Why the NHL needs to Take Action

Why the NHL needs to Take Action

 

Since the return of sports, the NHL has done a great job of carrying out the NHL Play-In and Playoffs. However, despite the quality of play and setup I have not found myself drawn to watch often. It is not because of the lack of a crowd and it is not because the Ottawa Senators are not playing. It is because the NHL and its players are missing the bigger picture. 

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Yesterday the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for Game 5 of their playoff series versus the Orlando Magic, even offering to forfeit the game. Fellow NBA players followed suit agreeing to strike and thus postponing their games. This is all in the name of social justice and reform, and is directly in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake and protestors. Blake, an unarmed black man who was shot in the back seven times by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will now likely be paralyzed for the rest of his life. Peaceful protestors had fire opened on them by 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse, a police fanatic who crossed state lines to offer support to the police in response to Blake’s shooting. Rittenhouse, who was initially not arrested, is finally in custody and charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide. Following the NBA players’ actions, the WNBA’s players chose to walk-out and held a candlelight vigil, offering the mic to anyone who wished to speak. The MLS’ players also chose to take action as five out of six games were postponed due to player walkouts. Additionally three MLB games were postponed by player walkouts. While all of this happened the NHL played on and decided their form of “action” would be to have a moment of reflection

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Did I expect the NHL to walk out? No I did not, but at least show some solidarity to people of colour, show that you hear them by taking action. The English Premier League took a knee upon the opening whistle of many of their matches. If the national anthem means that much to you, then take that knee following the anthem. But, in a time where the NHL and its players had the opportunity to take advantage of a moment they decided to ignore it. And that was made clear when the puck dropped between the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. There was no moment of reflection, the NHL did it once and figured they did good enough. This is not good enough and people of colour in the NHL are growing tired of it. Evander Kane voiced his displeasure yesterday with the NHL’s lack of action. Kane has been a leader in promoting social justice in hockey’s ranks, as he co-heads the Hockey Diversity Alliance with Akim Aliu. Promote him and his group and amplify their message, offer his group the opportunity to speak before games and to these teams. Help these players, offer them a platform. I love hockey, but I could not stand to watch the NHL play yesterday knowing they ignorantly missed an opportunity to make a difference. 

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What difference would it make? It would stop the distractions, even just for 24 hours. Stop the distractions so that all the spotlight could be where it should be. And that is shining on an issue of social reform and racism, not sports. This is not a political issue, this is an issue of people of colour being terrified for their lives every day. Vince Carter is an NBA legend and a recognizable figure. Yet Carter on his own property, feels the need to bring his ID and phone with him to check his mail. Maurice Harkless, formerly a beloved Portland Trailblazer, could not even drive to his place of work without being stopped and initially disrespected by a police officer. Dominic Smith, 1st baseman for the New York Mets took a knee last evening and was left in tears speaking about his struggles over the past several months.

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I will never know how these people of colour must feel, because I am a white male. However, I want to do everything in my power to help them make a change for the future and the present. When something I love as much as hockey refuses to stand up and address what is happening, that is really disappointing. While hockey sits on the sidelines and ignores what is happening in the world, it adds fuel to this campaign of hatred. On July 30th the NHL returned, and not a single player in the New York Rangers and New York Islanders game took a knee during national anthems. The consequences of that were that Eric Trump, son of Donald Trump tweeted his support in the NHL’s message. When you do not stand up, you are associating with the other side, whether you intend to or not. There is no middle ground, there is right and there is wrong. Consequently, I will continue to keep my distance from the NHL during these playoffs until they take some action. Enough is enough.

Bubble Talk: A Spectator’s Review of NASCAR During Coronavirus

Bubble Talk: A Spectator’s Review of NASCAR During Coronavirus
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Credit needs to be given to NASCAR. They have done a great job of seizing the moment, while they have also taken care of their drivers. NASCAR travels almost every weekend, usually crossing state lines to go track to track and none of this changed during Covid-19. NASCAR’s Cup Series has run races on 19 different days at 14 different venues, some even with socially-distanced spectators in attendance. However, in spite of all of this NASCAR has only had 1 positive test for Covid-19. They have done a remarkable job of making the best out of a terrible situation and providing their fans with great racing. But why was it so important for NASCAR to rush back? 

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NASCAR has struggled mightily financially over the past decade with television ratings dropping. However, Coronavirus provided them with a unique opportunity to run races while almost all sporting/entertainment events were stalled. NASCAR has capitalized on this opportunity. Their return to racing was at Darlington in South Carolina on May 17th, where they drew 6.32 million viewers. That mark was the most watched non-Daytona NASCAR race since 2017. And surprising to many, NASCAR’s ratings surge has not wavered with the resumption of the Big 4’s (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB) activity. The Foxwoods Casino Resort 301 from New Hampshire was the most-viewed sporting event from August’s first weekend. This year’s rise in viewership also comes after some of the worst luck NASCAR has ever had for weather. Over half of the races have been postponed or delayed, because of weather and their ratings are still rising. NASCAR has also made some fundamental changes, as their actions and words have become louder than ever before.  

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NASCAR has taken steps for the future by taking a stance against racism and in support of social justice. This will likely cost them viewers in the short-term as they lose longtime fans who disagree with this model, but in the long-term this looks great. NASCAR has needed to branch out for a long time and they finally have taken excellent steps in that direction. They were quick to support and promote Bubba Wallace Jr., the Cup Series’ only black driver and they have given their drivers platforms to speak on issues. The North American leader for this model has been the NBA, who has seen their league grow substantially in the past 20 years. This growth has happened, while giving their athletes a platform to empower themselves. In a time of uncertainty for NASCAR, they have realized they needed to take lessons from the NBA. And on June 7th in Atlanta NASCAR took a ginormous step forward. They halted the cars on track during their pace lap, so that NASCAR Executive Vice-President Steve Phelps could speak. This speech was one of the most important speeches, NASCAR has ever delivered and it set the tone for this year. Just two weeks later NASCAR asked the FBI to investigate a noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage and they stood up for their driver. That same weekend they doubled down by performing arguably the most powerful sporting moment of 2020. The entire garage rallied around Bubba and walked him to the grid, a display no one ever expected to see in NASCAR. It was beautiful and it gave me faith in this sport’s survival. 

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The road will not be easy for NASCAR, although these changes come while not only their fan-base is changing but their drivers are changing. NASCAR has seen the old horses retire or announce their eventual retirement. Fortunately a new group of young drivers led by Chase Elliott have taken the reins. Elliott has already been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver for two consecutive years and he is joined by the likes of Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones and many more. NASCAR’s new generation of drivers can attract a new generation of fans, as these fans will endear themselves to these younger and social media savvy drivers. Additionally, this year’s racing has been quite exciting. With no practice or qualifying, these guys have shown up on Sunday to race all out with basically no preparation. Through 21 races there have been 10 different winners, while 24 different drivers have finished in the Top 5 of a race. In 2020 the unpredictable has usually occurred and that has translated over to NASCAR in a great way. 

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What does this all mean? What it means is that maybe you, the reader should give NASCAR a chance. A chance which this sport has earned by taking steps into the future, steps of progress. It is easy to pick a driver to cheer for and follow along as these guys head into the NASCAR Playoffs. All they ask is that you sit down on a Sunday, grab yourself a cool drink and watch with some friends and/or family. In these changing times, open yourself to change, give NASCAR a chance.   

 

Chasing the Unthinkable: How the Raptors Repeat

Chasing the Unthinkable: How the Raptors Repeat

 

The Toronto Raptors have held the NBA title for over 400 days. However, shortly after their title win they suffered a large loss. On July 1, 2019, the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors lost reigning Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, to free agency. Over a year later, the team has overcome this loss and now finds itself well-positioned to defend its title. Here’s how we got here.

 

The Not So Different Raptors

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Many were quick to write off the Raptors when Kawhi left, some even saying they would miss the playoffs. What these individuals failed to understand is that a narrative like such, would push this Raptors team. The Raptors opened the year by going 14-4. This success came in spite of early season injuries to Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. Aside from Kawhi leaving, these Raptors are not much different from last year’s team. If anything the majority of the team has improved, some have taken huge steps forward. The evidence comes as you look at the team record. The Raptors have not missed a beat without Leonard, they are currently 46-18 with a .719 winning percentage after 64 games; last season, after 64 games, the Raptors had the exact same record. This is no coincidence: when Nick Nurse was given more offensive coaching responsibility in 2017-18 the Raptors quickly gained an identity. Prior to Nurse’s changes, the Raptors ranked 21st in made 3-pointers during the 2016-17 season, making a below average 8.8 threes a game. Year over year, Nurse has improved these numbers (11.8/12.4/13.8). Additionally, during the past two seasons the Raptors 3PT shooting percentage has been in the Top 6. This rise in shooting percentage traces back to Nurse’s identity change: in the two seasons prior to this identity change the Raptors ranked dead last in assist percentage at 51.1% and 47.2% respectively (Assist percentage is an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he/she was on the floor). Just like the 3-point shooting, Nurse’s identity change has produced results year over year (59%/60.3%/62.6%). The Raptors have built an offensive juggernaut based on teamwork and gotten away from isolation basketball, which formerly cost them in key moments. Watch here how the Raptors utilize ball movement when they need a basket. Lowry’s lead pass into Siakam gets him ahead of his defender who is forced to aggressively lunge, giving Siakam an easy basket on the inside. This increased emphasis on team basketball helped get the Raptors over the hump last season, and if they want to repeat as NBA Champions, they will have to play exemplary team basketball.

 

A Well Oiled Machine 

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The Raptors have the deepest bench in the league, as 14 players have averaged five or more minutes per game this season. The team does not miss a beat when all bench units come in. They operate at a +2 scoring differential when the starters are out, which actually ranks 4th in the NBA. In playoff basketball, usually the bench shortens and teams rely on their Top 9-10 players at most. However, with the layoff the majority of these players will not be in game shape. Meaning fatigue will be a larger factor and it could open up the benches. Additionally, many teams have had to deal with injuries, opt-outs and Covid-19 cases. The Raptors have managed to avoid all of this. Accordingly they were the first out of state team in Florida and have had a long training camp. Nick Nurse has been working with his team for over a month, which has helped the Raptors get primed for these unique playoffs. Additionally, the most important note is that for the first time all season everyone is healthy. Top to bottom the Raptors missed 171 man-games this season due to injury. The ideal starting lineup – of Kyle Lowry, Fred Van Vleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol – was only used in 17 of 64 games this season. Yes Nick Nurse mixes and matches here and there, however this is inarguably the Raptors best Starting Five and they only got to use that set for 26.5% of their games. With the team fully healthy, the Raptors will have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal. 

Big Spain’s Makeover

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One of these weapons is a much trimmer Marc Gasol. At the peak of his powers Gasol made all-NBA teams and won the 2013 Defensive Player of The Year. He will not reach such heights again, although Gasol is certainly going to be a bigger factor on the floor with this body transformation.

 

“His skills look fantastic as well. He looks like he’s in good shape. I don’t see any issues       – Nick Nurse

 

“He looks like prime Marc to me … it’s scary.” – Terrence Davis   

 

In spite of his 7’1 height, Gasol usually operates like a quarterback for the Raptors. Watch here, as Overtime Heroics breaks down why Gasol is such a talented passer. As the video demonstrates Gasol’s height, decisiveness and accuracy make him one of the best passers in the NBA. However, what has gone away from Gasol’s game, is his off-ball movement. Over the years, Gasol has lost a couple steps. Although with this new slim body you can expect him to move much better off the ball. Compare this highlight reel from 5+ years ago to the previous video, it is evident that Gasol is much quicker and has more variety in his passing. Gasol’s low-post passing is highlighted in this video, however in recent years he has shied away from the low-post. Gasol has moved further away from the basket with his potent three-point shooting, however when passing out of the low-post he can draw doubles to hit slashers or find a wide-open three. Additionally, the numbers prove that Gasol makes his teammates better. Gasol has a net rating of 10.4, the best rank among Raptor regulars, which means per 100 possessions Gasol makes the Raptors better by 10.4 points. He is a vital part of the offense, even though his usage rating has dipped from 16.6% last season to 12.7% this season. Although, with Big Spain finally healthy, that usage rating will tick way up and Slim Gasol will be a huge piece for a deep Raptors playoff run. 

The Secret Weapon

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During the aforementioned playoff run OG Anunoby had to sit and watch the Raptors Championship win last year. Anunoby had an emergency appendectomy right before the NBA Playoffs and missed out on the whole thing. With Anunoby plugged into a Raptors playoff lineup, it is expected that he will excel as the game slows down and defense becomes crucial. Here is what coach Nurse had to say on whether he thought OG is ready to guard stars. 

 

“I would think so,” coach Nick Nurse said. “Unless there’s just some type of matchup that doesn’t (work at all) he goes probably two through four; he’s going to get a key guy on the wing up to the five spot.” 

 

That is big praise from Nurse, but Anunoby’s play backs it up. Anunoby had been playing his best basketball before the break and he will return in the same form. Opponents shoot 45.1% on nearly 10 attempts per game, it is important to remember OG’s doing this as a primary defender. Watch here as he steals passes with excellent off-ball defense, pesters shooters and pokes balls loose regularly. Anunoby is a jackrabbit on defense and he can guard just about anyone on the floor. In the most recent video, Anunoby is guarding Nikola Jokic at points and does this in spite of Jokic being five inches taller. He is the Raptors most versatile defender and their most important.  However, the true vital step he needed to take this year was on the offensive end. At 10.7PPG his scoring does not scare opponents, but he must be respected. Anunoby has used his slashing ability to shoot an impressive 50.7% this season while knocking down threes at 38%. He has improved as a passer and rebounder, while becoming a huge threat in transition offense. Anunoby has become lethal at stealing balls and turning defense into offense in a hurry. Expect him to surprise teams and become a playoff performer as the intensity ratchets up. 

Big And Small From Deep

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The last “weapon” to highlight here is actually a pair of players, who struggled early in last year’s playoffs but shined in the biggest moments. Serge Ibaka and Fred Van Vleet both statistically did not play up to their standards in last year’s postseason. Ibaka got the yips from deep and shot 23.7% from three, but in spite of his struggles he found a way to get crucial scores. Watch here as in Game 7 versus Philadelphia, Ibaka starts off the game with a few poor possessions, but keeps his head down and uses his energy to get in a rhythm. Ibaka came into Game 7 shooting 3 of 17 from deep during the playoffs, although in the biggest of moments he stepped up and willed the ball in. Ibaka this season is shooting 39.8% from three and seems more comfortable with the ball. In the Raptors first NBA Restart scrimmage, Ibaka had 18 points on 8 for 10 shooting and looked great. If he can carry that momentum into the playoffs, the Raptors will have a huge plus on the offensive end. Speaking of offense, Van Vleet has been terrific for the Raptors this season. He has become the third option on offense only behind Siakam and Lowry, but his potent three-point shot has lit opponents on fire. At 17.6PPG and 38.8% from three, he has smashed his previous career-bests and taken advantage of every opportunity. As many may remember, for the first half of last year’s playoffs Van Vleet was out of sorts. Through his first 15 games of those playoffs Van Vleet shot 8 for 41 from deep, but then his wife gave birth to their first child. All of a sudden, something awoke inside the Raptors shooting guard. In the remaining nine games he shot 30 for 57 from three and really was the instant offense the Raptors needed to get past Golden State. It is important for Van Vleet and Ibaka both to be shooting well, in order for the Raptors offense to run at full power. Watch here as “Coach Daniel” breaks down how elite spacing helps the Raptors get easier inside baskets, as every player is a threat from three. With Ibaka and Van Vleet playing at a high level the Raptors will be a tough out for any of the NBA’s Elite.
Not So Fast

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The old saying goes that “To be the Champs you must beat the Champs”, so do not crown Giannis as King of the East yet. This Raptors team is proven and can challenge any team. They are one of the most efficient shooting teams in the league and can run with anybody. Their hard nosed defense and terrific defensive schemes courtesy of Coach Nurse will make life hard on offenses. Finally, their quest to repeat will give them hunger and extra motivation. The Raptors will go to war with anybody and they will certainly be challenging the NBA’s Elite for this year’s crown.  

 

Hello reader! If you made it this far, I would like to thank you! Your support means the world to me, even just a simple read goes a long way truthfully. I am happy to be back doing this and hopefully schedule permitting, I can do this for a long time. Please feel free to give me feedback, I love and appreciate that. Also, if you think someone would like this article share it with them! I will never say no to more readers. In any case, thank you again for your support and I hope to have your attention again soon, have a great week!

Beating The Unbeatable: Toronto’s Tall Task

 

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The Toronto Raptors are in the NBA Finals. Remember when the Raptors could not even land John Salmons? Remember when they drafted Andrea Bargnani #1? Remember when the first ever Raptor (B.J. Armstrong) refused to play for Toronto? Remember when yet another franchise star in Chris Bosh left, because The Six could not recruit talent? Well that same organization has somehow righted the ship and for the first time ever an NBA Finals game will be played in Canada this Thursday. After winning only one playoff series in their first 20 seasons, the Raptors have won 7 of their past 10 series over these last 4 seasons. And finally they have a chance to avenge their demons of the past. The men standing in their way are said to be unbeatable.

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It has been 1,853 days since the Golden State Warriors have lost a playoff series to a team without LeBron James. They have won 18 of 19 playoff series and have a combined playoff record of 75-24 over that stretch. They have five players who have been all-stars in at least 1 of the past 2 seasons. They have the greatest shooter of all-time in Steph Curry, they have a man who claims to be the best defender of all-time in Draymond Green and they have arguably the best player in the world in Kevin Durant. These dudes have run amok in the NBA, destroying playoffs hopes and dreams along the way. Many thought the Warriors would slow down once Kevin Durant was injured in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals, but no. The Warriors won Game 5 and are 5-0 since Durant went down. They lambasted Los Angeles, they humiliated Houston and they pulverized Portland. Now they look to torture Toronto with their superb ball movement, smothering on-ball defense and commitment to the three.

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The poster boy for the Warriors is the aforementioned Curry who can create a shot for himself out of any and every situation. This highlight pack is just from the playoffs. He has the fastest release known to man and is perhaps the greatest off-ball mover in the history of basketball. On top of that, Curry loves to play the Raptors. For his career Curry is 15-2 versus the Raptors while averaging 28.6 points and 7.8 assists per game over these 17 contests. He can beat you off the dribble, in transition and with the clock winding down. His shooting is other worldly, but his passing is just as troublesome. Nobody has ever been able to create a shot for themselves or their teammates like Curry, like a magician shots appear out of thin air. The Warriors are unsurprisingly the best three-point shooting team these playoffs, shooting at a 37.1% clip, but they also boast the best overall field-goal percentage at 48.8%. Unflappable even in the tensest moments, the Warriors are a juggernaut and it will take an incredible effort to slow them down.

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However, the Raptors may have found a way to slow down the Warriors three-point threat. No team has defended shots of 25-29 feet better than the Toronto Raptors, who as a collective have held opponents to 28.9% per game on 22.3 attempts. The Warriors have not faced a defense as good as the Raptors during their previous 5 playoff runs. Stifling, physical and downright not fun to play against the Raptors frustrate their opponents with amazing play on the defensive end. Not to mention they have their own star in Kawhi Leonard. The self-proclaimed “fun guy” absolutely perplexed and diminished Giannis Antentokounmpo’s impact offensively in the Eastern Conference Finals. Prior to Game 3, when Kawhi was switched onto Giannis primarily, The Greek Freak had his way with opponents. Giannis was averaging 27.4PPG, while shooting 51.6% on 17.5 attempts per game and 68.2% on 12 attempts per game from the free throw line. On top of that he was able to play a calmer game as he only averaged 2.7 fouls per game. Leonard turned the series on its head from Game 3 onwards as Giannis suddenly was held to 20.5PPG on an uncharacteristic 43.5% from the field. Additionally the Raptors as a unit stepped up their help defense and their physicality. Giannis was clearly shaken as his free throw percentage fell off a cliff going down to an abysmal 47.2% over that 4-game span.

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The Raptors physicality could come into huge effect against a Warriors team dealing with ailments of their own. Kevin Durant will not play in Game 1 and will likely miss Game 2 as he battles a lower-body injury. DeMarcus Cousins returns from injury, but the question remains as to how healthy he in fact is. Curry has a dislocated finger on his non-shooting hand, the unbeatable are battered and bruised. It is truly now or never for the Raptors, the unbeatable ones have never been so beatable. And for once, the Raptors have the best player in the series.

 

One Game Away: The Raptors Surreal Playoff Run

One year ago, a dejected and demoralized Kyle Lowry took to the podium after being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers to voice his frustration. “We felt like we could possibly make the NBA Finals… That was our goal.” This same team had blown a 10-point lead in Game 1 and then missed multiple game-winning baskets, en route to a back-breaking 113-112 loss. This gut-wrenching series loss led to loud quotes from DeMar DeRozan.

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“You get to that point where you’re standing firm through everything and you feel like you can’t get knocked down again, and you realize you do get knocked back down again. It’s kind of the worst feeling.”

This was the last time Masai Ujiri would allow DeRozan to be knocked down as a Raptor. On July 18th, just over two months after yet another Raptors failure, Ujiri pushed all his chips in. He traded the most beloved player in franchise history for a player who had played a mere 9 games the season before. The trade was met with harsh criticism and backlash, but 10 months later the Raptors are one game away from making it all worth it.

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Any criticism of his abilities as a basketball player have been erased as he has dominated the playoffs thus far and been the driving force in this playoff run. Always to the point Leonard spoke of the advice he gave his teammates during Game 5 last night. “Have fun”, trailing in the 3rd quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals and he just tells his teammates to “have fun”. This is one of the many reasons that Leonard has won fans over, because off the court his quotes are never absurd or outlandish. They are honest and simplistic, and people can relate to the quotes. Who does not like to have fun when playing basketball? His teammates clearly fed off of this last night as the Raptors rallied in the 4th quarter and toughed out a 105-99 win.

The Raptors now find themselves one game away from being in the NBA Finals with the opportunity to challenge the Golden State Warriors. That game will go Saturday in Toronto and the Raptors will be prepared to play their biggest game in franchise history. This is arguably the fourth time this month they will have played “their biggest game in franchise history” and it is no coincidence that Kawhi Leonard has been front and center in all of these games thus far. The Klaw has been the best player of these NBA Playoffs, time and again Leonard has dug deep to lead his team to victory. Whether it is him dropping over 30 points a night, his lock-down defense or his unselfishness Leonard has done any and everything to help the Raptors win basketball games. He has been nothing short of spectacular and people have taken note.

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Stephen A. Smith called himself an idiot for doubting Toronto and Leonard, a Toronto realtor has offered Leonard a penthouse for free and dozens of Toronto restaurants have offered free meals for life to Leonard. However, this run has not been all about the Raptors star player. Consistently throughout the playoffs players on the Raptors have stepped up. Take Fred VanVleet for example, in his last eight quarters VanVleet has scored 34 points that is more than he had in his previous 44 quarters combined (31 points). The newly proud father poured in 21 of those 34 points last night all by virtue of the three pointer, none bigger than this shot which put the Raptors ahead for good. Night in and night out every Raptor has found a way to be effective even when struggling offensively. This has come largely thanks to a razor-sharp defense.

The Raptors have allowed less than 100 points per game these playoffs (99.9) and a mere 23.5 points per 4th quarter. Furthermore, this current series versus Milwaukee Bucks swung when the Raptors made Leonard the primary defender of Giannis Antetokounmpo. In games 1 and 2, Leonard guarded Antetokounmpo only 19 times, since then he has guarded him 113 times. The Bucks are scoring 114.4 points per 100 possessions when anyone other than Leonard is the primary defender, when Leonard is the primary? The Bucks can only muster 85.6 points per 100 possessions. He is the Giannis stopper, nobody in the NBA is even close to as effective as Leonard has been defending Antetokounmpo. https://twitter.com/kirkgoldsberry/status/1131717479586238465

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The table has been set for Leonard and the Raptors. If they win on Saturday night they will have date #1 of a possible 7 against the Golden State Warriors in Toronto on Thursday night. Toronto holds home-court advantage thanks to their 58-24 regular-season record, one win better than that of the Warriors. Home-court advantage versus the Warriors in a best-of-7 for the NBA Championship? I am sure the Raptors are licking their chops and I am certain that Kawhi Leonard would like to dethrone the Warriors. They will get a chance to do that, if they can win just one game.

The Sacrifice: The Chain Reaction From The DeMar DeRozan

The Toronto Raptors need to make the NBA Finals. This was the goal the organization locked itself into this past off-season. The Raptors have never had a better roster. It has taken 18 years to top their 2001 team, but this is the highest ceiling the Raptors have ever had. Masai Ujiri has masterfully played with this Raptors roster since arriving in July 2013. He traded Rudy Gay to give the reigns to DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, he drafted Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby who both immediately got launched into vital roles on the Raptors. However, Ujiri has also understood that this is a business and that sometimes loyalty means nothing. The DeRozan trade was met with hostility and an overwhelming amount of mixed emotions, because Ujiri traded away the heart and soul of the Raptors. He traded a man who had endeared himself to Toronto and Canadian basketball. Yet it needed to happen, because the DeRozan trade started a chain reaction involving the Raptors progression.

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The most obvious part of this chain reaction is Kawhi Leonard. DeRozan may be the most beloved player in franchise history, but Leonard is certainly the highest caliber player the Raptors have ever had. A relentless scorer Leonard can beat you off the dribble, from deep and even at the basket, those are just a few of the tricks he has up his sleeve offensively. Leonard has never been so depended upon offensively averaging 6.9 field goal attempts more than the next highest Raptor (Serge Ibaka at 11.9FGA), but he has risen to the occasion averaging 26.6 points per game. Leonard helped lead the Raptors to another Atlantic division title and the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference, all while being on “load management”.

“Kawhi Leonard: “There’s 82 games and for me these are just practices and playoffs is when it’s time to lace them up.”

This quote has stuck with me since it was recorded back in early March, because I believe the NBA has not seen the best version of Kawhi Leonard this season. The peak of Leonard’s powers as an individual came during the 2016-17 season. The San Diego State product averaged 27.9 points per game, nearly 8 rebounds a game and 4.6 assists per game during the Spurs playoff run. All while playing relentless defense. This highlight pack from March 2017 versus James Harden shows how Leonard continuously hounds stars, challenging their shots while making each and every bucket a grind. Whether he is stealing the ball, defending on the drive and blocking shots in transition Leonard is able to close ground on a defender and be their worst nightmare. It is unsure whether Leonard will be a part of the Raptors’ future, many are already convinced he is heading to free agency this off-season but none of the matters. All that matters right now is completing the goal the Raptors set out to do at the start of this season and that is to reach the NBA Finals and in Ujiri’s eyes win the Finals.

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Ujiri did not just bring in Leonard for this year’s title run. Another pivotal piece came as a trade deadline acquisition. Marc Gasol has helped the Raptors emphasize Nick Nurse’s agenda of ball movement. Like an orchestra missing their brass section, the Raptors were missing one piece offensively and that was a center who could spread the floor and pass the ball. Jonas Valancinuas a beloved Raptor was traded along with Delon Wright and CJ Miles to Memphis all for Gasol who has become that brass section. Gasol at 7’1 is able to swing the ball at an elite-level for his size. These passes even shocked his teammates in their first game together. Gasol launches Hail Mary passes, finds backdoor cutters and can kick it out. He truly gives the Raptors an element they did not have, while also being a steady three-point shooter. Since arriving in Toronto Gasol’s minutes have been lowered and his efficiency has skyrocketed, Gasol is shooting 44.2% at 2 three-point attempts a game over his 26 games as a Raptor. His numbers are not flashy and he certainly is not a star anymore, but the former mayor of the Grit and Grind Grizzlies will be vital to the Raptors playoff run. His arrival has actually helped the Raptors create a new surge off the bench.

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Serge Ibaka coming off the bench is far better than starting him. Hear me out, Ibaka provides spacing, energy and above-average defense. Since the Gasol trade his minutes are down by nearly 8 minutes per game, which should help manage his energy for the playoffs as Ibaka struggled in last year’s post-season. Ibaka has been playing around 21 minutes per game since being shifted to the bench, which depending on match-ups could be a nice spot for him. The reality is that the Raptors had a net rating of 6.3 with Ibaka on the floor, while the Raptors had a net rating of 15.3 with Gasol on the floor. From that is evident that Gasol should receive more minutes and start, but this gives Ibaka a bigger opportunity to be the Raptors sparkplug. When the Raptors took the Cleveland Cavaliers to 6 games in 2016 it was thanks in part to Bismack Biyombo and his energy. Biyombo started the playoffs on the bench but with his production worked his way into the starting lineup. Ibaka will be hungry in his new role as he must lead this second unit and get his numbers in an even shorter timeframe and I think this is perfect for him. High energy and high intensity from Serge in a shorter timeframe is a recipe for success.

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Ibaka’s minutes have also gone down, because of a young chef in the Raptors kitchen by the name of Pascal Siakam. Spicy P has become the Raptors 2nd option offensively. Evolving before our eyes the 25 year-old has been torching opponents since the All-Star break. Averaging 19 points per game since the break (16.9 on the season), Siakam has been shooting the lights out from three at 42.1% on 3.5 attempts per game. As his shot has continued to improve his numbers have increased both in scoring, but as well as in passing. Siakam’s assist numbers have risen from 2.8 prior to the all-star break to 3.8 afterwards, as he has begun to draw more attention from defenders. For example, one particular teammate who has drastically benefited from this is Danny Green. 1/6 of Danny Green’s assisted makes have come from Siakam and while that number may not seem high, Siakam provides Green with quality looks. The Raptors should look to utilize this combination more in the playoffs as Green who already shoots 45.5% from three-point range, shoots an even better 47.4% from three when receiving a pass from Siakam. This typically coming from a dribble drive play involving Siakam. With the playoffs coming around Siakam’s volume of shots and touches will likely only increase as he continues to cement himself as a staple in the Raptors offense.

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Finally speaking of staples in the Raptors offense Kyle Lowry has taken a backseat this season. Battling nagging injuries and dealing with a struggling shot, Lowry has become more of a facilitator which has seen him average a career-high 8.7 assists per game. Lowry has been the leader for instilling the Raptors new offensive agenda of improved ball movement. The Raptors assists per game as a team are up by 4.5% over last season, which is thanks in large part to Lowry’s ability to be the floor general. Lowry’s scoring numbers do not look great as his three-point shot has fallen, although his two-point efficiency is nearly at a career-high. Lowry has been known to attack the hoop more in the post-season, so this could efficiency on the drive could be even more useful during the playoffs. And with Lowry now being the 3rd option in the Raptors offense I would be shocked to not see him find his shot. For all the flack the Raptors took after being swept by the Cavs last year, Lowry was probably their best player for the playoffs. He had been struggling during the regular-season like this year, then he flipped the switch and shot 50.8% from the field and 44.4% from three-point range. Kyle Lowry is not afraid of the big stage and he will play to his highest level during these playoffs, but he now knows one thing for certain for these playoffs. Lowry finally does not need to be “the guy”.

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Some games DeRozan could be the guy in the playoffs, but it was not always that way. More often than not when he had a bad game Lowry was the only one who could pick up the slack for the Raptors, but this year’s team is different. Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, heck even Danny Green and Fred VanVleet have all proven they can go for 20+ in a night. All five of those guys can hurt opponents and on top of that, the Raptors have one of the Top 5 players in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard. This is the best incarnation of the Toronto Raptors and they know this. This team believes in itself and they have reason to because they could feasibly challenge any team in the NBA. Do I think they will win a title? Probably not, but I would be shocked if they were not in the Finals. And that is all I ever wanted to see from the Raptors, to see the sacrifice pay off by making the NBA Finals.

 

As always thank you to the reader for your time and attention! It always rewarding hearing feedback on my articles, so if you have anything it all you would like to say please feel free! Special S/O to Matthew Saunders who won the JSST March Madness Bracket Challenge!

Rock Bottom: The Ottawa Senators Self-Induced Avalanche

Is this rock bottom?

The Ottawa Senators were 1 goal away from the Stanley Cup Final, so close yet so far. Even in the face of defeat I was so proud to be a fan of the Sens. With a strong core of young and primed players it looked like the Sens were poised for a sustainable success in the near future. That was 25 months ago, since then the Send have managed to lose or bury 15 of the 20 players who dressed for them in. Game 7. The Sens are dead last in the NHL, a laughingstock across the league and are difficult to watch night in and night out. Especially after this week where they traded their Top 3 scorers, whom contributed to 41% of the team’s goals this season. Did I mention they do not even own their draft pick for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft? The Senators have managed to even be horrible at being bad.

Is this rock bottom?

How about trading or losing (free agency/expansion draft) 35 different good/great assets over 18 1/2 years? Oh yeah I made a list for it do not worry!

Significant players or assets the Sens have traded or lost:

Daniel Alfredsson

Matt Duchene

Kyle Turris

Erik Karlsson

2019 Ottawa 1st Round Pick

Ryan Dzingel

Shane Bowers

Mike Hoffman

Jonathan Dahlen

Mika Zibanejad

Derick Brassard

Robin Lehner

Jason Spezza

Jakob Silfverberg

Nick Ritchie

Ben Bishop

Marc Methot

Nick Foligno

Brian Elliott

Mike Fisher

Vladamir Tarasenko (1st round pick)

Dany Heatley

Martin Havlat

Marian Hossa

Alexei Yashin

Vinny Prospal

Lubomir Vishnovsky (1st round pick)

Kyle Palmieri (1st round pick)

Antoine Vermette

Zdeno Chara

Anton Volchenkov

Radek Bonk

Sami Salo

Andrej Mezaros

Mark Stone

Yes the Senators got players back from these trades or used money to sign other players, but you would be damned to say the Senators did not miss these players. After looking at this list, I ask again….

Is this rock bottom?

Even after all that here I was in Munich, Germany tonight laying on the hardwood floor of my hostel room praying the Sens did not trade Mark Stone. I was even confident they would not, but like the last 25 months the Sens let me down. Not only did they trade their 2nd untradeable player in the past 6 months, but they got fleeced again! They did not even come close to Stone’s value and there had been an alleged bidding war to get Stone. How incompetent can you be to lose the bidding war as the auctioneer? Yes even Wayne Gretzky was traded, but should we not learn from lopsided trades like that? So as to not repeat history and end up getting fleeced twice in 6 months?

Is this rock bottom?

In a classic mistake of an over-excited fan I watched live as the Sens dropped from 2nd to 4th in the NHL draft lottery last season. This year I am sure I will get sucked back into, just to watch the Sens be embarrassed once more as the Colorado Avalanche will claim the almost guaranteed Top-3 pick from Ottawa. They will have a great chance of drafting Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko in the same season where they are in a heated playoff race. This is all thanks to the Sens being the worst team in the NHL on and off the ice.

Will that be rock bottom?

 

The sad part is I do not even that will be rock bottom. I am not sure I can dare stomach a Sens game with its current state. The prospect and pick cabinet is more stocked than it has been in years, but does any of that matter when your owner is not committed to the city? The same owner who is based in Barbados, lies to his fans on a regular basis and challenges a once diehard fan-base who feels betrayed by this man.

Rock bottom for me will be if the 2019-2020 NHL season begins and Eugene Melnyk is still the sole and/or majority  owner of the Ottawa Senators. The suffering the fans have endured and the intense emotions should be towards him. I see no bright future for the Ottawa Senators with Eugene Melnyk involved. His involvement in this team’s day to day operations have cratered and embarrassed a once respected franchise.

Melnyk Out.

 

Meet Mac Miller: 50 Mac Miller Songs that Explain a Legend and What He Meant To Me Part 2 of 5, Songs 40-31: Grooving Along

Disclaimer: This will likely have spelling errors and a mangled sentence here and there. I don’t have a computer on my Europe trip, so ya fight me. ONTO THE SHOW!

Ladies and gentlemen, g’day from Dublin, Ireland. It’s time for part 2 in my Mac Miller series, let the records show that I am sober for the start of this. That might change as I groove along through my man’s music, but let’s take this one song at a time.

Senior Skip Day (40)

Mixtape: K.I.D.S.

Juvenile Mac Miller is always refreshing as he is worry-free and simply living life freely. This song is an anthem for playing bookie and for those who aim to live their dreams each day. The lyrics insinuate a go with the flow lifestyle which backup my earlier mentor of a worry-free life.

Some lyrics:
Open up the fridge to make some waffles
But no syrup left in my bottle
Damn, well, that’s okay
I top it off with scrambled eggs
Ayy, gotta work with watcha got
Ayy, gotta work with watcha got

Mac’s success came so quick when he was still so young, but early on he just wanted to be the average teenager. Lazy and stress free, doing what he wants when he wants. It is amazing listening to this now and comparing the differences in timelines. This once worry-free kid ended up opening up his demons, we saw his ego/figure develop and we saw his rise as a pop culture icon.

Frick Park Market (39)

Album: Blue Slide Park

Amazingly Frick Park Market is fairly fresh to me. I know you are asking, how could it be fresh to Josh? Sue me I am a horrible person. Not one of my favourites originally, it has grown on me over time. For example, this song is really a shoutout to Frick Park Market. That’s right it’s a real place in Pittsburgh, where you can find anything and everything. Mac always showed out for his hometown and defend Pittsburgh I loved that about him. We also see Mac take a defensive stance about his persona in this song.

Some Lyrics:

My name Mac Miller, who the fuck are you
Well my crew too live but I ain’t Uncle Luke
And I ain’t no hipster, but girl I can make your hips stir

Accused of being a hipster by critics at the time Mac grew annoyed and wanted to make it vehemently clear that he was no hipster. People associated him with hipsters, because of his unique approach. In your face constantly, but always accompanied by brilliant lyrics and enchanting music which highlighted his brilliance. His self-taught musical talents were crucial to his makeup because he stood out and was unique. His lyrics, career shifts and emotions all showed personality and a desire to get better. Mac never did anything half heartedly and if that made him a hipster then screw it, I am a hipster too.

Earth (38)

Album: Life In Space

The first 45 seconds of this are an incredible beat accompanied by Mac talking about feeling comfortable

Some Lyrics:

Yeah, you know I love having a studio at home
Because right when I walk in the booth
You know I, I take a sip of my drink
You know like, light a cigarette and walk up to the mic
And it’s exactly the correct height for me
It definitely just makes me feel comfortable
You know, lets your mind be at ease
And I, noticed that, that uh, sometimes I rap with my rollie on
And sometimes I take it off

Such an interesting approach to an introduction, Mac is blunt saying his best work comes from home. He provides imagery to say that the small things (mic height, a drink) make him feel at peace. This whole album is quite forgotten in my opinion and it is absurdly odd. It oozes of positivity and brightness, full of feelings that made Mac’s music beautiful. He articulates his emotion while painting a mosaic (wrote this in an art gallery lol). His mind  seemed clear on this track or clearer and accordingly he used his and Future’s creativity. Future’s verse references his own ghost writing history and you can see his lyrical genius thoughout the verse, which is met by our final lyrics. An excellent hook by Mac.

Some Lyrics:

You ain’t gotta worry if you’re cold
Promise baby, I’ll be there by tomorrow
If you love me then I’ll be down for it all
Cause I ain’t seen nobody like you
You look so good, when you walk by
I had to stop, you blew my high
A real angel bringing back to earth

Perfecto (37)

Album: Swimming

Mac lays his battle with drugs and anxiety on the table with Perfecto. Never shy to talk about his drug problems, Mac personifies his drug problems referring to them as “she” and “her”. The outro is probably where we see this in its most evident way.

Some Lyrics:

Yeah
Tell me you love me, spin me around
Pretty please pick me up in the air and don’t put me down
Seen it all unfold, sat back and watched
Knowin’ time don’t give a fuck about clocks until they stop
Bare feet, runnin’ late, her car started
Even though the only thing that she drivin’ a hard bargain
More important is I’m kinda sorta out the door but
She put me back together when I’m out of order
Perfect

Max acknowedges the faults in his drug problems, but also recognizes that it helped him feel full when he was empty. When dissecting the lyrics it truly hurts to read and listen to his struggles. During the chorus listeners can hear, ” Is it? Is it? Is it?” being repeated in the background. This is likely linked to the depression and anxiety Mac experienced. Continously questioning himself and his own decisions Malcolm was just trying to find some clarity. Like so many others in the world, Mac Miller’s head was a living hell at points during his life.

Programs (36)

Single: Programs

I lost my shit when Malcolm uploaded cover art on his Instagram. I quickly downloaded all three of the singles he had released that evening, and it was magical. I was growing worried for Mac’s future, he had just broke up with Ariana Grande and got a DUI after crashing his Mercedes. This, the first song released since these events unfolded, gave me comfort. It also reminded me to rock with people, who loved me and to not focus on the people who were messing with my life.
Some Lyrics:
Yeah, I’m only keepin’ good company      I am not talkin’ to you if you don’t have love for me (yeah)                               Yeah, one for you and one for me (yeah, yeah)                                                               I am not talkin’ to you if you don’t have love for me

Soulmate (35)

Album: The Divine Feminine

This was actually not in the original list, but with its wonderul lyrics and a flawless introduction I find it to be a trip worth taking. A solumate is a desire of mine and Mac concocted a great song about the value of having a solumate. However, the aforementioned introduction really sets the table for track. It is an excerpt from Good Will Hunting and it is the perfect way to lead into Mac’s enthralling lyrics and Soulmate’s hot beat.

Some Lyrics:

(Intro)

You feel like you’re alone, Will? You have a soulmate? Somebody who challenges you. I’m talking about someone who opens up things for you—touches your soul. You can’t give back to them, you know. You’ll never have that kind of relationship in a world where you’re always afraid to take the first step because all you see is every negative thing ten miles down the road. You can do anything you want, you are bound by nothing…

This R and B exploration by Mac being accompanied by Robin Williams’ wise words is fitting, because of their similar personalities. Larger than life personalities who always smiled, but left a hidden path of sorrow behind them. Mac wrote about his troubles, though this writing came largely after Williams’ passing. Perhaps Mac took Williams death as about wakeup call to open up about his struggles. That could be a stretch, but I would like to think there is some truth to it.

Weekend (34)

Album: GO:OD AM

One of Mac’s highest charting songs is simple in its nature, because who does not love their weekends? Mac owns his wealth and flaunts it in this track. GO:OD AM was Mac’s first album under Warner Bros. Records, he signed for a large fee said to be around $10 million USD. He also highlights his substance abuse, but reminds everyone that “I’ll be good by the weekend”.

Some Lyrics:

I’ll be good by the weekend
Everything good by the weekend
Everything will be good by the weekendWe going out tonight, yeah we going out tonight, like fuck it
We going out tonight, yeah we going out tonight, fuck it
We going out tonight, yeah we going out tonight
We going out tonight, yeah we going out tonight

This hook and post-hook actually have been highlighted by Mac who says his weekend are reserved for “seeing some shows, going out and having Mr. Nasty Time”. Verse 2 is actually one of Mac’s favourites because he absolutely went off and shocked those in the booth with him.

Quote: “When I laid it down everyone that was in the other room was like “whew!” You don’t get that when you’re at a certain level. People stop being surprised that you can rap.”

That quote will always be one of my favourites. Such a famous, influential and creative man is so humbled and happy with a collective “whew!”.

My Favorite Part (33)

Album: The Divine Feminine

Trying a different approach and writing this one in Phoenix Park, so it will be entirely from the hip with no Internet reference. I think you see the evident chemistry Ariana and Malcolm had just from this song. In a professional and personal manner they deliver. There is passion and emotion in each and every note, they are truly singing from their hearts and about one another. Their duet in the chorus flows so well as their voices beautifully compliment one another. This song in my opinion is the best representation of why Ariana has struggled in the wake of Mac’s death.  They were deeply in love and while they bad broken off before his death, it would be egregious to say they were not still internal emotional about one another. If you do not believe me, I would suggest listening to Ariana’s recently released track, ghostin. The track samples Mac’s track, 2009 and she opens up about some of her intense emotional struggle. It is a shame they could not have ended up together truthfully.

Rush Hour (32)

Album: GO:OD AM

“The world don’t give a fuck about your loneliness”, some of the best advice I ever took from 10 words or less.  Back when I was 18 (specifically 2nd semester of 1st year), I found myself upset with how my studies were going and I was genuinely mad at myself. My social life was going under, because of stress which I saw hanging over me like a dark cloud. I made my problems seem far worse than they in fact were and was beating myself up. This song and that line served as a harsh reality that the world was not going to feel sorry for me. It helped freshen my perspective on life and my own problems. Mac also uses this song to talk about his work ethic and explaining that the harder you work, the less waiting you will do in life. Mac burst onto the scene in high school and sacrificed his teen years to set himself up for a musical career, one that was 6 years old (as a relevant solo artist) on the release of GO:OD AM.  This song has so much depth to it, but even then it is so easy lose yourself in its quick pace, record scratches and Mac’s background wooing. All which were creative bits added by Mac and ID Labs, a production company who shared success with Mac throughout his career. Finally we are left with brilliance from Vinny Radio in the outro.

Some Lyrics:

“Don’t ever become content because you will repent.  Feel that, go get it. That’s your life go live it.”

Excellent advice and a fabulous ending to a surprisingly sentimental song.

Come Back To Earth (31)

Album: Swmiming

When making an album some artists just throw songs together, but others try to set a tone instantly. They may change or manipulate their tone throughout, but there would at least be transitons. That being the opening track needs to establish a clear direction, Come Back To Earth did just that for Mac’s final album, Swimming. Right away I felt why I would love this album. “My regrets look just like texts I shouldn’t send”, this is the first line of the entire album, and is it ever relatable. I have sent texts out of frustration, desperation and hopelessness, then instantly or eventually ended up regretting them deeply. But, the relatability does not end there. Malcolm goes on to sing about getting out of his own head, something which I felt like trapped me in my younger years. I would be “drowning” in “stressful waters”, but now I finally found my “relief”. The first time I listened to this song was at work, an hour before the official release of his album, and just from that one song, I knew how much I would love the album and how much it would mean to me.

 

If you made it to the end THANK YOU FOR BEING AWESOME AND READING! I wrote this in my journal then rewrote it all on my phone on WordPress looool. An exhaustive process but hopefully Part 3 will come sooner than Part 2 did! Stay tuned and thanks for the support, it means the world to me <3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Down Swinging: Why New Orleans need to make an Anthony Davis Trade Work

Anthony Davis has been rumoured to be on his way out of New Orleans for quite some time, but yesterday (January 28th) it was finally confirmed. Once again a small market franchise is on the verge of losing their franchise player, but this one hurts much more. Davis is arguably a Top 5 player in the NBA, an excellent big man who guided the Pelicans to a 2nd round playoff berth last year. Yet even with such a talent, the Pelicans are 21st in attendance percentage, despite having the smallest capacity in the NBA. The men who brought basketball back to New Orleans, David Stern (former NBA commissioner) and Tom Benson (recently deceased majority owner) are no longer in the picture. Therefore, it would seem that the Pelicans days could be numbered, but there is still one saving grace. Oddly enough, it is Anthony Davis.

People seem to forget that Davis is a Pelican through the 2019-2020 season. Accordingly, the Pelicans have time to evaluate this situation and make a decision that will be for the betterment of their organization and Davis. Many thought one of the best suitors for Davis were the Boston Celtics, who under the Rose Rule, cannot trade for Davis until the summer of 2019, unless they trade Kyrie Irving. However, the Celtics appear to be unconfident about re-signing Irving, which would affect Davis’ potential contract negotiations. Consequently, it would make sense for the Pelicans to bide their time and evaluate their market at full strength. Biding their time until the off-season, will not only affect the Davis trade, but the direction and future of the organization. However, that does not mean a trade cannot happen by February 8th. The Pelicans have multiple options and a lot of potential suitors, so let us explore these options and suitors.

 

Option #1: Bottom Out and Collect Futures

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Why only trade Anthony Davis? Why not trade any and every one over the age of 25? The Atlanta Hawks have two players from their 2016-17 roster (Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry), both 1st round picks from 2016. Currently 12 of the 17 roster players for the Atlanta Hawks are 25 years old or younger, their older players are veterans to fill out cap space and help coach the younger players. They have created an exciting brand of basketball, and play at the highest pace in the NBA. However, even Atlanta a bigger market than New Orleans is struggling to draw attendance. The Hawks are on the upswing at 80.8% (76.9% last season) and while this attendance number is still low, the Hawks are remaining committed to their model of young. Their youngest players such as Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter play premium minutes and are gathering valuable experience for their future NBA careers. If the Pelicans went with this option there are many questions surrounding it, so let’s ask and answer a few.

Does New Orleans have a market that will be patient with the franchise’s development? Probably not. This has already been covered but to revisit, the Pelicans are a team fighting for a playoff spot with a Top 5 NBA player and they cannot even draw 95% attendance. Their market is one of the smallest in the NBA, and their die-hard owner has passed away, passing franchise control to his wife. While Gayle Benson has not made any indication she would like to sell the Pelicans, there is a huge opportunity to turn profit. Her husband bought the Pelicans for $338 million and realistically, she could flip the team for close to triple of $338 million. Therefore, a sale would make sense for Benson and Seattle has been patiently waiting for an NBA franchise to be available. However, even a sale could keep the Pelicans in New Orleans if their collection of futures works. That begs the question, can they yield enough futures to justify this option? Absolutely, the Hawks have proven that is possible by making a complete overhaul of their roster. The Hawks have acquired young assets and have even more futures on the way. The Hawks will likely have two 2019 1st round picks this year, their own and the Dallas Mavericks (Doncic trade), they also have the possibility of four 2nd round picks. The Hawks will continue to stock their cupboards with prospects, and can create an exciting culture for Atlanta basketball. They will need to continue to hit the jackpot with their non-lottery picks, like they have with John Collins and Kevin Huerter, but they do look to be positioned for future success.

The Pelicans have a leg up on the Hawks as well. Davis is a far higher value player than anything the Hawks used to acquire futures. Presumably, all other 29 NBA teams will have some interest in Anthony Davis trade talks, with 10-12 teams have a strong vested interest. When you look at it from that perspective the Pelicans are not in a horrible spot, but we will talk trades later. The next important question to ask, is if the Pelicans roster is fairly expendable. The answer is yes, the Pelicans only have one player signed through the 2020-2021 season (Jrue Holiday), and can create flexible packages to offload veterans. Holiday is also the type of veteran who could help coach younger players and usher in a new era of Pelicans basketball. The Pelicans are in a prime position to, “BLOW IT UP” – Kevin O’Connor. But, what if the Pelicans do not have faith in a blow up? What if they feel they need futures and player(s) right now, better yet they want an all-star or borderline all-star in return.

 

Option #2: Try to keep winning and remain competitive

davis-pelicans

Option #2: Try to keep winning and remain competitive

If the Pelicans want to try to keep winning and just see no value in bottoming out, they have a road-map to make this work. As I mentioned earlier, they have one of the Top 5 players in the NBA, there is a lot of value in trading him. I have created 5 possible trade scenarios for the Pelicans to remain competitive, while offloading Davis.

 

Try to Keep Winning (5 trades)

How this works: I am going to list a team or multiple teams that the Pelicans could potentially trade with. Davis will be a part of every single potential trade and after detailing the trade, I will explain why the trades makes sense all teams involved.

Portland Trail Blazers

(1st scenario AD is signing)

(2nd scenario AD is not signing)

Scenario #1:

Timing: This summer

Portland receives: Anthony Davis and Solomon Hill

New Orleans receives: CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan, Gary Trent Jr., Portland 2019 1st round pick, Portland 2019 and 2020 2nd round picks, Portland 2021 1st round pick

Scenario #2:

Timing: This summer

Portland receives: Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill and Kenrich Williams

New Orleans receives: CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, Evan Turner and Portland 2019 1st round pick

Why it makes sense for Portland: Damian Lillard is not getting any younger, but is the clear leader of this Blazer team. CJ McCollum has been itching for more touches and moving him for Davis makes perfect sense. Dame, AD and Jusuf Nurkic are your three-headed monster, when surrounded with role players this is a great team. With Nurkic on a friendly deal, the Blazers are an Evan Turner trade away from having the cash sign Davis and more. If they do not get the guarantee of Davis signing, they could throw Turner into this trade and just squeeze out a deal with the Pelicans.

Why it makes sense for New Orleans: New Orleans has the opportunity to have a dynamic backcourt between Holiday and McCollum and in this scenario, McCollum is finally the guy. Holiday is used to being a sidekick beside Davis in New Orleans, McCollum could also fit into Alvin Gentry’s fast-paced style in New Orleans. Collins would add to the Pelicans youthful frontcourt behind Julius Randle, and once again fit coach Gentry’s system. While Evan Turner could jump into a starter’s role, while helping coach younger players. And of course the 1st round pick(s) is always nice to have, even if it is late in the round.

 

Dallas Mavericks & Orlando Magic

Timing: Before the trade deadline

Dallas receives: Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill and Timofey Mozgov

Orlando receives: DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson, Dallas 2020 1st round pick and 2019 or 2020 2nd round pick (Warriors get 2019 if it is 56-60) and option to swap 1st round picks with New Orleans in 2021

New Orleans receives: Harrison Barnes, Nikola Vucevic, Dennis Smith Jr. and Dallas 2022 1st round pick

 

Why it makes sense for Dallas: Dallas has Luka Doncic, and he is on a rookie contract. I think that sums it up. They can push the envelope while it is possible, if Dallas got Davis they would absolutely have a great chance to sign him. Barnes has looked okay this year, but has not lived up to his contract, if they were to bring in Davis that is a player who would exceed their contract’s expectations while pulling in other players who want to win. Dennis Smith Jr., also appears to not be gelling so why not move him while he has value?

Why it makes sense for Orlando: I find it really hard to see Nikola Vucevic buying back into Orlando. They are in no man’s land, not good enough to contend and not bad enough to tank. This is a great way to make the best of a bad situation. They would get an expiring DeAndre Jordan contract, a young point guard (Brunson) which they desperately need and Dwight Powell who has a player option in 2019-2020, but is then off the books. On top of that they ditch the Mozgov contract for 2019, making room for them to be a salary dump target for teams looking to swap picks for bad contracts. Finally, they get an additional 1st in 2020, a 2nd and the option to swap picks in 2021.

Why it makes sense for New Orleans: Vucevic would need to sign for this deal to work, but I think there is a good chance he would. A similar market to Orlando, the Pelicans could provide a less stressful environment for Vucevic while putting him on the best team he has ever played on. Barnes is a good wing, who can be great and with a change of scenery is going to get that opportunity. Smith Jr., also would benefit from a new coach and system, as Rick Carlisle and he have not got off to the best start. New Orleans gets a pick down the road and get 2 players in their prime while adding a young guard who has crazy athleticism and good potential.

 

Philadelphia 76ers

Timing: This summer

Philadelphia receives: Anthony Davis and Solomon Hill

New Orleans receives: Jimmy Butler, Markelle Fultz, Furkan Korkmaz, Landry Shamet and Philadelphia 2019 1st round pick, conditional 2021 1st round pick if Butler does not begin 2019 or 2020 season with Pelicans and if Davis signs with Philadelphia (if Butler remains or Davis doesn’t re-sign conditional 1st becomes 2nd)

 

Why it makes sense for Philadelphia: Jimmy Butler is a polarizing figure, and could disrupt the long-term chemistry of the Sixers locker room and core. From a talent standpoint, losing him would feel miniscule in stature when they would have the opportunity to bring in Davis and create one of the best frontcourts of all-time. Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid, a nearly unstoppable force in today’s NBA. It would also work to Davis’ liking as he would go back to playing the 4, a personal preference for him and it would defy today’s modern NBA. The Sixers would be able to pound the rock in the paint better than anyone in basketball, while putting floor spacers like JJ Redick around Davis and Embiid who are both above-average passers for big men. The obvious follow-up move for the Sixers would be to focus on grabbing more wings and floor spacers. They would get a step ahead by also collecting Solomon Hill in this trade, a wing that could provide valuable bench minutes.

Why it makes sense for New Orleans: The Pelicans would be swinging for the fences. Butler is actually a safe part of this trade, because he could opt out or only end up staying for one season. Of course if Butler ended up buying in and playing to his abilities, then he could easily be signed to a max. However, the true wildcard in this trade is Markelle Fultz. Will a change of scenery and a low pressure market finally help Fultz? I think it would be a much better fit for the former 1st overall pick, playing behind Jrue Holiday and playing in a fast-paced system built for young NBA players. On top of that Furkan Korkmaz and Landry Shamet have lots of potential to grow, and are good shooters, who Alvin Gentry could use effectively off of the bench. As well, the cherry on top is the 1st round pick, and the potential of a second 1st.

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Philadelphia 76ers and LA Clippers

Timeline: Before free agency this summer

Philadelphia receives: Jrue Holiday

La Clippers receive: Anthony Davis

New Orleans receives: Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Montrezl Harrell, Markelle Fultz, Wilson Chandler, Clippers conditional 2021 1st round pick (If Davis signs, becomes 2nd round pick if Davis does not), Philadelphia 2020 1st round pick

 

Why it makes sense for Philadelphia: Suddenly Philly has two dominant playmakers on offense, Holiday and Ben Simmons and finally they have some more spacing on the floor. Holiday is having a career year as a playmaker and he has proven to be a very capable shooter. He got great off-ball experience with Rajon Rondo running some point New Orleans last year. It would also be a homecoming of sorts. Holiday originally a Sixer, would be excited about the opportunity to join a young contender. He would get a similar setting offensively with a dominant big like Joel Embiid. Philadelphia would also get to move on from Markelle Fultz and forget about that, the 1st round pick would not mean much as they would be competing to win a title or Eastern Conference title.

 

Why it makes sense for Los Angeles: Anthony Davis wants to go to LA, so why not just deal him to the Clippers? It would be a hilarious reality if the Lakers got curved for the Clippers, but Davis might actually buy into the Clippers. With Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris’ future contract off the book, the Clippers will have an absurd amount of cap space. They would also have Davis to recruit other players, what if Boogie Cousins decided to join Davis in LA? Could Kawhi Leonard end up with the Clippers? How about Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant? There are a lot of possibilities for the Clippers and Davis would absolutely fill the superstar void that they lost when Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were shipped off. The biggest loss they would have on this trade is losing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but this is a worthwhile deal to trade a future all-star for a Top 5 NBA player.

 

Why it makes sense for New Orleans: This is probably the best case scenario. The Pelicans do not gain back an Anthony Davis talent, but they add a lot of pieces that can have an impact right now and on their future. Tobias Harris would most likely sign a max contract and even if he did not, the Pelicans still pick up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Montrezl Harrell, players who seem to be getting better and better game by game. It hurts eating Avery Bradley’s contract sure, but Wilson Chandler’s contract is expiring this summer and they are also getting Markelle Fultz. Fultz is the aforementioned wildcard, but in this model they could even try to flip Fultz. Think about it, with Gilgeous-Alexander being their likely point guard of the future why not flip Fultz for something else the Pelicans might need?

 

That was a lot of content was it not? Those are the 5 trades that make the most sense if the Pelicans want to pull off what Gregg Popovich pulled this summer with Kawhi Leonard. When the Spurs acquired DeMar DeRozan, Jakub Poetl and Toronto’s 2019 1st round pick for the aforementioned Leonard and Danny Green. I bet you were shocked to not see a single Lakers trade offer, well do not worry we are going to explore the Pelicans option to blow it up. Accordingly, what if the Pelicans do not want to compete? What are potential trades if they want to start fresh?

 

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Blow it up (5 trades)

Los Angeles Lakers

Timeline: At the trade deadline

Los Angeles receives: Anthony Davis

New Orleans receives: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Lakers 2019 1st round pick, Los Angeles Lakers 2020 2nd round pick

 

Why it makes sense for Los Angeles: This was the plan all along was it not? LeBron James has been poaching Anthony Davis for some time. Davis signed with Klutch Sports Group (LeBron’s agency) and has had Rich Paul (LeBron’s agent/friend) courtside at many games this season. Davis would undoubtedly sign an extension, as this is his preferred destination. Davis would also help the Lakers recruit one more star to create the next Big 3 for the NBA to deal with. He would instantly be on an immediate contender as he would be joining the best player of this generation, this is certainly Davis’ best wish.

 

Why it makes sense for New Orleans: Kyle Kuzma has been a stud this year, and besides LeBron has been the best Laker. He is averaging 19 points per game and has room to grow, if he can continue to grow his range and 3-point shot, he could put up 25 a night. However, personally the most intriguing part of this trade would be Lonzo Ball. I am a big believer in Ball’s growth as a player and while he is a project, he is definitely worth a look. His arrival would likely mean that Jrue Holiday would be traded as well, but I still believe Ball can be an all-star point guard. In a faster-paced system with less media coverage he could grow into his true potential. Let us not forget Ball is 21, this dude has a lot of time to come into his own. Probably the most underrated part of this trade would be the addition of Ivica Zubac, who has been on a tear in January. In a mere 17.4 minutes per game Zubac is averaging 12.2PPG and 6.5RPG, the Lakers are +60 this year when Zubac is on the floor. Of course finally the Pelicans are getting an additional 1st round pick, which is vital to this rebuild.

 

Los Angeles Lakers & Orlando Magic

Timeline: At the trade deadline

Los Angeles receives: Anthony Davis

Orlando receives: Lonzo Ball

New Orleans receives: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jonathan Isaac, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Lakers 2019 1st round pick, Los Angeles Lakers 2021 1st round pick and option to swap 2019 2nd round picks with Orlando

 

Why it makes sense for Los Angeles: Please refer to last Lakers paragraph.

 

Why it makes sense for Orlando: I mean why not right? Lonzo Ball in Orlando. The Magic need a point guard for the future, so why not roll the dice with Ball? The Magic have drafted so many wings and big men, yes it would suck to give up Jonathan Isaac, but personally I think Ball has a higher ceiling and is an upgrade. Ball would get his wish to be a starting point guard and he might even entice Nikola Vucevic to stay. This move from an organizational perspective could be used to tell Vucevic that the Magic are building around him, and attempting to build a winner for the future and now. It is certainly risky for Orlando, but really what have they got to lose? This is a flyer they should 100% be exploring.

 

Why it makes sense for New Orleans: On top of getting the aforementioned Kuzma and Zubac, the Pelicans get two 1st round picks instead of just one and add Jonathan Isaac, an athletic freak. Isaac has played just over 70 games in his NBA career, a staggering low number and accordingly it gives you the sense that he has lots of room to grow. Statistically he has improved in almost every aspect from his rookie season, and yes I think he would benefit from Gentry’s system. A much faster paced offense, where Isaac would get the chance to get out and run more in transition suits him. His athleticism can take over and help him create more offense chances for himself and his teammates. Furthermore, the Pelicans would be able to hang on to Holiday this way if they are so inclined, while also adding a lot of young talent and futures.

 

New York Knicks

Timeline: At the trade deadline

New York receives: Anthony Davis

New Orleans receives: Enes Kanter, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina and New York 2019 1st round pick

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Why it would make sense for New York: This would be a change of pace eh? Knick fans who have quite literally been cheering against their team this year, fully embracing the tank the Knicks have found unique ways to lose games. But, they also have talked about going out and landing big free agents this summer. What better way to recruit big free agents, then picking up Anthony Davis? The Knicks would have to instantly flip the switch and try to win games as they would be trading away their 1st round pick, but with Davis that would be much easier. Think about the real possibility of having Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant all playing on the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. SING IT WITH ME!

Why it would make sense for New Orleans: Kevin Knox is a stud and at a mere 19 years old has lots of room to grow as a player with Jrue Holiday finding him for jumpers and cuts, Knox could come into his own even quicker. Frank Ntilikina is a big project, but he already has all the makings of an above-average defender. Perhaps a faster-paced offense could help the young guard figure himself out as a pass first point guard. Finally, the real reason this trade works. That 1st round pick, imagine if the Knicks won the lottery anyways. The Pelicans would lose Anthony Davis, but still get Knox, Ntilikina and Zion Williamson. If you do not know who Zion is get out from under your rock. The mixtape god, “the next one” Zion is tearing up college basketball and would change everything for whichever franchise drafts him. This trade is a big risk for the Pelicans they would either fail to gain a lot, if the Knicks lost the lottery, but if the Knicks won the lottery the Pelicans would likely save their franchise. Yes, Zion is that good.

 

Miami Heat & San Antonio Spurs

Timeline: At the trade deadline

Miami receives: Anthony Davis

San Antonio receives: Jrue Holiday

New Orleans receives: Hassan Whiteside, Pau Gasol, Lonnie Walker IV, Patty Mills, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Yante Maten, Miami 2019 1st round pick, San Antonio 2019 1st round pick and Miami 2021 Conditional 1st round pick (If Davis signs, if he does not 1st becomes a 2nd)

 

Why it would make sense for Miami: Pat Riley is one of the best recruiters in NBA history. The man that brought LeBron and Chris Bosh to Miami could somehow re-create this by starting it off with an Anthony Davis trade. Davis could be swayed by the opportunity to build a powerhouse in Miami, as with Whiteside off the books, Riley could begin to manipulate his roster and make another Big 3 for the Heat. He would absolutely be breaking the prospect bank by trading away Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo and Yante Maten, but the Heat have the assets and cap space to focus on becoming a contender. They would still keep Derrick Jones Jr., for their development and the 1st round picks would mean little to them as they pushed for championships with Davis and his potential entourage.

 

Why it would make sense for San Antonio: Gregg Popovich’s last stand, the old dog goes down swinging. Popovich does not seem overly interested in a rebuild, but the Spurs are not good enough to contend for a title. Popovich will not admit that though and will try anything to become a contender, picking up Jrue Holiday would be a great move. The Spurs would finally have a true point guard for this season, as well as a great mentor Dejounte Murray when he returned. They would escape Pau Gasol and Patty Mills contracts and potentially have the cap space to bring in some nice off-season additions. They would only lose a 1st and Lonnie Walker IV, but with the Raptors 1st round pick coming their way this year it is a risk worthwhile taking.

 

Why it would make sense for New Orleans: This is the biggest haul from a pure asset standpoint the Pelicans are going to get. Three 1st round picks, while it is quite likely none of them will be lottery picks they can put those picks to great use. They are also getting Justise Winslow, who has basically become a point-forward this year and has improved leaps and bounds offensively while still being steady defensively. Big and bad Bam Adebayo has continued to develop and while his statistics do not jump off the screen, his defense has improved and he has become more efficient offensively. Both of those players have lots of room to grow as well. Yante Maten is more of a throw-in and is a long way away, but the Pelicans have a chance to swoop in and steal Lonnie Walker IV. Coming off a meniscus tear, the Spurs have been patient with Walker and have been easing him back into the lineup, but this guy has all the makings of an NBA starter. Walker likes to get out and run with the ball, and like shooting off the bounce. Accordingly, he is a natural fit to Gentry’s offense in New Orleans and can flourish in this system. A quick reminder that he is only 20 years old. Eating the Gasol, Mills and Whiteside contracts is worth landing three strong young players.

 

Boston Celtics

Timeline: This summer

Boston receives: Anthony Davis and Solomon Hill

New Orleans receives: Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier, Al Horford, Los Angeles Clippers 1st round pick (if outside of Top 14, if inside Top 14, New Orleans receives Boston 1st round pick), Boston 2021 Conditional 1st round pick (If Davis signs, becomes 2nd round pick in 2021 if Davis does not)

 

Why it makes sense for Boston: A lot of people thought this was the original slam dunk trade, but with Kyrie Irving’s frustration brewing, it seems less and less likely. With that being said, Danny Ainge is a masterful tactician and may be able to retain Irving if Anthony Davis is coming to Boston. The Celtics have had Davis on the radar for quite some time and this would be their best shot at landing an additional superstar, as well as keeping Irving. They would have to give up Tatum to do this, but that is a price worth paying especially when they can offload Al Horford’s contract and the impending payday for Terry Rozier. On top of Tatum they would have to give up a pair of 1sts, which would hurt, but it costs to acquire great talent. The Celtics would instantly become the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

 

Why it makes sense for New Orleans: Jayson Tatum was a stud in the playoffs last year and led the Celtics into a toe to toe with LeBron James and the Cavaliers last season. Tatum truly looked brilliant last year in the playoffs and while he has not reached that playoff level this year, he has still made improvements and become even more fearless. The best part is, he is just the tip of the iceberg in the trade. Horford is a beloved veteran who would likely opt-in and spend an extra season in New Orleans helping develop talent, and the Pelicans would have the option to flip Rozier or pay the young guard. The extra futures would help too, of course in building a young core around Tatum and potentially Rozier.

 

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All in all it is evident that the Pelicans can still somehow salvage an Anthony Davis trade, and they truly need to. The ball is in their court, and they have to do a deal that makes the most sense for their franchise, not for Anthony Davis. The fate of New Orleans professional basketball hangs in the hands of the Pelicans front office, if their staff botch this trade I truly believe the Pelicans will be flying Northwest in 5-7 years. Godspeed New Orleans.

 

Meet Mac Miller: 50 Mac Miller Songs that Explain a Legend and What He Meant Me Part 1 of 5, Songs 50-41: The Warm-Ups

Full disclosure: This is long and incredibly raw. It is not meant to be a “journalistic professional article”, this is meant to be a tribute to a person I loved and admired greatly. I wanted absolutely no one to read it, preview or edit it before I posted it because, I want it to remain pure and for its original, intended purpose. If you do not like that, there’s an X button in the right top corner, feel free to save yourself the time. Some of this was written in November, some of it was written in January, so once again it may be all over the place. Finally, please enjoy this, it is the longest non-sports related piece I have ever written and this is only Part 1 of 5.

 

Malcolm James McCormick (Mac Miller) was and is my favourite artist ever. He connected with me on a level, I had never and possibly never will feel again. I wish I would have immersed myself in his music even sooner in life, but everyone has their own path to finding consistent happiness. I was in a dark place when I became immersed in Mac’s music, but he helped lift me out of there. His music made me believe in myself, the world became brighter and I unlocked a greater version of me personally. The whole point of this article, is to share Mac’s music and explain to you, how these songs affected me. Often I will probably and will just talk about his music or my experience listening to said music or watching the music videos. It is going to be raw, emotional and extremely extra. It is a long read, probably the most I have ever written about something. However, I feel like this is the best way to pay tribute to Malcolm.

 

Smile Back (50)

Album: Blue Slide Park

Doubted by many, Mac Miller sends a message to his haters with Smile Back.

Some Lyrics:

I just be like fuck you, what you need?
You can’t get nothin’ from me
You was talkin’ shit, now I’m somebody you would love to be
I’ma do my thing until the day the reaper come for me
You can keep on grillin’, I’ma smile back, smile back

Off of Blue Slide Park, Smile Back peaked at #55 on the Billboard Top 100 and was Mac’s way of telling his haters and doubters to keep hating. Feeding off this hate, even at a young age Mac was able to evolve as an artist, starting out as Easy Mac, a cheesy rapper who was not egotistical. Smile Back shows just how confident, he had become. He had developed an ego and believed he was someone people dreamed of being. He believed his haters could not live the life he did, working and partying harder than they ever could. He also talks about sticking to his roots, which includes his friends and Pittsburgh, his city and home. Mac dearly cared about Pittsburgh all the way up until his death, and has his legacy living on in Pittsburgh through the Circles Fund. The Circles fund, founded by Mac Miller was created to fund programs and projects for under-served youth in Pittsburgh, “helping them recognize their full potential through exploration in the arts and community building.” Since his death the fund has raised over $700K U.S.

 

Inertia (49):

Single off of: TreeJTv

I was rolling into work, a few days away from the highly anticipated release of Swimming, Mac Miller’s last album. I sit down on the bench before going into work, and get a YouTube notification from TreeJTv, Mac’s YouTube channel. What for? None other than a freestyle rap from Malcolm himself. Freestyle rapping is so pure, and requires such skill. You are entirely playing off the beat you are given, and your mind is racing as your mouth tries to keep up. Accordingly, freestyles are raw and give you access to the artist’s mind. Inertia’s lyrics give a glimpse into what Mac’s future plans were, as he planned to push himself further and keep working to create more and more beautiful music. He also slyly references his upcoming album, and while hinting that he was feeling ambitious about his evolution as an artist.

Some Lyrics:

I’m going up with no ceiling, shit

Out of body, got my soul swimming

And no different, good head keep my toes twitching

You know Larry been fishing since he in the womb

 

I Am Who Am (Killin’ Time) (48)

Album: Watching Movies with the Sound Off

Mac instantly attempts to draw in a specific audience with his openings bars on this track.

Some Lyrics:

Look, I’m posing a question
How many been empty and holding aggression?
Close to depression
Open your eyes and just focus a second

As someone who had dealt with many depression related thoughts and suicidal urges, Mac urges the listeners to silence their mind for a second and focus on what he has to say. This song is a great window into the full album of Watching Movies with the Sound Off. It is an album filled with negative energy, it can be depressing and tear jerking to listen to, but it is relatable. Mac was feeling the stress of being idolized, and simply wanted to explain he was going/had gone through many of the struggles his audience felt and wanted to remind them they were not alone. Niki Randa handles the hook for this song, and beautifully explains how the hook was written.

“Flylo, Mac, and I recorded this vocal at our house in the late hours over some banana milkshakes and filthy jokes. Mac snuggled my dog Buddy on the studio sofa, while I layered some lullabies. Effective, as both Mac and Buddy passed out on that sofa.”

Some More Lyrics:

[Hook: Niki Randa]
It’s a gift
Our, our time to be alive
No earthly vehicle
Can contain this drive
It’s a gift
Our, our time to be alive
No earthly vehicle
Can contain this drive

Even this crazy man who seemed so invincible, surreal, even god-like could be soothed and tamed by a lullaby.

 

Thoughts from a Balcony (47)

Mixtape: Macadelic

Thoughts from a Balcony explains how hard backlash, and critical reception can be for a musical artist. Macadelic followed up Blue Slide Park, and while Blue Slide Park had great success it was also heavily criticized. Many people found it to be a disappointment, and Mac was merely a teenager trying to deal with becoming a celebrity, he took the criticism to heart. His lyrics claim that many of those criticizing his music simply could not relate.

Some Lyrics:

Like it was “Donald Trump,” a fucking hit but I just call it luck
They throw it on when I’m walking in the club
Hey, this the Burgh shit, I don’t deserve this
Well, I don’t think you looking far beyond the surface
Learn quick, now I’m big time
Fill your cup up, and I’mma sip mine

Mac’s music was always personal, a reflection of himself and especially in his youth, a reflection of his hometown, Pittsburgh. He felt that the criticism, and fallout of Blue Slide Park came from people who did not understand him, nor his city.

Some More Lyrics:

They just dreams, turn ’em to reality
Double-cup of lean, standing on my balcony
Looking at the sky, thinking it could all be mine
All we got is memories, so what the fuck is time?

During this difficult time in his life Mac turned to drugs, and repeatedly references lean or purple drank throughout his song. Lean is a recreational drug which includes prescription cough syrup and a carbonated drink, drug users, use more than the prescribed amount it for the codeine in cough syrup. Lean seemed to enhance Mac’s musical talent, which made it that much more addictive to him. What he failed to see was the self-destructive person he was becoming, because of lean.

 

Nikes on My Feet (46):

Mixtape: K.I.D.S.

Off of his mixtape K.I.D.S., Nike on My Feet is a great window into young and immature Mac. On top of the world feeling absolutely invincible, Mac Miller talks about how he has grown up as some kid who, “used to rock hand-me-downs”, but now he talks of and flaunts the expensive clothes, liquor and food he consumes. “And the Nikes on my feet keep my cypher complete”. Mac felt his Nikes were what completed his look, specifically when he would go to ciphers. Ciphers are informal musical gatherings of beatboxers, rappers and break dancers, Mac from a young age would sneak out to attend these events. “When I was 15, I used to walk my ass to East Liberty and be in ciphers with motherfuckers twice my age.”  Mac’s chorus is also a sample off of Q Tip’s remix of Nas’ The World Is Yours. Mac started writing his own raps back when he was 8 years old, so these Harlem rappers had a great influence on his musical pursuits. These ciphers and artists he idolized, like Nas and Q-Tip helped shape the young artist, and guided him through the production of K.I.D.S. and his #1 independent debut album, Blue Slide Park.

 

So It Goes (45)

Album: Swimming

Writing about some of these songs is really hard. So It Goes is one of those songs, because it was the last song Mac recorded on Swimming, his final album.

Some Lyrics:

Ok, well, you could have the world in the palm of your hands
You still might drop it
And everybody wanna reach inside your pockets, so it goes
It’s like, in every conversation, we the topic
This narcissism, more like narcotics, so it goes

Here we are reminded that even at our highest of highs we are vulnerable, your life can be beautiful, but even one small thing can fuck up your mood. He talks of people’s greed and their willingness to take advantage of you, while highlighting that too much attention can turn bad and the feeding of one’s ego can be their downfall. However, throughout the song he says the same thing repeatedly, “So it goes”. Trying to convey the message that in spite of all this bullshit and negativity that can plague a person, life goes on. The phrase, “So it goes”, comes from Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel, Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut’s use of this is to signify that death is inevitable. Mac’s use of this phrase is not as dark, but I believe it is more to say, life is short and to not tread on yourself and the bullshit in life. We, the audience are left with something more than just lyrics, an incredible melody guides us out the door. One where Mac’s ability behind the production table takes over, he enchants our ears with something other than his voice. A true testament to the greatness of this musical genius.

 

Clubhouse (44)

Album: GO:OD AM

GO:OD AM was an ambitious album, and was his first recorded with Warner Bros. and under his new label REMember in honour of his late friend Reuben Eli Martini. Friends since 2002, Martini passed away in 2012 from a brain hemorrhage. This event shook Mac and changed some of his artistic style, creating more emotionally charged music, while realizing how short life could be. This for me was the beginning of peak Mac Miller, this album is my favourite album ever. His motivation for this album, was to push his talent to another, he wanted to continue to attempt his climb to his ultimate goal, becoming one of the best rappers of all-time.

Some Lyrics:

Yeah I done been through it all
Every brick in the wall
Got a bitch I’mma call when I’m tryna fuck
You ain’t shit to the God, need to get you a job
Cause you live in the mall – bills pile up
I’mma chill in the spot, with a spliff I been lifted a lot
But I’m still not high enough
All the mills that I got, couple whips in the lot
If there’s a list to the top you could sign me up
The hook that opens this song is just so well explained, it lays out the whole premise of his album and his motivations beautifully. The lyrical mastery of this shows just how much time Mac put into his music, continuously finding ways to connect with his audience whilst maintaining his aura of greatness and excellence. Clubhouse is fast-paced and fun song that is best listened to while driving in my personal opinion.

 

Nothing From Nothing (43):

Single off of: Spotify Singles

One of his first recordings released posthumously, Nothing From Nothing, originally recorded by Billy Preston in 1974 was covered by Mac at the Spotify studios in New York. This recording shows just how timeless this man’s musical talent was, his soft voice guides you while his fingers tantalize your ears with the soothing sounds of the piano. This song speaks to lovers who feel they are undervalued, their partner gives them nothing and thus they feel empty inside. Mac reminds us to feel valued, and to love one another, but never to allow yourself to be taken for granted. Taking Billy Preston’s genius, Mac narration’s claims, “You gotta have something if you wanna be with me”. Meaning your partner needs to respect and love you, to truly be worth your time. He reiterates that he is certainly something, but that if your heart is not in it, then it and you simply mean nothing to him.

 

When In Rome (42)

Album: GO:OD AM

Mac Miller always had weird ways of starting his songs off.

Some Lyrics:

Yeah
Yeah
Yeah
Yeah
Ha ha ha ha
Uh

For some reason it just worked, that and random noises he would make during his tracks like randomly screaming “woo”, were signatures that made his music feel so personal. He enjoyed his unorthodox methods, and used these methods to attract his loyal and diehard fans. As previously mentioned, when talking about Smile Back, he also used his tracks to take aim at his haters, one of those haters being Donald Trump.

Some More Lyrics:

Want it right now, I ain’t really tryna wait (No)
Got me on trial but I’m beating that case
Motherfucker say it to my face
Say it to my face, motherfucker go and say it to my face
Trippin’ now, everything straight

These lyrics came in response to Trump’s social media attack and lawsuit threats versus Mac for the production and release of his hit, Donald Trump.

Needless to say the 45th President of the United States and Mac did not get along. Mac goes onto to talk about his accumulation of wealth, and how his life has changed as he has grown as a rapper.

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Some More Lyrics:

(Goddamn) Don’t mean to be rude
But me and you, we are not one and the same
(Goddamn) I’m eating your food
And fucking your bitch, ’cause you is a lame
(Goddamn) Pittsburgh
Where I lick, stir, little kid
God damn my life changed
I’m at the top of my game

Mac also seems to be self-referencing his old-self here, formerly Easy Mac, a softy who was not always true with himself. Mac now older feels he is truer to himself, and feels GO:OD AM was a reflection of his further evolution as an artist.

 

Wings (41)

Album: Swimming

Some songs grow on you, when I originally made my power rankings for the Swimming album back in August, I had Wings as my second my least favourite song on the album. Now it’s in the 5-8 range out of 13 songs. To be entirely clear, every bit of music on the Swimming and GO:OD AM albums are good, however some are very good, even great and then there are literal masterpieces. I am obviously incredibly biased, but you already knew that. Back to Wings itself, I feel like he’s truly talking to me on this track.

Some Lyrics:

Movin’ so fast, the clock look slow (Slow)
Water my seeds ’til the flower just grow, yeah
Love so much that my heart get broke
I don’t really know how the normal shit go, so
I guess I just play it by ear, silence is all that I hear

I have a track record of taking things way too fast in life, whether it is me getting overexcited or worrying too much, I react way too fast and stray from the beaten path. “Love so much that my heart get broke”, really refers to the story of my love life and how it has been so empty. Every time I feel confident to allow someone in, it ends up blowing up in my face and I am left in pain. For the record, never saying I been in love, but I sure as hell have given way too much to some people and scared them off. Mac goes on to talk about how growing is a journey, where no one is holding your hand and it is difficult to trust those around you. This song is really beautiful, and even writing out this paragraph, I feel I ranked it too low for its emotional connection to me.

 

If you made it this far, holy hell you are a wonderful person. I still have 4 parts remaining in this series, so be sure to stick around. The release date for those are TBD, as some of this is still in production. However, I truly feel like I am back in the proper state of mind to write, so it will come sooner rather than later. Thank you for your time, I love all of y’all, take care of yourselves and listen to some Mac Miller for God’s sake.