2015 Warriors vs. ’96 Bulls – Who wins?

96-bulls-vs-2015-warriorsSeveral teams could make an argument for being the best in NBA history. And the 1996 Chicago Bulls are definitely among the greatest—if not THE greatest—teams of all time since they earned the top NBA record at 72-9, before cruising through the playoffs with a 15-3 mark. But would the ’96 Bulls have beaten the 2015 Golden State Warriors?

This has actually become a legitimate debate after the Warriors’ record-breaking 18-0 start. And it’s not like this is an unproven team either because Golden State won the NBA Championship last year. Now they are chasing further greatness, back-to-back titles and the best NBA record of all time.

Given the Warriors’ recent record for best start, they certainly have a claim to be better than the ’96 Chicago team. And former NBA player and Sixth Man of the Year Eddie Johnson recently discussed the matter through a column for Hoops Hype.

michael-jordan-bullsIn order to offer a truly valid comparison, Johnson went through and compared each position matchup, from Michael Jordan vs. Klay Thompson to Dennis Rodman vs. Draymond Green. Here’s a look at Jordan vs. Thompson, for example:

Jordan: The one thing people didn’t understand about him is how strong he was. He could control your body position on both ends of the court despite any weight advantage you might have. That gave him a tremendous edge based on his superior basketball skills. The trait that separated him was his fanatical will to destroy you. Klay would meet that person and then some in every facet of the game.

Thompson: Believe it or not, Jordan was easy to score on early in games because he concentrated on getting his offensive rhythm flowing. You allow Klay great looks early and he can compete with anyone. He is one the best three-way offensive players in the league. He’s good at shooting, driving and posting up, but he would wear down eventually from the intense pressure Jordan applies on both ends of the court.

klay-thompsonDespite how good Thompson is today, this was an easy one in favor of the ’96 Bulls. Jordan is arguably the greatest player of all time, and he willed Chicago to six championships during his time there. Overall, though, Johnson thinks that Golden State’s depth, top-to-bottom athleticism and shooting would be enough for them to overcome the Bulls.

But while this makes for great conversation, the prediction may be a little premature. In 1996, Chicago was gunning for its third-straight title as they completely demolished the rest of the NBA. Golden State is currently hoping for their second-straight championship, and they’re off to an 18-0 start. But we aren’t even one-fourth of the way through the season, so the Warriors will need to match or beat Chicago’s all-time mark of 72 victories and win the title before they are definitely better.

In any case, it should be fun to continue making these comparisons as the 2015-16 NBA season continues. Golden State will try to extend their magical start against the Utah Jazz on Monday (Nov. 30). So if you’re interested in betting on this game or any other Golden State Warriors contest this season, be sure to visit us at GTBets.eu.

Can Phil Jackson turn the Knicks around?

phil-jackson-new-york-turnaroundIf you’ve been making a lot of moneyline bets in favor of the New York Knicks this season, we feel sorry for you because your bankroll has taken quite a beating. Despite basically returning the same lineup from a 54-28 team that easily won the Atlantic Division, New York has struggled to a 27-40 record so far – and that’s WITH a recent 6-game winning streak.

Enter Phil Jackson, who was finally announced as the team’s president in a move that’s been rumored for weeks. Jackson is tasked with helping mold a team that hasn’t won a title in 41 years into a legitimate title contender. This won’t be easy, especially when you consider that New York finally won their first playoff series in 13 years last season.

But if there’s anybody who knows winning, it is Jackson. In lengthy stints with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, the Zen Master won a combined 11 NBA Championships. That’s exactly why Knicks owner James Dolan gave him a five-year contract worth at least $12 million. But can Jackson bring his winning ways to New York, despite not being on the sidelines?

We’ll definitely say that it’s going to be a far, far greater challenge than winning with Michael/Scottie in Chicago or Kobe/Shaq in Los Angeles. Sure, this statement isn’t exactly an earth-shattering revelation. However, it’s worth emphasizing because there are sure to be some Knicks fans who are already placing superhuman expectations on Jackson.

What was somewhat of a winning culture last year has turned to one of losing and confusion this year. Head coach Mike Woodson has dealt with rumors of being fired for much of the season while some of his players have also pointed fingers at Woodson/each other. At least for the immediate future, Woodson got a vote of confidence from the team’s new president. “I’ve had a conversation with Mike Woodson, supporting him and going forward to try to make the playoffs this year,” Jackson said. “The team has had a little run, and we’re anticipating that it’s going to be a good one, and that they’ll get into the playoffs.”

Whether or not this support runs into next season remains to be seen. Woodson could help his case by keeping New York on their hot streak long enough to overtake Atlanta for the eighth playoff seed. But they’ll likely face the Indiana Pacers in the first round, a team that already handled New York in last year’s conference semifinals without home court advantage.

carmelo-anthony-1In any case, it’s going to be up to Jackson and general manager Steve Mills to restore New York to the level of competitiveness that they haven’t had since the 90’s. And they could take a big step towards making this happen right now.

The first priority will deal with the Carmelo Anthony situation. The star power forward has an early termination clause in his contract that could allow him to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this summer. Anthony has indicated that he’d like to test the free agency waters, but also says that he wants to sit down with Jackson and talk about everything first. Odds are that this conversation will include Jackson asking Melo to take a paycut while rehashing all of the rings he’s won. Jackson has already given part of this spiel to the public by stating:

There’s no doubt about Carmelo being one of the top scorers in the league and maybe the best individual isolation player in the game – I have no problems with committing to saying Carmelo is in the future plans. I think there are a number of things I see Carmelo doing as he moves forward, and I said – I think I was on record a year ago – that I think Carmelo, as great a player as he is, still has another level he can go to. Together, with the team we create, he can get there.

Besides convincing Melo to stay, Jackson will have his work cut out in trying to add talent for the 2014-15 season. Currently, New York is on the hook for $92 million in salary, giving them little room to work the free agent market. Furthermore, they have no first-round draft pick in 2015 or ’16 (due to the Anthony deal), and they won’t have a second-round pick until 2018 (due to the Andrea Bargnani trade).

phil-jackson-new-york-turnaround-1The summer of 2015 looks to be when Jackson and Mills will truly have some room to work as the eight-figure deals of Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler all end. This will be a sweet time to have cap space and an iconic city like New York behind you since Brook Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Marc Gasol and Roy Hibbert will all be free agents. Miami will also have a trio of stars whose contracts are ending, with Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and, the man everybody will be trying to wine and dine, LeBron James all up for grabs.

It’s no secret that Jackson will be working all of this into his upcoming pitch to Anthony about surviving the next season-plus of mediocrity in New York before big things come. “(In 2015) I think we know that we need another solid contributor, someone that can score to help Carmelo go along, and contribute to this team and their winning experience,” Jackson said. “We’re looking forward to it, but we’re not losing sight of the fact that we’re in a game-to-game basis in this business, that we want to provide a team that’s talented, that people want to come and watch, and a team that’s truly competitive.”

Given everything that COULD happen in New York in a couple of seasons, it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility that Jackson could turn this team into a serious contender. But there are a lot of pieces that need to be put in place before the Knicks can replicate the incredible success that Jackson has experienced at other stops in his career.

Kevin Durant on Kobe Bryant: “He’s the Greatest of All-Time”

kobe-bryantMany fans and players alike agree that Michael Jordan was the greatest NBA player of all-time. His stats and achievements definitely don’t do anything to dissuade this argument either:

– 6-time NBA champion
– 6-time NBA Finals MVP
– 5-time MVP
– 10-time NBA scoring champion
– 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG

Above all, Jordan was regarded as a fierce competitor who refused to back down or lose. But even with everything that MJ has going for him in the greatest player department, there are some other players who could lay claim to this prestigious billing too. Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant are some of the first names that come up in this debate.

Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant recently cast his vote for which of these players he thinks is the best. Durant, who’s definitely our favorite for this year’s MVP award, told Los Angeles Daily Times reporter Mark Medina why he tabs the Black Mamba as the best in a recent interview. Here’s one excerpt from the conversation:

Of course. He’s the greatest of all time. His skill is second to none. Him and [Michael Jordan] are neck and neck as far as skill. You can put in athleticism and be the best passer and strongest and quickest. But it’s about skill. I think that’s how his game is played. That’s why Kobe is the top two best ever in just having skill, footwork, shooting the three, shooting the pull up, posting up, dunking on guys and ball handling. It’s flat out skill. Him and Jordan are 1 and 1A. They’re neck and neck as far as the skills are concerned.”

kevin-durantKobe plays his game no matter what with his intensity and focus and he will play to win. He also will do what he needs to do to get ready to play. If he sees a mismatch, he’ll take it down low and demand the ball. He’s one of those guys who will always bring the same intensity every time no matter who’s on the court.

In another answer, Durant said that he and Bryant have a mutual respect for each other’s games, though there’s a lot of on-court trash talking going on. “We’re going to talk (junk) to each other,” he told Medina. “I think he appreciates that’s how I play. I may be wrong. But I can sense when a guy has that mutual respect. I don’t give a damn who he is. He don’t give a damn who I am. We’re going to go at it. You can throw the names out the door. The guy in front of me, I will try to kick his (butt). He’ll do the same with me.”

Durant obviously looks to Bryant as something of a mentor too since he rehashed calling Bryant at 3 am during the Olympics one night. Stating that Kobe’s a night owl, Durant said he was “picking his (Bryant’s) brain a little bit” about how he should handle certain situations and his teammates during games.

Bryant is definitely a good guy to talk to about anything that’s basketball-related. The 35-year-old has won 5 NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP awards and two scoring titles. He also boasts career stats of 25.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 4.8 APG. Comparing these numbers to Jordan’s, it’s a little hard to give Kobe the nod as the NBA’s all-time greatest player. But he’s done enough to win Durant’s vote and respect as well.

Speaking of Durant again, if he continues at the current rate, we may one day be throwing his name into the best all-time player debate. After six years in the league, the 25-year-old is really beginning to take flight, averaging 31.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG and 5.6 APG. Durant looks like the front-runner to win the 2014 MVP award, especially since his Thunder are 48-17 and looking like a serious title contender.

Getting through a crowded Western Conference playoffs bracket won’t be any picnic. But if Durant can guide his team to a championship, he’ll move a lot closer to cementing his legacy as one of the NBA’s greatest players.

YouTube Kicking Star Havard Rugland signs with Detroit Lions

havard-rugland-lionsIt’s not totally beneath professional sports franchises to bring aboard big-time stars or flash-in-the-pan athletes just for publicity. A few examples of this include the Charlotte (New Orleans) Hornets signing rapper Master P (hadn’t played basketball since high school), the Birmingham Barons signing Michael Jordan (hadn’t played baseball since early high school) and the NFL giving kicker Lauren Silberman a regional combine tryout (first kick went 19 yards, second kick injured her).

Keeping the last example in mind, the football world might be collectively rolling their eyes after the Detroit Lions signed Norwegian kicker Havard Rugland to a contract. The 6’2″, 245-pounder gained international fame after releasing a YouTube video (see below) of his trick-kicks and powerful leg.

Of course, the key thing here is that Rugland has no American football pedigree since he’s never kicked in a real game. So does he have what it takes to actually become an NFL player? Or is this a Detroit Lions’ publicity stunt that’s just as laughable as the Hornets signing Master P? If former NFL kicker Michael Husted has anything to say about the matter, Rugland is definitely a legitimate prospect.

Husted, who lasted nine years in the NFL, has been training extensively with the Norwegian in California. So he’s certainly a credible source in saying that Rugland has plenty of talent. Husted stated the following:

YouTube Kicker FootballHe’s got great potential. On the other side, you need more than that. You need connections and to have a little bit of luck on your side. I always tell people that there are kickers who were better than me who did not make it. I was fortunate to have a nine-year NFL career.

Husted’s connections have definitely paid off since his young Padawan has inked a deal with Detroit. The Lions are in the unusual situation of needing a kicker because Jason Hanson, who’s been their man since 1992, decided that 21 years was enough and called it quits following a disappointing 4-12 season.

At first glance, it looks as if former Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers has the inside track on the vacant position. He’s been in the league for 13 seasons and, for the most part, has a pretty good track record. The 38-year-old also signed a $1.005 million contract with the Lions this past offseason.

havard-rugland-lions-1However, Akers is anything but a sure bet since only $100,000 of the contract is guaranteed, according to a team official. Furthermore, Akers is coming off of the worst season of his career after making just 29 out of 44 field goals (69%).

Rugland’s other competition will be former University of Central Florida punter Blake Clingan. The medical estate consultant hasn’t played for two years and was merely practicing on the weekends until his recent tryout Lions was successful.

Getting back to Havard Rugland, it’s pretty difficult to say how he’ll stack up against Akers and Clingan – both guys who have organized football experience. But it’s pretty obvious from the YouTube video that the 27-year-old has some skills. He booted the ball through the uprights from 60 yards away and showed precision accuracy with kicks into boats and garbage cans.

On the other hand, there are no garbage-can kicks in the NFL and there are no do-overs like in YouTube videos. So it’ll definitely be interesting to see what Rugland’s kicking ability is really made of as the Detroit Lions start making roster cuts later.

Jamison believes Michael Jordan could still play at 50

michael-jordoan-comeback-1Few people would argue that the NBA isn’t a place for 50-year-old men. The majority of successful players are in their late 20’s or early 30’s, and most pro ballers fade off in their mid-30’s.

But even with this being said, Los Angeles Lakers forward Antawn Jamison believes that Michael Jordan, who’s almost 50, could still play in the NBA. Jaimson told ESPN, “I wouldn’t doubt that in the right situation with a LeBron (James) on his team or with a Kobe (Bryant) on this team, he could get you about 10 or 11 points, come in and play 15-20 minutes. I wouldn’t doubt that at all, especially if he was in shape and injuries were prevented and things of that nature.”

Jamison added, “You hear stories still to this day, especially last year, him going to the practice facility and playing 1-on-1 with the guys and still they can’t stop him.”

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles LakersAges Ago

The last time Jordan played was when he donned a Washington Wizards uniform during the 2002-2003 NBA season. And he averaged 20.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.8 APG and 1.5 SPG while playing 37 minutes per game. Of course, this was a decade ago, and MJ was obviously not at his peak back in these days.

That said, it’s questionable as to whether or not Michael could really average double figures at his age. As we’ve alluded to several times already, the obvious roadblock is that Jordan is just a few days shy of 50. Plus he hasn’t played a regulation NBA game since 2003. However, there are also some things that MJ has going in his favor, which we’ll discuss next.

Favorable Rules

In his prime, Michael Jordan played basketball in an era where hand-checking and hard fouls were simply signatures of a good defensive team. And even in a day and age where physical defense was perfectly acceptable, “His Airness” upheld the highest career scoring average (30.12 PPG) in NBA history.

michael-jordoan-comebackContrast this to today’s game, where the rules are set up to encourage more scoring and less physical D. It’s hard to imagine how many points a young Jordan could’ve averaged in this offensive-friendly era.

Another thing worth mentioning here is that Michael hasn’t exactly let himself go like other former NBA stars – a la Charles Barkley. Jordan works out, plays golf regularly and even practices with the Charlotte Bobcats from time to time. And as Jamison mentioned, Michael does quite good in these practices too.

How would a Comeback Attempt go?

Practicing against the team you own once and a while, and surviving a grueling 82-game schedule are two different things – especially when you’re half a century old. And while Michael Jordan is largely considered the greatest basketball player ever, we’re not quite so sure that a comeback would be in his best interests.

He’d be relegated to a backup role, which would be a completely different and dissatisfying experience for Jordan. Plus there’s the whole matter of going against guys half his age on a regular basis. So all in all, we like Michael better in the Bobcats’ owners box over making a return to the court.