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NBA Preview Examined Through Rap Songs

NBA LogoWith the NBA pre-season set to kick off this weekend, we’re going to revisit a fun exercise where we use Rap song titles and lyrics to help paint a picture of some of the more intriguing plot lines heading into the season. We’ll be continuing with this theme periodically as the season progresses, but for now we’ll start with the defending champion San Antonio Spurs and their NBA Finals opponents, the Miami Heat. We’ll also take a look at the team who signed the Heat’s best player in the offseason, namely the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lastly, though admittedly not as big a story throughout the league as it is to me, we’ll end with the Boston Celtics, because I’ll be damned if I kick off my 2014/2015 NBA coverage without discussing the home team. I do bleed green after all. Let’s dive in.

San Antonio Spurs
Rap Song: ‘The Champ Is Here’ remix by Jadakiss & Big Mike

Champ

The Spurs enter the season as the reigning NBA Champions and bring back their core cast of characters to defend the crown. Having wonSpurs TItles 5 championships in 15 years during the Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich era, the Spurs are consistently excellent and poised yet again to be atop the Western Conference en route to defending their title. Their offseason efforts centered around keeping the band together, as Duncan exercised his player option for the 2014/2015 season while both Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich were granted a contract extension. As for the Rap song angle, the title of the track we chose speaks for itself, as the Spurs are the champs and if the last decade plus is any indication, they’ll be right in the thick of things again this year. That said, we all know success in sports can be volatile, and as such the key lyric we’ll apply to the champs comes from verse 2; “A thin line between living and being buried.” Given that every year, if there’s anything we worry about with the Spurs it’s old age finally catching up to them, one has to wonder if Championship #5 was in fact the zenith of the Tim Duncan era. Can this team at its advanced age make yet another title run? Of course! Provided they’re healthy.

Miami Heat
Rap Song: ‘Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down’ by Puff Daddy & Ma$e

After defeating a talented but very young Oklahoma City Thunder team in the 2012 Finals and squeezing by San Antonio in 7 games for the title in 2013 (who can forget Ray Allen’s clutch three in Game 6?), the Heat, who suffered from a lack of an interior presence and a never fully healthy Dwyane Wade, fell short this past June in the rematch with the Spurs. To add insult to injury, the Heat’s 2 time Finals MVP, who also happens to be the reigning best player in the universe, Lebron James, decided 4 straight Finals appearances in Miami was enough, and signed with his home state Cleveland Cavaliers in the offseason in what was undoubtedly the summer’s biggest transaction. While losing Lebron didn’t put the Heat in outright rebuild mode, they definitely had a lot of re-tooling to do, and that they did.

Bosh and WadeTheir main priorities were resigning Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who along with Lebron also opted out of their contracts, but unlike King James remained in Miami. They also added forward Josh McRoberts and resigned Udonis Haslem. On the surface, it looks like Miami will still be lacking power in the post and it remains to be seen how healthy Wade can be this year, a critical component to their success as without Lebron in the picture D-Wade will once again become the focal point of the Heat’s offense. That said however, as much as it pains me to say it as a Celtics fan, I’m not ready to spell the Heat’s doom just yet. No, I don’t expect them to make the Finals for a 5th straight year, but given Indiana’s meltdown last year and their losing Paul George for the season, the uncertainty that exists in Chicago (can D-Rose stay healthy?), Brooklyn (will anything go right this year?), and Toronto, Washington, and Charlotte (all playoffs teams last year, but with very young cores), it wouldn’t surprise me if the Heat remained in the mix atop the Conference.

And that brings us to our Rap song, ‘Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down.’ I just can’t see Wade and Bosh not being motivated by Lebron’s departure and using that as fuel to put together a stronger season than many expect. After all, in D-Wade we’re talking about a 3 time champion (1 more than Lebron) and 1 time Finals MVP. Yes, he’s older now, but to think that he and Bosh won’t be extra motivated this year is just wrong. Another reason I chose this song is because it’s a strong Bad Boy track that (save for a cameo at the beginning of the video), doesn’t include The Notorious B.I.G. Wade and Bosh will have to carry the load without Lebron in the same way that Puffy and Ma$e carry this song without the best rapper alive at the time, namely Biggie. I can certainly picture Wade, with all his rings, awards, and accolades addressing the doubters in a similar fashion to Puffy when he rapped, “fronting like Bad Boy ain’t got tracks. [Playa], stop that!” Again, I’m not happy about admitting this as a Celtics fan, but I’m not ready to count them out just yet.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Rap Song: ‘Down With The King’ by Run DMC

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The biggest splashes of the summer came from the Cleveland Cavaliers, who not only welcomed Lebron James back with open arms and unburned jerseys, but also acquired Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. These moves pretty much ensured that they’ll land the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and that I’d spend the rest of the offseason trying to block out the sobering reality that the Celtics would once again suck this year. Back in June, when I examined the Celtics’ potential draft options, through Rap lyrics of course, I was 150% hopeful and about 75% confident the Celtics would cash in on their combination of draft picks and expiring contracts to land Kevin Love. Not so much. Damn you Lottery Gods.

That brings us to the new look Cavs. With a big three of King James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving flanked by experienced center Anderson Cleveland Big 3Verajao and shooting guard Dion Walters, not to mention deep threat Mike Miller and veteran Shawn Marion coming off the bench, the Cavs are primed for a huge season. Freak injuries notwithstanding, and even if you take into account some growing pains as a new cast of characters gels, there’s really no reason this team shouldn’t at least be in the Conference Finals this year. That brings us to both our Rap song, ‘Down With The King’ (i.e. King James of course) and our notable lyric, from DMC’s verse, “my voice is raw, my lyrics is law, I keep it hardcore like you never saw! You wanna be down with the King!” It’s easy as pie to make this connection. In the same way that DMC’s voice and lyrics are the raw, hardcore, law of the Rap land, King James’ game is the ruling order of the basketball universe (with apologies to Kevin Durant, whose game I actually enjoy a lot more). Who wouldn’t wanna be down with the King? The entire state of Ohio sure does.

 

Boston Celtics
Rap Song: ‘The Breaks’ by Kurtis Blow

Though I used this song in my pre-draft article to discuss lottery pick Joel Embiid (who broke his right foot not long before draft night), it works just as well in this context. “The Breaks” is a song about dealing with tough situations that occur in life. For example, to quote Kurtis Blow:

If your woman steps out with another man
(That’s the breaks that’s the breaks)
And she runs off with him to Japan
(That’s the breaks that’s the breaks)
And the IRS says they want to chat
(That’s the breaks that’s the breaks)
And you can’t explain why you claimed your cat
(That’s the breaks that’s the breaks)

It’s been that type of summer for GM Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics. Though he visited Boston for a weekend and even met up with Celtics’ captain Rajon Rondo at a Red Sox game while in Beantown, Kevin Love would not end up in Green. The Celtics lost out on the Love sweepstakes in large part because despite almost a 33% of landing a top 3 pick, they ended up at #6 (DAMN YOU LOTTERY GODS!!!). This ensured that they wouldn’t have the desirable young stud Minnesota required in a trade for Kevin Love (top pick Andrew Wiggins would end up being that guy). And while Danny would acquire more young talent (Evan Turner) and future draft picks via trades, not to mention drafting college standouts Marcus Smart and James Young with the 6th and 17th pick respectively, the fact remains that this team is built for tomorrow, not today. Which brings us to the Rajon Rondo dilemma. Some say he’s asked for a trade, but his camp denies such accusations. Danny Ainge to his credit has remained consistent in his stance that nobody is untradeable, but the only time the Celtics actually got close to trading Rondo was a few years ago when they were working on acquiring Chris Paul in a swap.

The problem is that as much as it’s important to have a guy like Rondo on your team (NBA Champion, 4 time All Star, assist and triple double Rondo Slingmachine), does it really make sense to have him play his prime years with a bunch of young guys who won’t be ready to contend for a title for another few years? Conventional wisdom says no, you should trade him for more assets with the hopes of expediting the rebuild. Despite what his people say publicly, it’s very possible that Rondo feels the same way. That brings us back to ‘The Breaks’. Why? Because in order to trade a player for equal or close to equal value, it’s important that player is healthy. And just when you thought Rondo’s health concerns were finally behind him, now 18 months removed from ACL surgery, he falls in the shower and breaks his hand. He’s expected to miss 6-10 weeks. Unbelievable. So now, whether you’re in the keep Rondo or trade Rondo camp, there’s another injury we all have to wait out to see if he can fully recover from and get back to that All Star form. And even if he does, it’s just another reason for any potential trade suitor to undervalue Rondo, making it that much more difficult to get equal pieces for our best player. But these are The Breaks, I suppose…

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