For nearly every situtation life can toss a person's way, there's usually a Jay-Z lyric helping serve as the soundtrack. The same stands for the NBA.
Jay's affiliation and love of basketball has long been documented, even before his purchase and relocation of the now-Brooklyn Nets. Today marks the 80th day of the 2012-2013 NBA campaign otherwise known as - give or take a week or so - the halfway point of the season.
With the assistance of ESPN.com's most recent power ranking, each squad was assigned a lyric from Hov and a quick progress report where they stand here at the (sort of, but not really) halfway point. This should go without saying, but some team/lyric designations are obviously more applicable than others. For disagreements, the remedy is simple. Debate. Debate some more. Debate just a tad more. And move on. Still ticked off after that? Jay has advice for that too.*
* - If that last link doesn't work, just fast forward to the 4:26 mark.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (31-8)
"But the allure of the game keeps calling your name..." - "Allure"
The storm sets up perfectly for the Thunder this year. Three consecutive postseasons traveling to further than the previous year with the only step now being the last team standing in June. As already one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the league, you're left to wonder how terrifying a pick-and-roll scenario is going to be with Durant and Westbrook once they finally perfect it, as they did Monday night in Phoenix. Oh, and don't look now, K.D.'s on pace for a season of rarefied air - 50% FG, 40% 3PT and 90 FT. Yeah, I'd say the NBA is in good hands the next decade or so.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (30-9)
“We get together like a choir, to acquire what we desire...” - "Can't Knock The Hustle"
Led by all-world point guard Chris Paul and high flying acrobat Blake Griffin, L.A.'s former punching bag is defined by the sum of its parts. The deepest team in basketball could very well be the best. Ladies and gents, these are not your father's Clippers. Hell, these not our Clippers. That's for damn sure. Gauging what has transpired thus far while looking ahead, is there anything more enticing out West than a Clippers/Thunder WCF? I'll answer that for you. No. Better yet, hell no. There isn't.
3. San Antonio Spurs (30-11)
"So let's just stay in the moment, smoke some weed, drink some wine/Reminisce, talk some shit, forever young is in your mind/Leave a mark they can't erase, neither space nor time..." - "Forever Young"
The most consistent and selfless team in basketball for three decades continues to find ways to reinvent itself year-in and year-out. And because he's even more fundamental than flash this late in his career, there's an argument to be made Tim Duncan has been the best big man in the game thus far producing 17 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks a night while shooting 50% from the field and 81% from the charity stripe.
4. Denver Nuggets (24-17)
"Know they ain't fully prepared for this New World Order/So I keep it ghetto like sunflower seeds and quarter waters..." - "Young G's"
The only thing scary about Denver is what it has always been since Carmelo left - lack of a go-to scorer. It's not much of a concern during the first 82 games. Yet, when late-April comes around, expect to hear those same gripes as it concerns George Karl's crew. Besides that, what's not to love about a team that can get up and down the court quicker than Notre Dame can call a press conference. And one that has future Hall of Famer JaVale McGee on their roster.*
Also, here's a quirky stat, Denver's 23-0 in their past 23 games at home when scoring 100 more points.
* - Ok, not really, but his induction speech would be great if it ever came true. He could even introduce somebody. The point being here, JaVale needs to associated with the Hall in some capacity.
5. Miami Heat (25-12)
"Look, if I shoot you, I'm brainless/But if you shoot me, then you're famous/What's a nigga to do?" - "Streets Is Watching"
Put the panic button aside for the moment. Miami's three point shooting should continue to mask other deficiencies (they lead the NBA here at 39.5%). From the realm of the unfathomable, LeBron is currently in the midst of a more productive season than last year. Allow that to marinate for a second and also lament on the fact he has gone about as under-the-radar as humanly possible for a guy who is only the world's best player. Meanwhile, someone like Ray Allen's true value won't be revealed until the postseason anyway.
Where there's yin, there's always yang, however. M-I-Yayo must figure out a solution for two nagging issues moving forward. One, their (lack of) rebounding. Rebounding leads to second chance points which leads to more shoots which, in turn, leads to everyone being happy again. And two, getting it done on the road. Tonight at the Staples Center versus you-know-who wouldn't be a bad look.
6. Memphis Grizzlies (24-13)
“And since no good deed goes unpunished/I’m not as cool with niggas as I once was..." - "Light Up"
Here was the team who had everyone shitting their pants over two months ago. Now, here's the team new whose new ownership is threatening to 187 the entire dynamic for financial reasons proving the business of sports does, indeed, suck at times. Pending this squad can get past the trade deadline roster in tact (for the most part) and return to early season form, up-ending the Grizz in a seven game series will prove tougher than beating Joe Biden in a game of "flip cup." Count on your hand the number of teams actually about that life.
7. Indianapolis Pacers (24-16)
“I’m a monster, I sleep whole winters, wake up and spit summers/Ghetto nigga, puttin’ up Will Smith numbers...” - "Blackout"
Ok, they aren't putting up "Will Smith numbers"* per se, but the Pacers have evolved into the scariest defensive team in basketball and appear to have things figured out. Oh, and not to throw dirt on Danny Granger's good name, but his injury may wind up being the best thing ever for Paul George's career. He's a legitimate star in the making if he wants to be.
* - Remember, Will once dropped 44 in an episode of Fresh Prince playing on the smallest regulation court known to man against Allen Payne (better known as Gee Money from New Jack City).
8. Golden State Warriors (23-14)
"You got flash now, but time will reveal money..." - "Imaginary Player"
Here's to hoping Stephen Curry's ankle injury isn't anything serious. Because. That. Would. Suck. The line from arguably Vol. 1's finest cut was not meant to be shade tossed the Warriors way in the least bit. They've got the talent. They've got the entertainment factor. They'll be even better with a fully healthy Andrew Bogut (if that's even possible). And they've won over many a heart already. All I ask is to maintain this feel-good story deep into the season. The country needs to witness how talented the underrated duo of Steph Curry and David Lee is on national TV anyway.
You know, since, Curry is already on pace to become the most prolific shooter in history. Seriously, click the link. It blew me away, too.
9. New York Knicks (24-13)
"I ain't hard to find you catch me front and center/At the Knick game, big chain, in all my splendor/Next to Spike if you pan left to right/I own Madison Square catch me at the fight..." - "Welcome To New York City"
Whether through an amazingly hot start, the impending return of Amar'e or "Honey Nut Cherrios," the Knicks haven't been far from our hearts, minds and souls. They've also cooled down from a blistering hot start from three point range, which was all but a given. One would think Carmelo - who is playing at a MVP-caliber level - will advance past the first round this year. And here's to hoping they do. You know why?
Because the world needs Spike Lee's antics in a playoff game that actually matters. Spike hasn't had a relevant playoff moment since Larry Johnson's four-point play and a hunch tells me and he, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett could produce something magical given the opportunity. No pun intended. Also, Ray Felton cannot return from injury quick enough.
10. Brooklyn Nets (23-16)
"Shooters on my team...no, really, I got shooters on my team/Juan or Deron, how you niggas want it/Pick an arm..." - A verse he spit during the Barclays shows
Avery Johnson's firing took its fair share of flack when it initially went down, but the move produced a completely different Nets squad with P.J. Carlesimo calling the shots. Seriously, pretty much everything has gone right for the Nets - who have gone 9-2 in their first 11 "under new management" - minus Andray Blatche's name being associated (but not involved) with a rape.* While it'd still be nice to see Brook Lopez average 10 rebounds a game, there's this sneaky suspicion Deron, Joe and Brooklyn will be primed and ready for the postseason given they continue to buy into whatever it is Carlesimo is selling.
In the meantime, it's almost time we fire up that "who's the best team in NY" argument again, no?
* - Didn't people learn from Tupac?
11. Houston Rockets (21-19)
"I wake up the birds so when the nerds asleep/I'm catching my second wind the second the first one end..." - "Lyrical Exercise"
Houston's best interests are to abide by Jay's advice and catch their second wind sometime soon to snap out of this current five game losing streak. I make no hesitations about it though, this is my personal favorite team to watch. The best? No, but definitely the funnest. Omer Asik's emergence into a legit big man, Chandler Parsons becoming the smoothest white guy with an inside-outside game in the NBA (no disrespect, seriously) and the controversial arrival of James Harden has H-Town thinking playoffs and as well they should. Now all Houston has to do is continue scoring at the overwhelming pace they're currently sporting (league best 105.5/game) and improve on their Western Conference resume (7-14). "All" being italicized for a purpose, of course.
You know what's mind-numbing? We all dodged a bullet. Oklahoma City really had three of the best scorers on the same team and they all loved playing alongside each other. That's scary as shit.
12. Portland Trailblazers (20-19)
"As long as there's - drugs to be sold/I ain't waiting for the system to plug up these holes/I ain't slipping through the cracks/So I'm at Portland, Oregon, tryin to slip you these raps..." - "Hell Yeah (Remix)"
Here's the thing. If any team on the edge of playoff contention gets scrapped towards the end of the season, Portland may get the boot for the lack of something slightly important for teams looking to advance through the postseason - a bench. Despite those concerns, Dame Lillard has already solidified himself as must-see-TV and will likely walk away with the "Rookie Of The Year" award pending he doesn't pull an Austin Rivers from here on out. And LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the better players in basketball not many care to take interest in for whatever reasons.
If nothing else, Portland's been a fun squad to watch on NBA TV these first 80 days or so.
13. Boston Celtics (20-18)
"All I need is the love of my crew/The whole industry can hate me I thugged my way through..." - "All I Need"
I'm not saying Rajon Rondo is the next Isiah Thomas, but their asshole tendencies are somewhat similar. It's pretty funny, too. Following Monday's victory over Charlotte, a reporter asked Rondo if he thought opponents were respecting his midrange jumper more - the one aspect to his game which would make him virtually indefensible pending he ever conquers it consistently. His response, simply, "I don't care." That's Boston's season in a nutshell; they move at their own pace. Even with a rocky start, Beantown looks to be rounding into form which pisses me off to levels not even capable of putting into coherent sentences.
Anywho, set your DVR's. Boston hosts New York a week from today in the TD Garden. Anybody know the over/under on how quickly Celtics fans heckle Carmelo with "Honey Nut Cherrios" chants? I'm going under five minutes, and definitely in the fourth quarter if it's close.
14. Chicago Bulls (22-15)
"If every nigga in your clique is rich, your clique is rugged/Nobody will fall cause everyone will be each others crutches..." - "Feelin' It"
Carlos Boozer quietly putting together a solid season averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds may be, but Chicago playing well without you know who isn't too much of a surprise. They played well last year even as D-Rose battled injuries and still ended up with the top seed in the conference. The Bulls' calling card remains their defense (third in the league) and is the reason why the team is right in the thick of things out East; a testament to Tom Thibodeau who happens to be afflicted with the same disease as Nick Saban prohibiting them the ability to smile even when good things happen to their teams.
Nevertheless, for as good as Chicago looks, the biggest question surrounding them will always involve Derrick Rose. When he dons a jersey and shorts once again - if at all this season - is anybody guess. Despite Rose not being stellar on the defensive end, the Bulls are a lot more entertaining to watch when he's involved. A lot. That's for damn sure.
15. Utah Jazz (21-19)
"I ain't freshly dressed, but got a Colgate smile..." - "Early This Morning"
I have to agree with Hollinger's assessment. Utah can mess around and make the playoffs and potentially cause headaches for a team in the first round. Al Jefferson isn't the greatest pick-and-roll defender - ok, he's not good at all - but he and Paul Millsap together form one of the better big man duos in the game. And as Hov (kind of) notes, the Jazz aren't exactly the world's leading example of a fined tuned team, but they do get the job done. Unless Utah's front office can make the team better before the deadline, playing the hand they've been dealt and riding this season out feels like the logical option.
Then again, it's not like the Jazz are going to the Finals either, so yeah. Decisions, decisions.
16. Los Angeles Lakers (17-21)
"Everybody doing them, I'm still scratching on the block like 'Damn'/I'ma be a failure..." - "This Can't Be Life"
Kobe's in the midst of a career year. True, but blah. It's the injuries, blah. Fire the coach (again), blah. There's really nothing to say about the Lakers which hasn't already been said. However, I'll go on record and proclaim there is no chance in hell this team misses the playoffs. Granted, they've sucked so far this season, but this sort of futility just will not sustain for another 90 days with this sort of talent. If nothing else, Stern makes some calls and slides them in as maybe the seventh seed pitting a Clippers/Lakers first round match up as an olive branch for the whole Chris Paul fiasco. It wouldn't be the first time the Lakers have been on the brink of disaster only to have a crisis averted by a higher power.
Lakers fans, pray I'm right because David D. is lurking. To Hollywood's credit, however, they are on a two game winning streak and are only 3.5 games out of the eighth spot heading into tonight's showdown with Miami. The season isn't over. It just hasn't been the land of milk and honey Lakers faithful were proclaiming in August. A slice of humble pie never hurt anybody.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (19-18)
"Bucket low, like fuck it, though/Nights on, daytime, lights on, hell yeah I'm frontin' but you love it, though..." - "Show You How"
The new look Bucks under new head coach Jim Boylan have a small sample size, but appear revived as a new team under his tutelage. So, yes, it may all be a front depending on how the remainder of the season plays out, but watching Brandon Jennings in a good place on the basketball court is a joy to watch. He's still a ways to go, but include second year man, and league leader in blocks, Larry Sanders in that description as well.
18. Atlanta Hawks (22-16)
"You American Pie, stop feeling yourself..." - "Stop"
I know what you're thinking. For a team who started the season so hot, to only appear to have finally hit their ceiling, another Jay-Z lyric is more appropriate here. But trust, when you see what team landed that lyric, soon you'll understand. No Roc La Familia-pun intended.
Atlanta does boast a shitload of cap space this summer, but there's also another side to that glass-half-full approach. Dwight Howard is rumored to stay in Laker-yellow, which may or may not be accurate given how the next 96 days pan out. By the looks of it, Chris Paul is building something special with the Clippers. If the Hawks fail to lure one of the two, then what? And Josh Smith may or may not be witnessing his final games in Atlanta before the trade deadline. Doesn't sound so enticing now, huh?
19. Detroit Pistons
"And I rhyme like my mama still in the hood shit..." - "Never Take Me Alive"
Detroit started the season off 7-21, but a recent run of 7-3 in 10 games have Motown's own as one of the hotter teams in basketball. The downside? Only 72 people in America are aware of this. The majority of their fans don't even care.
Ideally, Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond blossom into one of the best organic trios in basketball allowing me to pinpoint to this exact moment and say "I told you so." Why? Because predicting something years in advance and watching it bloom into fruition is one of the greatest feelings possible. Seriously, Palace of Auburn Hills ticket holders, go see your team play. Believe it or not, talent resides there.
20. Toronto Raptors (14-25)
"Made em relate to your struggle, told em bout your hustle/Went on MTV with do-rags, I made them love you..." - "Come And Get Me"
1. How much longer until DeMar DeRozen is mentioned with the best two guards in basketball? Where exactly is he ranked? Have people actually watched him play?
2. We've all been cheated if Terrence Ross isn't in Houston for the dunk contest (James White and Gerald Green, too). There haven't been many since, but Ross the best dunker Drake's hometown has seen since Air Canada. #LetRossDunk
21. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-19)
"Heaven knows that I've made my mistakes, thank God, what a guy as I say my grace..." - "Thank You"
What mistakes? Is it necessary to go there again?
I really, really, really want this team to make the playoffs, but with injuries slowing down every Minnesota athlete not named Adrian Peterson, this dream dwindles more and more by the day. Then again, there were bad vibes around this team from jump street. With Kevin Love out for the next two months, it may be time to start planning towards the 2013-2014 season. Where knuckle pushups will be an organizational-wide felony.
22. New Orleans Hornets (13-26)
"Y'all don't want no witness shit, we squeeze hammers man/Bullets breeze by you, like Louisiana man..." - "What We Do"
Eighty days in and it's evident the Hornets won't be playing in May/June. That said, keep Eric Gordon healthy and pair him alongside Anthony Davis who has silently been having quite the impressive rookie season. Even more noteworthy, he earned the respect of Kevin Garnett, who hates just about everyone. New Orleans may have even found their point guard of the future in Greivis Vasquez, too, who's putting up a solid 14 points, nine assists and five rebounds a night.
Let's cut the crap, though. What can the Hornets do moving forward if this team wants to find any sort of success? Cease consideration of the Pelicans re-branding initiative, effective last week. I'm pretty sure I'm going to suck at naming my first child, so don't ask me what New Orleans should name the franchise. All I know is this. Pelicans is basically saying "Drew Brees is this city's best bet for any sort of championship. Hell, even Les Miles."*
* - Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you your 2016-2017 NBA Champions - the New Orleans Pelicans.
23. Dallas Mavericks (17-23)
"The more successful, the more stressful/The more and more I transform to Gordon Gekko..." - "Grammy Family Freestyle"
The "Triple D's" thing blew up in their face (Dirk, Deron and Dwight). The roster will more than likely look completely different this time next year. And they wouldn't make it far in the playoffs if they're lucky enough to squeak in. Despite a four game winning streak, life in the NBA is stressful attempting to remain relevant even with your 2011 championship trophy still shining like new money. Maybe Mark Cuban has one last magic act come this summer and possibly lures Dwight to Dallas - no "Shark Tank" this time - helping extend the last few years Dirk has left in those knees. Which leads me to my next question.
Does the German knee procedure - affectionately known here in the States as "the Kobe surgery" - work as well on Dirk if he's German? That's like an American going to see the White House. Sure, it's cool to see and all, but it's not all that life defining because it's ours. I'd imagine Dirk viewing "the Kobe surgery" in the same light.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (16-23)
"They say the good die young, in the hood where I'm from/I only got one question to that - why the fuck am I here?/I look to the air, I ask God, "Love me please,"/But in reality, only people that hug me is thieves..." - "Why We Die"
Andrew Bynum's hair fell out of the MVP running two weeks before Christmas. All I want now is to see him in a Sixers uniform helping Jrue Holiday this team somehow sneak into the playoffs. That's it and that's all.
A three pointer when the game's out of reach for old times' sake wouldn't hurt either.
25. Sacramento Kings (15-24)
"Like I put the toast to your head and made you sell/We both came in this game, blind as hell..." - "A Week Ago"
Isaiah Thomas is one of the better young players people still think is his dad because the Kings are never on national TV. And one of these days DeMarcus Cousins will make me look like a genius. This, I feel in my bones.
Nevertheless, let's just leave this relevant quote from The Honorable Shawn Corey Carter here and move on with our lives.
26. Phoenix Suns (13-27)
"You must be off your rocker/If you think you'll make it off the strip before they 'Pac ya/Nigga you gotta be psychotic/Or mixing something potent with your vodka..." - "Shiny Suit Theory"
Screw everything else, who knew the Suns are the fourth fastest franchise to 2,000 wins? That may be the most surprising stat of the entire season. And that's definitely the most exciting thing that's happened to Phoenix this year. By far. How does this Jay lyric represent the Suns? Well, I'm not sure. Watching them faithfully probably does involve a very strong drink (or six), I would guess.
27. Orlando Magic (14-24)
"I'm a man with pride, you don't do shit like that/You don't just pick up and leave me sick like that..." - "Song Cry"
The line is obviously directed at some guy who forced his way out of Orlando, and not refuses to take that 1980's Richard Simmons workout headband off in Los Angeles. In all seriousness, the Magic have fought hard under first-year coach Jacque Vaughan. By doing so, you're almost left to wonder if they're ruining draft positioning for a class which doesn't appear to be enticing outside of a few players. The 2014 draft? Now that's the one to really tank for. Perhaps, however, it's apart of some weird master plan drawn up by the people at Disneyworld.
On second thought, albeit risky, I respect this move, Orlando. The "delayed tank" just could land you Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker a year and change from now. The keyword being "could."
28. Washington Wizards (7-29)
"I'm calling guts every time, drag my nuts every time/Homey, we make a great combination don't we?" - "Guess Who's Back"
President Obama's second inauguration is Monday and Beyonce's there to belt out the National Anthem. So this probably means Jay will be in Chocolate City at some point over the three day weekend, too. Maybe we'll get another verse in honor of Barack like how he did in 2009. Maybe not. But that doesn't erase the fact John Wall has infused life in this city not seen since Robert Griffin III's glory days.
Ok, it's not that electric, but I am interested to see where this Wall-Bradley Beal duo leads the nation's capital. So far, so good.
29. Charlotte Bobcats (9-29)
Yep, there's the line. Boom. You knew it was coming. I knew it was coming. M.J. even knew it was coming. Since the Monday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 26), the Bobcats are 2-24. They're 9-29 on the season. You do the math. It seems almost impossible this team made the playoffs in 2010.
* - Jay's a corporate executive, happy husband and father and BFF of the President of the United States now, but way back when, he used to shoot people in his videos. "Friend Or Foe" just happens to be one his best ever off comedic value alone.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-31)
"Some how, some way, we gotta make it up out this life..." - "Some How, Some Way"
Look at it this way, Cavs fans. There's young talent on the roster headlined by Kyrie Irving who is just about as good as a person can get being a professional basketball player that's not even old enough to buy liquor (legally) for the crew. Then there's Kyrie's full court shuffle which is probably my favorite move by any basketball player this season. Then there's the fact Shabazz Muhammad could fall directly in your lap.
Then - yes, there's more! - the growing possibly LeBron could return home in 2014 seems to be gaining legs more and more by the day and tweets. There was a reason I didn't turn my #23 Cavs jersey into a dust rag.
Guess who might be coming (back) to dinner, Cleveland!