There’s also the national TV schedule, which gives priority games to its national broadcast partners that pay billions to the league for the rights to televise the biggest games. That is reflected in the massive number of games featuring the Warriors, Rockets, Cavaliers, Thunder, and Lakers that will be on ESPN, TNT, and ABC next season, but there are also some premier games that don’t pit the very best against each other that will still make for must-see TV.
I’m talking about revenge games, that pit either a team against a rival that beat them in the playoffs the year before or a player returning to a former squad where there may be some hurt feelings on one side or the other. Those games also get prime placement, as the league knows that fans love that added bit of emotion. While there won’t be anything quite like Kevin Durant’s return to Oklahoma City a year ago, there are still a number of great revenge games coming up in the 2017-18 season.
8. Timberwolves at Bulls, Feb. 9, 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
Chicago’s only game on a major network this season is Jimmy Butler’s return to face the Bulls after they sent him to Minnesota at the draft — also, Taj Gibson’s return to Chicago. Butler hasn’t seamed especially pleased with the way everything went down with his departure from Chicago, but he’s also not super angry about it. Bulls fans are far more upset with their front office than they are Butler (who most adored), so this could just be a chance for Butler to get an ovation from the crowd and also show up GarPax in their house.
7. Thunder at Pacers, Dec. 13, 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
Paul George’s return to Indiana will be interesting and likely a bit contentious as Pacers fans will not be thrilled with the way their former star pushed his way out of town. While he was kind enough to give them a heads up that he’d be leaving next summer, George forcing Indiana’s hand certainly diminished his trade value. Now he’s paired up with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, and his return to Indiana is the Pacers’ lone major network game of the season.
6. Rockets at Clippers, Jan. 15, 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT
Like Paul George, Chris Paul pushed out of Los Angeles for the opportunity to play alongside James Harden in Houston. Paul was the face of the Clippers franchise for years, dragging them out of obscurity and into a perennial playoff team. While the Clippers never got over the hump to the Western Conference Finals with Paul, fans ought to remember his time there fondly. That said, when he comes back with the Rockets for the first time, the reception at Staples will likely not be completely positive. This game is far more likely to be somewhat competitive, unlike George’s return to Indiana, which lands it a higher spot.
5. Celtics at Wizards, Dec. 25, 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and Feb. 8, 8:00 ET on TNT
This one, I couldn’t choose between the first meeting in Boston or the first meeting in Washington, so I took both. This was the most interesting playoff series of last year in terms of chippiness between the two sides, and both teams struggled mightily on the road. This is arguably the best rivalry in the East right now, until Boston can prove it can compete with the Cavaliers in the playoffs, and I expect some tomfoolery from both sides in some very fun and competitive games.
4. Rockets at Thunder, Dec. 25, 8:oo p.m. ET on ABC
The Thunder did not fare well in their first round series with the Rockets last year as Russell Westbrook’s MVP caliber play wasn’t enough to take down James Harden in Houston. For Westbrook and the Thunder, with new addition Paul George, it’s a chance to prove they’re now one of the big boys in the West that will have to be reckoned with. For Harden and the Rockets, with new addition Chris Paul, this will be a chance to show they are still the superior team and bringing George on hasn’t closed the gap on them. Also, it’s Harden’s chance to exact some revenge on Russ for taking home the MVP over him.
3. Celtics at Jazz, Mar. 28, 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Of all the players that left their teams this summer, none hurt their former team more than the Gordon Hayward going to the Celtics in free agency. That move left the Jazz scrambling for answers and without its star on the wing. Utah’s fans were hurt, as was fellow star Rudy Gobert, and this figures to be the most contentious return trip of any on the schedule for a player that left a team this offseason. Where Paul and George at least left in trades, the Jazz got nothing back for Hayward and are now forced to pick up the pieces. This game could get oddly chippy, and may have serious playoff implications for Utah, which will be among those scrapping for the final playoff seeds in the highly competitive West.
2. Warriors at Cavaliers, Jan. 15, 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
This will be the second meeting of the two teams on the season, with the first coming in Oakland on Christmas, but the MLK Jr. Day meeting will be the lone one in Cleveland on the season — NBA Finals, pending — and it will be the Cavs’ only chance to avenge their Finals disappointment at home. Every Cavs-Warriors meeting seems to make for tremendous watching, and there’s no reason to expect this one to be any different.
1b. Pelicans at Kings, Oct. 26, 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT
This will be DeMarcus Cousins’ first trip back to Sacramento since he was unceremoniously traded to New Orleans on the night of the All-Star Game last season. The reaction from the Kings crowd will be interesting to watch, as Cousins was a polarizing figure while he was their star, but more intriguing to me will be how the Pelicans will feed Cousins to let him dominate. Teammates always know when one of their own is going back to an old team and they tend to try and let them shine. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was an all-time Boogie performance as New Orleans tries their best to let him cook his old team.
1a. Whatever Team Kyrie Irving Is Traded To at Cavaliers, TBD, TBD
I’m going to preemptively put this here, because it will be absolute pandemonium in Cleveland when Kyrie comes back in another team’s uniform. Cousins returning has a lot of bitterness from the player side, but this will feature the most bitterness from the fans and former teammates, namely LeBron James. James will do everything in his power to show Kyrie he made a terrible mistake, which means we will get peak LeBron, who is the most fun player in the NBA. I’m very excited for this game, whenever it happens.
Ice Cube’s challenge to Ball was simple, 90 seconds would be put on the clock and whoever could make the most shots from the four-point mark on the floor would win. Neither performed especially well, but Cube was able to pull out a 2-1 victory over Ball in what was one of the most exciting shooting competitions between non-athletes ever, as the crowd was very much into what was happening. It was arguably the best part of the evening at Staples Center, although there’s a case to be made for Charles Oakley trying to fight people in his return to the court.
The best part, by far, is LaVar Ball trying to take credit for one of Ice Cube’s buckets, and the PA announcer having to correct him and properly credit Cube with the made shot. LaVar eventually got one to fall, but it’s clear that that the deep shot is not the best part of his game. His form leaves something to be desired and he was way off on a number of his attempts, whereas Cube seemed to be more consistent with at least finding the rim.
The whole thing is maybe even funnier when watching from the side view deep in the crowd where you can only really see the ball being launched in the air and often bouncing far away.
Considering everything we’ve heard from Ball in the past about his abilities to take out legends of the game in 1-on-1 competition, this taste of his current hoops skill would give further indication that he’s very much lying.
A statement by Donald Trump in response to the scene didn’t seem to condemn the actions of the Nazis/white nationalists, which led to LeBron James taking to Twitter to express his frustration with the President of the United States. LeBron particularly called out Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rhetoric.
It's sad what's going on in Charlottesville. Is this the direction our country is heading? Make America Great Again huh?! He said that🤦
We’ve written about how socially conscious LeBron is plenty of times in the past, and one thing he has frequently done is comment when he sees injustice in the world. This happened again on Saturday, and it’d be surprising if he doesn’t continue to speak out, even if the target of his criticism is the President.
LeBron James is a part of two of the “greatest” NBA debates of our time. One includes the battle between James and Michael Jordan for status as the “GOAT” of the league. The other includes the match-up between James and Kobe Bryant for the best player of their generation. At the end of the day, though, only one of the arguments really includes fans of the Los Angeles Lakers, and that is where Lonzo Ball comes in to the picture.
The talented rookie guard was recently asked to choose between James and Bryant. Wisely, Ball toed the line for a while, but in the end, he gave an opinion in front of a live microphone.
Again, Ball should be credited for his diplomacy for some degree, but Lakers fans won’t love this one. He references the argument in Bryant’s favor when it comes to championship hardware (one that Jordan also made), and that should appease some of the masses. Still, Ball’s age (19) sends him in LeBron’s direction given that he has “been saying LeBron (his) whole life,” and Ball’s game is also much more reminiscent of James as a facilitator.
James continues to extend his already ridiculous prime, and with every passing year, seemingly distances himself from every player who isn’t named Michael Jordan. Fans of Bryant will never relent, though, and this could be a (very) tricky statement for Ball to work around in both the near and distant future as the new face of the organization.
The reigning NBA Finals MVP re-upped with Golden State on a two-year, $53 million deal, and wanted to give the champs as much financial flexibility as possible this summer.
Per The Athletic:
Q: Let’s shift to free agency a few weeks later. Everyone knows what you did, taking that nearly $10-million paycut. Was it an ‘Oh, if Andre (Iguodala) needs this much, I’ll take this much’ kind of situation? How did that decision come together?
DURANT: “Well, I’m a smart guy and I want to keep this thing going and looking at Andre and Shaun (Livingston) and Steph (Curry) — they all should make the most money that they can make and get what they deserve. Because they were all underpaid and I knew at some point they’d want to get what they deserve. So I just took a step back and let the chips fall where they may. Then I took it in my hands. I wanted to keep the team together and I thought it was going to help the ownership bring all the guys back. And on top of that, it’s my money. It’s my decision. I can do what the hell I want with it.”
Q: Were you surprised by some of the blowback?
DURANT: “They only (criticized) it because it’s the Warriors and it’s me and they love to hate anything we do right now. A lot of players have (taken pay-cuts). It wasn’t that I wanted the praise. I’ve learned from Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki and how it has helped them over the years and I thought, if they did it, why can’t I? Why shouldn’t I sacrifice? People wanted the money to break us up and I didn’t want that to happen.”
Q: I’m sure you got quite the reaction from Bob Myers and the front office when you brought them the number.
DURANT: “Yeah, like I said, I’m a grown man in this league and I’m at the point of my life and career where I’m able to dictate what I want to do with my future. So me and my business partner (Rich Kleiman) talked about it and when we brought it to them we knew they’d be excited because it’ll definitely help the whole group.”
LaVar Ball has finally made it. The Big Baller Brand CEO and father of three slightly smaller basketballers has finally been lampooned by the irreplaceable Kenan Thompson on Saturday Night Live. Thompson took to the Weekend Update set dressed as Ball, complete with a bald cap and a Big Baller Brand shirt.
Thompson’s ability to mimic “celebrities” on SNL really is legendary at this point, and he didn’t disappoint with Ball. It seems like it was only a matter of time before Ball got between the show’s crosshairs. When he opened his mouth, the impression matched the bombastic personality we’ve all come to know and… know very well over these last few months.
“I’m like Earl Woods, Joe Jackson and Dena Lohan all rolled into one,” Thompson says as Ball, naming off other famous star parents.
He also dropped LaVar’s “NEVER LOST” here and there, which was pretty spot-on.
In the segment, Ball is asked about his boast that he could beat Michael Jordan 1-on-1. Ball affirms that claim, saying he could beat Jordan “in a beekeeper suit and wearing Hamburger Helper gloves.” The hyperbole continues, as Thompson says he’s eight feet tall, once jumped 20 feet high, once jumped over a Super Target, and ate 100 turkeys one Thanksgiving.
Thompson also says that his son’s Z02 Primes are made from “South African rhino-saucerous horn.”
Seriously, this is a hilarious line. Also, Thompson thought it would be nice to give Colin Jost a pair of ZO2 Primes. When Jost refused to pay full price for them, they got taken away with the flare that we are used to seeing from Ball.
All I hope this means is that LaVar Ball and Kenan Thompson are feuding. Because we know who wins that: Kenan truly has NEVER LOST.
D’Angelo Russell seems to be adjusting to his new home in New York City pretty well, as the new member of the Brooklyn Nets decided to take part in a the summer league at Dyckman Park.
Russell had an up-and-down first two years with the Lakers, which ended with him getting criticized by new Lakers’ boss Magic Johnson before being shipped off to the Nets in a salary dump deal to get out from under Timofey Mozgov’s contract and clear room for Lonzo Ball. If Russell were lacking any motivation his first two years, he shouldn’t have any problems finding a spark to prove the doubters wrong in 2017-18 with his new team.
On Wednesday night, Russell gave the fans in New York a glimpse at his ability to perform under pressure, as he walked the ball up in a tie game and drilled a cold-blooded three to win the game 80-77 and get mobbed by the frenzied crowd (via Overtime).
The crowd pouring onto the court and circling the half-court as Russell brought the ball across looks awesome and Russell calmly stepped to his left and stuck the dagger in above a late contest. The crowd then mobbed Russell and went crazy in a really cool moment in what appears to have been an incredible atmosphere.
Russell wasn’t the only pro on the court on Wednesday night, as his new Nets teammates Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Isaiah Whitehead were also out there with him. Brooklyn expects to see a bit of improvement over last year thanks to the addition of Russell, and this should have Nets fans pretty excited about their new point guard.
Washington was among the founding members of the JellyFam movement a few years ago. Because he and his friends couldn’t dunk with ease, they wanted to come up with their own signature moves. They gravitated to the finger roll but gave it a modern update, instead calling it the “Jelly.”