference team. Last night we all knew that Westbrook was going to suit-up barring sudden illness and play like he has all season long. Mr. Triple-Double as they called him, I caught myself looking at his numbers on the board consistently. It’s without shame that I myself was rooting for Westbrook to achieve the triple-double better yet, the entire arena just knew that they were watching a spectacular performance.

Everything seemed so cliché as Westbrook dribbled up the court with less than four minutes remaining in overtime and one assist away from achieving his casual triple-double. He drove to the basket and found backcourt mate, Victor Oladipo for a wide-open three; Thunder up two. In that moment you have to think Russ knows what’s at stake, he knows that he needs one more assist so, let’s find the open man. Again, it just seemed so cliché and natural to happen. The beauty of watching an NBA superstar score 57-point while leading his team to a win in overtime is what makes a fan happy and the investment well spent.

Magic fans are about 12-13 years removed from seeing this a handful of times in a season. Does the name Tracy McGrady ring a bell? No wonder half of the arena turned into Russell Westbrook fans by the time he drew overtime for the Thunder. Think about this, if Russ decided to take the time off for rest last night, this is what you deprived a fan base of: a historic night in which Westbrook becomes the first player to log a triple-double and scoring the most points alongside one.

“That is definitely a blessing,” Westbrook told reporters of his historic night in Orlando, Florida. “I definitely don’t take this game for granted, and I try to come out each night and try to compete at a high level. That is definitely something that is a blessing and definitely something that I can be proud of.”

While science might prove that a little bit of rest can help the longevity of one’s career, the argument of resting while you’re healthy on the fan side will always be, just play. Today, Kevin Durant takes a stab at the issue saying it is for only certain top players so why make a rule that isn’t a league-wide concern? We will all have our own opinions but today is a victory for the fans in which I will personally thank Russell Westbrook.

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times NBA Contributor
@BaselineTimes