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Around the Association: Mozgov’s Revenge

Mozgov’s Revenge: Jack Maloney (@jmaloney9)

His last name has become a noun associated with getting dunked on in the worst way, but last night (even if wasn’t on Blake Griffin), Timofey Mozgov got a measure of revenge on basketball culture by posterizing Josh Smith. Just look at this screenshot right before he ends Smith’s life.

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This wasn’t a last second or halfhearted attempt by Smith to block Mozgov; Smith gave everything he had, but Mozgov just went right through him. On top of the awesome dunk, we got a top-notch bench celebration from Mozgov’s teammates, including the Air Wolf himself, Jan Vesely. I never thought I’d see the day when Mozgov was putting someone else on a poster, but I’m glad it happened.

 

Phil Jackson and the Knicks: Matthew Hochberg (@MatthewHochberg)

The New York Knicks defeated the Indiana Pacers 92-86 on Wednesday night, giving the chaotic team their seventh consecutive victory. While the win was an important one, the team’s biggest news of the week came off the court.

The Knicks have brought on legendary basketball mind Phil Jackson as President of Basketball Operations in hopes of turning the struggling franchise around. Controversial owner James Dolan has stated that he is “willingly and gratefully” giving Jackson full autonomy of the team. If this is true, New York is in better hands than they were last week. Dolan acknowledged that he isn’t a basketball expert, and has confidence in Jackson to make the correct team moves.

Currently, there is no bigger decision than what to do about Carmelo Anthony and his impending free agency. ‘Melo is a top-five player in this league and his movement this summer may dictate the Knicks’ future. If he decides to stay – and with Jackson running the show, the possibility is more likely than it would have been otherwise – then the team must find a way to quickly add pieces around him to turn NY into a real championship contender. If Anthony opts to sign elsewhere, this sends the Knicks into rebuilding mode, but with PJax providing fans and the organization with so much hope, how long will the potential losing be accepted?

Below is Tuesday’s press conference of Jackson being introduced as Knicks’ President:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nc2bCZbl6z0

 

5 NBA Prospects to Watch in the NCAA Tourney: Sam Kuperman (@samkoop)

With the opening (technically the second) round of the NCAA Tournament starting today, many of the 2014 draft’s top prospects will be in action over the course of the next few weeks. While we all know about the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid, there are plenty of prospects out there that have a chance to greatly improve their stock in the tournament. Here are five particular players to keep an eye out for in March Madness.

T.J. Warren (Sophomore, NC State)- Warren has gained some extra attention this past week, as the Wolfpack has gone on a late season run to get itself into the tournament. The 6-8 forward averaged 24.8 points per game along with 7.1 rebounds this season, and has carried his team the entire way. While it is well known that he can dominate, if he can lead his team to a few tournament victories, we could very well be talking about Warren as a late lottery pick, as opposed to a late first round pick.

Adrian Payne (Senior, Michigan State)- While Payne is the unquestioned leader of this Spartans team, there are plenty of questions about him as an NBA prospect. The 6-10 forward has battled injuries throughout this season (he has missed seven games), and has lacked the consistency that many NBA scouts are looking for. Of course, he is still having a very impressive final season in East Lansing, averaging 15.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and has Michigan State as one of the favorites to win the national title. According to Draft Express, Payne would go 24th overall if the draft were today, but a title run and an impressive tournament could vault him up into lottery consideration.

James Young (Freshman, Kentucky)- It is safe to assume that fellow Wildcats Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein will make the jump to the association this summer, but Young is a wild card in the one and done department. The 6-7 small forward is second on the team in scoring with 14.5 points per game, but is still seen as a raw player (granted he is only 18 years old). Young is a guy that will drop 20 points one game, and score in single digits the next. If he can prove his worth in this tournament, he can potentially up his stock from late first round pick to mid first round pick.

Shabazz Napier (Senior, Connecticut)- As of now, UConn’s star point guard is seen as a late second round pick at best despite his successful career in Storrs. Napier is one of those players that can single-handedly take over a game. He also has that clutch gene. Just check out this insane buzzer-beater he hit against Florida back in December.

Despite what he has proven at the college level, the fact that he is only 6-1 and is 22 years old hurts his stock a lot. While he’s not a guy that will be taken first round, a memorable tournament performance (something along the lines of Kemba Walker in 2011), he could move up into the mid to early first round.

Cleanthony Early (Senior, Wichita State)- Just as the Shockers haven’t gotten any love from the selection committee (Michigan, Duke, AND LOUISVILLE?!), their star player hasn’t gotten much love from the NBA scouts. If Wichita State shocks the world (see what I did there) and finishes 40-0, Early will have to play a major role in that, as he leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. At 6-8 and 219 pounds, he can provide great length and athleticism to any NBA team that chooses to scoop him up. That being said, he is only a late second round draft pick as of now, so he will need to play well in the tournament, to get selected higher.

 

Giving the Spurs Respect: Matt Constas (@mconstas41)

As the NBA season is coming to a conclusion it seems like there are more and more teams and players in the news. Everybody is talking Durant and LeBron, the Heat and Thunder, Clippers and Rockets becoming Western Conference threats; even the Knicks are getting a lot of attention despite their surprise bad season. Behind all of this, as always, the San Antonio Spurs are making a lot of noise and nobody seems to hear it.

I’ll admit I wasn’t too high on the Spurs this season because they had struggled against the league’s best teams. But now they are completely healthy, sitting on top of the Western Conference with a 50-16 record and the league’s longest winning streak with 11 straight victories. Gregg Popovich always has his team prepared for the postseason and they are clicking at the right time again.

Maybe it isn’t news that the Spurs are so good because it happens every year. The Spurs have won 50+ games every year since 1997 except for the lockout year in 1998-99 (They still went 37-13 in the shortened season) and this year is just another good one for a great NBA franchise. The significance of the current win streak is that it started when Kawhi Leonard returned from his hand injury. In those 11 games, Leonard is scoring 13.7 points on 54 percent shooting. Manu Ginobili is having one of his best months of the year, shooting 56 percent in eight March games and averaging 15 points. Tim Duncan is just being Tim Duncan, averaging 15 and 10 rebounds on the year and Tony Parker, in my opinion, is the teams best player who continues to make plays not many in the NBA can.

With all of these constants, what makes this year’s team different than last years? First I think we have to look at their depth. How about guys like Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and Boris Diaw. These three combine for 30.8 of the team’s points per game, Mills shoots 44 percent from the field and 41 from three, 49 and 43 and Diaw shoots 55 and 44. That is awesome play from role players, they are efficient and consistent and that takes less of the attention off of the stars on their team. This year this team averages 2.5 more points per game, are more efficient on offense, shoot 2.4 percent better from three and 1.3 percent better from the field than last year. This team, that was 25 seconds from a title last year, could be better this year. Like I said, I wasn’t buying in to the Spurs earlier in the season, but I am now, and if you aren’t then you should be. I think this team has a very good chance to represent the West in the Finals again this year.

jmaloney