Saturday, August 9, 2014

20 must-follow NBA-related Twitter accounts

It's the off-season, so aside from waiting for the NBA to begin, it's time to prepare for the new season. I had originally planned for this column to go live on Thursday but that one Kevin Love guy got traded two weeks from now (but maybe not?). During that time, Twitterworld blew up. And I was surprised to find few recent articles on Google suggesting must follow NBA-related Twitter accounts so here we go. If you're not on Twitter, you should be...especially to watch the mayhem/news/daily oddities of these 20 guys (and gal).

In no particular order, here are 20 accounts you should follow:

I can summarize the NBA rookie’s tweeting ability quite simply: he was able to get Rihanna to follow him. You'll have to peruse his Twitter to find the details of that, but that alone is quite a feat from the NBA rookie. Embiid has quickly won the hearts and minds of Twitter users across the world with his crazy tweets. There is virtually no filter for this guy and you know you want to watch this unfold.

Is there really anything else to say? Ron Artest is Ron Artest. Oh wait, never mind he's Metta World Peace. Oh wait, now he's....

Adrian “Woj” Wojnarowski - @WojYahooNBA

Say that last name five times as fast as you can. Woj is the most consistent source for breaking NBA player news/trades/signings. I would've bet anything that he would have broke the LeBron signing news this off-season, and although he didn't, you can count on him for basically all your important player transactions.

Pretty really should follow the best player in the world.

Stephen A. Smith - @stephenasmith

One of @ESPN_FirstTake's talking heads, Stephen A. Smith is a good follow on Twitter. While that show tends to get people riled up one way or the other, Screamin' A. is good for the occasional rant on Twitter (hint hint Michelle Beadle after the Ray Rice incident and ensuing Stephen A. suspension).

Skip Bayless - @RealSkipBayless

What is one half of First Take without the other? (Apparently a lot of dislikes on their YouTube clips.) You know you're going to get a lot of Tebow, Manziel, Cowboys, and Spurs from Skip but he's still entertaining to follow.

Bill Simmons - @BillSimmons

The most popular sportswriter on the Internet, Simmons will put out the occasional predictive tweet or bold statement but you want to stay updated with his latest NBA columns on Grantland.

Zach Lowe - @ZachLowe_NBA

Another Grantland writer, Zach Lowe gets more into the X's and O's of the NBA, and his Twitter + columns are a great way for those interested in the strategy and more technical aspects of the game of basketball.

NBA Legion - @MySportsLegion

One of the more mildly better kept secrets out there, NBA Legion is also a great source of breaking news and notes from the NBA. Although they are not a primary source of information, they do a great job of synthesizing news from around the league.

Official NBA - @NBA

If you're a basketball fan and on Twitter, I would be shocked if you aren't following the NBA's Twitter. Nothing too groundbreaking with +NBA but they're one of those yeah-you-need-to-follow-them accounts.

Ramona Shelburne - @ramonashelburne

An important cog in ESPN and specifically Lakers news, Shelburne was the go-to source for the Donald Sterling fiasco. She was all over that story which earned her a must-follow badge.

NBA Official - @NBAOfficial

The official account of NBA officials is a great source to get post-obscure call clarification during the NBA season.

Kirk Goldsberry - @kirkgoldsberry

The final person in my "Big 3" on Grantland, Kirk Goldsberry is always creating these beautiful graphical depictions of (usually but not always) player shot charts. He is the stats-guru who keeps me happy. Maybe one day he'll read the column I wrote discussing a new metric, TSR, that I created or the analysis on how NBA team salaries correlated to winning. (Or maybe not.)

Marc Stein - @ESPNSteinLine

Another solid news personality.

Ethan Strauss - @SherwoodStrauss

As a Warriors fan, Strauss is the one guy on ESPN who you can count on for good stories and news for the non-LeBron segments of ESPN. His columns and daily discussion on Twitter are refreshing from the usual big-market NBA team discussions. And as I found out in a Warriors Huddle podcast, he also has quite the impressive lexicon, which is a prerequisite for a full-time gig at ESPN. He also entertains and discusses NBA stuff with his followers.

Mark Cuban – @mcuban

You would think that Mark Cuban, the league's most outspoken owner, would be a great follow but I'm not sure... As a business man he heavily promotes his products, namely this CyberDust app that I still have not downloaded. There are some interesting basketball and investment tweets on @mcuban, you should also expect some spam.

See @KingJames. You should be following one of the best players of the previous generation. Although he does a reasonable amount of product promotion, it's not nearly as bad as Michael Jordan's Twitter. Note Jordan did not make my list of must follows.

Shaqtastic. The Diesel. Basketball royalty with a personality. He's not as outrageous as Metta World Panda can be, but he's still an amusing follow.

You weren't expecting this one, were you? Well, 'Dre has to be the most cryptic basketball tweeter out there. Scroll through his feed and you'll be lucky to understand 10 percent of what he's saying. Here's a small sample, and one person's response that I was thinking myself...

Elijah Abramson - @ElijahAbramson

#shamelessselfpromotion. You know you want to tweet me and tell me who I missed that's on your must-follow list. Plus, if you follow me, you'll get retweets from all these personalities so there's no need to follow them if you follow me...right?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Kevin Love to the Cavaliers: why it makes sense for both teams

To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Timberwolves star, Kevin Love, will be traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In return for Love, Minnesota receives this year’s top prospect, Andrew Wiggins, as well as Anthony Bennett and a future first round pick.

The trade will not become official until August 23 (30 days after Wiggins signed his rookie contract)…so maybe there’s hope Adam Silver will pull a David Stern and veto the trade? Just kidding, but I was hoping that Love would find his way into a Warriors jersey. Ultimately, the Warriors front office—along with new head coach, Steve Kerr—was not willing to separate the Splash Bros, and that put a halt to the trade talks between Flip Saunders and Bob Myers.

Kevin Love wanted to move to a team that had a chance to win now, and any team that has LeBron James has that potential. The Cavs lucked into the past two number one overall picks, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. Winning the lottery twice proved to be enough potential (along with a future first rounder) to acquire one of the league’s top-10 players.

And it makes sense for Minnesota, because that was the best offer that they were going to get. As Zach Lowe mentioned on the Lowe Post podcast about a week ago, even if Wiggins gives the T’wolves no more than the average return of the number one pick, it’s a great trade. Teams usually have to trade a quarter for five nickels—rarely is there the opportunity to get someone like an Andrew Wiggins when you are a seller.

Whispers around the league question Wiggins ability to handle and shoot, but I still think the expectation is that he will be an All-Star, if for nothing else, because of his defense. While Bennett was anemic offensively for the majority of last season, he did show signs of life toward the end of the year. And Minnesota did not want to end up like the 2013 Lakers, where Dwight Howard ended up walking and they got nothing in return. This was clearly the best move for the T'wolves.

The main debate in Cleveland: is it worth giving up a potential perennial All-Star and possible franchise player for a proven 26-and-12 player? The co-author of LeBron’s coming home letter, Lee Jenkins, phrased the question best in a Grantland podcast: is the goal to keep your window open as long as possible or as wide as possible? There certainly is a happy-medium, but with LeBron James in the prime of his career, the goal should be win right now. LeBron has at least two or three more years as the best player in the NBA, and you want to take full advantage of that. You get a big window that's open for a while, the best of all worlds.

It makes no sense to keep a player who may become an All-Star after LeBron’s prime. It took Kevin Durant two full seasons in the NBA to become the player we now know him to be…a player that’s better than Love. If we assume (and it’s a big assumption), that Wiggins even has the ability to get to KD-level, and it takes him three years to get there, that’s too late. At that point, LeBron will probably need to further re-invent himself from the north-south train mentality that he is still known for.

Kevin Love can be to the Cavs what Kevin Garnett was to the Celtics: the missing piece to a championship contender. In KG’s first season in green, he won a championship. The argument will inevitably arise that the new Big 3 in Cleveland has not played together before so they can’t win now…but the proof is in the trade of a former Kevin from Minnesota.

Cleveland is instant championship contenders and Minnesota got an optimistic future—or at the least a box office thriller—in return.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

LeBron James' return puts him within reach of Michael Jordan

LeBron James return to Cleveland set the stage for the storybook ending that still caught many people by surprise. Reports were inconclusive prior to his announcement on July 11 in a Sports Illustrated exclusive that he would indeed return. Leaving Miami defied logic, something that James’ former teammate, Mario Chalmers, was quick to point out.

(The indomitable Chalmers even took his anger to Instagram in a not-so-cryptic shot at his former teammate.)

Chalmers may feel this way, but what he doesn’t realize is that LeBron put himself in a better position to become the greatest NBA player of all time. Moving back to Cleveland is a step in the direction of being able to surpass Michael Jordan.

Skip Bayless said that LeBron “no longer views winning as his ultimate goal and priority” and that the two-time champ eliminated himself from contention for basketball’s Mount Rushmore. He could not have misread LeBron's move any more.

What Skip and everybody else missed is that the genius that is LeBron James knows that winning championships alone is not enough. Even if he were to win six championships in Miami, he would need more. The label of “ring chaser” could not escape him. It might as well have been tattooed across his back overshadowing "The Chosen 1."

One simple change fixes that: returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bringing a championship to his hometown would be special. The taste of the ultimate sports glory in a city that ranks atop the list of the Pro Sports Hall of Shame would be historic. Cleveland hasn’t seen a championship since 1964. The city has gone a staggering 144 individual-team seasons without tasting that champagne. No other city has seen even 100 seasons without a championship. His forgiveness of Ohio and Dan Gilbert, his owner that brutally crucified him after his nationally-televised departure in 2010, adds yet another dimension to the story that could be read to put children to sleep on Christmas Eve.

Suddenly, LeBron’s next ring makes him more than just a three-time champion. His next championship is greater than basketball. That is exactly what he needs to catch Michael Jordan.

The Cavaliers were awful last year. Their 33-49 record last season only begins to tell the story of the franchise that has won 19, 21, 24, and those 33 games in the four years post-Decision. Mike Brown was exposed. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters feuded. 33 wins in the East is equivalent to at most two wins in the West. Cleveland was throwing up prayers with each brick that hit the rim that they would land consecutive number one picks (oh wait, that prayer was answered). So now, in even a pure basketball sense, LeBron has the ability to do something that nobody else has dared do. He’s running headfirst at a tornado trying to save everybody in it. He brought a perennial cellar-dweller to the Finals in 2007. Now he's aiming for the only echelon above that.

LeBron learned from his poor choice of words four years ago. In that SI article announcing his return, he said “it will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010.” The Akron native is not promising a championship. His coach has not played or coached a single minute in the NBA. For LeBron to say that his patience will be tested is the understatement of the year.

With his chess move, LeBron is still moving his pawns, diminishing awareness of how grand his goals are.

Becoming a great player requires something more than just the tangible proof of winning. Shaquille O’Neal articulated after being traded from the Lakers that even the then-three-time champ Kobe Bryant was missing something. Shaq calls it "the little things” but then says it separates Kobe from the likes of Michael Jordan and other NBA greats (skip to 3:10):

You have to make the players around you better. Many superstars have passed through the league as supremely-gifted players. Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant are the latest iterations of offensive superstars but they have not made the jump to make the players around them better. Kobe never made that jump, but he was great enough to win five (albeit with solid supporting casts). Allen Iverson, another all-time great offensive player, never won one. Michael Jordan, in all of his six titles, never really made his teammates better. (But he did help the Jordanaires get paid, as Sam Smith discusses in his 1992 tell-all, The Jordan Rules.)

If LeBron can bring a championship to a team that has been so horrendous, he will prove in the loudest way possible that he is not only great himself, but he can make his teammates better


Less than eight hours after LeBron James announced his return, the Cavs sold out their season tickets. Less than two weeks later, the store sold out of LeBron Cavs jerseys…and the man has not even made a decision as to what number he will wear.

Time reported that LeBron could bring the northeast Ohio $500 million next year. Let me say that again…LeBron could bring a city in the Midwest $500 million. In. One. Year. I’m no economist, but I think we can agree that’s not normal for one human being to do.

The icing on the cake was making everybody in the media look like middle-school students prank-texting their friends. LeBron's one-man paparazzi, Brian Windhorst, and ESPN’s Man-With-The-Sources, Chris Broussard, were kept in the absolute dark on this one. In an era where journalists tweet draft picks before they even happen, nobody found out where the best player in the NBA would land until LeBron’s co-written letter with Lee Jenkins hit the internet air waves. Chris Broussard even went so far as to confirm it after everybody already knew:

The media circus surrounding LeBron’s decision has settled, so maybe that will hurt this column’s visibility (so thank you to the few people who have read this far). Yes, one more championship will not be enough to crown the King as the NBA’s GOAT. But maybe two more Finals MVPs and one or two more league MVPs with maybe a Defensive Player of the Year Award sprinkled in there? The numbers will be near Michael Jordan if that can happen.

That top spot in NBA lore requires something more than just pure basketball achievements. Bill Russell is no longer the NBA’s greatest player of all time despite his 11 championships. Michael Jordan proved that rings are only part of the equation in calculating greatness. 

LeBron James return to Cleveland could prove that case once again.