Happy April all you cool cats and kittens.
Ryan Novozinsky (Daily Thunder) wrote an outstanding piece on Nerlens Noel. Read it here if you haven’t already. “Noel went from a college star in the limelight to having to recover from a terrible injury. John Calipari noted that he’s proud of Noel’s persistence.
“What I’m most excited about is that Nerlens is comfortable with who he is and has carved himself a role in a tough league. Look, the league that Nerlens entered back in 2013 is not the same league that it is now. The game has gone small and everyone can shoot, but Nerlens has said, ‘This is who I am. I can block shots, I can rebound, I can defend like heck,’ and it’s been a perfect fit for the Thunder,” Calipari said. “I’m just so happy that he’s embraced those parts of the game which he always had, because it means he’s going to have a long career in that league. He’s top-20 in the league in player efficiency, one of the best shot blockers in the league and can defend four, if not five positions. I’m happy for him.”
Erik Horne (The Athletic) spotlight’s Donnie Strack and the career that led him to one the center of the strangest night in league history. “Something wasn’t right. Hundreds of basketball games had tipped off without fail at Chesapeake Energy Arena, but this was an outlier. The three officials gathered to start, then there was a fourth, a suit unfamiliar to this portion of the show.
It was the equivalent of a 747 tearing down the runway only to get called back to the gate. When games are ready to go, they typically do. But “typical” is not what’s happening to the world right now. The coronavirus is not typical, nor was March 11, when, in front of 18,000 people, Donnie Strack acted atypical to the NBA machine that was in motion around him.
Zach Harper (The Athletic) looks at the potential postseason matchups if we get the 2019-20 NBA season back. “There’s a lot going on here. First and foremost, these franchises have a history in the recent playoffs together. Two years ago, Westbrook proclaimed he was going to “shut that shit down” when it came to then Utah Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio. The Oklahoma City Thunder lost two of the next three games and were eliminated after that comment.
But that was also a very unbalanced level of production and responsibilities for that Thunder team. Russ is gone. Paul George is gone. And Billy Donovan is finally allowed to coach the team in a way that isn’t just placating to stars. They’re in the honeymoon phase with a Chris Paul acquisition still, and they have one of the deadliest lineups in the NBA when they throw CP3 out there with two other lead guards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder. This Thunder team has been one of the best surprises all season, and it’s not a guarantee to be first-round fodder for a team looking to make a deep run.
The Jazz side of it has a lot more drama. We don’t know how things will look when Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell are back in a locker room together. There have been reports of unrest there with the COVID-19 fallout. Gobert was the first player to test positive, and then we found out Mitchell tested positive, as well. It was leaked in a targeted way that Gobert was reckless in the way he acted prior to the positive testing. Hopefully there isn’t an underlying feeling of distrust and disrespect that can’t be overcome. The Jazz also have shown to primarily feast on lesser teams and be hit or miss with better teams. So would they thrive in the playoffs after being most people’s dark horse following the Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic acquisitions? They have yet to earn that line of credit with viewers. Regardless, I think this goes the distance and has the potential to be the best series of the first round.”
ESPN announced Tuesday it has moved “The Last Dance” aka The MJ doc up from June to April. “The 10-part series will now begin April 19. The move was announced on Good Morning America on Tuesday in response to fans asking for more programming while sports are on hold because of the coronavirus. The series will be available outside the United States on Netflix.”
Stay safe out there.