Don't Call It A Bromance

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The Stretch Four 1.4: Kevin McHale and the Coaching Carousel

Welcome to a brand new (hopefully) weekly post at DCIAB called The Stretch Four. Longtime friend of the blog Nik Valdiserri has joined me to offer our NBA expertise in a variety of fun fashions every Friday. There are four regular segments to the post, along with other optional segments we’ll integrate as they become relevant.

Regular features of the post will include a short column on a league trend or event, some of our power rankings, the best NBA video we watched this week, and the Friday Spotlight, a picks competition for Friday night games with a similar structure to DCIAPC. Enjoy!

The Rockets and Kevin McHale

It has become a recurring theme in the NBA. The trigger is pulled quickly on coaches, whether or not there was success in the past. It’s a players’ league. It’s not hard to understand that.

The margin for error in a coach’s job is non-existent. They get all the blame or all the glory. Over the last decade, we’ve seen countless of examples from teams across the league who shuffle through coaches as if they were picking a name from a hat. Every owner and general manager wants to find its Gregg Popovich.

But just like a coach’s job, greatness has no margin for error. Winning championships is hard enough, but relationships with the front office, the city and the players all come to a very rare selection of coaches. Out of the 318 coaches that have had a shot at coaching an NBA team, only 31 have tasted the champagne. That is a 9.7 percent success rate in the 68 years of the NBA.

Of course, not all coaches are fired because they didn’t win a championship, but it’s certainly not an afterthought. Just over the past five years we have seen some unexpected coaching casualties.

George Karl was fired from the Denver Nuggets after the 2012-13 season when he won coach of the year and continued to keep the Nuggets relevant. After weeks of discussing contracts and extensions, the Nuggets decided to relieve Karl of coaching duties and head in another direction. Additionally, the Nuggets had been frustrated with Karl for not playing JaVale McGee, who had signed a four-year, $44 million extension in the offseason. Wow.

Lionel Hollins was fired from the Memphis Grizzlies following the 2012-13 season as well, after his team made a franchise-best run in the playoffs. The Grizzlies took down a 60-win Oklahoma City team en-route to the Western Conference Finals where the team was eventually swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Hollins was fired for his inability to agree with the front office. While Memphis was extremely unprofessional, Hollins was too.

Michael Malone was fired early last year from the Sacramento Kings after a hot 5-1 start led to a 11-13 mark. The Kings wanted to play at a faster pace and the management didn’t see it happening with Malone.

Tom Thibodeau was fired from the Chicago Bulls for his well-documented altercations with Chicago’s front office and his strenuous player management style, despite the team being at the top of the Eastern Conference every year.

And now, Kevin McHale. The minute I heard of McHale’s dismissal, I was confused. Even more confused than from what I had seen from his team in its first 11 games. The Rockets made a mistake, showing what just three bad weeks can do to you in the NBA.

It’s no secret the Rockets are off to a poor start, but it had very little to do with McHale’s coaching. There was no effort, no fire and no sense of urgency from this team coming out of the gates. It’s not an NBA coach’s job to fully motivate his players. These players are adults; superstars even. Coaches are supposed to put them in right places at the right times, not pound their chest for them.

While watching the Rockets’ first 11 games, it was pretty evident what was lacking: James Harden. Not even a year ago, many people, including myself, had Harden as the MVP of the league over Steph Curry. The Rockets made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals where they could not hang with the eventual NBA Champions, Golden State Warriors. However, an extremely successful season left the organization and its fans with confidence: the Rockets were ready to take the next step.

Yet, nothing has worked. No one has played defense, James Harden looks like he barely picked up a basketball all summer, and now Ty Lawson may face jail time due to an earlier DUI occurrence after a terrible start to the season. Not exactly the start everyone was hoping for, and firing McHale was Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s answer. The wrong answer.

Kevin McHale will without a doubt get another opportunity to be a head coach if he wants to. He was one of the first coaches to dive into analytics and always had a good relationship with Houston’s front office. After McHale signed a three-year extension last year, the Rockets were looking to take the next step forward in pursuing their championship goals. However, it only took a 4-7 start to sink that ship. Too early and too many distractions. A change had to be made, but not as coward of a one that took place. It’s easy to understand that every team except the 76ers want to win now, but with Lawson’s ongoing trial, Harden’s poor play and all the injuries, you give it a shot at trying to coach this team.

Disagree? Let’s take a look at some statistics and some fun photos:

First off: Defense. None of it has been played. Not in the half-court, not in transition. Lackluster effort on defense is going get you beat on any given night, no matter how good your offense may be.


I think these examples are pretty self-explanatory, and do a perfect job of transitioning to my frustration with James Harden. What in the world is happening? Luckily, we saw a monstrous 44 point, 11 assist performance two  nights ago from Harden, but it’s been well documented that his teammates were upset with his play thus far.

People may argue McHale should have put his foot down and taken full charge of the team, but I couldn’t disagree more. That is without question James Harden’s job. If you want to be a superstar in this league, you have to prove it night in and night out. What separates the good from the great is consistency.

Any player can go out and score thirty one night and give every thing he has, but the great ones do it every night. Sure, bad shooting nights and games filled with turnovers happen, but the effort is ALWAYS there. Just look back at the NBA Finals a year ago. Steph Curry didn’t play his best basketball; he turned the ball over and took bad shots at times, but his effort never lacked and he ended up making huge plays down the stretch of games where the Warriors won.

We know the talent is there for Harden, but we’ll really get to know who he is as a teammate and star of this league while the Rockets dig themselves out a large (and McHale-less) hole.

For the Rockets as a team, limiting turnovers, better three point shooting, and more effort on defense will give this team a chance to get back in the playoff race in a loaded Western Conference. But can the Rockets be dangerous again without McHale? Only time will tell.

– Nik

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mlbf_433957583_th_45Welcome back to Don’t Call It A Picks Competition, our weekly column where Matt, Bob and Harry pick five college football games against the spread and make appalling jokes at pretty much everyone’s expense. As always, you’re invited to pick with us in the comment section and we’ll post the standings each week.


In 2014, the Cubs won 73 games, the 24th most in Major League Baseball. In 2015, the Cubs won 97 games, the 3rd most in Major League Baseball. In the past week, Kris Bryant unanimously won Rookie of the Year, Joe Maddon deservingly won Manager of the Year, AND JAKE ARRIETA WON THE CY YOUNG!!!!!!!!!

Pretty good IMO. Now onto college football.


In games we picked last week:

  • Ohio State (-16.5) The Buckeyes brought their sledgehammers to Champaign and murdered some Native Americans (not to be racist).
  • Purdue (+15) The Boilermakers brought their hard hats to Evanston and didn’t really do much to some cats (not to be animalist) but still managed to cover the spread.
  • North Carolina (-12.5) The Tar Heels got their feet out of the tar this time to knock the wind out of some hurricanes (not to be stormist).
  • Memphis (+6.5) The cats didn’t murder some other cats because those other cats murdered the first cats but the first cats covered the spread.
  • Oklahoma (+2.5) Oklahoma beat Baylor, 44-34.

Bob picked up a game on both Matt and Harry last week to pull within one game of second place and two of first. This race is still tighter than Stephen Piscotty’s buttcheeks with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth, folks.

Season Last Week
Harry 29-26 2-3
Matt 28-27 2-3
Bob 27-28 3-2

Here’s a look at the splits:

We All Agree  14-12
Bob Alone  5-5
Harry Alone  6-3
Matt Alone 6-4

And the peanut gallery. For the first time that I can remember in a while, Creed slips below .500 and a new commenter surges into the lead. Still, with just three games separating spots 1-4, there is a long way to go here.

Winning Percentage Season Record Last Week
Drew .527 29-26 2-3
Andrew Kelley .509 28-27 2-3
Creed Tucker .491 27-28 1-4
Bobby .473 26-29 1-4
Mike .467 21-24 2-3
Julian .422 19-26 1-4
Jacob Altstadt .378 17-28 1-4


Here is this week’s slate. As always, game times are eastern and on Saturday.

Illinois at Minnesota -4.5, Noon, ESPNews

IN THE HEARTLAND… yeah that’s about the only cool thing I can say about this one.

Bob: These teams are about even, and if I had a drunk Florida man’s gun to my head saying I can live if I tell him which of these two bad Big Ten teams is less bad, I would pick Illinois. We saw what Northwestern’s defense did to Minnesota, and Illinois’s defense is about as good. Illinois +4.5

Matt: Minnesota is going to score between 10-20 points in this game on drives over 50 yards, and whatever else happens is all up to the Illini offense. If they turn it over a few times and fail to sustain a couple drives to give the defense a rest, this will end up a disaster for Illinois. If Cubit pulls his noggin out of his you-know-where and starts to play to the strengths of his offense, Illinois will win. That’s not exactly amazing analysis, but in a game between two relatively even teams it tends to come down to turnover luck and finishing drives. The Illini have been good in the former and the 100% unadulterated embodiment of a pile of flaming dog poop in the latter, so I’m going to pick them to lose and not cover. But they probably will. I don’t know. I don’t care. Minnesota -4.5

Harry: This is a coin-flip game to me. Based simply on recent play and not much else, I guess I’ll side with Minnesota, but I don’t feel good about it. Minnesota -4.5

Georgia Tech -2 at Miami, 12:30, ESPN3

Georgia Tech has three wins… and is a favorite at Sun Life. This will be an early one and a rough one for Kroll and the boys.

Bob: Three-win Georgia Tech is a favorite in Miami?? The Yellow Jackets beat Florida State and have a number of close losses… but have only beaten two FBS teams. They also sit ten spots below Miami in S&P+. There are no indicators of historical trends here, which would theoretically make a difference with Georgia Tech’s unique offense, as the teams have been even in recent matchups, so I’ll take the home team that is probably better. Miami +2

Matt: Why is Georgia Tech favored in this game? Miami +2

Harry: Matt and Bob clearly haven’t watched Miami’s rushing defense recently. Hold onto your butts, folks. This one could get ugly. Georgia Tech -2

#20 Northwestern at #25 Wisconsin -10, 3:30, BTN

A ranked matchup between two 8-2 teams!!!!!

Bob: Wisconsin has two losses, to Alabama and Iowa, who both feature in the CFP top five and are exactly as good as each other. Northwestern also has two losses to good teams, but the losses are… slightly more rough. Wisconsin and Iowa are basically even in my mind, and Northwestern lost to Iowa by 30 at home. Northwestern now travels to Wisconsin, and I fear the result will be similar. Wisconsin -10

Matt: I actually think Wisconsin is more impressive than Iowa at full strength, but Iowa has gotten some timely luck this year and Wisconsin has had a couple of key, debilitating injuries like running back Corey Clement. This one is probably going to be a grind-fest. It pains me to do so given how I feel about the quality of both teams, and with memories of when Northwestern got absolutely pummeled in Camp Randall a couple years ago in a similar matchup, but I’m taking the Wildcats to keep it close and lose by single digits. Yuck. Northwestern +10

Harry: What Bob said. Wisconsin is a marginally good team and Northwestern is decisively average despite their 8-2 record. With the Badgers having home field, I’m not sure how Northwestern can score enough points to keep this game close. Wisconsin -10

#9 Michigan State at #3 Ohio State -13, 3:30, ABC

This matchup has been hyped for months, but Michigan State’s almost weekly struggles mean this one might not be as big a heavyweight bout as we had thought.

Bob: S&P+ says this is about right, if not too few points in favor of Ohio State… and S&P+ doesn’t even know that JT Barrett is good. I also have been on the “Michigan State isn’t very good” train all year while also feeling more optimistic about Ohio State than most people. But ultimately, this is too many points to give up to a team that could very conceivably win this game. Michigan State +13

Matt: Ohio State has been sleepwalking through their schedule thus far, and I think it costs them in this one. They put on a dominant defensive performance against Illinois last week, but that’s no great feat given Bill Cubit’s offense is just Wes Lunt trying to aim various colors and quantities of projectile vomit into the brick hands of various receivers and running backs in the flat. (#EXTENDCUBIT!) Michigan State will lose this game, but keep it close, because they are capable of playing a close game against literally every single team in the country. Including you, Kansas. Even you. Michigan State +13

Harry: Michigan State isn’t nearly as good as they’re ranked, but that is an insane number of points. This should be one of those games where Ohio State is comfortably in control the entire way and never feels like they even have a chance to lose, but the final score won’t be ridiculously lopsided. Michigan State +13

#10 Baylor at #6 Oklahoma State PK, 7:30, FOX

Oklahoma State somehow stands as the only remaining undefeated Big 12 team, and the Art Briles train comes to Stillwater this Saturday to silence those annoying fans with their stupid sticks.

Bob: I seem to lean toward the teams facing off in the other major Big 12 clash this week, so I don’t quite know where to go in an even matchup between two teams I generally pick against in these big matchups. Baylor sports the #1 S&P+ offense in the nation and has not discernibly taken a step back since Seth Russell’s tragic death… but also has a poor defense. Oklahoma State is not particularly great offensively but has a not-as-terrible defense. Frankly, I have been slightly more impressed by Baylor this year. Sorry to pick against Mark Schlabach’s ironclad reasoning here.Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 10.07.40 PM Baylor

Matt: This is a tough one, because Baylor is probably being underrated on the line because of last week’s performance and they’re probably the better team overall, but Oklahoma State still has a great shot to win. Mark Schlabach is an idiot, and on the strong basis of that analysis I am taking the Bears. Baylor

Harry: I realize Baylor didn’t play all that well against a peaking Oklahoma team last week, but all previous evidence suggests that the Bears are better than they played last Saturday. In my mind, there is one really good team in this game and the other is Oklahoma State. Baylor

Remember to make your picks in the comments!

The Stretch Four 1.3: Stephamphetamines

via Fox Sports

Welcome to a brand new (hopefully) weekly post at DCIAB called The Stretch Four. Longtime friend of the blog Nik Valdiserri has joined me to offer our NBA expertise in a variety of fun fashions every Friday. There are four regular segments to the post, along with other optional segments we’ll integrate as they become relevant.

Regular features of the post will include a short column on a league trend or event, some of our power rankings, the best NBA video we watched this week, and the Friday Spotlight, a picks competition for Friday night games with a similar structure to DCIAPC. Enjoy!


When most people watch sports, their descriptions of just about any event frequently devolve directly into superlative discussions about the best, worst, or even most mediocre in any given area. Most sports fans also feel the need to constantly discuss the order of things, from College Football Playoff rankings to weekly power rankings of an entire sport’s teams (what kind of idiots would do that?).

Often, superlafilia and obsessive ranking disorder intermingle, leading to elongated discussions about the best player in any given sport on the planet.

For years, LeBron James has been the uncontested best player in basketball. Kevin Durant had a superior regular season a couple years ago, but it was by the slimmest of subjective margins and LeBron ultimately won the title that season to continue his tenure atop the mountain.

At this point, it’s difficult to imagine a world in which LeBron is not considered the best basketball player alive. I’ve been watching basketball since roughly 2004, which is when LeBron began his ascension to the top, insofar as an athlete hyped up, since high school, more than any other in history can begin an ascension once he finally reaches his league.

But from then on, it was only a matter of time before the NBA was precisely that– his league. Since I started following basketball more closely in 2011, LeBron has dominated the league, reaching the NBA finals every single season spanning two different teams with key role players cycling in and out around him.

And then last year happened. LeBron struggled early in the year with Cleveland, eventually resorting to the famous two-week “LeBattical” to recharge his batteries for another stretch run. The Cavs and LeBron would get to the championship round without much difficulty, but LeBron shot poorly in the postseason and relied on as much of an old man game as we’d ever seen from him.

Steph Curry won the MVP, James Harden was a close runner-up, and even Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis had cases for the award that rivaled, if not dwarfed, LeBron’s. Davis became the trendy pick for this year’s MVP award, as he was most likely to carry a team to a high playoff seed essentially all by his lonesome. Durant was another popular choice, hoping for a resurgence after over a year of injury issues.

And somehow, with all the offseason fawning over the Golden State Warriors, it seems almost impossible that nobody considered the most obvious successor for LeBron in the league– Steph Curry.

Steph is the best player alive now, and it couldn’t feel weirder. His control over the game is mesmerizing. He set the NBA record for three-point makes in a single season last year with 286. 10 games into this season, he’s on pace for over 420 (nice), nearly 1.5 times his previous record. And he scores at will on just about any opponent, failing to score fewer than 20 points in any game thus far.

His team, the Warriors, are by far the best in the league, scorching opponents by 17.1 points per game during their 10-0 start. Again, their average margin of victory is 17 points PER GAME. And that’s without a stellar performance from Klay Thompson all season. It’s all because of Curry and his sidekick Draymond Green.

Curry has already been, by far, the best player on a title team. He’s improved his defense from terrible to slightly above average. Though his diminutive size disadvantages him against the league’s most physical guards, he can hang with any point guard in the league.

LeBron is still an amazing player, but age and miles are starting to break his body down. His defense, particularly in the regular season, has slipped well below the previous near-DPOY level. His jump shot appears bent, if not broken. He’s still a top-three passer in the league, fantastic finisher around the rim, and capable of winning any game by himself. But he’s no longer the LeBron of just two years ago.

Steph Curry is the new best basketball player on the planet, whether you like it or not. And given the early letdowns in New Orleans for Anthony Davis, it doesn’t look like he’ll give up that mantle anytime soon.

– Matt

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DCIAPC 3.11: When You See It You’ll Freak Out

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 10.03.14 AMWelcome back to Don’t Call It A Picks Competition, our weekly column where Matt, Bob and Harry pick five college football games against the spread and make appalling jokes at pretty much everyone’s expense. As always, you’re invited to pick with us in the comment section and we’ll post the standings each week.

At the top of this post, I threw up the Top 15 of this week’s College Football Playoff Rankings. Sure, you can quibble here and there and some may be bothered by Oklahoma State at eight, but overall they’re pretty soli—wait a minute. Can we zoom in a bit there?

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 10.03.24 AM


Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 10.03.36 AM


Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 10.03.47 AM


Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 10.07.13 AM

May God help us all.


In games we picked last week:

  • Illinois (Pk) went on the road and beat the crap out of a team that beat Nebraska two weeks ago. Nebraska beat Michigan State on Saturday. Sports are weird.
  • Penn State (+3) lost on a last second field goal in Evanston but still managed to cover the spread. This is one of the many reasons why you should never bet real money on sports. [Bob: This was total bullshit from a spread perspective.]
  • Florida State (+12) is apparently a college football program capable of losing multiple games per year, though they did cover the spread at Clemson.
  • Oklahoma State (+5) somehow beat TCU by three touchdowns despite being out-gained by more than 200 yards. Sports are weird.

Matt and Bob flipped spots after ying-yanging 4-1 and 1-4 records this week. I maintained my GINORMOUS one-game lead on the field. Still, this race is still tighter than Stephen Piscotty’s buttcheeks with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth, folks.

Season Last Week
Harry 27-23 3-2
Matt 26-24 4-1
Bob 24-26 1-4

Here’s a look at the splits:

We All Agree  13-11
Bob Alone  4-5
Harry Alone  5-3
Matt Alone  5-4

And the peanut gallery. Creed and Drew pulled into a first place tie with Andrew Kelley and this race is getting damn exciting with Bobby just one game back. What a time to be alive, folks. Also, please stop being so mean to Jacob in the comments. YOU’RE INFRINGING ON HIS SAFE SPACE. #ConcernedDCIAB2015

Winning Percentage Season Record Last Week
Andrew Kelley .20 26-24 1-4
Creed Tucker .520 26-24 2-3
Drew .520 26-24 3-2
Bobby .500 25-25 3-2
Mike .475 19-21 1-4
Julian .450 18-22 2-3
Jacob Altstadt .400 16-24 2-3


Here is this week’s slate. As always, game times are eastern and on Saturday.

#3 Ohio State (-16.5) at Illinois, Noon, ABC

Ohio State has seen some struggles this year against mid-tier competition with solid defenses that kept the score close. Is something brewing in Champaign?!?!

Harry: As I referenced in the description, Illinois definitely has the horses to stay within 17 points of Ohio State. Somehow, they Illini rank 10th in the nation (!!) in Defensive S&P+. I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’m picking the Illini against the defending champs. MY HOME STATE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS +16.5

Bob: S&P+ actually puts this game as around a 10-point spread, and I agree with that. Ohio State hasn’t quite pounded many teams that are worse than Illinois this year. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes are finally led by their best quarterback, which worries me, but I shall take the points here. Illinois +16.5

Matt: If Cardale Jones started at quarterback, Illinois would cover. Since JT Barrett almost certainly will, they will not. Ohio State -16

Purdue at #18 (?!?!) Northwestern (-15), Noon, BTN

My thoughts and prayers are with anyone actually waking up in time just to trek to this stadium and watch this game starting at 11 AM local time. [Bob: Sup.]

Harry: Please don’t get me wrong: Purdue is awful. They’re really, really bad. That said, I have a tough time laying this many points with Northwestern’s offense. Can’t believe I’m about to do this, but I’m rolling with the Boilers. Pur—ugh this is really difficult to actually type out—Purdu—come on now, Kroll—Purdue +15 /throws up

Bob: Initially, I agree with Harry here, especially with Clayton Thorson playing through an injury that knocked him out of the Penn State game. A worse Northwestern team quarterbacked by Zack Oliver won 38-14 on the road last year, and Purdue has gotten beaten by more than 15 against a sizable slate of teams that are worse than Northwestern. Northwestern -15

Matt: Purdue is a train wreck right now. Illinois tore them up on the ground, and Illinois has suuuuucked at running the football this year. Northwestern is going to grind out a 28-7 victory here. Northwestern -15

Miami at #23 North Carolina (-12.5), 3:30, ESPNU

Miami heads to Chapel Hill in a critical game for the ACC Coastal with the winner likely heading to Charlotte to face Clemson in the ACC Championship game. The ‘Canes look to improve to 3-0 since firing Al Golden, and no one in the country would have a single issue with any of those wins. 

Harry: Sure, Miami is 2-0 under head coach Larry Scott, but what no Miami fan wants to admit is that the ‘Canes still haven’t looked any good. They’ve picked up a relatively close home win against Virginia and a miraculous one against a Duke team that clearly isn’t as good as we thought they were after getting blasted by UNC last week. Miami still racks up penalties, blows defensive assignments and generally plays like the poorly coached team that it is. On the other side, UNC is really, really good. If they had a different name on the front of their jersey, the Tar Heels’ 8-1 record would receive a lot more respect from the national media. North Carolina -12.5

Bob: North Carolina falls just behind Louisiana Tech and Penn State in S&P+. The Tar Heels’ season started with an ugly loss to South Carolina and has since basically been Iowa, who ranks #5 in the CFP poll. That said, I agree with these bozos that North Carolina is a strong team, and after seeing Miami turn in a number of underwhelming performances, I’m willing to say North Carolina will win by at least two touchdowns at home this week. North Carolina -12.5

Matt: The most ridiculous ranking of the CFP in week one was the lack of UNC, by far. This team is really, really good, as evidenced by their domination of a decent Illini squad earlier this year. North Carolina -12.5

#21 Memphis at #24 Houston (-6.5), 7, ESPN2

Houston is the last hope for a Group of 5 undefeated team after Navy took down Memphis last week. However, we’re still picking this game because the other ranked vs. ranked option was Alabama at Mississippi State and — I don’t swear on this site often anymore so please take this with the utmost emphatic emphasis —who the fuck cares about the game? 

Harry: Admittedly, I haven’t watched much of Houston and I’ve only seen a game or two from Memphis. So I went to the advanced stats and found these two teams are pretty dead even. Houston is two spots ahead of Memphis in F/+ (27th and 29th, respectively) and six spots ahead in S&P+ (35th and 41st, respectively). However, Memphis’s dirty little secret—which was massively exposed last week—is that their defense is TERRIBLE. I’m happy to lay less than a touchdown knowing I get a Tom Herman offense at home against that defense. Houston -6.5

Bob: Navy and Houston are extremely different teams, but I could see this game going similarly for Memphis. Houston has really impressed week in and week out this year, and I think they’re decidedly the better team here. Houston -6.5

Matt: Tom Herman is the best coach in his division. Don’t tell Justin Fuente I said that, just in case he randomly sparks a passionate love for Champaign, Ill. Houston -6.5

#12 Oklahoma at #6 Baylor (-2.5), 8, ABC

It’s the Game of the Year of the Week in the Big 12! Will a single tackle be made? TUNE IN TO FIND OUT!

Harry: This line opened at seven and has steadily moved down with the public heavily betting Oklahoma. I realize Baylor doesn’t have Seth Russel, but they have OWNED Oklahoma recently no matter who has played quarterback. So if I choose Baylor I get to lay less than a field goal with the better team at home AND go against the betting public. This is a no-brainer. Baylor -2.5

Bob: Oklahoma totally flopped against Texas, but otherwise these two have basically been identical. This one is a toss-up for me, so I’m going to go with my gut here. Oklahoma +2.5

Matt: I’m pretty sure Baylor ended up as my preseason pick to lose to Alabama in the title game, so I’m gonna go ahead and pick them in spite of their quarterback injury. Baylor -2.5

The Stretch Four 1.2: Looks at the Rooks

via The Players Tribune

Welcome to a brand new (hopefully) weekly post at DCIAB called The Stretch Four. Longtime friend of the blog Nik Valdiserri has joined me to offer our NBA expertise in a variety of fun fashions every Friday. There are four regular segments to the post, along with other optional segments we’ll integrate as they become relevant.

Regular features of the post will include a short column on a league trend or event, some of our power rankings, the best NBA video we watched this week, and the Friday Spotlight, a picks competition for Friday night games with a similar structure to DCIAPC. Enjoy!


Two weeks of the NBA season are in the books and I have already watched too much basketball. Do I ever get burnt out? Not really. Instead, I crave more. This year however, I have even found myself watching games with twenty point margins with less than a quarter left to go. Why, you ask? One word. Rookies.

It may be because of the poor showing from the class a year ago, which was ailed with injuries and mediocrity, or because Jerian Grant is finally in the NBA, but this year’s class has been really exciting to watch. As one of the better rookie classes in the last decade, we are seeing many of them play early and log major minutes every night.

In fact, five out of the top ten picks recorded a start in their first NBA game (Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzingis and Emmanuel Mudiay) compared to three rookies who did so last season (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Elfrid Payton). All five of those players, barring any injuries, will start for the rest of the season in hopes of developing their games quicker; none of them being older than 20.

The hype has been warranted thus far. Towns recorded two double-doubles in his first two games and I still get chills every time I see him play alongside Kevin Garnett. Mudiay, who has been handed the keys to the offense already, recorded his first double-double against the guy who got drafted ahead of him, Russell. Porzingis may not be strong yet, but he’s already putting his body on the line and recorded a double-double as well. Oh, and Okafor has scored 21+ points in three of his first four games. Wow.

While the other rookies have not had the chance to stuff the stat sheet yet, they’ve still made an impact early. Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky banked in a three against Chicago, Miami’s Justise Winslow not only dunked all over the team that should have drafted him (hint, hint Charlotte), but was asked to guard LeBron James during important possessions.

Mario Hezonja and Stanley Johnson have provided great energy off the bench for their spread-the-floor teams, and Willie Trill scored 17 points in his second game, which he only surpassed four times during his three-year career at Kentucky. I’ve liked Myles Turner’s output in his first four games as a pro, but he falls short to George Hill for the funniest hairdo on the Pacers.

And then of course, there’s Jerian Grant. I will make sure he gets at least three columns to himself during the year, but so far his mentions have been backed up by his play. The Knicks want to keep a fast pace on offense, yet they start Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic. Grant and Langston Galloway have worked really well together on the second unit and have created a great balance between the starters and bench players. Keep it up.

Did you notice I forgot to mention someone? If so, you are correct. The only real problem I have had with the rookie class so far (other than Grant not starting yet) has been the play of the number two overall pick D’Angelo Russell. I know, it’s early and he’s playing with seventy ball hogs, but he’s been too tentative. He hasn’t attacked the basket, he hasn’t demanded the ball and he hasn’t made D’Angelo-like plays that we were so accustomed to last season at Ohio State. I could break down his stats, but it’s too early for that. He’ll be fine.

I could keep going. I wouldn’t mind breaking down Devin Booker’s ever-so beautiful jumper, Terry Rozier’s eight minutes played, 0/6 shooting and two-turnover start to the season. Or how Montrezl Harrell enjoys rebounding. But I’ll let the kids play.

All I can say is, the new crunch-time is when the Utah Jazz are beating the Lakers by 45 and D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance and Trey Lyles are all playing. Love it.


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