#OKCThunder – If your not 1st your last

durant and westbrookLed by dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder look poised to make a deep run in the NBA Playoffs. Haven’t we heard this before? For eight seasons fans have envisioned banners and a NBA championship parade on Main Street in downtown Oklahoma City. After the Thunder reached the NBA Finals in 2012 most presumed that a return would be inevitable.

However, four years minus two max players and one coach later instead of titles all the Thunder have are woulda-coulda-and -shouldas. Finishing above .500 and making the playoffs is no longer enough. Being third in the Western Conference is not a victory, but awestbrook yelling reminder of how the Thunder are still unable to meet expectation. Blessed with two super stars, health, and depth some losses are simply unacceptable. Simply put, title contenders do not lose to the Brooklyn Nets or the New York Knicks.

The Thunders window is closing and time is running out. If Thunder wish to actually contend they simply need to win the games they are supposed too, i.e. the Knicks. Although it may be tough on some nights, if the Spurs and Warriors do it, why can’t they. Armed with two MVP candidates, a stretch four in Serge Ibaka, the Bash Brothers in Steve thunder nba finals 2012Adams and Mitch McGary, and a deep deep bench.

The talent is there and the Thunder are all out of excuses. Although third place is good for right now, at the end of the season if your not first your last. Will the Thunder finally win when it counts or will this be the last that we see of Durant in a Thunder uniform? Stay tuned…I know I will.




NBA Coaching Carousel – Hired. Fired. Then hired again. When will the vicious cycle end?

nba coaching carouselAt the end of every NBA season the coaching firing squad ensues and the franchises who failed to live up to expectation find themselves back at the drawing board searching for a new coach to excite a fan base and make their perspective franchise relevant once again.

Franchises invest millions of dollars to unearth hidden gems in remote countries all over the country but for some reason these same franchises fail to invest the same time in searching for their next coach instead selecting one from the Fired Basketball Coaches Association, ‘FBCA’.

Although a few fired coaches have won NBA Championships in their second stint, Doc Rivers and Rich Carlisle, its time for NBA tom thibodeau jeff van gundyfront offices to finally think outside of the box. All eight of the teams remaining in the playoffs took the road less traveled hiring long time assistants, ex-video recorders, and an ex-commentator.

When the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat hired a longtime video recorder as its erik spoelstra miami video recordernext coach Erik Spoelstra was a great unknown. However, in only three short seasons he won nearly 400 game as well as a NBA title.

When pundits were calling for a big name hire for the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers these franchises did entertain anyone from the ‘F.B.C.A’ and instead hired long time assistants Frank Vogel and Tom Thibodeau who have been home run hires.

As the NBA coaching carousel continues prominent names like Scott Skiles, Byron Scott, Mike Dunleavy, and Nate McMillian will continue to be mentioned as top candidates  nba coaching vacancywhile little known assistants may the one to lead your franchise back to prominence. Six NBA franchises must find their next leader, will they go with the popular big name hire? Or will they venture down the road less traveled? Stay tuned… I know I will.

Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. Listen to eatdrnkslpsprtz radio Tues/Thurs 630 PM EST

NBA Playoffs: Previewing Sunday’s Match-ups

nba playoffs 2013After 82 games of no defense and little effort on the court, effort returns with everything now on the line and with each team dreaming of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA Champions. Although the Miami Heat are the prohibitive favorite the NBA Title will not be gift wrapped and handed to them with a bow on a silver platter.

The fortunate 16 teams who have made it to the postseason all are vulnerable and enter the playoffs not completely at full strength.

Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks

The Heat’s first round tussle with the Milwaukee Bucks may not be the cake walk that many expect. The Bucks led by scorers Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis will build a tent in the lane and fire from long-range with abandonment. The Heat will have several of their shots swatted by defensive player of the year candidate Larry Sanders who gave the Heat fits in the regular season. miami heat big three championship ringsAlthough I do believe the Bucks have the talent to steal a game at home, many will not be surprised if the Heat use Jennings comments of beating the defending champions in six games as fuel to send a message to the rest of the teams in the playoffs.

Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks

The Indiana Pacers limp into the playoffs on a three game losing streak without their full paul george tyler hanborough indiana pacerscomplement of players. With only two players under long-term contracts the Atlanta Hawks play each game trying to impress future suitors and also to change the mind of Hawks ownership to offer them a long-term contract. During the regular season the teams have split their match-ups but the Pacers were clearly the more talented team. Although the Hawks will not be swept the Pacer will be prime for an upset if their All-Star forward Paul George does not get out of his regular season scoring funk.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs

At the start of the 2012 season each of these teams were projected by many to be thedwight howard air balls free throw prohibitive favorite to challenge the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Western Conference title. Both of these aging franchise have been riddled with the injury bug and enter the playoff a shell of the team that many expected them to be. Tony Parker is hobbling on one leg and Steve Nash continues to make fans forget that he collected two MVPs in his career. This game will ultimately be won or loss in the paint. Does Tim Duncan have enough spring in his legs to thwart the Kobe-less Lakers and their twin towers. Dwight Howard‘s inability to hit free throws in the clutch combined with Kawhi Leonard and their bench will be the Spurs saving grace .

Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

james harden fear the beardJames Harden returns to him home stomping ground poised to remind the Thunder front office that they made a huge mistake in trading him. The Thunders duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant should be enough to take down the Rockets lone star. Although the Houston Rockets are capable of scoring points in bunches their inability to make defensive stops will be their downfall. Expect Westbrook to do lay up drill against the Rockets and live at the free throw line when they decide to foul.

Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. Listen to eatdrnkslpsprtz radio Tues/Thurs 630 PM EST & Sat 1030 AM EST

College basketball: Do I stay or do I go? The toughest decision of their careers

should i stay or should i goA National Champion has been crowned, a parade has been given in the Louisville Cardinals honor and several players have accomplished their life long dream of trending on twitter. But now underclassmen have two weeks to make the tough decision either to declare for the 2013 NBA Draft or return to school to improve their draft stock and take the Economics course that all students dread.

NBA benches are filled with can’t miss high school phenoms like New Orleans HornetsAustin Rivers New Orleans Hornets guard Austin Rivers, Houston Rockets forward Thomas Robinson, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Perry Jones III, and Phoenix Suns point guard Kendall Marshall who have failed to live up to their draft stock barely registering any significant minutes in the regular season. Each of the players mention would have been locks as First Team All-Americans and would have altered the college basketball landscape and we may have possibly had a different team celebrating winning a National Championship in Atlanta.

nerlens noel injuryHowever, this is the tough decision that awaits a number of talent NBA prospects: Do I declare while I am still considered a first round pick? Do return to school to improve my stock and risk scouts souring or worst risk injury?

For talented underclassmen NBA prospects like Missouri point guard Phil Pressey andlousiville cardinals russ smith Louisville guard Russ Smith there is little chance of them improving their draft stock and due their teams losing talent to graduation and since there is no growth spurt in sight for each of them they are unlikely to shake the hand of NBA Commissioner David Stern as first round selections whether they declare for the draft now or wait a year.

Indiana forward Cody Zeller returned for his sophomore year and he was projected to be a lock to be a top five pick got exposed throughout the season for being soft, frequently being out-muscled and bullied out of the point forced to settle for jump shots. Although Zeller is still a lock to be selected in the first round his plummeting draft stock made declaring this year a virtual certainty because returning he may have risked dropping out of the first round all together.trey burke michigan wolverines point guard

Returning to school also has its benefits, last season Michigan point guard Trey Burke was considered a borderline first round pick at best. But with another year of seasoning leading the Wolverines to the National Championship game and collecting Player of the Year awards along the way Burke is now a lock to be the first point guard selected in the NBA Draft.

miami hurricanes shane larkin

As promising prospects continue to weigh the pros and cons of this momentous decision the landscape of college basketball lays in the balance. A tough decision awaits  promising prospects: Miami guard Shane Larkin, Michigan State guard Gary Harris, Baylor forward Isaiah Austin, and Michigan’s talented trio guard Tim Hardaway Jr., forwards Mitch McCrary and Glenn Robinson III. Should they stay or should they go? Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. Listen to eatdrnkslpsprtz radio Tues/Thurs 630 PM EST & Sat 1030 AM EST

Countdown to the inevitable NBA final four – Heat, Pacers, Thunder, and Spurs

nba title contendersThe NBA Trade Deadline came and went with teams exchanging insignificant pieces that will ultimately make little difference come playoff time.

Too the many fans  who are resistant of the inevitable truth you are in luck, you have 42 more games to accept the reality that many have been unable to stomach. Due to father time and Carmelo Anthony‘s 1-on-5 philosophy the New York Knicks will not reach the promise land. Despite having an excess of All-Stars the Los Angeles Lakers will continue to garner more headlines than wins thanks Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard‘s love affair. The Memphis Grizzlies lack of scoring and the Los Angeles Clippers bad luck with injuries and inconsistent play will be their Achilles heel that will ultimately result in an early playoff exit.

In the Eastern Conference the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers have separated themselves from the pack by dominating their peers in impressive fashion and are on adanny granger and lebron james colliion course. The Heats big three: Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and Lebron James are all playing the best basketball of their careers and are currently on a 10 game win streak. Not to be outdone the Pacers are on a 7 game winning streak of their own, and welcome former leading scorer Danny Granger back into the fold. The battle between these two proud organizations promises to be a good one and their next regular season match up on March 6th will be must see tv.

kawhi leonard and tony parkerFor the many who have prematurely crowned the Heat as champions would be wise to consider that team from the Alamo, the San Antonio Spurs who have the best record in the NBA. Tony Parker is playing out of his mind and Coach Greg Popovich has done a masterful job managing the minutes of his veterans while also grooming the future of the franchise, Kawhi Leonard. 

The jury is still out on the Oklahoma City Thunder who have shown glimpses of dominance due to the play of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. However, the play of Serge Ibaka leaves a lot more to be desired, and if the Thunder intend to make it to the NBA Finals the front line will have to make opponents think twice before they decide to venture into the lane.

Unlike college basketball where match ups are littered with surprises in the NBA upsets ussell westbrook oklahoma city thunderand Cinderella stories are few and far between. Although the road to the conference championships will not be an easy one but let’s all be clear that the Spurs, Thunder, Pacers, and Heat are virtual locks to reach the conference finals. For those of you in denial you have 42 games to accept the obvious. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter @eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google