Raptors Republic

Sam Holako of Raptors Republic had a few questions he wanted to ask me pertaining to the Golden State Warriors, and let's be honest; how could I resist? With the Raps playing in the Bay tonight, Sam wanted to pick my brain a bit and you can find the Q&A here. Enjoy.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at JM.Poulard@Warriorsworld.net. You can also find me on Twitter with the handle name @ShyneIV.

My L.A. Story

Some of you might be aware that I took California by storm this past weekend, going to watch Clippers and Lakers on the same day to take my Los Angeles experience to the next level. With that said, some people were curious about the trip itself and how it went. So without further ado.....

Given the fact Karim (my homie) and I were traveling from the east coast, so we had to make a stop in Philadelphia where we waited a few hours to grab our connecting flight to Los Angeles. While awaiting for our flight, we decided to try the famous Philly cheese steak.

The lady at the counter couldn't have been more bothered by our presence as she took down our order. When we finally got our food, it was completely unimpressive. The only "good" moment in Philly came when we saw one of the guys that works on the runway come inside the airport with with his Kanye West shades on. The only thing missing was for "All of the Lights" to start playing.

Once we got to Los Angeles, it took us a few hours to get acclimated. It was weird seeing all the signs in Spanish but we managed. Made a few stops into some stores where we were regularly spoken to in Spanish, but once again we were able to understand each other.

One thing that surprised us was the contrast between people from the east coast and the west coast. Not to get too philosophical, but if asked to imagine any city out east not named Miami, the image of a dark and gloomy city comes to mind. People out east aren't really trying to socialize or do basic things like saying "thank you" and "your welcome".

Out west though, the image is one of sun and warmth, where people take time to acknowledge you. For instance, we went to a fast food joint named El Pollo Loco (for my non-Spanish speakers, that means the crazy chicken) and after paying for our food the dude said “thanks man, really appreciate it”. It almost seemed like he didn’t expect us to pay for our meal.

Even when we took a cab and I gave the driver a tip, he said “ay thanks papa”. You know you’ve made it when a grown man is calling you “papa”.

We did the whole tourist thing and went to the Walk of Fame and took pictures. During the time we were there, there was an anti-Semitism rally, which generated a fairly good turnout. That’s when we saw the biggest stars in Hollywood: the L.A.P.D.

Sounds weird right? Well think of every Los Angeles based hit movie you’ve ever seen. Now who always makes a cameo in those movies? You guessed it, the Los Angeles Police Department. Hell, they even made appearances in real life news such as the Rodney King incident, the Biggie murder and J.M. Poulard’s first trip to the City of Angels.

I wanted to take a picture with them just for the hell of it, but then I remembered that these guys could literally come up with a reason to toss me into jail. So we took a pass there.

After all the hanging out was done, it was finally time to watch basketball. We headed over to the Staples Center on Sunday to watch the Clippers take on the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix took control of the game early and although the contest was close from start to finish, I never got the sense that the Clippers would truly take control of the game. Steve Nash was just too good of a maestro, setting up his teammates for open shots while the Suns defense did a good job of defending Blake Griffin.

Who knew Channing Frye had Griffin’s number? Frye sat on his every move and contested them well. With that said, Blake still made sure Karim and I got our money’s worth when he gave Marcin Gortat the dunk of his life. I’m still not sure if that dunk was better than the one on Timofey Mozgov, but there is certainly a debate to be made about it. We were seated on the baseline behind the backboard, so we saw Blake Griffin come at us in full speed to give Gortat the business. He was whistled for an offensive foul, but we still got a highlight out of it.

The Clippers crowd was good during the game and often cheered their team on. No big surprise there except for one thing: once Griffin fouled out, the fans became irate at the call and started chanting and booing during the game, thus raising the intensity of the game. The Clippers ended up losing the game to the Suns, but it was a quite entertaining contest.

By nighttime, it was time for the main event: the Lake Show. The Lakers were hosting the Portland Trail Blazers and we were excited to catch the game but we were more intrigued with spotting the differences between Lakers and Clippers games.

Staples Center dimmed the lights in the crowd to make the bright Lakers court stand out more than usual whereas the Clippers on the other hand had all the lights in the stadium on. It took us maybe 20 minutes to realize all the differences between both Los Angeles teams.

Indeed, some people showed up at the Clippers game wearing Lakers gear, but the same could not be said about people showing up with Clippers gear for the purple and gold. Also, Clippers games are just about like every other NBA game; where they try to keep you entertained during timeouts with gimmicks, contests and interactive games for the fans. The Lakers have none of that. When you go watch Jerry Buss’ team, it’s quite clear that you are there to watch his team play. No games, no gimmicks and no tricks. During timeouts, the Laker girls come out and dance to a song (far too much R&B played during Lakers games by the way) and then leave once the game resumes. There were perhaps one or two interactive moments with the fans but that was it.

The Lakers game was perceived much differently by the fans than the Clippers game. Fans were much more into watching the purple and gold, living and dying with each made and missed shot. The crowd was highly critical of their own team’s play but made sure to reward every good play with a cheer and clap.

The Lakers won the game late on the strength of their backcourt (Kobe made a tough fade away jump shot on the baseline over Brandon Roy that sealed the game) and then we were out of the building.

By then we had become locals. On the cab ride back to the hotel, I gave the driver directions on how to get there and was even able to give an old lady in need some directions on how to get where she was headed. All in all, the Los Angeles trip was a great one, and the city has officially convinced me that going back might not be a bad thing.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at JM.Poulard@Warriorsworld.net. You can also find me on Twitter with the handle name @ShyneIV.

Nash: Stillmatic

A few weeks back, I was on ESPN's Daily Dime Live chat and made the bold statement that the Phoenix Suns should reward Steve Nash's years of service and trade him to a contender to give him a chance to win a championship. After seeing him play live this past Sunday against the Clippers, it only reinforced that notion for me.

Nash was the first player out on the court during shootaround and was working on his footwork. Think about that for a second, a two time league MVP at age 37 is out there on the court working on his shooting and foot placement with his assistant coach while Vince Carter is no where to be found (more on this later).

After getting a few reps and getting the spacing required between his feet as well as the optimal level of lift on his jump shot; Nash proceeded to shoot, shoot and shoot some more. All net. His one miss in perhaps a 3-minute stretch came when another player took a shot that bounced off the rim and hit Nash's ball thus resulting in a miss.

By the time the game started, Nash was blending his impressive ball handling abilities with his exquisite passing to get by defenders and set up teammates. Mind you, that shooting repetition was hardly for naught, as Kid Canada shot 8-for-13 from the field and 3-for-3 from three point range. Nash's final stat line:
23 points, 7 rebounds,13 assists and 1 steal.

And yet, the box score fails to capture how Nash keeps his team spirit up by always encouraging players and repeatedly finding them when open no matter how many shots in a row a teammate might miss. He is the consummate point guard in that sense; the best player on the team, playing arguably the most important position in basketball. And to top it all off, the team's leader.

If Nash is the heart and soul of the Phoenix Suns though, Vince Carter is the grim reaper. It seems fun to play with him, as he smiles a lot, interacts with referees and has a few jokes here and there to keep things light. In other words, Vince Carter is the guy you'd love to play with if you were having a pick up game and not keeping track of the score.

In a league as competitive as the NBA, where guys are trying to win ball games and get paid, Carter might just be the most frustrating player in the league. The man's body was built for basketball. When observing him, it's clearly obvious that he has the height and size to get to any spot on the floor to go at his defender. He can shoot over smaller defenders, drive past bigger ones and post up players with less strength.

Even more confusing, Carter seems to be able to make every possible basketball play. I watched him post up Eric Gordon, fake the baseline spin and then go back to the fade away jumper which he drilled with relative ease. A few possessions later, he took Gordon to the post again where the Clippers brought a hard double team at him; Carter was completely at ease with the extra attention and just casually made a cross court pass to an open teammate.

In the second half, Carter set up Gordon by having him think the turnaround fall away was coming, but he instead drop stepped towards the baseline for a tough reverse lay up that seemed to be quite easy for him.

The rest of the game, Vince Carter reminded us that he was once part of the pop group 98 Degrees as he performed his hit track with these lyrics: "Baby to you all I am is the invisible man.....". Suns and Clippers fans in attendance agreed. Basketball fans all over feel cheated by Carter given his immense talent; he's possibly as complete as Dwyane Wade (I'd even argue that he's a better shooter than Wade) and yet seems  content with playing like Penny Hardaway in his late Knick days.

And this is whom the Suns brought in to play with Nash...

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at JM.Poulard@Warriorsworld.net. You can also find me on Twitter with the handle name @ShyneIV.

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and the Myth of Media Narrative

 Devin Kharpertian of Nets Are Scorching and I collaborated to make this piece happen...

For the past three or four years, the Kobe-LeBron debate has been at the forefront of NBA discussions as players, coaches, experts, fans and media members have all shared their opinions on which player they thought was better. James has owned Bryant in their head-to-head regular season match-ups, whereas the Black Mamba has won the proverbial games that matter, helping the Los Angeles Lakers earn the last two NBA titles. These players have never once competed against each other in the playoffs and yet will be linked with one another for the rest of their careers.

For the rest of this article, please click here.

Celtics Podcast: The Block Party

I made an appearance last night on a Celtics podcast titled The Block Party to discuss the Golden State Warriors, Chris Paul and also Kevin Garnett. Feel free to give it a listen. I show up roughly at the 30 minute mark but I would strongly suggest that Celtics fans give it a listen. Podcast available here.